The B2B technology sales cycle seems to get more complicated by the day. Financial uncertainty, data security concerns, and the complexity of solutions on the market mean that B2B brands are diversifying their buying groups by adding more and more stakeholders. Ultimately this means that the days of only having to win over one senior decision maker are over.
This is where earned media can be a particularly powerful tool to support the sales cycle; by helping to get your brands message across to this new and extended audience of decision makers.
In fact, earned media can have a positive impact across the entire B2B sales process and should be deployed accordingly. In this series, we will discuss the five distinct goals that need to be considered when developing an earned media strategy for a B2B tech brand in search of business growth, starting with top of the funnel activity and increasing leads.
Increasing the number of leads
A short sighted and misleading, yet conventional view of earned media can be found in HubSpot’s blog: “There’s nothing more valuable to a client than seeing his or her company’s name appear in an article, news report, or blog post. This third-party credibility and the ability to gain the attention of decision-makers is key to building a brand.”
This approach reduces the function of earned media to the ‘attract’ stage of a lead generation programme. When looking at the potential of earned media, this misconception is perhaps the most dangerous as it mis-characterises the role of earned media as being noise, air cover, spin etc. As such, this limited view has driven more marketing dollars into digital marketing and away from PR.
The irony is that whilst earned media is perhaps most commonly associated with the top of the funnel activity (also known as the attract or awareness stage), this is actually one of the areas where it is weakest from a B2B sense.
In fairness this has not always been the case, but the decline comes from the increasing reluctance of media owners to publish back links to a brands site as part of their editorial.
Earned media does still have a crucial role to play in top of the funnel activity. For instance, LinkedIn which has perhaps a more contemporary view on lead generation in the B2B tech space, points out that a B2B prospect is 3.5 times more likely to click on a link in an email if that prospect has read about or heard of the brand already – a feat achieved from earned media.
However, for earned media to work properly as a lead generation tool it needs to be integrated with owned (e.g. website) and paid (e.g. paid search, display) media and (shared) social media.
By marrying sustained earned media with advertising and lead generation, it is possible to develop an integrated marketing and sales strategy that will keep a pipeline perpetually full.