CLASS #4
Go-to-Market reputation, audience building and campaigns
4.1 Establish a brand community
As a new CMO, there’s enormous pressure to generate leads. Without balance, this approach leads to short-term marketing.

You can’t just worry about your close ratio, deal velocity and net new leads. Additionally, think for a second about community.

A brand community is a fanbase built around love of your product / service. This group of raving fans will make a huge difference to the trajectory of your product or solution. Building a brand community is nothing new. It can take different forms. Don’t think of it in the traditional sense. Think deeper about what value you are really looking to create (believe me most marketers talk about community but hardly execute well). Be careful everyone says ‘build a community’. I believe the key here is to determine ‘what’ community’ means to you and what purpose. Without a clear vision and executable plan it will never materialise into anything purposeful.

Building an audience (let’s say instead of community) is vital because the brand side of marketing has recently been making a comeback in my opinion. Brand is becoming ever more critical to growth and monopolisation across SaaS market sectors.

The increasing pressure on CMOs to drive sales made us forget about the importance of community and brand. Perhaps CEOs have taken their eye off the ball, too.

If you’re a first time CMO or revenue leader, my advice is this: fight the corner for building a brand community. Without it, your business won’t develop leverage.

The book SaaS Sales as a Science is another resource that adds weight to this debate. It excerpts a new model called the ‘bow tie’ funnel. The new revenue funnel has two sides. Brand does not just drive just a net new pipeline. It will be a central pillar of customer and product marketing — and community engagement to execute on improvements in up-sell and cross-sell.

The key to advocacy (right side bow-tie funnel) lies in community building and excellent customer success results. Let’s look now at how you build those things:

4.2 Implementing the 1,000 fans philosophy

A well-known philosophy of branding argues that a successful organisation only needs 1,000 fans. 1,000 raving fans.

Too often, when building a brand we are too broad in our approach.

Instead, adopt a narrow message. Find a small pool of evangelists for your solution.

The argument goes that 1,000 raving fans will deliver far more results from loyalty and referrals than other approaches. Because these fans are obsessed with your brand, they become a sustainable and scalable community that you can live off for a long time.
Source: Technium
To raise your sales out of the flatline of the long tail you need to connect with your True Fans directly. Another way to state this is, you need to convert a thousand Lesser Fans into a thousand True Fans.
Tim Ferriss, Tools of Titans
A narrow message is preferable to a broad approach. Try to appeal to everyone, and you’ll struggle. You’ll struggle particularly in the second part of the funnel (cross and upsell). Instead, adopt the ideology of a niche fanbase and apply that to your business. This is your goal as CMO or CEO.

The model was developed further recently, with the advent of the 100 fan model led by Andreessen Horowitz . This concept confirms the notion that as a business you need to even think about becoming more niche. Design your marketing. Your approach should focus on a narrow set persona who cement the foundations of your revenue base.

Excerpt:

The internet enables niche in a massively powerful way.
Ben Thompson, Tech analyst and blogger
For creators who earn the trust of a niche audience and who deliver what those users crave — whether self-improvement, connection, recognition, or belonging — 100 True Fans provides an updated monetization model for the fast-growing Passion Economy.
Homework: How can you begin to develop your existing audience into the 1,000 ‘raving’ (or even 100) fans you’ll need for long term success?
Here are some suggestions:

Define the audience

What is the exact type of person you’re targeting?
  • Look at your strongest current customer advocates. Interview them, find out exactly why they love your product or service.
  • Extrapolate this to new customers

If you don’t have customers yet, make a clear list of persona attributes.
  • Include demographic, firmographic and psychographic traits
  • Segment personas and engagement approaches to differentiate individuals
  • Clearly identify who would be a “raving” customer. Don’t think about the broad and mass market from the start. It might be the end goal. Not the starting point.

Make your marketing super focused on this specific audience.

Define your message

Understand why your current fans love what you do.
  • Don’t deviate from this point of difference
  • It may sound easy, but understanding and communicating this simple message consistently is very hard to do
  • Test your message for simplicity and ask ‘does it land’

Define your value to the audience

Pull together a series of key statements that can help you develop over time
  • Horizontal messaging closely tied to your audience need can serve as a touchpoint for consistent messaging

Build on this with a clear strategy and focus

Based on user research, extrapolate out your findings to a long term strategy
  • Plan and allow for consistent communication with your audience
4.3 Build advocates vs. building customers
Source: Be in the know

Your brand community must be built on this simple, bowtie format. Saying that, building out the bowtie funnel is not an easy exercise. It needs a lot of thinking through, especially with existing datasets. The data is the biggest blocker to building out an effective usable automated model for insights.

Looking at the lead lifecycle stages, you can see how customers develop from attraction to ambassador.

Look now at your lead buckets in each segment. As a starting point, ask yourself:
Do we have advocates and ambassadors at the moment?

If not, remember that this is common. The CMO is pressured constantly to focus on net new logos and pipeline.. If you’ve neglected this work, you’re not alone. Customer marketing must now be first and foremost in the lens of the revenue leaders to drive growth.

Start by creating customer marketing that targets existing clients with the same vigour you’d apply to Top of Funnel marketing. Make it your ambition to push this brand community marketing and focus on the need for advocacy, especially with your CEO.

Introduce the Bowtie model to key stakeholders. Why it's relevant and what impact it will have on the business. Guarantee they will believe in the model when they see it and it’s clear for them on what revenue levers it can influence.
Homework: How do you build advocates?
Building advocacy can come in a number of ways:

Focusing your customer success team

  • A good customer success team needs to do more than support with complaints. Customer success is not customer support.

  • Build a commercially-minded customer success team.

  • Enable this team with a process around how they engage with customers.

  • Ensure that you discover the ROI : what success does every customer need?

Customer communication

  • Aim for strict governance of communication with the customer.

  • Train your team to clearly communicate the value they’re delivering.

  • Offer a great customer experience, with regular communication.

  • The more you talk to your customers, the more likely they are to talk about you.

  • Invest in co-marketing opportunities.

  • Embed customer-ONLY comms / exclusivity to content, events and the product roadmap. Make them feel special.

Creating brand evangelists

  • Advocates and evangelists can create a 5-10x revenue uplift

  • Have deep conversations with customers about their future.

  • Understand whether your solution works. Have the information you need to upsell.
4.4 Content differentiation
Differentiation of content is vital for brand community building.

If your business has different verticals and audiences, it’s likely that you’ll need to segment each community and create relevant content for each. This includes tone of voice.

  • Content created for each vertical.
  • Content created for each audience within that vertical.

You won’t engage a diverse community using one single voice. Broad brush attempts at marketing no longer work. Content differentiation is a key long-term strategy for brand community creation.

Case study: Twilio

Some organisations have marketed extremely well to niche verticals. Twilio has mobilised a developer community around their products very effectively.
Source: Twilio

Twilio markets itself to developers by addressing them directly. The product is built with the developer audience in mind. Their developer-focused branding matches this. From the start Twilio recognised that the product is so technical, it would be hard for a salesperson to sell directly. Instead, they pioneered a developer marketing community. Through this community a network of referrals was leveraged to create sales, growth and success.
Homework: How can you implement content differentiation?
First, work out your horizontal message. This will join together your value proposition with the key benefits you add for customers.

  1. Develop your horizontal brand message
  2. Avoid generic language, keep it interesting and appealing
  3. Answer: What's the change in the world that we’re creating? Why would people care? How does it benefit their role and improve their lives? Remember, B2B must be humanized like B2C.

A lot of businesses are complacent and thinking they know their horizontal message, proposition and brand position in-depth. More often than not they do not.

As CMO, I’d still suggest you go back and revisit this. You might find the messaging is not as compelling as it could be. We covered this point in class #1 and it’s connected to building out this strategy.

Your horizontal message must have substance behind the narrative, built from real customer insight. Think carefully about how you articulate your market value - it’s worth doing proper user research here.

Then, differentiate. This builds momentum in niches, creating communities where previously you had only a generic message.

  1. Examine your marketing funnel.
  2. What type of content are you creating?
  3. How effective is your content at building loyalty? (Measure this, in referrals, subscribers and shares)
  4. Design each new piece of content with the components of the niche you want to attract. Align your horizontal message to each individual vertical as you go.

An idea is to latch onto a market trend or “buzzword” that people are curious about that is new. If you attach to a trend you’ll attract curiosity in the process.
4.5 Observe the rule of ‘1-9-90’
All brand communities bear common characteristics. Research shows that in the typical community, only 1% of users actively participate, 9% engage and 90% will be passive ‘lurkers’ that don’t take part.

Differentiation of content is vital for brand community building.

If your business has different verticals and audiences, it’s likely that you’ll need to segment each community and create relevant content for each. This includes tone of voice.

  • Content created for each vertical.
  • Content created for each audience within that vertical.

You won’t engage a diverse community using one single voice. Broad brush attempts at marketing no longer work. Content differentiation is a key long-term strategy for brand community creation.

Case study: Twilio

Some organisations have marketed extremely well to niche verticals. Twilio has mobilised a developer community around their products very effectively.
Image source: Medium

Bear this in mind when you build this approach. The majority of your audience may not actively participate. The vast majority will ‘lurk’ instead.

How can you forge a community who actively engages?

On some networks there is far less passive behaviour. On LinkedIn and Twitter, for example, engagement is often active and involves commenting. But engagement rates on company ‘owned’ Linkedin pages are minimal.

Start by monitoring whether your content is generating an improvement in conversations. Look for comments instead of shares, and measure engagement this way. The best way to build engagement is to be authentic, speak to the truth of what value you want to build into a market and make it useful to consume. Help others do their job better.

Don’t just send out self-promotional updates.

How can you provide value to the 90%?

Measure how well you offer value to the ‘lurkers’.

If you’re doing well, there will be signs. Expect to see growth in your content network. Rather than being overly concerned with likes and shares, consider the reach of your content instead. Consider engagement rates. Assess whether inbounds have an uptick or referrals. This is the marker of whether your content is going deep enough to be impactful.

The key lesson of 1-9-90

Be comfortable with not being clear on the full extent of how your content stacks up. If 90% of the average online community ‘lurk’, then you’ll never know the true value.

Keep experimenting, keep differentiating your content and don’t become overly concerned with vanity metrics.

4.6 Emotional context

If you’re building a brand community, the communications must have an emotional element.

Whether it’s through your social media, content marketing, email marketing or customer success team, create something emotional that moves your customer.

B2B buyers are 8x more likely to pay a premium for a product and 50% more likely to buy if they feel an emotional connection. Research by Gyro and the Financial Times shows just how significant feelings are to B2B buyers, with 86% of buyers looking to ‘feel’ confidence and optimism before they buy.

So, emotion is important. It’s important for creating a connection. It’s hugely important for upsell and cross-sell, and brand advocacy.

How do you put emotion into your marketing?

A simple tactic is through the use of effective customer stories. How you produce, share and use customer videos and stories will dramatically impact the way in which your product is perceived. Real life stories contain the emotion that is so crucial to this connection point.

Make end users the hero

How can you use the end user stories throughout your communications? Instead of focusing too heavily on yourself — your brand, your company, your solution and benefits — instead turn the spotlight on the user. They’re the real heroes.

Use language that drives emotional context when you watch or listen. How has this product changed people’s lives? Why do people want to use this? Start thinking about not ‘getting’ customer stories.

But think about doing co-marketing that derives a positive value exchange for the customer. At the same time helping to elevate your brand and use cases across the market.

How to Build a Likeable Brand

Case study: Salesforce

Salesforce is a powerhouse when it comes to customer marketing and brand advocacy. People love them! An excellent example of execution is when Salesforce built up its Trailblazer community. Let’s revisit that for a moment.

Salesforce wanted to forge meaningful links across customers, developers, admins and commercial execs. Cleverly, all tied to an emotional connection of being ahead of the game / others. Trailblazer was created as a concept to build a clear branded identity around a diverse community. This was incredibly successful, because it resonated emotionally with how early adopters felt. They pushed boundaries, they tried things before others did. They are trailblazers.

Trailblazer was embedded by Salesforce across all its content formats. They used customer videos to talk about what being a Trailblazer really meant and why they’re passionate about the product. This made others empathise and want to join in. It draws prospects/ customers into the brand narrative. It supports across the Bowtie for net new acquisition (those wanting to become a trailblazer) and advocacy (supporters who love the brand, want to buy more and want todo more with the product).
4.7 How to Build a Likeable Brand
We all work in busy industries but tech, and especially the burgeoning fintech sector, are highly competitive with new entrants bombarding the same customer base.

It leaves many CMOs with their hands full. How do we distinguish ourselves through the noise and competition?

“All great marketers know you should be customer-led and trustworthy, but you should really think about being the most likeable brand in your category.”

This idea of building a ‘likeable’ brand is something I wanted to unpack a little further in the context of B2B marketing. How can Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) build highly-likeable brands that customers truly engage and connect with?

Here are 4 practical tips on how to begin your journey to becoming a likeable brand.

Bridging the Experience Gap

Almost every emerging technology company has to overcome the challenge of pulling customers away from established competitors. However, SaaS companies face the somewhat daunting task of building a brand amongst an entire industry of long-standing incumbents and traditional players.

It’s important for SaaS marketers to recognise the weighting customers place on likeability and trust. The bottom line is people trust existing providers. We might not categorise some of these companies as our most likeable brands, but historically that’s all we’ve had to choose from so we’ve settled on the brand with the fewest flaws. In this way, likeability is a layer on top of trust.

That’s why SaaS scale-ups must bridge what I like to call the ‘experience gap’ by assimilating years’ worth of customer loyalties in the blink of an eye. Offering an attractive proposition or technological innovation will only get you so far if you fail to persuade long standing existing relationships away from the norm.

Overcoming the experience gap is all about winning the ‘fanship’ of a patient group of early adopters who believe in your mission and will stand by your side as you grow. Earning customers doesn’t happen overnight.

Geoffrey Moore’s award-winning Crossing the Chasm provides an analytical insight into how emerging brands can bridge the gap between early adopters and mainstream customers. I always remember the 1000 True Fans article; now I read books like 100 True Fans and This is Marketing; which places more focus on building your niche brand proposition.

What Does It Mean to Be ‘Likeable’?

“How can we be likeable?” is the most frequently asked question in our brand strategy meetings. Whenever people experience your brand it always impacts the way your brand is perceived; everything from the design of your content to the tone of your prospecting emails and even the angle of your thought leadership pieces.

And don’t fall into the trap that likeability only applies to top of funnel awareness campaigns. Likeability should permeate through the customer engagement lifecycle where each touch point reinforces a brand’s likeable nature.

I view trust as a by-product of likeability. When we like something, we are more likely to understand it and take the time to learn about it. Building a likeable brand is all about identifying your customer persona, how you can help them, and what approach you should use to engage them.

A quick scroll through LinkedIn will confirm that although lots of businesses are taking steps to push their brand, very few have a delivery that pulls people in and encourages them to transition from a passive observer to an active customer. Confirm what likeability means to your segment.

Building Likeability Through a Commercial Lens

The process of building a likeable brand is bespoke to every B2B brand. With some commonalities in how you approach the framework.

As the CMO at Modulr, one of my biggest challenges was building this same level of human engagement and intimacy through a B2B commercial lens. Business customers focus less on your personal delivery and more on the way you package your services/products to meet their specific needs.

Whether it’s promoting cost benefits or doubling-down on the unrivalled functionality of your products, the term ‘likability’ takes a whole new meaning in the context of B2B marketing.
How to Build a Likeable Brand: 4 Practical Steps to Boost Likability
1. Communication. Nailing your tone of voice is vital to strike a chord with your target audience. If you don’t sound like your customers, they’re likely to lose interest very quickly. I also think more brands need to reconsider the frequency of their communications with customers — there’s a fine line between communication which adds value to the prospect/ customer or being self-serving. Think hard about your communication workflows.

2. Customer transparency. I’m a big advocate of ‘honesty is the best policy’ when it comes to communicating issues. Offering complete transparency to customers when things go wrong, guaranteeing ultra-responsive updates and offering around-the-clock support will keep customers on your side. Enthuse your customer success team with what it means to be ‘like-able’ - coach them in your thinking and what you are building into the overall brand.

3. Confidence. People are attracted to confidence. While it’s important not to overstep the mark between confidence and being all about you (that’s not good), it’s important to provide clarity to the market that you stand for a purpose or position, that you are confident in what your brand stands for, how you can improve their lives and why they should choose your brand over rivals.

4. Reevaluate positioning. It’s easy to always view yourself as a startup or new entrant even after a decade of operation. Just like clothing, the way we position our brand quickly becomes tired and outdated. A common pitfall for startup brands is that they retain their USP-led narratives for too long because it’s all they’ve known. You should think about adding an extra layer to your narratives which is completely customer-led.

The Bottom Line

While likability is a fundamental building block to creating a reputable, trustworthy and engaging brand, it goes hand in hand with the value provided to the market. The value it creates for customers.

Ultimately, your product or service needs to build for the long run to really create this ‘likeability’ factor because the leverage of doing the right approach builds over time. CMOs must collaborate with internal teams to ensure likeability is a common theme that stretches across your entire organisation.

To make sure they understand why it’s important, make sure that context is always top-of-mind in what you are building as the brand proposition. Start reframing your thinking in how to be more likeable to your market. Go deep. Get into the detail of what that really means. Then go on a mission to build that perception. It’s something you should be excited about delivering.
4.71 Homework: How to put emotion
into your marketing
Putting emotion into marketing depends upon your context. What triggers emotion in your buyers will be completely different to other sectors, even your competition.

Understanding the emotional buyer journey requires insight and research.

Ask yourself:

  • What is your emotional context?
  • What emotion could you bring to your content?
  • What’s your trailblazer concept?
  • What principles does your business stand for?

A good starting point is to create some customer videos. These should leverage the real story of how customers buy and how they feel, as well as the story of the transformation you made. Using the language of feelings is vital here.

Embed these specific touchpoints across your other communications — what is the transformation you deliver for people?

For emotional context to really drive sales, it should be embedded everywhere.

  • How does your marketing messaging convey these feelings?
  • How could your sales team leverage these touchpoints?
  • Are your customer success team clear on exactly what transformation is unique to your business?
  • How are you using emotional language to drive referrals, recommendations and advocacy?
4.8 Public Relations
Leveraging PR as a core channel in your playbook is a difficult dichotomy. It will depend on your internal stakeholders’ perception of the value of PR and what value it can bring to scaling. Some CEOs will have an appreciation for developing brand, while others will not. They will purely focus on how you drive demand generation efforts.

Certainly, most CEOs do not see PR as a channel they want to invest in early on, especially with limited budgets. This makes sense when you consider how you cannot see a direct attribution to revenue. However many PR agencies have pivoted to offer positioning that delivers demand generation outcomes, such as direct acquisition and alignment to revenue outcomes. But despite this, it’s still very much a grey area.

Public Relations can be a useful component of your toolkit. Here is my advice on how best to approach using PR and structuring it for optimum results.

Clarify Outcomes

Get clear on what you are looking to achieve by hiring a PR agency. Is it around product launch? A long term strategic play? Pure brand awareness? Expectation of revenue? If the latter, I'd adjust your thinking and focus on the bigger picture. We talk about brand generation in other parts of the book and see PR as an enabler that supports the brand generation process.
4.81 Pick the right model for external PR partnership
Once you are clear on outcomes and you want to go ahead you have a few options. Find an independent freelancer to support your PR efforts or engage a credible PR agency either on a project basis or longer term retainer model. This depends on your ambition. Remember PR is akin to SEO in that it’s a long-term play and not a short-term fix.

If you are serious about brand generation, you should think more along the lines of a retainer model (budgets permitting) and pick a partner for the long term that will help over time. The more they can start to embed as an internal team, the more effective they will be overall.

Run a tender process

This is a great opportunity to actually get creative ideas presented to you on how the candidate firm understands your current brand. Ask them how they would bring your narrative to life through campaigns, both from a top-line, horizontal play and also across your verticals. What is the emotional connection to the audience? And how will they build it? Get the brief right and it will be a highly valuable exercise.

After running the process. Do make sure your CEO has the last word on the overall agency you choose. I would get a final shortlist of two partners and present these to the CEO for a meet and greet. I cannot encourage you enough to create a connection between the CEO and PR agency. A large determinant of success around PR and the investment is the CEO’s perception of value. And that they do indeed like to deal with them and want to engage and be active in the whole PR / comms process. Without them you will fail to make it work. And fail to justify their core value to the business and investment.

Start with a defined narrative

Don’t expect the PR agency to fully define your proposition. This is down to you, but they will support the process. If you think hiring the PR agency will be a magic bullet to solve brand issues, or to provide clarity on proposition/narrative, then you have the wrong mindset.

Either create the narrative and positioning internally, or get support from a consultant or other third party to make sure your brand has refinement, clarity and precision. Get those building blocks in place before you think about leveraging PR to drive brand awareness. Otherwise all you will do is drive confused and ineffective messaging into the marketplace.

Have a broad view and a good story

Another area to be clear on again is goals of the PR relationship. Most CMOs will always see the outputs as being featured in Financial Times, TechCrunch or Forbes. But that’s the wrong angle. Hiring an agency on a minimum retainer will probably not fulfil the initial excitement and expectations you wanted going into the relationship. That’s why it’s so important to get alignment on realistic goals going in.

The right angle is thinking about the purpose of the whole campaign. It’s not about a specific publication or placement as the marker for success. Rather, define the goals of the campaign in terms of broad impact.

Define all the areas of PR you will look to leverage. And remember that a PR agency is not a miracle worker. To be successful — especially with key publications — you need to tie your brand to a story that resonates, ideally one with a societal angle. In the world of journalists this is what piques their interest outside of the trade press.

You have to thoughtfully build a deep and compelling story that speaks to a topical societal trend, preferably one with data or stories from customers that backs up your claims. Journalists look for real storytelling and not product updates or me-too stories about “another tech product.”

Integrate with your business

The more you integrate the PR agency into your internal processes and team alignment the better. Don’t see the PR firm as an external agency, but rather an extension of your team.

If your PR partner is local, have them in your offices every so often to work. A great idea is to actually listen to them pitching to journalists while in your office. You will soon see reasons why you aren’t getting the coverage you want. But odds are, this is your fault for not having coached them well enough in the brand narrative to understand deepy and to make effective pitches. Hearing these pitches will help you give your PR partners the tools and narratives they need to succeed.
4.82 Research Reports
I would recommend building a research process report into your strategic plans with PR. This will be an extra cost, but the value of a quantitative research report that delivers a connection between market shifts and your brand promise is crucial. It will supplement all the other work a PR agency will do across bylines, announcements, reactive comms and thought leadership coverage.

Work through the plateau

After initial months of working together you will reach a point of a natural plateau with any agency. This is normally down to you not managing them effectively enough, pushing them hard enough or giving them the materials they need.

It often stems from them not being 100% clear on your strategy. They need to be tied in closely to your internal team and kept clear on your narrative.

A plateau can also result from being engaged on a minimum retainer. If you don’t start buying more, your account loses its attractiveness. The advice here is simply to be conscious of this dynamic. They will be looking to upsell and cross-sell you on their own services, and if you are keeping their engagement minimal, they will lose interest over time.

Enable the PR agency with clarity, time investment and push them hard on deliverables. Mix it up as well — don’t just have the same status call update each week that is a repeat. Those sessions should be more about creative discussions on angles, strategy and campaigns, not just basic status updates.
4.83 Consider in-house PR
And finally, remember that doing PR in-house is always an option to keep in mind. It may seem cost effective to have in house but I’d only assume that to be the case once you are at considerable scale. I would suggest though that PR is one of the channels that can be outsourced easier than other channels.

When you are building to scale and have the focus on demand generation with brand in-house, use the PR agency or freelancer to compound the work in your brand generation plan.

PR can play a highly effective role on your journey to scale. But do bear in mind the above points on how best to structure it. My opinion on its value has changed over the years. But that opinion has only changed because I’ve realised how poorly I managed them in the earlier stages of my career.

If you are the CMO here, do invest time, effort and energy into the strategic goals of PR. Otherwise they will not be successful. The ultimate key to its overall success is the story you want to tell. Double down on that process and what emotional connection you are bringing to the market and those are the overall foundations you will need for it to 10x brand awareness into the market.

And if you get that right, you will see a leverage on inbound leads and flow-through into the top of the funnel.

4.84 How do you approach PR or hiring a PR agency for your startup?
If you are doing yourself;

1. Significant time investment for potentially very limited return. You will need to map all your key; I call it 'Yellow Book' contacts who you wish to target (it's very much a sales process), who you want to engage. Best way to do this is build a CRM-like process to target journalists and get on their radar. Then work to engage, nurture and build relationships with them. Unless your brand has a significant angle to the market, your potential for coverage is minimal, or the impact of the odd placement you can get is minimal. It depends on your stage of growth but I'd focus on other levers if at a small scale. It won't drive revenue.

2. If you are getting to scale you can make a dedicated Comms & PR hire. But don't assume it's a revenue generation hire. It should be regarded as a hire for brand development. In previous companies I've seen good and bad, bad is someone who doesn't do a great deal, writes the odd press release and distributes it to PRNewswire.

3. You can distribute to PRNewswire if you want to manage the process yourself on basic announcements. It costs circa £500 – £1,000+. It’s great for vanity metrics to show your CEO — will be some made up 15,000 views or something. What it means is highly negligible.

If you are using an agency;

1. Manage them with an iron fist the second the pitching process is over and they are onboard. Natural sloppiness will ensue, there is a great peak of excitement about all the great coverage they'll generate and soon that will unravel. You have to give them clear direction, agreement on what you see as good outcomes. Do you want trade press, do you want news hijacking, or do you want research reports (all CEO's will say we want to be in the FT etc — for most brands it's somewhat unrealistic so be careful how you judge "success").

2. Be careful with agencies on minimum retainer. You will get good engagement at first but as soon as the agency stops seeing you as an upsell/ cross-sell opportunity you will soon see their interest slow down and outputs decrease. You have to be clear about the hours / minimum retainer spend to ensure your account team is working on the right things.

3. When I say you need to be clear, you need to be 10 times clearer on your brand narrative, your positioning and your market positioning than you think you need to be. Then communicate this over and over and overas most agencies will not be clear about what you do and subsequently fail to sell you effectively to the press. You need to use them to leverage an angle that will help cut through into a topic that is societal (even if it’s tech) and spin your product / solution into something more than just its features. This is the only way to even contemplate getting coverage outside of trade press.

I could go on but this foundational view will help your thought process.

It’s important to remember community building, reputation and campaigns are ongoing. You need to always evaluate how you as the marketing / revenue leader drive the effectiveness of this channel. Review it monthly, quarterly and annually. Does the message work? Where can you improve and for your CEO — is it influencing the sales funnel? Build for the long term but ensure the brand delivers incremental gains in the short term to build confidence in your approach.
You have reached the end of Lesson #4 — CONGRATS! For more content on demand generation please go to www.edwinabl.com. We now move onto Class 5 — Shaping whole company team, especially partnership with sales.
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