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Business-to-business (B2B) companies – those that sell to other businesses rather than to consumers – make up a huge part of the economic activity of our nation.
Yet when looking at PR agency partners, many B2B companies look at generalist firms that work for both business-to-consumer (B2C) and B2B clients, and dabble in a wide range of industries.
And that can be a big mistake.
If you have a severe foot problem, you’re better off going to a podiatrist than a general practitioner for a solution. When it comes to B2B PR, a generalist’s one-size-fits-all approach is a costly mistake to be avoided. In B2B PR, specialization can be the main driver of your PR program’s success.
Unlike general PR firms, which may offer good general PR skills but lack specific profound knowledge of your industry, a specialized B2B firm can bring your company’s marketing initiative a much sharper focus and a customized skill set.
This expertise typically includes a deeper knowledge of your sector, issues and trends, as well as deeper relationships with the media, event organizers and influencers in your core industries. Importantly, this greater expertise and experience means the agency spends less time getting up to speed and more time (and efficiency!) generating the meaningful results you seek.
Check out these five benefits of working with a specialized B2B PR firm rather than a jack-of-all-trades PR agency:
Knows your Niche
A specialized B2B PR firm intimately understands your industry. They know the players, the media, the events, the trends and issues, and the potential pitfalls. They have been there and done that. The value that this expertise brings cannot be understated, as it can reap huge rewards for the company that can align with a firm that specializes in its core sectors.
Consider the following:
Focus on Quality vs. Quantity
In B2B, it’s not about reaching billions of people. It’s often about reaching the right 200 decision makers with the right message at the right time.
A specialized B2B firm knows exactly who to target with what news, where, when, how and why. Often times, this leads to smaller media lists and rifle-shot target accuracy, and garners better results in terms of getting the right messages to the exactly right people.
A specialized B2B firm knows your industry’s trade media editors and reporters intimately, including who covers what topics and who is passionate about what issues or trends. Being tuned-in to your industry’s key media personnel enables more opportunities. And since these specialized PR firms work with your target media regularly, they’ve established a history, credibility and trust that often secures a higher rate of positive responses and media engagement.
It’s the truest sense of “quality” trumping “quantity,” which can save you marketing dollars while optimizing their effectiveness.
A key difference of B2B marketing is its focus on building personal relationships that drive long-term business. This differs vastly from B2C marketing that tends to be more transactional.
Further, the B2B buying process is often a lengthy one, with most B2B purchases being bigger ticket expenses requiring a number of departments – procurement, accounting, the C-suite, etc. – to provide approval before a transaction can occur.
A specialized B2B firm understands this and is able to approach communications from different angles with a multi-prong PR effort that reflects the critical needs of each audience involved in the buying process.
For example, this means that an engineering trade magazine will receive a media pitch about a given technology’s new features and performance, while another pitch targeting a C-suite publication might focus on how the technology can reduce cost, enhance quality and generate higher customer satisfaction.
Knows When to Say No
A specialized B2B PR firm understands their target market well enough that it knows when to say no … and is able to back-up this counsel with insightful advice.
Let’s take social media as an example: not all social channels are appropriate for every B2B brand. A good B2B PR agency will understand the nuances of the various social media platforms and will steer clients towards the most appropriate channels to accomplish their goals, rather than steering the client to the latest or coolest channel, like TikTok.
Mark Twain once said that the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. And the difference between a PR firm that specializes in B2B PR and one that says it can do B2B PR can make the same kind of difference for you.
More for Less
As discussed, a specialized B2B PR firm requires less time to get started your marketing program as they already understand the unique DNA of the industry. In addition to getting up to speed quickly, niche firms are often able to start producing results more efficiently.
This happens in two ways: specialized firms have the industry know-how to make the needed connections to generate quick results early in the program; and, often times, can produce these results in fewer billed hours.
There is one important factor to consider when comparing new program proposals: value (not price). That’s because the specialized B2B PR firm may charge higher hourly rates, they’re usually able to accomplish more in less time than the generalist firm, resulting in overall savings. Next to expertise in your sector, value is the most important metric to keep top-of-mind when comparing PR agencies for your next project.
So, if you’re in the OEM automotive technology supplier business, you’ll want a PR firm that specializes and has solid experience in that sector. Similarly, if you’re in the manufacturing software sector or the mobility technology space, you’ll want to work with a B2B PR firm that lives and breathes in those respective worlds.
There’s no substitute for experience, especially in the PR world where services are sold by the hour. Take the time to find the firm that knows your niche and tap into the established expertise they can offer.
Author: Adriana Van Duyn
Adriana is an account supervisor at Bianchi PR with 16 years of B2B PR experience representing clients across multiple industries.
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