Reblog: Bloggers Become Powerful Business Influencers

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 5.53.55 PMA very sensible post from Laura Lee Carter at Huffington Post. A message that needed to be said. I’ve found it hard to believe that any credible blogger would allow themselves to be so manipulated by these blogger troll agencies.

Presumably genuinely credible bloggers will soon tire of being targeted by such people.

Media coverage used to make or break sales deals. But now?

I was speaking with a corporate salesperson late last week. He works for a B2B company with at least 2000 employees in the U.S. alone. He said in the past five years he’d almost never heard of a customer raise the name of a journalist or reference a magazine article when discussing what was shaping their opinion on likely suppliers to shortlist. Industry analysts yes, top-tier and boutique consultancies yes, competitors yes but barely ever a magazine or newspaper article. How times have changed.

ComputerTradeMagsWhen I started my career, journalists were the primary go-to sources for industry news, trends and suppliers. Would-be corporate buyers would immediately be on the phone to their supplier’s salesperson the second they saw a negative press article on that supplier. Within hours (and sometimes minutes) I’d get to hear of it and have to go into defensive mode. That coverage jeopardized sales. I wonder if that ever happens these days? And it got me wondering what proof any PR agency or in-house corp comms person ever has that the media coverage they’re striving so hard to gain has any actual effect on their target buyers? Twenty years ago that proof was tangible. But today?

Reblog: Nielsen research: “Content Marketing is 88 Percent Less Effective than PR”


Expect more of these to & fro arguments – especially since most PR companies are now hurtling head-first down the content marketing route!

“Content Marketing is 88 Percent Less Effective than PR” – based on some new Nielsen research. Talks about why experts/influencers are key.

Hat-tip to Robb Henshaw for highlighting the story.

Don’t always aim at the lowest hanging fruit

I think organisations are too often choosing the easiest influencers to outreach to – the ones that will provide the most immediate gratification. And they’re choosing to ignore the harder to reach but more valuable long-term ones. Not surprising maybe, but not a good approach. For two reasons.

The obvious reason is, as I said, because of immediate gratification. A number of journalists and industry analysts can often be among the top influencers in a given B2B marketplace. These people actively want to hear from players in the market – they’re likely to be receptive to your outreach and have the ability to very rapidly turn your opinions into articles, reports, posts and more. It’s easy to see the bang for your buck. And easy to report back to your bosses on the result.

A second and equally important reason is that most execs. and most marketing people know how to approach journalists and industry analysts – they know what they’re likely to be interested in, and how they’re meant to deliver that information. They feel comfortable in that environment.

That’s a very different situation from having to reach out to say, an industry regulator, a business unit leader in a top-tier consultancy or an academic. What on earth do you say to them? What might you have that’s of interest to them? What’s the protocol for contacting them? And what should you expect as an outcome? It’s extra nerve-wracking when you don’t even know what success would look like.

And so even when you think you’ve identified your company’s top market influencers, our experience is that time and time again our clients’ marketing outreach personnel are choosing the same well travelled route, favoring the journalists and industry analysts even when others have been shown to be way more important.

“Don’t chase any goal you can’t measure” is well-worn political advice given inside many organisations. But it’s this attitude that is stopping progress in your influencer outreach model. You need to pre-decide how you’re going to measure your progress with the various influencer categories from the outset. It’ll require more than one set of metrics – the same criteria wont be appropriate for all. Otherwise despite the best intentions you’ll retrench to the default influencers – journalists and analysts. And from lofty goals you’ll be back to square one.

The Catch-22 of being listed on an influencer marketing ‘platform’

Influencer50, The Buyer-side Journey.comThere’s another reason those people emerging from the databases of the influencer marketing ‘platforms’ wont be as useful going forward as marketers no doubt hoped. It’s a Catch-22.

Imagine I’m a prolific tweeter on the subject of sports fitness software. I regularly tweet about specific relevant vendors. Now I find myself listed on a few of these ‘platforms’ and many tens of PR agencies get to know I exist and am relevant to their interest topic. I start to get inundated with media releases, email offers, new product invitations, meeting enquiries and the like. I no longer fulfill the same role I previously did. I either ignore my new-found popularity with agencies and try to continue my traditional role, or I give in, commercialize myself, attend all the PR junkets and deliberately become a regularized marketing channel. Perhaps even a pay-for-play blogger & tweeter.

If I choose to commercialize myself, as I know many have and will, their role in the industry sector, the role that got them listed on the platform’s database to start with, will change dramatically, sometimes making them more important to the marketplace and sometimes less.

If they choose to stay as they were, they’ll have preferred life before all the agencies bombarded them. It’s inevitable, as it is when any of us are added to a new commercial database, that we soon tire of all the new calls and incoming emails and wish we could be removed. I wonder if the platform providers are already being asked by some on their database to be de-listed.

As happened with Klout, the platforms will be appreciated by those individuals who chase and thrive on their new-found fame and notoriety. It provides added oxygen for the fame-seekers and will encourage those people to become even more prolific. Less selective but more prolific. And in doing so they’ll move further and further away from any form of real influence.

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.