Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tried and True B2B PR Strategies - #4

Some might argue that social media techniques like Twitter and Facebook lend themselves better to consumer rather than B2B marketing. Granted, the latest HVAC innovation or enterprise software release may lack the glamour of consumer products, but resources like Twitter, Linked In, and YouTube are nonetheless extremely effective ways to market such products to business audiences.

As Twitter states on its website: “Twitter is a communication platform that helps businesses stay connected to their customers. As a business, you can use it to quickly share information with people interested in your company, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and other people who care about your company….But Twitter isn’t just about useful immediacy. The conversational nature of the medium lets you build relationships with customers, partners and other people important to your business. Beyond transactions, Twitter gives your constituents direct access to employees and a way to contribute to your company; as marketers say, it shrinks the emotional distance between your company and your customers.”

The same can be said of LinkedIn, YouTube and other social media sites.

Let’s say you’re introducing a new widget to several key industrial markets. How about uploading a video or pictures of it on YouTube or Facebook?

Can you offer special introductory pricing? Send a Tweet to that effect, linking to your website’s online store.

Does your company website have a blog? Link a post about the new product to a company-sponsored Facebook page or Twitter account. (You do have a blog, don’t you?)

If appropriate, create a user group for the product on Facebook and actively monitor it.

Most of all, listen to customer feedback via all these channels and take appropriate actions. It will build sales for your products and good will for your company.

For more information about M. NICHOLS Communications, click here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tried and True B2B Strategies - #3

We all do it.

We see a headline in a newspaper, or hear an announcer on TV talking about the results of a recent survey, and our antennae immediately go up. It’s human nature to be interested in what others are thinking and to see if our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors “measure up” to supposed norms.

Editors love surveys for the same reason. They draw reader and viewer attention, which makes them an ideal way to help publicize your company’s products, services, or other initiatives. In fact, survey results can be highly effective commercials for your organization, particularly when they are related to current topical news trends that the media is already following.
 As an example, M. NICHOLS used a survey to help publicize a social networking website for teachers. Working with a research specialist, we developed and fielded a telephone survey of teachers that, in addition to questions about their social media habits, included a section about their attitudes towards the strong testing and accountability emphasis of the No Child Left Behind Act and other major education issues. We then issued a press release on the results (positioning our client as a sponsor and thought leader) during the “back to school” period when media interest in education is heightened, resulting in considerable trade media interest.

The possibilities for survey publicity are endless. For a manufacturer of heating and air conditioning equipment, how about a survey on user trends on utilizing energy-efficient products in their businesses or homes – after all, what publication isn’t following green issues these days? For an organization that accredits medical laboratories, what about a survey that reveals the top five lab errors with a press release that contains advice on how consumers can help protect themselves -- tapping into the enormous interest in health care? You get the idea.
 For more information on how M. NICHOLS can help publicize your business, click here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tried and True B2B Promotional Strategies - #2

In today’s economy, characterized by ultra-tight marketing budgets, the idea of giving something away to your customers or clients probably seems unrealistic -- if not heretical. But frequently, the best way to create broad awareness of a company and its capabilities is to showcase the organization by way of a contest, giveaway, or charitable initiative that promotes the enterprise’s products or services, while at the same time positioning it as a business that cares about its customers, stakeholders and the community at large. This, in turn, creates a platform for communicating about your business’s good deed to business and relevant trade media, which often results in non-paid media coverage.
Giving away a product or service can be as simple as holding a sweepstakes or as complex as creating a multi-faceted community program. The trick is to select an approach that is relevant to your business and the vertical markets in which it operates. Examples include:

• For a manufacturer that sells diagnostic products to automotive repair technicians, donating or lending equipment or expertise to an technician training school – then seeking coverage of the donation.
• For a company that provides products with key safety features that benefit outdoor enthusiasts, developing a speaker’s bureau that showcases how to use the products to enhance safety when hunting, camping or hiking. Each time a speaker is scheduled, a press release can be sent to local media. 
• For a provider of wireless service plans with unlimited local calling, staging a calling marathon to demonstrate the “endless” feature of the plan – then inviting coverage of the event through local media, including radio remotes broadcast from the event.

Sometimes, the giveback can even be sleeves from the company’s vest. For example, for a security services provider which served the education market, M. NICHOLS recommended utilizing a free trial incentive that was already a part of its sales arsenal.
Under a program called “Safe Schools,” the company offered to equip a city school in key markets plagued by vandalism with free security service for a school year. In addition, the program included a free information campaign, created by M. NICHOLS, on how schools and parents can work together to maximize school security.

 The campaign was introduced with a press conference that included local police, school and other city officials and received wide press coverage. This giveaway also opened the door for discussions on the merits of implementing the client’s unique technology throughout the school district. And, the media exposure in one district helped to pave the way for gaining entrĂ©e to other school districts. For more information about this initiative, click here: http://www.mnicholscomm.com/pdfs/SSS-Ft-Worth-press-release.pdf

So is giving something away really that costly? Or can it be a pathway to ongoing free promotion of your business, attracting new customers, and building goodwill with the community?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tried and True B2B Promotional Strategies - #1

A “White Paper” – defined as “an authoritative report or guide that…addresses issues and how to solve them” -- is a remarkably effective way to position a company as a thought leader in its industry and raise its profile with potential customers. “Sponsored” by a company, a white paper should take a completely neutral approach to an issue, exploring all sides, and never directly promoting the company’s products and services in so doing. Incorporating comments from unbiased experts, including educators, scientists and government officials, is a key way to emphasize impartiality and strengthen the study’s overall credibility.

But drafting the white paper is just the first step. From there, with the help of a skilled public relations practitioner, a company can:

• Issue a press release on the paper’s availability to trade and business media, directing interested readers to download it from the company’s website (providing contact information should be a condition for receiving it to generate potential customer leads). Promoting the paper in such a way reinforces the company as a leading expert in the subject area.

• Use the overall themes of the white paper to create articles and case studies that can be offered to appropriate trade media -- with company officials receiving “byline” credit and, again, positioning the company as a thought leader. This approach can be used with the company’s own trade media as well as with vertical media its customers read.

• Position company officials as quote sources on the subject with trade and other media as they develop relevant articles

• Use the white paper as a reason to”touch” customers with direct mail campaigns, at industry trade shows and in other promotional efforts

• And more

In summary, a white paper is a relatively inexpensive way to position a company in such a way so that it stands heads and shoulders above its competitors. Developed and publicized properly, it can be a “gift that keeps on giving,”with seemingly endless promotional variations.

For an example of a white paper authored by M. NICHOLS, click here  -http://www.mnicholscomm.com/pdfs/VR-WhitePaper-FINAL.pdf

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

PR in a Virtual World

When I started M. NICHOLS out of a spare bedroom nearly seven years ago, it was with the vague idea that some day I would move to a “real” office, with a sign over the door, a bustling staff and a full-time receptionist answering the phones. Even though where my partners and I physically sit seems to have mattered not to the many and varied clients that we have taken on in the intervening years, in my head I was always fighting the idea that legitimacy could only be achieved by setting up shop in owned or leased commercial space. Does anybody else out there struggle with this variation on the imposter syndrome? I guess the question is:  Is real, sustained business growth possible in a virtual-only environment, or is there a tipping point where in order to take the next leap we’ve got to move to terra firma?