“In B2B [vs B2C influencer marketing] you need to spread the net a bit wider, keep the networks alive, keep the content flowing, and the chances are more likely that someone who influences a decision maker will see my content.” So said IBM’s Andrew Grill in a wise and thought provoking interview with marketing thought leader Mark Schaefer today. (“Unraveling the secrets of B2B influencer marketing“) Right: Andrew Grill stops Tweeting to listen to something important, a nice Creative Commons photo by Guido van Nispen from 2009.
The interview is good, I recommend reading it, and it really got my wheels spinning. Below are my comments on the post, which I posted on Mark’s site but am posting here as well, including with anchor links to the specific parts of the interview that each comment is in response to. Some of it I agree with and some of it I don’t!
– Indirect nature of B2B sales. Love it. I’ve been thinking about influencer marketing (B2B and B2C) as having “2nd order effects.” For example, influencer engagement yields press opportunities and press opportunities drive sales leads. Or influencer engagement generates speaking and event opportunities and speaking and events drive leads. It’s not just about how influencer marketing and engagement drive leads directly. Often, it’s about how accumulated influencer relationships lead to opportunities that offer leverage to your brand.
– B2B influencers have to be relevant to the product. Love it. Contextually relevant influence will drive more qualified leads – but it will also offer something more to the relationship. Those times when you’ve invited the influencers behind the scenes, shown them your R&D etc? If they’re relevant to your brand – then they’re going to have some great advice about your product and market – and that’s far more value than just short term sales leads. Also, the flip side is true. If you want to engage with a market influencer, it’s good if your brand is relevant to them – it’s even better if you the person doing the outreach is relevant to them as well.
– Influencers risk personal brand in exchange for market validation. Yup.
– Affiliate sales model: I do not like it. Wasn’t Andrew just talking about the indirect nature of sales via B2B influencer marketing? Who do we expect to always use an affiliate URL? Or are we talking about affiliate specific cookies? Attribution seems to a real cluster here and it feels like Andrew is trying to have his cake and eat it too: on one hand he says you’ve got to play the long game with year-round relationship building, but on the other hand he’s saying we all know it has to drive cold hard cash immediately and measurably. Hmmmm….I’d like to see some examples of this.
– Internal influencers, employees. Hopefully. If you’ve got a culture that encourages time spent on social media, taking risks and adding value. How many companies is that true of? Too few. And your employees need to step up to the plate, too. Will you object to their time spent building that influence online because they haven’t sold enough product through their trackable affiliate links back to the company’s e-commerce pages? 😔
– Press-investors-influencers as the three external legs of the stool. That’s awesome, love it.
– Long term relationships are great, but why are we presuming we’re paying people cash here? I don’t assume that. A very, very small percentage of the B2B relationships we see or help facilitate are paid. That can be great, but it’s certainly not something I’d assume.
– The measurement discussion here gave short shrift to the way complex sales can be impacted by compound influence that’s built up over a history of engagement. The best deal my team closed last month was with someone we’d been engaging with on social for a year and a half. She didn’t have budget to buy when we first started talking – but we kept in touch online. She’s advocated for us publicly along the way. When her firm had an opportunity to buy, she was an internal advocate. Who wants to go back and record the eventual contract value next to every history of casual ongoing engagement over the past year and a half?
Those are my 2 cents! I spend all day every day thinking about this stuff as we build out the Little Bird influencer discovery and research application inside of Sprinklr. The research part of B2B influencer marketing warrants a ton more discussion too, I believe. You addressed using insights from individual relationships to inform business strategy, but there’s a whole thick layer of valuable insights available from aggregate analysis of B2B influencer activity as well. See, for example, this post titled “4 ways to use influencer network visualization for marketing and intelligence.”
Thanks again for covering this topic and so well! Really exciting to know that a world full of marketers are going to read this interview and up level the sophistication of their thinking on influencer marketing in B2B.
There’s some good discussion of this post over on LinkedIn.