Do any top B2B bloggers operate on a pay-for-play basis?

Can anyone think of a B2BThe Buyer-side, Nick Hayes, Influencer50 industry sector where any of the ten most influential bloggers or tweeters operate on a pay-for-play basis?

I was talking last week to one of the heads of the so-called ‘influencer marketing platform providers’. His service actually just brokers relationships between vendor marketing depts. and those bloggers & tweeters willing to promote such vendors for payment. He claimed many ‘top’ bloggers are on his company’s books.

The payment from vendor to blogger is typically pay-by-results-based so ten tweets over a month by one person might cost $100 but by another with greater reach cost $1000. I can see why services like this are keen on the idea – they’re charging a 5-8% cut of any business generated – simply for introducing the marketer to the blogger.

I think every influential blogger / tweeter I can think of would run a mile from such a service. They value their independence too much and accepting a pay-for-play deal would instantly kill both their credibility and their dignity.

There clearly are bloggers more than willing to be paid to write. But nothing tells me they’re the influential ones. Or am I wrong? Is there even one industry sector where influential bloggers do take direct commercial payment for writing about particular vendors? I’d be keen to know.

If I hear of any I’d love to apply our company’s methodology to track their level of market influence and see how that influence is being impacted.

Do today’s salespeople really have to go “wherever someone will listen to us”?

In talking with countless senior salespeople in many of the world’s largest and most successful organisations, it’s eye-opening how many say that their route into a prospect company is “ideally the CIO or CFO, maybe the Head of Dept., sometimes Line of Business director, otherwise the end-user.” In other words “wherever someone will listen to us!” There appears to be very little science or insight being applied.

I asked one a few weeks back for the level of account mapping they do – where they map out who makes the decision, who inputs to it, who uses it, etc. “Most of it is intuition” was the reply. “So do you ever have an idea of how a company will make its decision-making at the time of approaching them?” I asked. “No, but we get a better idea after a few meetings there.” In 2014 is this really the best we should settle for?

I’m spending much of my time researching a better way.


Some marketing depts. have outsourced their logic to Eloqua

The Buyer-side Journey, Influencer50, buyersidejourney.comI 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.

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.

Why are vendors’ Influencer Marketing programs so often farmed out to their PR companies?

I figure it’s for one or more of three reasons:

1. In-house staff have been so cut to the bone there’s no headcount left available .. or qualified.

2. With the decline in the number of traditional journalists, PR companies are increasingly pitching themselves as Influencer Relations agencies and so appearing ready-made for the task. They already enjoy direct connection with their clients.

3. Marketing directors have no experience of what metrics to use with their Influencer Programs, so they’re already open to guidance on how to structure them. And from there it’s a short step to being sold on delivery too.

I think this third point is very significant for two reasons. Firstly I’m struck by how few of our incoming enquiries from vendors see the enquirer, usually a Head of Marketing or Program Manager, having already thought about what they’re trying to achieve, and even less how they think they might measure any program’s success.

I’m not trying to belittle the enquirer, in placing a call to us they’ve obviously made a commendable leap to do something about their interest, and I’m more than happy to explain how we typically set out measuring any program’s success. I’m just surprised that the vendor often hasn’t already applied themselves to that question. When you decide to appoint an advertising agency to create an ad campaign, presumably you’ve already decided what you hope those resulting ads will deliver?

The second reason why the agency outsourcing of Influencer Programs is important is because it’s significantly reshaped the whole direction of many Influencer Marketing programs. Gone is the link back to customers, prospects and sales – never the strong point of agencies – and in its place has come the pursuit of outreach metrics – number of new contacts, theoretical online reach, number of retweets, number of meetings secured, etc. All very metrics-based and easy to report at the monthly client meeting. But well disconnected from customers, prospects and sales.

I can’t help thinking the outsourcing to PR agencies is losing our industry one of the core strengths that originally differentiated Influencer Marketing from traditional marketing outreach.

When will marketing heads question the value of commercial tweeters & bloggers?

I think within six months in-house heads of marketing will be questioning the benefits of reaching out to the paid-for tweeters & bloggers currently being favored by the emergence of the influencer marketing ‘platforms’. These platforms – a development on the Klout approach of identifying those most prolific on Twitter – are selling through subscription the identities of those making the greatest social media noise.

But those bloggers & tweeters who welcome the approaches of (most often) PR agencies – primarily because of the resulting commercial opportunities – are almost never influential individuals. Certainly not influential to buyers. The platforms are in effect just providing a new database source of commercially-oriented tweeters willing to be part of a vendor’s marketing outreach. That’s fine in itself – good luck to them – but in becoming marketing contractors they are most definitely not sales influencers.

If the metrics you’re using for evaluating your Influencer Marketing outreach are sales-focused then this is a major problem. But as many increasingly use metrics based simply on outreach stats, maybe for them it’s doing the job they want. If so, they’re surely pursuing the wrong goal.

Those active on Twitter and within online community groups appear to be very different people

Infographic:, The Buyer-side Journey


At Influencer50 we’re currently collating the responses to a short survey of 150 U.S-based marketing heads on their views of industry-specific community groups, both offline and online. What we already know is that B2B buyers see certain communities as very influential in their decision-making.

One particularly fascinating finding, which until now has been just our adopted wisdom, is that many buyers are either active on Twitter and other social media or online communities – but not both. You might assume that someone who takes an active part in social media conversations would naturally extend those conversations into online community forums. But it seems users largely make a choice between one or the other, or perhaps neither, but almost never both.

Perhaps they feel they’d be repeating their contributions, or perhaps culturally they feel they’re either a Twitter or online community kinda person, but it appears rare for any one individual to be active on both platforms. We first noticed this a few years back as part of our auto-industry work for Michelin, and it seems to be emphasized by our latest survey.

The findings would suggest that any social media outreach your organization may be undertaking is not reaching the online communities you’re likely assuming it is. And so working with your online communities needs to be considered a very separate strategy.

Influencer50’s latest survey is scheduled for release in early June.

(The infographic courtesy of CMSwire.)