“And to sell?” How PR generates leads in B2B

How will PR increase our company income? If you work in b2b you hear this question quite frequently. How it impacts my business. In figures, please, what’s a ROI? Why? Let’s consider the options.

B2B PR. Show me the money

We, in B2B PR, have been answering to these questions long time, and here we systematised the answers.

Here are 23 tools and several advises to help you sell better after COVID-19.

 

Intro

Recently the idea that PR agency should care about SEO in Google, seemed crazy. Now it’s a new black.

PR always focused on media relations, and will continue to do it, but in b2b we will go far beyound  media relations. We do

To unserstand how it works let’s look at the branding fundamentals

Good PR is about stories, ideas and feelings. But today it closely related to inbound marketing. What means shift from cold calls to attracting customers to a product and ‘cold request’ from them.

Пиар сегодня занимается входящим маркетингом

These tools are popular all over the world, ’cause we believe that B2B products should be distributed globally.

Арсенал пиар инструментов для входящего маркетинга

1. Messages

PR was always in charge of messages about company and brand. What to say? Before public communications we think through messages.

How we know what messages to craft and distribute?

You should know what people want and don’t want, what stereotypes — both negative and positive  — they have. You will build your messeges on this knowledge and will sell better.

Here is the example when B2B chose a message about customer’s success and pach it into different genres.

You don’t need many messages, 2-4 are enough. When you choose them and beleive in them put them into action consistently and for a long time.

Выберите сообщения и последовательно внедряйте их

From psychology of branding. According to Rossiter-Percy grid B2B brands are high involvment and informational (relate to negative motivations).

So, you’d better to put in message a problem your product solves for a customer. And select communication genres that give immersion.

This will build a link between customer’s need and your product. A customer will recall your product when he will be challenged with need for your product category. ‘Recall effect’ sells. This is characteristic of a strong brand which means that when a person thinks about the problem, your brand comes to his mind. The recall effect is achieved when your brand is consistently connected with a certain topic, so a brain builds associations.

B2B messages are more rational, but we can’t manage without emotions.Без эмоций нельзя

I like a hypothesis of Robert Heath from the book ‘The Hidden Power of Advertising‘ that what works well in today information clutter is simple emotional messages.

How this famous ads of B2B branch of Volvo brand. Let’s enjoy this 1.16-minute masterpiece once more.

 

Lyrical Digression 1. Listen to Customers

Not only promo. PR can help you sell better because you will

To listen is, first, to read what people write about you and your category in social media. Many monitoring agencies can find these mentions for you.

It’s especially important to listen to one group — your staff.

 

2. Employees as a brand advocates

Your employees should be your ‘sale team’.

B2B companies make long lasting relations with customers and partners what give them healthy corporate culture and individualism.

How can PR help with it?

First of all, make ‘public opinion’ poll: what people like in the company, what they don’t like, values, weaks, issues. Develop messages for the team and communication plan.

Then they will talk with friends and post to social media. Only give them ‘Social media guide’ not to bring the company to any reputation crush.

It’s especially important to listen to your sales team, that communicate with customers and know their pains and gains.

Слушать потребителей

3. PR and Sales Alignment

It’s simple and obvious thing to do but many PR asn sales departments work in their silos and communicate only through CEO.

Once we developed communication in brand touch points for large content producer and together with sales department

PR and sales alignment is very important for B2B business improvement.

 

4. Public information audit and update

PR in general is about public information menagement. Before manage you have to check what it is now. We call it ‘public information audit’. It starts from own media: web-site, social media profiles. They all need update with new messages.

 

5. Website

Gartner research finds that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase‚ they spend only 17% of that time meeting with potential suppliers. Almost 75% of sales situations, a customer would prefer not to spend time meeting face to face, they want to engage virtually. 57% of the purchase decision is already complete before the customer even calls the supplier.

So you need a good website.

Not obvious: if it’s possbile, put on your site the price of your product. B2B buyers finds they value transparent information about cost (25%) as the most important characteristic of a B2B company’s website.

Obvious. Ensure your brand story, in the form of reviews, testimonials, ratings, references, is available in as many forms as possible on your site.

 

6. Push-notifications

A new channel for B2B is a browser push-notifications.

There B2B companies that tried this from of connection with their stakeholders and it worked.

 

7. Reviews

Consumer reviews increase purchase intent among B2B buyers. The majority of B2B buyers, 71%, look at product reviews during the consideration phase of purchases.

People like reviews and want to know opinion and advice of those who used the product, not marketers.

How to make a reviews? Just ask for it (please, see below см. ниже Lyrical Digression 2 СТА). Just ask for honest review in the social media convinient for the stakeholder, may be even help the person with words on the base on what he/she said to you.

 

8. Social Media

Direct communication with customers when and how you like it — it must be a dream. Only one thing: social networks algorithms don’t show brand pages posts. So from time to time you need paid promo, more about it below.

What you shoul take into account when posting to social media?

Main social media for B2B are Facebook and LinkedIn.Основные социальные медиа
I would like to say more about LinkedIn. As many Ukrainian I spend in LinkedIn less time that in Facebook. But if you think about export you should be here. It’s absolutely ok to write to unknown person in LinkedIn: ‘we sell this and this, wouldn’t you be interested?’. So, if your fist contact message won’t be selling it’s better. Don’t forget about CTA!

 

Lyrical Digression 2. CTA

The world changes but people stay the same on root level — 2000 years of civilisation won’t beat 4 million years of survival. Some psychological tools work evewhere on everybody. And call to action is one of them. Simply saying, people will do what you ask them to do. If at the end of your post you ask to put “+” in comments if you are interested, you will get new leads.

 

One of the simpliest CTA is to ask to give email, and you get permission to be in the prospect’s email account.

 

9. Messengers

Messaging for businesses became the new normal globally.

Communication through messengers is more personal interactions and more streamlined experiences. A customer can see if his message is read, often expects immediate response, get more streamlined experience.

 

Мессенджеры для бизнеса

LinkedIn propose messaging as a first hand business communication tool. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Telegram are convenient — to continue phone call and put down some agreements. Also you can brand messengers.

 

Lyrical Digression 3. Instagram

As the culture becames more visual, people use Instagram more and some B2B brands managed to get benefit from this: Intel has 1.3 mln followers, Mailchimp — 117K. If your brand has visual part, for example, design or farming, you should be in Instagram. And if hasn’t — create it. Humans better and quicker process visuals then text, it’s a featur of our ‘lizard brain‘. We remember pictures, we emotionally respond to them, implicitly build accociations and links. 65% of all people are prefer visual learning. Instagram makes B2B brands more creative, and that’s good!

Shopify tells about its clints, small business owners.

 

FedEx asks its stakeholders to make photos.

freshworksinc promotes its educational content.

Instagram can help you to keep contect with a customer between buyings.

 

10. Emails

Emails are percieved by prospects as a ‘work space’ and, therefore, content recieves more attention.

But the first letter could be not selling: give them something free and useful. Advice, invitation, test, analytics, but not free demo or discount. We call it ‘generous letter’.

What you can do with mail

Make mails cleaning from time to time. Eliminate all who didn’t open your letters for a year, for example. It seems they changed a job or aren’t interested in you for other reasons. Before ‘big cleaning’ send one ‘generous letter’ and if these long time non-openers don’t react at it, get rid of them.

Emails help to keep connections with customers during long time between purchases. And content for this can be generated from media and experts relations, and also from content marketing and influencer marketing.

 

Lyrical Digression 4. Long cicle

Emails and Instagram solves for B2B one more task: they keep light connection brand-customer between long purchases. The B2B sales process today takes 22% longer than it did just five years ago. Add on the fact that this doesn’t include the time a B2B buyer spends doing their own research and you have what can feel like an agonizingly long buying process.

11. Media and experts relations

If think thoroughly what is the key difference between PR and advertising the answer will be — third parties testimonials. And they trust more third parties than first one.

How to build relationships with journalists, analysts and experts. First, meet them, ideally, physically, at the event. To do this, you can even organize an event yourself (please, see below).

Then, use English lawn technique, “water and mow”. Watering is giving without asking for anything in return. These are market insides (figures and facts), contacts, news (not those to publish about you), explanations of what is happening on the market, meetings. Mowing is getting. Press-releases, highlights in analytical reports and ratings. References and reviews.

 

 

12. Influencer Marketing

Influencers are people who decide to earn living by their popularity in social media.

Therefore, influencer marketing lays at the intersection of media relations and paid promotion (see below), but closer to the last. Do not think that you can send your product to an influencer as a gift, and you will get a free positive coverage. Influencers understand that this will ruin their business, so use ethics: “Well, it’s a gift, isn’t it.” And gifts, as you know, are given for free.

Therefore, if you decide to use influencer marketing, find them, agree on the format and discount, and think multi-channel (see below).

Here are some of the social media where B2B brands are looking for their influencers.

The topic of fraud in influencer marketing is actively discussed. We would recommend take micro- (up to 10 thousand followers) or even nano-influencers (up to 1000 followers), but those where  you see real representatives of your target audience in comments.

 

13. PR for SEO

Today, B2B PR experts are more and more involved in Google appearence of the brands. Because prospects in their endless oceans of information need lighthouses, and search engines became them.

Ideally, when a lead writes the category or a problem in Google, and in the first lines there is your content. «90% of buyers typically don’t have a brand in mind when they begin their online research. When buyers first search for a product or service, they search for generic phrases — such as “ABM solutions” or “lead generation tools. … 88% of searches in the B2B segment were unbranded, meaning buyers were higher in the funnel and potentially more open to discovery and persuasion», — results of a new report from Uberall Inc.

How to be on top in search results? Be published at media with high-quality content. I’m sure that the initial principle of Google — to show more significant content first — still works. And if a good media brand mentions your product, that’s significant. So PR impacts search results directly.

Read more about this below, in ‘Paid Promo’ part.

 

14. Content Marketing

85% of B2B marketers view content as the most effective digital marketing method for lead generation.

This tool  has been used in B2B for years because it works. I would like to give two advices

Find what people look for and what questions they ask, for example, using the service Ask the Public and create content based on popular search inquires. This now works better than keywords (see Google’s 2019 BERT).

Make fragmented content. People don’t consume content slowly and smoothly. Make it easier for the reader to insert breakers

Here is an example of good B2B video: traditional video graphics + man with his humor and emotions.

Whatever you choose, use a simple language with short sentences and paragraphs.

Good text is important for sales. Not boring. Clear. Where the words “leader”, “quality” and “effective” are not written in every second sentence.

Here is the same scene shot by an ordinary person and a professional photographer.

 

15. Educational Content

Teaching is a new selling. If you shoot or write a training course/lesson/guide on your topic you will

When creating educational content, remember Abraham Lincoln: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” Elaborate what you will tell and how to present it. And then this magnet for leads will work long for you.

A good example of such promo is the Fundamentals of Media Relations course from Muck Rack platform for PR specialists. It’s designed in the genre of online course, with video lessons, lecturer, presentations, quizes and even a certificate (to put in LinkedIn, like other certificates, of course, it’s well branded). But the main thing is that the course is useful and builds a positive brand awareness.

If possible, try recording a podcast.

16. Podcasts

A new channel for lead generation is podcasts. Their popularity is growing: people listen them while driving cars, making domestic chores, running, walking. Podcasts give emotions, connect, and catch an audience where no media reaches.

Three ideas for podcasts

17. Thought Leadership

In content marketing you write more practical things, and in thought leadership you intellectually lead the category forward, talk about the future and innovation, create visionary projects, lobby for rules of the game changes. As a result you

Two expamples of B2B brands thought leadership
With manifest

With implementation

 

18. Personal PR

Who stay behind a B2B product? To show the people is the right move for any B2B brand. Humans trust humans, humans buy from humans. Cohn&Wolfe research founded: 63 percent of customers choose authentic brands over those that aren’t as transparent. But a computer soft or mining machine is not authentic. Only people are (and brands humanized by them).

Why else do you still need speakers? To make media coverage that can be done only with a human

 

19. Events

Physical contact is the highest quality advertising contact. Speaking at events helps to sell because

Physical contact sells so well in B2B that it’s worth organize your own events. They will help you not only network, but also build communities.

 

20. Communities

Community marketing is when you bring people with common interests together. This will work especially well now, in quarantine, while everyone is at home: meet them in a Facebook group, Telegram chat, or Viber group.

Find informal leaders among your subscribers and involve them more; for others make interactive.

Ukrainian Marketing Forum Club

21. Famous Brand

If you are still reading, you must be passionary, and perhaps you should go the way of famous brand. It means newsmaking, media relations, industry events and social projects. Be a star.

For example, “Fearless Girl” is a promotion for B2B brand State Street Global Advisors.

This is a long way, and without a guaranteed result, but if your brand becomes famous and buyers will have it in their long-term memory, they will remember you forever.

Well-known brands have a special aura that makes customers more price elastic and easier to accept a high price.

Слава продает

Lyrical Digression 5. Mental Availability

Mental or cognitive availability is a brand feature, when a customer easy recalls the brand when he needs a product. Some researchers in the psychology of advertising, believe that mental availability  is a very powerful engine for sales for any brand. When a person easily recalls a brand it means that the brand is significant and worthy of trust for the consumer.

(The projection of cognitive availability onto the material world is search availability.)

You can’t create cognitive availability without a paid promo.

 

22. Paid Promo

“Here’s the reality: if you’re looking for your marketing to serve the purpose of lead generation, paid ad campaigns are the go-to — especially at first. Years ago, we used to focus primarily on organic lead generation campaigns. We’d prioritize SEO, focus on getting our clients to rank for high-volume keywords relevant to their audience, and dedicate the vast majority of our efforts to making it happen. The problem is that making organic results happen takes time. SEO is a great method for generating leads, but it’s almost always a long-term play. Same with organic social campaigns. Most companies can’t afford to wait six months for leads; they need them to start flowing quickly. That’s why paid campaigns are so useful”, — Jon Anderson writes.

If you are ready to build a well-known brand, especially when we talk about near future, be prepared to increase your share of voice with a paid promo.

If editions write about your product for free, it does not make any active links to your site. Paid placements, native advertising, special projects, all them give you active links, what take you even higher in the search results, and provide traffic to your site.

But it’s not easy. Marianna Konina, Chief Public Engagement Officer of technological Techiia Holding, has practical experience with special projects for SEO and shares knowledge: “Just paid placement will not give you the result, even if it is a good publisher, active links to the customer’s site are in terms and conditions of the contract. Require that media put right meta titles, meta data, and replaced the name of the pictures from automatically generated to those with speaker’s name in it. Some media do this reluctantly. Without this extra work, the company’s special project featured on Google 3-5 page by different keywords, even being placed in a rating edition”.

It’s worth doing a paid promotion in reputable media brands from time to time, in order to support good edition, they deserve it.

Boosts in Facebook and LinkedIn, you also need them. These social networks do not like to display company page posts even to their followers for free. “Paid social can be incredibly effective, too. But it’s generally best at entering people into the higher stages of your lead funnel (by facilitating signups to a webinar or content piece, for example, versus dropping them directly into a service consult). Very rarely are the people buying B2B tech services doing it on social”, — Jon Anderson again.

And finally, advertising, in particular, contextual advertising on Google. Okay, this is not a PR at all, but now PR specialists call themselves “communicators”, so we do it as well.

All this creates cognitive availability and, finally, so called “communication impulse” when your brand is highlighted from the information clutter and be remembered in longtime memory.

 

23. Multichannel marketing

Different communication channels should work together. If a prospect first read about your product in an article, then in expert post on Facebook, then in a search engine, and finally come to your site, and will find there a case study about its competitor, he became hot lead.

B2B buyers need several weeks or months to make a collective purchase decision. Use multi-, cross- or omnichannel approach, and then you, like John Wanamaker, can proudly say: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

 

Lyrical Digression 6. Future is mobile

The future of brand promotion is the ability to organically and seamlessly enter mobile devices. PR is the easiest way to do this, it already there. People read articles while lying in bed, scroll social media in the bathroom and smile to the pictures while eating. And these pictures, texts and posts can be of your B2B brand.

 

It’s all. What do you think? Write to me.

Of course, today crisis is not the best time for lead generation: your prospects are in stand by mode, and the cost of attracting new customers will increase. But this is a good period to

And PR will help you with the most vital function of the business — to sell.

GOOD BUSINESS!

With love,

Olga Vaganova (LinkedIn)

B2B PR Agency

Ольга Ваганова, B2B PR