We recently had the privilege of interviewing Murray Newlands, Founder of the (Former) B2B marketing agency Influence People. As the co-author of the book “How to Get PR for Your Startup,” we were particularly interested in Murray’s advice on how startups can develop and implement their B2B marketing and PR strategies, despite their limited budget and resources.
- What is your professional background? What was the “defining moment” that made you switch careers from law to marketing? I studied law at a university, both as an undergraduate and a graduate student. Despite my years of legal studies, I found that when I actually started my career, my primary challenge was having to constantly deal with people who were unhappy. In other words – clients had been arrested, were getting divorced, suing someone, or involved in an accident.As soon as I decided to switch career paths, and started working in B2B marketing and PR, I learned that I could spend my days alongside creative people who were doing creative things. I have found a career I love – and the added bonus is that I work with really great people.
- If you could go back in time, what career advice you would give your younger self? If I could travel back to my earlier days, I would focus more on the skills that I loved using and which made me happy. Putting emphasis on such skills makes it much easier to find a career that lets you put them to use and work on projects that bring you the satisfaction you crave at your workplace.I also think that building a personal brand and reputation from the earliest age possible is extremely crucial in the marketing industry, and will be increasingly important in the future.
- As the co-author of “How to Get PR for Your Startup”, do you feel that startups should hire external PR agencies, or develop an in-house strategy? Just because you have a great business idea and are amazing at coding, doesn’t mean that you can design a beautiful app or tell your story well. Different people are good at different things. If you are great at communicating your idea, then you may feel you do not need a PR agency. Beyond telling a great story, good PR is about making connections, and this is something you need to continuously be aware of and work on. If you feel that you have the time, resources and skill set to invest in building your network, then you can build your own PR strategy – but keep in mind there’s an opportunity cost to this.
- What are the top 5 mistakes marketers make when pitching a journalist? Firstly, failing to build and maintain relationships with journalists is a mistake. Think of it this way, if you only see a friend when you need a favor, chances are that they’ll soon grow tired of you. Don’t just reach out to journalists when you want them to publish your latest press release or cover a new product you’re launching. Make an effort to connect with them to highlight a great story they published, congratulate them on a promotion, or just to introduce yourself and your company. Most importantly, make sure you’re pitching stories that are, in fact, real news. No one wants to hear about an entry-level hire or a new feature your competitors launched months ago. Also, failing to personalize the story for the specific journalist you’re pitching to is another common mistake. Each journalist writes about unique list topics for certain publications, so do your homework before you pitch your story.
- Given their limited budgets, which marketing channel should startups invest the most in, and why? The key thing to focus on is the business objective you want to achieve with your budget. Every startup has different needs, at different times. PR is great for investor relations, boosting brand recognition, and building up the consumer confidence you need to get buyers to purchase from you. However, many startups automatically assume PR is also an optimal strategy for lead generation, but in reality, they’d be much better off investing their resources in email marketing.
- Lead velocity is often touted as the #1 goal that B2B marketers should have in mind. What are 3 of your most practicable, actionable tips for lead generation? The number one way to generate high-quality B2B marketing leads is to have a great product or service that customers rave about, and recommend to their friends about through word-of-mouth marketing. Targeted PR can also serve to generate high-quality leads, especially if a company is featured in the right publication, and tells the right story. Following my previous answer, email marketing is very effective if you can find someone with a great, organic, list who can tell your story in a way that makes their subscribers respond.
- How do you feel about the trend of social advocacy? How can a business encourage its employees to promote content on their own social profiles, in a cautious manner? Great companies who have teams of people who love doing what they are doing with passion, and have happy customers, can benefit a lot from social advocacy. This has to start with a great business. Staff and customers will not post positive things on social media unless they love the company, so that has to be the starting point; many businesses are just not built that way. If you have that kind of business, the next thing to do is to train the staff on how to create great social content. I would recommend giving them guidelines based on the example of what they would and wouldn’t say if their boss and customer were in the same room. If you do not have a happy staff, they are not going to post positive things. If you do not have happy customers, they are not going to respond positively to the staff.
- What B2B marketing trends do you see fading/growing over the next 5 years? Consumers will expect a mobile-first company that is responsive to their individual needs and has a great customer experience. At the same time, consumers are increasingly socially aware and concerned about their health and the health of society. Companies who can embrace this will get great customer reviews, and social media exposure from happy customers will lead to growth. Digital marketing will come from customers, not marketing departments, and the marketing department’s role will be to amplify customer voices.