In the competitive food business, restaurants know that good reviews by certain food reviewers will translate into packed houses nightly for two weeks to a month. PR, whether through traditional media or social media channels, is that powerful for B2C businesses.
If we look at the B2B environments, can PR bring in the sales? Can the outcomes of PR strategies and activities translate into leads for the sales force? Should PR work with sales teams and be given lead generation quota?
These are real questions that B2B PR managers face today. These questions have long been plaguing PR professionals for years but probably gained ground in recent years with the explosion of social media and digital marketing technologies. In order to answer the questions between PR and lead generation, let us examine how social media is now used by businesses in their go-to-market strategies.
Presently, social media is used by businesses:
- To foster awareness of products, brands or concepts through a variety of programmes and campaigns on publishing platforms and using social listening and sentiment analysis tools.
- To help build pipeline and sales leads through demand generation. Marketers would have gleaned insights into their customers’ needs, wants and desires before developing their marketing strategies and plans. They would use POE (paid, owned and earned) campaigns to target would-be buyers with offers and promotions, driving them to websites or call centres.
- For sales enablement through a number of means such as outreach, engagement or even intelligence. Tools can be used to measure metrics such as sales velocity, frequency of engagement or even post-sales engagement.
- For support to customers on technical or service matters, solve problems or simply to provide information.
- For customer advocacy by amplifying the brand, incentivising the customers and growing a strong base of satisfied customers.
As we can see, social media and the new slew of digital marketing technologies can be used by various groups of professionals – sales leaders, marketers, operations support or PR professionals – to help the business drive revenue and grow the business.
In fact, PR managers’ strengths are in brand awareness, brand creation and advocacy. We believe that PR should participate actively with marketing and various other departments in lead generation to help the business gain customer confidence, and ultimately secure quality leads.
We also believe that the best approach to gain quality leads is through a brand-led strategy.
Not a product-led strategy nor a concept-led strategy.
It's Modern Marketing, really!
Why brand-led? Because of buyers.
Today’s buyers want answers and solutions to their business problems, not a product or a service. So businesses need to move towards a customer-centric model for their business.
Accenture advocates that in B2B environments, businesses must think of customers as more than orders 1 . They advocate placing customer interests, expectations and even convenience at the centre of transactions. Other companies such as IBM and Carlsberg have enjoyed successes with such an approach 2 .
For these companies, they are using their brand to stand out from the ‘noise’ – the noise from various brands, products, ideas or issues that continues to be generated and amplified in the connected world through social media.
These companies are leveraging their brands as living asset to differentiate themselves, engage with customers and, through that, to provide security for future earnings.
The implication for B2B marketers and PR professionals is that the different product teams, business units or back-office support organisations need to participate in planning and outreach to deliver what the customer really needs. Not just to remain in the product or business silos to market and sell specific products or services. It is not an easy task for one person to lead. It is a team effort which a team can own and drive with the involvement and active collaboration by all the various operational teams within the business.
As professionals in the business of influence, we believe that Marketing and PR can work closely together to pull the organisation in the same direction, ensuring the alignment with the brand or company's stakeholders while the business continues to sustain growth in the marketplace. Together, led by Marketing and supported by PR, businesses can better understand their customers, engage with them and add value to their business.
We believe that moving ahead in B2B environments, personalisation will be the hallmark of marketing and compelling brand messages crafted with PR professionals.
All these will be engaged in a shared value between the brand and their customers to drive long term business for the brand.
Simply translated, this means:
In personalising the experience for the customer, it is important to create differentiated experiences and to orchestrate the journey at every point of engagement to ensure a smooth and seamless process. Differentiate the experience by using the appropriate messaging, content, visual expression and campaign assets to evoke the right emotions and responses from the customers.
Overall, we see three important dependencies to make personalisation work through to sales engagement:
(1) Research and Analytics to help brands understand their markets, their audiences and their campaigns so that they can make marketing decisions to fine tune those engagement techniques.
(2) clear and simple messaging across the campaign, content and the engagement techniques to draw the emotions of the audience and have that personal connection, positively influencing collaboration.
(3) Leverage social media tools and technology to get audiences involved. The brand personality will arise, shaped by the market, with a strong team of Marketing and PR professionals enabling it. According to Accenture, 54% of high performing organisations are experimenting with social, mobile, analytics and cloud.
Simply put, the right B2B marketing strategy has to be brand-led. In this way, your brand message comes first, then the content, then the tools. For your business stakeholders, that is just like having a good car with all the bells and whistles, and selling it to the right person who needs it, at the price that makes sense for your business.
Moving ahead, a brand-led and personalisation strategy is the most effective engagement for long term business success. PR managers and their marketing colleagues can work in close collaboration, using a mix of emotional engagement techniques and the latest marketing technologies, to attract and nurture quality leads at low blended cost per lead.
Isn’t that just what the business needs?