Remember the influencers

Rod Griffith

By Rod Griffith
November 30, 2015

Don’t rule out the value of the influencer in your marketing strategy.

Most technology business decisions today are made by people who have spent considerable time getting input, insights and recommendations from a wide range of peers, friends, experts, analysts, consultants – as well as additional advisers and influencers.

So why is so much of your marketing attention (if not all of it) focused on solely targeting the decision maker?

If you’re like most companies, the simple answer is often “We have limited budget and resources, so we focus on the most critical decision makers who we believe are most likely to purchase our product.”

Here’s the problem with an all-or-nothing focus on decision makers: they may never hear about you precisely because you weren’t brought to their attention by an influencer. By completely ignoring the influencers, you may have served to block yourself from a large percentage of your target customers.

The 2014 DemandGen Report study on B2B Content Preferences indicated that peer referrals was the highest rated channel for finding relevant content for making purchase decisions. In B2B technology industries, a wide range of potential influencers can exist. 

You can’t reach every influencer possible—but you can take the time to determine who you believe are your most important influencers and create marketing efforts and campaigns designed to turn them into champions for your products/services.

Organic vs. synthetic influencers

We define two types of influencers. Organic influencers are those people who will potentially influence your target decision makers through their normal course of interaction. Most of the list provided in the example above would be considered organic influencers—assuming that the path of circumstances that lead to their influence occurs naturally through their normal course of interactions in their role as peer, friend, co-worker, analyst, etc.

A synthetic influencer is someone who has been specifically and purposely engaged (most often paid) by you as a means to gain influence over your target decision makers. This is a growing field of focus for marketers often referred simply as influencer marketing.

In the consumer marketing space, a common synthetic influencer may occur when a celebrity is hired to wear a specific piece of clothing, be seen at a public event holding a specific designer handbag, or mention a brand of car when being interviewed on television. In B2B marketing, a company may hire a known technology expert to promote and advocate for their products—or pay a popular technology blogger to write blog articles about their product.

Some tips for getting started

If you’ve been focusing primarily on targeting decision makers, is that effort working well? If not, you may want to consider shifting some of your focus to the influencers.

We generally recommend starting with organic influencers—prioritizing them so as to focus on those who are most likely to influence the decision process. The campaign planning and design process for influencers is really not much different than creating a campaign for your decision makers.

Here are some tips to help you:

  1. Understand your influencers. Profile them, prioritize them, and define their pain points and critical business challenges.
  2. Determine what they most need to hear from you. Focus on the most critical value proposition from the influencer’s point of view. Answer the question: what makes you uniquely qualified to best help them address their pain points or accelerate their business goals?
  3. Determine the best medium to reach them with your message. What publications or blogs do they read? What websites do they visit? What associations do they belong to? Research the best way to gain visibility and mindshare from the influencers. 
  4. Identify what call-to-action you want them to take. Don’t be afraid to be direct and ask them to forward your information to the people whom you can help most. And help them understand how they (the influencer) will benefit from this. 
  5. Consider what incentive may help accelerate their action. You may want to consider some kind of reasonable incentive token for agreeing to refer you to one of their peers, for example. 
  6. Develop an incubation program to nurture your relationship with the influencer. The fact is, many influencers may not be comfortable immediately referring you to someone they know. Or they may just not currently be aware of anyone with the need. It may take some time—even months—before they run across a situation where it would be appropriate to refer you. By creating an incubation program designed to establish and build an ongoing relationship with the influencer, it extends the likeliness that they’ll eventually assist you in getting visibility to a decision maker. 

Implementing influencer marketing

You may eventually want to explore an influencer marketing initiative (deploying synthetic influencers). It can be very effective if managed carefully—and can allow you to influence purchase decisions through a channel that is far less crowded with competitors (at least for now).

On the down side, it can cost quite a bit more depending on whom you’re trying to enroll as your influencer. And care must also be taken to ensure the initiative is handled ethically and legally—with particular attention to proper disclosure (e.g., paid endorsements or spokespeople).

The bottom line is: don’t forget the power of the influencers and their ability to impact your sales efforts—positively or negatively.

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