Last month’s decision by Solo Brands to part ways with its CEO after its much-lauded “giving up smoke” campaign with Snoop Dogg didn’t convert to sales was a shot heard by PRs around the world. But while the incident has rightly thrust debate about the value of engagement, metrics, and brand awareness into the spotlight, for B2B PR professionals, it has an even greater resonance.
With B2B sales cycles frequently taking months, years, or even decades, with multiple touchpoints required before a prospect converts, directly correlating brand-building campaigns with sales poses a particular challenge. The cost of contracts, and the lengthy process for implementing new suppliers and solutions, means that the vast majority of potential B2B buyers aren’t ready to buy today, but could be in the future. As a result, activity that builds brand visibility may not yield an immediate uptick in sales in the short term, but can be instrumental in getting on prospects’ radars when they are looking to buy.
This philosophy is backed by countless studies, with long-term B2B strategies proven to be more effective at building market share, profit, and revenue. Yet despite this, many B2B vendors operating in times of economic turbulence are culling brand-building campaigns in favour of activity seen to drive immediate leads. To do this is not only alarming for PRs facing budget cuts, it flies in the face of what the companies themselves are trying to achieve.
While Solo Brands may be a consumer company, it underscores the challenges facing B2B PRs, and professionals need to urgently take heed. Great headway has been made in measuring the impact of campaigns thanks to the increasing adoption of the AMEC framework, but the industry needs to do more to highlight the important role brand awareness plays in the sales funnel. The advertising model, which categorises a campaign’s objectives as either ‘lead generation’ or ‘brand awareness’, has helped to establish a harmful delineation between the two. To separate them perpetuates the myth that brand awareness doesn’t impact sales, when the opposite is true. Greater education is likely needed to demonstrate the value of brand-building campaigns and the importance of thinking long-term, leveraging the research already in the field.
Solo Brands also highlights the importance of communication between comms and sales, to understand how campaigns are driving inbounds and site traffic, how sales teams are using coverage, and what PR can do to support their efforts. Through greater integration with sales, B2B PR teams will be better placed to demonstrate business value, drive long-term growth, and help increase internal awareness of the benefits of long-term strategies.