New Influencer50 White Paper – WP#17: Commissioning an Influencer Program: What is the Cost of Inaction?

Influencer50, Nick Hayes, Influencer Marketing, WP#17: Commissioning an Influencer Program: What is the cost of Inaction?Our company’s latest White Paper – WP#17: Commissioning an Influencer Program: What is the Cost of Inaction? – is published today.

Here’s the intro:

In recent months there has been much talk in sales circles about measuring the cost of inaction. A recent survey from CSO Insights confirmed that ‘No decision’ was now the single largest barrier to sales for B2B vendors. For an Influencer Identification program, typically commissioned by the Head of Marketing, what is the cost of inaction, making ‘no decision’ or putting the idea on the backburner until the following quarter?

We see six main flags you should consider.

  1. Continue focusing resources on people who have minimal influence on your buyers – chasing media coverage your prospects wont see, briefing analysts that your prospects don’t follow, sponsoring conferences that your prospects wont notice, supporting forums that merely act as industry echo chambers. 
  2. Losing your ‘window of opportunity’ in the market. The same window that was described in your business plan as being so critical.
  3. Not hearing of new prospect RFPs early enough in the process because you weren’t well networked enough with those at the head of the food chain. 
  4. Allowing your competitors to respond more completely to RFPs and prospect enquiries, with them having already connected with the best choice of industry partners. 
  5. Allowing your competitors to gain a competitive advantage by spending their time embedding their thoughts into the right people
  6. Further expanding your social media outreach with content marketing collateral when your prospects (and their influencers) may not even look at those channels.

It incorporates our latest thinking on the subject, as well as the findings from an email questionnaire we recently issued to Heads of Marketing in US-based B2B organisations asking their opinions on five questions relating to their Marketing Outreach. We had over 150 responses. You can benchmark your own opinions against them.

You’re welcome to download a copy here:

Does your Head of Marketing have a plan for who you/they most want to meet or be introduced to during 2014?

We’ve rarely, if ever, heard of this happening, but it’s a legitimate question. Aside from perhaps telling their PR company that the agency is to seek interviews with three or four named national print papers, and perhaps an industry analyst firm or two (it will rarely be named individuals there, almost always the name of the newspaper or analyst firm). 

The reason no such outreach plan exists is perhaps for two reasons. One (we’d like to think) is that the Head of Marketing knows who they should seek meetings with, but doesn’t want the interviews to be with themselves. The second (and we think perhaps more likely) is that they don’t actually know the names of the individuals who they (or the most appropriate member of their company) should be meeting with.

If you haven’t already written that list down, is there a reason for not doing so? If you were to attempt to write that list now, how many individuals (not firms) could you honestly name?

‘WP#17: Commissioning an Influencer Program: What is the Cost of Inaction?’ will be available from 24th Feb’14.

How often do you, or someone in your team, try to remove any ‘deadwood’ from your top-tier of influencers?

Imagine your company is outreaching to say 70 or 80 named individuals in meetings, top-level invitations, phone calls etc. They’re considered your top-tier industry contacts (aside from actual sales prospects). How many would also have been on that list four or five years ago? If you’re still outreaching to the same market as then? Perhaps 20%?

Here’s a further excerpt from the new White Paper we’re publishing later this week.

We asked: “How often do you, or someone in your team, try to remove any ‘deadwood’ from your top-tier of influencers?” (‘deadwood’ meaning no longer relevant or justifying their presence in your top-tier).

The response sample size was 157.

Influencer50, Influencer Marketing, Nick Hayes, WP#17: Commissioning an Influencer Program - What is the Cost of Inaction?

‘WP#17: Commissioning an Influencer Program: What is the Cost of Inaction?’ will be available from 24th Feb’14.

What categories of Influencer do most Heads of Marketing meet?

If you’re a Head of Marketing at your firm you might like to benchmark your own findings with these. Here’s an excerpt from the new White Paper we’re publishing later this week.

We were considering the common ‘hit-rate’ of meetings with your presumed influencers. For every ten meetings what would be your expected outcome? How many would you expect to yield positive feelings at the end of the meeting. Or after one month? What failure rate would you deem acceptable? (Failure measured as “in hindsight, the meeting had no tangible benefit to us.” Two out of ten? Four out of ten? Six?

In Dec & Jan we issued short questionnaires by email to a number of U.S.-based marketing managers in both B2B and B2C organisations. All were considered senior enough to be meeting with potential partners, media, analysts, etc. The response sample size was 157.

We asked: “What categories of typical market influencer have you had (or have you set up) 1-to-1 meetings with in the past six months?”

(Of course, these aren’t the full range of Influencers, just those that ranked highest in the responses.)

Almost one-third had met at least one traditional journalist in the past six months. One-sixth had met an industry analyst.

Less than 2% had met an academic, standards body or industry regulator!

Influencer50, Influencer Marketing, Nick Hayes, WP#17.Commissioning an Influencer Program: What is the cost of Inaction?

‘WP#17: Commissioning an Influencer Program: What is the Cost of Inaction?’ will be available from 24th Feb’14.

Reblog: Why The Lithium Deal is Good News for Influence Marketing

Really interesting piece from Danny Brown re the imminent Lithium / Klout match-up.

After all the hype and false claims of being ‘the standard for influence’ over the past few years, when they were clearly nothing of the sort, it was fascinating to see Kara Swisher at re:code describing Klout as “the online popularity contest startup” when she wrote about the deal last week. I wish she and others had described them as that from day one.

How do you cost-justify your Influencer Outreach Program?

Influencer50, Nick Hayes, Influencer Marketing, WP#17 What is the cost of Inaction?

Here’s an excerpt from the new White Paper we’re publishing later this week.

“We proactively asked twenty of our clients how their companies were cost-justifying their Influencer Outreach program. (Of course, since we work with them we already knew the answer in most cases, but we asked again for this Paper.) 

  • Option a. Hard metrics such as Number of Leads generated, or Value of Potential Deals discussed?
  • Option b. Softer metrics such as Number of Influencers met, or Amount of Tangible Outcomes?
  • Option c. Or just simply ‘Does it feel like this is moving in the right direction for us?


  • Option a. Three of the 20 respondees
  • Option b. Eight of the 20 respondees
  • Option c. Four of the 20 respondees
  • Two said a mixture of a and b.
  • Three said a mixture of b and c.

So the median chose to cost-justify the outlay either solely through Number of Influencers Met, Amount of Tangible Outcomes, etc. or with a leaning towards a more ‘feelgood factor’ than that.

Only 25% used harder metrics.

A further 20% were comfortable relying on less metrics and more subjectivity.”

‘WP#17: Commissioning an Influencer Program: What is the Cost of Inaction?’ will be available from 24th Feb’14.

Influencer Marketing agencies. All supply-side. No demand-side. Makes no sense.

When I look at all the agencies that have jumped on the ‘influencer marketing’ bandwagon over the past eighteen months I’m struck by the fact that they all appear to be from marketing backgrounds and none from either sales or better still buyer backgrounds. How can these agencies claim to know anything about the buyer experience? Then I realise they don’t claim that knowledge. They don’t even talk about the buyer experience. It’s irrelevant to them. They talk only about increasing a company’s marketing outreach. More and more collateral, more and more names in a database. All the focus is on the supply-side, totally ignoring the demand-side. It makes no sense at all.

SMORG, MORG & LORG. Are the dividing lines still relevant?

How much thought do vendors give before dividing up their salesforce into those targeting audiences such as Large Enterprise, Corporate, Medium Business and Small Business? And where do they place those division lines?

I was talking a couple of years ago to the Head of Strategy for one of the IT giants. He was explaining how their salesforce was organized. I can’t remember the exact numbers now but let’s say Medium Business was for companies with between 200-1000 employees, Corporate was 1000-5000 employees and Large Enterprise was anything above that. Each group had a very different approach to the sales process. When I asked what research they’d done to inform themselves that buyers bought equipment in one way up until say 5000 employees but in a different way beyond that, he admitted they’d done none. He said they’d simply copied Microsoft’s traditional approach. That’s Small Org, Medium Org and Large Org. Or SMORG, MORG & LORG!

I started to think about how companies morphed their buying process as they grew (or downsized). We analyzed as many buying structures as we could over the next twelve months (and still continue to). Companies do exhibit very different buying behavior as they change size and outlook. Also as they move along the centralized / distributed power axis.

But they don’t change buying behavior as they move from 4000 to 6000 employees, or from 100 to 300. The dividing lines salesforces make to carve up how they approach the market is perhaps two decades out of date. How strange that with all the changes in salesforce technology in the past few years, such a fundamental tenet of salesforce organisation has been left untouched. Is that because it’s still working, or because no-one has the data to prove it’s not working?

‘No decision’ might be the buyer’s not the salesperson’s fault

I keep reading these days about failures in the selling process. Bob Apollo (@BobApollo) – – recently blogged about the various challenges most commonly faced by salespeople:

  • Apparently well-qualified sales opportunities ending in ‘no decisions’
  • Salespeople unable to differentiate their offering from the competition
  • Salespeople unable to effectively communicate value
  • Salespeople spending too much time on admin and not enough on selling
  • Salespeople without the right tools or content to support key stages in the buying decision process

We can all recognize those issues. But it’s also important to realize when to take the blame and when not to. It’s not always the salesperson’s fault. I think too much coverage is given to the salesperson’s likely weaknesses because no-one likes to criticize the prospect. Why bite the hand that feeds? But some prospects can be a nightmare and I think a more important challenge is to recognize that fact as early in the process as possible.

Sometimes it’s easy to spot the tire-kicker but often it’s not. Often they seem to give all the right responses about there being a current need, there being a budget allocated, that they understand how your product or service is differentiated .. and still they don’t buy. But they never actually tell you the opportunity has passed – they continually say they’re still working on it internally to get the required approval.

While we can always improve the quality of the salesperson there’s no such immediate pressure, or incentive, for organizations to improve the professionalism of the buyer. There. Said it.