Once known as a stand-alone strand of the marketing budget, PR is now an active component for B2B companies, supporting their many promotional obligations
The digital world and the proliferation of channels have created an opportunity for PR to perform more cohesively across the organisation. From internal communications, reputation management, stakeholder engagement and sales enablement, the demand for collaboration and creativity across all business outputs is only increasing.
As a result, we’re seeing a real coming of age for B2B PR. More than ever, clients want to know how this can benefit the sales function.
B2B sales don’t come overnight
It’s important to acknowledge the B2B buying process when putting together a communications strategy. According to research by Professor John Dawes of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, only 5% of B2B buyers are in-market to buy right now. That means 95% of buyers are out of market and won’t buy for months or maybe even years. The chances are they’ve already got what you are selling, so you can’t make them go in-market at will.
It therefore makes no sense to direct all your marketing budget to generating leads for the 5% of customers that are ready to buy today. Instead, make it your purpose to more effectively influence the 95% of potential future customers who will generate future cash flow.
This is where B2B communications strategy comes in. Because success in the form of sales rarely happens overnight, there is more of a requirement to think long-term. How can you do this?
Go where your target audience is
The digital landscape provides more platforms and channels for brands to be visible across than ever before. That responsibility can feel overwhelming at times and as the saying goes, companies are now ‘needing to do more with less’. Successful B2B PR strategies rely on a focused approach that starts with understanding where your target audience most commonly resides. This will allow you to direct more of the marketing budget to the channels that are going to be most valuable to the organisation.
Stand out for the right reasons
To effectively target people that aren’t actively in the market now, brand awareness is super important if they are to remember you when they are in the market. This is less about timely press releases to announce your latest product updates and more about delivering a compelling message that resonates with your audience – and doing so on a consistent basis.
Therefore, it’s not just a case of being known, your ‘why’ needs to be heard louder than ever before, especially if you operate in a crowded marketplace. Your ‘why’ is what sets you apart from the competition.
Become a thought leader on the topics that reflect your ‘why’, provide your perspective and be an authoritative voice on the issues that matter to your target audience with a consistent and targeted content marketing strategy.
Earn third-party validation
This is a key component for building brand awareness and trust. It can take the form of a product reviews campaign or a case study approach. Letting a third party do all the talking for you provides credibility.
This strategy is so effective for building trust that Google is also getting in on the act. It now puts the focus on useful and relevant content from third parties rather than from brands themselves. As a result, brands are finding that news articles appear top in search results rather than their own website content. This further emphasises the importance of a content marketing strategy.
Reflect your audience’s vision
To be relevant today, an organisation needs to demonstrate that it understands – and acts upon – the same issues and concerns as its audience.
The greatest example of this is the rise of environmental, social and governance (ESG) communications in the B2B sector, a broadening of the focus on the environment against the backdrop of the social justice movement. It centres on the belief that organisations can no longer ignore their own accountability and requires total transparency in delivering on their ESG values and vision.
As a result, ESG is increasingly becoming the centre of an organisation’s communications. Failure to be transparent and communicate creates an assumption that the organisation is failing to act at all; this can result in lost leads.
Tie it all back to the sales funnel
To drive the highest returns from your PR strategy, it’s important that your sales funnel is integrated into PR activity. Bylined articles and media mentions of your brand form credible collateral for the sales team to share with prospective customers.
Having a strong media presence generated over a long period of time also indicates your brand is well-positioned in the market, which can inform decision-making when a prospect is evaluating one product or service against another.
In summary, for B2B marketers, posting content regularly in the right places and making yourself familiar and trusted will ensure you’ll be front of mind for the 95% when the time comes for them to buy.