Does Publicity Work?

On the tradeshow floor at world of Concrete, I was talking to a sales executive of a product manufacturing company, exploring the possibility of my doing some publicity work for them.  He was very polite and patient, but finally asked me point blank, “Does publicity actually lead to sales?”

I had to tell him, “Honestly, it’s hard to be sure.  We occasionally get word that during a sales inquiry, there was mention of having read an article.  We sometimes even get email to the authors.  But it’s not often.  I have the impression publicity helps, but I honestly couldn’t prove it.”

I left that booth and went to see one of my clients, who was exhibiting two aisles over.  They were having a fantastic show.  He told me that the business they did on the first day of World of Concrete alone would have more than justified the expense of coming to the show.  The same thing for the second day, and the third.  They had written one immense order, about two containers of a material that’s generally sold in 5 gallon buckets.  They had a verbal commitment for another container, and hint that it would lead to about 20 more containers over the coming year.  They were giddy with their success, after exactly one year in business.

And then my client said, “If you’d like me to write a testimonial letter for you, I’d be happy to.  We know very well the impact of what you’ve been doing.  I have guys come in here and say, I read about this stuff, and then I went to your website, and then…”

I went back to the first booth and told him what I’d heard.  He said he wanted to visit our office and meet with us.  I was grateful.

The harder the times, the more minutely the budget is scrutinized, and every dollar spent has to be justified.  Often the bottom-line value of marketing is difficult to track.  This may be why marketing is typically the first budget cut when there’s a downturn in the industry.

When articles about your product get published, it’s difficult to track who actually reads them.  Being able ton trace a sale back to an article usual only happens by luck.  But it happens  enough that I believe Publicity works, even though its effect is not instantaneous and is hard to measure. 

But don’t expect Publicity to be a replacement for Sales.  It’s support for Sales.  They work together.  Publicity, advertising and other forms of promotion generate interest, which may become leads.  They help create the critical mass of awareness and product knowledge. Then Sales has a chance to do its job.

If Sales is all about closing, Marketing is about opening.  It’s a way of getting customers into the door of the store, so that Sales can do its stuff.