The one constant in life is change. Few things have changed more in recent memory than how B2B companies drive new business. Many of the approaches used five (or even three) years ago simply no longer work: marketing emails, trade shows, advertising, press releases, etc. Therefore, B2B companies looking to get ahead in 2023 may want to rethink their business development tactics and should be aware of the new rules of B2B public relations.
Guiding the B2B sales process
For starters, your marketing has to phase out the “look at us” approach. For anyone who has taken Communications 101, you’ll remember the rule was to mention your company’s name early and often. However, today people are more likely to be turned off by all the salesy, self-promotional hype. Instead, they want answers. They want education. They want value.
In fact, in an ideal world, your prospects would prefer to never have to speak to a salesperson. This is supported by recent research by Forrester, a leading business research and consultant company, which found that an overwhelming majority of B2B buyers prefer doing business online versus with a salesperson. In a separate report from Forrester, the data shows that as much as 90% of the B2B buying cycle is now completed before a prospect ever reaches out to a possible vendor.
So, the question becomes, how do you guide the buyer through the sales process without a salesperson? The only possible answer is content, and the type of content that is most engaging is insightful, educational, and even disruptive content. We have written plenty of blogs on how to write that type of content. The question this blog answers is how do you then get that content into the hands of your ideal buyer?
Press Releases Are Out
Let’s cut the suspense and say right off the top that it is not with a traditional press release. Feel free to skip down to the next section. For those still reading, here is your post-mortem on the press release.
With very few exceptions, press releases generate 99.9% waste. The most valid exception includes investor relations (IR) compliance reports – which still no one reads, but they are required.
The truth is that the press release offers very little in the way of value to the reader. Back to Communications 101, the opening line of any press release tells the reader that this is completely, 100% about you, and not them: e.g.: Today, “Fictional Company” announced blah, blah, blah.
Think about this for a second, your prospects are bombarded by over 5,000 advertising and brand messages every day. How many of those do you think penetrate? 5-10, maybe fewer?
Then take into account how a press release is distributed; typically, on a wire service where hundreds of thousands of other press releases also go out every day. They get picked up by no-name websites that deliver no value at all.
So, while a well-written press release can deliver newsworthy information, it is the way they are packaged and distributed that is the problem. It is much more impactful to utilize the media to tell your company’s stories.
Storytelling is in
Everyone loves a good story. The best stories grab our attention, keep us listening, and connect with us emotionally. These are the type of stories that start conversations and drive people to take action. Just be careful not to make it all about yourself.
One of the most appealing and impactful ways to tell your company’s stories in the media is to have your customers do the talking for you. What problems did they have? What types of solutions did they try and why did they fall short? Why did they ultimately choose you and what were the results? Chances are, someone else is having that exact same problem and has been searching for a solution.
Now your PR agency can take that story and pitch it to the media. With this approach:
- You control the narrative
- You control which publications it appears in
- You build credibility, awareness, and drive inbound leads
Additionally, that content can be the cornerstone of many of your marketing and sales collateral needs. Share it on your social media pages, on your website, or via direct emails.
Measure Returns with KPIs
Finally, track your performance using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). It’s important to keep in mind that the number of KPIs is not as important as the quality. Focus on PR KPIs that will have the greatest impact on business objectives. Is that increasing awareness and credibility, boosting leads and revenue, shortening sales cycles, or a mixture of these?
As an example, let’s take a look at one of our clients, ELSCO. Founded in 1912 by former Westinghouse engineers, ELSCO specializes in providing high-quality new, repaired, and rebuilt medium-sized transformers.
Even though the company has been around for over 100 years, its biggest challenge was brand awareness. While they had a strong differentiator, they lacked awareness. They needed to reach more people with their stories. After trying SEO, pay-per-click, and inside telemarketing with little to no avail, they turned to Rankin PR for help.
How the New Rules of B2B Public Relations Make an Impact
Rankin PR utilized storytelling to highlight the company’s value proposition without being self-promotional, educating prospects on how their units operate more efficiently and tend to last significantly longer. These stories were published in dozens of top-tier trade publications that go out to their ideal customer. As more feature articles were published, ELSCO began to generate millions of impressions with their target audience, achieving their KPI of increased brand awareness.
It delivered significantly more than that. Not long after a cover story on ELSCO was published in a leading utility-focused journal, the company received a call from a prospect that read the article but was previously unaware of the company. ELSCO went on to sell them two six-figure transformers and then two more a few months later bringing in an immediate return on their PR investment. Rankin PR had successfully achieved two additional KPIs, increasing leads through educating and “pre-selling” prospects thus shortening sales cycles and increasing revenue by 300%.
If you are looking for similar results, you may want to try incorporating the new rules of B2B public relations into your 2023 marketing and communications plans. Not enough time or bandwidth to tackle this? Feel free to reach out to see if you qualify for the Rankin PR program.