Do most top influencers now tweet and/or blog to establish that influence?

It’s not a question we’re often asked, principally because most prospects and clients automatically assume it the case. At our company we’ve long known different. I was just running through some stats for a client project we’re near completing.

The marketplace is U.S-centric, at the junction of business-tech and Financial Services. No shortage of cutting-edge technology, major deals, plenty of money, global organisations, heavily performance-based. If there’s a technology invented to gain an advantage they use it. And just look at the figures.

Approx. one-third of the top 75 influencers have an active twitter feed (i.e have tweeted in the past month) and less than one-quarter run an active blog (have posted in the past two months). Most of those with a blog also tweet. So whichever way you look at it, significantly less than 40% of the top influencers maintain a presence on social media. That’s not to say they’re particularly keen users, and certainly not prolific, but they are there if you look for them.

When you’re ignoring over 60% of your most important targets, why would marketing depts. continue migrating so much of their outreach to social?

The temptation of social is to only look at the headline metrics.

I chair the ‘Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations’ LinkedIn Group. One of my roles is to approve all new member requests and I’ve some interesting stats to share. The group is very specific, and only professionals from the vendor-side are admitted – no agencies or individual consultants. These rules are to encourage uninhibited vendor to vendor discussion, free from agencies endlessly pitching themselves or steering conversations round to self-promotion.

We’re always reviewing the stats surrounding the group. We now have well over 850 vendor-side members. But what I wanted to share are the request stats. Since Jan’13 73% of all requests have come from agency-side or students. We’ve had to politely decline each of these.

It would be easy to boost the numbers by admitting every request. If so, we’d now enjoy over 2500 members. And that’s the temptation of social. Quality suffers at the hands of metrics – the core numbers are the first impression anyone gets and you’re rarely allowed the attention span to explain quality.

On social, no-one invests the time to think behind the headlines.

How do salesforces decide to divide up their target market?

There’s very little science gone into how salesforces decide to divide up their target market between their various sales channels. It tends to change every time there’s a change of sales director or chief exec.

I’ve run a two-man band up through a fifty employee company in my time. And when I think about how my approach to purchasing changed between the two, I realize it wasn’t anything to do with headcount. It was to do with responsibility.

I was in a discussion recently with a prospective client – an organization targeting companies with 10-50 employees. We got to talking about why their boundary point was 50 employees. “Because after that our partners are best (at selling in to them). They start getting complex and we don’t have the sales time to devote to them.” I wondered how true this really was.

Over the years I’ve had a special interest in how sales forces are structured to address different markets. It’s not uncommon for vendors to divide their prospects into five or more sales approaches – varying from online to retail, from direct end-user sales to ‘house accounts’, from third-party channels to strategic consulting partners. Almost always the dividing lines between these approaches are based on the prospect’s employee numbers. It’s an obvious and easily accessible number to access from the outset. But increasingly it makes little sense. So why is it still so prevalent?

How responsibility is placed across a company’s management levels is a far more significant indicator of how any purchasing decision will be made, and who will likely be involved to make it. Vendors have traditionally argued that this information would rarely be known from the outset, and may be too difficult to comprehend at any stage of the sales process.

But what if it wasn’t difficult to ascertain? What if a salesteam could know this on day one, and allocate their various sales resources accordingly? A vendor’s sales prospects would be divided up very differently than the current model, and possibly lead to a very different sales success rate.

The issue is that no one vendor has a picture of how every new prospect is organized in terms of management and budget responsibility. But I don’t think we’re too far away from that day. The application of a little science, plus the technology of crowdsourcing and a willingness to discard traditional practices, could lead to make a very major breakthrough in how vendors approach their whole sales process. But I haven’t heard anyone pursuing this.

The people reached by influencer marketing ‘platforms’ should be way down your priority list

I believe the so-called influencer marketing platforms will be very short-lived. It’s not a route I’ve ever wanted Influencer50 to go.

Three years ago Klout emerged. Within twelve months our whole industry was talking about them. They massively confused the market. Now they’re largely derided and all but gone. These days the talk is of several influencer marketing ‘platforms’. Their time will be short too because they just don’t identify the real influencers. Vendors will take a while to realize this and then stop their subscriptions to them.

All these platforms are doing is providing marketers with another database of easily reachable names. These names are of people who are most prolific online on the subject in question and who have the most number of people in their ‘online network’. That might sound fine at first hearing. As a marketer you want to know who’s most likely to be interested in what you’re saying, and who could spread your message to most others. Right?

It’s not that that in itself is wrong – it’s just that that audience should be way down your priority list. What should be top are those individuals who are affecting the choices of your prospects. Now they might not currently be interested in your subject, because they don’t see its relevance to their role, they may be interested in your subject but not proactively communicate about it, or they may be really interested in the subject but just not post about it on Twitter. And that’s setting aside the 98% of business people who don’t proactively tweet at all!

Take a look at the table below. An influencer marketing ‘platform’; would find people in just the two highlighted rows, and only one of even those would contain influential people. The real influencers could be found in four of those rows.

The Buyer-side, Influencer50

I know the platform agencies will say they don’t just listen to Twitter, but as I’ve written about many times before in our White Papers (, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. are all but irrelevant in business decision-making, and very little of LinkedIn can be scraped by their systems. Leaving only Twitter of any relevance on these platforms.

It’s all well and good examining these platforms, but when they continually search in the wrong place for real influencers, and then tout the noisemakers that they do find as influencers, they’re not just wrong but willfully misleading. And that, as the industry now knows, was Klout’s problem too.

Buying into the story

TheTileApp.comIn Seth Godin’s book ‘All Marketers are Liars’ he talks about the importance of all companies having a story to tell – that we don’t buy into a particular product or service but we do buy into the story that it makes us feel we’re living.

Last month I bought into a story so good that on telling several friends of this company, they took my word, went home and immediately ordered the product too.

The company is called Tile and they have one product – also called Tile. It’s a small transponder that you can stick to anything you like and then track its whereabouts via your iPhone or Android device. As someone who’s had two cycles stolen in the past eighteen months I wish I’d have stuck a Tile to them beforehand. A friend said he’d like to attach one to his dog’s collar. Another said to his child’s frequently lost, and expensively replaced, school sports bag. These Tiles cost about $20 each. But that’s not the story.

The story is that even if you buy it now, they can’t deliver it to you until late summer. If you ordered pre-Christmas, you’re due around Easter. Scarcity is the story. The website talks about two guys in the US who had this idea, tinkered around with it and are now, very slowly, able to ramp up manufacture. And their homepage prominently tells you “With your help, 49,586 backers preordered Tiles totaling $2,681,297.” So you’re buying in to the whole crowd-funding ethos too, which means you don’t resent it when your credit card is charged upon order, even though you have to wait months for delivery.

I think this was honestly the first web ad I can remember clicking on in the past ten years. A rare case of marketing and sales perfectly aligned. I want them to succeed.

If you’re interested, go to

What do people expect to get when they sign up for an influencer marketing ‘platform’?

The Buyer-side, Influencer50, Nick HayesI’ve been thinking recently – what do people expect to get when they sign up for one of these so-called influencer marketing ‘platforms’?

I’m especially unclear what makes these a platform rather than an online database. You take out a subscription, you type in your preferred keywords, and it filters those names most prolific on Twitter who have mentioned those keywords. That’s a database to my way of thinking.

I took an incoming enquiry a few days back. As soon as I realised the person was from a PR company I feared the worst. I’ve become used to these calls. They said, “We came across your website and we want to know if you have a global database of auto influencers – we work for (one of the top four global auto manufacturers). They went on to explain that they wanted this ‘list’ within 48 hours if possible.

I can’t help thinking that some of these influencer marketing ‘platforms’ are just today’s reincarnation of list-brokers.

I can picture what will happen. The agency person will find such a platform / list-broker, they’ll subscribe to that vendor, then they’ll tell their client they’re working with a top influencer platform to reach the most important market influencers. And the client will mentally tick the box that they’re now actioning their global influencer strategy. When all they’ve really done is bought a database.

This is nothing like what I’d envisaged for Influencer Marketing.

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.