Last fall, I left my career as a B2C publicist behind. Way behind. After thirteen years of entertainment, restaurant, and wine and spirits PR, I took a position at Idea Grove, a B2B tech PR and marketing agency. Movies and B2B tech are about as far apart as can be, so I wasn’t sure how my background would translate.
I needed to hit the ground running, adjusting to my new role while quickly getting up to speed on several new clients. Plus, as an account director, I knew a team would rely on me to guide the way. Luckily, I discovered that despite all of the differences between my previous career and my current one, my skills and experience transferred nicely. Sure, I had to learn a few new tricks, but my challenges were not so different from those any publicist encounters when taking on a new client.
Getting up to speed on a new client is about more than just reviewing their media coverage and educating yourself about the key voices and trends in their industry. A few key questions and conversations can make all the difference in gaining the knowledge you need to learn about your client’s business and earn their trust.
Get to the heart of what matters to your client. It’s standard to ask them how you will be judged, but try digging a little deeper. How about asking your client contact how their boss evaluates them? Better yet, what are the CEO’s goals and how does your discipline fit in? For instance, a PR agency may be tasked with garnering media coverage. However, if you know the C-suite wants to take the company public, prioritizing thought leadership content and tier one business coverage more directly aligns with overall company objectives.
Bottom line: If you’re speaking the company’s language and helping your client meet their goals, you’re making progress.
You should understand your client’s business. However, unless you’re an engineer, don’t get hung up on becoming an expert. Beyond talking to your direct contact, scheduling a briefing with a product manager is a great way to get up to speed. Not only do they fully understand all of the product’s capabilities, they also inherently know what makes the product appealing and different from competitors’ offerings. They have the inside track on how the company’s product will evolve to stay in line with or ahead of industry trends. Also, because they work hand-in-hand with sales, they know what questions customers ask and what their chief concerns are.
If at all possible, record the meeting so you can refer back later. After working with a company for a few weeks or months, you’re likely to absorb more details upon second review.
Ask to speak to a few of your client’s customers. There’s no better way to understand what makes customers tick than to talk to them directly. At Idea Grove, we’ve developed an approach based on Adele Revella’s buyer persona methodology. When we begin engagements with clients, we ask to speak to six to eight of their recent buyers (both current customers and lost opportunities) to find out what solution they were looking for and why, what features were important, their concerns throughout the buying process, who was involved in the decision and why they made the choice they did. Then we analyze commonalities. The end result is a representation of the client’s customer based on actual qualitative data rather than assumptions. We then use that data to craft messaging that resonates with the buyer through the channels that best reach them.
This process is a win-win. We provide important insights to our client about their buyers and simultaneously learn more about our client’s business. We’re also able to maximize our client’s marketing budget by targeting a specific persona through tailored content.
Since my transition to B2B tech PR last fall, I’ve continued to educate myself about my clients’ products and industries by asking questions and conducting ongoing research. However, the tactics I outlined above have allowed me to quickly get up to speed on numerous clients. The sooner you understand your client’s goals, business and customers, the sooner you can build your confidence and implement strategic campaigns that provide real value to your client.