Salespeople focus on knowing the buyer, but why not those influencing the buyer?

I’ve never known a vendor salesperson claim to know who his customer’s influencers are. Not in any detail at least. The majority I’ve spoken to – and it must now be in the high hundreds – might say “the finance boss”, “her line manager” or, even more vaguely, “usually those in the business unit”, but it’s never definite, precise or much thought about.

Salespeople do undoubtedly have a far greater understanding of the prospect themselves. They’ll likely know who are the eventual decision-makers, many of those who could potentially throw a spanner in the works and those who are likely just tire-kickers. By asking a few questions they’ll know soon enough whether the incoming enquiry has the support of the company’s bosses or not. And they’ll know with whom to start their initial cold-calling. Experience will have told them who they should be engaging with. But they still wont know who behind the scenes is influencing the eventual choice.

When I ask these salespeople why they don’t invest much effort into understanding the real influencers I’m told, “we just don’t get the time”, “buyers like to keep that quiet”, “it’s always changing” and “you never know until the decision’s made”. Salespeople clearly don’t expect much help from their marketing depts.

There has to be a better way. Using data not anecdotes. Now that’s the direction Influencer Marketing should be moving in.

How will the ‘social influence platforms’ justify their business after this week’s Buyersphere 2015 report?

B2B Marketing mag, BaseOne, Buyersphere Report 2015,, Influencer Marketing, Influencer50, The Buyerside Journey.comI’m looking forward to seeing if, and how, the Twitter-trawling ‘social influence platforms’ react to this week’s Buyersphere 2015 report from B2B Marketing & BaseOne. I wrote about it yesterday.

The standout finding was that 50% of all B2B purchasing decision-makers didn’t use social media at all to shape their buying decisions and that just 5% of the >200 respondents said they referred to Twitter at any stage for help in their decision-making process. This was the second-lowest score, just edging out the 4% who used Pinterest.

So when agencies trawl Twitter for the noisiest people on particular subjects, and then sell that information to vendors / brands claiming them to be the key market influencers, perhaps the vendors will start to think again. How can they still back up that claim?

http://www.b2bmarketing.net/resources/buyersphere-report-2015

 

B2B Magazine UK survey on how business purchase decisions are now made

B2B Marketing mag, BaseOne, Buyersphere Report 2015,, Influencer Marketing, Influencer50, The Buyerside Journey.comAn interesting survey was published earlier this week with recent data on how business purchase decisions are being made. These were all for UK B2B purchases exceeding £20k (approx.$32k). And the standout finding for me – reaffirmation that social media is not being used by buyers to guide their purchase decisions to anywhere near the degree vendors would have you believe. 50% of all purchasing decision-makers didn’t use social media at all to shape their buying decisions.

It gets worse for Twitter. Just 5% of the >200 respondents said they referred to Twitter for help in their decision-making process. This was the second-lowest score, just edging out the 4% who used Pinterest.

Top of the social platforms was not surprisingly LinkedIn (18%) and Google+ (16%). Online community sites came in at 10%.

So why are vendors (and their agencies) continuing to invest so much in their Twitter outreach? It’s certainly not based on a knowledge of their customers.

The survey is well worth reading. Hat-tip to the UK’s B2B Marketing and BaseOne. http://www.b2bmarketing.net/resources/buyersphere-report-2015

“Ignore Influencers and Focus on Advocates” is laughable advice

I read the most laughable headline a few weeks back. “Ignore Influencers and Focus on Advocates”. I read the article and still can’t make sense of it. It didn’t define Influencers in any meaningful way but I figured it was like saying “Ignore Buyers and Focus on Customers”. The post wasn’t even ironic. But what struck me was how some people are now so jaundiced by the recent ubiquity of the word ‘influencer’ that it’s fostering an all-encompassing backlash. And in doing so will damage the very real advances in understanding buyer behavior that are being made.

Needless to say, when I looked at the byline the post was contributed by someone with a vested interest in promoting their own view of ‘advocates’. It was never going to have been written by a buyer.

Even on re-reading I still have no idea what they were thinking when they used the word Influencers – they conveniently avoided the topic – but whether you term them Advocates, non-Advocates, or whatever, if they’re influential on the buyer’s decision you shouldn’t be ignoring them. Whatever anyone chooses to call them.

LinkedIn data shows ‘Influencer Marketing’ job roles are really social media job roles

thebuyersidejourney.comIn 2014 LinkedIn featured 514 recruitment posts for ‘Influencer Marketing’ or ‘Influencer Relations’ positions. That’s up from 289 the previous year. 206 of the 514 were from marketing agencies looking to fill roles within their agency, leaving 308 ‘in-house’ positions. We then looked at what criteria were most commonly cited as being requirements for the position. The three leading criteria, in order, were: Experience of social media outreach & engagement, Proven ability to apply metrics to activity, and Ability to integrate influencer outreach into broader marketing goals.

No wonder Influencer Marketing has gone so off-track. The LinkedIn data proves that those recruiting the positions are now seeing it as social media-based and those fulfilling the roles are themselves wishing to focus on social.

I’m wondering where the ‘understanding of the customer and what influences them’ comes in to play – if at all. I don’t see it in the ‘social media engagement’ because I’m pretty sure that’s all about the level of retweets / comments and shares. And I don’t see it in the ‘integrate outreach into broader marketing goals’ because that’s likely about the number of eyeballs reached and turning outreach into email addresses and Facebook profiles.

So as the incoming generation of influencer marketers bring with them their interest and focus on social media metrics, I think we’ll just have to look elsewhere for a greater understanding of the customer and their buying behavior.

Time for a step-change in what we’re doing.

 

As a vendor, what would you most like from what you consider your Influencer Marketing outreach?

Influencer50, Influencer Marketing, As a vendor, what would you most like from what you consider your Influencer Marketing outreach?Influencer50 will shortly be conducting a survey of Heads of Marketing at B2B organizations in the U.S. If you’d like to take the survey please let us know. We’ll be publishing the results in late-Jan or early-Feb’15.

There are just five questions.

1. What pain-point incentivised you to commission an Influencer Marketing program?

– Disappointing closure-rate on sales

– Lack of knowledge in new market

– Unfocused marketing spend / allocation

– Need to prove sales / marketing alignment

– Acknowledgement that “we can always do better”

– Other

 

2. What were the core skills you wanted from your choice of Influencer Marketing partner?

– Experience working with similar peer companies

– Greater understanding of B2B decision-making

– Social media expertise

– Already integrated into our Marketing Dept.

– Other

 

3. At the outset of the program what was the single most important outcome you hoped to achieve?

– Understanding the degree to which our prospects are influenced by online / offline / social channels.

– Broadening the reach of our social media outreach.

– Understanding the identities of our prospects’ top influencers.

– A better understanding about how our prospects make their purchasing decisions.

– Near-term conversion of these influencers into sales opportunities

– Other

 

4. Having seen the results, what was the greatest surprise in your eventual findings?

– We already knew most of the influencers.

– The key individual influencers weren’t who we expected them to be.

– There are many more influencers impacting our prospects than expected.

– The balance between offline / online / social influencers was not as expected.

– Those influencers identified have increased our confusion.

– Other

 

5. In hindsight, where do you believe you were previously wasting most budget / effort beforehand, if at all?

– We were reaching out to the wrong people.

– We were reaching out to too many people.

– Our outreach just wasn’t reaching enough people. It’s a numbers game.

– We had no data to justify who we were contacting.

– We were not focusing enough on social media outreach to reach them.

– We were focusing too much on social media outreach to reach them.

– There was no waste. We weren’t previously investing in influencer outreach.

– Other

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 would a marketer turn to bloggers they’ve never heard of to help their outreach?

Why would a marketer turn to bloggers they’d never heard of to take their brand message to their highly valued prospects? I’ve never been able to work that one out.

Every marketer should strive to understand their company’s customers and prospects. That’s a given surely. In some B2B markets there are no important bloggers. None. Now if those marketers know their market at all, and let’s hope they do, they’ll already have an idea which, if any, bloggers in their space carry any credibility. Let’s be generous and say that 10% of bloggers on a particular B2B subject are listened to by potential buyers. Don’t you think a marketer would have a pretty good idea which 10% were most credible? And which should just be ignored.

So why would they pay a ‘blogger platform’ company to ‘suggest’ tens or even hundreds of previously unknown bloggers, none of which the vendor then has a direct relationship with. Those bloggers, all of whom have made themselves available for hire, then agree to promote or reference the marketer’s message in their posts? It’s a nonsense, doing untold damage to the marketer’s brand. And all while the talk in marketing circles is for brands to create ‘authentic conversations and relationships’ with their prospects and customers.

Marketers are always looking at starting intelligent conversations with their customers and prospects. The problem is that most often they don’t know where to begin. Why not begin by asking your prospects which bloggers they follow? Maybe give them a list to select from, if you really don’t want to leave a free choice. You’re asking them an intelligent question, you’ll probably get intelligent replies.

If any marketer were ever to compare the list of bloggers as voted by prospects, with those provided by the blogger platform sellers, the two would be very different. Blogger platforms offer up only those bloggers available for hawking. It’s insulting to hear them called influencers.

Reblog: Predictive Modeling Technologies Make One-to-One Marketing a Reality

The Buyerside Journey.com, Influencer50, Influencer Marketing, Nick HayesI’ve written before about the huge potential of Predictive Modeling – for both Marketing and Sales activities. Here’s an intelligent post I’ve just read from Ted Karczewski of Skyword.

http://www.skyword.com/contentstandard/blog/predictive-modeling-technologies-make-one-to-one-marketing-a-reality/

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.