I have two friends, let’s call them M&M, who run a public relations agency that specializes in crisis management. They keep corporate and celebrity mishaps and misdeeds out of the news. Or, if they do hit the news, they work to get them out of the news as soon as possible. At the very least, they make sure their clients’ sides of the story get told. They mitigate any ill effects of the story – like businesses collapsing and innocent people losing their jobs. It’s a fascinating line of work and they have many colorful tales to tell – not that they’ve ever shared them with anyone. M&M are consummate professionals. Public relations is all about reputation management and that’s a big part of branding. Amazon chief, Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” That’s not the whole story on branding, of course, but there is a lot of truth to what he says. So you need to think about public relations, whether you handle those duties in-house or retain an agency to drive your brand. But, if you don’t have a brand strategy in place, your PR people are driving without a road map.
With all the forms of communication now available to B2B marketers, are corporate websites still important? Absolutely! 71% of B2B purchases start with a generic Google search.* What’s more, now about half of those B2B researchers are millennials, doing it either for themselves or for an older generation in the C-suite. Either way, their online experience will have a huge impact on the purchasing decision. Even if the researcher is not making the final decision to buy, he or she will have tremendous influence over the person who is. So it’s important A) that your website is found B) that it reflects your brand accurately and C) that it makes accessing key information easy for the visitor. That’s true even if you’re not engaged in e-commerce. You have to make it easy for B2B purchasers to find the information they need quickly. You have to make them want to call you. And speaking of making that call, B2B purchasers will be 57% down their purchasing journey before they do it.* The point is, as the millennial generation climbs higher and higher up the corporate ladder, websites of B2B businesses will become ever more crucial. And those businesses that are ignoring or neglecting their websites are doing so at their own peril.
You’ve determined your brand promise. You know your purpose, your mission, and your positioning. You’ve crafted the perfect brand strategy. You’ve got both your branding and marketing messaging squared away and ready to go. The only remaining question: What media will you use to reach out to your market? That’s going to be determined, in large part, by available budget and projected return on investment. But, these days, there are more options than ever, from pay-per-click ads to skywriting and everything in between.There are effective channels for even the most meager budgets. There are a couple of things to remember when drawing up your media plan. Like any other form of communication, marketing should be open, honest and regular. And it requires a certain amount of listening too. Let’s tackle that last point first.
Everybody knows by now that it’s not what your market thinks of your brand that counts. Your customer could spell out, in bullet points, everything that’s wonderful about your product. That doesn’t mean you’ll make the sale. Decisions are made by the lizard brain – in the limbic system. That’s what governs emotion. We know now that what matters is how a market feels about a brand. And that is determined by how the brand is experienced. So how does your market experience your brand? Do customers come into a retail environment? Do your clients lunch in your office? Is your trade show booth the place where you interact with your primary buyers? These are all experiential events wherein the people who matter most to the success of your brand actually get to rub shoulders with it. Promotional and advertising campaigns also give your market a taste of your brand. But, for most small and middle-market businesses, there is no retail environment, no hosting clients at lunch, no trade shows. There aren’t ever any promotional events. There’s no budget to do any real advertising. How then can the brand ever be experienced?
Every marketable asset has a brand. Every business, product or service is perceived and experienced by its market in some way, be it good, bad or indifferent. There exists, between any marketable asset and its market, some sort of brand relationship. However, regular readers of this blog know that’s not enough. It’s just bad business to simply accept a brand for what it is, then neglect it for the next couple of decades. Brands drive awareness, demand and ultimately revenue. But for that to happen, management can’t just let it lie there, dormant. They have to develop a strategy for the brand. They have to figure out what it is and where they want it to go. Then they have to propel it there. And to do that, management needs to communicate regularly with its market. Of course messaging takes many forms. A business will message its market through public relations, through social media, marketing communications and advertising. It hardly needs mentioning that the messaging should be consistent across all these channels. But, in every communiqué, in every radio ad, every brochure and every tweet, there really needs to be two messages.
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