The most successful brands – whether in business to business, business to consumer or the nonprofit space – find ways to tell compelling stories that speak to customer needs and provide value to the end user. Connected storytelling spans every aspect of the customer journey, from the first customer touchpoint to ongoing service and support. Every aspect of the marketing mix – from public relations to demand gen, paid advertising to social media – must collaborate to build the connected story.
We recently sat down with Matt Cannell, founder of Demand Operative, a premier partner of Corporate Ink. Matt gave us his insights into how PR and demand generation play complementary roles in storytelling, and why he chooses to team with proven PR and demand gen agencies to provide the best service to clients.
Corporate Ink: Why is it so important for companies to establish a demand gen strategy in concert with a PR program?
Demand Operative: Demand generation is, fundamentally, the process of creating pipeline. The best way to do that is to authentically demonstrate to target customers that you understand their pain points and easily create value for them – without beating them with a sales pitch. But to really be successful with it, you need to have a consistent message that creates value at every stage of customer engagement. Then deliver that message across all of your platforms: inbound content, outbound campaigns, public relations, sales enablement, customer success and your brand promise. Without that consistency, you risk having disjointed – or worse, conflicting – messages that create confusion for your customer when your ultimate goal is to create value.
When you look at modern PR and its influence on creating value and inspiring customer engagement, it spans the entire customer engagement lifecycle. Modern PR strategies create a well of valuable content and messaging that ultimately helps demand gen programs drive engagement and, more importantly, create a pipeline.
But, regardless of PR, demand generation or even brand marketing, when we boil this all down, it’s really about connected storytelling and value creation. PR teams, marketing teams, brand teams, sales teams and customer success teams all need to be telling the cohesive story that should deliver value to the target audience and every engagement point.
And to do this effectively, siloes and disconnections have to be eliminated so program initiatives can all function in sync.
CI: What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see companies making when it comes to demand gen?
DO: There are many. But perhaps the biggest pitfall I see is when organizations don’t take the time to understand how they create value for their customers – and communicate that value proposition to everyone in the organization. That means getting in front of your customers and prospects to intimately understand all the reasons they believe in the value you create, or all the reasons they don’t. Connecting the customer’s perspective to the value your organization creates, and validating that value, is the most critical aspect of building successful marketing and demand gen programs.
Why? Because only then can you tell an authentic story in the marketplace from the perspective of your customer — and authenticity garners relevance and attention.
Too many companies contrive their messaging strategies and marketing programs by sitting around a table with their internal teams only. That’s the easiest way to disconnect with your target audience because you’re essentially trying to force a pill down their throat that may or may not be the right pill for them. Your consumers are likely digital natives, and they have more power than ever before to choose what they pay attention to and what they deem relevant. If you’re not telling your story from the perspective of your customer, you’re at risk of being ignored and becoming obsolete.
CI: How do you recommend companies approach the task of breaking down siloes among departments?
DO: This is perhaps one of the other larger problems organizations make. Think about this for a second: If sales is ultimately responsible for aligning value to create a customer relationship… and customer success is responsible for keeping that relationship… but marketing is ultimately responsible for creating interest in a possible relationship… shouldn’t these teams be under one hood, functioning as a cohesive unit to tell a connected story?
It’s not rocket science. In order to tell your story from the customer’s perspective, you need to have a feedback loop that exists at every customer touchpoint. So marketing, sales, customer success, service etc. all need to be feeding each other the details from the customer’s perspective as they engage with them day-to-day. If you can connect those dots and align these teams to communicate with each other every day, your marketing programs and overall business will thrive.
Read more about the interconnection of paid, earned, shared and owned media in our recent blog post.