Compared to consumer product launches, a B2B launch typically involves a more insular, tightly targeted campaign—where the PR team’s strategy and execution can make all the difference. This award-winning campaign from (W)right On Communications for the mobe3 product launch by warehouse management brand EVS was designed to disrupt the warehouse industry, grab attention in a cluttered space , and educate the industry about the product’s unique features and benefits.
Target audiences in the team’s integrated strategic communications plan included the company’s existing customers who were using EVS’s older, more traditional warehouse management system (WMS) and needed to be transitioned to the new solution and warehouses with no WMS at all. The new customers were the primary focus.
“We knew that EVS had very little brand equity, despite 16 years of experience developing and supporting their legacy product which they had white labeled for their ERP partners. Launching a new product is one thing when you’re a known entity in the marketplace, but launching when you’re virtually unknown is a big hurdle.,” says Julie Wright, President of (W)right On Communications.
As a cloud-based solution designed to run on handheld iOS devices like iPods and iPads, mobe3 had tremendous price advantages over legacy systems because it didn’t require clunky, costly hardware. Using a familiar interface and hardware that most people, including current and future warehouse workers, were already familiar with also reduced the training time and complexity to deploy mobe3.
“One of the things that really assisted our media outreach efforts is that we reached out to the supply chain trade media well before the product launch to connect with editors on what their interests and preferences were,” Wright offers. “This laid the groundwork for a successful launch announcement because editors were now familiar with EVS and aware that they were planning to introduce something new. It was a small step with a big impact.”
Read on to see how (W)right On and its client earned a Silver Award in the “Best B2B Product Launch” category in Bulldog Reporter’s 2018 PR Awards.
The Strategy: The mobe3 product was being beta-tested by two warehouses, and the firm conducted in-depth interviews to find out from users who represented the personas they’d be targeting with the program. (W)right On wanted direct insights about their pain points, decision-making factors and main hesitations before adopting the solution.
They conducted secondary research reviewing analyst reports on the supply chain industry and warehouse management solutions specifically as well as other sources to better understand how to differentiate mobe3 from its more established competitors. This research informed the messaging platform, which employed provocative copy and brand positioning, as well as branded imagery to break through and reach trade media editors, analysts and prospective customers.
The strategy used PR tactics and content for each stage of the marketing funnel to drive awareness, product evaluation and, ultimately, support sales. It focused on editorial coverage in top trade outlets for third-party validation of the product’s benefits and user experience; contributed articles in influential trade publications as well as tech journals; branded infographics and content; a branded launch video; social media strategy; content marketing strategy; and additional outreach including awards, speaking opportunities and analyst coverage.
The Execution: One key challenge was that the space is crowded with competitors that have larger marketing and PR budgets as well as established brand recognition and relationships. The team knew they couldn’t outspend competitors with hospitality suites at trade shows or search engine marketing, so they had to come up with a way to stand out.
The strategy focused on three key elements that supported the main program objectives:
- Establish thought leadership as an expert in the advanced WMS and supply chain industry
- Leverage visual storytelling that hooks attention and generates buzz
- Shine the spotlight on early customer successes to elevate the product’s stature and provide third-party validation
For thought leadership, they developed an aggressive schedule of insightful, interesting and shareable articles using bylines from key executives. Each executive owned a specific “beat” that reinforced a product key message—innovative technology (like artificial intelligence), optimizing operations and security. As a result, articles appeared in trade outlets and the team secured a monthly column on CIO.com.
Visual storytelling—through graphic fact sheets, infographics, animated graphics, etc.—was used across owned and shared platforms to engage the audience, but also as a tool to help media and analyst pitches secure coverage. Visuals elevated themes and messaging reinforced product differentiators to guide viewers through the interest level of the marketing funnel.
They leveraged early adopters of the mobe3 product and their success to generate front-page coverage in the most influential trade outlets. Highlighting customer successes was a key element of their strategy because it was the most effective way to demonstrate the real world, bottom-line benefits of the mobe3 product and show how a cloud-based, iOS platform could outperform costly competing products—coverage that ultimately translated to new business referrals and was used to close sales opportunities.
The Results: The team met—and exceeded—initial PR goals that directly supported the client’s broader organizational goal. “I’m most proud of the team’s diligence and creativity in producing consistent results that spoke to the product’s key differentiators,” says Wright. “The team got maximum results from every piece of content we generated. The standout piece was a trade magazine cover story on a customer deployment. And, the platform that was laid last year led to a The Wall Street Journal interview and article for our client. What more could a B2B PR team or their client ask?”
Evaluation and measurement of outcomes were done throughout the program. One key measure of success was that over the program’s duration, editorial coverage became the single biggest referral source to the client website. This is an important measure because it shows that editorial coverage was reaching the target audience—those within the supply chain interested in improving their operations with a WMS—because they took a secondary action (clicking to the website and viewing multiple pages).
A qualitative and quantitative measurement came directly from the client, who cited the front page mobe3 user success story in a leading trade publication as the single most influential tool used to close a new customer.
Exceeding media coverage goals in 2017, the campaign’s highlights included landing the cover and feature article of top-tier trade outlet Modern Materials Handling, and positioning EVS’s CEO as a thought leader in the Huffington Post. Analyst outreach connected EVS with two of the most recognized industry analyst firms in the nation (Gartner and IDC), and their relationship continues to grow.
“We built relationships with top tier media in key verticals, which continue to keep EVS top of mind whenever they’re writing about supply chain and warehouse technologies and trends. These relationships have led to EVS executives contributing articles regularly to several top target outlets, which positions the executives as industry thought leaders while building credibility and visibility,” Wright relates.
Positioning EVS executives as thought leaders resulted in securing a monthly column on CIO.com with massive reach. The campaign garnered numerous awards and accolades for EVS and mobe3 including the Cloud Computing Security Excellence Award and a coveted spot on the Food Logistics’ FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers List.
“Every aspect of this campaign has been targeted and precisely executed to ensure maximum exposure to the target audience—executives and software buyers—with the end goal of generating new leads. We’ve established relationships with key analysts, including IDC and Gartner, and won various industry awards for our client and its new product – all contributing to the success of the campaign,” she adds.
Overall, PR efforts generated 34 pieces of coverage with an overall total online readership of 46.3 million readers and secured 84,300 coverage views.
Creativity & Innovation: “Provocative messages brought to life through visual storytelling made our client’s new warehouse management software stand out,” Wright explains. “We had to be creative and a bit disruptive in order to earn media, analyst and industry attention, but we believed in our client, and the cloud-based solution they’d developed called mobe3—particularly, their use of off-the-shelf iOS devices to run it in the warehouse. Designing the app to function on the iOS platform so that warehouses can deploy it with iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches was a huge shift from pricey and clunky scanner hardware.”
The branded graphics for mobe3 differentiated the product from the old-school software and hardware products that it competed with. One infographic depicted warehouses stuck in the past where workers wore mullets and used RFID guns to scan their inventory or had multiple paper forms as part of their inventory tracking solution. The mobe3 graphic showed clean cut and contemporary characters using iOS devices and spending more time on insights than on searching for lost items.
“We had a lot of fun with the idea of the WMS (warehouse management software) of the future and developing a visual story telling piece that depicted our product’s users as savvy forward-thinking technologists armed with elegant iOS software and hardware versus the WMS of the past, which was populated with mullet-wearing warehouse workers, hefting bulky scanners and using paper or kludgy software to try to manage their warehouses,” Wright relates.
A Halloween graphic series illustrated the top five warehouse monsters that can terrorize workers and frighten experienced supply chain executives. From WMS Frankenstein to Ghost Inventory, the monsters represented problems commonly found in the warehouse, and accompanying verbiage explained how the benefits of EVS’s mobe3 could solve each one.
“B2B enterprise software can be boring or dry, so we seized any opportunity to offer creative visuals, whether it was about Halloween warehouse monsters or top trends like the data-driven warehouse,” Wright says. “This helped us break through the email clutter, get recognized and ultimately generate coverage for EVS.”
The contributed articles have addressed controversial industry issues like how artificial intelligence (AI) is creating new jobs, and not taking them away as widely speculated. CIO.com published “Cyborg supply chain—how AI and humans will revolutionize labor.”
To set EVS apart from well-heeled competitors, they focused on “the data-driven warehouse” as the new warehouse and supply chain ecosystem to combat the tendency for decision makers to make a purchase based solely on product features. While risky, the move paid off by positioning EVS as the foremost leader in helping warehouses, manufacturers and 3PLs (third party logistics providers) create a warehouse that uses data to optimize operations, take advantage of peak sales seasons and generally have a more robust balance sheet.
Along the way, the campaign team learned that search engine marketing and SEO were the least impactful tactics. While these are critical elements of most integrated communications programs and provide a lot of data to analyze, they found that the customers researching WMS solutions on their own via search engine queries were typically smaller than the client’s ideal customer. They reinvested resources originally allocated for those efforts towards more impactful PR and analyst strategies.
Secrets of Success: Wright offers the following key takeaways from the campaign experience that you can apply in your next B2B product launch campaign –and demonstrating how (W)right On Communications earned a Silver in Bulldog’s 2018 PR Awards:
- Embrace visual storytelling and bring your story to life “at a glance.” “Editors want visuals to accompany stories. They make your pitch more attractive.”
- Make sure your fundamentals are strong. “Your story must be compelling and your messages consistent across paid, earned, shared and owned platforms.”
- Keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your industry. “Read articles or subscribe to the newsletters that your top tier media are producing.”
- Make sure your client is knowledgeable and flexible. “When there’s a hot topic or trend, and your client is an expert, be ready to zig or zag as needed to seize those opportunities.”