Pitching B2B versus B2C Stories – You Have to Know Your Subject

image The most basic rule of effective marketing and PR is understanding your target audience. You need to be able to empathize with the business needs of your reader; to walk a mile in their Cole Haan’s. So the ongoing challenge for the PR professional is to work with clients to understand the needs of their customers, whether they are Generation Y, homemakers, CIOs, supply-chain professionals, manufacturers, or whatever.

I recently read a thread on one of my LinkedIn groups asking why PR professionals seem to gravitate to B2C accounts rather than B2B, especially for agencies specializing in technology? As one commenter noted, “Historically, tech B2B PR had been considered to be less ‘sexy’ than consumer tech.” That may be true, and it’s certainly more fun to pitch the latest Android Smartphone than it is the newest CRM or ERP platform. And with a sexy consumer story, it’s easier to get the attention of the high-profile media, like CNN or the New York Times. However, I think the big difference is that, as consumers, we all can relate to the latest consumer technology or trend on a personal level, because we can see why it’s cool and how it would change our own lives. It’s harder to find the personal pleasure of the “cool” in a new B2B solution that makes someone else’s business run more efficiently. It’s just harder to make an empathetic connection.

To effectively implement B2B marketing, you need to have a deeper understanding of the technology or service in order to articulate its benefits to your target market. That means making a greater investment in understanding the competitive differentiators and lasting benefits of a B2B solution. In many ways, B2B requires more work, because you have to dig down and really understand how the technology works in order to explain it cogently to editors, who are experts in their respective areas. In the past, I have had challenges working with less experienced staff members who lack the technical background, or interest, to make the leap to B2B. It’s challenging to be working on multiple accounts and find yourself pitching vacation packages one minute and then have to pitch a new secure, wireless WAN technology the next. Even with a prepared pitch and talking points, you can quickly get in over your head if you don’t have a grasp of how the technology works. Whether you are pitching enterprise technology, the latest biotechnology, a green energy solution, or the latest financial services package, you have to be able to talk the talk with enough credibility to place the story.

And when developing press releases and support material for B2B clients, it’s important to get the terminology right. You have to make sure you are not only including the right phrases and key words – especially for online content – but that you are using those key phrases correctly or you will undermine your credibility. It’s one thing to assemble keywords and search terms and another to know how to use them correctly in copy, and that requires you to understand enough of the underlying technology or service to actually explain it.

Which means you have to do your homework; something that PR people are not traditionally good at. Increasingly I have talked to client prospects with a specialized need who are only willing to talk to agencies or consultants with experience in their particularly niche market. Clients can’t take the time to educate their PR team, and they are not confident that the PR team can educate themselves to be effective. It’s up to you to engage and demonstrate that you are not only interested, but that you “get it” and can tell their B2B story.

I have always said that good PR or marketing communications is being a good translator. That doesn’t mean you have to know how to build the box, just why what it does makes a difference. Your job is to understand the benefits and applications of your client’s product so you can make it interesting and translate those benefits to make it sexy for your client’s target market.

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