B2B marketing, PR and the sales process – filtering prospects down the sales funnel

DSCN2047b v2

  • You’ve aligned the marketing and sales, but it doesn’t stop there Tweet:
  • Three ways external communications can guide prospects toward the sales team Tweet: Three ways external communications can guide prospects toward the sales team from Jamie Kightley, @IBAPR http://ctt.ec/Noabi+

I recently authored a blog on aligning marketing and PR with the sales department to help create a consistent communications platform and drive bottom line benefits for B2B organizations.

But this is just the start. Once this has been established, there are further steps to optimize the way prospects and leads interact with a B2B organization during the buying journey.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint
B2B purchases are a long process. Here at IBA, we’ve experienced pitches lasting anything from six months to upwards of three years before a contract is signed, let alone be implemented and go live!

Most marketers have heard the age-old statistic that 57% of the buying process is complete before a ‘customer’ even contacts the supplier and that marketing-sales communications consistency will come in handy during the last third of the journey – but it’s marketing’s job to get the prospect over the half way point.

A ‘bite-sized’ corporate narrative
The third party coverage gained from a press relations campaign is a vital part of guiding a prospect into the sales funnel.

According to GfK Roper Public Affairs And Media, 80% of B2B decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of targeted, “bite-sized” articles rather than in one intrusive advertisement.

A press relations strategy should be underpinned by exploiting cognitive resonance – using different media to communicate the same message, regularly, building a consistent ‘corporate narrative’. Key news announcements, case studies, position papers and thought-leadership articles placed in industry media should carry unified core messages. A joined-up and clear corporate position results in a prospect recognizing, and subsequently trusting an organization enough to move further along the buying process.

Cutting through the social noise
This corporate narrative should extend to social media – in particular blogs, LinkedIn discussion posts and Twitter in the B2B space.

With 27 million pieces of content shared on social media every day, it can be hard to tell what’s relevant and what isn’t. Every social update needs to be crafted to engage a target audience – taking into account where that person might be in the decision funnel.

For example, a tweet about the announcement of a new solution would need framing differently to a short LinkedIn piece talking about integration of your company’s solution aimed at a prospect further down the funnel. There’s a triangulation methodology behind every good Tweet, for more info on that check out this IBA post!

In the B2B world, a quality and informative piece of thought-leadership content can cut through the mass amount of noise being generated on social media. Well written thought-leadership pieces and position papers, re-purposed for corporate blog use and LinkedIn discussions – then pushed through social channels – are key to promoting what you can do for a potential client’s business.

The final hurdle – influencer engagement
Before a prospect begins the final third of their journey through the decision funnel they will be considering a number of different offerings, and often seek the input and advice of an industry professional.

These ‘influencers’ can make or break a buying decision, and can take the form of opinion-leading journalists, consultants, industry figures speaking at conferences, analysts or even researchers.

Because of this, grabbing the attention and gaining the trust of key influencers is vital part of the process, due to the authority they command in your industry and because of their targeted audience.

This requires a dedicated influencer programme to regularly ‘track’, ‘vet’ and subsequently engage with key industry influencers – putting them on the path to becoming brand evangelists.

Don’t be the company stuck under the 57%! Follow these three key steps to get prospects moving into the decision funnel and into contact with your sales team.

Jamie Kightley is head of iBAengage at IBA International

Leave a comment