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PR’s role in supporting the sales funnel

Posted by Paula Fifield on 18th March 2020

At Wildfire, I see a lot of RFPs that ask us to come up with a campaign that will ‘support sales’. As someone that looks after both sales and marketing, my advice is if you want your PR to have a positive commercial impact on your business, you need to be more specific.

The sales funnel

As a prospect, if what you’re asking is, can PR help you to raise awareness of your company to help supplement the sales funnel, the answer is yes, without a shadow of a doubt.

PR is naturally geared towards getting more people to know about you than knew about you before and so lends itself very nicely to generating early stage interest from prospective clients. As my old Dad would say, ‘job’s a good’un’. He’s not actually that old, 65 — but he’s from Yorkshire. You get the picture.

However, if what you’re saying is that awareness is already high, but conversion is low… there is definitely more to the story. PR can still have an impact, but it needs a different strategy.

Do you fully understand your market opportunity?

Having put Wildfire’s own sales pipeline under this exact microscope recently, it occurred to me that really understanding your market opportunity is a feat within itself. Knowing who your target audience is, translating this into an ‘entire addressable market’ and then working out how much awareness about your brand already exists so that you can begin properly mapping the sales opportunity is haaaard. And that’s before we even get into broader market segmentation and tailored targeting.

My advice, get help. Don’t try and get your arms around this particular conundrum all on your own when there are third-party services out there designed for stuff like this.

For me, it’s like trying to give myself a manicure… It seems like a good idea and it will save time and money in the short term. Ultimately though, the results I’m left with just serve to remind me that some things in life are worth paying for as I attempt to undo the latest problem of my own creation 🙄

Have you sprung a leak?

Assuming your sales pipeline looks something like this: awareness, consideration, preference and purchase, it’s important to understand what clients ‘look like’ at each stage of the funnel and also the percentage of the market that sits at each stage.

If 75% of your addressable market is considered to be aware of your brand, but only 2% prefer it over that of the competition, then pouring more money into awareness raising content may not be the best plan when you clearly have a leaky consideration stage on your hands. Instead, investing in a mix of qualitative and quantitative research (surveys, focus groups, etc.) with your target market might be a good place to start figuring things out.

Buyer enablement

You and I basically have the same problem. B2B buying decisions are complex and the decision-making process is done largely on and offline, before ever making contact with a company rep. Gartner suggests B2B buyers break down the job of purchasing products and solutions into discrete tasks and that the brands which offer information to assist buyers to address these tasks will fare better.

Raising awareness is just the tip of the iceberg. Buyer enablement requires specific types of content that goes beyond thought leadership and infotainment.

What is your company doing to help buyers to understand, self-assess, benchmark and communicate their needs? And as content-producers, how much responsibility does your PR team have to address these modern buyer’s requirements?

Back to my original point on the RFP

The most challenging part of this job is working with technology companies that don’t know what they want. And by challenging, I don’t mean bad — far from it. At Wildfire, we see part of our job as helping brands to understand what they can expect from PR. We help to create a vision of what PR can do, which may previously have been beyond the client’s expectation.

The best type of RFP lays out the groundwork for the strategic and creative teams, offering all of the required information for the team to get to grips with the challenge at hand, while giving them the freedom to do what they do best.

However, if you do want your PR to ‘support sales’, try to identify where the problems exist within your current sales pipeline and communicate this within the RFP. That way the agency can formulate recommendations and execute a plan based on real rather than assumed issues. This will inevitably lead to better PR outcomes and overall business impact.

Do you think Gartner has it right when it comes to buyer enablement? Should companies be looking to develop content that better supports the buyer journey? I’d be interested in your thoughts…feel free to contact me on paulaf@wildfirepr.com

Paula Fifield

Paula began working with the agency in 2007 as Business Development Director and was appointed as a board director in 2011. Prior to Wildfire, Paula worked at Sun Microsystems, Orange and Morse Group in a range of marketing, customer relationship management and business development roles.

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