PR and entering new markets

Entering new markets may soon be on the agenda. The response to COVID19 has transformed the business landscape for many companies, causing trading difficulties in their markets. In some cases this may be short term but in others it may prove to be long term, or a permanent change. This is what economists call the scarring of the economy.  Consequently, I believe some technology businesses will be looking for ways to enter new market areas. Like this they can repair the damage caused by the virus and the lockdowns around the world.

Naturally PR and promotional activities will be part of this marketing activity, but they may not be enough on their own.  This blog looks at some simple, strategic approaches for entering new markets. Each of the five approaches here are strategies I have seen being used by software and technology vendors. They could work for companies selling application software or cloud-based IT services for business, or any other high value technology product that is sold in a similar way.

Entering new markets

Companies in business-to-business sectors tend to view markets as verticals, for example: retail, local government, or manufacturing. If a business has always worked in one defined vertical or just a few, it can be difficult to enter a totally new area. This is often because the customers’ needs and culture are different, even if the product or service is potentially valuable to them.

Entering a new market requires a marketing strategy that will create a brand presence, bring sales enquiries, and a plan to win orders. The challenge is twofold. The buyers in the new sector will not know the business or its brand, but equally the business may not understand what the new buyers are looking for, or how they reach their purchasing decisions.

Getting the first customer in a new market is the greatest challenge. Here are five entry strategies that a business might use to move into a new sector where it has no previous contracts or contacts.

1. A Sales Hire

This is a relatively simple strategy, to hire a sales manager who is already working in the industry. He or she will bring inside knowledge and contacts which will open doors and speed up the process. It may not be enough on its own though. This will be a tough period of new business development and the company should also plan a marketing campaign to support its effort. When trade shows are functioning again, exhibiting at a show for that industry is relatively simple and could be a good way forward.

2. Collaboration

A customer collaboration can be an effective market entry strategy. It involves a collaboration with one customer who agrees to provide input into product design and testing. This provides a proven solution and a first customer in one go. This route is a popular one in the software industry. Success depends upon finding a forward-thinking customer who wants to build a better solution for their industry. Then the project becomes a joint development. The customer will expect to be compensated for the time and effort they are investing, so they may receive their own system at no financial cost.

3. Partnership

A partnership approach is a little similar. With this approach the other party is not a customer but a supplier or service provider. Importantly they  already operate in the new market. There should be synergy between the work of the two partners so that they can approach the market effectively together. They will probably work together on systems integration and marketing. In some cases the product or service may be “white-labelled”, i.e. it will be sold under the other company’s brand.

4. Acquisition

Buying a company is the probably the easiest and most certain way to enter a new market. It is also the most expensive. This strategy is simply to buy a business that is already trading in the new area. However this requires an investment from company reserves or capital raised. There will also be a detailed process of due diligence which will be beyond the usual remit of the sales and marketing functions.

5. Capability, credibility and PR

Finally, it may be possible to enter a new market sector just by mounting a marketing campaign. This campaign will need to demonstrate capability and build credibility in the new market. It might involve a PR splash linked to a digital marketing campaign and supporting information on the company’s website.

Companies typically use white papers and case studies as content to support this kind of campaign.

To conclude, entering new markets is not easy, and will always require  some degree of investment of resources and effort. Each of the five routes outlined above involves some cost and the CMO or director responsible for marketing will need to determine how best to move forward. It may be that a combination of two or more of these strategies will work well together.

If you anticipate using PR as part of your broader business development campaign, you can contact me on 020 8275 9955 or email info@technologypr.co.uk.

 

 

 

 

 

PR and Digital Marketing

PR and digital marketing work well together. I call myself a PR consultant working with technology businesses. However the work overlaps with Digital Marketing.

You will probably know that PR stands for Public Relations. That name is quite strange. In the field where I work, most companies who care about PR simply see it as part of their marketing communications.

PR and some history

The old school Public Relations profession was born after the Second World War when people from the Diplomatic Corps and Secret Services went back to Civvie Street and offered their skills to business.  Employers found their skills useful for wining and dining clients, public speaking and meeting and greeting VIPs.

Today most people think of PR in connection with a company’s reputation, and especially in connection with positive stories in the media. Media used to mean newspapers, magazines and  broadcast channels – today it includes online and social media as well. There are business and technical media for every market sector and niche you can think of, especially when you include the growing numbers of bloggers.

PR and Digital Marketing

We have reached a point where online media matter more than print media.  Readers are more aware of the environment and don’t want to throw paper away after a short life. It is often easier to read news online, and companies are thinking digitally for much of their marketing – their chief aim is to be visible online and rank high in search engines, and online articles play an important role here.

The relationship between PR and Digital Marketing is interesting. There was a period a few years ago when Digital Marketing seemed to sideline PR, because it promised quick measurable results which many business people found attractive. It also offered channels that are free of charge – the only cost is the resources used to create content and promote it.

However Digital Marketing changes all the time and it is becoming more sophisticated. Now people want high quality well-written content delivered  to an editorial plan just like in the world of PR and publishing.  People want articles and blog posts that are of publishable standard and “a good read”.  In the context of online media, PR skills have become highly relevant again.

It has become important to have someone on your team who can write, and write fast in a readable way. They need to be able to write for humans and for search engines, so they need to have a good understanding of the digital environment.  Ideally they will be able to write a piece which works well to promote your company, and helps to bring organic traffic to your website from the Internet.

This form of PR helps companies to become visible in their market AND contributes to search engine ranking. It can explain  complex marketing messages.  It can reach out beyond a company’s own customer list and database and touch new contacts. Today there are many marketing and digital channels to consider. PR has moved on a long way from wining and dining clients.

Freelance PR Consultant or PR Agency?

What is the difference between a freelance PR consultant and an agency? Ultimately, I believe, it concerns loyalty and results.

The size of the organisation is an obvious difference. A freelance PR consultant is usually a specialist who works on their own. A PR agency tends to be a partnership or a small company. Usually they have smart offices and a bigger set-up with support staff. This puts the agency in a different league of costs.

Besides this, the difference between a PR agency and a freelance consultant is smaller and more subtle than it was in the past. It is now relatively easy to set up a virtual PR agency and operate from a remote office. As they say in the technology world, work is now ‘something you do’, not ‘a place where you go’. Also, most freelancers have networks of contacts who can join a project  as associates if required.

An agency will have consultants and staff at all levels of their careers, and generally the more experienced consultants talk to their clients and the juniors carry out the work in the office. If you are an agency client, your work will probably be done by the junior members of the team. In particular, the routine work of contacting journalists will be given to them. Your project will be part of their early career development, and experienced editors do sometimes have a little moan about the calls they receive from agency juniors.

If you work with a freelancer, they will do the editor liaison in person. There is less chance that your message will be misunderstood, as the PR consultant did not need to brief a colleague about your business. You can be more certain that you will be represented the way you hoped. This can be really important if you are selling complex technology products and services.

Fee structure could by another important difference. A freelance PR consultant is more likely to agree to a flexible fee arrangement that will fit with your budgets.

How a freelance PR consultant works

I believe the real difference concerns loyalty and commitment to goals. With the PR agency model, account managers are rewarded for billing their clients a good amount at the end of the month. The agency doesn’t want to expend too much resource and effort to deliver the services agreed. That means that the account manager’s first loyalty is to the agency, and they will always act in the agency’s interests.

A freelancer looks at it differently. A freelance PR consultant doesn’t have to report to management in the same way, so their loyalty is directly to their client. They are likely to have a greater personal commitment to their client’s business, and they will be 100% focused on achieving success for their client.

Your freelance PR consultant will probably not have a long term contract. This means that he or she will work as hard as they can to achieve great results, as this is the way to build a lasting relationship.

Finally, to succeed as a freelance PR consultant, it’s paramount to have a great portfolio of published work. That’s another reason to give your very best to every client project.

How to build a B2B PR Plan in six easy steps

This article goes right back to basics, and looks at how you might put together a PR plan for a Business to business campaign.

1. It is best to start by defining your audience as clearly and precisely as possible, in terms of their industry sector, their role and function within their organisation, but to go further than this, and consider their interests and likely concerns. This is the foundation of the PR plan.

2. Next, I would suggest considering your marketing messages. How can you present the best of your company in clear terms – say one or two sentences – that your customers will relate to, and which will inspire them to want to find out more about your company, or even contact you? This will be a theme throughout your campaign.

3. What resources are available? – Besides starting with some funds to cover the incidental costs, a PR plan will need some other kinds of resources: “material” in terms of interesting, eye-catching stories, images, anecdotes, examples of customer applications and expert input. An exciting news item can make a press release – an ideal resource. Then, having identified some resources, it may be good to think how to use them to the best effect, bearing in mind that more in depth material is usually used an exclusive basis and news items are only topical for a short period. By now you may have an idea of how your PR campaign is going to look.

4. Acquire a media list. Maybe you can assemble some contacts and make a list yourself, or maybe it’s better to take a short cut and get an instant press list by hiring a PR specialist who’s worked with the right contacts and can bring a media list ready made. The better you know the media – how they put their publications together, what they like to publish, and when – the more successful your campaign will be.

5. Consider timing and build some dates into your calendar. Certain dates may be fixed. You can plan media communications to work around industry events, trade shows and conferences, bearing in mind the dates you require for your product releases, and likely dates for news releases and company announcements. When these dates are pegged to the plan it’s possible to work backwards, and plan activities to hit the right dates and deadlines, allowing for publication lead times and holiday periods. It may be useful to think about the seasonality of the market, and whether to work around holiday periods, and also to dovetail with sales campaigns and other marketing plans.

6. Good management often means looking at results to see what lessons can be learned and feeding this in to the next stage of the plan. There are some neat tools on the market to help you see what has been published about your business and assess its likely reach and impact.

Having suggested that you take this kind of approach to make a PR plan, I would recommend allowing for some flexibility so that you can react to industry news as it unfolds.

No retainer for PR services?

Why is the traditional retainer for PR services being replaced by a project fee?

A retainer is a fee paid in advance to secure the first option on a service. it is the traditional fee structure used to employ a public relations consultancy. The PR agency is effectively on stand-by to assist the client company with work as it arises. If the work relates to news events or possibly crisis management, the agency could be needed at any time. This is because their work is driven by external events. It means that the PR service can’t be planned into a calendar in the normal way. In these cases the most appropriate way to manage the business relationship is probably to charge a retainer for PR.

Retainer for PR plus?

A retainer was the traditional way to hire a PR consultancy. Today many companies are looking for a different kind of PR service which is more like a promotional communications service. It comes under the umbrella of Marketing and is closely allied with Content Marketing and Digital Marketing.

For this kind of work, the client company will have a marketing communications plan that has probably been constructed around planned announcements, product launches and trade shows. They may have a content plan as well. This can all be pre-arranged in detail. This means that the PR consultancy’s work is mostly planned, and the work can be costed fairly accurately.

This is the reason why my own consultancy works on project fees, with no retainers. I am able to estimate the cost of clients’ projects and I have always worked this way.

A freelance PR consultant is valued for the flexible service they offer, but it is usually better if there is some continuity to the work. Issuing a single press release, for example, is not always efficient. There are several reasons for this. A consultant can work more effectively when he or she has a warm relationship with the editors who matter. With regular clients, the consultant will gain a deep understanding of their company and market, so the work will go much better. He or she will also be well acquainted with the senior executives in the company.

Besides this, issuing one press release is a like running one advertisement. If a company wants to build brand awareness and recall, it is better to run an ad campaign that continues, to make more impact.

Also, the best PR consultancies usually have ongoing commitments to their regular clients, and may not be willing to take on occasional tasks.

There is another, more subtle reason for preferring an ongoing client/consultancy relationship to a retainer for a PR service. It becomes obvious when you begin working with journalists. The relationship with editors and publications is not just a one-way street. We can send them our news material, but they may also contact us with requests when they need information. They may have questions that your executives can answer, or they may be looking for photographs.

These requests will be outside your marketing plan, but if you have a regular  arrangement with your PR consultancy, you are likely to benefit from extra opportunities to provide interviews, case studies and images.