Category Archives: Public Relations

Killer products (don’t) sell

Of course they do. Didn’t we just manage to convince the first 50 customers to buy our solution? Yes, you did. But now ask yourself what the reasons for closing those deals were. What were the parameters involved in getting your customers to evaluate the products in the first place?

In many cases a product convincing a customer to buy it is only the last step in a long row of interactions. For your company to be short listed and considered for a proof of concept workshop or product trial your will have to pass many gates along the way. First of all you will have to get some visibility in the market. And yes, those 50 customers will help you spread the word about your solution but usually this kind of word of mouth marking runs dry after you have saturated your local market. It is very hard to fuel your growths outside your comfort zone with purely recommendation driven marketing. There are many reasons for this. First of all your network (and that of your current customers) will be limited to a certain type of connections. This means you will likely be going in circles when it comes to regional markets, verticals or other customer parameters. You can check on this by looking at your current customer base. If you are successful in a specific niche you can leverage this to saturate that niche. But in the end a niche is a niche and you will need to break out of your niche to fuel your company’s growths for the coming years. Once way to do this is to hire people with access to target groups you want to address. But left to their own devices they will still lack the support and credibility needed to successfully sell your solution. This lack of supporting noise is often the reason why sales efforts fail even though you’ve hired top performers who successfully sold into the same market segment before.

Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty sure that your product has some unique features which will let it stand out among the competition. But this is a claim that your potential customers will hear from most of the vendors out there. Even those features that you believe are unique to your solution might be available from some competitor elsewhere (a competitor who is obviously also relying on his “killer product” to do the selling for him – or otherwise you would have heard of him right?). One way to stand out from the competition and to circumvent the issue of “not being one of the big players with a reputation” is by having known and trusted market experts do the branding for you. This includes convincing editors, industry analysts and other thought leaders of the quality and innovation you are bringing to the market. It is much more likely that your customers will make their shortlist decisions based on an unbiased analyst’s opinion than on what your / your competitors’ sales people suggest. In addition the market reach of those influencers will be much greater than what you can expect to create by yourself in the short term.

It seems to me that the opinion that it only takes a good product to be successful in the market is especially strong in the technology sector.  In high-tech markets many companies and solutions are driven by continuous innovation. In addition many of these companies have founders with a technical background who are keen to innovate and improve what they have built. It is very easy for technology start-ups and emerging vendors to fall into this trap. The initial success of their solution in combination with fresh venture capital money on the table make it easy to underestimate the challenges (and costs) of breaking into new markets. So when you are growing your company please make sure that you give your products the chance to get evaluated by the customer. Spending all your money on product innovation without doing a good job in sales and marketing won’t work. Equally just sending out more sales people and expecting them to generate the trust needed for successful completion of a sale is pretty much doomed. Last but not least doing marketing and generating leads without a proper sales team to follow up on those leads and without a product to fulfill the expectations you have created won’t make sense either.

So if you are planning to succeed you should try to integrate your product development, marketing and sales efforts to leverage the synergies and to make sure that you don’t create any bottle necks. Influencer Relations with its sub-disciplines of PR, analyst relations and social media marketing can help you to align your efforts by not only giving you more visibility in the market, but also by providing a feedback channel and a 3rd party perspective on your products. So if you truly believe that you have a killer product I encourage you to give it the chance to sell itself – not only to your customers but also to those influencers out there who will in the end shape the way your solution and your company is perceived in the market.

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Content is key! – Leveraging influencer marketing to gain market mindshare.

In a world that is dominated by “push-advertising” and that includes an overwhelming choice of products and services that need to be evaluated by the buyer, it is increasingly hard to find ways to stand out from the crowd. According to many studies we are now facing a world that is so saturated with advertising that many companies are seeing diminishing returns on their traditional marketing efforts. More often than not it is consumer generated content that gets favored by the readers when it comes to making buying decisions. In this context however, the term ‘consumer generated’ refers not only to peer reviews and end-user product evaluations but has to be seen in a broader context. Any form of content that is not (obviously) paid for and distributed by the business itself gets a bonus when it comes to trustworthiness.

But creating original content is only one side of the problem: With many channels – both traditional ones like TV, news magazines and post mailings and new ones like blogs, social media groups and peer networks – competing for the attention of the individual, it is equally important to choose the right channels for every kind of content to ensure that your message is heard.

The purpose of influencer relations in this context is to (in part) ‘outsource’ the responsibility for content creation and managing the communication channel to those individuals that are most influential in any given channel. The important part is to provide the facts and ‘building blocks’ needed to create relevant content featuring your business, products and services, thus significantly increasing your market reach and brand awareness. By establishing the right relationships with the relevant influencers (like business analysts, editors and bloggers) you can get the world to know what your business is about.

But finding out how to leverage the potential of influencer relations for maximum impact is a complex challenge. For this reason influencer relations agencies play a critical role in establishing the relationships to the influencers and are key to the success of the entire marketing mix. The reason for this is that influencer relations agencies focus both on creating original content and at the same time act as moderators and facilitators in the distribution process. By defining and managing the channels (e. g. public relations, social media or analyst relations) and deciding what type of content to make available to which channel and influencer, they take a central position in creating market mindshare for a brand.

 Ultimately content marketing, supported by the right type and quality of content and distributed by the right influencers, will be a powerful marketing tool for any business.

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Who are they? Identifying the influencers of today and tomorrow ….

Most people trying to reach a decision for a vendor, a product or a service will try to get at least a couple of third party opinions on the downsides or benefits of any particular choice. In addition to recommendations from friends and business partners the world’s influencers are often key-components in this process.

So far so good, but when you are planning to engage with these influencers the first step is to identify them. For any given topic there usually is a vast pool of relevant people to take into account. This not only includes the top journalists and tier 1 industry analysts but also various other potential influencers in the market. Among the obvious candidates are consultants, associations and bloggers but it might also be worth to think about the account managers and client relation people supporting your potential customers in their interactions with the analyst firms.

A good way to get started is to review what is being said about your market niche in the various social media groups, blogs, Tweets and magazines. By checking the number of replies, comments and page views you will get a good first impression of the market reach and interest the topic has. Also it is well worth checking the published research by the leading analyst companies to see what trends are shaping the market and who is covering these topics. In addition you can use the search engines to check the key sources in the web and their relevance in the eyes of the search engines. Also don’t forget to talk to your customers and prospects to get some feedback on how they have come across your company and products and what information sources they use to reach a buying decision. The combination of these efforts will probably yield a long list of people who have something to say about your area of interest.

To narrow down the list of influencers to target you will first have to decide what you want to achieve with your influencer marketing activities. For this purpose it makes sense to create „influencer rating cards“ to rank the influencer depending on various criteria. The choice and importance of these criteria obviously depends on the goals you have set for your influencer marketing activities. Examples for potential criteria are market reach, thought leadership, geographical coverage, page views, number of followers etc. Gathering this information will take up some time but it pays to get it right to make sure you spend your (limited) time on the right audience. To speed up the identification and ranking process it might make sense for you to involve an influencer marketing agency who already has some background information or an influencer data base with the relevant metrics. At the end of this process you should end up with a list of 5-15 key influencers relevant for your market with whom you can start your influencer marketing activities. But keep in mind – things will change over time with influencers changing their focus, losing audience and new influencers appearing in the market. This means you will have to continuously review and update your list.

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Filed under Analyst Relations, Influencer Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media Marketing