What is B2B PR?
If you read the blog post, ‘B2B vs B2C PR: What’s the difference’, you’ll know that PR is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Your strategy will depend on what your business does, and crucially, who your target market is.
To recap, as a general rule, businesses fall into two categories. There’re B2C, or business-to-consumer businesses, that sell products and services to the general public – think restaurants, retail chains and airlines. And B2B, or business-to-business organisations that sell products and services to other businesses. A few examples are commercial cleaning companies, corporate property management companies and consultancy firms.
Whether you’re a B2C or B2B business, PR is a crucial weapon in your marketing arsenal. But, for the purposes of this blog post, the focus is on B2B PR.
B2B PR: The basics
Here’s a quick reminder from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations as to what PR is:
‘Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.’
In a nutshell, PR is all about reputation management. In a B2B PR scenario, this hinges on three things:
- Establishing yourself and your business as a leader in your industry
- Securing press and media coverage to back it up
- Building and maintaining long-term relationships with prospects and customers
It may sound simple, but don’t be fooled. It’s not a quick win. With B2B PR, you have to play the long game.
The B2B buyer
Before looking at PR strategies for B2B audiences, let’s look at some key characteristics of B2B buyers:
They do their research online
Today, two thirds of the B2B buyer’s journey is conducted online. So, first (digital) impressions count. Your website and social media pages are your shop front, so they need to stand out. This means making sure the information is accurate and up-to-date and your website is packed with content that’ll convince your target market you’re credible, knowledgeable and can solve their purchasing headaches.
Tip: Make sure any press coverage, details of industry awards, recordings of speaking engagements you’ve done and glowing customer testimonials are easy to find online.
They need time to consider their options
Whether its accounting software, corporate car hire, or office furniture, B2B purchases are pricey. It can take a lot of research and time to find the right solution. Depending on the purchase, the process can take anywhere from a few months to years.
Remember that thing about being in it for the long haul? This is why.
What does this mean for your B2B PR strategy?
You need to keep B2B buyers interested through the buying cycle, to keep your brand top of mind. Offer exclusive content, whether its ebooks, white papers, or invitations to webinars or seminars. Invite prospects out for lunch. Nurturing the relationship will show you’re reliable and that you value them. It’s all good PR.
How to use PR to win B2B clients
You know what you need to do. The question is, how do you incorporate all this into your PR strategy?
Here’s some food for thought:
1. Thought leadership
Richard Branson. Bill Gates. Tony Robbins. They’re all thought leaders: perceived as the go-to people in their industry, both for their expertise and reputation for excellence. They stand on the leading edge of industry trends and when they speak about them, people take notice.
Thought leadership and PR
Thought leadership is a powerful PR tool in the B2B world. Buyers are looking for suppliers that have industry expertise, credibility, and, of course, a fantastic product that offers great value for money and makes their business more efficient.
If you can tick all these boxes through your marketing and comms, while establishing yourself as a thought leader, it’s a sure-fire way to win over B2B buyers.
How to become a thought leader
But becoming a thought leader doesn’t happen overnight. Gaining respect and establishing a following takes time. It goes beyond simply being knowledgeable. It’s about putting yourself out there, getting your name known and drawing an audience to your expertise.
You can do this by:
- Pitching yourself as a speaker or panellist at industry events
- Networking with influencers in your industry
- Adding value by giving away educational content in the form of blog posts, podcasts, videos
- Inviting potential customers to seminars, workshops or bespoke events
All of these things can boost your reputation with customers, prospects and the B2B media.
An ongoing commitment
You may think once you’re a thought leader you can sit back and relax. But to maintain your status, you need to introduce new ideas and content on a consistent basis.
For more tips on establishing yourself as a thought leader, read the ‘how to become a thought leader’ blog post.
2. Become a conversation starter on LinkedIn
These days, B2B decision makers scroll through LinkedIn on a daily basis, looking for valuable content that can impact the way they do business. It’s also the place they go to research potential suppliers. In fact, recent research has found that 80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn vs. 13% on Twitter & 7% on Facebook.
So, if your target market is B2B businesses and you’re not on LinkedIn, you need to be.
Here are a few tips to use LinkedIn to maximise your PR potential:
Fill out your profile and keep it up-to-date
Nothing says ‘red flag’ quicker than an empty LinkedIn profile, or one that was last updated in 2014. If you want to maximise your chances of getting found by customers and journalists, fill your profile with as much information as you can, and make sure it’s kept up- to-date.
Link with key B2B journalists
It may sound obvious, but a lot of people neglect to do this. Every time you work with a journalist or are introduced to one, link in with them. It could benefit you in the long-term. The media often use LinkedIn to seek out sources for their opinions and/or expertise. If they see quality content on your page, you may be the person they pick up the phone to and call.
Publish LinkedIn articles
One of the best ways to establish yourself on LinkedIn is to publish articles. Of course, articles need to be insightful and relevant to your target audience. But they’re great for brand exposure. Need some inspiration? Check out Richard Branson’s page. He posts a mixture of insights based on his own business experience and interviews with other industry leaders, such as this one, with Microsoft Founder, Bill Gates.
Join LinkedIn groups
LinkedIn groups are a great way to connect with your target audience. Join groups that are relevant to your industry. Look at trending topics, read posts and articles and show users you value their insight by commenting and engaging with them. This will help you build your network.
Warning: Keep self-promotion to a minimum; you’ll only alienate people by bragging. Focus on offering valuable insights and helping others solve their problems.
Want more LinkedIn PR tips? Check out ‘7 Ways to Use LinkedIn for PR’ post.
3. Host B2B events
Whether online or offline, PR events are a great way to ingratiate yourself with potential customers and industry media. From conferences and trade shows, to webinars, they’re an easy way to showcase your passion, credibility and industry knowledge, while speaking directly to your audience.
Take American cloud-based software company Salesforce. They host regular webinars that deep dive into their products and services. They also offer invaluable business insights on everything, from increasing channel sales, to mastering the customer experience.
Informative, comprehensive and educational, they make for great marketing and PR fodder.
They’ve also used experiential events to promote their cloud-based technology to prospects. For example, a few years back, they invited a number of CEOs and key business decision-makers to join them ‘in the clouds’ for a unique skydiving experience. Okay, so it was actually an indoor wind tunnel. But it was a memorable and fitting way to highlight the benefits of cloud technology to potential customers.
Best B2B PR campaigns
Although B2B PR campaigns need to focus on metrics like ROI and tangible business benefits, as Salesforce proved, they don’t have to be boring.
Here are two more brands that got their message across with creative and inspiring B2B PR campaigns.
PathFactory’s Star Wars GDPR campaign
Last year, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) was everywhere. Businesses around the world were clamouring to make their opt-ins legal, in accordance with Europe’s new consent laws.
GDPR is inherently a dry and complicated topic, and most businesses approached it in that way. They sent out boring, jargon-filled emails in the hope that their European audiences wouldn’t desert them. But B2B content insight and activation platform PathFactory took a different approach. They chose to piggyback on the hype surrounding ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, that was released at the time. The quirky copy in their email tapped in to the ‘good guys versus bad guys’ mentality of the franchise, and it hit the right note.
‘It is a dark time for B2B. Imperial marketing forces have wrestled control of every prospect’s data in the galaxy. Armed with their feared automation arsenal, they wield enough power to destroy entire inboxes.
Unknown to the dark side of B2B, rebellious forces have constructed a new hope … here at PathFactory, we are proud members of the GDPR rebellion and pledge allegiance to data security and delivering only content that you’re interested in.’
The result? The email performed 241% better than similar PathFactory email campaigns. It won them loads of love on Twitter and a Killer Content Award from the B2B marketing exchange to boot.
Key takeaway: Tell them a story.
This campaign worked because PathFactory used pop culture and storytelling to make GDPR relevant and fun for their audience. By laying out their email in a story format and encouraging subscribers to determine how it ended, (by choosing to opt-in or not), they stood out and gained new supporters in the process.
Dropbox’s Marketing Dynamix
In 2017, online storage brand Dropbox wanted to reach a new audience of marketers in Europe. Knowing the audience segment was notoriously hard to impress, they had to create a campaign that was engaging and insightful. And so their genius Marketing Dynamix campaign was born.
Built on the insight that marketers often struggle with personality clashes and communication issues in their team, the centrepiece of the campaign was a Cosmo-style personality assessment tool, that was developed using the latest ‘Big Five’ personality modelling research. The aim of the tool was to help marketers understand and appreciate the different personality traits within their teams.
On completing the assessment, users received a customised 20-page report, highlighting their strengths, weaknesses, and preferred working styles. The assessment was hosted on a branded microsite where users could take the assessment, share their results, and invite others to take it.
Dropbox leveraged the power of YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, resulting in over 2,000 leads and £8.8 million in the pipeline by targeting a brand-new audience – marketers, 16,000 clicks and loads of mentions on social media.
Key takeaway: Don’t be afraid to use B2C tactics in your B2B campaigns.
The interactive and sharing elements of the Marketing Dynamix campaign are things we usually see in the B2C world. However, Dropbox decided to use what worked in their consuming-facing campaigns to attract a new B2B audience.