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Can PR improve your B2B inbound marketing strategy?

...This is despite an enormous amount of resources being invested in inbound marketing strategies; with 42% publishing one or more times per week.

When asked who was responsible for content marketing the responses were Owner/C Level (23%), Product Marketing (19%) and Demand Gen Marketing (18%). The PR team came in fourth place with 15%. Perhaps this is the problem?

PR has always focused on earning attention and endorsement from third parties, which in turn translates into goodwill and action from business decision makers. For the majority of B2B brands this is about sales opportunities. Tactically press releases, events, social media, content creation are all staples of the B2B PR menu, but these are always the means to an end, rather then the end in themselves. The basic principal of a B2B inbound marketing strategy is to attract decision makers to engage with you because you have something that they want, this is the same philosophy as PR.

As business buying decisions increasingly become self-driven, the importance of earning attention has never been more important for B2B brands. Within an inbound marketing campaign there are multiple roles that earned media can play in order to amplify the impact and increase ROI when the two strategies are integrated. An integrated PR and inbound marketing strategy can be win-win for B2B brands.

Defining personas

Inbound marketing for B2B quite rightly begins by identifying and defining personas that make decisions that impact the brand. This should include an insight into the media environments in which they can be found. In many cases there will be specific media outlets that have been created to cater for an audience directly. Such publications and the journalists that write for them have a detailed and dynamic knowledge of the audience that consumes their content. This knowledge may or may not be publically available, but it is likely to be implied if not expressed within their editorial and their own marketing and sales collateral.

Making content that works

Journalists are professional content marketers. If your content inspires them, then it is because they believe it will be of interest to their readers. Stands to reason then that if the audiences that you are looking to engage are the same as the media outlet’s, then your content, when you publish yourself, is likely to resonate with your audiences, if it has already proven itself with the media. If it hasn’t and journalists have turned their nose up at it, then you have an opportunity to re-think it.

Earning endorsement

Third-party endorsement from trusted experts, whether journalists, analysts or bloggers carries significant weight across the buyer journey. In terms of awareness, it can highlight and animate a product or services’ benefits, stimulating interest and credibility, perhaps in the context of a business issue that you have a perspective on. In terms of nurturing that interest and converting it into an opportunity, earned media can serve as a reassurance, prompt or reminder. The buyer at the "close" phase can significantly benefit from the reassurance that comes from outside your organisation, perhaps an authoritative article that shows the respect, expertise and leadership within your business. Obtaining earned media that showcases the brilliance of your customers, in a publication that benefits their own business objectives, is a great way to get higher profile and deeper relationships and advocacy within your customer's business.

Driving traffic

Back-links in the right places can have a huge impact on traffic. Even without backlinks, say in broadcast media outlets, traffic spikes as a result of strong editorial endorsement. No inbound B2B marketing strategy worth its salt can survive without traffic.

Enhancing SEO

Search engines love good back-links. Whether from a blog, a trade magazine or a national news outlet, the right back-link raises page authority and increases traffic. If the story gets people talking, reacting and sharing then the benefits increase further.

Building credibility

Not only does earned media tell its own audiences about a brand, it also gives the brand content that it can showcase itself on its own platforms. This can be also shared with leads that are at the Close stage of the buyer journey.

Reach

At the risk of sounding like an old beer commercial, earned media reaches the parts other inbound marketing does not. Getting a message to decision makers who are not yet on databases and don’t follow your social media outlets can be expensive and intrusive.

Of course, not everyone sees it this way. Over the next few weeks we will be publishing a series of e-books drawing on expert opinion from senior marketing decision makers who have been responsible for the strategies of B2B brands including Buffalo Technology, Klout, Lithium, MobileIron, NetApp, Peer 1, Rackspace and Yahoo. These industry leaders will be sharing their perspectives on this and other issues. To register for your advanced copy, please visit:

http://marketing.championcomms.com/b2b-marketing-thought-leader-series