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

Seeing trends in our ‘Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations’ LinkedIn Group

IMIR logoIt’s always interesting to look back and review the make-up of those applying to join the Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations LinkedIn Group. With LinkedIn as a platform going from strength to strength, and each year reinforcing its role as the go-to place for online B2B communities, I think reviewing the types of role of those applying is more relevant than ever.

For the second year running there have been more individuals from agencies applying than from in-house roles at vendors. In 2010 the ratio was 69% from vendors, 31% from agencies. In 2012 it was 57% vendors, 43% agencies. Reviewing 2014 it was 41% vendors, 59% agencies. Since our LinkedIn Group is designed for vendor roles only, we’ve once more declined far more applicants than those we’ve accepted. What’s new is the make-up of those from agencies.

Three years ago they were mainly from PR agencies, two years ago they were overtaken by those from generic or integrated marketing agencies. The first six months of 2014 saw the largest category being marketing tech agencies – those providing blackbox solutions rather than consultancy or services. Think of them as very broadly the descendants of Klout. But halfway through last year began a new trend. A phenomenal number of applicants from small startups offering brokering services between brands and ‘pay for play’ bloggers and tweeters. Looking at the photos of these applicants, these people are very young, I’d guess well under 25. Their startups look unfunded and they’re from all over the world, Asia in particular. Our LI Group isn’t for these people so we have to decline their entry. But it clearly shows where the most movement in this sector currently is.

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.

 

Why would you be tempted to sign up to a ‘blogger influencer network’?

Would love someone from the vendor side to explain to me why they’d be tempted to sign up to a ‘blogger influencer network’. I can understand them being misled by the title into thinking they’d be connecting with real influencers, but outside of those people, and once they’d realised that wasn’t the case, why would a vendor contact one of these database hawkers? Their databases don’t hold influencers, they hold the names of tweeters and bloggers who, in exchange for payment, are willing to write promotional guff while not declaring it to whatever readership they have. How ‘inauthentic’ can you get?

So someone tell me what’s the attraction?

What’s wrong with the current state of Influencer Marketing?

A starting point is that it needs to get back to having the prospective buyer at its center, not the vendor’s marketing dept., or worse still, the vendor’s PR agency. Five years ago it was of clear benefit to the salesforce, helping them better understand who was most influencing their sales targets. Marketing depts. took it on because they could see it at last being the glue ensuring sales & marketing alignment.

Then social media, which plays a very different role for marketers than it does for buyers, took hold. Marketers saw that through social media, influencers could simply become an additional database at which to aim their promotional messages. Which then led to a series of problems.

1. The term ‘influencers’ was given to any tweeter or blogger with even the smallest of networks

2. Systems like Klout emerged that allowed these tweeters to big themselves up – wasting a lot of people’s time in the process.

3. Marketers – desperate for metrics to show their bosses – could now show impressive graphs of outreach, retweets, likes and more.

4. New marketing tech firms emerged looking to sell the identities of these tweeters & bloggers to brands desperate for new outreach channels.

What this has created is a new marketplace for those acting as middlemen providing access for brands to ‘pay-for-play’ bloggers. Of course, the two sides are sold very different stories. The bloggers are told to endorse the paying brand as surreptitiously as they can, knowing that the more they can smuggle in brand references the more likely they are to earn repeat business. The brands are told that these bloggers & tweeters have been individually selected for their authenticity, sensitivity and audience. And that all their bloggers operate a full disclosure policy to their audience. When the brand notices that the blogger hasn’t disclosed their association they’re told this was a one-off mistake. And far from being individually selected, the middlemen are playing a numbers game. They aggressively advertise for increasing number of willing bloggers, just as low-end taxi companies promise endless numbers of would-be car drivers the best-paid job of their lives. For their part, the bloggers & tweeters game their own numbers – audience numbers, Klout scores, subject coverage, etc. in order to out-compete their rivals for any type of payment.

But these are very far away from being influencers. The problem is that it’s not in any of these circle’s interest to admit that. Brands want to be able to show they’re reaching real influencers, the bloggers & tweeters want to appear as attractive as possible to attract the money, and the middleman broker agencies (for which there’s absolutely no barrier to entry!) want to promise brands access to the largest possible database of would-be promoters. It’s an ‘emperor’s new clothes’ scenario. And it wont stop until the vendors’ salespeople remind their marketing dept. of what they expect from their influencer outreach. Legitimate sales prospects!

Why people assume all influence is now online

There are markets where almost all influence is now online. Face-to-face conversations, peer advice and group meetings rarely happen. But these markets are few and far between. Even the influence of particular YouTube channels and personalities is not all online. Plenty of direct teen to teen conversations take place offline to encourage each other to follow certain personalities. And the culmination of following these ‘celebrities’ – is a very offline public ‘meet-up’.

So why do the media continue to promote this image of all communication now being conducted online and through social? One answer has to be because the media themselves are so entrenched in it. They get their news leads through Twitter, their research through the web and increasingly, their output is exclusively online too. The media says they’re reflecting society but they’re actually only reflecting their view of society.

Their job is to focus on what’s new, what’s changed, so they lap up the latest fashions, trends, gadgets, platforms and more. They might write of how millions are tiring of and moving away from Twitter, when the truth is that the vast majority of the population has yet to even move onto it. I walk down my local shopping street and I’m struck by how few stores are embedded in social. A handful of them may have a Twitter feed and the majority could tick the box saying their business ‘is online’ – but that’s not where even a significant minority of their income originates.

The same goes for most businesses. They’ll do social outreach, they’ll do Adwords, they might even maintain a company blog – but none of these are likely to drive the majority of their sales.That majority is driven the way it’s always been driven – by dedicated sales teams effectively cold-calling prospects and reacting to RFPs.

In my Influencer50 role I talk extensively with many individuals from marketing depts. and sales depts. In conversations with marketing folks the subject of social is always there. The success (or not) of their social outreach campaigns, the prominence of particular individuals on Twitter, sentiment monitoring trends and more. Every marketer lives and breathes social.

For every conversation I have with Marketing heads, I have an equal number with heads of Sales. And it’s a very different conversation. Social is only rarely mentioned. Buyer behavior, prospect entry points, initial messaging, check-signing hierarchies, customer pain-points, customer politics – these are standard topics. But social? Almost never, and only fleeting if then. Why is social so much lower on their radar?

Important stages of the B2B buying process have moved online – no-one can doubt that – but the vast majority of those stages, and the most crucial elements of almost every stage, are resolutely offline. At least for now.

That may not be a media-friendly message but there’s no doubting with B2B it’s still the truth.

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.