This blog post was provided by Charles Dimov, an experienced marketing professional and one of our former clients.
As marketers, we know that communications and public relations are important. They are part of a sound marketing mix. It’s good for the brand and helps drive awareness. But, what is it doing for qualified leads and lead generation? Of course, we all understand that it helps. If someone has heard of your brand from a third party article, they are more willing to interact with you online. Wonderful, but that’s all wishy-washy qualitative stuff! Is there tangible proof that public relations drives qualified leads? As a convert, here is my story that answers this question. Spoiler – the answer is YES, it does.
For the past three and a half years, I have led global marketing for a small retail software firm, OrderDynamics. In all regards, the company was a startup with a serious challenge. Four years ago, it was a 40-person firm, spun off from a larger organization. It had no discernible market presence. For the most part, no one in the industry had heard of us. There was no significant brand presence, compared to several goliaths in the industry like IBM, Oracle, and SAP. The flow of inbound leads was sporadic at best. To approximate, we had about 30 inbound raw leads per month.
These were certainly not marketing qualified leads (MQL), nor sales qualified leads (SQL). The inside sales process was completely focused on outbound efforts (events, list calling, followup). To top it off, web traffic dropped 75% in the year following the spinoff. Sales thought of marketing as an unengaged team working on its own. In hindsight, this was by no means a picture of success.
Public Relations & Qualified Leads
Starting with a vision, and marketing strategy (content centric – inbound), we added a communications / PR plan to the marketing mix. With buyer personas in hand, we focused on creating high-quality content, and on an ongoing public relations push. For a fast start, we outsourced this expertise.
Publishing educational, non-promotional content on a consistent basis was part of the plan. Content included white papers, topic briefs, data sheets, brochures, webinars, podcasts and ground-breaking industry research (developed in-house).
Through these initiatives, we established an ideal platform for a blogging strategy, using SEO to catch the interest of ideal buyers.
Good content gave us a chance to drive press releases, provide media quotes, submit non-paid bylines to industry publications, offer guest posts, and even interview on podcasts. These third-party public relations efforts started driving an influx in inbound raw leads. On the marketing funnel, raw leads converted to qualified leads with a growing number of prospective customers.
After ramping up our PR efforts, page views grew from less than 6,000 per month to peaks just shy of 18,000 per month. More importantly, the marketing department grew inbound leads to as high as 400 per month. Over three years, more than 240 third-party industry publications referenced OrderDynamics. This in just over three years. Twelve of these were quotes in Forbes magazine, with one full unpaid article written about our research in the publication.
Certainly, the sales team was engaged, and excited. Consistent, high-quality content marketing – supported by a strong SEO blogging strategy, and solid ongoing PR – completely turned around the business. Sales and marketing were now working together to fill the sales funnel. Additionally, sales reps saw and appreciated the clear benefit of marketing’s contributions.
Proof in the Qualified Leads
You may wonder, did PR really provide sales-ready qualified leads? I wanted to know this answer too. So, we closely watched our inbounds in the stages in the sales process, in sales calls, and through our qualification process. Over the past two years, from close to 300 qualified leads analyzed, most were attributed to SEO (organic search), at 36%. We found the next largest category to be the ‘Direct’ sourced qualified leads, the people who directly typed in our website address, at 33%. However, as a small firm starting with an almost completely unknown brand, these sources must be largely attributed to our public relations efforts.
If there is any doubt in your mind – public relations does work! And there are results to prove it. For instance, solid public relations execution drove 33% of our sales accepted leads (SAL – qualified leads).
Don’t skimp on this part of your budget. Work with a professional, communications-savvy and well-networked team like Ketner Group Communications. They are experts at gaining media coverage for your company, which in turn drives leads. Our work together helped me completely turn around our marketing efforts and business. All in all, investing in good public relations management just makes good business sense!