B2B lead generation campaigns: Don’t succumb to the lure of those faceless figures in the numbers game

Targeting personas instead of numbers is key for securing valuable leads, according to Jamie Kightley, head of client services, IBA International.

a faceless figure standing on a beach

The potential for B2B PR organisations to generate leads has become exponential in recent years as technology has enabled marketing to adopt increasingly digital formats.

With pressure for budget cuts mounting, these digital developments have resulted in corporate-level executives needing to be reassured about PR’s integral position within B2B marketing strategies. Agencies and marketing departments must not be blinded by numbers, but focus on target audiences, readership figures and content. Jamie Kightley, Head of Client Services at IBA International, explains.

There is no denying that most marketers appreciate well placed thought leadership articles in order to achieve leads and replenish the sales pipeline. Yet, when it comes to selecting target publications for such placements, PR teams – both within agencies and marketing departments – often fall into the pitfall of prioritising high UVPM and audience figures over understanding their target audience. There can often be a tendency to overlook crucial information about their B2B target audiences by assuming that a high UVPM means a higher likelihood that buying personas are reading the article.

Extensive coverage views won’t necessarily secure targeted leads… When focusing solely on the concept of Advertising Value Equivalent and in particular the operation of Newswires, it is easy to find evidence of blanketed quantity being prioritised over targeted quality. The dissemination of a story over a newswire has the ability to generate a lot of initial buzz and pageviews – it only takes a quick Google of keywords from a newswire distribution for businesses to see the whole story plastered over multiple obscure websites.

Most newswire services even provide a report at the end of the week to show the release had 4.5m+ ‘impressions’. However, much of this coverage is digitally generated, posted by machines in the absence of human oversight and, as such, is unlikely to provide targeted lead generation from a specific industry such as manufacturing, transportation or healthcare.

And there is more to a story than figures

It is a common B2B myth that high UVPM figures always equate to high-quality leads for companies. To effectively demonstrate this point, consider a national and influential publication like The Wall Street Journal with an impressive circulation of 23 million and the London Times with a circulation of 11 million respectively. My parents contribute to the UVPM numbers of the Times – they often consult weekly publications to keep up with the latest new stories or find out about theatre performances and the latest trendy restaurants. Needless to say, they are far from the B2B investor who is considering a half a million-pound investment in a software system to improve their company’s profits for the next ten years!

The lure of SEO and domain authority can be tempting.

The implementation of keywords and backlinks in placed PR content have become recent ploys adopted by B2B marketers to improve SEO. The strategy is relatively simple. The first step involves tracking popular search terms in an industry to help organisations establish a list of keywords to add into bylined articles, press releases, case studies and other media-facing activities. Initially this all appears to be a successful tactic.

Organisations can then move onto establishing the domain authority of ‘target’ publications, by using various third-party tools such as Moz. Various factors need to be taken into account when calculating domain authority. For instance, Moz explains that “linking root domains and the number of total links” are among the many factors they utilise to generate a single domain authority score. With authority being measured on a scale of 1-100, it is often assumed that the higher the score, the higher a piece of content on that website is likely to rank in search results.

… but get to know your target audience beyond their numbers It is easy to see how the allure of high numbers can lead many B2B organisations to stray away from finding their target audience, especially if they are able to secure a linkback in a publication with a circulation of over 1 million. However, by choosing this route, many B2B organizations end up compromising a core principle of a PR campaign. This principle concerns the identification of the key buying personas and the potential to engage with an incredibly select target audience by marrying brand messaging to key industry topics.

On a positive note the tide is turning in the industry, with organisations realizing that they need to look beyond the numbers and instead cement a deep understanding of their target buying persona – from what a person does for a living to their reasons for reading the content. Recently, in discovering that its credibility was being damaged by high UVPM numbers, Cision, owner of PRNewswire, launched a new service to view figures at a more granular level in order to resolve this concern.

Don’t underestimate the impact of smaller UVPMS From decision maker to influencer and ratifier – buying decisions, especially important ones, often have to pass through various chains of command, but it is trust with the supplier that determines the likelihood of those decisions. Targeted content throughout the sales funnel can assist in multiple ways with gaining and earning that trust. For example, interviews in highly respected media, along with careful and targeted placement of thought leadership, topical industry and opinion pieces in targeted media, brings that sought-after third-party endorsement that can be an extremely effective strategy to build trust. Media outlets with smaller audiences do not necessarily reach huge volumes of readers, but the results speak for themselves.

Here are a couple of examples that the IBA team have witnessed.

In a recent meeting with the IBA team, one of our software clients discussed a potential opportunity with the U.S. Navy that they had identified. Following a briefing call, a piece of bylined thought leadership with a client subject matter-expert (SME) was drafted, looking at

the level of software support required to maintain complex navy warships. The team followed this action up by assembling together a selective list of U.S. naval publications – there were less than 10 publications in our sights with a combined readership of around 150,000.

The resulting placement in one of the top naval targets was a great success. Shortly after his article appeared, the SME in question was contacted by a military procurement expert and invited to speak at an event filled with some of the most influential people in the U.S. Navy. The circulation and UVMP of the specific publication was no more than 45,000 combined.

IBA’s work with a U.S. fintech organisation is another example. For instance, on behalf of our client, the IBA team were able to place an interview with the company CEO in a highly respected subscription-only banking and payments weekly newsletter. Within days of the interview being published, the CEO took a call from an executive at Mastercard to discuss a strategic partnership. The circulation and UVPM combined – a tiny 20,000!

Prioritising the needs of your target audience is key to securing those valuable leads There is no denying that domain authority and UVPM achieve results– they can help organisations boost SEO – but these values alone are not enough to guarantee the securement of valuable leads. A successful PR campaign should contain a mixture of digital marketing approaches – and targeting niche publications for specific buying personas should be included in every strategy. With pressure mounting for budget cuts and the rebuilding of sales pipelines, buying personas should be a top priority. Marketers who prioritise the needs of their target audience above the glory of high figures will find their content marketing efforts generating more leads – and the value of their communications departments easier to demonstrate.

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