Reblog: Leveling the Sales Playing Field With Predictive Guidance

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 3.53.23 PMA really interesting post at Wired this week. Javier Aldrete talks about the opportunity for predictive guidance when it comes to aiding the performance of salespeople. What struck me were the parallels with market influencers. In talking about ‘tribal knowledge’ he hits on a key differentiator, especially offline, between the top influencers and mere ‘wannabes’.

Move one step further, from predictive guidance to automated mapping, and I think we have the future for real influencer marketing. Not the pointless commercial blogger platforms currently being touted.

The article’s well worth a read.

http://insights.wired.com/profiles/blogs/leveling-the-sales-playing-field-with-predictive-guidance#axzz3B4MOGHpN

I’m far from the social marketing skeptic you might think

I was reminded in my podcast conversation with Paul Gillin the extent to which he views our company’s work as going against the perceived wisdom in our industry. Paul’s a social marketing consultant – and very good at it. He’s a strong advocate of the power of social marketing and he mentioned a couple of times that I have the opposite view. I’ve been thinking about this perception.

I’ve never actually thought I do hold the opposite view – in some situations I’m a complete convert to social marketing. I look at my own teenagers and there’s no doubt they’re constantly swayed by what they’re reading and watching on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and more. But the media is obsessed by teenager marketing, and portrays every audience as behaving in the same way. And that’s what I disagree with.

The fact is, the B2B marketplace still works in a very different way. It will evolve, and it may evolve into something similar to today’s teenager marketing. But we’re such a way from that today – and our clients want to know how to engage with their influencers now, not five or ten years time.

The perceived wisdom in marketing circles seems to be that every stage of the buying decision process is now carried out online – problem identification, decision to act, solution scoping, etc. And that’s just not the case. The reason marketers act as if that’s the case? Because marketers have a far louder public megaphone than buyers do and they want to be at forefront of trends. Buyers might not agree with how marketers are framing their world, but buyers just get on with their buying and try not to be swayed by what marketers are telling them. And buyers see no reason to bother putting them right.

You want proof? Find a friend you know who buys products or services for their employer. It might be office furniture, software tools, real estate, human resources or whatever. Ask them who or what most influenced their eventual selection. Online search is almost always part of the process, but aside from Google, the other influencers are likely to be individuals – individuals that influenced them offline! Co-workers, bosses, previous experience, people they’ve emailed, policy-makers specific to their industry, third-party consultants. Individuals who likely don’t have a very large online presence. Try it and tell me if I’m wrong.

The majority of B2B influencers still operate very much offline. And while there certainly are some important online influencers, the overall picture, whatever your industry, remains a mix. I’m just in the minority talking about it.

Just recorded an interview for Paul Gillin’s excellent podcast series

Nick Hayes, Influencer50, Influencer Marketing, The Buyerside JourneyRecorded a very enjoyable 20mins interview with social marketing guru Paul Gillin earlier in the week. It’s now available on the Hobson & Holtz Report site here:

We covered plenty of ground – why vendors have so little understanding of those influencing their prospects, why certain types of influencers are routinely being ignored, the trio of online to offline influencers, and of course, the perils of so-called ‘influence marketing platforms’.

Hopefully you’ll find it’s worth a listen. Hat-tip again to Paul – he does a great podcast series. And there’s no-one in our industry I respect more.

Majority of respondents in a Gallup survey said that social media had no influence at all on purchasing decisions!

Really good article in last week’s WSJ. Exactly what we’ve been talking about for years. Here’s a snippet but for the full thing I encourage you to go to:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/companies-alter-social-media-strategies-1403499658?mod=e2fb

Note the line “A majority of respondents in a Gallup survey said that social media had no influence at all on purchasing decisions”.

Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype

Companies Refine Strategies to Stress Quality Over Quantity of Fans

WSJ - Just Being SocialIn May 2013, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. bought ads to promote its brand page on Facebook. After a few days, unhappy executives halted the campaign—but not because they weren’t gaining enough fans. Rather, they were gaining too many, too fast

“We were fearful our engagement and connection with our community was dropping” as the fan base grew, says Allison Sitch, Ritz-Carlton’s vice president of global public relations.

Today, the hotel operator has about 498,000 Facebook fans; some rivals have several times as many. Rather than try to keep pace, Ritz-Carlton spends time analyzing its social-media conversations, to see what guests like and don’t like. It also reaches out to people who have never stayed at its hotels and express concern about the cost.

Ritz-Carlton illustrates a shift in corporate social-media strategies. After years of chasing Facebook fans and Twitter followers, many companies now stress quality over quantity. They are tracking mentions of their brand, then using the information to help the business.

“Fans and follower counts are over. Now it’s about what is social doing for you and real business objectives,” says Jan Rezab, chief executive of Socialbakers AS, a social-media metrics company based in Prague.

For the full article go to:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/companies-alter-social-media-strategies-1403499658?mod=e2fb

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.

Do today’s salespeople really have to go “wherever someone will listen to us”?

In talking with countless senior salespeople in many of the world’s largest and most successful organisations, it’s eye-opening how many say that their route into a prospect company is “ideally the CIO or CFO, maybe the Head of Dept., sometimes Line of Business director, otherwise the end-user.” In other words “wherever someone will listen to us!” There appears to be very little science or insight being applied.

I asked one a few weeks back for the level of account mapping they do – where they map out who makes the decision, who inputs to it, who uses it, etc. “Most of it is intuition” was the reply. “So do you ever have an idea of how a company will make its decision-making at the time of approaching them?” I asked. “No, but we get a better idea after a few meetings there.” In 2014 is this really the best we should settle for?

I’m spending much of my time researching a better way.

 

Some marketing depts. have outsourced their logic to Eloqua

The Buyer-side Journey, Influencer50, buyersidejourney.comI was in a prospect meeting last week, running through one of our Influencer Engagement Programs. I was surprised at their quizzical faces when I outlined the program. I thought I was talking common sense. Then they explained. They’d been told not to green-light any marketing program if they couldn’t measure its effect in Eloqua. That’s why they’d moved exclusively over to digital outreach.

Click-rates, open-rates, pass-ons, linger-rates, funnel times – these were all fine. And there didn’t need to be a link with sales, but there did have to be identifiable user actions caught in Eloqua.

But what about real market influencers – those who are one-to-one advising the buyer decision-makers, I asked? They might be doing that in physical real-world meetings, or in direct emails to each other, or across their organization’s intranet. Or there might well be an ‘approved supplier’ list to negotiate first. No, none of those would count, I was told.

I asked why they thought their intended prospects were keen to absorb their outreach digitally, why they believed that increasing click-rates correlated with their buyer’s eventual decisions. There were no answers. They cared only about how Eloqua made them look each quarter.

I ran through how they themselves had made business purchase decisions since the start of the year – items they’d bought or sanctioned for their employer – and whether their decisions could have been tracked had the supplier of that equipment used Eloqua themselves. They agreed their purchasing interest would not have been trackable. But it cut no ice.

The entire conversation was about playing the system with Eloqua. It’s not Eloqua’s fault. But the way some people are using it means they’ve lost sight of what they’re meant to be contributing to their company. That connection between Sales and Marketing is more broken than ever.

When will marketing heads question the value of commercial tweeters & bloggers?

I think within six months in-house heads of marketing will be questioning the benefits of reaching out to the paid-for tweeters & bloggers currently being favored by the emergence of the influencer marketing ‘platforms’. These platforms – a development on the Klout approach of identifying those most prolific on Twitter – are selling through subscription the identities of those making the greatest social media noise.

But those bloggers & tweeters who welcome the approaches of (most often) PR agencies – primarily because of the resulting commercial opportunities – are almost never influential individuals. Certainly not influential to buyers. The platforms are in effect just providing a new database source of commercially-oriented tweeters willing to be part of a vendor’s marketing outreach. That’s fine in itself – good luck to them – but in becoming marketing contractors they are most definitely not sales influencers.

If the metrics you’re using for evaluating your Influencer Marketing outreach are sales-focused then this is a major problem. But as many increasingly use metrics based simply on outreach stats, maybe for them it’s doing the job they want. If so, they’re surely pursuing the wrong goal.

Why are vendors rarely in their ‘industry conversation’?

I always used to assume that the majority of our clients, and vendors in general, while understandably not knowing their key influencers, would be sufficiently integrated into their ‘industry conversation’ that they’d already be an integral part of the most important industry forums and online communities. Perhaps not those in the marketing dept. but surely those in product support, product development, customer support and the like.

It struck me a few years back that not only was this not the case, but that communities were one of the areas where vendors needed most help and advice. “I don’t know who but I imagine we have people involved there” is the typical response when we’ve questioned our clients or prospects on this. Communities are clearly a large and important grey area for many vendors.

Why is this? I think it can only be that most vendors haven’t been able to measure the effects of these communities, and subsequently the benefits of joining them. User Groups have for decades been an important focus for most organizations – whether they’re run independently or through the vendor. But the rise of online communication and collaboration has made it many times easier to establish often loose-knit and amorphous groups of interested (and often influential) individuals.

Whatever the case, the majority of vendors feel a distance from these groups. They’re not trying to be in control of them, they’d just like to be aware what’s going on within them. And the more we investigate, the more the disconnect becomes apparent to us. Across multiple industries.

They don’t comfortably fit within the remit of PR or Marketing, nor Channel Relations or BusDev. Nor even the Social Media team who tend to focus their outreach on Twitter, Facebook and maybe LinkedIn. For sure, some forums actively discourage vendors from taking part. Whatever the reasons, vendors are rarely plugged in to the industry conversation at its most raw. Were the importance of these groups to be realised, this would quickly change.

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?