‘Experts’ definition of ‘Influencer’ takes another wrong turn!

Social-Media-Today, Influencer Marketing, Influencer50, Buyer-side Journey

My friends at SocialMediaToday know how to host a great webinar. I’ve guested a few times now and they’re exceptionally well run. A key part of that is chair Paul Dunay who this week was on great form for Tuesday’s ‘What’s the RoI of an Influencer?’. Much as I didn’t agree with everything discussed I thought Tami Cannizzaro from IBM was excellent. I wasn’t aware of her before.

I wont single out the low point of the call – suffice to say one of the guests – who I expected better of – defined an influencer as ‘someone who’s incentivized to give their opinion’! What was pretty explicitly meant was that ‘influencers’ are pay-for-play whereas advocates are those voluntarily enthusing about a brand because of a previous outstanding experience.

I’m a big believer in advocates – they perform an extremely desirable role for any organization – just ask any salesperson – but how an influencer can be defined as pay-for-play I just don’t know. Especially coming from someone who’d sounded perfectly reasonable up to that point. Even Paul the chair baulked at that claim.

So in the past week alone I’ve read one marketing ‘expert’ claim that the goal of influencer marketing is to reach as many people as possible, and another saying that influencers are those incentivized to have a particular view.

No wonder there’s a subject tug-of-war going on. It’s not been a good week for the truth.

Should marketers really be focused on keeping their salesforce happy?

Had a conversation with a client inside a major marketing dept. a few weeks back. I asked “What makes you think you know what influences your customers?”. “Our salesforce tells us – and they always say advertising helps. That’s about it. And taking their prospects out to see existing customers of course.”

It can’t really all boil down to these two things. I often hear advertising called ‘air cover’ – hard to measure its effect but you need it there to create the impression of weight. Many salespeople have traditionally liked advertising because it gives them an entry point into a prospect conversation – “You might have seen our ads in/on ….” I don’t have a great issue with B2B advertising – because it clearly does work with buyers sometimes.

Installed-base trips have always been, and will surely remain, extremely important in many B2B sectors. A great endorsement can be priceless. But we all know there’s more than just these two tentpoles.

It interested me that he seemed content that his view of the customer was sourced entirely from his few contacts in sales. Especially considering how superficial this advice obviously was. I was surprised my guy in marketing was so dismissive of the original question. And so un-analytical. Perhaps he felt he didn’t need to look any further.

Maybe he saw his job (which he’d kept for over ten years) as keeping the salesforce happy more than he saw his job being to understand the customer. It left me wondering how prevalent that view might be in marketing depts today?

A new role for ‘social salespeople’?

Dumb naming, I hope I never hear the word ‘sellarketers’ again, but the gist of this post from Julio Viskovich on SocialMediaToday makes a lot of sense. Well … in markets where the buyers are online, that is.


Can 60% of B2B companies be increasing their social outreach budget solely due to blind faith?

I keep coming back in my head to this stat from the 2013 State of Digital Marketing report ‘Webmarketing123’ stating that only 54% of B2B companies believed they had generated any leads through their social outreach to date – and that ‘just 39 percent of those B2B companies were able to clearly say they have seen revenue generated from social media’. It’s a fascinating report.

Looking further at the stats, social outreach is one of the activities most likely to increase in budget next year (56%) – and by a significant amount. Almost no respondee (just 2%) said they were planning to reduce that pot. So give or take a few vagaries, doesn’t that suggest that almost 60% of companies will be increasing their social budget despite no measurable RoI through sales? Call it investment by gut feel or blind faith or intuition or whatever. But not RoI.

For the vast majority of companies 2013 wasn’t the first year of their social outreach budget – for many it will have been their fourth or fifth year. That adds up to a lot of investment without noticeable return. And we don’t know what percentage of the 39% that believed they could report sales as a result, thought it enough to cover the costs of that outreach. I think we can assume it’s tiny.

Is it that the return is there but they haven’t been able to measure it? – a common, if optimistic, view. Is it that increased sales is the wrong measurement criteria in the first place? Perhaps, but difficult for any stakeholder to continually accept. Or is it that there’s a time lag of several years between the positive effects of social outreach i.e. increasing brand awareness, and the positive glow that encourages a buyer to choose one vendor over another? Impossible to say.

Of course there’s a fourth option. That in the majority of current B2B marketplaces the kind of brand awareness that social outreach gets you has minimal effect on the eventual decisions of the end-buyer. Because those end-buyers are basing their decisions on very different criteria. One of my next posts will cover this thought in more detail.

Social outreach needs to deliver more than just brand-building.

I’m not down on social media outreach for the sake of it – I just don’t see why there’s such blind commitment to it when it’s clearly not mapping on to the preferences and behavior of the B2B customer-base. I’m thinking back to October’s marketing123.com report stating that less than 40% of B2B brands could measure any income return on their social outreach.

It’s clear I’m not alone – I take plenty of calls these days from marketing heads who tell me of the pressure they’re under to invest in social media – while of course showing tangible results. We’re in a time of forced experimentation when it comes to marketing outreach. It’s the new Wild West.

Look at it from the marketing head’s PoV. If they invest as they have done their results will likely be no better than they have been – which isn’t good. If they invest in social they can adopt the “you have to be in it to win it” mindset, and they can’t afford to sit on the sidelines fearing their competitors getting a lead on them. So they join in.

But this suggests there’s only two options for marketing. Traditional and Social. That’s clearly not the case. My issue is that no-one checked with the prospects and customers whether Social was any more appropriate, or persuasive, to them than Traditional. At least not the current understanding of Social.

There’s such an opportunity for those who really understand how buyers’ buy. Because marketing needs to deliver more than just ‘brand-building’. It needs to deliver sales.

New Influencer50 White Paper: ‘Can You Be Influential To A Market And Still Remain Almost Exclusively Offline?’

Influencer50 Inc., Influencer Marketing, Influencer Identification, Engagement & Measurement, Nick HayesHow are B2B decisions really being made these days? And is social media involved in the process?


Step One of any social strategy

I was talking to a social media consultant friend of mine the other day. She’d been asked by a client to come up with a social strategy for his firm. She knows all the social tools & processes off by heart. But she wasn’t sure which to prioritize in this case and her client had given her only the briefest of objectives. She asked where I’d start.

I’d start where I always start. With her clients’ customers. Who are they? What makes them buy? What makes them decide they have a problem in the first place? Where do they look once they’ve decided to solve that problem? How do they go about their search? And what are they hoping to hear?

Once you’ve answered those questions your social strategy, and your broader marketing strategy, should be much clearer. It’s then just about tactics.

She wondered if her new client, the head of his firm, would be willing to let her talk directly to his customers. He might not have the time and so just want her to get on with the social outreach. She shouldn’t worry – he’s the boss, a businessman – and the last thing he’d want to do is invest in marketing without some strong business reasons to do so. A marketer might want to do outreach for the sake of outreach. Trial and error. The head of a business would never do that. I’ve never believed that the customer is always right. But the customer is always the start-point.

For vendors, bloggers return center-stage to their current understanding of Influencers

Between about 2005-2009 bloggers were all the rage for marketers. Probably the majority of prospects calling our company were calling because they wanted to better understand who were the important bloggers in their field and who weren’t. Our clients felt bloggers were an unknown force. Then the interest in bloggers fell off a cliff. Tweeters were the new unknown and the cause for most incoming calls. Bloggers were never mentioned. Only in the past eighteen months have bloggers come back in vogue – and to many of those in Influencer Marketing – they’re back center-stage.

This isn’t down to the bloggers themselves. I think it’s for two unconnected reasons. One is that many B2B organizations are unimpressed by the effect tweeters seem to be having on their own customers. Or rather the lack of effect. And these social conversations aren’t impressing the salesforce or senior execs. They know they’re not reaching their customers’ real influencers.

The second is that engaging with bloggers appears to be attainable and marketers are needing to show results. Not withstanding that bloggers are very often industry names already, who simply use blogging as one channel for their influence, bloggers aren’t too far away from the well-understood world of journalism. So it’s not a great stretch to broaden their existing outreach to bloggers.

When we look at the universe of real-world influencers on an organization’s products & services, and how diverse that universe is, we don’t see too many people reaching out to the full spread. Blogger outreach is easily achievable and can have immediate gratification – just one call can lead to one or more resulting posts. It’s a bite-sized approach to Influencer Marketing – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the real hard work – reaching out to those hard-to-find but critical sales influencers – who may well neither tweet not blog – still needs to be done. It’s important you don’t shy away from that.

Where’s the story when it comes to B2B sales blogs?

Jackie Huba, Influencer Marketing, Influencer50, Buyer-side Journey

If any company boss had to make a choice between sales or marketing, it’d be an easy choice. Let’s set aside for the moment the argument that the two are inseparable. One is in place to serve the other. One is the journey, the other the reward.

It’s easy to find a number of very attractive marketing blogs – written by very accessible personalities, constantly updated, plenty of dynamic content, thought-provoking anecdotes, vox-pop videos, etc. At the top end you can say there’s the Seth Godins’ and Martha Rodgers’ and Jackie Hubas’ of this world all the way down to those from niche regional marketing agencies.

And then we get to sales-focused blogs. Even I get bored when I search through them. Is there not much to say on the subject of the sales process? Or trends within it? New insights into customer behavior? New ways of understanding how to cut-up markets? How to short-circuit the often tortuous sales cycle?

Ok there’s a few sales rockstars such as Zig Ziegler, but the books he’s written stay firmly in the ‘niche interest’ sections whereas Seth’s are right by the checkout. His books always focus on ‘the story’ and we all like a story. Doesn’t making a sale require a story too?

Maybe the marketers take all the good bits that the sales blogs could justifiably cover. Maybe the marketers see themselves as already covering the sales topic too. Of course it’s possible the sales experts are too busy selling to be actively blogging too. Or maybe those interesting sales blogs are out there and I just haven’t found many*.

There might be more to write about on marketing, because in the pursuit of perpetual interest there’s always a need for ‘new’. The range of topics within the marketing field could be way broader than those for sales.

But it still jars that when it comes to sales & marketing, reading about the journey is more fulfilling than reading about the reward.

*Of course there are exceptions. Bob Apollo’s Inflexion-Points comes immediately to mind.

I’d love to be told I’m wrong. That those blogs are out there. Be sure to let me know.