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Author of Why We Buy, Paco Underhill, Endorses BtoB PR

Mike Santoro

Measurement of business to business PR can be a difficult task. We take account of mentions, reach, relevance to target audience, sentiment, etc… but most importantly we want to understand the impact on the business. And in working with business that have year long sales cycles and million dollar deals it can be difficult to match eventual sale to initial PR campaign. Yet, we know it works because our clients report success.

Our favorite emails are those that say, “Walmart called us after they saw us featured in Internet Retailer,” or “We had twice as many people at our tradeshow booth this year and most of them mentioned the report we had in BtoB Magazine.”

So what does this have to do with Paco Underhill? Well beside his book being one of the best PR tools out there, he actually credits much of the success of his business to a single article in the New Yorker.

“Our first bout of world-class publicity came to Envirosell thanks to a young science writer at the New Yorker magazine named Malcolm Gladwell (yes, the very same guy who went on to write the two mega bestsellers The Tipping Point and Blink). His piece, entitled the “Science of Shopping,” profiled what we do and went on to become one of the most reprinted pieces in New Yorker history. Moreover it made this book possible.

After the Gladwell article appeared in the fall of 1996, the queries from potential licensees from around the world multiplied. Every week a new call would come in from someone who wanted to partner with us. It was very flattering stuff. One of the most wonderful things about our business life around that time was the number of clients who showed up on our doorstep ready to hire us. They were presold, first on the New Yorker piece, and second on this book. For a guy who’d once saved money on hotel rooms by napping in his car and washing up the next morning at the nearest gas station, after all those years of not knowing whether this business would fly or go crashing to the ground, it was gratifying beyond belief.

That’s straight from Why We Buy, a fantastic look at the science of retail shopping. For anyone who deals with retail, or really for anyone who shops, it’s a worthwhile read.

What Underhill describes is the value of business to business PR. And the way he describes it is typical of what we’ve seen with our clients. He mentions that the New Yorker article was the “first bout of world-class publicity” implying that there had been other articles before this. And while some people assume that you start PR, you get a massive feature and go on to fame and fortune, the truth is a bit messier.

It takes multiple mentions and features in a variety of media to drive success. The critical mass of exposure will drive awareness and may actually prove more effective than one big mention. This exposure also attracts the attention of writers like Gladwell. You think Gladwell just stumbled upon Underhill and Envirosell? Most likely he read about them somewhere or was introduced by someone who had heard good things about them. If you do it right, small features can lead to big features which can lead to big business.

That’s ultimately the goal of good business to business PR. To drive, in the words of Underhill, “clients who show up on the doorstep ready to hire us.” That’s the real measure of PR success, and despite hearing this often from our own clients, it was nice to see it in print from a great American business leader.

As a bonus, that original piece of publicity is still out there. If you don’t have time to read the whole book, check out the original Gladwell article, “Science of Shopping”. It has a few of the great insights you’ll find in How We Buy.