Trust has been the aspiration of B2B brands for decades. But times have changed. Not only is institutional trust harder to achieve in these unblinkered post-crisis times; trust is no longer enough to drive preference in the B2B buying process.
The reason? From the outside, B2B businesses all look and sound the same. Brands make the same superior claims about their people, products and services, with so-called USPs closer to Standard Selling Points. Brands need to do more than keep their promises to stand out in this sea of sameness.
But there is an answer. Buyers of complex, long-term products and services are more interested in what you know than what they know about you. Ideas and insights are undoubtedly the new currency of differentiation, and it’s time for marketers to act accordingly.
B2B marketers can win by building thinking brands. From the inside, B2B businesses look and sound very different. But surfacing an organisation’s differentiating intelligence is a tall order. What does this mean for the role of the B2B marketer? What is the future of public relations in this new context? And, how does it change the composition of the marketing mix?
Marketers too often perceive PR as an abbreviation for media relations, driven by reactive reputation management and the prevailing news agenda. It shouldn’t be. PR is not about establishing a static public image; it’s about proactively managing reputation and public relationships from the inside out.
No discipline is better placed to mine and refine an organisation’s thinking. After all, PRs were developing powerful content marketing before the term even existed, working with business leaders to hone man bites dog stories to dominate front page news headlines, political discussions and industry debates
In the new marketing world order, PR should be responsible for setting the overarching ideas and strategy that provide direction for the full PESO (Paid, Earned, Social, Owned) marketing approach. B2B marketers must be able to package their organisation’s expertise, knowledge and IP into marketing campaigns that are underpinned by powerful commercial objectives and deliver measurable commercial results.
To stand out in a world where trust is reserved for peers, thinking brands require effective ideas-led marketing campaigns that tap into topical market-moving issues, address relevant audience concerns, and ultimately create a call to action for the business. Sounds like PR to me.