The Digital Trifecta: B2B PR, Marketing and Sales
By Cara Sloman, executive vice president, Nadel Phelan Inc.
Finding the best way to engage with a prospect and keep the conversation moving in the right direction is hard. No one enjoys pesky sales emails and follow ups that lack concrete purpose. This is where earned media coverage can bring significant advantage – instead of tooting your own horn, let someone else – and leverage that accordingly.
At its most basic core, that’s what public relations firms can do. When executed successfully, it’s a powerful tool, raising awareness and credibility for B2B organizations. And it’s an essential piece of an integrated marketing plan. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital strategy and digital fluency is more important than ever before due to restrictions to in-person marketing methods.
Ideally, earned, owned and paid media work together to support sales. A well-designed PR program plays a significant role in lead generation for B2B companies and in turning those leads into customers.
PR makes contributions all along the buyer’s journey, from the top to the bottom of the sales funnel. These contributions come in many different shapes and sizes and can include social media, whitepapers, media coverage, etc. Assets as such can be leveraged not only as a touch point for the sales team to use with prospects, but can also be used to support email campaigns, SEO and additional marketing efforts.
Top of the funnel
At the top of the funnel, a consistent PR program generates awareness and demand. As your PR team garners media coverage, organic searches display articles with media and analyst coverage. This introduces third-party credibility. PR is also effective in building high-value backlinks from media websites – boosting referral, organic and direct traffic to your website over time.
Thought leadership and executive visibility are very effective ways to demonstrate industry authority. Your PR team will be instrumental in establishing this by helping to develop and place articles for media outlets and blogs for your site. Not only do these efforts boost credibility and help extend visibility, but blogging can have a direct economic impact, too.
HubSpot found that marketers who prioritize business blogging efforts are 13x more likely to see positive ROI. And DemandMetric reports that companies with blogs produce 67% more leads per month on average than those without a blog.
In addition, feature articles and reviews published in external media outlets work to educate the market and point prospective buyers in the right direction. Then, with help from email marketing, search engine marketing or owned content, the sales team can use this to push the prospect right down the sales funnel.
Middle of the Funnel: Good PR brings credibility to your product or service
PR creates content marketing services that highlight key benefits of the product or service or shines a light on customer successes. Media endorsements and positive coverage from industry analysts and pundits provide validation and build credibility. Anyone can buy an ad – and while ads and advertorial have their merits, earned media coverage provides the kind of third-party validation customers want to see.
Marketing and sales teams can use thought leadership bylined articles, case studies and feature articles in the consideration phase: at meetings, at trade shows and conferences, and via emails, webinars and other marketing initiatives. They can also use earned media coverage to target potential prospects and then drive them further down the funnel.
Bottom of the Funnel: PR brings validation to your product or service
Media coverage from a reputable publication shows potential customers that your company is worth paying attention to. PR continues to create buzz and helps reinforce the purchase decision and positions the company for future cross–sell/upsell opportunities.
At this stage, the prospect is considering all content assets, company recognition and conducting competitor-analysis to determine if a certain vendor is the best choice. In order to convert a potential buyer, every bit helps – especially when paired against your competitor.
Establishing strong messaging about your product and its capabilities from the get-go is crucial to showcase industry dominance and expertise in a niche area of interest. This way, when comparing product offering, the company’s reputation should speak for itself and convert the prospect into a buyer.
How PR and digital marketing work together
So what does this look like in practice? Here’s an example: During the last economic downturn in 2008, we worked with the educational services division of a Fortune 50 company to launch and grow the world’s first social learning community. The platform represented a fundamental shift in education delivery for the company and the industry. We created a Cool Jobs in IT campaign to promote success stories across exciting markets such as fashion, travel and entertainment. This elevated awareness of the vast job opportunities in the space and the benefits of having a certification from the company. We established credibility and awareness for the learning community by submitting their platform to all learning awards – and the client placed first in all of them.
The platform served as a meeting place for social learning and was a community resource designed to reinforce the skills and competencies it takes to achieve certification. It fostered community engagement through polls and surveys, discussion forums, live and recorded events, study groups, contests and giveaways, and regional and language-specific content. Through the social learning platform, we moved an army of millions of people to keep them focused on the client’s strategy, goals and what its technology could do for the world. It was so much more powerful than standard marketing. The social platform scaled and created a speed that allowed the company to capture market share – it was a huge competitive differentiator. It allowed the client to grow faster, particularly in emerging markets where it was difficult connecting otherwise.
An integrated approach
The right PR strategy can bring the goals of digital marketing and sales to fruition. By improving awareness, credibility and validity, organizations can elevate their online presence in the eyes of their target market. And with today’s tools, like Google Analytics, it’s easier than ever to tie PR efforts to lead generation and to see which tactics and channels are yielding the best results. Don’t leave PR’s vital contributions out of your B2B integrated marketing plan.