Growing your audience with a center of influence PR strategy

The following post is by Hollie Geitner, Vice President for Client Services at WordWrite Communications of Pittsburgh.  WordWrite is a fellow member agency – with Houston’s DoubleDimond Public Relations – of PR Boutiques International.

HubSpot’s 2018 State of Inbound report found that 63% of companies view generating traffic and leads as their biggest marketing challenge.

Many of our clients and those we talk to regularly have expressed similar frustrations, asking:  “How do I connect with my target audience when there is so much noise out there?”

It’s a reasonable question.  Traditional advertising is less effective than it once was, attention spans are shorter than ever, and newsrooms are shrinking by the day.

Perhaps it’s time to consider an alternative – communicating with your center of influence (COI), or those who directly impact the decisions of your end-users/end-buyers.  In many cases, those are people or organizations you’ve been aware of but haven’t really invested the time or resources into just yet.  These folks are actively looking for viable options for their clients (your ideal customers) and the sooner you make those influencers a priority, the sooner you may see results.

Consider builders or contractors who work closely with realtors, financial advisors who market to attorneys and accountants, manufacturers of safety products who communicate with risk management consultants…

In most cases, this narrow COI audience is trusted by those who ultimately purchase or use your product or service.  They are a good referral network, and in ideal scenarios, you might be able to do the same for them, making it a beneficial relationship for all.  In working with these groups, the key is not to sell, but to educate and inform.  Offer something that helps them solve their clients’ unique challenges.

Identifying your COIs is only the first step, however.  Just like your customers, you have to understand how the COIs operate, what they read, how they consume information and how they work with their own clients.  Your outreach strategy might include social, digital and traditional marketing and your messaging will speak directly to them.  You’ll need to tweak your customer messaging a bit, but it is well worth the effort.

The COI strategy is particularly helpful today as social media allows for highly targeted advertising focused on interests, key words, geographic location and industries served.

If you feel you’ve hit a plateau in your marketing efforts, it may be time to rethink your strategy and focus on your own COI network.

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Search Engine Marketing: SEO vs. PPC

Having a strong online presence is essential in today’s business environment. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) are the two most utilized methods of Search Engine Marketing, but how do they work – and which is best for your business?

First, the definitions: SEO is basically a series of techniques, strategies and tactics used by a webmaster to drive traffic to your website organically from search engines. PPC is an advertising model used to direct online traffic to websites, in which the advertiser pays whenever someone clicks on their ad.   Choosing the right keywords – words and phrases that are part of your web profile – is important to the success of both SEO and PPC.

When deciding which option will provide the best return on investment for your business, you may want to keep the following three things in mind: Cost, Credibility, and Commitment.

  • Cost:  SEO is very labor intensive and usually takes some time to show results, so the costs can be daunting, depending on what you need and who you are competing with. If you are the new kid on the block in a crowded marketplace, it’s going to be an uphill battle to get on that coveted first page. PPC, on the other hand, can give you a much bigger bang for the buck.  With paid search ads, you can set your own budget and adjust it as needed all along the way. In addition, paid search ads usually appear on the first page above the organic search results, so the user will always see them, even if they scroll past them.  Advantage: PPC.
  • Credibility:  PPC and SEO are related to the more traditional marketing tactics of display advertising and earned media coverage (publicity). Paid advertising is easily measured for ROI, and done well can have really positive results. Also, advertising can bring the kind of immediate attention that will influence your organic search results in the long run. On the other hand, SEO is related to earned media coverage, which implies a third-party endorsement by the media outlet that publishes it. Similarly, organic search results indicate that Google or Bing has endorsed your business as worth paying attention to.  Advantage: SEO.
  • Commitment: Both SEO and PPC require a level of commitment to work well. SEO, however, can take a long time and require a great deal of content development to keep it going – new blog posts, new product offers, etc. With PPC, you can tell fairly quickly if your ads or keywords are resulting in increased traffic and what the visitors to your site are doing when they get there by using Google Analytics. You can then make adjustments as required. However, unlike PPC, SEO offers sustainability; it does not cease when you stop paying.  Advantage: A Tossup.
  • Combination: Choosing an online traffic driver doesn’t have to be an either-or decision; it’s really best to use a combination of both SEO and PPC, budget permitting. That way, you get the best of both – as long as you have an overall strategy for implementation, which is essential for both short- and long-term success.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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Planning to Advertise? Four Things to Keep in Mind

Many potential clients approach a public relations firm seeking earned media coverage (aka “free publicity”) to promote their product or service.  Depending on the client, their target market and goals, a PR firm may recommend including advertising in the marketing mix to achieve maximum effectiveness.

We believe having a professionally planned ad campaign is the best way to proceed, but if you decide to do it on your own, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Who do you want to reach?  Answering this question will help determine where you advertise and your advertising message.  You want to think of where your potential customers get their information and why they may need your product or service.
  • Have a consistent image and message that will appeal to your target market.  You can have ads that address different topics, but the look of your ad and the basic message about your company should remain consistent so that your ad is instantly recognizable as being from your company.
  • Once is not enough.  Repetition is essential to get through the information clutter, so you will have to set aside a decent advertising budget to get the results you want.
  • Monitor your campaign’s effectiveness.  The simplest way to do this is to regularly ask where any new contact heard about you.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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Trade Show Success Starts with the Right Strategy

Trade Shows are a major part of marketing for many businesses, but generating solid leads requires a plan.  Guest blogger, Wendy Marx of Marx Communications, shows how the right strategy can make all the difference.

Sadly, getting leads is no slam dunk and not every lead you get is a hot one. You need to have the right audience, right message, right time — and the right strategy.

When it comes to trade shows, you might think that generating B2B leads is a piece of cake. After all, you’re under one roof, engaging with those who have an active interest in your industry, often for multiple days.

And, although LinkedIn is responsible for generating as many as 80% of all B2B leads, trade shows are still a successful staple of any B2B marketing strategy.

77% of marketers say trade shows generate a significant quantity of leads. ~ Tom Pick of Meltwater

So how can you make the most of your trade show experience?

5 WAYS TO GENERATE B2B LEADS AT TRADE SHOWS

1.  Contact the Right People Weeks Before.  Typically, a trade show will release a list of press members who are covering the show. This may include bloggers, influencers, and journalists.

While these contacts are not themselves leads, their audience is. One of the most important steps you can take to snag time with these influential people is to reach out to them by email at least several weeks before a show. Request that they stop by your booth, and if possible, schedule a time for them to do so. Remember that media get jammed at trade shows so you want to be early enough for them to see you. If they are overscheduled or not attending the conference, not to worry. Offer them the opportunity to interview you in advance and embargo the interview till the show.

If you can, give them samples, a free trial, or a demo of your product or service.  And don’t forget to provide background information or any helpful collateral.

2.  Land a Speaking Engagement.  Securing a speaking gig is a great way to generate more credibility around your brand, as well as yourself as a thought leader.

This isn’t always easy to do, so you must plan well in advance. Thought leadership begins with your owned media. In addition, once you have established credibility, you will have to submit an application to speak, likely months in advance. Here’s one tip to help get you in the door: Submit if you can with a customer. Trade shows are loaded with vendors eager to speak and you can differentiate yourself by presenting with a customer.

Landing a speaking engagement at a trade show is well worth the effort, as it will drive prospects, not only to your booth, but to your website since you will (with any luck) create a memorable presence.

3.  Establish Your Goals.  Of course, the end game is always to turn strangers into buyers. However, the stage you’re at in your marketing game will largely determine your goals and means of achieving them.

If you’re a startup, you’re main mission at a trade show might be to create a buzz by handing out free swag. However, if you’re well-established, you might be aiming to launch a new product, or secure greater publicity.

Get your strategy in place by first determining your end game.

4.  Get Busy on Social Media.  In the weeks and days that precede a trade event, you’ll want to create a buzz on social media. If your brand is launching a new product at a trade show, why not use Snapchat to reveal a hint of the product, mentioning that the full product will be unleashed at the upcoming trade show.

While you’re at the trade show, take full advantage of Facebook Live to capture real-time highlights of the event.

5.  Follow Up.  Want to know something a bit frightening? One statistic says:

“90% of trade show attendees received no follow-up within 12 months of their visit.” ~ Danny Zecevic of Skura

If you want anything to come of your trade show experience, you must follow up. That means inputting new contacts into your CRM, reaching out via email or telephone, and asking for permission to add them to your email list.

Just think… if you can accomplish this one task that so few B2B companies are paying attention to, you’ll have the upper hand to win your prospects’ attention.

Ready to go conquer your next trade show? Just remember…

  • Make contact with the press well before the show.
  • Land a speaking engagement.
  • Create and work within your trade show marketing strategy.
  • Publicize your presence at the event on social media.
  • Always follow up with the contacts you made at the show. 

Wendy Marx is president of Marx Communications, which is based in Connecticut.

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Consider paid content as part of your marketing mix

It’s long been known that people love stories that touch their hearts or relate to their experience in some way.  And PR people are good at story-telling.  We’ve been doing it for years – identifying interesting stories relating to our clients’ businesses or organizations for the news media to feature.

Enter content marketing, which provides an opportunity to attract your target audience with story-telling that specifically addresses their needs and desires.  The use of content marketing in public relations is not new; what is somewhat new, however, is the use of a combination of organic (non-paid) and paid content by marketers on their preferred social media platforms.

While paid content is unlikely to take the place of traditional advertising, it is often less expensive and has the benefit of offering some useful information in the form of an article or video, which enhances its credibility.  That makes it a good addition to the overall PR/marketing mix.

Whether paid or organic, here are some essentials to attracting the right audience to your content:

  • Make it Compelling: Your content has to be something that your audience wants to read.  That requires a strong narrative and more focus on their needs and desires and less on your product or service.
  • Target with the Right Platform: Do some research to find the preferred sites for your audience. For starters, Facebook is the top choice for reaching consumers; LinkedIn is better for B2B marketing.
  • Think Video: Attention spans get shorter every year (currently estimated at 8 seconds by a recent Microsoft study), and research shows that nearly 60% of B2B audiences prefer watching video over reading text.
  • Include a “Call to Action”: Free samples, discounts, coupons, etc., are not just ways to get people to try your product or service; they can be an indicator of the effectiveness of your message since they measure audience interest.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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What Business Start-Ups Need to Know

PR firms often get calls from new business owners who realize they need help promoting their product or service to potential customers.  They see public relations as “free publicity” and an easy, inexpensive way to promote their new venture. However, many start-up businesses don’t have the budget to engage an outside PR firm, so they usually end up doing initial marketing work on their own – with various degrees of success.

If you are thinking of starting your own business, here are three PR/marketing recommendations that will increase your chance of success:

Calendar planning concept – Think about marketing before you open your doors.  To successfully sell your products or services, your business plan should include some essential information: what you are selling, who you are selling it to, why they would be interested in what you are selling, and how you will sell it. No one should ever begin a business without knowing all of these things in advance because once you open, there are two things that most likely will be in short supply: time and money.

Many new business owners have unrealistic expectations for how popular their product or service will be and how much marketing and PR they will have to do to gain attention. The intense information overload most people experience today makes it difficult to break through with your message. So realistic planning – both for execution and projected results – is essential.

59_Public-Relations – Public relations is more than media relations. Over the past 10 years, obtaining coverage in traditional media – newspapers, magazines, radio and TV – has changed considerably.   Consolidation of newspapers and broadcast outlets and the resulting cutbacks in reporting staff have made it much more difficult to get attention for your story idea or product release. To be successful, you may need to target media outlets specific to your community or consult a professional PR firm to navigate the media landscape.

If your budget is small and depending on the type of product or service you are          selling, you may want to investigate other means of promoting your business. Eblasts are effective, if you have the right list, and there are a number of email marketing programs that can help. Direct mail may seem outdated, but well-produced and targeted appropriately, it is still a relatively inexpensive marketing tool. Social media, if used judiciously, can spread the word quickly and easily.

reputation-management-new-york-300x300 – A good reputation is essential for long-term success. When you are trying to get your business off the ground, you may want to make a big splash right away. That big feature story in the newspaper or interview on television will give a big boost to your bottom line. However, good PR is more than that; it’s about building and maintaining a reputation over many years.

Once you get past the start-up phase, please keep in mind that, especially in this era of short attention spans and social media, nothing lasts forever and a reputation built over a number of years can turn sour overnight. At some point, you are going to need some expert PR assistance – whether in-house or through outside counsel. Don’t wait for a crisis; have a strategic program in place early on.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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Is your marketing plan stuck in neutral?

PuzzleIt’s often said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. In actuality, it’s probably just the definition of being human. Let’s face it: Sometimes we get stuck in a rut – doing things the same way for years and wondering why the outcome isn’t better.

It’s not all that different with a business. Often a consulting firm is called in to make recommendations for improving marketing results, and its suggestions are met with resistance because they are out of the company’s comfort zone.

But leaving your comfort zone is exactly what has to happen to move forward and see some results.

It’s planning time again – time to look at the approaching New Year and make decisions on what you want to see happening with your business in 2016.

How about taking a look at the latest marketing trends to see if any will be suited for you? Or better yet, contact a PR/marketing firm and ask them to conduct a complete audit of your marketing program and design a new plan for you based on their findings.

Just remember to follow through on implementing the plan. After all, if it’s not implemented, you will never know how well it worked.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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What’s Up with Live Streaming Apps?

Live stream_edited-1This year two live streaming apps roared onto the market and into the PR/marketing consciousness. The buzz around Meerkat and Periscope brought renewed attention to live streaming, which has been around since 2007, when UStream, LiveStream and other live streaming start-ups hit the market.

The older platforms are still around, and they also have apps, which begs the question: Why all the brouhaha about the new apps? After all, many of the videos currently on these apps have the appearance of selfies on steroids, rather than anything particularly useful.

But any new communication tool is always of interest to PR professionals, who want to know how to use them to promote their client companies. So here’s our “first pass” look at these apps.

Social live-streaming. With the new apps, live streaming of events is much easier and more like social networking. You can announce  your live stream to your Twitter followers, viewers can comment on your screen in real-time, and you can respond to the comments as they roll in. A new update for Meerkat even allows a viewer to post a brief cameo on your screen.

Periscope is a few months newer than Meerkat, and both are connected to Twitter (Periscope is Twitter-owned). Meerkat also allows users to connect with their Facebook profile. The apps do differ and they are constantly updating their features, so it’s best to just try them out to see which one you like best.

Multiple uses. With these apps, you can demonstrate products and how to use them, follow your clients to see what they are doing, and stream meetings and events or provide any number of “behind-the-scenes” videos. Of course, if you are hosting a conference or training session and want a more formal presentation, you may want to opt for having a video team do the broadcasting for a webcast to go out on one of the older platforms. But things are changing fast in the competitive field of live streaming. It’s worth giving all of these apps a try.

One caution. There may be legal issues to think about when live streaming on-the-fly. As with any image taken for the promotional purpose of a business or nonprofit, it is necessary to obtain a written release before using it. With live streaming, that may pose a problem.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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The WII-FM factor: Do you know who your audience is?

Confusion2015 is now halfway over. How is your marketing program going so far? Are the people you are trying to reach – your audience – responding to your efforts to reach them?

The WII-FM factor, or “What’s in it for me,” is about the importance of communicating to your audience from their point-of-view.   If you are having difficulty reaching your audience, perhaps you haven’t correctly identified who they are and what they are interested in.

Spending time upfront identifying your audience is essential in deciding the best method of communication, as Lisa Dimond Vasquez explains here.homescreen_edited-1

 

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Content Marketing – Made to Order for Professional Services

Content MarketingPublic relations for professional services firms usually revolves around highlighting the expertise of the firm’s staff – as “thought leaders” – through published articles, expert interviews and speaking engagements, which are then reproduced or linked to for promotional purposes.

Now, however, these PR vehicles can be re-purposed to reach a much larger audience through a strong content marketing program.

What is content marketing? According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

For the past few years, content marketing has been touted and flouted; it’s either the greatest marketing tool ever or a big waste of money, depending on the point-of-view of the person evaluating it.

In truth, no one marketing tactic is the answer for every business. Like every other tool in your marketing toolbox, it’s how you use it that counts.

Content marketing requires three main components to be successful. The first is obvious. You must have technological capabilities – either in-house or through an outside platform.  But if that were all there was to it, anyone could be successful at it, and surveys tell us they are not.

Two other requirements are essential:   a strategy and interesting content.

Strategy.  As with any PR program, you need to have a plan of action before you start.   This means:

  • Profiling your target audience and their primary areas of interest
  • Having a compelling message – in this case, producing content that addresses the interests and concerns of your target audience
  • Identifying the best ways to reach your target audience with your content

Interesting Content (and Lots of It).  It is really important to have one or more staff members whose sole job it is to produce well-written or well-produced content, including:

  • Content that appeals to the target audience
  • Content that is compelling and valuable to the reader
  • A variety of content: written, video, webinars, etc.

That’s a time-consuming job, especially if you don’t have a large in-house PR department. You may need to hire someone or bring in an outside firm to handle it.

Finally, as with any new marketing program, it takes a while to see measurable results. But content marketing seems to be made to order for professional services firms, and it’s worth considering.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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