Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He has served as a sales manager, national sales manager, regional sales manager and Federal sales manager in previous incarnations. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.
It’s a fair question. And when dozens—maybe even hundreds—of other urgent matters are clamoring for your attention, maybe the snap decision is “No. A press release, an article—they’re not asking for the sale. And if they’re not asking for the sale, what good are they?”
I understand the question, and the frustration behind the question. I’ve been on the sales side of the table, too. But it is my experience in equipment sales that has enriched my appreciation of the importance of good marketing—especially, of good PR and good content marketing.
Don’t be a stranger
I should start off with one exception. If your company is so big and pervasive that customers know every category of product you make and they come to you to buy—if your salespeople really just have to take orders and you have all the market penetration you want—then skip the rest of the article. You truly don’t need everyday PR.
As an ex-salesman and sales manager who specialized in new business development, I can tell you that the biggest helping hand Marketing could give me was to make sure that my company and my products were not strangers to my prospects. They could do that by making my company’s products a familiar and comfortable presence in the media that my prospects read regularly. One of the steepest hills to climb for a sales pro is when an introduction to the prospect brings you nothing but a blank stare. You can almost see the thought-bubble above the buyer’s head. (“Why is this guy talking to me? What does he even have that I need? I’ve never heard of his company before!” Or, “I need an X-machine, not the Y-machine he sells…”)
Or maybe that prospect—let’s call him Bob—has just one really personal and vivid memory of your company. Maybe the only real experience he’s had with your company was that one time one of your salespeople had a bad day and snapped at Bob at a trade show even though he didn’t know who Bob was… Or maybe Bob read an article about how your competitor’s Model ABC is so much better than your model XYZ, and that’s really all he knows. How do you think he will respond the first time your salesperson stops in?
But on the other hand, let’s say Bob has seen about one press release a month in the trade press detailing new products, new upgrades, special programs, key new hires or internal promotions or growth announcements. He’s read case histories about guys like himself and how your product solved a problem for them—not heavy-handed advertorials, which he believes are just so much, shall we say, “blarney,” but stories about the job itself which mention your products in a properly journalistic tone and are really interesting to read.
In the second instance, even the time your old, now-retired salesman snapped at Bob isn’t likely to be held against the whole company. Bob knows there are bad apples in every barrel, that everyone has bad days—he’s read so much good about your company that he is at least open to buying from you. He knows that your company is growing, it’s an exciting bunch of people to be associated with, you have products that a lot of his peers have come to trust…
That’s the value PR brings.
You have the stories—tell them!
According to a study in the United Kingdom last year, 8 in 10 business decision makers prefer articles to ads to help them choose products and services, and 70% of people say they feel closer to a brand that publishes content. So publish your content!
Like most of your peers, you represent an honorable company that really tries to create the very best possible solution for your customers. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but because that is the way to financial success. But remember, no matter what you do, no one will know it, except those to whom you do it, unless…
If you want the larger world to know, if you want current non-customers to know, you must tell them.
And PR is the tool you use.