A Search-First Strategy: The Future of the B2B Research Process

By Nevin Raj, Co-Founder and COO, Grata

It is an indisputable fact that Google is the top choice when it comes to search. Numbers don’t lie – they process a staggering 3.5+ billion searches per day (Internetlivestats, 2019). In most cases you can find what you need by “Googling it,” but when you’re looking for results on a specialized topic, a general search engine won’t cut it. 

When doing research on a topic – especially when it comes to private companies – it can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. And for good reason. There are over 1 billion websites on the internet and if you don’t have the right tools, the research process can become an incredibly time consuming and inefficient process. Even worse, you never really know what results you’re missing. That’s where a vertical search engine comes into play.

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The term “vertical search engine” might seem like a new concept, but there is a good chance you’ve already used one today – maybe you are looking for a new job and hopped onto LinkedIn or thinking about buying a house and ran a search on Zillow.  These search engines have become go-to resources for conducting research because they provide users with a way of discovering opportunities. Historically, however, B2B search has been conducted via databases (the “modern” version of Yellow Pages). The problem: you can look up specific companies and filter on a few data points, but databases aren’t designed for company discovery. 

The good news is that with the right technology, B2B research can be as seamless as running a search on Google. To figure out how, let’s walk through five key considerations to ensure the B2B research process runs smoothly and you get the most out of your vertical search engine.

  1. Find hidden gems. Search engine optimization and inclusion in popular publications can boost search engine rankings in Google, but how about companies that are flying under the radar? A vertical search engine can help shed light on companies that don’t show up on the first (or even the fifth) page on Google. As these companies are “hidden” to most (including your competitors), they have the potential to be a large untapped group of prospects. 
  • Uncover opportunities by searching for look-alike companies of your most loyal customers. When looking for companies – where do you start? You already know your current customers or partners find value in your product, so start there. The key here is to find an intelligent solution that can dig through a website to uncover what the company really does, not just what they talk about.
  • Seek out advanced technology. Find a solution that embraces technology such as machine learning, natural language processing and automation to ensure results are continuously updated and results are accurately capturing text from company websites at scale. Platforms that use advanced machine learning techniques can also produce information that traditional databases cannot. When tuned correctly these algorithms can interpret business models, target markets, competitors, and even revenue.
  • Find the right accounts first. Everything starts with account targeting and should be the first step in the research process. The next step is to have the ability to easily find accurate contact information for the right people. This ensures outreach lands with the highest-level decision makers possible. Reaching the right person is important – every time you reach out and connect with the wrong person, you are spending unnecessary cycles that won’t reap rewards.
  • Add information into your current workflow to reduce the need for manual intervention. Technology should make your life easier, not make extra work. Make sure you have the ability to easily create lists and add emails and other important information about a company into the CRMs and system of record you already use. This way information doesn’t get trapped and instead can flow freely between systems. 

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The future of search lies in achieving a more personalized search experience that provides the most accurate and helpful information possible.  It also means being able to integrate that data so you can easily take action and spend more time on activities that actually impact the bottom line. Because ultimately, when you are able to get your research done quicker, you have more time to run more successful campaigns and beat your metrics – whether that’s improving close rates or finding more valuable leads. 

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