Our next White Paper: WP#18 : To what degree are your prospects & customers influenced by online & offline communities?
Available for download next Monday.
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?
I 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.)
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.
Our company Influencer50 has just issued its latest Global B2B Influencer Survey 2013 – showing the real importance of offline to online to social influencers in B2B buying decisions. What it shows is that somewhat over 50% of B2B influence on real buyers is being conducted offline, a little over a third primarily online (i.e through Google-type searches) and 5-10% primarily through social channels. There are small differences in these numbers from continent to continent but the narrative is the same.
And the third take-away – approx. 60% of top influencers have a Twitter account, yet only one-third of those have posted to it in the past two months. So hard to call them exactly active tweeters.
Here’s the released Survey’s details:
Global B2B Influencer Survey shows Social Media, despite the hype, is still NOT a major primary influencer for B2B purchases
Offline and Online influencers are the clear two most significant channels for influence, with ‘social influencers’ a very distant third.
For B2B products & services costing >$1000 – average 68% of key influencers are primarily offline, 26% online, 5% social
For B2B products & services costing >$100 but less than $1000 – average 48% of key influencers primarily offline, 40% online, 12% social
Influencer50, the award-winning Influencer Identification, Engagement & Measurement firm announces the results of its Global B2B Influencer Survey 2013, conducted over one year across four continents. Over 36,000 B2B-oriented individuals were evaluated – the company’s largest aggregated survey to date. The survey seeks to identify the relative importance of offline, online and so-called ‘social influencers’ in B2B purchasing and adoption decisions.
Influencer50 amalgamated the results of 58 B2B research projects from Oct’12-Sept’13, across forty-one countries. Small but significant differences were found in the make-up of those top influencers from one continent to another.
This table shows through which channel the top B2B influencers (for all values of product & services) primarily influence (they can obviously influence across more than one channel, but only one channel was considered primary).
|US products & services >$1000||68||26||5|
|US products & services >$100 <$1000||48||40||12|
(The Average totals in the table are weighted to take into account the scale of data from each region).
Offline Influence is defined as influence conducted through in-person meetings or conversations, either face-to-face or to a group, phone conversations, etc.
Online Influence is defined as influence conducted through online search results and/or browsing.
Social Influence is defined as influence conducted through, but not limited to, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.
The survey results show that while influence conducted primarily through social media channels is significant, averaging almost 8% of the influence on B2B purchasers, it takes only a very distant third place to online and offline channels. And the numbers are not trending dramatically towards social media. Yet there remains overwhelmingly more industry ‘buzz’ about social channel influence than about offline influence.
“We just don’t understand why so much noise is being created by those talking about ‘social influence’ when it’s clear that B2B buyers aren’t actually listening. Just look at who’s contributing to those conversations – it’s all marketing agencies and contractors. All the sellers are on Twitter but that’s not where the B2B buyers are. Everyone seems to be conveniently ignoring that. The real influencers are much harder to find than simply trawling Twitter for who tweets most often. It’s apparently too much trouble for most people to track down the real influencers.” – Nick Hayes, Principal of Influencer50 Inc.
As part of its research, Influencer50 also analysed the use of Twitter amongst its identified top influencers. While the majority of top influencers across each region did have their own Twitter account, less than one-half had posted any updates in the past two months, so making their account effectively inactive.
Percentage of top B2B influencers active on Twitter:
|Own a Twitter account||Posted in past two months|
“There’s been so much talk over the past eighteen months about so-called ‘social influencers’. All these digital agencies have hijacked the term influencer marketing to relate to those on social platforms – mainly Twitter. That’s never jibed with our own experience of B2B purchase decision-making so we spent a year collating data on the subject.
“Social media may be having a very different effect in consumer sectors than it is in B2B. And it’s certainly reshaping our personal culture. But in the commercial sector the agenda for influencer marketing is being pushed by people with a vested interest – largely by digital marketing agencies who want to sell their clients on various social listening programs.”
“What’s also interesting is that it’s through LinkedIn, rather than Twitter, where most of that social media influence is conducted. That’s a story that often gets lost when agencies discuss social influence – because LinkedIn is much more difficult for them to trawl than Twitter.”
“The wider picture is that it’s part of this generational shift towards marketing automation. There’s a drive towards ensuring everything can be measured and scaled. These social influence platforms tick both those boxes. No-one seems to care that what they’re measuring might effectively be junk in terms of increasing a company’s sales. It’s a race based around ‘the emperor’s new clothes’. The industry needs to get back to addressing real-world buyer behavior – and many of the ‘influence marketing’ providers seem to be ignoring that.”
Influencer50’s clients include Microsoft, IBM, Wal-Mart and Michelin amongst many others.
This research comprised research across four continents and forty-one countries analyzing a combined 36,218 B2B-oriented individuals. The continents were North America, Europe, Asia and, to a lesser extent, Africa.