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

PeerIndex sells to Brandwatch in an all-UK deal

Congratulations to Azeem Azhar, someone I’ve always liked, who just before Christmas sold his UK-based firm, PeerIndex, to Brandwatch. PeerIndex was fleetingly a competitor to Klout, at the time Klout was claiming to be ‘the standard for influence’. But I always had a lot more respect for PeerIndex, mostly because of Azeem himself, who I first met fifteen years ago. With PeerIndex he first created clever technology without an obvious commercial use, which he then repurposed to enter the market that Klout had forged – that of ‘online influence metrics’. Much as I never bought into the concept, or its relevance to buyers, I could always respect him as an innovator. Though he’s moved to Brandwatch for the next few years, I’m sure it’s not the last company he’ll create. Congratulations once more.

‘Pay for play’ bloggers now becoming synonymous with Influencer Marketing?

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Blogger tit-for-tat reveals ugly side of Influencer MarketingShocking to see unscrupulous ‘pay for play’ bloggers now synonymous with Influencer Marketing. It wont surprise anyone to see this kind of behavior going on but it’s a million miles from my original vision for the phrase. Further proof the topic desperately needs rescuing.

http://enterpriseinnovation.net/article/blogger-tit-tat-reveals-ugly-side-influencer-marketing-1396979543

 

60 million people in one click! That says it all about blogger databases.

Love it. Just when I was fearing our company seemed to have a different understanding of ‘influencers’ to almost everyone else I see this strapline from a UK firm purporting to specialise in ‘influencer marketing’.

“The UK’s Largest Influencer Marketing Agency. We build creative social marketing campaigns for brands and then distribute them to 60 million people in one click!”

Huh! 60 million people. All influential obviously. Every one of them well targeted no doubt.

I guess they just didn’t want ‘spammers’ in their strapline.

 

So what’s been the overriding trend in Influencer Marketing this year?

The past few years have seen a number of trends on the world of Influencer Marketing. When I look back at these I can’t help noticing that none of these trends have been, in my opinion, good for better understanding who really influences an organisation’s prospects & customers. The largest trends have been short-term diversions and their shortcomings soon realised. The result is they’ve just confused the subject matter, and left the understanding of the subject in no better a place than it was five years ago. I’ve resolved to unearth some more positive trends in future posts. No point complaining.

In 2011 we saw the rise (and later fall) of the supposed ‘online influence platforms’. In 2012 there was the wide-scale transition of Influencer Marketing programs from being managed in-house (where marketing depts. didn’t know what to do with them) to being contracted out to PR and ad agencies (who didn’t care that they didn’t know because they now had a new revenue stream). 2013 saw the ‘pay for play’ blogger / broker networks make a concerted attempt to redefine ‘influencers’ as bloggers and tweeters who’d willingly endorse products and companies for payment. 2014 is actually harder to identify one over-riding trend but I think it’s been the finessing of which social media metrics are most relevant to ‘influence’. I’ve seen no end of graphics illustrating ‘relevance’, ‘appropriateness’, ‘authenticity’, etc.

What each of these have in common is that they’re all marketing-centric, and increasingly generated by the marketing agencies themselves. I’m seeing surprisingly few vendors and brands driving any more productive trends. Why is this?

 

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.

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?

http://maximizesocialbusiness.com/10-tips-developing-better-blogger-outreach-15106/?utm_source=GaggleAMP-Maximize%20Social%20Business&utm_medium=Twitter%20(GaggleAMP)&utm_campaign=AutoAMP%20Messages&utm_content=10-tips-for-developing-better-blogger-outreach-httpgagglcic-222699&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRonv6XKZKXonjHpfsX%2B6OkuT%2Frn28M3109ad%2BrmPBy%2B24MDWp8na%2BqWCgseOrQ8mFgMV8GiS80VraE%3D

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?

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.

More proof of the downhill slope for so-called ‘influencer marketing platforms’

I read this news story this morning. This first para explains itself.

“Influencer marketing platform, NeoReach, announces a $1.5M seed round lead by Michael Baum’s Founder.org. The company rewards users for sharing brands and products that they love. Unlike traditional influencer marketing platforms, NeoReach reduces the financial focus by leveraging a targeted matching algorithm and allowing the influencer and blogger to have the final say regarding which products they chose to endorse.”

So, “unlike traditional influencer marketing platforms”, I assume they mean the bubble gum ones that have sprung up over the past year!, this one allows “the influencer and blogger to have the final say regarding which products they chose to endorse.” So what they’re claiming is that with other databases (for that’s what these ‘platforms’ actually are), the influencer and blogger (one and the same person in their world), don’t have the final say in what they endorse!

If a brand pays its money and selects a particular blogger to say something nice about it, then the blogger has to say it!

Could these ‘platform’ companies spiral down-market any faster than they are? And could the true meaning of the word ‘influencer’ get trashed any further?

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.