Industry marketing and public relations professionals offer their tips.
Public relations initiatives shouldn’t be limited to big dealers with large budgets. Even small dealers, using a little creativity, can play the PR game. In this first of a two-part series, Sue Dancer, global field marketing and digital leader, PaperCut Software; Bill Erpelding, director of marketing, Distribution Management/Supplies Network; and José Maria Estébanez, vice president of corporate marketing, Kyocera America Document Solutions, discuss how dealers with tight budgets can leverage public relations.
Dancer: A PR agency can help to build profile, visibility, and preference for your brand with your target audience. However, if you’re not lucky enough to be able to fund one, there are other meaningful ways to extend your reach. The goals here are either to build some love with your local community or to let your marketplace know you’re a dealer worth consideration. It helps to address the early parts of the buying cycle when you’re looking for someone to remember your name when they need help. It can also help with customer retention.
What can you do if your budget is tight? Three words: Influencers, Organic Search, and Customer Advocacy.
To address the early buying cycle stages, look for the influencers in your community, the trusted advisers, and how you can associate yourself with them. Sponsor their event or a contest, contribute to a blog as a guest blogger or run an ad in their newsletter, follow them on social, engage with meaning on their social posts, build a relationship. The more consistent you can be over a period of time, the more likely the audience will remember you when they need you.
Another important consideration is search engines. The buying journey has moved online and Sirius Decisions (a global B2B research and advisory firm recently acquired by Forrester) suggests that 70% of your buyers won’t consider calling you until they’ve made some preliminary decisions. As a consumer, you probably go to Amazon to search and compare your purchases. Your audience is doing the same in Google, Bing, and Amazon.
If you’re not present in the online locations where your customers are searching for products and services to compare, you’re missing out. Search engine marketing can be complex and it’s worth considering getting some help. Once you’ve figured out which search terms and keywords are most important for your audience, turn your attention to building a handful of high-value content pieces to attract traffic to your website.
The other important advocate in your selling journey will be your customer. Purchases, referrals, and recommendations are more important than ever today. Find your customer advocates and interview them, ask for quotes, or create a video. Once people are aware of your business, how your customers feel about you will say more to your future customers than you can say about yourself.
Erpelding: Public relations can be a key component of telling a brand story. In its purest form, getting media coverage requires some degree of objective reporting and may not get picked up if it is an overt commercial. Even though many may not have a budget for a PR firm to promote news via national news wires, PR specialists can often be hired on a per-project basis or simple retainer agreement. For those that want to avoid external costs, typically an internal person with some marketing background can tackle the writing and develop relationships with numerous media outlets, such as industry trade publications, local news, and business journals. At times it can be challenging to position a message that would be deemed news versus a commercial, but that said, there are ways to cultivate a compelling message as a news release that also highlights your company in a positive light. Is your company involved in a charity or charitable event? Perhaps seek a partnership with the charity and create a news release announcing the partnership to advance the cause. Did you restructure or hire new staff to focus on a new initiative or product line? This makes for a great news story in which you can highlight your culture. Have you engaged in a strategic partnership with a supplier or manufacturer? Communicate your new relationship and the added value it brings to market.
Estébanez: PR in our industry is still relevant. There are a few prominent analysts with a good reputation that can help you spread your message across a substantial audience. For this to work it is vital to create a win-win proposition for both parties in order to earn that exposure. By working together with analysts and media you really can help both grow. Furthermore, there are also many industry publications as well as local media. For many dealers, sharing your message to your local area is crucial. At Kyocera, we believe in the importance of local expertise and our dealers can best capitalize on that through local media which is concentrated on their audience.
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