B2B-PR agency advice: Supporting sales across the B2B customer journey
B2B-PR agency advice: Supporting sales across the B2B customer journey
Written by Simpatico PR
Posted on 2023-06-29
“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic,” says Seth Godin.
This thought neatly sums up why sales teams are increasing using B2B PR to support sophisticated sales strategies.
Once thought of as a soft, nice to have marketing option to support business visibility - B2B PR is no-longer just a top-of funnel brand building function. Used correctly B2B PR agency programmes can be tied directly to sales strategies and individual prospect engagement.
Much has been written about the changing nature of B2B sales - the complexity of lead generation and the duration of prospect development. It may be more intricate and technical but the human aspect of decision-making and the need to influence people are still fundamental.
A study by Raconteur published this year showed 11 people are involved in B2B purchase decisions in 53% of cases and as many as 16 in 21% of cases.
As the number of ways to influence these decision-makers proliferates and intelligent automation plays a greater part in the process, B2B PR is playing an increasingly important role both from a technical and psychological perspective.
Soft sales power
PR is a subtle but extremely powerful B2B marketing force – rather like gravity it builds in strength as mass or weight of activity increases.
It creates credibility, trust, endorsement and affirms decisions. It does this because unlike advertising, it is only earned by the approval of experts – journalists. And this trust in expertise is particularly strong in trade media which tends to form the core of B2B PR.
Research suggests that while general news media categories have low levels of trust, trade media is more highly trusted by business audiences and is influential. Business leaders tend to trust a potential business partner more if they have read about it in the media.
The quoted costs of paid for editorial, sponsored or native content is a good guide to the value of an B2B PR earned piece of coverage for a business brand – typically four to five figure sums for trade editorial packages.
A B2B PR programme locked into your business sales strategy should enable your sales team to sell creatively and in context and create a rich mine of content to support lead generation, qualified lead conversations, as well as putting you in pole position in competitive tenders and nudging negotiations over the line.
“In a downturn, aggressive PR and communications strategy is key.” – Doug Leone, VC, Sequoia Capital - Silicon Alley Insider
The link between an individual piece of PR-generated coverage and a contract secured, can be tenuous. It can however also be directly linked to PR. Simpatico PR has on numerous occasions targeted specific media to help win a specific contract – for example a branding agency securing a low-cost airline contract.
Linking PR and sales
Linking B2B PR to the sales process on a permanent basis, is however the best way to secure a return on PR investment.
The first step is to loop business development, marketing and PR agency teams together and task them to create an integrated plan in which PR out-reach is tuned and co-ordinated with the sales process and the sales strategy.
“Historically, PR, Marketing and Advertising budgets are the first to be cut; however, that could be one of the first mistakes a business makes in an economic crisis.” – CBSMarketwatch
If you start from the principle that the priority objective for your B2B PR agency is to support sales and everyone buys into that from word go, it is far easier to design a programme of content creation and media relations to achieve that goal and measure success.
Allow your PR team to sit down with sales and build a clear picture of the process, what barriers and opportunities salespeople face and of course what categories of business they are targeting.
Matching media with sales targets
The UK and US markets are home to a rich eco-system of trade media as well as national and specialist titles. Trade media in particular off businesses the opportunity to reach a targeted audience efficiently in a trusted environment.
Sectors such as retail, automotive, finance, travel and leisure, HR, marketing, technology, to name just a few are represented by a range of titles which valuable decision-making audience.
Because every sector of business is working through the process of digital transformation editorial teams on these titles are open to strong ideas related to this change - particularly regarding technology and data and are seeking expert commentary.
A schedule of content generation and media targeting aligned closely to prospecting should then form the core of B2B PR.
Other tasks such as brand building and visibility can sit alongside this.
From highly targeted to high volume sales
A recent report by McKinsey looked at the sales processes that were driving growth for successful B2B companies. It found that innovation in sales strategies, processes and teams was critical to success and that personalisation of content and conversation was increasingly prevalent.
The importance of thought-leadership was highlighted again by the latest Edleman and LinkedIn study of B2B decision-making.
The study found more than half of decision-makers believe suppliers of non-essential products and services should be seen to produce high-quality thought leadership in order to win business during uncertain economic times.
A combination of targeted B2B PR media placements and then achieving a content to audience multiplier effect by using that content in a variety of ways is increasingly recognised as an important foundation for sales.
Creating a B2B sales and content multiplier process
It’s possible to create a B2B PR multiplier effect to support sales with a few simple steps and options. For every piece of placed thought leadership or high value news coverage:
• Create multiple social posts especially LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Draft a short summary of the article and add appropriate links and #tags and @mediatitle and or @journalist acknowledgment. Post more than once with variations of the summary copy.
• Promote the coverage directly to prospects and desired connections on LinkedIn using Premium or Sales Navigator. The coverage should fit into your content and messaging strategy to support sales and will support the out-reach cadence.
• Use the media coverage on a dedicated website news page and / or in a different version of the piece posted as a blog referencing the coverage.
• Use the coverage for email out-reach either as a separate mailer or as part of a planned programme of thought-leadership and dialogue with prospects.
• Make sure coverage is circulated to the whole sales team as a source to support live conversational sales or more ad-hoc or in the moment communications.
• Use coverage creatively in sales presentations, video content and event decks.
• Premium thought-leadership content ideas should form the basis for multi-media sales, marketing and B2B PR projects – PR coverage can be the sharp end of project which also includes a whitepaper, social media, lead-generation out-reach, an own-brand event or webinar, sales collateral and advertising.
Again, at Simpatico PR we know this works because projects we've helped deliver have resulted in major contractual wins.
B2B PR measurement is no longer a mystery
There’s nothing fuzzy about PR measurement these days – it is firmly connected with actions and out-comes designed to support sales. It’s important to agree measurement criteria up-front. Most B2B PR agency teams will be only too happy to measure success as it helps them sell!
Rather than measuring on coverage delivered it is far better to structure a PR budget around actions delivered and then measure success based on a suitable range of metrics. For example:
• Basic audience and engagement data on coverage reach, coverage engagement – likes, re-tweets, click-throughs etc.
• Track inbound leads, leads generated by PR and marketing projects and completed online lead generation forms
• Record where PR supported sales conversations and augmented sales content
• Log growth in social media followers and engagement
• Track website traffic against media placements and analysing cumulative increases to website views
• Measure backlinks to the website and associated effect on SEO rankings
• Review the quantity and quality of media placements over time
“Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make.” – Bill Bernbach, advertising pioneer and founder of DDB
Whatever the form of marketing you use, the only thing that really matters is the influence on decision-making it achieves.
B2B sales is no different – the logic of augmenting sales strategy with PR to achieve influence is more compelling than ever.
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