This is part 10 of our series Marketing in the Service of Sales, about how marketing professionals can demonstrate to their sales counterparts and the rest of their organization that they bring real value to the table as an equal partner in the marketing-sales relationship.
No matter your industry, product or service, brand awareness is an important factor in the buying process for customers of both B2B and B2C companies. It's easier than ever for buyers to do their due diligence before completing a purchasing decision, making your public relations strategy even more important.
Think about where you begin your own buying journeys. If you're considering buying the newest iPhone, for example, you might ask your friends and family members for their thoughts, read the product information on Apple's website, scour consumer reviews, and maybe take a look at influencer blogs and expert news articles.
Three of the four research methods we listed are based on others' insights. Buyers know that your website, along with other brand-owned marketing pieces, will paint a rosy picture of your product or service. But how can they be sure your claims are true? What are others saying? What are the experts advising?
The power of third-party validation can't be minimized, especially when it comes to B2B buyers. They want to hear from reputable sources about how a company or a particular product will help them achieve their business goals or solve a specific challenge.
PR, specifically earned media, can help marketing and sales teams achieve their goals in three ways:
1. Increasing brand awareness
Building brand awareness is one of the most important steps to inspire your prospects to begin - or continue on - the buyer's journey. Earned media increases awareness by getting your brand in front target audiences, including your sales prospects, current customers, partners and other stakeholders.
With coverage in a national mainstream outlet like USA Today, you could reach a massive audience; with a story in a niche trade publication, your brand could be seen by people searching for the services or products you offer. The more touchpoints your brand has with an audience, the more likely they are to recognize and engage with you.
Online media coverage specifically can also help improve your company's SEO and digital presence, which can further increase brand awareness.
2. Establishing thought leadership
Building and nurturing trust with audiences is more significant when buyers are in the consideration phase of making a purchase. People want to buy from individuals and businesses they trust, which can be established by positioning your company's subject matter experts as industry thought leaders in the media.
Thought leaders build long-lasting trust and loyalty by providing valuable insights to key audiences on a consistent basis. In the media, this can be achieved by offering a strong point of view on key issues, forward-looking insights on industry trends, and analysis on new data. Educational byline articles submitted to sector-specific trade publications explaining how to approach specific business challenges are a textbook example of industry thought leadership.
Well-known thought leaders can become go-to interview sources for journalists, further raising their own - and your brand's - profile. However, media coverage alone isn't enough to truly establish someone as a well-known thought leader. They must be present and engaged throughout the industry, so you'll need to leverage a variety of marketing channels and tactics to build recognition and trust, such as speaking engagements and blog posts.
3. Providing third-party validation
Earned media provides your brand or company with third-party validation because that's exactly what it is! When journalists, influencers and others include your company in an article, or even publish a full feature story on your brand, they're signaling to their audiences that you and your company are trustworthy sources. Earned media coverage can't be bought, which holds weight with buyers by providing your brand a level of credibility that simply can't be achieved elsewhere.
One Last Tip…
Amplify your earned media placements to extend their impact. Showcase the coverage on your website and through your company's social media channels. Encourage employees to engage with and share these posts, which significantly increases visibility. Make sure your sales team is aware of every earned media placement and is equipped to share them with their contacts and prospects.