Any time a situation doesn’t work out in whatever way, our natural default response is to presume malice when incompetence is more likely. Try to keep that in mind.
In the vein of How can we make it easier to do business with us? (and pt.2) many took the position that sewing contractors are bad, evil, arrogant or whatever because they didn’t have web pages so potential customers could find them easier. I said it was more than that.
Hard as you may find this to believe, the problem is that the businesses you want to find don’t know how to do what it takes for you to be able to find them -but they’re willing to hire it out. Sounds like a slam dunk, right? Think again.
There is a critical lack of PR firms with sufficient grounding in the trade to understand the value of manufacturing products and services, much less know where to find or how to target a client’s potential customer base. Lest that sound overly critical of PR firms, it’s a near impossible job because this business is highly fragmented. There’s no single publication or site where PR firms can place editorial to promote their client’s interests. We used to have a variety of niche and regional publishers (Needle Trader, Kogos etc) but most of them are long gone. Others are too limited in distribution (Mannuscript, California Apparel News). Too few people read WWD anymore and besides, it’s for retailers not manufacturers. Apparel is an option but it’s intended for C-level execs rather than companies like you and even fewer read that now. Maybe a few of you read it but it’s too darn few to be cost effective.
You would be shocked to know the names of the companies that direly need B2B PR services; three of the four companies are technology based firms. So maybe you wonder how it is that a technology based firm hasn’t developed these competencies? Think about it. These firms are well established and respected. Most of their customers are still larger, multimillion (if not billion) dollar firms. The companies who seek a social presence never developed those competencies because they didn’t need to. That’s not how their customers do business. Of course that is changing now which is why these firms would like to develop an interactive web presence but there still remains a lack of skills and competencies to service this market. If you can find qualified B2B PR, they don’t do social media. PR people who excel at social media don’t do trade specific B2B.
Returning to my opening, presume ignorance not malice because that’s what this boils down to.
More to the point, I’m trying to help an internationally prominent company (literally the leader) find a qualified PR person to take them on. Beyond the usual gamut of PR related skills, desired competencies are a strong understanding of manufacturing processes and most particularly pattern making, fit and sizing. Owing to the nature of the industry’s fragmentation, a candidate would necessarily need to manage corporate identity via the usual means, optimally blogging and what not. In short, somebody with these qualifications could stay very busy. If you know someone who fits that description, let me know. It goes without saying that the requirement of having a shiny, sparkly personality puts me out of the running.
I only know one person who does (did) B2B industry PR, albeit poorly and not for lack of motivation. I’ll tell you about it as an illustration of an unsuitable approach. She lacks the trade specific skill set and awareness of the market. She promoted the client’s product with little discrimination; to anyone who claims to be a designer because she thinks fashion is sexy and designers are the boss of everything. In the case of designer-owners it is certainly true they make the final decision on purchasing but it is not a product they care much about because they won’t use it. The product must be marketed to employees within a designer’s company who will use it and who will then (hopefully) go on to lobby their boss to buy it. I could never get her to see this. She had ten reasons why I was wrong but I’m not the one out of a job now. And it’s tragic! This is a wonderful product that professionalizes production management, is very affordable but it is likely to fold because no one knows how to craft a meaningful message, put it in a place you’ll see it and inspire you to buy it. And that’s beside the point that this approach is old school. It doesn’t work anymore. Now the market requires developing an ongoing relationship with the customer in the social space, offering substantive education to the B2B customer so they realize they need to have it.
Keep in mind that for most of you, web stuff is easy. It’s easy to create a site or it’s easy for you to use one, either way doesn’t seem to be much different. I’m telling you that for many providers in the industry, the web is one scary place. Companies want to become more involved in the social space but they don’t know how to do it. I’ve had four companies approach me in the last month about it. What’s more, they know they can’t do it because they lack the time or competencies so they want to hire it out.
I’ve always said that someone who developed websites for garment industry providers would clean up -if only that were all there was to the job. So in a nutshell, that is the main reason you can’t find stuff you need to buy. B2B PR is not sexy, requires trade specific competencies, it’s hard to target the customer so it is logical that B2B PR that represents legitimate and valuable products and services of interest to you is practically non-existent. Like I tell any CEO who calls me, I wouldn’t know who to hire for myself. If you know someone who may be interested in developing this as a career, let me know.