The hunt for B2B publicity can be grueling. It may take months for the right feature story about your company to surface, or just a matter of hours before your newsworthiness window fades into oblivion or gets snatched by a competitor who is quicker to pitch his story.
A successful B2B PR strategy revolves around constantly pushing and pulling a story from different angles until it hits the right note with the right journalist. But when it comes to both wooing the media and sending the right message to your audience, companies tend to overwork their internal successes and insights while underutilizing some their most valuable assets—happy customers.
The value of external validation
Whether a journalist is writing a story about your company, your product or your industry—chances are, they don’t want to talk to just you. They’re seeking dimension, and typically that comes from talking to a number of different sources. It makes their story (i.e., your story) more compelling.
Including your satisfied customers into your story pitch does the following:
- It backs up your message. Like any doting grandmother, it’s easy to believe that your company is pretty much here to save the world. But if you’re the only one touting your message, reporters may just view it as a sales tactic or marketing puffery. However, when customers step into the story and verify that your company has helped them achieve success in some way, or corroborates the industry trend you’re discussing, it adds legitimacy to your message.
- It puts your story into context. Because customers are actually using your products or services and experiencing the industry vertical you’re targeting, they provide a perspective that readers in the same industry can relate to – it makes it real to them.
- It makes it interesting. When a customer is in a story, there’s another voice to read—one that probably has a different style, cadence and perspective. These elements naturally make the story a better read.
Leveraging customer love
Offering a customer as a source for a media story makes for a happy customer who appreciates the free publicity —and it’s one of the most effective ways to improve your chances of landing top-notch coverage. But it’s not the only way you can publically highlight a good customer reputation to other businesses (read prospects).
Turn customer stories into case studies (which can be used for media fodder, marketing material and website copy) as a way to easily and succinctly explain how your customer has achieved success by doing business with you. And as you create thought leadership content for the media, reach out to your customers for their insights—then quote them to add perspective.
You can also incorporate customer testimonials on your website and in other marketing collateral, and ask customers to write a guest blog post or be interviewed for a Q&A on your blog.
Building a media-friendly pipeline
As you build a bench of PR-ready customers, it’s wise to be thoughtful about whom you reach out to. If you’re pitching customers as a potential interview for the media (and you’ll always want to approach them before you send a journalist their contact information), first make sure:
- They’re responsive. (Journalists work on tight deadlines.)
- They have a good relationship with your team.
- They have a compelling success story to share – or they have thoughtful insights on an issue or trend you want to discuss.
(Bonus points for customers who are well-known and have brand recognition already.)
Remember that customers aren’t just doing you a favor by getting involved in your PR campaigns. They’ll reap the benefits of telling a success story or their insights to a mass audience, too. It’s a win-win.