With its splashy headlines and viral tweets, consumer PR gets all the attention. But a well crafted PR program can have a powerful impact on B2B businesses, too. And it’s often very cost-effective relative to consumer public relations.
Think about business categories where the margins are high and the sales cycle is long – enterprise software, insurance, or any professional service, from accounting to management consulting. Those “boring” categories require research, education, and commitment by buyers. A strategic PR campaign can influence the buying decision. Yes, data can be compelling, but smart B2B marketers know that storytelling is more powerful than a list of facts. Here’s how B2B PR supports sales.
We’re living in a time of deteriorating popular confidence in almost everything from Congress to organized religion. The problem extends to marketing, but there’s some good news for PR. Cision’s State of the Media report shows that trust in earned media outpaces that for other forms of content. Nielsen studies have consistently tracked an uptick in confidence in “recommendations from people I know.” It makes sense that earned media and social mentions generated by a strategic PR campaign can work well to support B2B sales because of they are inherently credible compared to paid ads and other content.
Think about the typical business customer today. She has access to huge amounts of information — customer reviews, trade articles, analyst reports and research, and firsthand experiences from professional peers. The sheer volume of available material is an advantage, but it adds complexity to the process. That’s where B2B brands have an opportunity to educate their market. When a product is expensive, complicated, or both, it’s hard for paid content to offer the depth needed to educate a prospect or explain features and benefits. It also means credibility is important. That’s often where the earned media generated through PR comes in. Features and reviews can condition the market and point prospective buyers in the right direction. Then, with help from email marketing, SEM, or owned content, they move down the sales funnel.
For B2B brands, expertise counts. A thoughtful PR strategy can align an individual – and a business – with a specific talent or competence. Thought leadership events, too, can support an expert positioning. For many of the B2B brands we represent we set up expert discussion panels that join a top client executive with other industry figures to explore trends and current issues. By bringing together influencers, customers, and prospects as well as key media, we create fresh, relevant content. The net effect is to make the client brand stand out and link it with borrowed expertise s well as the client’s own insights.
PR and AR (Analyst Relations) are two sides of the same coin. Inclusion in influential analyst reports can boost a B2B’s sales prospects for years. Conversely, a strong executive visibility campaign can influence analysts to take a look at an emerging brand in a given sector, even if the company isn’t a paying client. Nobody wants to miss the next category disruptor.
What’s more valuable than a customer advocate? A happy client who voluntarily recommends a business to others based on their own experience is like gold. We don’t typically create those satisfied customers, but PR can amplify their voices. PR can leverage customer advocacy through reviews, testimonials, contributed content, and participation in conferences and speaking events. A well designed social PR campaign turns super-users into bloggers, reviewers, and influencers. In turn, participation in an organized brand “champion” program can strengthen a brand’s relationship with its top customers and deepen their loyalty.
Think purpose-driven brand PR is for consumer sectors? Think again. Because they’re purchasing on behalf of their organization, business buyers tend to be very conscious of the brand reputation of vendors or partners. As well, decision-making teams have changed, with business buyers younger and more diverse than in the past. Their values differ from those of previous generations.
As the Harvard Business Review’s How Digital Natives Are Changing B2B Purchasing notes, some 73% of 20- to 35-year-olds are involved in product or service purchase decision making at their companies. They’ve changed how companies research purchases and qualify their vendors, valuing information they get from online search, peers and colleagues over vendor sales reps. More subtly, this cohort (Millennials and Gen Z buyers) weigh factors like brand values, social responsibility, and culture when choosing vendors. The right communications strategy can credibly convey a B2B brand’s cultural and societal values; ethics as an employer and corporate citizen; and brand purpose beyond sales and profits.