Inside Influence EP09: Brian Solis from Salesforce on How B2B Influence Adds Value to Customers

Brian Solis Inside Influence

According to our research in the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, 74% of marketers surveyed believe that influencer marketing improves prospect and customer experience for B2B brands. If there’s one industry expert to tap on the topic of customer experience, I can think of few more qualified than the author of X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, Brian Solis.

As an 8 time best selling author, keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, digital anthropologist and Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce, Brian is a longtime friend that I’ve been able to collaborate with numerous times on marketing topics.

In a time of darkness, chaos, or confusion, B2B brands have an opportunity to be the light. @briansolis

Brian has a lot of inspiring insights when it comes to the intersection of experience and influence. Not only did he author the Influence 2.0 report that we partnered with Traackr on to research, but he contributed to the introduction of the first research report dedicated to B2B influencer marketing: The 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing. Here’s an excerpt:

“In a time of darkness, chaos, or confusion, B2B brands have an opportunity to be the light for their customers and customer’s customers. Meaningful customer engagement starts with discovery. When someone begins their discovery process, what do they find? How do they react? Does your content resonate in a relevant and empathetic way or does it push customers elsewhere?

B2B marketers now have an opportunity to reimagine engagement to ignite a new type of connection with customers. Beyond designing for and measuring the potent for engagement, design for humans and their intentions, needs, and desired outcomes. Engagement becomes a function of intent and purpose.

This is where influence and thought leadership transcend marketing to become partners to drive business growth.”

I recently had the opportunity to connect with Brian to record this latest episode of Inside Influence to talk about a range of topics based on Brian’s experience as an analyst and as one of the most sought after and respected influencers in the business world.

In our discussion, we covered:

  • Brian’s role at Salesforce as a Global Innovation Evangelist
  • The importance of Always-On Influence and creating value for customers
  • What B2B brands should expect from influencer marketing
  • The closing gap between B2B and B2C influencer marketing
  • What B2B executives should consider when incorporating influence into the marketing mix
  • What B2B marketers should expect from influencer marketing agencies
  • Most rewarding experience with a B2B brand as an influencer
  • The role influencer can play for B2B brands during times of uncertainty
  • Tips for B2B executives on becoming more influential (and why)

Below are some of the highlights of our discussion with the full video interview embedded below.

You’ll be coming up on a year into your role as Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce in a few months. Tell us about the work you’ve been doing and what you’re looking forward to in 2021.

Brian: A lot of what my role is what we’re going to be talking about. The word evangelist at Salesforce means something deeper than simple evangelism. It really gets to the core of what you and I have been talking about over the years, which is true influence.

We think about [influence] as adding value to people who need to make decisions about the future of their business. @briansolis

Influence is something that we don’t think about in terms of marketing. We think about it as adding value to people who need to make decisions about the future of their business. Therefore, taking the insights, thought leadership, and ideas to help them do something in a new, different, or better way. So it’s essentially bringing influence down to cause and effect. What is the effect or what is the outcome that you want to see and how you share content, ideas, or whatever package that is, to help that individual or help that organization move forward in ways that they couldn’t have otherwise, without hopefully seeing your work.

When we talk about B2B influence, let’s take out the, “How many followers do you have?” or “How many impressions are you going to drive?” and let’s look at it for what it is, right? A business or an executive needs help in these times of great transformation and disruption. And where do they turn for that when there is not a playbook about building the future? That doesn’t exist, right? What do you do? Where do you turn? Who do you listen to? Right? That’s the role of someone who adds value to the conversation.

You’re essentially building a community around people who are helping one another invent forward, right? To break convention or break mediocrity.

I want to thank you for writing an introduction to our 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report – the first dedicated study of B2B influencer marketing. You mentioned that the need for influence is Always-On. Can you drill down into that?

Brian: Influence never sleeps because people are always in need of information. There’s always something new. There’s always a new opportunity. There’s always a new way to do something differently moving forward. And so this is an opportunity to build an infrastructure within your organization that is constantly adding value to business customers as they seek it in a variety of contexts in their journey.

Influence never sleeps because people are always in need of information. @briansolis

If we think about customer experience in the B to C world, one of the biggest transformations that I hope we’ll see is we’ll see organizations be always on and always connected from within so that the back office and the front office then facilitates a much more intuitive, always on and personalized customer journey.

The same is true for business to business. Business customers are going through that journey. There’s different stages all the time, and they’re always in need of insights, information and engagement. That means the opportunity to engage, the opportunity to provide content, the opportunity to guide their journey is always on. That takes influencer marketing.

We can help that business customer at every stage because of the influencer program that we’ve put in place is designed to add value. @briansolis

Maybe this isn’t so much about influencer marketing as it is about influencer experience. We can help that business customer at every stage because of the influencer program that we’ve put in place is designed to add value. That takes the concepts of influencer marketing, content, and product marketing and essentially creates this much more powerful alliance of ways in which we can think beyond, “Hey, how many views did we get?”, “How many impressions did we get?”, “What was the reach on that last piece of content we created?”

Then we can start measuring things by how many questions we answered, how many people we drove towards the stage to want to know more. And how did we change the thinking among executives and really start to get to a much more meaningful place where influence is essentially a code word for helping people?

A few years ago we both worked (much more you than me) with Traackr on the Influence 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing research report where there was quite a gap between B2C and B2B influencer marketing adoption. Has that gap closed much in the past 3 years?

Brian: You know, I don’t have the data around me, but I have to imagine that you had a big deal to do with closing that gap because you’ve been a champion for B2B influence for a really long time. You’ve been a pioneer in actually making this a formal construct within companies. That report that we worked on was our way of not only showing the discrepancy between the two, but actually showing the need for them to be actually more similar than dissimilar.

Influence 2.0 is a concept that was introduced to help marketers think about influence differently than the way that it’s still largely thought about, which is a broadcast mentality or what I call a drafting someone’s social capital. That’s when a person has street cred within an industry and brands want to partner with them so that they can draft their credibility and attach it to our brand.

That’s all fine, but if you’re consistently adding value through strategic partnerships, building trust, and also becoming an influencer yourself, I always believed brands needed to become influencers as well, then we actually can forge an ecosystem, essentially a community of belonging together to make that community stronger for one another and for the market.

I always joked when I spoke to B2B audiences, I specifically loved to use the best B2C examples.  I mean anything besides the traditional stuff where we see influencers getting free products and they put it on Instagram.  That’s to me, the same as celebrity endorsements, I’m talking about influences outcomes. Like, “I trust you. I value what you’re thinking. You’re guiding me in my decision-making.”

I want to push business to business forward to remind them that there are human beings on the other side of that screen. @briansolis

Whether I’m a consumer or whether I’m a business customer, that’s what I talk about with influence. I want to push business to business forward to remind them that there are human beings on the other side of that screen, right? If you could humanize something, then people will find it more relatable. It’s not like as a business customer, they’re not consumers. It’s not like they say, okay, I’m done shopping for headphones and now I have to look at B2B enterprise systems here, so I’m going to forget what it was like to be treated as a human being. I actually think that humanization is what can make B2B even stronger.

Our research found that 77% of marketers say that their prospective customers rely on advice from industry influencers and yet 60% say they do not have the skills or expertise in-house to execute influencer programs. Of course many of those marketers trust outside experts like agencies to help. What do you think B2B marketers should expect from agencies or consultants when it comes to influencer marketing programs?

Brian: I hope that agencies think of themselves as partners in trust-building. Because it changes the conversation from marketing. Part of the challenge is, what’s the brief or what’s the remit? And how does someone respond to that?

I think for thoughtful organizations on the outside, you should probably consider influencing the decision makers as well. Meaning, that you should become an influencer in helping your customers understand that what they’re buying from you is not just the ability to connect them with people who have a lot of followers or audiences or networks or proven track record of content. But you’re actually partnering with them to build a market of trust, to build a community, an Always-On community. When I research the decisions I need to make it happens at midnight, you know? Influence never sleeps, right?

You have to find the things and the trusted voices when you can and you want them to be recent. You want them to be contextually relevant, which means I can’t just find an article. Maybe I want data visualization. Maybe I need a video, whatever it is, right. I need to find it my way. So, I actually think that this is an opportunity for agencies, partners, or consultants to influence their buyers so that the briefs now start to ask for bigger, better things.

This is an opportunity for agencies, partners, or consultants to influence their buyers so that the briefs now start to ask for bigger, better things. @briansolis

I wrote, I think, the first industry report on digital influence back in the day about 2011 and in that, I talked about authority and popularity and what I see, especially in B2B, we see it in B2C too, the authority part of this was always under appreciated. Authority essentially says, I not only know what I’m talking about, I know what you’re going through. So therefore, that’s what’s inspiring a lot of my work and hopefully I can earn your trust because that’s the consideration set I’m bringing to the table.

That’s the work that external partners need to do to help internal partners who are caught up in everything that they have to deal with beyond influence – everything that they have to constantly substantiate and try to justify all of the work in the investments that they’re making. Those things will become much more valuable within the organization if they can tie it to business outcomes or to customer lifetime value or to things that actually have an impact on the business.

I can tell you after doing this for so many years,  tying my work to those things, that’s all a customer is looking for: real help. And a business is looking for outcomes and the two are mutually beneficial. So let’s help those decision makers think beyond influencer marketing and more about influence.

The pandemic and many other forces driving a feeling of uncertainty and change have created an environment where there are new challenges, yet also opportunities. What role do you think influence can play in helping brands during these “uncertain times” better connect with customers?

Brian: I think ultimately, yes. It’s not that it’s never not been important. There’s just a lot of uncertainty right now. There’s also a lot of fear, anxiety, stress, and anger. These are just human, natural human feelings that exist. These are things we’re dealing with. We’re coping. We’re not just working from home or trying to work from home during a pandemic with a whole bunch of other stuff like remote learning or whatever it is in our households. Right?

So that importance of light that we talked about in the ignite moment, that’s more important than ever. Add to that the digital distractions that everybody’s dealing with that’s now compounded more because we have to be digital first. Those opportunities to deliver value and build trust are more important and actually more valuable than ever before.

Those opportunities to deliver value and build trust are more important and actually more valuable than ever before. @briansolis

That’s what I think we want people to think about here leaving this conversation. If I had to reinvent my definition of influence and my approach to it because of 2020, what would I do differently? If I could set aside 20 years of work in March and start all over again, you can do it, because it only makes you more relevant and better. That’s ultimately all we want to do and that’s ultimately what people are looking for.

Any tips you can share with senior B2B brand executives on becoming more influential themselves?

Brian: There are individuals that I think do a really amazing job within brands, whether they know it or not, that make that brand trusted and much more influential within the customer community.

Talk to Paul Greenberg for example. Paul’s a dear friend and an incredible, Godfather of CRM, an incredible analyst and also an incredible human being. He empowers individuals who feel like they want to change within organizations to go and change within these organizations because they know it’s what’s right for the community.

So, I think the first part is caring. You’re not just trying to be an influencer and run an influencer marketing program, because you care about the fact that customers are struggling to find information. They’re frustrated because they couldn’t previously do the things to make the impact that they really wanted to make. Influencer marketing or influence in that regard just becomes a means, a mechanism of which to activate a community.

What does it take to be a thought leader? Well, you have to be a thought leader. @briansolis

So that part is about caring, which is actually a rare, rare gift out there. The other piece is, what does it take to be a thought leader? Well, you have to be a thought leader. And that means you have to actually know what is happening out there, what people are struggling with. And you have to care so much about solving that, that is the heart of everything that you do. Then, hopefully it inspires you to see a different path forward of which becomes your unique voice.

Ultimately, what influence means is, “What impact did you have?” @briansolis

Of course, the mechanics of making that voice heard is not just about how loud you are or how you put fear into people or how popular you get. Ultimately, what influence means is, “What impact did you have?” I think those things are where businesses need to focus and where business leaders need to rethink what it takes to build that brand, that trusted brand out there.

To see the full Inside Influence Episode 9 interview with Brian Solis, check out the video below:

To connect with Brian, you can find him at BrianSolis.com, on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Next up on Inside Influence, we’ll be talking to

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

Inside Influence EP08: Srijana Angdembey from Oracle on How Influence Creates Better B2B Customer Experiences

Srijana-Angdembey Oracle

Improving Customer Experience is one of the top priorities for B2B marketers today. With the challenges of real-world experiences from field marketing to in-person tradeshows all but gone, B2B marketers are focused on figuring out how to maximize digital experiences.

Working with influencers has proven to be an effective solution. In fact, 74% of marketers agree that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experience with the brand according to the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report. But how are B2B brands working with influencers to create those experiences?

To find out, I reached out to Srijana Angdembey, Director of Social Media Marketing at Oracle for this 8th Episode of Inside Influence – Interviews with B2B Influencer Marketing Insiders. During our talk, we discussed:

  • How influencer marketing for B2B has changed
  • What it takes to be a top B2B influencer marketing professional at a B2B brand
  • Top challenges and opportunities for influencer marketing during the pandemic
  • How influencer engagement impacts customer experience for B2B companies
  • An example of a successful influencer marketing campaign
  • Advice for B2B marketers that are considering working with influencers and what to expect
  • Trends in influencer content
  • Criteria for identifying and partnering with business influencers
  •  Measures of success for a B2B influencer marketing program
  • Influencer marketing after the pandemic and future predictions

Below are some of the highlights of our discussion with the full video interview embedded below.

How did you first start working with influencers and how has it changed?

Srijana: The funny thing is I actually started in policy and working with politicians and policy makers. I was working in government affairs and in a way, I think I’ve always worked with influencers. I’ve always kind of known who are the people of influence or who could influence things to accomplish my goals. So when I jumped into the role of CX marketing, it just so happened that I also got influencer marketing. I felt very natural coming into it. I think the way things have changed now from when I started, is influencer marketing was very much for B2C. Now we’re seeing more B2B companies really embracing it. That’s been the major change that I’ve seen.

What do you think are some of the top challenges and opportunities for influencer marketing posed by the pandemic?

Srijana: Honestly I wouldn’t say that I’ve seen any or it’s not been much of a challenge. We’ve definitely had to tweak our strategy because we rely on influencers for our event marketing. For example, we’ve worked with Matt Heinz on a road show that we did, which was awesome. So we were continuing to do something similar this year before the pandemic, but when it hit, we realized we had to really pivot.

We were doing all these virtual shows and including influencers, hosting and attending, speaking and that was fine. We were also thinking about how we could be more helpful and make our content more relevant for our audience right now?  I wouldn’t say that was so much of a challenge, but it was sort of like the guiding principle behind picking up influencer marketing this year and really seeing and working with those influencers who kind of got that.

We also realized that influencers were more accessible now and maybe more available to work to make sure that we have that equal value partnership. So we’re not taking advantage of them but being able to get something done that was of value for our audience.

According to our research presented in the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing report, 74% of marketers agree that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experience. In what ways do you believe influence has an impact on CX?

Srijana: Gosh, when I think of influencer marketing the first thing I think about is trust. Trust is the currency that makes the experience economy go around, right? We’re all trying to be more more human in our approach to marketing. We’re trying to come across as more friendly and not trying to push our solutions and products as much. But how do we do that?

When I think of influencer marketing the first thing I think about is trust. Trust is the currency that makes the experience economy go around. @srijanaa

I really think that influencer marketing helps fill that gap because now we’re working with individuals that our audience trusts and look up to us as experts. I think that’s the key. I think that’s how influence drives customer experience. Working on anything, content marketing or events with influencers just helps build the trust factor. It also adds credibility and makes everything so much more authentic.

Our research found that 96% of B2B marketers implementing influencer programs are successful in some way. Even with that optimism, 60% of B2B marketers say they don’t have the skills in house or expertise to execute. What advice can you share for marketers considering working with influencers?

Srijana:  I think the first thing I’d say is you may not realize, but your company might already be doing some form of influencer marketing. A lot of times I don’t think people know for sure. When I was doing influencer marketing here initially at Oracle, I was surprised to find how many other people were already working with influencers. But maybe you don’t have that strategy in place yet or an official program.

If you set your goals for working with influencers and what you’re trying to achieve with the influencer marketing program, then you can start really slow and small. @srijanaa

I think if you set your goals for working with influencers and what you’re trying to achieve with the influencer marketing program, then you can start really slow and small. It could be as easy as just reaching out organically and trying to build that relationship with an influencer. That’s where you start and really start studying and understanding if this is the right influencer that you want to work with. What content are they producing? Who are their audiences? How are they engaging with them? So I would say start there.

B2B marketing and content expectations increasingly demand experiences, including with influencer content. What are you seeing in terms of recorded and live video, stories, podcasts and even interactive content with influencers?

Srijana: Tik Tok is a great example, right? As far as pushing the boundaries of content.

That’s another thing about working with influencers. I think they’re so good at that. Maybe I have restrictions and boundaries or maybe I don’t have the resources in my company. Maybe I have brand guidelines that restrict me from doing certain forms of content. I’m loving what I see from Brian Fanzo do for example. He has such good stuff like with virtual events that he’s doing. I love that.

Influencers know that the content needs to be very engaging and it needs to hold the attention of the viewer. @srijanaa

When working with Shep Hyken, for example, this year on one of our events, I was just blown away by the technology that he had and the ability to pull in things when he was speaking. He had slides up and had stats pop up and I was so impressed. I think that influencers know that the content needs to be very engaging and it needs to hold the attention of the viewer.

I’m just finding that we’re just getting more and more innovative and as we are exploring newer forms of news and new kinds of social media, for example, it just pushes the boundary even more.

What do you think will be different about influencer marketing for B2B companies post-pandemic? Any predictions for the future?

Srijana: No predictions, but I definitely don’t think we’re going back anytime soon to how things worked or how we were doing things.

One thing that this pandemic really did was make us all pause and kind of look at our (influencer) marketing in a more prescriptive way. “Is this going to add any value?” @srijanaa

One thing that this pandemic really did was make us all pause and kind of look at our marketing in a more prescriptive way. “Is this going to add any value?” I think even more so than ever, it kind of made that really clear to us.

I think even with influencer marketing, we became very focused on, is what this person saying aligned to our values and what we want? Post pandemic, I think that’s going to continue. For example, we want to work with a diverse range of influencers, right? Maybe that was already top of mind before, but now it’s even more top of mind because of the current situation.

I think we’re going to be more prescriptive on how we do things and who we align with and make sure that person is not just what they’re saying on social media, but also that they are good people to work with and that our customers really look up to.

To see the full Inside Influence interview with Srijana Angdembey, check out the video below:

If you would like to connect with Srijana further about B2B influencer marketing, you can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Next up on Inside Influence, we’ll be talking to Brian Solis, Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce about how influence and thought leadership transcend marketing to become partners to drive business growth.

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

Inside Influence EP08: Srijana Angdembey from Oracle on How Influence Creates Better B2B Customer Experiences

Srijana-Angdembey Oracle

Srijana-Angdembey Oracle

Improving Customer Experience is one of the top priorities for B2B marketers today. With the challenges of real-world experiences from field marketing to in-person tradeshows all but gone, B2B marketers are focused on figuring out how to maximize digital experiences.

Working with influencers has proven to be an effective solution. In fact, 74% of marketers agree that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experience with the brand according to the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report. But how are B2B brands working with influencers to create those experiences?

To find out, I reached out to Srijana Angdembey, Director of Social Media Marketing at Oracle for this 8th Episode of Inside Influence – Interviews with B2B Influencer Marketing Insiders. During our talk, we discussed:

  • How influencer marketing for B2B has changed
  • What it takes to be a top B2B influencer marketing professional at a B2B brand
  • Top challenges and opportunities for influencer marketing during the pandemic
  • How influencer engagement impacts customer experience for B2B companies
  • An example of a successful influencer marketing campaign
  • Advice for B2B marketers that are considering working with influencers and what to expect
  • Trends in influencer content
  • Criteria for identifying and partnering with business influencers
  •  Measures of success for a B2B influencer marketing program
  • Influencer marketing after the pandemic and future predictions

Below are some of the highlights of our discussion with the full video interview embedded below.

How did you first start working with influencers and how has it changed?

Srijana: The funny thing is I actually started in policy and working with politicians and policy makers. I was working in government affairs and in a way, I think I’ve always worked with influencers. I’ve always kind of known who are the people of influence or who could influence things to accomplish my goals. So when I jumped into the role of CX marketing, it just so happened that I also got influencer marketing. I felt very natural coming into it. I think the way things have changed now from when I started, is influencer marketing was very much for B2C. Now we’re seeing more B2B companies really embracing it. That’s been the major change that I’ve seen.

What do you think are some of the top challenges and opportunities for influencer marketing posed by the pandemic?

Srijana: Honestly I wouldn’t say that I’ve seen any or it’s not been much of a challenge. We’ve definitely had to tweak our strategy because we rely on influencers for our event marketing. For example, we’ve worked with Matt Heinz on a road show that we did, which was awesome. So we were continuing to do something similar this year before the pandemic, but when it hit, we realized we had to really pivot.

We were doing all these virtual shows and including influencers, hosting and attending, speaking and that was fine. We were also thinking about how we could be more helpful and make our content more relevant for our audience right now?  I wouldn’t say that was so much of a challenge, but it was sort of like the guiding principle behind picking up influencer marketing this year and really seeing and working with those influencers who kind of got that.

We also realized that influencers were more accessible now and maybe more available to work to make sure that we have that equal value partnership. So we’re not taking advantage of them but being able to get something done that was of value for our audience.

According to our research presented in the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing report, 74% of marketers agree that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experience. In what ways do you believe influence has an impact on CX?

Srijana: Gosh, when I think of influencer marketing the first thing I think about is trust. Trust is the currency that makes the experience economy go around, right? We’re all trying to be more more human in our approach to marketing. We’re trying to come across as more friendly and not trying to push our solutions and products as much. But how do we do that?

When I think of influencer marketing the first thing I think about is trust. Trust is the currency that makes the experience economy go around. @srijanaa

I really think that influencer marketing helps fill that gap because now we’re working with individuals that our audience trusts and look up to us as experts. I think that’s the key. I think that’s how influence drives customer experience. Working on anything, content marketing or events with influencers just helps build the trust factor. It also adds credibility and makes everything so much more authentic.

Our research found that 96% of B2B marketers implementing influencer programs are successful in some way. Even with that optimism, 60% of B2B marketers say they don’t have the skills in house or expertise to execute. What advice can you share for marketers considering working with influencers?

Srijana:  I think the first thing I’d say is you may not realize, but your company might already be doing some form of influencer marketing. A lot of times I don’t think people know for sure. When I was doing influencer marketing here initially at Oracle, I was surprised to find how many other people were already working with influencers. But maybe you don’t have that strategy in place yet or an official program.

If you set your goals for working with influencers and what you’re trying to achieve with the influencer marketing program, then you can start really slow and small. @srijanaa

I think if you set your goals for working with influencers and what you’re trying to achieve with the influencer marketing program, then you can start really slow and small. It could be as easy as just reaching out organically and trying to build that relationship with an influencer. That’s where you start and really start studying and understanding if this is the right influencer that you want to work with. What content are they producing? Who are their audiences? How are they engaging with them? So I would say start there.

B2B marketing and content expectations increasingly demand experiences, including with influencer content. What are you seeing in terms of recorded and live video, stories, podcasts and even interactive content with influencers?

Srijana: Tik Tok is a great example, right? As far as pushing the boundaries of content.

That’s another thing about working with influencers. I think they’re so good at that. Maybe I have restrictions and boundaries or maybe I don’t have the resources in my company. Maybe I have brand guidelines that restrict me from doing certain forms of content. I’m loving what I see from Brian Fanzo do for example. He has such good stuff like with virtual events that he’s doing. I love that.

Influencers know that the content needs to be very engaging and it needs to hold the attention of the viewer. @srijanaa

When working with Shep Hyken, for example, this year on one of our events, I was just blown away by the technology that he had and the ability to pull in things when he was speaking. He had slides up and had stats pop up and I was so impressed. I think that influencers know that the content needs to be very engaging and it needs to hold the attention of the viewer.

I’m just finding that we’re just getting more and more innovative and as we are exploring newer forms of news and new kinds of social media, for example, it just pushes the boundary even more.

What do you think will be different about influencer marketing for B2B companies post-pandemic? Any predictions for the future?

Srijana: No predictions, but I definitely don’t think we’re going back anytime soon to how things worked or how we were doing things.

One thing that this pandemic really did was make us all pause and kind of look at our (influencer) marketing in a more prescriptive way. “Is this going to add any value?” @srijanaa

One thing that this pandemic really did was make us all pause and kind of look at our marketing in a more prescriptive way. “Is this going to add any value?” I think even more so than ever, it kind of made that really clear to us.

I think even with influencer marketing, we became very focused on, is what this person saying aligned to our values and what we want? Post pandemic, I think that’s going to continue. For example, we want to work with a diverse range of influencers, right? Maybe that was already top of mind before, but now it’s even more top of mind because of the current situation.

I think we’re going to be more prescriptive on how we do things and who we align with and make sure that person is not just what they’re saying on social media, but also that they are good people to work with and that our customers really look up to.

To see the full Inside Influence interview with Srijana Angdembey, check out the video below:

If you would like to connect with Srijana further about B2B influencer marketing, you can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Next up on Inside Influence, we’ll be talking to Brian Solis, Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce about how influence and thought leadership transcend marketing to become partners to drive business growth.

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

The post Inside Influence EP08: Srijana Angdembey from Oracle on How Influence Creates Better B2B Customer Experiences appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


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Inside Influence EP07: Pierre-Loïc Assayag from Traackr on Influencer Marketing Technology

Pierre-Loic-Assayag

Scrow: A conjunction of “scale” and “grow”, which is a word I made up to talk about the value of technology when it comes to ramping up the impact of B2B influencer marketing during the latest Inside Influence show about what’s working and what’s not inside the world of B2B Influencer Marketing.

When B2B marketers think about how to “scrow” the success of their influencer marketing, they often start by looking beyond spreadsheets from transactional to more relationship driven influencer models. To support these efforts they often seek influencer marketing platforms.

There’s a lot to uncover when it comes to understanding what role technology plays in identifying, engaging, implementing and measuring influencer collaborations. Lucky for us, in this 7th episode of Inside Influence, we have Pierre-Loïc Assayag, CEO and Founder at Traackr to share his experiences plus a few relevant statistics from the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report about how B2B marketers are using technology (or not) for their influencer marketing programs.

In this 7th episode of Inside Influence, Pierre-Loic and I talk about:

  • Influencer Marketing in 2008 and 2021
  • The business case for pandemic era B2B influencer marketing
  • Crawl, walk, run options for influencer marketing software
  • Influencer Marketing Success: Is it the software or Marketing technology?
  • Skills needed to maximize influencer marketing platform ROI
  • How influencer marketing software enables Always-On influencer engagement
  • New updates to Traackr
  • The future of influencer marketing tech and martech integration
  • How B2B brands can justify dedicated internal influencer marketing leaders

Here are a few highlights on those topics with the full video interview embedded below.

What would you say the business case is for B2B brands engaging in influencer marketing in our current environment?

Pierre-Loic: So first and foremost, I’d say, “what else you got?”  If you look at the tools available to a B2B marketer and you apply them in the context of a pandemic where people are not allowed to travel to go to events, whether they’re small venues or big venues, where just a whole bunch of other offline activities that we use to perform on a regular basis are just gone, those tools are  not available anymore. So, in many ways what you are left with are the digital tools. The thing that has historically worked is influence marketing. In there I would include things like PR and analyst relations too, because they’re all versions of influencer marketing. And your own content.

You need a community of people that are there to both amplify (your voice) and compliment it. That’s influencer marketing. @pierreloic

In other words, what do you need to succeed? You need your voice and that voice to have a personality, to have a message that you give to communicate. And you need a community of people that are there to both amplify it and compliment it. That’s influencer marketing.

The pandemic and the strain on budgets in companies…really forces everybody to face the music and stop focusing on vanity metrics and start focusing on results. @pierreloic

There’s not been a better time for influencer marketing to strive. If anything, the pandemic and the strain on budgets in companies that are B2B and B2C, I find personally extremely helpful because it really forces everybody to face the music and stop focusing on vanity metrics and start focusing on results. It’s been a long time coming and I’m glad that we’re here from that vantage point.

What are some of the major trends you’re seeing with B2B brands in how they are evolving the use of influencer marketing?

Pierre-Loic: I’d say 2020 and the coronavirus crisis was a proxy for things that were already on the way that have really accelerated.

We’ve seen longer-term partnerships being formed between influencers and brands a lot more than we did before. @pierreloic

The first one is the move from transactional tactical influencer marketing to relational and more long-standing relationships. We’ve seen longer-term partnerships being formed between influencers and brands a lot more than we did before. There’s a lot less focus on just purely campaigns. That’s one trend that was there before, but it’s really been put into focus.

One that really transcends influencer marketing is this idea of values driven purchases. In the B2C world it’s happened a lot for some time now. You’ve seen the Nike ads from two years ago with Kapernick. But now you have a lot of brands that have started standing up for something. In the B2C world it’s a trend that has accelerated, but was there before. For B2B it’s somewhat new.

Some of the social movements in 2020 have really put an emphasis on the notion of brand purpose and how important that is to guide their decision, to interact with employees, partners, influencers, etc. That trend is also touching on influencer marketing because the only way it works is if it is received as being authentic for your community. The way you can get that seal of endorsement is through your community of influencers.

Our research found that 50% of the most successful marketers use influencer marketing software vs. just 25% of the least successful.  Is this about influencer marketing software by itself or is it more about the overall ability of a company to use technology in an integrated marketing mix?

Pierre-Loic: I think you need to have technology in order to harness the amount of data that you need and to mix it with your other data sets in order to figure out your best practices. We’ve been advocating data driven, influencer marketing for just about a decade now. It’s really important that companies start immersing themselves in the richness of the data in order to learn their best practices.

I’m genuinely curious about the other 50%, if they don’t have access to this. I don’t know how you access it manually. That said, I’m not sure that it’s something special about influencer marketing software. I think it has more to do with a relationship between a company and their use of technology and marketing technology.

At the end of the day, success at scale only happens when you have a piece of software that powers your influencer marketing, that you can connect with your other data sets. @pierreloic

At the end of the day, success at scale only happens when you have a piece of software that powers your influencer marketing, that you can connect with your other data sets on the CRM side, etc. It’s true of every level. It’s true for reporting purposes. It’s also true in the way you build your marketing attribution models.

At a very small scale you can do all this manually. It’s not that big of a deal, but the minute you start seeing a sign of success at that very small scale, then you’re going to need to equip yourself. Not just with a piece of influencer marketing software, but with the ability to start merging your datasets together.

For that you have a piece of technology that you can connect with as you do with a Traackr, but you also need the skills of people that are able to build these dashboards, to create these data lakes, that they retrieve data from via attribution models. So there’s a layer of complexity that just goes with the world that we live in. Instead of deflecting or sidetracking that complexity, my advice would be to embrace it.

In our research, we found that 60% of companies running always-on influencer programs were very successful vs. only 5% who do periodic or intermittent campaigns. What role does influencer marketing software play in an Always-On approach?

Pierre-Loic: Good question. Software plays two roles really and you’re absolutely right about the stat. I’m not surprised by the results that you found. We have the same kind of data that shows that the response of an influencers audience is a function of how authentic the message from the influencer is, which itself, is a reflection of the duration of the partnership.

The response of an influencers audience is a function of how authentic the message from the influencer is, which itself, is a reflection of the duration of the partnership (with the brand). @pierreloic

In other words, if tomorrow I’m starting to promote TopRank Marketing, everybody’s going to believe me because I’ve talked about you guys forever. So there’s nothing that feels “off” about my communication. But if I start talking about a different topic or different brand, it will feel inauthentic to people who may listen to me. Right? So, so I completely agree with the finding.

With regards to software, there are two ways in which software is helpful. One is how you vet influencers, how you select your influencers to work with. What you want to find are people that will be on the fast lane of being able to build that relationship early. These are people that have endorsed either your brand or what you stand for as a company.

Finding people that already have a voice that is credible in the same topic area, even if they haven’t mentioned your brand or if they’re just a fan you just didn’t know, happens quite often, surprisingly. It gives you a leg up when you start these partnerships. In that selection process, technology is very important because you can take a look back at their communication, you can do it at scale and find the people that are the best match for you.

And then software is also helpful in the relationship building. So, you know, Traackr acts as a CRM for influencers, where as an organization you may not know Lee Odden, but probably somebody else at my company does. It’s good to know that we already have the beginning of a partnership. It also gives brands an opportunity to engage an influencer on a very regular basis. Even if your department or marketing is not doing something this month, there’s probably somebody else that is. Just being able to bring visibility into the true partnership between an influencer and a brand is quite useful.

To see the full Inside Influence interview with Pierre-Loïc Assayag, check out the video below:

If you would like to connect with Pierre-Loic further about B2B influencer marketing, you can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Next up on Inside Influence, we’ll be talking to Srijana Angdembey, Director, Social Media Marketing at Oracle about how working with influencers can help create a better customer experience.

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

Inside Influence EP07: Pierre-Loïc Assayag from Traackr on Influencer Marketing Technology

Pierre-Loic-Assayag

Pierre-Loic-Assayag

Scrow: A conjunction of “scale” and “grow”, which is a word I made up to talk about the value of technology when it comes to ramping up the impact of B2B influencer marketing during the latest Inside Influence show about what’s working and what’s not inside the world of B2B Influencer Marketing.

When B2B marketers think about how to “scrow” the success of their influencer marketing, they often start by looking beyond spreadsheets from transactional to more relationship driven influencer models. To support these efforts they often seek influencer marketing platforms.

There’s a lot to uncover when it comes to understanding what role technology plays in identifying, engaging, implementing and measuring influencer collaborations. Lucky for us, in this 7th episode of Inside Influence, we have Pierre-Loïc Assayag, CEO and Founder at Traackr to share his experiences plus a few relevant statistics from the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report about how B2B marketers are using technology (or not) for their influencer marketing programs.

In this 7th episode of Inside Influence, Pierre-Loic and I talk about:

  • Influencer Marketing in 2008 and 2021
  • The business case for pandemic era B2B influencer marketing
  • Crawl, walk, run options for influencer marketing software
  • Influencer Marketing Success: Is it the software or Marketing technology?
  • Skills needed to maximize influencer marketing platform ROI
  • How influencer marketing software enables Always-On influencer engagement
  • New updates to Traackr
  • The future of influencer marketing tech and martech integration
  • How B2B brands can justify dedicated internal influencer marketing leaders

Here are a few highlights on those topics with the full video interview embedded below.

What would you say the business case is for B2B brands engaging in influencer marketing in our current environment?

Pierre-Loic: So first and foremost, I’d say, “what else you got?”  If you look at the tools available to a B2B marketer and you apply them in the context of a pandemic where people are not allowed to travel to go to events, whether they’re small venues or big venues, where just a whole bunch of other offline activities that we use to perform on a regular basis are just gone, those tools are  not available anymore. So, in many ways what you are left with are the digital tools. The thing that has historically worked is influence marketing. In there I would include things like PR and analyst relations too, because they’re all versions of influencer marketing. And your own content.

You need a community of people that are there to both amplify (your voice) and compliment it. That’s influencer marketing. @pierreloic

In other words, what do you need to succeed? You need your voice and that voice to have a personality, to have a message that you give to communicate. And you need a community of people that are there to both amplify it and compliment it. That’s influencer marketing.

The pandemic and the strain on budgets in companies…really forces everybody to face the music and stop focusing on vanity metrics and start focusing on results. @pierreloic

There’s not been a better time for influencer marketing to strive. If anything, the pandemic and the strain on budgets in companies that are B2B and B2C, I find personally extremely helpful because it really forces everybody to face the music and stop focusing on vanity metrics and start focusing on results. It’s been a long time coming and I’m glad that we’re here from that vantage point.

What are some of the major trends you’re seeing with B2B brands in how they are evolving the use of influencer marketing?

Pierre-Loic: I’d say 2020 and the coronavirus crisis was a proxy for things that were already on the way that have really accelerated.

We’ve seen longer-term partnerships being formed between influencers and brands a lot more than we did before. @pierreloic

The first one is the move from transactional tactical influencer marketing to relational and more long-standing relationships. We’ve seen longer-term partnerships being formed between influencers and brands a lot more than we did before. There’s a lot less focus on just purely campaigns. That’s one trend that was there before, but it’s really been put into focus.

One that really transcends influencer marketing is this idea of values driven purchases. In the B2C world it’s happened a lot for some time now. You’ve seen the Nike ads from two years ago with Kapernick. But now you have a lot of brands that have started standing up for something. In the B2C world it’s a trend that has accelerated, but was there before. For B2B it’s somewhat new.

Some of the social movements in 2020 have really put an emphasis on the notion of brand purpose and how important that is to guide their decision, to interact with employees, partners, influencers, etc. That trend is also touching on influencer marketing because the only way it works is if it is received as being authentic for your community. The way you can get that seal of endorsement is through your community of influencers.

Our research found that 50% of the most successful marketers use influencer marketing software vs. just 25% of the least successful.  Is this about influencer marketing software by itself or is it more about the overall ability of a company to use technology in an integrated marketing mix?

Pierre-Loic: I think you need to have technology in order to harness the amount of data that you need and to mix it with your other data sets in order to figure out your best practices. We’ve been advocating data driven, influencer marketing for just about a decade now. It’s really important that companies start immersing themselves in the richness of the data in order to learn their best practices.

I’m genuinely curious about the other 50%, if they don’t have access to this. I don’t know how you access it manually. That said, I’m not sure that it’s something special about influencer marketing software. I think it has more to do with a relationship between a company and their use of technology and marketing technology.

At the end of the day, success at scale only happens when you have a piece of software that powers your influencer marketing, that you can connect with your other data sets. @pierreloic

At the end of the day, success at scale only happens when you have a piece of software that powers your influencer marketing, that you can connect with your other data sets on the CRM side, etc. It’s true of every level. It’s true for reporting purposes. It’s also true in the way you build your marketing attribution models.

At a very small scale you can do all this manually. It’s not that big of a deal, but the minute you start seeing a sign of success at that very small scale, then you’re going to need to equip yourself. Not just with a piece of influencer marketing software, but with the ability to start merging your datasets together.

For that you have a piece of technology that you can connect with as you do with a Traackr, but you also need the skills of people that are able to build these dashboards, to create these data lakes, that they retrieve data from via attribution models. So there’s a layer of complexity that just goes with the world that we live in. Instead of deflecting or sidetracking that complexity, my advice would be to embrace it.

In our research, we found that 60% of companies running always-on influencer programs were very successful vs. only 5% who do periodic or intermittent campaigns. What role does influencer marketing software play in an Always-On approach?

Pierre-Loic: Good question. Software plays two roles really and you’re absolutely right about the stat. I’m not surprised by the results that you found. We have the same kind of data that shows that the response of an influencers audience is a function of how authentic the message from the influencer is, which itself, is a reflection of the duration of the partnership.

The response of an influencers audience is a function of how authentic the message from the influencer is, which itself, is a reflection of the duration of the partnership (with the brand). @pierreloic

In other words, if tomorrow I’m starting to promote TopRank Marketing, everybody’s going to believe me because I’ve talked about you guys forever. So there’s nothing that feels “off” about my communication. But if I start talking about a different topic or different brand, it will feel inauthentic to people who may listen to me. Right? So, so I completely agree with the finding.

With regards to software, there are two ways in which software is helpful. One is how you vet influencers, how you select your influencers to work with. What you want to find are people that will be on the fast lane of being able to build that relationship early. These are people that have endorsed either your brand or what you stand for as a company.

Finding people that already have a voice that is credible in the same topic area, even if they haven’t mentioned your brand or if they’re just a fan you just didn’t know, happens quite often, surprisingly. It gives you a leg up when you start these partnerships. In that selection process, technology is very important because you can take a look back at their communication, you can do it at scale and find the people that are the best match for you.

And then software is also helpful in the relationship building. So, you know, Traackr acts as a CRM for influencers, where as an organization you may not know Lee Odden, but probably somebody else at my company does. It’s good to know that we already have the beginning of a partnership. It also gives brands an opportunity to engage an influencer on a very regular basis. Even if your department or marketing is not doing something this month, there’s probably somebody else that is. Just being able to bring visibility into the true partnership between an influencer and a brand is quite useful.

To see the full Inside Influence interview with Pierre-Loïc Assayag, check out the video below:

If you would like to connect with Pierre-Loic further about B2B influencer marketing, you can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Next up on Inside Influence, we’ll be talking to Srijana Angdembey, Director, Social Media Marketing at Oracle about how working with influencers can help create a better customer experience.

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

The post Inside Influence EP07: Pierre-Loïc Assayag from Traackr on Influencer Marketing Technology appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Source: SEO blog

Inside Influence: Jen Holtvluwer from Spiron on Award Winning B2B Influencer Marketing

Jen Holtvluwer

When we conducted our research for the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, we found what the most successful B2B marketers have in common. They:

  • Have a Documented Influencer Marketing Strategy
  • Engage in Always-On Influencer Engagement
  • Have a Centralized Influencer Program
  • Use Software to Identify Influencers
  • Rely on Experts and Analysts
  • Use Blogs as Content Platforms
  • Create Interactive Content with Influencers

Learning from those who are already successful in a fast growing discipline is what the Inside Influence Show is all about. Of course, measuring success comes in many forms, from achieving and exceeding the specific goals of a marketing program to industry recognition. When someone is able to achieve both consistently, that’s a special source of insight. Today we’re bringing that special combination to you with Jen Holtvluwer, Chief Marketing Officer at Spirion.

We’ve had the good fortune to work with Jen on multiple award-winning influencer marketing programs for B2B brands that not only earned industry accolades, but also high 7 digit sales pipeline goals. Whether it was the deep customer insight that informed a campaign for Cherwell Software that could be attributed to 22% of sales pipeline for the entire year or the innovative industry awards campaign for Alcatel Lucent that generated 7 figure sales pipeline, Jen has the track record we all aspire to as marketing leaders.

In this Inside Influence interview, Jen and I talk about a spectrum of B2B influencer marketing topics including:

  • What it takes to be at the top of your game when it comes to B2B marketing
  • The secret to Jen’s award-winning influencer marketing success
  • Lessons learned from successful influencer marketing campaigns
  • Whether it is reasonable to expect both brand awareness and lead generation goals from influencer marketing – Qualities to look for in an influencer
  • Top challenges when it comes to working with influencers
  • Opportunities for B2B companies to impact brand and sales by supporting executive influence
  • What to say to other B2B marketing executives who do not believe there are influencers of their customers that they can work with
  • How influencer marketing and B2B marketing will be different in 2021 and beyond
  • Career advice for other aspiring CMOs

Here are a few highlights with the full video interview embedded below.

A lot of influencer marketing is about demand gen, awareness, and top of funnel. As someone with experienced being responsible for sales in your career, do you feel like influencers can play a role in sales initiatives?

A hundred percent. I was just on our quarterly board meeting yesterday and it came up. How much we’re getting mentions by customers, which are certainly influencers. Also, how much we’re getting mentioned by journalists, editors, and media which are all influencers as well. And one of our board members said, “How are you turning that into opportunities or SQLs?” And I said they don’t always bring opportunities directly, but we take those mentions and we apply them in our demand generation and our prospecting efforts and they certainly influence and can accelerate the opportunity stage.

When people see your brand is being mentioned by an influencer, it gives them that double-take that validates you more in the market. @JenHoltvluwer

So that’s, that’s where our sales uses influencer mentions because when people see your brand is being mentioned by an influencer, it gives them that double-take that validates you more in the market. So it certainly influences and can accelerate lead to opportunity efforts for sure.

Of course winning awards is not the only objective for an influencer program, but the reason you’ve won awards is in part because of great performance – like one campaign being attributed to over 20% of sales pipeline for the year and another instigating multiple large deals. What lessons have you learned from these kinds of influencer campaigns?

I think one thing that I have done differently is make sure that the expectations of what you’re wanting to gain from the influencers that you align with is very clearly outlined. Right? We’ve had some influencers that said, yes, you know, we’ll sign up, we’ll participate. And then when it came time to roll out the actual program, we didn’t see as much participation as we would’ve liked.

So, I think the communication upfront with the influencers about what you’re expecting to gain from them is very important. They appreciate that too, because then they know fully what they’re signing up for and what they can and can’t do. I think that’s a big lesson learned: make sure expectations are clearly outlined with influencers so that there aren’t any surprises when you roll out the program and achieve what you need to accomplish.

84% of marketers say brand awareness is a top measurable benefit from engaging influencers followed by 69% that say lead generation is a top benefit. Is it reasonable to expect both?

Absolutely. I started my career out very heavy on the demand generation side. It will always be my go-to passion. But I really have the firm belief that if you do branding, right, the demand will follow. And that makes taking your stories to market that much more memorable. So with influencer marketing, it’s certainly helping with share of voice because you’re getting more exposure through the influencers that you’re partnering with. When it’s done right, your sales team can actually take those actions that you’re creating, those influencer soundbites, those nuggets, and build credibility and value into the business case sooner.

If you do branding, right, the demand will follow and that makes taking your stories to market much more memorable. @JenHoltvluwer

I think we’re all finding now that it’s a big struggle trying to market during a pandemic and a recession. I bring that up because you’ve really got to create value sooner in the funnel so that people understand. If an influencer is endorsing this or sharing this and talking about this, I better take a look at this sooner, right? Because it’s probably something that I need to be taking action on too. So there is a nice balance where I do think that the branding that you get out of influencer marketing can most definitely be used to accelerate the demand side, which leads to those opportunities that we’re all wanting to get at the end of the day.

What would you say to an executive that says, “There are no influencers in my industry”?

I think that there are influencers in every industry. There’s buyer influencers, there’s market influencers. It’s up to us as marketers and sellers to find out who those influencers are. For us in data, privacy, data security it is definitely the chief information security officers. What we’ve done is create our own podcast where we invite customers to come on. And it’s not where we’re talking about our brand. We’re talking about impactful things that are happening in the industry. For example, the Blackbaud data breach is very top of mind for the CSO community right now. Inviting influencers in to participate with you is very important to do, especially in times like today.

There are influencers in every industry…most executives understand that you’ve got to align yourselves with people that are going to be that champion for your cause. @JenHoltvluwer

I think most executives that I work with, maybe it’s because I’m so convincing and have a pretty good portfolio of examples to share, understand that you’ve got to align yourselves with people that are going to be that champion for your cause. If you can ever tie it back to data, which is one thing I think my team has done very well, you know this works. This has moved your share of voice X percentage point. This has brought in X number of pipeline resulting in X revenue. There are studies out there that show that impact too. So I think it doesn’t take much to convince an executive when you have published data to back up your idea and your approach to influencer marketing.

You’ve had an impressive career at companies like BMC Software, Cherwell, Alcatel Lucent Enterprise and now CMO at Spirion. What career advice do you have for other aspiring CMOs?

When I look back at my career, I’ve had some highs and I’ve obviously had lows like we all do, but what’s been the thing I’ve always had is I’ve always sought a champion within the organization that’s at that director level or above that I’ve aligned myself with. And that is not something that you can just do. You’ve got to earn that trust. So you’ve got to put in the time to show that you’re someone that they do want to put some time into, to mentor and coach. I think it’s really important that people seek out who a person who is going to be a champion for them if they want to advance and grow their career.

It’s really important that people seek out who a person who is going to be a champion for them if they want to advance and grow their career. @JenHoltvluwer

I’ve had David Weiss, Matt Dircks, Carolyn Tague, Sandra Booth. I’ve had so many that I still keep in touch with today that have been that champion for my cause. So I think it’s really important to not to do it alone and make sure you put in the time and that your time is noticed. And make sure that you’re marketing yourself to the right champion in the business. Then they’ll stay with you and refer you as other opportunities come up. That’s, that’s really been my success. And that’s what I like to pass along to people when I get asked that question.

To see the full Inside Influence interview with Jen Holtvluwer, watch the video below:

If you would like to connect with Jen further about B2B influencer marketing, you can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Next up on Inside Influence, we’ll be talking to Amisha Gandhi, VP Influencer Marketing and Communications at SAP about creating mutual value with influencers.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence interviews:

Inside Influence: Jen Holtvluwer from Spiron on Award Winning B2B Influencer Marketing

Jen Holtvluwer

Jen Holtvluwer

When we conducted our research for the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, we found what the most successful B2B marketers have in common. They:

  • Have a Documented Influencer Marketing Strategy
  • Engage in Always-On Influencer Engagement
  • Have a Centralized Influencer Program
  • Use Software to Identify Influencers
  • Rely on Experts and Analysts
  • Use Blogs as Content Platforms
  • Create Interactive Content with Influencers

Learning from those who are already successful in a fast growing discipline is what the Inside Influence Show is all about. Of course, measuring success comes in many forms, from achieving and exceeding the specific goals of a marketing program to industry recognition. When someone is able to achieve both consistently, that’s a special source of insight. Today we’re bringing that special combination to you with Jen Holtvluwer, Chief Marketing Officer at Spirion.

We’ve had the good fortune to work with Jen on multiple award-winning influencer marketing programs for B2B brands that not only earned industry accolades, but also high 7 digit sales pipeline goals. Whether it was the deep customer insight that informed a campaign for Cherwell Software that could be attributed to 22% of sales pipeline for the entire year or the innovative industry awards campaign for Alcatel Lucent that generated 7 figure sales pipeline, Jen has the track record we all aspire to as marketing leaders.

In this Inside Influence interview, Jen and I talk about a spectrum of B2B influencer marketing topics including:

  • What it takes to be at the top of your game when it comes to B2B marketing
  • The secret to Jen’s award-winning influencer marketing success
  • Lessons learned from successful influencer marketing campaigns
  • Whether it is reasonable to expect both brand awareness and lead generation goals from influencer marketing – Qualities to look for in an influencer
  • Top challenges when it comes to working with influencers
  • Opportunities for B2B companies to impact brand and sales by supporting executive influence
  • What to say to other B2B marketing executives who do not believe there are influencers of their customers that they can work with
  • How influencer marketing and B2B marketing will be different in 2021 and beyond
  • Career advice for other aspiring CMOs

Here are a few highlights with the full video interview embedded below.

A lot of influencer marketing is about demand gen, awareness, and top of funnel. As someone with experienced being responsible for sales in your career, do you feel like influencers can play a role in sales initiatives?

A hundred percent. I was just on our quarterly board meeting yesterday and it came up. How much we’re getting mentions by customers, which are certainly influencers. Also, how much we’re getting mentioned by journalists, editors, and media which are all influencers as well. And one of our board members said, “How are you turning that into opportunities or SQLs?” And I said they don’t always bring opportunities directly, but we take those mentions and we apply them in our demand generation and our prospecting efforts and they certainly influence and can accelerate the opportunity stage.

When people see your brand is being mentioned by an influencer, it gives them that double-take that validates you more in the market. @JenHoltvluwer

So that’s, that’s where our sales uses influencer mentions because when people see your brand is being mentioned by an influencer, it gives them that double-take that validates you more in the market. So it certainly influences and can accelerate lead to opportunity efforts for sure.

Of course winning awards is not the only objective for an influencer program, but the reason you’ve won awards is in part because of great performance – like one campaign being attributed to over 20% of sales pipeline for the year and another instigating multiple large deals. What lessons have you learned from these kinds of influencer campaigns?

I think one thing that I have done differently is make sure that the expectations of what you’re wanting to gain from the influencers that you align with is very clearly outlined. Right? We’ve had some influencers that said, yes, you know, we’ll sign up, we’ll participate. And then when it came time to roll out the actual program, we didn’t see as much participation as we would’ve liked.

So, I think the communication upfront with the influencers about what you’re expecting to gain from them is very important. They appreciate that too, because then they know fully what they’re signing up for and what they can and can’t do. I think that’s a big lesson learned: make sure expectations are clearly outlined with influencers so that there aren’t any surprises when you roll out the program and achieve what you need to accomplish.

84% of marketers say brand awareness is a top measurable benefit from engaging influencers followed by 69% that say lead generation is a top benefit. Is it reasonable to expect both?

Absolutely. I started my career out very heavy on the demand generation side. It will always be my go-to passion. But I really have the firm belief that if you do branding, right, the demand will follow. And that makes taking your stories to market that much more memorable. So with influencer marketing, it’s certainly helping with share of voice because you’re getting more exposure through the influencers that you’re partnering with. When it’s done right, your sales team can actually take those actions that you’re creating, those influencer soundbites, those nuggets, and build credibility and value into the business case sooner.

If you do branding, right, the demand will follow and that makes taking your stories to market much more memorable. @JenHoltvluwer

I think we’re all finding now that it’s a big struggle trying to market during a pandemic and a recession. I bring that up because you’ve really got to create value sooner in the funnel so that people understand. If an influencer is endorsing this or sharing this and talking about this, I better take a look at this sooner, right? Because it’s probably something that I need to be taking action on too. So there is a nice balance where I do think that the branding that you get out of influencer marketing can most definitely be used to accelerate the demand side, which leads to those opportunities that we’re all wanting to get at the end of the day.

What would you say to an executive that says, “There are no influencers in my industry”?

I think that there are influencers in every industry. There’s buyer influencers, there’s market influencers. It’s up to us as marketers and sellers to find out who those influencers are. For us in data, privacy, data security it is definitely the chief information security officers. What we’ve done is create our own podcast where we invite customers to come on. And it’s not where we’re talking about our brand. We’re talking about impactful things that are happening in the industry. For example, the Blackbaud data breach is very top of mind for the CSO community right now. Inviting influencers in to participate with you is very important to do, especially in times like today.

There are influencers in every industry…most executives understand that you’ve got to align yourselves with people that are going to be that champion for your cause. @JenHoltvluwer

I think most executives that I work with, maybe it’s because I’m so convincing and have a pretty good portfolio of examples to share, understand that you’ve got to align yourselves with people that are going to be that champion for your cause. If you can ever tie it back to data, which is one thing I think my team has done very well, you know this works. This has moved your share of voice X percentage point. This has brought in X number of pipeline resulting in X revenue. There are studies out there that show that impact too. So I think it doesn’t take much to convince an executive when you have published data to back up your idea and your approach to influencer marketing.

You’ve had an impressive career at companies like BMC Software, Cherwell, Alcatel Lucent Enterprise and now CMO at Spirion. What career advice do you have for other aspiring CMOs?

When I look back at my career, I’ve had some highs and I’ve obviously had lows like we all do, but what’s been the thing I’ve always had is I’ve always sought a champion within the organization that’s at that director level or above that I’ve aligned myself with. And that is not something that you can just do. You’ve got to earn that trust. So you’ve got to put in the time to show that you’re someone that they do want to put some time into, to mentor and coach. I think it’s really important that people seek out who a person who is going to be a champion for them if they want to advance and grow their career.

It’s really important that people seek out who a person who is going to be a champion for them if they want to advance and grow their career. @JenHoltvluwer

I’ve had David Weiss, Matt Dircks, Carolyn Tague, Sandra Booth. I’ve had so many that I still keep in touch with today that have been that champion for my cause. So I think it’s really important to not to do it alone and make sure you put in the time and that your time is noticed. And make sure that you’re marketing yourself to the right champion in the business. Then they’ll stay with you and refer you as other opportunities come up. That’s, that’s really been my success. And that’s what I like to pass along to people when I get asked that question.

To see the full Inside Influence interview with Jen Holtvluwer, watch the video below:

If you would like to connect with Jen further about B2B influencer marketing, you can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Next up on Inside Influence, we’ll be talking to Amisha Gandhi, VP Influencer Marketing and Communications at SAP about creating mutual value with influencers.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence interviews:

The post Inside Influence: Jen Holtvluwer from Spiron on Award Winning B2B Influencer Marketing appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


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Break Free B2B Series: Amisha Gandhi on Global B2B Influencer Marketing

Break Free B2B Interview with Amisha Gandhi

Break Free B2B Interview with Amisha Gandhi

Amisha Gandhi is the VP of Influencer Marketing & Communications for SAP Ariba & SAP Fieldglass. She is a sought-after speaker, and in this video — fresh off of a workshop presentation at MarketingProfs B2B Forum that absolutely rocked — she shares fascinating ideas about how to make an ongoing B2B influencer content marketing program not only work but drive organizational change and success. With that said, check out the full interview below.

Below are some of our favorite insights from the chat between Amisha and our president and co-founder Susan Misukanis.

Sue: I’ll always get calls from B2B marketers who say they want to deploy the Kardashian model for their long-tale, B2B influencer program that is still in its infancy, and I feel like I need to redirect. What are your thoughts on that?

Amisha: I think a lot of people, when they think about influencer marketing, they think it’s all celebrity, but in reality, when you’re looking at it, they are brand ambassadors. We have brand ambassadors because that really helps with awareness. It gives us a sense of credibility and a voice that everybody knows. Then you can build on technology influencers or software developers, depending on what you’re trying to do. You can have a whole soup-to-nuts program.

So maybe you’re working with the team that’s been a brand ambassadorship and then you’re seeing what the message is there and how can you work with other kinds of influencers that are practitioners, executives, or even CEOs. That really speaks to your audience in a more authentic way. But you still have the brand ambassador, you have these influencers, and you may even have some analysts and programmers, bringing it all together.

Sue: Okay, so for someone who’s thinking of doing a pilot a B2B pilot, maybe give us the worst-case scenario.

Amisha: Do not just start calling influencers and say, “I’m doing this campaign, do you want to be a part of it?” and be very prescriptive. If you come up with a campaign or there’s a big marketing campaign coming out, have a concept and then start talking to influencers because they will help you move your program. If you have a very hard defined program, then people will either want to be in it or not. That’s not a good way to make a relationship with an influencer.

You want to invite people to be in your program first and then do some brainstorming with them and see what they like, how they like to interact or what they like to do for companies. Versus being very prescriptive, be a little bit flexible. I think control — that’s one of the biggest things that I hear back in people starting out. They are like, “We have this great white-paper, we have this great program, you should come in and amplify it,”  but people aren’t looking to amplify your company content. They’re looking to help you reach their audience. So you need to work with them to see what’s going to be interesting for their audience.

[bctt tweet=”“Invite people to be in your program first and then do some brainstorming with them and see what they like, how they like to interact or what they like to do for companies.” @AmishaGandhi” username=”toprank”]

Sue: How can B2B marketers break free from boring B2B?

Amisha: We know people say, “Oh, B2B is boring.” It doesn’t have to be boring, but you have to know your audience and what they’re looking for. Most of the time, they’re really looking for straightforward information because they don’t have time. But you do have some capacity to be found on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and other places that serve as community watering holes or trade association sites. People are looking for content there. You can add sizzle by making a very interesting or provocative headline, have a play on words, and things like that, that you don’t normally see in B2B.

One thing that I use for inspiration is Taco Bell. Many years back they had this idea of, when the space shuttle comes back in, if it hit a certain spot then everybody in the world would get a free taco. It turned out to be this amazing communications program. It just went everywhere — it was viral. I always think about what can we do to make things viral in a B2B world. Sometimes we end up with outrageous ideas we don’t ever use or could never use, but it can inspire something real to happen. It informs creative and fun ways to reach people and touch people in a different way than you would normally think of in B2B. Plus, it can be a real success.

 

The entire interview is full of B2B-boundary-defying insights. Check out the full video above.

The post Break Free B2B Series: Amisha Gandhi on Global B2B Influencer Marketing appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Source: SEO blog

Break Free B2B Series: Amisha Gandhi on Global B2B Influencer Marketing

Break Free B2B Interview with Amisha Gandhi

Amisha Gandhi is the VP of Influencer Marketing & Communications for SAP Ariba & SAP Fieldglass. She is a sought-after speaker, and in this video — fresh off of a workshop presentation at MarketingProfs B2B Forum that absolutely rocked — she shares fascinating ideas about how to make an ongoing B2B influencer content marketing program not only work but drive organizational change and success. With that said, check out the full interview below.

Below are some of our favorite insights from the chat between Amisha and our president and co-founder Susan Misukanis.

Sue: I’ll always get calls from B2B marketers who say they want to deploy the Kardashian model for their long-tale, B2B influencer program that is still in its infancy, and I feel like I need to redirect. What are your thoughts on that?

Amisha: I think a lot of people, when they think about influencer marketing, they think it’s all celebrity, but in reality, when you’re looking at it, they are brand ambassadors. We have brand ambassadors because that really helps with awareness. It gives us a sense of credibility and a voice that everybody knows. Then you can build on technology influencers or software developers, depending on what you’re trying to do. You can have a whole soup-to-nuts program.

So maybe you’re working with the team that’s been a brand ambassadorship and then you’re seeing what the message is there and how can you work with other kinds of influencers that are practitioners, executives, or even CEOs. That really speaks to your audience in a more authentic way. But you still have the brand ambassador, you have these influencers, and you may even have some analysts and programmers, bringing it all together.

Sue: Okay, so for someone who’s thinking of doing a pilot a B2B pilot, maybe give us the worst-case scenario.

Amisha: Do not just start calling influencers and say, “I’m doing this campaign, do you want to be a part of it?” and be very prescriptive. If you come up with a campaign or there’s a big marketing campaign coming out, have a concept and then start talking to influencers because they will help you move your program. If you have a very hard defined program, then people will either want to be in it or not. That’s not a good way to make a relationship with an influencer.

You want to invite people to be in your program first and then do some brainstorming with them and see what they like, how they like to interact or what they like to do for companies. Versus being very prescriptive, be a little bit flexible. I think control — that’s one of the biggest things that I hear back in people starting out. They are like, “We have this great white-paper, we have this great program, you should come in and amplify it,”  but people aren’t looking to amplify your company content. They’re looking to help you reach their audience. So you need to work with them to see what’s going to be interesting for their audience.

“Invite people to be in your program first and then do some brainstorming with them and see what they like, how they like to interact or what they like to do for companies.” @AmishaGandhi Click To Tweet

Sue: How can B2B marketers break free from boring B2B?

Amisha: We know people say, “Oh, B2B is boring.” It doesn’t have to be boring, but you have to know your audience and what they’re looking for. Most of the time, they’re really looking for straightforward information because they don’t have time. But you do have some capacity to be found on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and other places that serve as community watering holes or trade association sites. People are looking for content there. You can add sizzle by making a very interesting or provocative headline, have a play on words, and things like that, that you don’t normally see in B2B.

One thing that I use for inspiration is Taco Bell. Many years back they had this idea of, when the space shuttle comes back in, if it hit a certain spot then everybody in the world would get a free taco. It turned out to be this amazing communications program. It just went everywhere — it was viral. I always think about what can we do to make things viral in a B2B world. Sometimes we end up with outrageous ideas we don’t ever use or could never use, but it can inspire something real to happen. It informs creative and fun ways to reach people and touch people in a different way than you would normally think of in B2B. Plus, it can be a real success.

The entire interview is full of B2B-boundary-defying insights. Check out the full video above.

Break Free B2B Series: Amanda Todorovich on Creating Content that Pays Off

Amanda Todorovich is the Senior Director of Health Content at Cleveland Clinic. That title kind of undersells what she did over there. She turned a neglected blog into a revenue stream. That’s right –  something that is generating money and is getting over 7 million visitors a month. Now Amanda is a true believer, like our agency, in the power of audience-centered content.

She is living proof that investing in this kind of content pays off. Join us in learning more from Amanda. She is one of the leading lights and is at the vanguard of next-generation content marketers, and we are thrilled to speak with her. View the entire interview below.

Below are a few of our favorite snippets from the interview.

Sue: Recently on your Twitter channel, you retweeted that Cleveland Clinic has monetized its blog successfully. Can you share details?

Amanda: Sure. So we actually started monetizing the site in 2015. We started really small – experimental at that point. We were getting about 3 million visits a month. And we started with a Google pilot, like, let’s just slap up some Google ads and see what we get. If we get any kind of negative reaction internally, or we see a drop in traffic, which we didn’t basically, we got no reaction because people are so used to seeing ads, I think that they just accepted it.

So that was fine. But it’s a lot of work. And as a nonprofit, there were a lot of rules around what we couldn’t have as advertising on our site, and managing that was a lot of work and for not a very high payoff. So we knew that we could do it, we knew that it wouldn’t really affect our traffic much. But, we knew that we needed to think about it a little differently, so we partnered with another publisher very well. They sell and manage all of our inventory. Since then, we’ve tripled our ad revenue and we definitely have evolved and expanded our monetization efforts outside of just our health center’s blog into our constant PT physician blog, as well as our health library content. So it’s revenue that comes directly back into our marketing division, and supports a lot of the work that we’re doing now.

Sue: In terms of SEO, where’s your focus in terms of your really big concepts.

Amanda: SEO has evolved a lot for us over the years and honestly, I just formally took responsibility for our overall SEO strategy this year. It used to be a whole separate thing. So we were trying to work through that and, you know, it had its challenges. Plus, it wasn’t a real big focus for us. Over the years, we’ve shifted from where 60% to 70% of our traffic was coming from social media. Today 80 to 90% comes from organic search. Our SEO strategy today is extremely data-driven, the way that we prioritize the work and the way that we look at what we’re going to focus our time and effort on is really around a couple of things – competitive analysis and content gaps that we have, as well as the difficulty for ranking. Where do we have an opportunity with existing content to potentially climb the ladder a little easier with some tweaking? Now, it’s also a little bit more around assembling a comprehensive, integrated team, and not just from an editorial writing perspective, but from a multimedia perspective. What animation, illustration, and video imagery can we bring to that page to make it the best experience on the internet.

Sue: You retweeted this from one of your team members, and I love this- “Yes, content campaigns are the devil.” So your integrated marketing campaign, it’s focused on selling to customers?

Amanda: I think it’s really important content marketing is not a campaign, it’s not a project, it’s not a one-off. We like to talk about our content channels and process like products, you know, you really need to invest in them. It’s a long-term strategy. It’s something that you really have to think about how you build a long-term committed relationship with that user – it’s not a one-and-done. There’s never really an end to it. It’s continuous and iterative.

It’s imperative that people understand that content marketing isn’t a fling, it’s not a blip, it’s not done and move on to the next. Again, we talk a lot about optimizing existing content, reaching the right people with your content, being hyper-relevant, making it amazing. That’s the focus. That’s how you have to think about it. Because the start and ends and start and stops and buying for a campaign – all these different people and departments slow you way down, and your audience sees through it. People are savvy and smart. They know when something is meant to sell. You really have to be careful with that. Most kinds of marketing programs are about relationships and trust-building. And every time you take a step or stab at that, it dilutes again, your results and your ability to be successful.

Be sure to listen to the full interview above to get all of Amanda Todorovich’s insights as we B2B marketers “Break Free”.