With all the latest digital advancements in the world of PR and marketing, it can be easy to lose sight of what really drives B2B sales – people! In this time of digital overload, PR and marketing pros are competing with hundreds of brands for a buyer’s attention. But the human mind is a powerful supercomputer and can also be programmed like one too. We explore how PR and marketing pros can leverage memory to influence potential buyers before they even take to the search engines to begin the procurement process. It’s all about achieving brand mental availability.

PR holds the key to B2B SEO

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again, PR plays a vital role in SEO that B2B businesses just can’t ignore. The Google algorithm favors consistent content and backlinks in authoritative sources for search engine ranking. Here the role of PR for gaining strategic thought leadership placements and embedding backlinks in targeted industry and tech publications with highly relevant audiences bumps brands up the search engine pecking order. With only 0.78% of Google users clicking on results from the second page, the proof is in the search engine pages – businesses need SEO now more than ever!

The aim is to populate the first Google page with not just your own website but with thought leadership content on authoritative third-party websites. Here a solid content stack with consistent messaging and use of keywords across multiple platforms and content forms will ensure the brand is placed highly in the search engine rankings – helping businesses achieve greater visibility for brand awareness.

Memory recall in the B2B buying cycle

Yes, 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine, but let’s not forget that even before a buyer sits down at the computer, their brain engine is already performing an initial search. As is the case in B2C, the B2B customer journey begins with an off-the-top-of-the-head search for memorable brands. It’s only after this preliminary brain search that an online search engine is consulted.

Don’t underestimate the personal touch in B2B PR

To understand how to optimize the search engine in our brains – or as MarketingWeek puts it “Brain Engine Optimization (BEO)” – we must first understand how the human mind works by taking a leaf out of the behavioral economics book.

Mental availability in action

The mere-exposure effect, familiarity principle or cognitive resonance theory dictates the preference we have for things we are familiar with – even if that familiarity is subconscious. This plays out frequently in the world of PR, where journalists give greater editorial weight to content from brands they know and trust rather than the actual content itself.

The same is true of B2B customers. Brands that customers are familiar with, and come to mind easily, are the ones they are likely to trust and buy from. This is the power of mental availability – brands that are memorable are more likely to be purchased.

So, how can PR and marketing professionals use this knowledge? In the same way we can leverage SEO and backlinks to build up brand recognition online – we can use mental cues to build up brand reputation in the buyers’ mind, even before the need to purchase arises.

How to improve the mental availability of B2B brands

So, what are the mental cues that trigger brand memory? And how do we connect these with content and brand marketing? Professor Jenni Romaniuk’s research from the LinkedIn B2B Institute holds the answer. Romaniuk defines mental cues as the “category buyers use to access their memories when faced with a buying situation and can include any internal cues such as motives or emotions, and external cues such as location or time of day, that affect any buying situation.” The aim is to build useful associations between your brand and the target market’s core buying situations.

Much like keywords in SEO, when these cues are connected mentally with a brand, they will trigger a recall of the brand in future buying situations, forming a list of ‘go-to’ buying options in the decision-makers’ mind. These mental cues can be business needs, such as the need to increase efficiency or can be tied to the professional needs of the key decision-maker, such as the desire for promotion.

Create unbreakable neural connections between brand and buyer scenarios

Mental cues can be identified by looking at key pain points within the target industry and how the product can resolve these issues. PR and marketing pros should look to signal theory to create effective neural connections with buyer scenarios. The pattern and frequency of brand messaging will help build a strong brand story and repeatedly ‘refresh’ mental cues – after all the secret to long-term memory development is spaced repetition.

PR and marketing pros should avoid overly generic mental cues such as ‘being the best’ and ‘adding value’ that many brands are vying to be associated with, and instead look to mental triggers that are a USP for their brand, to lock in brand memory through novelty.

Hit the mental sweet spot in thought leadership content

These mental cues need to be woven into all brand marketing for consistent messaging. Thought leadership content is the ideal medium to marry the two strategies of SEO and BEO. When used together, businesses can connect keywords and key mental cues with brand image in authoritative third-party sources. And thanks to the mere-exposure effect, the more a brand is seen in different places, the more trustworthy it becomes – it’s a win-win outcome for any PR and marketing professional!

Hack the system with a combined SEO and BEO gameplan

In today’s digital age, SEO is a vital tool in any PR and marketing pros’ toolkit, but we shouldn’t underestimate the oldest search engine in the human brain. With effective strategies, PR and marketing professionals can hack the very primal systems of our brain computer to get even more out of our brand marketing efforts – and build memorable B2B brands for years to come.

Elizabeth Quinlan is PR Executive at IBA International.

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