The direction Influencer Marketing could have, and should have, taken.

The mass-market direction for Influencer Marketing over the next year seems pretty clear to me. Today’s hype is all about brokering commercial deals between pay-for-play tweeters & bloggers and ‘brands’. Brands are desperate to get as many people talking about them as possible, to explore every outlet, and tweeters would love to be paid for their tweets. Both sides want each other, even if the customer or prospect is the one to lose.

The problem is that reaching out to real influencers is difficult, with no guaranteed RoI and certainly no predictable rate of that return. And that doesn’t fit comfortably with today’s need for guaranteed, predictable measures.

It wont last, but it’s set for the next year or so because it helps the metrics that marketers have set for themselves. Having adopted one of the many marketing automation systems (a la Eloqua, Marketo, etc.) they now need to ensure their marketing programs are well reflected in it, and # of social channels, # of retweets / reblogs / shares, size of potential audience, are valuable metrics for this. Forget they’re having no effect on sales, they are reaching an audience.

So marketing agencies, and it is the agencies who are moving this agenda, are improving their odds by reaching out to the most willing individuals. These individuals may not be influencers, almost certainly they’re not, but they’re willing, they’ll reliably add to the brand’s outreach channels. Most importantly, they’re available for hire.

I’ll give it nine months before the groundswell of opinion turns on it. But there’s so clearly a better direction Influencer Marketing could have taken.

The fundamental reason for reaching out to real influencers was, and should continue to be, to improve your chances of completing a sale. These ‘social influencer’ services divorce any connection between marketing and sales.

To reconnect marketing with sales you have to first analyze which individuals are involved in the prospect’s decision-making process – and which aren’t. Now if you could reliably understand who was important and who wasn’t to a sale, in advance of any purchase decision – and be able to scale that process across industries and across regions – well, that would be truly powerful. But it’s not a direction most in Influencer Marketing seem to be pursuing.

Why paid-for bloggers have nothing in common with ‘Passion at Work’

I once knew an extremely impressive man who wrote a book called ‘Passion at Work’. His book became the go-to reference for how to create stimulating, challenging and motivating workplaces throughout Britain and beyond. He actually made ‘passion’ sit comfortably alongside ‘work culture’. Not many can do that.

So when I get an email from a blogger outreach company advising on ‘worthwhile points when dealing with bloggers’, I immediately treat sentences like “Here’s one I’m really passionate about” with plenty of skepticism. When it leads on to “keep in touch with bloggers who genuinely love your company’s products” I’ve all but switched off.

The exact advice was, “Keeping in touch with bloggers who genuinely love what you offer is important. Send updates, new products and random gifts to stay on their minds and show up in their posts. Furthermore, when you need help promoting a piece of content or a new product, they’ll likely assist with authentic posts.”

I wondered what possible type of blogger she could be talking about.

It seems to me there’s now fundamentally three types of blogger. The first are those with something to say, an opinion they want to get across on a particular subject area – surfing, japanese design, becoming a sommelier, cloud architecture, etc. These people have a degree of knowledge and are deep-diving into the topic. They may well already be influential on that subject in the offline world and use blogging as an additional channel for their views.

The second type are those encouraged by the sound of their own voice, so they blog about everything going on in their world, however diverse or random the subjects. They go for the cult of personality. Some manage it and good luck to them. Blogging to them provides the same purpose as having a personal YouTube channel does to others. It’s personality-driven entertainment.

And the third type are those now being courted by the blogger platform peddlers. The databases now euphemistically called influence marketing platforms. These bloggers aren’t ‘passionate’ about any company’s products – they’re just willing to shuck a mention of those products in return for a payment.

I took a look recently at the most frequently referenced bloggers on a number of B2B issues over the past eighteen months. Mostly these were established consultants or journalists who use blogging as one outlet for their thoughts. I talked with five of them and asked if they’d been approached by these blogger platforms and if they knew of anyone they respected who’d accepted payments. The rule of thumb they said was that while almost 100% had been approached, perhaps 5% of their blogging peers had taken payments for commercial mentions. What’s more, this 5% were easily and immediately spotted by those inside the relevant industry sector and their credibility ‘re-assessed’. Less than a quarter of those 5% had decided to openly state on their blog that they were part of a commercial incentive.

So yes, there are influential, credible, subject-specific bloggers who are taking payments from commercial vendors. But they’re in the very small minority. Perhaps one in twenty of those approached. Do you think the vendors have thought about this?

The influence marketing platform peddlers are trying to keep greasing the wheels of the marketing depts. by adding more and more bloggers to their PR distribution networks. That has nothing to do with either helping the salesforce or helping the buyer.

If the management team at each vendor was aware of this, do you think they’d allow their marketing depts. to continue supporting them?

How come no-one knows how buyers buy?

It’s always astonished me how so much time, budget & energy is spent on B2B marketing – the advertising, the packaging, the promotion, the pricing, the launch event, the mail shots, the online outreach – when so little has been spent on understanding the process by which its buyers’ buy.

Ask any head of marketing for the four main job titles of the buyers who buy its products – and they wont be remotely accurate. Sometimes they’ll be in the right ballpark – they’ll say “the CFO”, “the head of software development”, or “whoever looks after security” – but they’re just guessing. Oftentimes they’re merely repeating phrases they overheard from a salesperson several months back. It’s just not a conversation that goes on in many marketing depts.

Ask them who’s most likely to be sitting in the room when their salesperson presents their solution to the prospect, and they’ll have even less idea. Is it typically one person, two, five, or more? If you don’t believe me check it out in your own marketing dept.

I know this to be true because of the number of times I speak with senior sales people and  how loose their explanations are. Their responses are peppered with “well, usually there might be …”, “sometimes we’ll find …” and “it depends on …”. They have to really think hard about who they’ve presented to in recent months – and it’s clearly the first time they’ve had to think about it since those meetings, so I know they definitely haven’t been briefing their marketing folks.

It’s not always the fault of those in marketing. I’m often struck by how random those sales situations seem to have been, how difficult it would have apparently been for the salesperson to predict who they’d be presenting to. It might be a new experience for a particular salesperson, but is it really that random? Or is their field of experience just necessarily narrow? With greater experience, a broader set of historical data, could it have been predicted? And would that have likely helped the outcome? I’m pretty convinced the answer to both is Yes.

But no-one has that data.

Is Influencer Marketing just being outsourced to agencies?

Influencer Marketing, Influencer50, Nick Hayes, Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations, The Buyerside Journey.comAs chair of the ‘Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations’ LinkedIn Group I’ve just spent an hour or so this morning going through approving or declining those who have recently applied for membership of the group. Our group is quite specific – it’s a vendor-side group only, we’re not for contractors or those from agencies. And with that in mind I’m seeing an undoubted trend.

Our group was founded five years ago and we now have nearly 1000 members – all vendor-side. Throughout those five years we’ve had many contractors and agency staff apply – no surprises there. But the ratio of applicants is definitely moving towards those on the agency side.

In 2010 the ratio was 69% from vendors, 31% from agencies. In 2012 it was 57% vendors, 43% agencies. With nine months of 2014 gone this year it’s currently 44% vendors, 56% agencies. For the first time we’re having to decline significantly more applicants than we’re accepting. But that’s not the important fact.

I think we’re seeing evidence of our long-held belief that vendors have largely outsourced their interest in, and staffing of, influencer marketing. It’s just not being done in-house. Whether it’s the PR agency, the ad agency or the social outreach agency, influencer marketing activity is being outsourced. That would certainly explain why there’s no universally accepted understanding of what it means – because the ad agency shapes it to mean one thing and the PR agency twists it to mean another. More often than not these agencies then pass responsibility for it either to another division in their own firm or outsource it further along the line to their SEO partner, blogger relations team or whoever.

Influencer Marketing has been jumped on by every type of marketing services firm – because of the revenue opportunity they see in any new trend. And in doing so in-house marketing depts. have been left blinded as to what initially drew them to Influencer Marketing – the chance to directly reach individuals who actually make a difference to their sales.

Of course it could be simply that there are more agency staff and contractors than in-house staff these days, or that they’re just more disposed to joining LinkedIn groups than in-house staff. But I think the whole current direction of influencer marketing is being driven by the agency agenda – an agenda to deliver impressive sounding numbers back to their in-house bosses.

But if those bosses really thought about it, they’d want something very different from influencer marketing than they’re getting. They’d want it to be helping them with their sales.

Our next White Paper: To what degree are your prospects & customers influenced by online & offline communities?

WP#18We’ve been spending plenty of time in recent months on the subject of influencers within online & offline communities.

Our next White Paper:  WP#18 : To what degree are your prospects & customers influenced by online & offline communities?

Available for download next Monday.

Those active on Twitter and within online community groups appear to be very different people

Infographic:, The Buyer-side Journey


At Influencer50 we’re currently collating the responses to a short survey of 150 U.S-based marketing heads on their views of industry-specific community groups, both offline and online. What we already know is that B2B buyers see certain communities as very influential in their decision-making.

One particularly fascinating finding, which until now has been just our adopted wisdom, is that many buyers are either active on Twitter and other social media or online communities – but not both. You might assume that someone who takes an active part in social media conversations would naturally extend those conversations into online community forums. But it seems users largely make a choice between one or the other, or perhaps neither, but almost never both.

Perhaps they feel they’d be repeating their contributions, or perhaps culturally they feel they’re either a Twitter or online community kinda person, but it appears rare for any one individual to be active on both platforms. We first noticed this a few years back as part of our auto-industry work for Michelin, and it seems to be emphasized by our latest survey.

The findings would suggest that any social media outreach your organization may be undertaking is not reaching the online communities you’re likely assuming it is. And so working with your online communities needs to be considered a very separate strategy.

Influencer50’s latest survey is scheduled for release in early June.

(The infographic courtesy of CMSwire.)

Influencer Programs: Problems, Opportunities, Wants & Needs (4)

Here’s the fourth and final breakdown from Nancy Bleeke’s book ‘Conversations That Sell’ book identifying a prospect’s POWNs – Problems, Opportunities, Wants & Needs. 

The Buyer-side JourneyOur own prospect and client survey asked for their own POWNs when commissioning an Influencer Program. Below are the most often-cited Needs. (The difference between Wants and Needs? – “I need a vehicle, I want a Ferrari.”)

  • Need to save budget by reducing outreach wastage
  • Need some scientific proof that company is reaching the right people
  • Need to justify marketing spend to own company salesforce
  • Need to show how marketing is contributing to sales leads

Having now given you the most frequent POWNs, I wonder how closely they mirror your own interest?



Influencer Programs: Problems, Opportunities, Wants & Needs (3)

This week I’ve posted about a client’s most often-cited Problems, then Opportunities, leading them to invest in their Influencer Program. This followed the premise in Nancy Bleeke’s book ‘Conversations That Sell’ book of first identifying a prospect’s POWNs – Problems, Opportunities, Wants & Needs. 

The Buyer-side JourneyOur own prospect and client survey asked for their own POWNs when commissioning an Influencer Program. Today I’m listing the most commonly cited Wants from such a Program. Note that a Want to a client can be more important than an actual Need! 

  • Want to apply more science and less pot-luck to your targeting
  • Want to better understand the importance of ‘new’ influencers (ie. online) with more traditional (offline) influencers
  • Want to believe in the process of selecting to whom to reach out
  • Want to understand which influencers are willing to engage and/or partner with your company

Influencer Programs: Problems, Opportunities, Wants & Needs (2)

Yesterday I posted about a client’s most often-cited Problems leading them to invest in their Influencer Program. This followed the premise in Nancy Bleeke’s book ‘Conversations That Sell’ book of first identifying a prospect’s POWNs – Problems, Opportunities, Wants & Needs. 

The Buyer-side JourneyOur own prospect and client survey asked for their own POWNs when commissioning an Influencer Program. I’m serializing these four – one each day this week. The following were the most commonly cited Opportunities. Do you agree?

  • Opportunity to discover new routes to market
  • Opportunity to reset marketing outreach approach by integrating sales influencers into the heart of it
  • Opportunity to get your salesforce on your side with marketing directly oriented to aiding the sales process
  • Opportunity to radically re-orient your traditional year-after-year marketing activities
  • Opportunity for the first time to understand who you should, and shouldn’t, be outreaching to
  • Opportunity to short-circuit the otherwise lengthy process of understanding a new market

Influencer Programs: Problems, Opportunities, Wants & Needs (1)

The Buyer-side JourneyOne of my favorite books of the past year – Nancy Bleeke’s ‘Conversations That Sell’ – reinforces the importance when selling of first identifying a prospect’s POWNs – Problems, Opportunities, Wants & Needs. Eight years of Influencer Program experience has led us to the following understanding of how POWNs are relevant for Influencer Identification & Engagement Programs. We’d encourage you to apply this to your own organization.

We recently conducted a small-scale survey with our clients and prospects asking them for their own POWNs when commissioning an Influencer Program. I’ll be serializing these four – one each day this week. These were the most commonly cited Problems (in most quoted order) that our prospects and clients are trying to overcome through their Influencer Programs. See if you can empathize.


  • Hitting a ceiling with current marketing approach
  • Not hearing of RFPs until too late in the process
  • Feeling that competitors are getting better introductions & opportunities than your company are
  • Believe that there is a buyer ‘insiders’ conversation of which you’re not part
  • Feel you’re wasting part of your marketing budget on people that aren’t affecting the sales process
  • Feeling that your company is not part of the market trend-makers’ conversation
  • Need to secure a seat for your company at the top table of industry decision-makers