How the Most Successful B2B Marketers Approach Influencer Marketing in 2021

Keys to Success B2B Influencer Marketing 2021

According to the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, 96% of B2B marketers that engage influencers consider their program to be successful and 90% expect their budget for influencer marketing to increase or stay the same over the next 12 months.

Why the confidence? 77% of marketers say their prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts with 84% engaging influencers to create brand awareness and 69% counting on influencers for lead generation.

Influence plays a role across the entire B2B customer lifecycle from awareness to advocacy and with B2B marketing going decidedly digital during the pandemic and uncertainty of 2020, the importance of peer, expert and influencer recommendations through social and digital media are more important than ever.

Without question, the uncertainties driven by economic, political and public health have affected business customers in a variety of ways from pausing on purchasing to taking more time to do research on solutions. How B2B marketers adapt to these changes is essential for success in 2021 and beyond.

So how are B2B brands like LinkedIn, SAP, monday.com and others finding marketing wins during a time of uncertainty? One way is through understanding which voices are most influential to their customers and then partnering with those influencers to collaborate on content used for thought leadership, brand engagement and lead generation.

Based on research of hundreds of B2B marketers, several best practices have emerged to optimize content with influence. The most successful B2B influencer marketing programs share certain characteristics including:

  • Engaging in ongoing (Always-On) influencer marketing vs. periodic campaigns
  • Rely on industry experts and analysts vs. purely social influencers
  • Use blogs as content publishing platforms
  • Use software to identify and qualify influencers vs. gut feel
  • Create interactive content with influencers
  • Have a centralized influencer marketing program
  • Have a documented influencer marketing strategy

But what can B2B brands expect from influencers? Everything from increased social reach to improved credibility of brand content to increases in leads in sales.

Working with the right influencers, you build credibility with the audience you are trying to reach. influencers can help you deliver content that solves problems, educates and inspires your intended audience. The biggest benefit is the engagement, how you can work with your influencers to create meaningful engagement that leads to the right outcomes for your brand.
Amisha Gandhi, VP Influencer Marketing and Communications at SAP

B2B Influence in Action: Monday.com

When the pandemic swept through the world in 2020, monday.com identified an opportunity to help support teams that had gone from working in-office to working remotely. To help position itself as a valuable resource for remote teams, Monday.com partnered with TopRank Marketing to develop an influencer marketing program featuring remote work experts that could reach and engage teams facing remote work challenges more effectively than the brand on its own.

By engaging influencers with audiences hungry for information about remote work best practices, the Monday.com influencer program added value to the target audience and increased awareness of Monday.com’s solutions.

  • 1,790% above goal social reach from influencer shares
  • 300k organic brand social impressions from influences
  • Nearly 3k video views of a livestream featuring 2 influencers during the first week

Learn more about Monday.com’s best practices approach to working with B2B influencers in this case study.

Engaging influencers creates a competitive advantage for B2B brands.

Influencers’ industry expertise lends credibility that results in convincing and converting your target audience.
Rani Mani, Head of Employee Advocacy at Adobe

Our research supports Rani’s insight with 77% of marketers saying their prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts.

What B2B marketers can do to take advantage of the influence opportunity is to decide what topics the brand wants to be known for that customers are seeking. Using topics of influence, a content marketing program can be developed that incorporates industry experts that are influential about those same topics.

Collaborating on content of mutual value provides influencers an incentive to help share that content with potential customers that are likely ignoring ads and formal brand marketing. As B2B brands continue to engage influencers, benefits include content for demand and lead gen as well as relationships with trusted voices that can organically advocate for the brand.

For many B2B marketers, the challenges of this past year have forced an even greater focus on marketing that is more in line with how buyers are discovering, engaging and acting on digital information. These challenges have also put a greater emphasis on marketing strategies that create a true return and impact on the business. Engaging with relevant, trusted influencers provides an opportunity to do both.

B2B Influencer Marketing Report Preview
Learn more about B2B influencer marketing best practices from the most successful B2B brands by getting your copy of the State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report.

How the Most Successful B2B Marketers Approach Influencer Marketing in 2021

Keys to Success B2B Influencer Marketing 2021

Keys to Success B2B Influencer Marketing 2021

According to the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, 96% of B2B marketers that engage influencers consider their program to be successful and 90% expect their budget for influencer marketing to increase or stay the same over the next 12 months.

Why the confidence? 77% of marketers say their prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts with 84% engaging influencers to create brand awareness and 69% counting on influencers for lead generation.

Influence plays a role across the entire B2B customer lifecycle from awareness to advocacy and with B2B marketing going decidedly digital during the pandemic and uncertainty of 2020, the importance of peer, expert and influencer recommendations through social and digital media are more important than ever.

Without question, the uncertainties driven by economic, political and public health have affected business customers in a variety of ways from pausing on purchasing to taking more time to do research on solutions. How B2B marketers adapt to these changes is essential for success in 2021 and beyond.

So how are B2B brands like LinkedIn, SAP, monday.com and others finding marketing wins during a time of uncertainty? One way is through understanding which voices are most influential to their customers and then partnering with those influencers to collaborate on content used for thought leadership, brand engagement and lead generation.

Based on research of hundreds of B2B marketers, several best practices have emerged to optimize content with influence. The most successful B2B influencer marketing programs share certain characteristics including:

  • Engaging in ongoing (Always-On) influencer marketing vs. periodic campaigns
  • Rely on industry experts and analysts vs. purely social influencers
  • Use blogs as content publishing platforms
  • Use software to identify and qualify influencers vs. gut feel
  • Create interactive content with influencers
  • Have a centralized influencer marketing program
  • Have a documented influencer marketing strategy

But what can B2B brands expect from influencers? Everything from increased social reach to improved credibility of brand content to increases in leads in sales.

Working with the right influencers, you build credibility with the audience you are trying to reach. influencers can help you deliver content that solves problems, educates and inspires your intended audience. The biggest benefit is the engagement, how you can work with your influencers to create meaningful engagement that leads to the right outcomes for your brand.
Amisha Gandhi, VP Influencer Marketing and Communications at SAP

B2B Influence in Action: Monday.com

When the pandemic swept through the world in 2020, monday.com identified an opportunity to help support teams that had gone from working in-office to working remotely. To help position itself as a valuable resource for remote teams, Monday.com partnered with TopRank Marketing to develop an influencer marketing program featuring remote work experts that could reach and engage teams facing remote work challenges more effectively than the brand on its own.

By engaging influencers with audiences hungry for information about remote work best practices, the Monday.com influencer program added value to the target audience and increased awareness of Monday.com’s solutions.

  • 1,790% above goal social reach from influencer shares
  • 300k organic brand social impressions from influences
  • Nearly 3k video views of a livestream featuring 2 influencers during the first week

Learn more about Monday.com’s best practices approach to working with B2B influencers in this case study.

Engaging influencers creates a competitive advantage for B2B brands.

Influencers’ industry expertise lends credibility that results in convincing and converting your target audience.
Rani Mani, Head of Employee Advocacy at Adobe

Our research supports Rani’s insight with 77% of marketers saying their prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts.

What B2B marketers can do to take advantage of the influence opportunity is to decide what topics the brand wants to be known for that customers are seeking. Using topics of influence, a content marketing program can be developed that incorporates industry experts that are influential about those same topics.

Collaborating on content of mutual value provides influencers an incentive to help share that content with potential customers that are likely ignoring ads and formal brand marketing. As B2B brands continue to engage influencers, benefits include content for demand and lead gen as well as relationships with trusted voices that can organically advocate for the brand.

For many B2B marketers, the challenges of this past year have forced an even greater focus on marketing that is more in line with how buyers are discovering, engaging and acting on digital information. These challenges have also put a greater emphasis on marketing strategies that create a true return and impact on the business. Engaging with relevant, trusted influencers provides an opportunity to do both.

B2B Influencer Marketing Report Preview
Learn more about B2B influencer marketing best practices from the most successful B2B brands by getting your copy of the State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report.

The post How the Most Successful B2B Marketers Approach Influencer Marketing in 2021 appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Source: SEO blog

45 B2B Influencer Marketing Statistics to Optimize Your 2021 Marketing

B2B influencer marketing statistics
We’ve finally turned the corner to 2021 and like many other marketers in the B2B world, I am ready to make this year better than ever. One source of inspiration I’ve found effective are the insights from industry research. That’s one of the main reasons we conducted the first research survey around B2B influencer marketing.

Having watched the growth of influence in marketing for B2B companies closely over the past 9 years, 2021 represents a significant opportunity for marketers to connect with the trusted voices in their industry to co-create content, inspire meaningful engagement and community, motivate authentic brand advocacy and boost influence of brand executives and subject matter experts as well as the brand itself.

The data for B2B influencer marketing are compelling:

  • 74% of marketers agree that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experience with the brand
  • 63% of marketers agree that marketing would have better results if it included a B2B influencer marketing program
  • 12X more marketers are very successful who run always-on influencer programs vs. those who do periodic campaigns
  • 60% of marketers who do not implement ongoing influencer marketing programs report not having the right skills in-house or knowledge to execute

But where should you start? Where should you optimize? What are successful B2B marketers doing when it comes influencer marketing? To help answer those questions and more, I’ve pulled out 45 key statistics from the State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report:

The B2B Influence Advantage

  • 96% of B2B brands are confident about influencer marketing
  • 90% of B2B companies expect their budget for influencer marketing to increase or stay the same in the next 12 months
  • 77% of marketers say their prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts
  • 84% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create brand awareness
  • 69% of B2B marketers work with influencers to help generate new leads
  • 78% of B2B marketers achieved increased social reach of brand content working with influencers
  • 64% of B2B marketers increased the credibility of brand content working with influencers
  • 53% of B2B marketers increased new leads by working with influencers
  • 34% of B2B marketers increased sales by working with influencers
  • 91% of B2B marketers say relevance of audience is the top criteria for selecting an influencer

“Engaging with influencers provides a myriad of competitive advantages.” Rani Mani, Head of Employee Advocacy at Adobe

See how Monday.com created a marketing advantage working with influencers to drive 1,790% above goal social reach from influencer shares of brand content. Case Study

The Engine of B2B Influence is Always On

  • 60% of B2B marketers who use always-on influencer marketing are very successful vs. 5% of those who use periodic campaigns
  • 34% of B2B marketers engage in always-on influencer marketing programs
  • 25% of B2B marketers engage in intermittent influencer marketing campaigns
  • 75% of marketers using always-one influencer engagement saw an increase in views of brand content
  • 94% of B2B marketers using an always-on approach believe influencer marketing will grow in importance in the next 12 months
  • 89% of B2B marketers using an always-on approach expect their budgets to increase or remain the same in the next 12 months
  • 87% of B2B marketers collaborate on content with influencers
  • 82% of B2B marketers engage influencers to promote brand content
  • 66% of B2B marketers engage influencers to participate in events
  • 58% of B2B marketers work with influencers as brand ambassadors
  • 35% of B2B marketers work with influencers as brand advisors

“B2B brands would be wise to adopt an always-on influencer engagement approach and they look to build true brand advocates.” Garnor Morantes, Group Marketing Manager at LinkedIn

See how LinkedIn approached building a 75 strong influencer community organically with an always-on approach to influencer engagement resulting in nearly 2,000 brand mentions and 84 million in reach. Case Study

B2B Influencer Marketing Integration

  • 90% of B2B marketers integrate influencer marketing with social media marketing
  • 83% of B2B marketers integrate influencer marketing with content marketing
  • 56% of B2B marketers integrate influencer marketing with public relations
  • 50% of B2B marketers integrate influencer marketing with SEO
  • 32% of B2B marketers integrate influencer marketing with ABM
  • 83% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create blog posts
  • 67% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create recorded video
  • 64% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create webinars
  • 59% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create interviews
  • 52% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create podcasts
  • 48% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create live video

“Integrating influencer content is a direct line to building trust and customer confidence.” Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs

See how Cherwell Software integrated their influencer marketing with content and social media to achieve a 342% better click through rate on content reaching a relevant audience that was 90% new. Case Study

B2B Influencer Marketing Operations

  • 39% of marketers say their top challenge with influencer marketing is that the process is too manual
  • 25% of less successful B2B marketers use software vs. 50% of the most successful to identify influencers
  • 68% of the most successful influencer marketers have a documented strategy vs. 25% of the least successful marketers
  • 76% of B2B marketers use software to identify influencers
  • 66% of B2B marketers use software to monitor influencer social network activity
  • 64% of B2B marketers use software to qualify influencers
  • 63% of B2B marketers use software to measure and report on influencer campaign results
  • 43% of B2B marketers use software to manage influencer campaigns
  • 41% of B2B marketers use software to manage and nurture influencer relationships

“You need to come up with a strategy, plan of action and a process. All incorporate various tools and techniques and will give you the knowledge and skills to run a successful influencer marketing program.” Ursula Ringham, Global Head of Influencer Marketing at SAP

See how SAP’s influencer driven podcast, Tech Unknown was operationalized for multiple internal and external objectives resulting in a reach of 128 million from influencer shares and a 66% increase in downloads. Case Study

B2B Influencer Marketing Report Preview
Whether you’re just getting started and considering a pilot project or you’re looking to optimize your existing influencer marketing efforts, you can find insights and inspiration from the State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report as well as the Inside B2B Influence interview series featuring top B2B brand marketers from companies like Adobe, Citrix, Dell, IBM, LinkedIn, Onalytica, Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, Sprinklr, Spirion, and Traackr.

45 B2B Influencer Marketing Statistics to Optimize Your 2021 Marketing

B2B influencer marketing statistics

B2B influencer marketing statistics
We’ve finally turned the corner to 2021 and like many other marketers in the B2B world, I am ready to make this year better than ever. One source of inspiration I’ve found effective are the insights from industry research. That’s one of the main reasons we conducted the first research survey around B2B influencer marketing.

Having watched the growth of influence in marketing for B2B companies closely over the past 9 years, 2021 represents a significant opportunity for marketers to connect with the trusted voices in their industry to co-create content, inspire meaningful engagement and community, motivate authentic brand advocacy and boost influence of brand executives and subject matter experts as well as the brand itself.

The data for B2B influencer marketing are compelling:

  • 74% of marketers agree that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experience with the brand
  • 63% of marketers agree that marketing would have better results if it included a B2B influencer marketing program
  • 12X more marketers are very successful who run always-on influencer programs vs. those who do periodic campaigns
  • 60% of marketers who do not implement ongoing influencer marketing programs report not having the right skills in-house or knowledge to execute

But where should you start? Where should you optimize? What are successful B2B marketers doing when it comes influencer marketing? To help answer those questions and more, I’ve pulled out 45 key statistics from the State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report:

The B2B Influence Advantage

  • 96% of B2B brands are confident about influencer marketing
  • 90% of B2B companies expect their budget for influencer marketing to increase or stay the same in the next 12 months
  • 77% of marketers say their prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts
  • 84% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create brand awareness
  • 69% of B2B marketers work with influencers to help generate new leads
  • 78% of B2B marketers achieved increased social reach of brand content working with influencers
  • 64% of B2B marketers increased the credibility of brand content working with influencers
  • 53% of B2B marketers increased new leads by working with influencers
  • 34% of B2B marketers increased sales by working with influencers
  • 91% of B2B marketers say relevance of audience is the top criteria for selecting an influencer

“Engaging with influencers provides a myriad of competitive advantages.” Rani Mani, Head of Employee Advocacy at Adobe

See how Monday.com created a marketing advantage working with influencers to drive 1,790% above goal social reach from influencer shares of brand content. Case Study

The Engine of B2B Influence is Always On

  • 60% of B2B marketers who use always-on influencer marketing are very successful vs. 5% of those who use periodic campaigns
  • 34% of B2B marketers engage in always-on influencer marketing programs
  • 25% of B2B marketers engage in intermittent influencer marketing campaigns
  • 75% of marketers using always-one influencer engagement saw an increase in views of brand content
  • 94% of B2B marketers using an always-on approach believe influencer marketing will grow in importance in the next 12 months
  • 89% of B2B marketers using an always-on approach expect their budgets to increase or remain the same in the next 12 months
  • 87% of B2B marketers collaborate on content with influencers
  • 82% of B2B marketers engage influencers to promote brand content
  • 66% of B2B marketers engage influencers to participate in events
  • 58% of B2B marketers work with influencers as brand ambassadors
  • 35% of B2B marketers work with influencers as brand advisors

“B2B brands would be wise to adopt an always-on influencer engagement approach and they look to build true brand advocates.” Garnor Morantes, Group Marketing Manager at LinkedIn

See how LinkedIn approached building a 75 strong influencer community organically with an always-on approach to influencer engagement resulting in nearly 2,000 brand mentions and 84 million in reach. Case Study

B2B Influencer Marketing Integration

  • 90% of B2B marketers integrate influencer marketing with social media marketing
  • 83% of B2B marketers integrate influencer marketing with content marketing
  • 56% of B2B marketers integrate influencer marketing with public relations
  • 50% of B2B marketers integrate influencer marketing with SEO
  • 32% of B2B marketers integrate influencer marketing with ABM
  • 83% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create blog posts
  • 67% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create recorded video
  • 64% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create webinars
  • 59% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create interviews
  • 52% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create podcasts
  • 48% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create live video

“Integrating influencer content is a direct line to building trust and customer confidence.” Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs

See how Cherwell Software integrated their influencer marketing with content and social media to achieve a 342% better click through rate on content reaching a relevant audience that was 90% new. Case Study

B2B Influencer Marketing Operations

  • 39% of marketers say their top challenge with influencer marketing is that the process is too manual
  • 25% of less successful B2B marketers use software vs. 50% of the most successful to identify influencers
  • 68% of the most successful influencer marketers have a documented strategy vs. 25% of the least successful marketers
  • 76% of B2B marketers use software to identify influencers
  • 66% of B2B marketers use software to monitor influencer social network activity
  • 64% of B2B marketers use software to qualify influencers
  • 63% of B2B marketers use software to measure and report on influencer campaign results
  • 43% of B2B marketers use software to manage influencer campaigns
  • 41% of B2B marketers use software to manage and nurture influencer relationships

“You need to come up with a strategy, plan of action and a process. All incorporate various tools and techniques and will give you the knowledge and skills to run a successful influencer marketing program.” Ursula Ringham, Global Head of Influencer Marketing at SAP

See how SAP’s influencer driven podcast, Tech Unknown was operationalized for multiple internal and external objectives resulting in a reach of 128 million from influencer shares and a 66% increase in downloads. Case Study

B2B Influencer Marketing Report Preview
Whether you’re just getting started and considering a pilot project or you’re looking to optimize your existing influencer marketing efforts, you can find insights and inspiration from the State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report as well as the Inside B2B Influence interview series featuring top B2B brand marketers from companies like Adobe, Citrix, Dell, IBM, LinkedIn, Onalytica, Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, Sprinklr, Spirion, and Traackr.

The post 45 B2B Influencer Marketing Statistics to Optimize Your 2021 Marketing appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Source: SEO blog

Inside Influence 13: Tim Williams from Onalytica on Optimizing B2B Influencer Experiences

Tim Williams Onalytica

In this final 13th episode of Inside Influence where I talk with B2B marketing insiders about what’s working and what’s not in the world of influencer marketing, our perspective has shifted from B2B brands to the influencers themselves.

At TopRank Marketing, we conducted the first in-depth research into B2B influencer marketing which inspired this series and Onalytica recently conducted the first research study of B2B influencers to better understand influencer marketing from their perspective.

Any B2B marketer that wants a complete picture for success with B2B influencer marketing going into 2021 and beyond will benefit greatly from both reports:

To drill down into the insights around the Onalytica report, I talked with Tim Williams, CEO. We covered:

  • About Onalytica as a B2B influencer marketing platform
  • Tim’s role as CEO at Onalytica
  • The current state of B2B influencer marketing
  • The impact of COVID-19 on B2B influencer marketing
  • Why Always-On influencer marketing is good for both brands and influencers
  • How to convince more B2B brands to focus on the experience they create for influencers as much as they do for customers
  • Opportunities for B2B companies to leverage both external influencers and employee influencers for marketing
  • B2B influencer engagement trends for 2021
  • What B2B marketers can do to better showcase influencer expertise in content
  • What B2B brands can expect if they hire an agency
  • What to be optimistic about with influencer marketing post-pandemic

See the full video interview with Tim Williams in Episode 13 of Inside Influence here:

Below is a highlight transcription of our discussion.

Tell us about your role and what Onlaytica does

Tim: Great. So I’m the CEO of Onalytica and I’ve always been in social media, sort of marketing communication circles and formally in public affairs. I’ve always helped build software that helps brands try and influence the influencers who obviously then in turn influence the target audience or the end consumer. That’s been my passion. I’ve spent 20 plus years helping brands communicate their audience better.

At Onalytica we have an influence marketing software. We tend to use this in influencer advocacy, employee advocacy, virtual events, account-based marketing, and social selling. Those are these use cases that we help brands with.

I see it as my role to be out there to publish content and to try and lead from the front…listen to what customers are saying and see how technology can really advance the industry.

Then in my role, I’d really just try and listen to the brand. It’s a very immature marketplace. It’s evolving. So I see it as my role to be out there to publish content and to try and lead from the front. But importantly, listen to what customers are saying and see how technology can really advance the industry.

I’m not keen on us just taking a passive look at the industry and trying to sort of build more revenue with customers. I think that technology is often like a challenge and solution for the industry to mature. So I guess I see my role as just helping in whatever way I can to progress and really just help brands connect with influence communities to create inspiring content.

You and your team at Onalytica recently conducted a comprehensive B2B influencer research study. At a high level, what is the current state of B2B influencer marketing?  

Tim: Well, interestingly, it was off the back of the TopRank Marketing research report. Obviously TopRank are a great, leading agency in the field and producing lots of research and obviously you and I talk about research and have done quite a lot over the past few years. We’ve done some state of the industry stuff before with brands, but we really wanted to flip it to be able to give a 360 degree view on top of your research to people out there.

[Influencers] do make a big difference if brands are partnering with them in the right way.

I think what was really interesting is that it confirmed a lot of the beliefs in your report that the state of the industry is that influencers do give that third-party opinion. They do make a big difference if brands are partnering with them in the right way. It also showed up a lot of the gaps and a lot of the challenges for marketers on where the industry is going to head and what needs to happen for the influencers to feel like they’ve got a positive experience.

A lot of the people doing influence marketing now don’t have influencer marketing in their job description. It’s something that they’re just inheriting and running through pilot programs.

I thought it was really interesting. I was very encouraged by the results, the gaps. Some of them do still surprise me with the way some marketers approach influence marketing, but I think that’s just natural because a lot of the people doing influence marketing now don’t have influencer marketing in their job description. It’s something that they’re just inheriting and running through pilot programs. I just think it’s a natural outcome of people experimenting and I think the learning and the improving is really what we’re seeing now.

What do you think the impact of COVID has been in terms of the state of influencer marketing for B2B?

Tim: In April to May this year I think a lot of influencers were extremely worried, especially the ones that were flying around the world and getting paid a lot of money. They were probably having very lucrative retainers or one-off, gigs with brands and I think that work obviously immediately dried up and they had to pivot their proposition into virtual events. I’ve seen some influencers do that very successfully now.

I think it was a bit of a shock from April to May and I think in terms of the social media consumption and the influencer output on channels like LinkedIn and Twitter, we saw an increase in that social media activity and consumption. I think the biggest change was that we felt that the end consumers of the B2B to C, because everyone’s obviously a person at the end of the day, increased.

The appetite for influencers increased in a few months like it would over a five-year period…influencer marketing in B2B has been better for it.

The appetite for influencers increased in a few months like it would over a five-year period. Even though the budgets weren’t there from brands because everyone was pausing their budgets, I think the underlying factors have really advanced. So what we’ve seen is that from July onward, so in H2 of this year, influencer marketing in B2B has been better for it. I think it’s almost helped the industry rather than just being too like “marquee event driven” where influencers are paid a lot of money to speak all around the world.

The Onalytica research of B2B influencers found several similarities with TopRank’s survey of B2B marketers. For example, Always-On campaigns were described as far more successful for both influencers and marketers. You and I understand the reason for that, but how do you explain it to marketers stuck on campaigns?

Tim: I always see influencer relations as like there’s two parallel strategies. I think there’s the content or the events that you’re trying to run in campaign mode. Then there’s the longer term relationship building and building of great experiences for a campaign that you might run in three or four quarters time.

I think that the brands that are starting off and just like activating with a one-off mindset, they just don’t put as much effort into the long-term game. So the influencers by default then just invest less themselves because they don’t know whether they’re going to have anything in the future. So I think it’s just natural.

I think that it doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out with influencer relations, you can do a few things that make a big difference and build long-term relationships.

I think that it doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out with influencer relations, you can do a few things that make a big difference and build long-term relationships. First impressions can last for, you know, 20 or 30 years.

I think it’s hard, especially when brands are in quarterly budget cycles. Both of us working in global tech a lot and the restructuring is a major challenge because people do move around in roles. So I think everyone gets it, but I think when you show the results of a longer term attitude are better than a short term, then I think that’s when people can invest a bit more.

We’ve both talked about the importance of the experience that brands create for influencers and the impact it can have on an influencer marketing program’s success. Your research reinforces this in several areas from the need for quality outreach to who does the outreach to quality of the brief. How can we get more B2B brands to treat the influencer experience as important as the experience of the customers we’re trying to influence?

Tim: I think it’s a key area that the industry has to improve on. I think it’s about how much input you need to get the output that you’re wanting as a marketer. So, if you’re having to invest five hours to research an influencer that you don’t really know, that you’re not quite sure what output they’re going to give you, I think there’s a disproportionate amount of effort that marketers won’t invest in.

I think partly, agencies solve that problem, like yours. Obviously you know a lot of the influences and there’s sort of the trust of working with them. At Onalytica we built relationships with thousands of influencers and we know the ones that you can trust and there’s an element of credibility and time-saving there.

I think there’s also the ability to get to know someone within 10 or 15 minutes. This is really a technology solution where you can know what books they’re going to publish, what motivations they have and what days they like to work. I recall speaking to one influencer at Social Media Marketing World and they told me, “on Monday I write my blog posts, on Tuesday I do my research, on Wednesday I look after my kids and on Thursday I do this,” and I’m thinking, “how could a brand approach that influencer and really know what makes them work without hearing it directly from them?”

Influencers also have to make it as easy as possible for people to get to know them and what they want.

So, I think it’s a technology solution, which we’re trying to solve where if we showcase profiles that show what really drives the passion and motivations of influencers, then brands can quite quickly say, “Oh, there’s a great connection with what we’re trying to do here.” Then they have the confidence to reach out and it doesn’t feel like this kind of matchmaking dating where you don’t have a clue what they they’re actually interested in. It’s agencies, technology and I think influencers also have to make it as easy as possible for people to get to know them and what they want. And I think if we all close the gap, then it’s going to translate into a better experience for the influencers.

Influencers are not limited to industry experts as you know – employee are influential too. What opportunities are there for B2B brands to be more effective at engaging both to achieve marketing goals?

Tim: I think this is where the real magic happens for us when we’re talking about integrated advocacy. When we talk about employee advocacy, we see them as four segments.

We see them as the topics execs which need to show leadership. They need to be out there on social, creating content. There’s intrinsic value in what they say in the marketplace. So the execs are part of the employee advocacy for us.

The next level down is the subject matter expert. Say, in the tech industry or environment, it might be talking about AI or sustainability or supply chain procurement and any of the important topics that might be driving the thought leadership. So, you’ve got various different employees that are thought leaders, but maybe not driving as much impact externally for your brand. There’s a wonderful opportunity out there.

The third segment are sales. So, social selling or social enablement of salespeople as some people like to call it is really important. That’s the third category.

Then the fourth one is everybody else like your general employees. There’s lots of employee advocacy tools to help develop the general employees.

What we like to look at is the execs as subject matter experts and the salespeople. To give you an example of what we think works really well, it could be a LinkedIn live session with an external influencer. You might also bring in an industry expert into this who wouldn’t call themselves an influencer, but just has really deep expertise in your particular area. And then you could invite one of your subject matter experts internally to be part of that discussion.

Now, the subject matter experts might not feel initially comfortable with putting themselves forward, but then they start speaking on a peer to peer level with the external influencers and they realize that they get on, they have a lot in common, they love the subject matter that they talk about. Guess what? That relationship continues on LinkedIn, Twitter, offline, on WhatsApp, like whatever form of communication that they have.

It’s really powerful when you can start transforming your content through the voice of your employees and external influencers.

If you think about that one example and you amplify that through all of your workforce, your employees are the biggest asset that any brand has. It’s really powerful when you can start transforming your content through the voice of your employees and external influencers. That’s what we describe as the kind of dream integrated advocacy model. In terms of actually making that happen, because some brands have 300,000 employees and across different business units, markets and languages, obviously it’s a massive transformation change. But I think if you look at them as different segments, you can activate them in different ways, that’s a really, really powerful operation.

B2B brands engage with influencers in different ways from event activations to content collaborations to advisory councils. What engagement trends are you seeing going into 2021?

Tim: I think you touched on something really interesting. The advisory role as an independent analyst is often a bit of a hidden fact within the marketplace. I know a lot of influencers that were asked to create some content, but then suddenly they’ve started writing strategy documents for really large brands about how they should tackle certain challenges or innovation within the marketplace. They’re kind of ghost writing a lot of the strategy of companies.

The advisory role as an independent analyst is often a bit of a hidden fact within the marketplace.

I found that really interesting and shocking because I thought that it was the actual company that was writing their own strategy, but then it was an influencers actually shaping that. But I thought it was really cool because some of these influencers have so much experience that they’re taking on different personas.

I do think that’s something that is changing. And I think that when we talk about influencers a lot of people think that we’re talking about just the professional influencers that work on a paid basis and they’re on a retainer sometimes. They’re great at creating content and they’ve got big social networks. We see that this is a much larger community of people from industry experts that would never call themselves influencers: the independent analysts, advisors, consultants. Then you’ve got the events speakers, key opinion leaders in the industry. That’s where things are evolving.

I don’t think people are in love with the word “influencer”.

I don’t think people are in love with the word “influencer”. I think it’s got a really bad rap from the B2C industry.  I think that influential experts is more where we’re trying to go, but there’s, there’s many different personas. So I think how brands are leveraging the different personas and who owns it as a brand is really the cause of key trends going forward.

Content is most often the output from influencer collaboration but subject matter experts are not always expert content creators and many B2B brands are not really pushing the boundaries of effective content formats either. What can B2B marketers do to better showcase the expertise of the influencers who have collaborated?

Tim: I think it’s a really good question. Some of the influencers are content creators and they’re specialists at that. So actually having an influencer interview some of the subject matter experts is one way in which brands haven’t leveraged that enough, I don’t think. It’s interesting who should interview each other because you see both forms of that.

People are fed up of advertising…people are just not in the mood for product being pushed down their throats.

I think that the trend that we’re seeing is that people are fed up of advertising. They’re fed up with brand generic messages. There’s just so much content even since the pandemic. The content has spiraled even more so. I think people are just not in the mood for product being pushed down their throats.

I think the subject matter experts are the people that can personalize the content and I think that brands are investing in the platform to help develop the social profiles of the subject matter experts. I’ve seen a big increase in investment into that. I don’t think there’s any shortcuts. I think it’s about enabling them to feel comfortable maybe in video, like sitting down in a more traditional way, but then translating that into social bite sized video content.

Subject matter experts have the expertise, they just don’t know how to translate that into wonderful sort of social communication channels.

I know that you do a lot of interactive and visual content. I think the subject matter experts have the expertise, they just don’t know how to translate that into wonderful sort of social communication channels. I think that’s the job of marketers and communications professionals to be able to connect those two together. I don’t see any magic wand. I don’t know whether you’ve got any ideas or what you see from TopRank.

Well, this is a problem we solve every day for companies. When a brand does make the effort to invest in high quality content from industry experts or industry influencers, they can take that content and make something the contributors will be proud of. Something so good it will inspire them to want to make it even more successful.  

Tim: Yeah, I completely completely agree with that. And obviously the end customer is what we’re all working to influence and impress. I think that the activation of subject matter experts comes down to behavioral psychology of whether they want to develop their profiles, what their fears are and how to motivate them.

I think what has changed is that a lot of topics execs or subject matter experts traditionally speak to 20 people in a room or 200 people or 10,000 people in a marquee event. Now they’re seeing that they can actually speak to 20,000 people every week through social.  I think that  takes a couple of examples to really get through. So they have that light bulb moment and I think marketers and communications professionals, if they can help them switch that light bulb on in their heads, then suddenly they will invest a bit more effort into the content that they put out on social.

What are you most optimistic about when it comes to influencer marketing?

Tim: I think one thing is personalized, relatable content. I have a massive passion to just break out of the boring B2B into the inspiring, personalized content. But to be able to do it in a way that doesn’t feel hard.

I am very passionate about bringing technology to solve problems. And I know that there is friction – it seems easy. Like we can just pick up the phone to five influencers, create some content and then a couple of weeks later, you should have some great content and it can be that easy.

But in reality, some brands take three or four months and struggled to get to that outcome. So what I’m passionate about is the quality of content to improve. And from a technology standpoint, we want to try and reduce the friction so that people can create this content. And it seems not as easy as paid media and hitting a button, but it doesn’t seem like it’s too much effort for them to start off.

To connect with Tim, you can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence B2B Influencer Marketing show interviews:

To better understand what hundreds of the top B2B marketers are doing to succeed at influencer marketing, including case studies featuring SAP, LinkedIn, Monday.com and Cherwell Software, be sure to check out the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report:

B2B Influencer Marketing Report 2020

Inside Influence 13: Tim Williams from Onalytica on Optimizing B2B Influencer Experiences

Tim Williams Onalytica

Tim Williams Onalytica

In this final 13th episode of Inside Influence where I talk with B2B marketing insiders about what’s working and what’s not in the world of influencer marketing, our perspective has shifted from B2B brands to the influencers themselves.

At TopRank Marketing, we conducted the first in-depth research into B2B influencer marketing which inspired this series and Onalytica recently conducted the first research study of B2B influencers to better understand influencer marketing from their perspective.

Any B2B marketer that wants a complete picture for success with B2B influencer marketing going into 2021 and beyond will benefit greatly from both reports:

To drill down into the insights around the Onalytica report, I talked with Tim Williams, CEO. We covered:

  • About Onalytica as a B2B influencer marketing platform
  • Tim’s role as CEO at Onalytica
  • The current state of B2B influencer marketing
  • The impact of COVID-19 on B2B influencer marketing
  • Why Always-On influencer marketing is good for both brands and influencers
  • How to convince more B2B brands to focus on the experience they create for influencers as much as they do for customers
  • Opportunities for B2B companies to leverage both external influencers and employee influencers for marketing
  • B2B influencer engagement trends for 2021
  • What B2B marketers can do to better showcase influencer expertise in content
  • What B2B brands can expect if they hire an agency
  • What to be optimistic about with influencer marketing post-pandemic

See the full video interview with Tim Williams in Episode 13 of Inside Influence here:

Below is a highlight transcription of our discussion.

Tell us about your role and what Onlaytica does

Tim: Great. So I’m the CEO of Onalytica and I’ve always been in social media, sort of marketing communication circles and formally in public affairs. I’ve always helped build software that helps brands try and influence the influencers who obviously then in turn influence the target audience or the end consumer. That’s been my passion. I’ve spent 20 plus years helping brands communicate their audience better.

At Onalytica we have an influence marketing software. We tend to use this in influencer advocacy, employee advocacy, virtual events, account-based marketing, and social selling. Those are these use cases that we help brands with.

I see it as my role to be out there to publish content and to try and lead from the front…listen to what customers are saying and see how technology can really advance the industry.

Then in my role, I’d really just try and listen to the brand. It’s a very immature marketplace. It’s evolving. So I see it as my role to be out there to publish content and to try and lead from the front. But importantly, listen to what customers are saying and see how technology can really advance the industry.

I’m not keen on us just taking a passive look at the industry and trying to sort of build more revenue with customers. I think that technology is often like a challenge and solution for the industry to mature. So I guess I see my role as just helping in whatever way I can to progress and really just help brands connect with influence communities to create inspiring content.

You and your team at Onalytica recently conducted a comprehensive B2B influencer research study. At a high level, what is the current state of B2B influencer marketing?  

Tim: Well, interestingly, it was off the back of the TopRank Marketing research report. Obviously TopRank are a great, leading agency in the field and producing lots of research and obviously you and I talk about research and have done quite a lot over the past few years. We’ve done some state of the industry stuff before with brands, but we really wanted to flip it to be able to give a 360 degree view on top of your research to people out there.

[Influencers] do make a big difference if brands are partnering with them in the right way.

I think what was really interesting is that it confirmed a lot of the beliefs in your report that the state of the industry is that influencers do give that third-party opinion. They do make a big difference if brands are partnering with them in the right way. It also showed up a lot of the gaps and a lot of the challenges for marketers on where the industry is going to head and what needs to happen for the influencers to feel like they’ve got a positive experience.

A lot of the people doing influence marketing now don’t have influencer marketing in their job description. It’s something that they’re just inheriting and running through pilot programs.

I thought it was really interesting. I was very encouraged by the results, the gaps. Some of them do still surprise me with the way some marketers approach influence marketing, but I think that’s just natural because a lot of the people doing influence marketing now don’t have influencer marketing in their job description. It’s something that they’re just inheriting and running through pilot programs. I just think it’s a natural outcome of people experimenting and I think the learning and the improving is really what we’re seeing now.

What do you think the impact of COVID has been in terms of the state of influencer marketing for B2B?

Tim: In April to May this year I think a lot of influencers were extremely worried, especially the ones that were flying around the world and getting paid a lot of money. They were probably having very lucrative retainers or one-off, gigs with brands and I think that work obviously immediately dried up and they had to pivot their proposition into virtual events. I’ve seen some influencers do that very successfully now.

I think it was a bit of a shock from April to May and I think in terms of the social media consumption and the influencer output on channels like LinkedIn and Twitter, we saw an increase in that social media activity and consumption. I think the biggest change was that we felt that the end consumers of the B2B to C, because everyone’s obviously a person at the end of the day, increased.

The appetite for influencers increased in a few months like it would over a five-year period…influencer marketing in B2B has been better for it.

The appetite for influencers increased in a few months like it would over a five-year period. Even though the budgets weren’t there from brands because everyone was pausing their budgets, I think the underlying factors have really advanced. So what we’ve seen is that from July onward, so in H2 of this year, influencer marketing in B2B has been better for it. I think it’s almost helped the industry rather than just being too like “marquee event driven” where influencers are paid a lot of money to speak all around the world.

The Onalytica research of B2B influencers found several similarities with TopRank’s survey of B2B marketers. For example, Always-On campaigns were described as far more successful for both influencers and marketers. You and I understand the reason for that, but how do you explain it to marketers stuck on campaigns?

Tim: I always see influencer relations as like there’s two parallel strategies. I think there’s the content or the events that you’re trying to run in campaign mode. Then there’s the longer term relationship building and building of great experiences for a campaign that you might run in three or four quarters time.

I think that the brands that are starting off and just like activating with a one-off mindset, they just don’t put as much effort into the long-term game. So the influencers by default then just invest less themselves because they don’t know whether they’re going to have anything in the future. So I think it’s just natural.

I think that it doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out with influencer relations, you can do a few things that make a big difference and build long-term relationships.

I think that it doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out with influencer relations, you can do a few things that make a big difference and build long-term relationships. First impressions can last for, you know, 20 or 30 years.

I think it’s hard, especially when brands are in quarterly budget cycles. Both of us working in global tech a lot and the restructuring is a major challenge because people do move around in roles. So I think everyone gets it, but I think when you show the results of a longer term attitude are better than a short term, then I think that’s when people can invest a bit more.

We’ve both talked about the importance of the experience that brands create for influencers and the impact it can have on an influencer marketing program’s success. Your research reinforces this in several areas from the need for quality outreach to who does the outreach to quality of the brief. How can we get more B2B brands to treat the influencer experience as important as the experience of the customers we’re trying to influence?

Tim: I think it’s a key area that the industry has to improve on. I think it’s about how much input you need to get the output that you’re wanting as a marketer. So, if you’re having to invest five hours to research an influencer that you don’t really know, that you’re not quite sure what output they’re going to give you, I think there’s a disproportionate amount of effort that marketers won’t invest in.

I think partly, agencies solve that problem, like yours. Obviously you know a lot of the influences and there’s sort of the trust of working with them. At Onalytica we built relationships with thousands of influencers and we know the ones that you can trust and there’s an element of credibility and time-saving there.

I think there’s also the ability to get to know someone within 10 or 15 minutes. This is really a technology solution where you can know what books they’re going to publish, what motivations they have and what days they like to work. I recall speaking to one influencer at Social Media Marketing World and they told me, “on Monday I write my blog posts, on Tuesday I do my research, on Wednesday I look after my kids and on Thursday I do this,” and I’m thinking, “how could a brand approach that influencer and really know what makes them work without hearing it directly from them?”

Influencers also have to make it as easy as possible for people to get to know them and what they want.

So, I think it’s a technology solution, which we’re trying to solve where if we showcase profiles that show what really drives the passion and motivations of influencers, then brands can quite quickly say, “Oh, there’s a great connection with what we’re trying to do here.” Then they have the confidence to reach out and it doesn’t feel like this kind of matchmaking dating where you don’t have a clue what they they’re actually interested in. It’s agencies, technology and I think influencers also have to make it as easy as possible for people to get to know them and what they want. And I think if we all close the gap, then it’s going to translate into a better experience for the influencers.

Influencers are not limited to industry experts as you know – employee are influential too. What opportunities are there for B2B brands to be more effective at engaging both to achieve marketing goals?

Tim: I think this is where the real magic happens for us when we’re talking about integrated advocacy. When we talk about employee advocacy, we see them as four segments.

We see them as the topics execs which need to show leadership. They need to be out there on social, creating content. There’s intrinsic value in what they say in the marketplace. So the execs are part of the employee advocacy for us.

The next level down is the subject matter expert. Say, in the tech industry or environment, it might be talking about AI or sustainability or supply chain procurement and any of the important topics that might be driving the thought leadership. So, you’ve got various different employees that are thought leaders, but maybe not driving as much impact externally for your brand. There’s a wonderful opportunity out there.

The third segment are sales. So, social selling or social enablement of salespeople as some people like to call it is really important. That’s the third category.

Then the fourth one is everybody else like your general employees. There’s lots of employee advocacy tools to help develop the general employees.

What we like to look at is the execs as subject matter experts and the salespeople. To give you an example of what we think works really well, it could be a LinkedIn live session with an external influencer. You might also bring in an industry expert into this who wouldn’t call themselves an influencer, but just has really deep expertise in your particular area. And then you could invite one of your subject matter experts internally to be part of that discussion.

Now, the subject matter experts might not feel initially comfortable with putting themselves forward, but then they start speaking on a peer to peer level with the external influencers and they realize that they get on, they have a lot in common, they love the subject matter that they talk about. Guess what? That relationship continues on LinkedIn, Twitter, offline, on WhatsApp, like whatever form of communication that they have.

It’s really powerful when you can start transforming your content through the voice of your employees and external influencers.

If you think about that one example and you amplify that through all of your workforce, your employees are the biggest asset that any brand has. It’s really powerful when you can start transforming your content through the voice of your employees and external influencers. That’s what we describe as the kind of dream integrated advocacy model. In terms of actually making that happen, because some brands have 300,000 employees and across different business units, markets and languages, obviously it’s a massive transformation change. But I think if you look at them as different segments, you can activate them in different ways, that’s a really, really powerful operation.

B2B brands engage with influencers in different ways from event activations to content collaborations to advisory councils. What engagement trends are you seeing going into 2021?

Tim: I think you touched on something really interesting. The advisory role as an independent analyst is often a bit of a hidden fact within the marketplace. I know a lot of influencers that were asked to create some content, but then suddenly they’ve started writing strategy documents for really large brands about how they should tackle certain challenges or innovation within the marketplace. They’re kind of ghost writing a lot of the strategy of companies.

The advisory role as an independent analyst is often a bit of a hidden fact within the marketplace.

I found that really interesting and shocking because I thought that it was the actual company that was writing their own strategy, but then it was an influencers actually shaping that. But I thought it was really cool because some of these influencers have so much experience that they’re taking on different personas.

I do think that’s something that is changing. And I think that when we talk about influencers a lot of people think that we’re talking about just the professional influencers that work on a paid basis and they’re on a retainer sometimes. They’re great at creating content and they’ve got big social networks. We see that this is a much larger community of people from industry experts that would never call themselves influencers: the independent analysts, advisors, consultants. Then you’ve got the events speakers, key opinion leaders in the industry. That’s where things are evolving.

I don’t think people are in love with the word “influencer”.

I don’t think people are in love with the word “influencer”. I think it’s got a really bad rap from the B2C industry.  I think that influential experts is more where we’re trying to go, but there’s, there’s many different personas. So I think how brands are leveraging the different personas and who owns it as a brand is really the cause of key trends going forward.

Content is most often the output from influencer collaboration but subject matter experts are not always expert content creators and many B2B brands are not really pushing the boundaries of effective content formats either. What can B2B marketers do to better showcase the expertise of the influencers who have collaborated?

Tim: I think it’s a really good question. Some of the influencers are content creators and they’re specialists at that. So actually having an influencer interview some of the subject matter experts is one way in which brands haven’t leveraged that enough, I don’t think. It’s interesting who should interview each other because you see both forms of that.

People are fed up of advertising…people are just not in the mood for product being pushed down their throats.

I think that the trend that we’re seeing is that people are fed up of advertising. They’re fed up with brand generic messages. There’s just so much content even since the pandemic. The content has spiraled even more so. I think people are just not in the mood for product being pushed down their throats.

I think the subject matter experts are the people that can personalize the content and I think that brands are investing in the platform to help develop the social profiles of the subject matter experts. I’ve seen a big increase in investment into that. I don’t think there’s any shortcuts. I think it’s about enabling them to feel comfortable maybe in video, like sitting down in a more traditional way, but then translating that into social bite sized video content.

Subject matter experts have the expertise, they just don’t know how to translate that into wonderful sort of social communication channels.

I know that you do a lot of interactive and visual content. I think the subject matter experts have the expertise, they just don’t know how to translate that into wonderful sort of social communication channels. I think that’s the job of marketers and communications professionals to be able to connect those two together. I don’t see any magic wand. I don’t know whether you’ve got any ideas or what you see from TopRank.

Well, this is a problem we solve every day for companies. When a brand does make the effort to invest in high quality content from industry experts or industry influencers, they can take that content and make something the contributors will be proud of. Something so good it will inspire them to want to make it even more successful.  

Tim: Yeah, I completely completely agree with that. And obviously the end customer is what we’re all working to influence and impress. I think that the activation of subject matter experts comes down to behavioral psychology of whether they want to develop their profiles, what their fears are and how to motivate them.

I think what has changed is that a lot of topics execs or subject matter experts traditionally speak to 20 people in a room or 200 people or 10,000 people in a marquee event. Now they’re seeing that they can actually speak to 20,000 people every week through social.  I think that  takes a couple of examples to really get through. So they have that light bulb moment and I think marketers and communications professionals, if they can help them switch that light bulb on in their heads, then suddenly they will invest a bit more effort into the content that they put out on social.

What are you most optimistic about when it comes to influencer marketing?

Tim: I think one thing is personalized, relatable content. I have a massive passion to just break out of the boring B2B into the inspiring, personalized content. But to be able to do it in a way that doesn’t feel hard.

I am very passionate about bringing technology to solve problems. And I know that there is friction – it seems easy. Like we can just pick up the phone to five influencers, create some content and then a couple of weeks later, you should have some great content and it can be that easy.

But in reality, some brands take three or four months and struggled to get to that outcome. So what I’m passionate about is the quality of content to improve. And from a technology standpoint, we want to try and reduce the friction so that people can create this content. And it seems not as easy as paid media and hitting a button, but it doesn’t seem like it’s too much effort for them to start off.

To connect with Tim, you can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence B2B Influencer Marketing show interviews:

To better understand what hundreds of the top B2B marketers are doing to succeed at influencer marketing, including case studies featuring SAP, LinkedIn, Monday.com and Cherwell Software, be sure to check out the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report:

B2B Influencer Marketing Report 2020

The post Inside Influence 13: Tim Williams from Onalytica on Optimizing B2B Influencer Experiences appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Source: SEO blog

Inside Influence 12: Paul Dobson from Citrix on The Secret Sauce of B2B Influence: Authenticity

Paul Dobson Citrix

As with most marketing, there is no silver bullet to B2B influencer marketing but there are some essential best practices and strategies that have been proven time and time again. To uncover that secret sauce of working with B2B influencers, Episode 12 of the Inside Influence Show features Paul Dobson, Senior Director, Social and Influencer Marketing at Citrix.

In addition to a few highlights from the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing report, we discussed Paul’s experience working with influencers at Citrix as well as:

  • Where influencer marketing fits in the mix at Citrix
  • Tips on being great at influencer marketing for a B2B technology brand
  • Influencer Marketing vs. Influencer Relations
  • The impact of influencer marketing on customer experience
  • Advice on starting an influencer marketing program at a B2B brand
  • How to get executive buy-in to an influencer marketing program
  • How to decide which influencers to work with
  • Examples of influencer engagement
  • Opportunities to grow influence with B2B brand executives
  • How agencies can be most helpful to B2B brands with influencer marketing
  • Predictions of influencer marketing in 2021

See the full video interview of Inside Influence Episode 12 with Paul Dobson here:

Below is a highlight transcription of our discussion.

Tell us about your role at Citrix and where influencer marketing fits?

Paul: I’ve been on quite a journey through Citrix. I started off in the PR side of things. So, to some extent I’ve always been working with with influencers. The media, then went into analyst relations, so the Gartners and Forresters of the world and now social and influencer influencer marketing as well. I really enjoy this aspect of my role and, you know, sitting in corporate communications means getting good exposure to a range of influencers that have gotten me here in my career. Being head of social media means that I also have a lot closer ties to the marketing organization and how we execute that. So it’s really the best of both worlds as far as I’m concerned.

Influencer marketing is an interesting split sometimes between PR and comms or marketing. You seem to be in a sweet spot.

Paul: Absolutely. So it’s kind of interesting the way that we’re approaching marketing, et cetera now is we’re really evolving it somewhat. The barriers between the teams are starting to break down a little bit more effectively. We’re really forming pods and tiger teams around certain campaigns and projects. It helps to be able to understand what’s going on elsewhere and it is a real sweet spot because obviously the influence has come from many pools, not just a traditional B2B influencers.

In the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, you were named as one of the top 20 influencer marketing professionals. What does it take to be at the top of your game when it comes to B2B marketing? With influencer marketing?

Paul: It’s an interesting question because I think as far as influencers are concerned, everything has to come back to the corporate strategy and what you’re trying to achieve with what you’re doing with influencers. Everything has to go back to that when you’re designing your program. For us, it was reaching out and attracting new audiences.

I’ll talk about HR as one audience which is not a typical audience for an enterprise B2B technology company. We wanted to showcase our technology in a very different way that correlated with market trends around something called employee experience. And that’s very important when we’re all sitting at home and working and still trying to do our jobs.

Part of the benefit of working with influencers is that they have a different lens on what’s happening in the world and what’s happening with your company.

So, think about what the corporate goals are and then try and work out what you want the influencers to be able to do. For us, it was social amplification to a certain degree, reaching their audiences with content that we’re working on together, presenting at events when events still existed and potentially may exist again in the future, and then content generation as well.

Part of the benefit of working with influencers is that they have a different lens on what’s happening in the world and what’s happening with your company. You’re giving a different perspective to your audience as well as, as their audiences. That’s how we, in a nutshell, started off with the program and then developed and grown from there.

What are you most excited about when it comes to working with influencers?

Paul: It still is super exciting. I mean, I’ve been working with influencers now for over 20 years, so it’s most definitely something that gets me out of bed in the morning.

To the point we were talking about earlier on, your personal career is your own. It shapes how you think and how you react in certain situations. And as a marketer you end up responding, probably subconsciously, to a situation based on those experiences that you’ve had.

The best influencer campaigns come from the sparring that goes on between what they think and what you think.

But collaborating with influencers to me means that you’re able to temper that to a certain degree and the best influencer campaigns, in my view, come from the sparring that goes on between what they think and what you think. And then it kind of comes out to be something in the middle. It helps you grow as a person in your career.

What I love most about working with influencers is the kind of range of “aha” moments that you have as you go along. And you work with them to form and build campaigns. Because the plans that you start off with, they kind of wiggle a bit. But you get there in the end and they change ever so slightly based on the interactions that you have with your influencers.

What’s your preference:  influencer marketing or influencer relations?

Paul: Most definitely, I would say influence relations. You have to build the relationship with your team of influencers in order to do effective influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing is a subset of influencer relations because without the relationship, it just becomes a series of tactical campaigns.

Influencer marketing is a subset of influencer relations because without the relationship, it just becomes a series of tactical campaigns involving somebody else, other than people in your organization. Being able to build out and bring relationships with influencers means it can go anywhere and you can come up with things that you possibly wouldn’t even thought about before.

You talked about the value of relationships and our research study showed that 12 times more marketers cited themselves as being very successful with their influencer marketing that ran always on programs, relationship-driven programs versus those that were doing intermittent campaigns. So there’s ROI in those relationships.

Paul: I also think that when you build a degree of familiarity for your audience with the influencers that you’re working with, there’s a certain comfort that they get from recognizing the people that you work with and the information and the insights that you bring. We’re starting in 2021 to incorporate our influencers, not only in the awareness elements, but also further down the funnel as well to make sure that people see them as their journey goes on.

Our research discovered that 77% of B2B marketers say that their prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts and 74% agree that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experience with the brand.  Do you find this kind of optimism with Citrix?

Paul: I would definitely agree with that. There have been a couple of instances where our influencer program has helped us resonate more with certain audiences that we’re trying to connect with. It’s reduced the amount of time that would take to strike a chord with a certain audience and build appeal with those audiences that we don’t necessarily have a natural affinity with.

It [Influencer Marketing] has reduced the amount of time that would take to strike a chord with a certain audience and build appeal with those audiences that we don’t necessarily have a natural affinity with.

I don’t have the statistics in hand, but our brand tracker shows that with a specific audience, we had a much higher unaided recognition in 2020 than we did in 2019. So, it’s a great way of building our brand with new and existing audiences.  As we become more of a use case focused organization versus pushing product, getting out those use cases and having them explained with a slightly different lens with that third party voice is very valuable to give that viewpoint to our customers.

It’s proving to be very important. I think the customer events that we had in the Fall, were an example of where we were able to leverage influencers to really give that additional lens to our consumers.

Based on your experience with influencer marketing at Citrix what advice can you share for other B2B marketers who are thinking of starting their own program?

Paul: So, interesting question. When we started off our formal influencer program above and beyond what we were doing with the press and with the analysts, what we were thinking about is what we were trying to achieve and what our corporate and marketing goals were going to be. For us it was about reaching out to new audiences, showcasing our technology in a way that really correlated with the trends in the market, and educating senior level executives. Traditionally, our technology was seen as a very enterprise and kind of in the guts of the organization. We wanted to make sure that they were aware of the benefits of the technology that they, in some cases, had already bought.

That’s one thing that really shaped the content aspects of what we were trying to do. Then we wanted to think about when it came to the engagement with the influencer team. We had three things in mind, which was presenting at events virtual or otherwise, creating content and social amplification.

When it comes to the execution, think about what it is that you want your influencers to do, Maybe something experiential as where you’re going from your organization. Those were the three pillars that we started off with.

Don’t build a team of like 20 influencers because if you’re trying to build a relationship with 20 people all in one go it’s, it’s not going to be the easiest thing to do.

I think also it’s important to not go out too hard with influencers. Don’t build a team of like 20 influencers because if you’re trying to build a relationship with 20 people all in one go it’s, it’s not going to be the easiest thing to do.

We started off with a program of five to get them off the ground and get really strong results and demonstrate the results that we could build the program on and ask for more funding. Then we wanted to hone in on the areas that we felt were most appropriate for us.

The strongest relationships come from the interplay between your in-house team of influencer relations managers and the team of influencers that you build for the benefit of your organization.

The final piece of advice I would give as you get up and running is not to be too prescriptive. I think we talked about some of this before our discussion, the strongest relationships come from the interplay between your in-house team of influencer relations managers and the team of influencers that you build for the benefit of your organization.

So, there’s gotta be something in it for the the influencers as well. They need to build their business and their brand as much as you need to build your business and your brand. Otherwise, I think you end up with cookie cutter, corporate marketing campaigns and activities that are presented through the lens of the influencer.  I don’t see the value in necessarily using them as a direct corporate mouthpiece. The value comes from the breadth and variety of opinions and views.

To connect with Paul, you can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence B2B Influencer Marketing show interviews:

To better understand what hundreds of the top B2B marketers are doing to succeed at influencer marketing, including case studies featuring SAP, LinkedIn, Monday.com and Cherwell Software, be sure to check out the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report:

B2B Influencer Marketing Report 2020

Inside Influence 12: Paul Dobson from Citrix on The Secret Sauce of B2B Influence: Authenticity

Paul Dobson Citrix

Paul Dobson Citrix

As with most marketing, there is no silver bullet to B2B influencer marketing but there are some essential best practices and strategies that have been proven time and time again. To uncover that secret sauce of working with B2B influencers, Episode 12 of the Inside Influence Show features Paul Dobson, Senior Director, Social and Influencer Marketing at Citrix.

In addition to a few highlights from the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing report, we discussed Paul’s experience working with influencers at Citrix as well as:

  • Where influencer marketing fits in the mix at Citrix
  • Tips on being great at influencer marketing for a B2B technology brand
  • Influencer Marketing vs. Influencer Relations
  • The impact of influencer marketing on customer experience
  • Advice on starting an influencer marketing program at a B2B brand
  • How to get executive buy-in to an influencer marketing program
  • How to decide which influencers to work with
  • Examples of influencer engagement
  • Opportunities to grow influence with B2B brand executives
  • How agencies can be most helpful to B2B brands with influencer marketing
  • Predictions of influencer marketing in 2021

See the full video interview of Inside Influence Episode 12 with Paul Dobson here:

Below is a highlight transcription of our discussion.

Tell us about your role at Citrix and where influencer marketing fits?

Paul: I’ve been on quite a journey through Citrix. I started off in the PR side of things. So, to some extent I’ve always been working with with influencers. The media, then went into analyst relations, so the Gartners and Forresters of the world and now social and influencer influencer marketing as well. I really enjoy this aspect of my role and, you know, sitting in corporate communications means getting good exposure to a range of influencers that have gotten me here in my career. Being head of social media means that I also have a lot closer ties to the marketing organization and how we execute that. So it’s really the best of both worlds as far as I’m concerned.

Influencer marketing is an interesting split sometimes between PR and comms or marketing. You seem to be in a sweet spot.

Paul: Absolutely. So it’s kind of interesting the way that we’re approaching marketing, et cetera now is we’re really evolving it somewhat. The barriers between the teams are starting to break down a little bit more effectively. We’re really forming pods and tiger teams around certain campaigns and projects. It helps to be able to understand what’s going on elsewhere and it is a real sweet spot because obviously the influence has come from many pools, not just a traditional B2B influencers.

In the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, you were named as one of the top 20 influencer marketing professionals. What does it take to be at the top of your game when it comes to B2B marketing? With influencer marketing?

Paul: It’s an interesting question because I think as far as influencers are concerned, everything has to come back to the corporate strategy and what you’re trying to achieve with what you’re doing with influencers. Everything has to go back to that when you’re designing your program. For us, it was reaching out and attracting new audiences.

I’ll talk about HR as one audience which is not a typical audience for an enterprise B2B technology company. We wanted to showcase our technology in a very different way that correlated with market trends around something called employee experience. And that’s very important when we’re all sitting at home and working and still trying to do our jobs.

Part of the benefit of working with influencers is that they have a different lens on what’s happening in the world and what’s happening with your company.

So, think about what the corporate goals are and then try and work out what you want the influencers to be able to do. For us, it was social amplification to a certain degree, reaching their audiences with content that we’re working on together, presenting at events when events still existed and potentially may exist again in the future, and then content generation as well.

Part of the benefit of working with influencers is that they have a different lens on what’s happening in the world and what’s happening with your company. You’re giving a different perspective to your audience as well as, as their audiences. That’s how we, in a nutshell, started off with the program and then developed and grown from there.

What are you most excited about when it comes to working with influencers?

Paul: It still is super exciting. I mean, I’ve been working with influencers now for over 20 years, so it’s most definitely something that gets me out of bed in the morning.

To the point we were talking about earlier on, your personal career is your own. It shapes how you think and how you react in certain situations. And as a marketer you end up responding, probably subconsciously, to a situation based on those experiences that you’ve had.

The best influencer campaigns come from the sparring that goes on between what they think and what you think.

But collaborating with influencers to me means that you’re able to temper that to a certain degree and the best influencer campaigns, in my view, come from the sparring that goes on between what they think and what you think. And then it kind of comes out to be something in the middle. It helps you grow as a person in your career.

What I love most about working with influencers is the kind of range of “aha” moments that you have as you go along. And you work with them to form and build campaigns. Because the plans that you start off with, they kind of wiggle a bit. But you get there in the end and they change ever so slightly based on the interactions that you have with your influencers.

What’s your preference:  influencer marketing or influencer relations?

Paul: Most definitely, I would say influence relations. You have to build the relationship with your team of influencers in order to do effective influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing is a subset of influencer relations because without the relationship, it just becomes a series of tactical campaigns.

Influencer marketing is a subset of influencer relations because without the relationship, it just becomes a series of tactical campaigns involving somebody else, other than people in your organization. Being able to build out and bring relationships with influencers means it can go anywhere and you can come up with things that you possibly wouldn’t even thought about before.

You talked about the value of relationships and our research study showed that 12 times more marketers cited themselves as being very successful with their influencer marketing that ran always on programs, relationship-driven programs versus those that were doing intermittent campaigns. So there’s ROI in those relationships.

Paul: I also think that when you build a degree of familiarity for your audience with the influencers that you’re working with, there’s a certain comfort that they get from recognizing the people that you work with and the information and the insights that you bring. We’re starting in 2021 to incorporate our influencers, not only in the awareness elements, but also further down the funnel as well to make sure that people see them as their journey goes on.

Our research discovered that 77% of B2B marketers say that their prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts and 74% agree that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experience with the brand.  Do you find this kind of optimism with Citrix?

Paul: I would definitely agree with that. There have been a couple of instances where our influencer program has helped us resonate more with certain audiences that we’re trying to connect with. It’s reduced the amount of time that would take to strike a chord with a certain audience and build appeal with those audiences that we don’t necessarily have a natural affinity with.

It [Influencer Marketing] has reduced the amount of time that would take to strike a chord with a certain audience and build appeal with those audiences that we don’t necessarily have a natural affinity with.

I don’t have the statistics in hand, but our brand tracker shows that with a specific audience, we had a much higher unaided recognition in 2020 than we did in 2019. So, it’s a great way of building our brand with new and existing audiences.  As we become more of a use case focused organization versus pushing product, getting out those use cases and having them explained with a slightly different lens with that third party voice is very valuable to give that viewpoint to our customers.

It’s proving to be very important. I think the customer events that we had in the Fall, were an example of where we were able to leverage influencers to really give that additional lens to our consumers.

Based on your experience with influencer marketing at Citrix what advice can you share for other B2B marketers who are thinking of starting their own program?

Paul: So, interesting question. When we started off our formal influencer program above and beyond what we were doing with the press and with the analysts, what we were thinking about is what we were trying to achieve and what our corporate and marketing goals were going to be. For us it was about reaching out to new audiences, showcasing our technology in a way that really correlated with the trends in the market, and educating senior level executives. Traditionally, our technology was seen as a very enterprise and kind of in the guts of the organization. We wanted to make sure that they were aware of the benefits of the technology that they, in some cases, had already bought.

That’s one thing that really shaped the content aspects of what we were trying to do. Then we wanted to think about when it came to the engagement with the influencer team. We had three things in mind, which was presenting at events virtual or otherwise, creating content and social amplification.

When it comes to the execution, think about what it is that you want your influencers to do, Maybe something experiential as where you’re going from your organization. Those were the three pillars that we started off with.

Don’t build a team of like 20 influencers because if you’re trying to build a relationship with 20 people all in one go it’s, it’s not going to be the easiest thing to do.

I think also it’s important to not go out too hard with influencers. Don’t build a team of like 20 influencers because if you’re trying to build a relationship with 20 people all in one go it’s, it’s not going to be the easiest thing to do.

We started off with a program of five to get them off the ground and get really strong results and demonstrate the results that we could build the program on and ask for more funding. Then we wanted to hone in on the areas that we felt were most appropriate for us.

The strongest relationships come from the interplay between your in-house team of influencer relations managers and the team of influencers that you build for the benefit of your organization.

The final piece of advice I would give as you get up and running is not to be too prescriptive. I think we talked about some of this before our discussion, the strongest relationships come from the interplay between your in-house team of influencer relations managers and the team of influencers that you build for the benefit of your organization.

So, there’s gotta be something in it for the the influencers as well. They need to build their business and their brand as much as you need to build your business and your brand. Otherwise, I think you end up with cookie cutter, corporate marketing campaigns and activities that are presented through the lens of the influencer.  I don’t see the value in necessarily using them as a direct corporate mouthpiece. The value comes from the breadth and variety of opinions and views.

To connect with Paul, you can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence B2B Influencer Marketing show interviews:

To better understand what hundreds of the top B2B marketers are doing to succeed at influencer marketing, including case studies featuring SAP, LinkedIn, Monday.com and Cherwell Software, be sure to check out the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report:

B2B Influencer Marketing Report 2020

The post Inside Influence 12: Paul Dobson from Citrix on The Secret Sauce of B2B Influence: Authenticity appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Source: SEO blog

Inside Influence 11: Marshall Kirkpatrick from Sprinklr on Elevating B2B Content with Influencers

Marshall Kirkpatrick Sprinklr

Without question the digital age we live in is marked by remarkable advancements as well as ease of information creation, distribution and proliferation. As they say, we live in an age of information overload. What can B2B marketers do to stand out? Simply create more “useful content”?

For 2021 and beyond, the bar for stand out B2B marketing is much higher than utility. Our guest, Marshall Kirkpatrick on episode 11 of the Inside Influence Show featuring B2B Marketing Insiders, has some smart insights on how influence can play a role in creating symphonic thinking and connecting the dots between the kinds of insights buyers are attracted to, that drive engagement and action.

Marshall is the founder of Twitter influencer platform Little Bird which was acquired by Sprinklr where he is now Vice President of Influencer Relations, Analyst Relations, and Competitive Intelligence.

During our talk, we covered highlights of the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, some important topics for B2B marketers that want to better understand the role of influence in B2B marketing including:

  • Marshall’s evolution from the first blogger at TechCrunch to founder of Little Bird to VP at Sprinklr
  • How Dan Pink’s Symphonic Thinking translates to being a B2B influencer marketing thought leader
  • Insights into working with B2B influencers
  • B2B influencer activations that actually work
  • Opportunities for B2B brand executives to build influence
  • How to unlock influencer potential from executives who are not natural to social engagement
  • Advice on outsourcing an influencer marketing effort with consultants or agencies
  • What’s most exciting about B2B and influencer marketing in 2021

See the full interview with Marshall Kirkpatrick, check out the Inside Influence Episode 11 video below:

Below is a highlight transcription of our discussion.

You are an OG when it comes to influencer marketing. Can you share with us a little about your experience starting Little Bird and how you got to Sprinklr?

Marshall: My background is actually in blogging first and foremost. I was a tech blogger covering startups and ended up using tools to break news stories and was the first blogger ever hired over at TechCrunch.

I saw in that experience that when you’re in an influential position online, people bring you a lot of information. Lots of startups were always coming to us and saying, “Oh, look at this cool new thing. Here’s my perspective on the market.” And that was really an educational experience for me. And so, as I developed in my blogging career, I wanted to start looking around to find other influential people who were also receiving a lot of inbound information so that I could know who to watch and listen to in order to break news stories quickly and learn through watching them.

I wanted to start looking around to find other influential people who were also receiving a lot of inbound information so that I could know who to watch and listen to in order to break news stories quickly and learn through watching them.

So I built some research tools for discovering the most credible experts, the most influential people in any industry that I was covering as a journalist and in time ended up productizing some of those lessons learned in the form of a startup that we named LittleBird. LittleBird ran for five years and it did exactly what I was looking for as a journalist for marketers.

It said, let’s find the people in your target market that are being followed by the largest number of other experts and specialists in a particular field. So, especially good for B2B.

It focused on discovery, so five years after we founded it, LittleBird was acquired by Sprinkler, which is now the world’s leading customer experience management platform. Born of social listening, the technology listened to the keywords and people’s content in order for brands to manage relationships with customers and crises and opportunities. It was a really good marriage of our small startup that specialized in discovering experts and influencers and now this whole big suite of tools for actionability that Sprinkler has built in social listening and beyond social now as well.

It’s just a perfect fit for it. I’m not working on the product anymore. LittleBird has been turned off now for some time, but I get to see emails come through about big new deals with global brands that have purchased a wide swath of different sprinkler capabilities and products. Quite often I get to see in that announcement and included in the deal was Sprinkler influencer marketing and I got to feel some pride as a result of that.

In the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, you were named as one of the top 20 influencer marketing professionals. What does it take to be at the top of your game when it comes to B2B influencer marketing?

Marshall: I think that part of the challenge is that sharing valuable, interesting information in a time of information overload is tough because there’s no shortage of information out there. And the bar is quite high to rise above the noise. The way that I go about that is by engaging in a lot of what Dan Pink calls, symphonic thinking, where he says that in the emerging economy that we live in, one of the most valuable ways for knowledge workers to generate value is through symphonic thinking or the creation of connections between seemingly disparate people and ideas and initiatives.

One of the most valuable ways for knowledge workers to generate value is through symphonic thinking or the creation of connections between seemingly disparate people and ideas and initiatives.

When you create a connection between things, it’s like you light up a circuit and it’s a really generative kind of process. So I make a conscious effort to form connections between people and concepts and topics.

Furthermore, in order to do that one layer lower, I build systems to deliver a stream of interesting things to connect to one another. So, in addition to using Sprinkler to listen to thought leaders and conversations and all kinds of different industries, one of my favorite new tools is I’ve got a Twitter list that I maintain of just amazing, fascinating people. And I don’t just watch all of their tweets. Instead, I have bookmarked the search results page for a search inside of that list of people for any time they use the words, amazing, new, innovation or learning. It’s just a steady stream of amazing new, innovative things being learned by amazing, innovative people.

It’s a really high signal to noise ratio of a stream of information because of the care put into the source selection and then the creation of the interface. It’s like a little conveyor belt of amazing things to pick up and connect to other things on to try to generate value.

What are you most excited about when it comes to working with influencers?

Marshall: Well, for me, it still comes back to the same themes around discovery. I’m a very awe driven person and I find that really influential people, especially in B2B, are a constant source of awe for me.

One of my favorite examples is some work that I’ve done recently with John Hagel who was, by our metric when he worked at Deloitte, the most connected guy in all of Deloitte, the giant consulting firm, an incredible organization. In a social graph analysis of Deloitte people on Twitter in particular, he was the Deloitte person most followed by other Deloitte people. So you want to follow that guy, right? So I sure did.

I spent hours and hours reading John Hagel content: reading his blog posts, reading his books. And then I produced a podcast with him. The podcast was really fun and it was really nice to get to connect with him face-to-face. Then I created some derivative content based on that podcast. Then he went and he shared it out with his whole network of people.

The part of that process that has driven the most business value for us as well as been most exciting for me, was the very first step in the process when I was spending hours and hours reading John Hagel content.

But the part of that process that has driven the most business value for us as well as been most exciting for me, was the very first step in the process when I was spending hours and hours reading John Hagel content. That put all of his experience and knowledge and insights into my head s0 that I could deploy entirely behind the scenes at work and connect it to other projects and other initiatives that we have going on publicly and privately. That’s really where the lion’s share of value was available from. The advocacy that occurred in the end was overshadowed by all the business value available just from reading his work.

What are the characteristics that make a great B2B influencer?

Marshall: That’s a question that I have explored in a lot of different ways over my career. Currently, my standard or my criteria are three:

First, I look for people that have influence. Not just generally, not even just inside of my industry or our target market, but specifically for people who have influence with our existing customers and people like our customers. We’ve got a quantitative way that we can make that assessment. I pull out that yardstick whenever I consider engaging with an influencer. At Sprinkler it works really well.

It really requires a good amount of emotional energy invested to cultivate these relationships over time and keep them moving forward, if you want to make them authentic and sincere.

The second thing that I look for are people who are smart, that I feel like I can learn from. Because otherwise it’s easy to kind of peter out. It really requires a good amount of emotional energy invested to cultivate these relationships over time and keep them moving forward, if you want to make them authentic and sincere. And especially if you’re perhaps working with a more modest budget and it’s not just a big transactional kind of thing.

And the last thing that I look for are people that I like, because if I don’t like someone, then it’s not going to be much fun to work with them. And I want it to be fun. That ends up being the most effective work.

So once you find an influencer and you’ve defined what it is you’re looking for, what is it that you do with them? What do your activations with influencers look like?

Marshall: I’ve taken a lot of different forms. I’d say that one of the most heavyweight plays that are in our playbook has been a combination of a webinar, blog post and then private advisory phone call where we have anyone on our staff that wants to come and participate in a private phone call with one of these influencers, come and ask questions off the record and learn from their experience. You get the demand gen from the webinar and the blog post and then the more foundational value from the private advisory phone call.

One of the most heavyweight plays that are in our [influencer activation] playbook has been a combination of a webinar, blog post and then private advisory phone call.

I am very sympathetic to Forester’s perspective when they say that the most savvy brands in influencer marketing are not looking to influencers for reach because often that ends up in disappointment. But where influencers really shine is their ability to create high quality, high relevance content that breaks through the noise of this era of information overload. When coupled with paid media, then you’ve got a really awesome combination. It really works well when the brand brings the budget for the reach and the influencer is the source of the high quality, authentic, high relevance content.

That’s probably the most heavyweight of capabilities or plays in the playbook. But I do a lot of small stuff as well.

Yesterday I was watching some teammates prepare a presentation for the analyst firm, Gartner. I was providing some feedback on their presentation and watching which parts of the platform they were emphasizing, more or less. During a break I went and I opened up my list of amazing things mentioned by amazing people and Dion Hinchcliffe had posted a link to a survey that he had just published the results of, that said the number one thing that CIO’s are looking for today, especially in the pandemic around digital transformation, is a combination of automation and workflow management.

I thought that was really interesting because there was a big component of that in the Sprinkler story that we were preparing to tell Gartner. So I took that and went immediately inside the company and said, Hey folks, let’s elevate that part of the story. It’s really on trend right now and we’ve got a strong story to tell.

My favorite kind of influencer engagement: a kind of earned media and learning focused engagement that can be pretty lightweight [effort].

So thank you Dion, an influencer for that information. Then I re-shared that post of his publicly and some other folks then came in and engaged and affirmed that they had similar perspectives and I continued to learn and get more data points. And Dion came back and said, thank you so much for sharing it. And our relationship took another step forward.

Over the years, I’ve just learned so much from Dion. That’s my favorite kind of influencer engagement: a kind of earned media and learning focused engagement that can be pretty lightweight.

While much of influencer marketing has been focused on external experts, there are many opportunities for B2B brands to grow influence from within. What’s your take on opportunities to build brand executive influence?

Marshall: I think there’s a lot of opportunity for it. And yet, it’s a challenge for the ages. It is something that I think many of us have aspired to unlock for a long time for the executives that work at the companies. It is a great opportunity because so many of those executive leaders have tons of contact with customers and many times they’re great storytellers. They spent a lot of time with customers, they interface with other executive leaders and so are really efficient, high impact communicators.

[Executive influence] is a great opportunity because so many of those executive leaders have tons of contact with customers and many times they’re great storytellers.

The challenge I think, is finding ways to tap into that executive insight and flow of knowledge and access to information, much of which can’t be shared publicly. Some of it can and it requires a different sort of muscle memory, a different kind of workflow and often multiple sets of hands to help say, “Hey, let’s remember, let’s go unlock some of those stories that we get to hear, you know, in company meetings. Uh, let’s, let’s find some that are appropriate to share publicly because they’re such incredible stories.”

I know that’s the case for our executives at Sprinklr. The stories that we get to here inside the company walls are just amazing. The giant brands that we get to help solve really interesting problems for. When we’re able to reference those, either named or blinded, and do so publicly, they’re just great stories. They’re the kind of content that rises above so much in a world of information overload.

In the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, we found that the things B2B marketers outsource most often to agencies include: identifying influencers, managing relationships, developing strategy and measuring effectiveness. What have you found to be most useful when it comes to using outside help?

Marshall: We have been the outside resource a fair amount ourselves as a search technology on, uh, uh, management technology. And then we do a lot of our own internal influencer relations. I am real happy to do that for ourselves, but many times when working with brands that don’t have that experience or talent in-house, especially for the relationship cultivation and the practical management, well, frankly I refer them to you and your organization.

You’ve done an incredible job of building brand equity and a demonstrated track record of success around that. I don’t know anyone who has come close to the kind of thought leadership and track record of success that you and the folks that TopRank Marketing have. So congratulations on that.

I appreciate that. It’s a great team and that’s where the magic happens.

I guess I would just suggest that people find good partners to work with and do it in a way that helps build your own capacity and learning instead of just outsourcing it.

Find good partners to work with and do it in a way that helps build your own capacity and learning instead of just outsourcing it.

It makes me think about something that Jean bliss says when she advises executives that are thinking about taking jobs in customer experience, but I think it’s good advice for almost any field. She says, when you go and you talk to a company about leading their customer experience, you should speak to the other leaders at the company and see how they talk about customer experience. Is it something that’s everyone’s job and that they are going to partner with you on? Or is it something that they’re going to outsource to you and then wash their hands of?

Because you really want to avoid being in that latter situation. You want to look for those partnership types of organizations where everyone is going to be participating and up-leveling their skills as they do, even though it’s one person’s bottom line responsibility. I just love that model.

What has you excited most when it comes to opportunities with influencer marketing in 2021 and beyond?

Marshall: I’ll tell you one thing inside of our company on one thing outside of our company.

I’m really excited about some of the new research and analytics capabilities that are being built inside of Sprinklr on top of influencer discovery in order to get early high quality insights into topics of interest to influencers and their communities.

Everybody says that they do artificial intelligence and machine learning, but Sprinklr has been doing a gargantuan amount of artificial intelligence for almost 10 years now.

Everybody says that they do artificial intelligence and machine learning, but Sprinklr has been doing a gargantuan amount of artificial intelligence for almost 10 years now and so has a really deep corpus of knowledge about a bunch of different, specific industry verticals. That means that we can discern what’s going on in conversations, especially in B2B, faster and better than any other source when monitoring influencers or discussions at large. So I’m excited about that.

For me personally and outside of the company context, I think this is a pretty nerdy answer, but I’m really excited about taking my notes from reading and learning from influencers and putting them into a startup called Rome research.

Rome is a note-taking app for networked thoughts. It’s a place where every note that you take is linked out to every page across the corpus of your notes, where the same words appear. It makes it really easy to jump from reference to reference of interrelated thoughts. And it’s just wonderful.

So, the incorporation of enterprise class influencer discovery and listening and understanding with last mile, human in the loop discernment of key lessons learned and insights and perspectives and filing that away in a note-taking system that gets automatically linked up to all the related notes from other influencers and other readings on that given topic, creates what some people call a second brain. It’s the ability to, upon reflecting on any topic, snap your fingers and say, Show me all of the things that I have read and take a note of on this topic, and put them all in one place, allow me to filter them, et cetera. I’m excited about unlocking more value from that this year.

To connect with Marshall, you can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence B2B Influencer Marketing interviews:

To better understand what hundreds of the top B2B marketers are doing to succeed at influencer marketing, be sure to check out the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report here:

B2B Influencer Marketing Report 2020

Inside Influence 11: Marshall Kirkpatrick from Sprinklr on Elevating B2B Content with Influencers

Marshall Kirkpatrick Sprinklr

Marshall Kirkpatrick Sprinklr

Without question the digital age we live in is marked by remarkable advancements as well as ease of information creation, distribution and proliferation. As they say, we live in an age of information overload. What can B2B marketers do to stand out? Simply create more “useful content”?

For 2021 and beyond, the bar for stand out B2B marketing is much higher than utility. Our guest, Marshall Kirkpatrick on episode 11 of the Inside Influence Show featuring B2B Marketing Insiders, has some smart insights on how influence can play a role in creating symphonic thinking and connecting the dots between the kinds of insights buyers are attracted to, that drive engagement and action.

Marshall is the founder of Twitter influencer platform Little Bird which was acquired by Sprinklr where he is now Vice President of Influencer Relations, Analyst Relations, and Competitive Intelligence.

During our talk, we covered highlights of the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, some important topics for B2B marketers that want to better understand the role of influence in B2B marketing including:

  • Marshall’s evolution from the first blogger at TechCrunch to founder of Little Bird to VP at Sprinklr
  • How Dan Pink’s Symphonic Thinking translates to being a B2B influencer marketing thought leader
  • Insights into working with B2B influencers
  • B2B influencer activations that actually work
  • Opportunities for B2B brand executives to build influence
  • How to unlock influencer potential from executives who are not natural to social engagement
  • Advice on outsourcing an influencer marketing effort with consultants or agencies
  • What’s most exciting about B2B and influencer marketing in 2021

See the full interview with Marshall Kirkpatrick, check out the Inside Influence Episode 11 video below:

Below is a highlight transcription of our discussion.

You are an OG when it comes to influencer marketing. Can you share with us a little about your experience starting Little Bird and how you got to Sprinklr?

Marshall: My background is actually in blogging first and foremost. I was a tech blogger covering startups and ended up using tools to break news stories and was the first blogger ever hired over at TechCrunch.

I saw in that experience that when you’re in an influential position online, people bring you a lot of information. Lots of startups were always coming to us and saying, “Oh, look at this cool new thing. Here’s my perspective on the market.” And that was really an educational experience for me. And so, as I developed in my blogging career, I wanted to start looking around to find other influential people who were also receiving a lot of inbound information so that I could know who to watch and listen to in order to break news stories quickly and learn through watching them.

I wanted to start looking around to find other influential people who were also receiving a lot of inbound information so that I could know who to watch and listen to in order to break news stories quickly and learn through watching them.

So I built some research tools for discovering the most credible experts, the most influential people in any industry that I was covering as a journalist and in time ended up productizing some of those lessons learned in the form of a startup that we named LittleBird. LittleBird ran for five years and it did exactly what I was looking for as a journalist for marketers.

It said, let’s find the people in your target market that are being followed by the largest number of other experts and specialists in a particular field. So, especially good for B2B.

It focused on discovery, so five years after we founded it, LittleBird was acquired by Sprinkler, which is now the world’s leading customer experience management platform. Born of social listening, the technology listened to the keywords and people’s content in order for brands to manage relationships with customers and crises and opportunities. It was a really good marriage of our small startup that specialized in discovering experts and influencers and now this whole big suite of tools for actionability that Sprinkler has built in social listening and beyond social now as well.

It’s just a perfect fit for it. I’m not working on the product anymore. LittleBird has been turned off now for some time, but I get to see emails come through about big new deals with global brands that have purchased a wide swath of different sprinkler capabilities and products. Quite often I get to see in that announcement and included in the deal was Sprinkler influencer marketing and I got to feel some pride as a result of that.

In the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, you were named as one of the top 20 influencer marketing professionals. What does it take to be at the top of your game when it comes to B2B influencer marketing?

Marshall: I think that part of the challenge is that sharing valuable, interesting information in a time of information overload is tough because there’s no shortage of information out there. And the bar is quite high to rise above the noise. The way that I go about that is by engaging in a lot of what Dan Pink calls, symphonic thinking, where he says that in the emerging economy that we live in, one of the most valuable ways for knowledge workers to generate value is through symphonic thinking or the creation of connections between seemingly disparate people and ideas and initiatives.

One of the most valuable ways for knowledge workers to generate value is through symphonic thinking or the creation of connections between seemingly disparate people and ideas and initiatives.

When you create a connection between things, it’s like you light up a circuit and it’s a really generative kind of process. So I make a conscious effort to form connections between people and concepts and topics.

Furthermore, in order to do that one layer lower, I build systems to deliver a stream of interesting things to connect to one another. So, in addition to using Sprinkler to listen to thought leaders and conversations and all kinds of different industries, one of my favorite new tools is I’ve got a Twitter list that I maintain of just amazing, fascinating people. And I don’t just watch all of their tweets. Instead, I have bookmarked the search results page for a search inside of that list of people for any time they use the words, amazing, new, innovation or learning. It’s just a steady stream of amazing new, innovative things being learned by amazing, innovative people.

It’s a really high signal to noise ratio of a stream of information because of the care put into the source selection and then the creation of the interface. It’s like a little conveyor belt of amazing things to pick up and connect to other things on to try to generate value.

What are you most excited about when it comes to working with influencers?

Marshall: Well, for me, it still comes back to the same themes around discovery. I’m a very awe driven person and I find that really influential people, especially in B2B, are a constant source of awe for me.

One of my favorite examples is some work that I’ve done recently with John Hagel who was, by our metric when he worked at Deloitte, the most connected guy in all of Deloitte, the giant consulting firm, an incredible organization. In a social graph analysis of Deloitte people on Twitter in particular, he was the Deloitte person most followed by other Deloitte people. So you want to follow that guy, right? So I sure did.

I spent hours and hours reading John Hagel content: reading his blog posts, reading his books. And then I produced a podcast with him. The podcast was really fun and it was really nice to get to connect with him face-to-face. Then I created some derivative content based on that podcast. Then he went and he shared it out with his whole network of people.

The part of that process that has driven the most business value for us as well as been most exciting for me, was the very first step in the process when I was spending hours and hours reading John Hagel content.

But the part of that process that has driven the most business value for us as well as been most exciting for me, was the very first step in the process when I was spending hours and hours reading John Hagel content. That put all of his experience and knowledge and insights into my head s0 that I could deploy entirely behind the scenes at work and connect it to other projects and other initiatives that we have going on publicly and privately. That’s really where the lion’s share of value was available from. The advocacy that occurred in the end was overshadowed by all the business value available just from reading his work.

What are the characteristics that make a great B2B influencer?

Marshall: That’s a question that I have explored in a lot of different ways over my career. Currently, my standard or my criteria are three:

First, I look for people that have influence. Not just generally, not even just inside of my industry or our target market, but specifically for people who have influence with our existing customers and people like our customers. We’ve got a quantitative way that we can make that assessment. I pull out that yardstick whenever I consider engaging with an influencer. At Sprinkler it works really well.

It really requires a good amount of emotional energy invested to cultivate these relationships over time and keep them moving forward, if you want to make them authentic and sincere.

The second thing that I look for are people who are smart, that I feel like I can learn from. Because otherwise it’s easy to kind of peter out. It really requires a good amount of emotional energy invested to cultivate these relationships over time and keep them moving forward, if you want to make them authentic and sincere. And especially if you’re perhaps working with a more modest budget and it’s not just a big transactional kind of thing.

And the last thing that I look for are people that I like, because if I don’t like someone, then it’s not going to be much fun to work with them. And I want it to be fun. That ends up being the most effective work.

So once you find an influencer and you’ve defined what it is you’re looking for, what is it that you do with them? What do your activations with influencers look like?

Marshall: I’ve taken a lot of different forms. I’d say that one of the most heavyweight plays that are in our playbook has been a combination of a webinar, blog post and then private advisory phone call where we have anyone on our staff that wants to come and participate in a private phone call with one of these influencers, come and ask questions off the record and learn from their experience. You get the demand gen from the webinar and the blog post and then the more foundational value from the private advisory phone call.

One of the most heavyweight plays that are in our [influencer activation] playbook has been a combination of a webinar, blog post and then private advisory phone call.

I am very sympathetic to Forester’s perspective when they say that the most savvy brands in influencer marketing are not looking to influencers for reach because often that ends up in disappointment. But where influencers really shine is their ability to create high quality, high relevance content that breaks through the noise of this era of information overload. When coupled with paid media, then you’ve got a really awesome combination. It really works well when the brand brings the budget for the reach and the influencer is the source of the high quality, authentic, high relevance content.

That’s probably the most heavyweight of capabilities or plays in the playbook. But I do a lot of small stuff as well.

Yesterday I was watching some teammates prepare a presentation for the analyst firm, Gartner. I was providing some feedback on their presentation and watching which parts of the platform they were emphasizing, more or less. During a break I went and I opened up my list of amazing things mentioned by amazing people and Dion Hinchcliffe had posted a link to a survey that he had just published the results of, that said the number one thing that CIO’s are looking for today, especially in the pandemic around digital transformation, is a combination of automation and workflow management.

I thought that was really interesting because there was a big component of that in the Sprinkler story that we were preparing to tell Gartner. So I took that and went immediately inside the company and said, Hey folks, let’s elevate that part of the story. It’s really on trend right now and we’ve got a strong story to tell.

My favorite kind of influencer engagement: a kind of earned media and learning focused engagement that can be pretty lightweight [effort].

So thank you Dion, an influencer for that information. Then I re-shared that post of his publicly and some other folks then came in and engaged and affirmed that they had similar perspectives and I continued to learn and get more data points. And Dion came back and said, thank you so much for sharing it. And our relationship took another step forward.

Over the years, I’ve just learned so much from Dion. That’s my favorite kind of influencer engagement: a kind of earned media and learning focused engagement that can be pretty lightweight.

While much of influencer marketing has been focused on external experts, there are many opportunities for B2B brands to grow influence from within. What’s your take on opportunities to build brand executive influence?

Marshall: I think there’s a lot of opportunity for it. And yet, it’s a challenge for the ages. It is something that I think many of us have aspired to unlock for a long time for the executives that work at the companies. It is a great opportunity because so many of those executive leaders have tons of contact with customers and many times they’re great storytellers. They spent a lot of time with customers, they interface with other executive leaders and so are really efficient, high impact communicators.

[Executive influence] is a great opportunity because so many of those executive leaders have tons of contact with customers and many times they’re great storytellers.

The challenge I think, is finding ways to tap into that executive insight and flow of knowledge and access to information, much of which can’t be shared publicly. Some of it can and it requires a different sort of muscle memory, a different kind of workflow and often multiple sets of hands to help say, “Hey, let’s remember, let’s go unlock some of those stories that we get to hear, you know, in company meetings. Uh, let’s, let’s find some that are appropriate to share publicly because they’re such incredible stories.”

I know that’s the case for our executives at Sprinklr. The stories that we get to here inside the company walls are just amazing. The giant brands that we get to help solve really interesting problems for. When we’re able to reference those, either named or blinded, and do so publicly, they’re just great stories. They’re the kind of content that rises above so much in a world of information overload.

In the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, we found that the things B2B marketers outsource most often to agencies include: identifying influencers, managing relationships, developing strategy and measuring effectiveness. What have you found to be most useful when it comes to using outside help?

Marshall: We have been the outside resource a fair amount ourselves as a search technology on, uh, uh, management technology. And then we do a lot of our own internal influencer relations. I am real happy to do that for ourselves, but many times when working with brands that don’t have that experience or talent in-house, especially for the relationship cultivation and the practical management, well, frankly I refer them to you and your organization.

You’ve done an incredible job of building brand equity and a demonstrated track record of success around that. I don’t know anyone who has come close to the kind of thought leadership and track record of success that you and the folks that TopRank Marketing have. So congratulations on that.

I appreciate that. It’s a great team and that’s where the magic happens.

I guess I would just suggest that people find good partners to work with and do it in a way that helps build your own capacity and learning instead of just outsourcing it.

Find good partners to work with and do it in a way that helps build your own capacity and learning instead of just outsourcing it.

It makes me think about something that Jean bliss says when she advises executives that are thinking about taking jobs in customer experience, but I think it’s good advice for almost any field. She says, when you go and you talk to a company about leading their customer experience, you should speak to the other leaders at the company and see how they talk about customer experience. Is it something that’s everyone’s job and that they are going to partner with you on? Or is it something that they’re going to outsource to you and then wash their hands of?

Because you really want to avoid being in that latter situation. You want to look for those partnership types of organizations where everyone is going to be participating and up-leveling their skills as they do, even though it’s one person’s bottom line responsibility. I just love that model.

What has you excited most when it comes to opportunities with influencer marketing in 2021 and beyond?

Marshall: I’ll tell you one thing inside of our company on one thing outside of our company.

I’m really excited about some of the new research and analytics capabilities that are being built inside of Sprinklr on top of influencer discovery in order to get early high quality insights into topics of interest to influencers and their communities.

Everybody says that they do artificial intelligence and machine learning, but Sprinklr has been doing a gargantuan amount of artificial intelligence for almost 10 years now.

Everybody says that they do artificial intelligence and machine learning, but Sprinklr has been doing a gargantuan amount of artificial intelligence for almost 10 years now and so has a really deep corpus of knowledge about a bunch of different, specific industry verticals. That means that we can discern what’s going on in conversations, especially in B2B, faster and better than any other source when monitoring influencers or discussions at large. So I’m excited about that.

For me personally and outside of the company context, I think this is a pretty nerdy answer, but I’m really excited about taking my notes from reading and learning from influencers and putting them into a startup called Rome research.

Rome is a note-taking app for networked thoughts. It’s a place where every note that you take is linked out to every page across the corpus of your notes, where the same words appear. It makes it really easy to jump from reference to reference of interrelated thoughts. And it’s just wonderful.

So, the incorporation of enterprise class influencer discovery and listening and understanding with last mile, human in the loop discernment of key lessons learned and insights and perspectives and filing that away in a note-taking system that gets automatically linked up to all the related notes from other influencers and other readings on that given topic, creates what some people call a second brain. It’s the ability to, upon reflecting on any topic, snap your fingers and say, Show me all of the things that I have read and take a note of on this topic, and put them all in one place, allow me to filter them, et cetera. I’m excited about unlocking more value from that this year.

To connect with Marshall, you can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence B2B Influencer Marketing interviews:

To better understand what hundreds of the top B2B marketers are doing to succeed at influencer marketing, be sure to check out the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report here:

B2B Influencer Marketing Report 2020

The post Inside Influence 11: Marshall Kirkpatrick from Sprinklr on Elevating B2B Content with Influencers appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


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