How to Avoid Letting Flashy Data Obscure Real B2B Sales Leads

newspapers lined up

The rise of digital marketing means B2B PR has fast become a means for lead generation. This has led to a rise in demand from the C-suite to prove PR's value, especially as the coronavirus squeezes budgets.

It’s not a secret that well-placed thought leadership articles can drive leads. But communicating the value of thought leadership placements to the C-suite is an area where many PR pros fall short.

One issue is that too many communicators see high unique visitors per month (UVPM) and audience figures as the holy grail when choosing target publications. Yet a publication's high UVPM doesn’t guarantee that the audience you covet will read your story. In addition, failing to look beyond these figures can mean missing out on key B2B buying personas.

UVPM isn’t everything…
High UVPM figures do not always equal top-quality B2B leads. Take an influential business, or national, publication such as the Times of London (UVPM/circulation 11m) or The Wall Street Journal (UVPM/circulation 23m).

My parents' generation makes up the Times' UVPM numbers–they avidly read its current affairs and reviews of restaurants and theatre. As far as I know, they are not looking to make a half million-dollar investment in a software system that will improve a company’s bottom line.

…and quality is better than quantity
Look at newswires, a classic example of quantity over targeted quality. Distributing a story via newswire creates good background noise. Just Google keywords from a newswire distribution. You're likely to see the story pasted on 20+ websites you've never heard of.

Domain authority and SEO are attractive...

A trending topic in B2B marketing is using backlinks and keywords in placed PR content to improve SEO. The need for figures and leads sometimes can cause B2B organizations to lose sight of one of the core principles of a PR campaign–finding key buying personas and engaging with this select target audience by marrying brand messaging to key industry topics.

A target-buying persona is not a number, but a person with a job title who has read your content. The industry is beginning to recognize the need for a deeper dive here.

...yet small UVPMs can deliver big 
A mix of personas-decision makers, influencers and ratifiers make buying decisions, particularly big B2B ones. Key to the decision is trust with the supplier.  This is gained and earned many ways through the sales funnel. Careful and targeted placement of thought leadership, opinion and topical industry articles and interviews in targeted media brings that coveted third-party endorsement. In turn, this builds trust. Those media outlets do not necessarily get the gongs for numbers or readers.

A couple of examples:

A software firm identified a potential opportunity with the Navy. A firm executive wrote a thought leadership that looked at the level of software support required to maintain warships. Next, a targeted list of Navy publications was assembled–fewer than 10 were on the hit list. Their combined readership was not more than 150,000.

A placement of the thought-leadership article in one of the publications packed a huge punch. Shortly after the article appeared, a military procurement expert contacted the executive to speak at an event. It was filled with influential Navy personnel. Circulation and UVMP of the publication was fewer than 45,000.

Another example. An interview with a fintech company's CEO was placed in a highly respected, subscription-only banking and payments weekly. Days after the interview appeared, the CEO took a call from a Mastercard exec to discuss a strategic partnership. The weekly's circulation and UVPM combined: just 20,000.

Let buying personas guide your strategy, not numbers
Domain authority and UVPM can be useful for boosting SEO, but these values alone cannot guarantee valuable leads. A successful PR strategy should contain a mixture of digital marketing approaches.  Targeting niche publications for specific buying personas should be part of every strategy.

Marketers who look beyond the vanity of high figures and focus on target audiences' needs will find their content marketing effort generates more leads–and the value of their communication departments easier to demonstrate.

Jamie Kightley heads client services at IBA International