Good data can make a huge difference to the success of communications campaigns, but the toolbox and approach for B2B companies is different to that of B2C brands.
This was the advice given by Scott Newton, senior director, strategic operations at Cision who was speaking at the recent PR Week B2B Summit. Newton has spent a decade at the company helping PR and communications teams improve measurements and insights and he outlined some key steps for B2B organisations that are looking to use data more effectively in their marketing and PR campaigns.
Firstly, scale doesn’t tell the whole story – especially in B2B – and this is partly because B2B firms can often have quite complex objectives when compared to consumer-facing businesses. It can be harder to connect marketing outcomes to business goals. Newton says: “Folks like me will talk about the need to connect your measurements to organisational objectives, but it can be harder in B2B to draw that direct line to metrics such as sales growth or financial performance. Sometimes our successes are more nuanced than that.”
B2B marketing can also be quite complex and detailed. “You’re delivering multiple messages at the same time. You need to deliver insightful content to niche audiences that is also relevant and compelling to journalists who might be operating with broader swathes of the public in mind.”
Yet, this should not put B2B marketers off using data, Newton says. “It can be tempting to retreat to gut instinct and anecdotes, but the unique dynamics of the B2B space shouldn’t mean less measurement – it simply means we need to be smarter.”
He adds the most important thing to remember is that no two brands are the same. “It’s about tracking and planning in an audience-centric way. What’s most important is that we always customise – no two brands are identical and there’s no one-size-fits-all methodology.” But with that in mind, there are three important steps to using data in the best way for B2B firms.
1. Gain the best possible understanding of your audience. This doesn’t just mean potential buyers, but influential stakeholders who can steer perceptions. It means learning about demographics and attitudes, and it is best done before a campaign begins. Newton emphasises the importance of breaking down your audience into smaller groups. If you’re interested in reaching the leaders of small and medium-sized businesses, for instance, those leading the smallest firms will work and live very differently – and find very different things relevant – to those leading the largest firms within that group.
2. Expand the scope of your qualitative analysis. Traditional media measurement metrics retain huge value, but Newton advises going further when it comes to understanding the landscape your brand is operating in – especially with an eye on the complex multiple messages B2B marketers are often aiming to get across. This means, ensuring you understand what’s truly important within a topic, and the layers that need to sit beneath an overarching message. Newton says: “If you’re driving messaging about sustainability, for instance, are there specific subsections that talk about net zero, supply chain or ESG investment criteria? What are the components of that overarching message, and are they being hit?”
This aspect of analysis also requires a deep understanding of key messages and stakeholders such as journalists, academics and business leaders. “You need to understand who they are and what they’re talking about,” he adds. Also, think about moving beyond traditional media and social media and including analysis of more unusual sources – parliamentary records on Hansard, for example, can give insight into how opinion formers and politicians are talking about you or your industry.
3. Zero into specific influencers to understand the conversation. Newton advises listening to highly specific groups to understand the breadth of their conversation, curating lists of thought leaders to learn what they’re saying about you and your industry. Don’t just rely on names you already know, but use the exercise to discover new voices who are engaging regularly and who perhaps have significant social followings.
Listening to broad conversations around the topics and issues that matter to your brand can help identify white space to plan campaigns, and also give a sense of how you’re managing to shift the needle with key opinion formers.
If you have any questions for Scott, please do reach out to him on LinkedIn: Scott Newton | LinkedIn
Get the insights that you need to succeed. Cision’s Insight team provides the tools and expertise to help some of the world’s biggest brands to monitor, optimise and exceed their communication objectives. To find out more, speak to one of our consultants today. Request a consultation (cision.co.uk)