Inside Influence: Janine Wegner from Dell on Thought Leadership and Influencer Relations

Janine Wegner Interview

Today marks the 4th installment in the Inside Influencer series. I want to thank everyone who has viewed the interviews, made comments and shared with their networks. This week we’re continuing our search to find out what’s working and what’s not within the world of B2B influencer marketing as well as further insights from the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report.

Episode 4 of Inside Influence features guest insider, Janine Wegner, Global Thought Leadership Program and Activation Manager at Dell Technologies who our agency TopRank Marketing has the pleasure of working with on influencer content marketing programs like The Zettabyte World – Securing our Data-Rich Future.

Janine and I were able to dig into a topic that I think represents a huge opportunity for influencer integration: the intersection of thought leadership.

Our conversation covered many of the most important topics in B2B influencer marketing including: 

  • What it takes to be an influencer marketing thought leader when you work at a global B2B brand
  • Whether thought leadership and influencer marketing are independent or synergistic disciplines
  • How Dell Technologies works with B2B influencers
  • The benefits of working with influencers besides building brand awareness and lead generation
  • Key insights from the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report
  • The difference between influencer marketing and influencer relations
  • How process is essential for scaling influencer marketing
  • Top challenges when working with influencer marketing
  • Predictions for the future

Here are highlights of our conversation and you can watch the full interview below.

I recently heard a B2B marketing leader describe thought leadership and influencer marketing as an either / or. Do you agree or can they work together?

Janine: If I had an ideal world I would always like to combine both. If we look at thought leadership, one thing is a thought like coming up with a new innovative idea, point of view or solution, new product or service, whatever it is the certain organization is doing. And leadership. That’s not up to a person or an organization, right, to call themselves a leader. Actually you need a validation from an external audience, from an external source. Sometimes it can be analyst firms that confirm that, it can be through highly credible influencers and industry experts. For us certainly that is kind of how we have approached this.

Using influencers and industry experts for thought leadership validation is absolutely key. @janinewegner

Thought Leadership even in its combination with influence has that element of validation by third parties. And so, to me, using influencers and industry experts for thought leadership validation is absolutely key. From the past years we’ve been doing this combination, it has actually shown us so many great returns, not just from brand awareness and perception but also in carrying our thought and what we’re doing, how we’re exploring the next generation of technologies or the next horizon of technologies to communities, that we might not have tapped into before through traditional means. By connecting with those likeminded people, those industry experts, sometimes even niche experts, a whole new community opened up to us, which was great.

Dell has long engaged different types of influencers in ways that impact the business from content collaboration used in marketing to thought leadership. How important do you think influencers are for Dell Technologies?

Janine: It has been increasing. At first it was like maybe some teams here and there that just wanted to work with some knowledgeable experts in a certain field or in a certain region. For example, events with panels that wanted to have an expert opinion back in the days when we could still do physical events. Today it’s a lot of webinars and online events.

Over the years we’ve seen that there’s so much more and there are so many different types of influencers that you can engage with. Working with influencers all comes down to having a good strategy in place and really knowing your objectives, knowing what is a complete marketing suite, where are your gaps and how do you want to reach your audience? What is the story you want to tell? Where on the customer journey do you want to do that? Once you know that, you can then determine what kind of influencers makes sense.

Is it someone you need to increase awareness and have a broad reach and a huge following on social media. Or is it someone, like I said, like if you have an online panel and the vendor panel where you want to have a certain type of expertise that this person brings to the table? There’s so much richness in the diversity of of influencers.

What we’ve been doing over time at Dell is really kind of doubling down on where we can make the best use of influencers. @janinewegner

And so what we’ve been doing over time at Dell is really kind of doubling down on where we can make the best use of influencers. We’re working with influencers from the C-level all the way to dev ops and anything in between. This is really exciting because we get to work with lots of different people. And also in recent months, we have been making really great progress in building an actual team that’s just responsible for influencer relations. We have people that are truly focused from B2C all the way to B2B influencer relations, which is awesome.

In the report you shared that having an end to end process for influencer marketing is key to not only be effective, but also to scale. What goes into that kind of process?

Janine: I think all having an internal process is a must for any organization of any size, because you want to start at your business objectives. I alluded to this a little bit earlier. You want to know what it really is that you are after so you can set your KPIs and know, at the end of the day, if you actually met your objectives.  Otherwise, why are we doing all of this and why we’re spending this money at resources and time?

Also, it’s not just looking at influencer relation tactics as like an add on once you’re done with that campaign, but building it into your complete marketing mix and marketing and communication mix. So, you want to kind of start on setting the objectives then also selecting a great partner and vendor, like your company itself has been tremendously helpful to us, right?

We’re looking for people that have a diverse network of influencers, right? Because we are an end to end solution company. So we need to go from PC all the way to infrastructure and emerging technologies. But also as a global brand who has a network with a global reach, it could be either, influencers that have a global reach or people that are very knowledgeable within a certain region or country that is of interest.

All of this goes into like building a strategy and setting those objectives and finding the right partner. Then you go into identifying who the right people are for whatever stage on the customer journey you want to produce this kind of collaborative content for. Then you can set the right KPIs for the program. You can execute it.

Of course you need to have budget to execute it. You need to ask your business folks to get it for you. Then you execute it, measure it and then you can present a new case to get more funding for the next project.

I feel when people are starting out within this field, they should start small, but very focused. Don’t try to boil the ocean…where can we make impact? @janinewegner

Oftentimes I feel when people are starting out within this field, they should start small, but very focused. Don’t try to boil the ocean, right? Like, really thinking like where can we make impact? What is something that we can show our leadership that this really works and brings us really tactical benefits? And from there on out, you kind of go one stage bigger. And bigger. Until you truly have that full suite of influencer marketing and, or influencer relations or a combination of both.

Who are some other B2B brand influencer marketing professionals that you admire?

Janine: So many! One is Konstanze Alex who used to work with me at Dell technologies. She showed me a lot about influencer marketing and how to work in that space. She’s now at Cisco, sadly, we miss her terribly. Also, the both of us were on a panel together with Amisha Gandhi from SAP and just hearing how she kind of worked from the ground up and like build this huge team and really look at how to integrate influencer marketing within the whole marketing suit that SAP has to offer is fantastic. She’s really a trailblazer within the industry and certainly inspired me. I was very pleased and honored to be on a panel with her.

To see the full interview with Janine, watch video below:

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

Next up on Inside Influence, we’ll be talking to Rotem Yifat, Head of Influencers & Online Partnerships at Monday.com.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence interviews:

Five Can’t-Miss Sessions from Virtual Pubcon 2020

Lee Odden Speaking at Pubcon

The one silver lining in our current reality is the “virtual event.” Sure, we’re all stuck at home, but at least we can have several entire marketing conferences beamed directly to our laptops. 

Granted, there’s a distinct lack of cocktails and networking opportunities. You have to supply your own drinks and try to convince your own pets to follow you on LinkedIn (currently mine are still mulling it over). 

Two dogs, one white, one ginger colored

“Sorry, we only have Facebark.”

The latest conference to go virtual is industry stalwart Pubcon, celebrating its 20th year. This search-centered event never fails to round up fascinating speakers with a ton of experience in search and content marketing.

Here are my top five can’t miss sessions for Pubcon’s Virtual 2020 Conference.

Keynote: How to Optimize Marketing Experiences with Influencer Content

Speaker: Lee Odden, CEO, TopRank Marketing
Salon A
Time: Thursday, October 15th, 1:00-1:40p (All times Central.)

Our team at TopRank Marketing, under Lee’s leadership, has been perfecting the art and discipline of B2B influencer marketing for at least a decade. Now, fresh off of our 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing, Lee’s ready to take strategic, sophisticated influence to the next level. It’s all about CSI — no, not David Caruso in sunglasses, but Content, Search and Influence working together to drive ROI.

Human-Centered Keyword and Content Strategy

Speaker: Elmer Boutin, SEO Director, GTB
Salon B
Time: Wednesday October 14th, 11:10-11:40a

SEO isn’t about writing for robots anymore; it’s writing for the way humans search and trusting the robots to keep up. This session promises to teach how to create a content strategy for human-centered CEO, including metrics and measurement.

Google Keynote 

Speaker: John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google
Salon A
Time: Wednesday October 14th, 9:00-9:40a

When Google talks, marketers listen. The tech giant never gives away too much of how their algorithm works, of course. But we’ll take whatever we can get. John has over a decade of experience at Google, so his perspective on search trends is sure to be well worth your time.

Developing Eye-Catching Content: Five Timeless Lessons from a Pandemic

Speaker: Phillip Thune, CFO, Textbroker International
Salon B
Time:Wednesday October 14th, 2:30-3:00p

The pandemic didn’t create the need for high-quality content. But like so many other changes, COVID-19 highlighted and magnified that need, and it’s causing marketers to re-evaluate their content strategy. In-person sales conversations and trade shows are off the table. Marketers are cranking up their content production — which means it takes something extra to make your content stand out from the rest. Phillip brings a consultant’s eye to the problem with his session.

Conversational UX, AI and Chatbots

Speaker: John Lawson, CEO, ColderICE
Salon A
Time: Wednesday October 14th, 1:50-2:20p

What does SEO look like when there’s no longer a SERP? Voice search and chat are the next frontiers for intrepid marketers. This session promises to address the shift from visual to voice, including what the big movers and shakers are doing and how marketers can keep up.

Stunning Insights Are Virtually Assured

Tune into Pubcon 2020 for all of the above and more, and keep an eye on the TopRank Marketing blog for highlights and takeaways. 

What sessions are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments.

Inside Influence: Ursula Ringham from SAP on Influencer Marketing Operations

Ursula Ringham SAP Interview

Welcome to the 3rd episode of Inside Influence: What’s working and what’s not inside the world of B2B Influencer Marketing. Each week we feature an interview with a B2B marketing insider on all things influence and a deeper dive into the insights found in the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report.

In this 3rd episode of Inside Influence you are in for a treat: A discussion with the force of nature and client of TopRank Marketing that is Ursula Ringham, Head of Global Influencer Marketing at SAP.

Ursula leads the Global Influencer Marketing team at SAP in collaboration with the entire SAP product portfolio to create innovative content with trusted external voices to build brand awareness and create pipeline. She is also an accomplished storyteller, author, creator, influencer marketer, digital innovator, social media maven, champion of girls education, and self described “outdoor sports freak”.

Our Inside Influence conversation covered a variety of influencer marketing topics including:

  • The key components of influencer marketing operations
  • The importance and application of influencer marketing software
  • An influencer marketing case study featuring an SAP podcast
  • Advice for marketers that want the benefits of influencer engagement but are hesitant to commit
  • What B2B brands can expect if they hire an outside agency to help with influencer marketing
  • What B2B marketers should watch out for when working with influencers and influencer programs
  • Rising influencer stars in the B2B tech space

Here are a few highlights of our discussion with a video of our full interview below.

77% of all the world’s revenue transactions go through an SAP ERP system, so we’re probably the biggest company in the world that you use every day, but you don’t know anything about it.

Of course most people in the marketing world know you, but for those that don’t, can you share a bit about the work you do at SAP?

Ursula: Sure. I work at SAP and if people don’t know what that is, SAP is one of the largest enterprise software companies in the world. 77% of all the world’s revenue transactions go through an SAP ERP system, so we’re probably the biggest company in the world that you use every day, but you don’t know anything about it. What I do is I manage our global influencer marketing program where we collaborate with trusted voices that influence customer decisions. What we like to do is collaborate with them to tell the story of how SAP makes the world run better and improve people’s lives.

Your contribution to the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report on influencer marketing operations was really important because I think a lot of people don’t think about all the behind the scenes work that goes into an effective program. What are the key components of influencer marketing operations that marketers should know about? 

Ursula:The operations part of influencer marketing is so important. I think when you’re just starting with an influencer program, you’re just like, okay, where do I begin? You know there are people you need to research with a large social following, but that’s the wrong approach. You’d have to start with your strategy.

You also need some tools to help you. There are different influencer relationship management tools that you can use such as like Onalytica or Traackr which are more for the enterprise. These are also tools that are going to help you with tasks. For example, when we work with other teams at SAP, the very first thing we do is we have them fill out a form about the audience demographics, what success looks like, and the buyer persona.

The key thing is (Influencer Relationship Management) tools save you time and help you manage all your projects in one place.

We collect this information so we can find out who’s that person that you want to help tell the story with you? And that’s really, really important. When you use influencer relationship management tools, you can go in and plug all that data in. The tool will surf the whole web, bring everything back and populate a report for you showing matching influencers. Then you can look at who are these influencers? The key thing is the tools save you time and help you manage all your projects in one place.

Great. I suppose along with software, process comes into play and the whole operations thing too, right? As far as like best practices?

Ursula: Oh my gosh, there’s so many different best practices. But the one thing that I always tell my team is even if the tool brings up all these people, you need to read, watch and listen to every single asset that these influencers has come up with. That’s a best practice.

You really have to go and see what the influencer’s personality is like and how they present themselves.

You can’t just look and go, wow, this person meets the criteria on paper of what this team wanted. Maybe they wanted them to be located in North America and have a podcast. Or maybe they had 50,000 followers. But you really have to go and see what the influencer’s personality is like and how they present themselves.

Of course, now our world is all digital and about video. For that you have to see how they perform if you want them to be a host. The biggest practice is the process that I have: you have to watch, read and listen to everything out there.

The 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report includes a case study featuring your work with SAP in the form of a podcast. Creating a single resource to serve as a platform for different internal customers and different external audiences is impressive. What role did influencers play in the Tech Unknown podcast?

Ursula: Absolutely. We created this podcast called Tech Unknown. We actually just finished our second season. For the first season, it was basically an influencer talking to other influencers, live.

When you look at influencer marketing, you have to think, what is the story you’re going to tell?

For the second season, we wanted to create something different. And so we took inspiration from This American Life, a great podcast. We have a host that tells a story, which is the most important thing. When you look at influencer marketing, you have to think, what is the story you’re going to tell? It’s not just like, let’s do this campaign. You have to think about what is the overall story?

The podcast is a series and what we did was to identify an influencer who would be our host. So decided that would be Tamra McClary. She’s a great thought leader and influencer. The reason we chose her is she’s energetic, her voice, and how she introduces things is great. The audience can relate to her.

For the second season she was the host and our focus was on the topic of data. We looked at all different lines of business and how data affects different businesses out there. Then we would bring in other influencers to give their perspective as like thought leaders on that topic. So if it’s talking about HR data, we bring in an HR expert. And then we might have a customer involved in it or an SAP executive who could talk about the customer.

The whole thing was around thought leadership and the influencers played a critical role because they validated the story. They are that third party validation about what SAP is talking about as a challenge in the industry. The hope is that people realize, “Oh, SAP has a solution to my challenges. Let me go check that out.” That’s why it was so important that the podcast included influencers.

And I’ll have to tell you one thing that is absolutely incredible. We would create a summary blog post about the podcast that we publish on one of our website properties. The gal who manages this thought leadership area of sap.com knows SEO really well. If you typed into Google, “future of data”, out of 1.5 billion search results, our blog post came up number one. It’s a combination of working with the influencer who has the social media presence on the topic. Also, Tamera the host is out there and she’s promoting this blog summary that she wrote. She’s promoting the series and we’re getting the word out there using the right keywords and it all comes into play. It’s all full circle, right?

It’s a podcast, it’s a blog, it’s the influencers. It’s all working together to create this awareness that people are going to pay attention to and realize that SAP has a solution to their business needs.

So who are some B2B tech influencers that really stand out today? And are there any re rising stars you would like to mention also?

Ursula: Oh my gosh, there are several. One of the first people that comes to mind is Sally Eaves.

She’s someone that she’s been on the scene for quite some time, but the thing is, Sally is first of all, Sally. I don’t know where she gets that energy. She is 24/7 go, go, go. She’s doing so many things. She has a background being a CTO, but then she has a side of her that is about education, children and the environment and how technology is influencing society. She’s kind of like the whole package and she’s really good and knowledgeable and very charismatic. We’d love to do some work with her because she’s fantastic. She also has a British accent, which makes that fun for us Americans. She’s one of the top ones that I would recommend. I love following her stories, so definitely check her out.

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

To connect with Ursula on all things marketing and influence, you can find her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

B2B Influencer Marketing Unleashed
Don’t miss Ursula and I as we present at the virtual Content Marketing World conference this week: Influencer Marketing Unleashed: Top Tactics for Success from Global B2B Brands. This is my 10th year in a row speaking at CMWorld and this presentation highlights the best of the best when it comes to information about B2B influencer marketing including:

  • Key trends based on the latest B2B influencer marketing research study
  • Use cases and case studies from Monday.com, Cherwell Software, LinkedIn, Adobe, Alcatel Lucent Enterprise and of course, SAP.
  • A framework for enterprise B2B influencer content campaigns

While the CMWorld conference is happening virtually this week, you can get access to presentations on demand as well. Check out the website.

Next up on Inside Influence is a conversation with Janine Wegner, Global Thought Leadership Program and Activation Manager at Dell Technologies.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence interviews:

Rani Mani, AdobeThe Value of B2B Influencer Marketing

Garnor Morantes, LinkedInThe Power of Always-On Influence

New Research: How B2B Content Marketers Are Impacted and Pivoting During the Pandemic

Professionals Wearing Masks and Bumping Elbows

Each year, Content Marketing Institute releases a new version of its B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, providing a timely contextual snapshot of the discipline at large and its ever-shifting landscape.

Needless to say, this year’s edition hits differently. While there is always change and evolution afoot in the annual study’s findings, 2020 has been a year of unprecedented upheaval for our profession, along with most every other.

The impact of COVID-19 on B2B content marketing is a direct and prevalent focus in CMI’s latest report, which helps leaders and practitioners in the field understand how their peers are reacting and adapting to a disruptive global event.

B2B Content Marketing in the Age of COVID-19

You can find the full report here, but today I’ll share five particular stats and insights that struck me as noteworthy in the 11th Annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report.

  1. Content strategies are changing, both short-term and long-term

Slowly but surely, we’ve been making progress. Forty-three percent of respondents this year reported having a documented content strategy, which is a bit disappointing on its own, but encouraging when you looking at the running trend:

  • 2020: 43%
  • 2019: 41%
  • 2018: 39%
  • 2017: 37%

That’s remarkably steady and consistent growth! I might argue we’re still lagging behind on the whole, but progress is progress. Having said that, it is a bit ironic that at a time where more B2B marketers than ever have gotten their strategy down on paper, we’re being forced to crumple it up and rewrite it.

“It’s a bit ironic that at a time where more B2B marketers than ever have gotten their strategy down on paper, we’re being forced to crumple it up and rewrite it.” — @NickNelsonMN @CMIContent #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

Maybe that’s a bit strong, but 70% of respondents in the CMI survey said the pandemic has had a major or moderate impact on their B2B content strategy. Two-thirds indicated that the nature of their adjustments are both short-term and long-term.

CMI Image A

With this in mind, if you’re among the majority that still hasn’t developed a documented content strategy, this might be a good time to flesh one out that strikes this balance between the big and small pictures. During times of turbulence (and long-distance collaboration), it’s always good to have a single source of truth. Last year I provided a simple three-point checklist for documenting your content strategy, and the guiding principles still apply.

  1. Adjustments to messaging and targeting are the top reactive priorities

Asked about the specific changes their organizations have made in response to COVID-19, the top answer – selected by 70% of B2B marketers – was “Changed targeting/messaging strategy.” The most common answers after that were “Adjusted editorial calendar” and “Changed content distribution/promotion strategy.”

CMI Image B

Nothing too surprising about this. It goes without saying many marketing messages and campaigns that were conceived before the pandemic became irrelevant (if not blatantly tone-deaf) when the world was flipped on its side. Brands everywhere have been forced to fundamentally rethink what they’re saying, and who they’re saying it to.

For that reason, I’m a little surprised that responses like “Reexamined customer journey,” “Increased time spent talking with customers,” and “Revisited customer/buyer personas” were all so low on the list. This does feel like a good time to get back in tune with the preferences and pain points that guide people toward our solutions.

  1. Measurement methods have mostly remained stable

Another finding that stands out to me in the chart above is that “Adjusted key performance indicators” and “Changed content marketing metrics” were at the very bottom. For better or worse, it appears that most teams are sticking to the same yardsticks now as they were a year ago.

Maybe that’s a good thing! If you’ve truly locked down your measurement strategy in a way that accurately proves out results and fosters constant refinement and optimization, it probably shouldn’t change based on outside circumstances. However, according to the 2020 Marketing Measurement & Attribution Survey from Demand Gen Report, 40% of marketers said their company’s current ability to measure and analyze marketing performance and impact “needs improvement,” while only 13% said they felt they were “excellent” in this regard.

So perhaps reporting and analytics simply aren’t viewed as a priority at this time. I find that troubling, because in a time of widespread budget cuts and resource drains, the ability to demonstrate the revenue impact of marketing activities is arguably more important than ever.

  1. Content creation challenges, not pandemic-related issues, are holding back success

Among those who rated their organization’s overall level of content marketing success in the past year as “Minimally Successful” or “Not at All Successful,” CMI broke down contributing factors in order to identify the most prevalent barriers. While the fairly broad “Pandemic-related issues” was available as an option, this was actually among the least common responses. At the top of the list, cited by 63% of laggards, was “Content creation challenges.”

These challenges can take various forms (some of which can be doubly categorized as pandemic-related issues).

“Our company needs more content. We serve a deep niche and few people understand our industry well enough to pop in and do small projects for us,” said one anonymous respondent quoted in the report.

Said another: “Clients are getting bombarded with electronic information—especially now since in-person meetings and events are on hold. How do we create compelling content that gets distributed in a way that stands out from the clutter?”

  1. Virtual events and live-streaming increased — but not THAT much

Among content types used by B2B marketers over the past 12 months, the biggest risers from last year are those you would expect:

  • Virtual events/webinars/online courses increased from 57% to 67%
  • Live-streaming increased from 10% to 29%

These are hefty jumps … but they still don’t point to ubiquity, by any means. There remains untapped opportunity on the frontier of online experiences, although clearly it’s getting crowded in a hurry. The second quote shared in the previous section points to this challenge, which is at the same time both new and old.

Break through the clutter and earn attention: Amidst so much transformative change, this eternal edict of content marketers stays the same. We’re currently just seeing it play out in a new environment.

“Break through the clutter and earn attention: Amidst transformative change, this eternal edict of content marketers stays the same.” — @NickNelsonMN @CMIContent #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

Virtual events and live-streams have much potential for engagement and interactivity. We might receive some inspiration on these fronts when the folks behind this report bring their anticipated annual event, Content Marketing World, into the virtual realm this year for the first time. It’s going down on October 13-16, and our own Lee Odden will be delivering a presentation: Influencer Marketing Unleashed: Top Tactics for Success from Global B2B Brands.

As Lee will illustrate, influencer marketing should be a piece of the puzzle in forward-looking B2B strategies. Many of the other trends outlined here will converge and shape the future of content marketing.

Inside Influence: Garnor Morantes from LinkedIn on the Power of Always-On Influence

Inside Influence Garnor Morantes

Welcome to the second episode of Inside Influence: What’s working and what’s not inside the world of B2B Influencer Marketing. Each week we feature an interview with a B2B marketing insider on all things influence and a deeper dive into the insights found in the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report.

This week, we’re talking to Garnor Morantes, Group Marketing Manager at LinkedIn. Our team at TopRank Marketing has been fortunate to work with Garnor on an award-winning, ongoing influencer marketing program for LinkedIn over several years and his leadership has been instrumental in its success.

Our conversation touches on:

  • What Always-On influencer marketing is and why its valuable for B2B brands
  • The challenges faced by campaign-focused influencer marketing efforts
  • Advice for B2B marketers considering influencer marketing
  • How LinkedIn Marketing and Sales Solutions (clients) has developed an influencer community with an Always-On approach
  • Key statistics from the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report
  • How LinkedIn works with influencers to improve customer and prospect experience
  • Whether marketers should pause or proceed with influencer marketing during the pandemic
  • Who some of the rising star B2B marketing and sales influencers we should be paying attention to
  • Predictions on the future of influencer marketing for B2B brands

The work that we’re doing with influencers is not centered around campaigns, it’s centered around relationships.

How would you explain an Always-On approach to Influencer Marketing to someone who is not familiar?

Garnor: For us as we think about Always-On as a strategy, the biggest thing that comes to mind is that the work that we’re doing with influencers is not centered around campaigns,  it’s centered around relationships. What I mean by that is, who do we want to be working with, who do we want to tell our story, who do we want to engage with.

It’s about building that relationship and finding people that are going to get mutual benefit out of this relationship and as a result we can have that type of engagement that isn’t just centered around different points in time like in a campaign based strategy.

The other thing I think about when it’s Always-On is really, are you activating this program through some channels that are always on? For us it’s our blog and our social channels and those are 24/7. I think that’s another way to think of an Always-On type of strategy.

At LinkedIn Marketing and Sales you’ve take more of an Always-On approach to influencer marketing with some great results in terms of reach and engagement. Can you share a little bit about your objectives and approach?

Garnor: Our objectives as we think about the influencer program is that it works really well in concert with our other programs, our other communities: customer advocates and even industry analysts is that we want to leverage and work with the influencer program in way that it is able to take the messages we want to deliver as a brand or business unit for Sales Solutions and Marketing Solutions, and empower those influencers to tell that story as well.

Our objective (with influencers) is that they know what our story is, that they are familiar with it and can lend input into it as well.

As I mentioned earlier, they have their own story to tell, their own brand, and their own narrative. So I feel that we are finding influencers that are already aligned with that message and that story. Our objective is that they know what our story is, that they are familiar with it and can lend input into it as well. They are the experts in many instances. They’re the feet on the ground who are talking to the marketers on a daily basis, talking to the sellers. So we want that feedback, that input into it.

The objective is equally gathering that input, getting better at telling our story and developing our products and services, while at the same time empowering a set of advocates or people out there that have large followings, or developing followings or are just experts in their field to tell that story as well.

That’s really at a high level the objectives we are trying to meet as we develop these programs. And we do that by keeping an eye out for the types of content that influencers might be creating that supports the message we’re telling. At the same time on occasion, creating some new campaigns in which we can arm these influencers with more information, with some assets that tell the story that we want to put out there – create some new content around that and have them be a key part of the delivery and the content creation.

What do you think are some of the top challenges working with B2B influencers today?

You put your message and your brand in the hands of someone else, what happens if that person says some things that are not in alignment with your brand?

Garnor: I go back to what’s going on in society and really that backdrop that we all heavily need to consider with everything we’re doing these days. There is that risk: you put your message and your brand in the hands of someone else, what happens if that person says some things that are not in alignment with your brand?

There’s a bit of that risk, there’s a bit of that challenge. For us, we have really placed a ton of emphasis on developing the trust and relationships with influencers – we feel pretty good about it, about where we stand, about the messages they’re going to deliver and what they’re going to say. That’s a risk.

Another challenge is one that you also mentioned earlier, is how do you find the right influencers? There’s so many people out there purporting to be experts. How do you find the right ones? We already talked about some of the ways to do that, being a more active part of the conversation.

The number of B2B brands considering influencer marketing for the first time or elevating their efforts has actually increased in the past 6 months. At the same time, our research shows that 60% of marketers do not feel they have the right skills in house or capability to execute. What advice can you share with marketers considering an influencer marketing program?

Garnor: I think the advice that I would give is take a moment and step back and not think of it as an influencer program. Think of it more as what is helpful for your buyers? What is important for your buyers and what they could benefit from?

Start thinking about who the audience truly is and as a result, who might be able to speak to them better than you can?

When you stop and take a look at that, then you start thinking about who that audience truly is and as a result, who might be able to speak to them better than you can?

For example, if you think about our business lines, the ones that I support, we’re talking about marketers and sellers. Yes I work in marketing, but I don’t have the necessary skill sets that I think a lot of these marketers are asking for. So then you start to take a look at what are they asking for? What are those conversations and who is a part of that conversation and can we have a relationship with them?

I think that’s the place to start. It removes some of the overwhelming nature of what setting up an influencer program can be. If you just think about who are the sales leaders and people who are experts in sales I should be talking to? Because that’s my end goal, to talk to sellers.

Let me start there, let me build a relationship with them. Let me see what they need, or what they have to offer and what I can offer them. That can do some of the upfront work of identification of influencers and also what ultimate output, methodology and process are going to work best because it happens from those discussions and relationships. I think that’s the advice I would give.

Check out the full video interview with Garnor here:

To connect on all things B2B marketing with Garnor, be sure to follow him on LinkedIn.

Next up on Inside Influence we will be talking with with Janine Wegner, Global Thought Leadership Program & Activation Manager at Dell Technologies on the intersection of influence and thought leadership.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence interview with Rani Mani, from Adobe.

Your B2B Marketing Book of Life: 10 Inspiring B2B Marketing Tips From Family History

miling young woman research at a library with her laptop image.

What can B2B marketers learn from family history research?

Family history research offers a surprising number of valuable lessons for marketers looking to hone existing skills and build new ones.

For starters, genealogy research can teach us about:

  • Knowing Your Marketing Roots
  • Sharpening Your Research Skills
  • Building Enduring Passion
  • Citing, Celebrating & Honoring Your Marketing Sources
  • Learning & Networking With Fellow Professionals at Industry Events
  • Adhering To Guidelines & Goalposts
  • Publishing & Preserving For Posterity
  • Sparking Interest For Future Marketers
  • Breaking Through With Hyper-Personal Relevance
  • Peering Inside Your B2B Marketing DNA

Aside from childhood school family history projects, I first stared researching my roots in earnest in 1994, and a decade later for several years I worked as a professional genealogist.

It’s still a passion, and a pursuit that has for millions of people of all ages around the world become not only one of the fastest-growing pastimes — spurred on by popular shows such as Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr., Who Do You Think You Are and others — but a multi-billion dollar industry.

“Learning to sing one’s own songs, to trust the particular cadences of own’s voices, is also the goal of any writer.” — Henry Louis Gates Jr. @HenryLouisGates Click To Tweet

Let’s open your own B2B marketing book of life, with 10 tips genealogy offers marketers.

1 — Know Your Marketing Roots

Family history gives researchers newfound understanding, insight, and appreciation for the very real people who form our own personal ancestry.

Marketers too can gain a great deal by learning more about marketing through the lens of the people who played instrumental roles in marketing.

Genealogy reminds us to take the time to learn about the origins of our particular marketing specialty.

Are you involved in B2B influencer marketing? Learn about the professionals who first innovated B2B marketing by applying the strongest aspects of influencer marketing — people like our own TopRank Marketing CEO and co-founder Lee Odden.

At its root the underlying truths of influencer marketing aren’t new at all, as I took to its ultimate conclusion in “10 Tips From Influencer Marketing’s Hidden 1,000-Year History,” with insights to help inspire your marketing from the likes of Hildegard von Bingen through Phineas Taylor “P.T.” Barnum and David Ogilvy.

Invest some time learning about people such as Edward Louis Bernays, the father of public relations, or even the early pioneers of the Internet and the web, who had such a profound effect on how marketers — and pretty much everybody else these days — perform work. Last year when the Internet turned 50, I wrote a celebration in “Classic Marketing Insights to Celebrate the Internet’s 50th Birthday,” and took a look as some of the key pioneering figures.

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” — Winston Churchill Click To Tweet

Take-Away: The more you know your marketing roots the better your own marketing will be.

2 — Sharpen Your Research Skills

At the heart of genealogy sits sharp research skills, to such an extent that many genealogists have to force themselves to occasionally stop researching in order to dedicate time to publishing the results of all that work.

Marketing generally doesn’t involve nearly as great a percentage of time researching as genealogy, yet the benefits of strong research are undeniable, and are often what sets apart run of the mill promotional efforts from those that lead the industry and win awards.

We’ve explored original research in various forms, and you’ll find helpful information in the following articles from our archives:

“You have to know the past to understand the present.” — Dr. Carl Sagan Click To Tweet

Take-Away: Research is vital in marketing, so try incorporating more time to research in your marketing efforts, and to improving your research skills — because the smarter you are when it comes to research, the more efficient the process becomes.

3 — Build Enduring Passion Into Your B2B Marketing

Are you being the best marketer you can be? Are you creating the kind of marketing your descendants will be proud of in 200 years, or at least be able to understand and feel some sense of compassion for?

One key ingredient of successful and genuine marketing is the passion of the person creating it. Share your unique voice to tell compelling stories in your marketing efforts, and when possible humanize your work using anecdotes and history from your own journey.

One curious similarity between B2B marketing and family history is the lengthy duration both usually entail — with the B2B buyer journey being significantly longer than in B2C efforts, as our own Nick Nelson explores in “How to Educate, Engage, & Persuade Buyers Over Lengthy Sales Cycles.”

To help inspire your marketing passion and spark new digital storytelling flames, here are several articles we’ve written on these key topics:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana Click To Tweet

Take-Away: Let your marketing efforts make your descendants — and your ancestors — proud, by including enough of yourself and your own story to bring out the passion in your work.

4 — Cite, Celebrate & Honor Your Marketing Sources

In both marketing and genealogy, quality research involves citing your sources. In genealogy those citations are almost always included in the final report or accompanying source material, while in marketing direct citations are more often included only when quoting people or sharing study data.

In genealogy the goal of source citation is to allow anyone who uses yours to locate the original record you saw — not only in the immediate future but also as long into the future as possible.

Professional genealogists can take source citation to extremes, and I sometimes have to chuckle when I come across a page in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly that has more space dedicated to source citations than report narrative.

Even if your research won’t be including citations in a final publication, strong research technique dictates that for your own records and those of your business, your notes should always include the citations you or others could use to find your sources again.

The same research practices that make good genealogical research translate directly into top-notch marketing research.

Take-Away: Use citations to both personally and professionally document all material you’ve used in coming up with new original work.

5 — Learn & Network With Fellow Professionals at Industry Events

I remember the first genealogy conference I attended — the 2003 Federation of Genealogical Societies (FSG) event — which took place before the web-based family history boom became a multi-billion dollar industry.

Back then I recall being by far one of the youngest attendees. Thankfully today the family history boom has infused genealogy with a massive influx of younger people with a passion for learning more, and before the pandemic hit large conferences such as RootsTech drew over 25,000 in-person attendees along with over 100,000 remote participants.

Today’s genealogy conference audiences tend to look a lot more like those of marketing events, and not just the sea of gray hair I saw back at my first family history conference.

B2B marketers can reap the same benefits as genealogists do by attending conferences — now nearly all conducted virtually due to the pandemic — to help you with:

  • Keeping Up-To-Date on the Latest Research
  • Learning From the Best in the Business
  • Networking From Fellow Professionals
  • Sharing Knowledge with Peers

You can take a took a look at some of the top virtual marketing conferences through the end of 2021 in “17+ Top Virtual Marketing Conferences for Summer 2020 & Beyond,” and be sure to catch Lee Odden presenting on October 13 at Content Marketing World, on October 15 delivering a Pubcon Virtual keynote, and on November 5 at MarketingProfs B2B Forum.

Marketers can also benefit from joining professional organizations just as genealogists do.

Take-Away: Utilize marketing conferences and professional organizations to become exposed to new methods, ideas, and inspiration.

6 — Adhere To Guidelines & Goalposts

In some ways genealogists have it easier than marketers, as the guidelines and goalposts for the family history game don’t change frequently the way they so often do in marketing, where nearly constant change is ubiquitous.

Family historians do need to keep abreast of newly-discovered historical records or existing physical records than have just become available to search online, and also have to deal with how to cite information contained in all of the new formats people use to communicate today, from TikTok to Reddit and beyond.

There are, however, fundamental truths in marketing, and smart marketers owe it to themselves to learn the underlying principles of advertising.

It’s important to adhere to the use of industry standards such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the U.S., the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the E.U., and regulations including the Federal Trade Commission’s “Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers.”

Adhering to your company’s style and usage guide, as well as those of client organizations, is another similarity between marketing and genealogy.

Take-Away: Know the laws in your area of marketing practice and adhere to the style and usage guidelines of the businesses you work with.

7 — Publish & Preserve For Posterity

Don’t allow your life’s work in marketing to fade away as social media platforms and apps come and go as the sands of time shift — which in social media time can happen in dangerously little time.

Through the use of proper backup plans, digital asset management systems, publishing on a variety of media platforms owned by multiple companies, and submitting to digital archiving efforts such as those of The Internet Archive and its Wayback Machine, your marketing efforts don’t have to be relegated to the digital dustbin of Internet history.

Take-Away: Preserving your marketing efforts makes future campaigns stronger, as you can easily consult and learn from your smartly-archived previous work.

8 — Spark Interest For Future Marketers

As we’ve explored, one of the advantages to looking back is the newfound insight we gain for successfully making the most of the future, and we can do a great service to future generations by sharing our insight with aspiring young marketers.

If we can spark an interest by mentoring a younger colleague, client or associate — or even a family member — we’ll contribute to a future of marketing that is more robust with your own personal knowledge passed along to the next generation.

Two people ignited my love of genealogy back in 1994 — my grand-aunt Solveig and an older in-law, Ed. Solveig was the older sister of my grandmother Lilly, who is alive and well and living on her own in her own house at 103, and Solveig gave me a family history book written by a cousin in Norway in the 1950s.

Ed shared with me his fascinating hand-drawn genealogy charts, and between the two of them I was inspired to set out entering all the information I could find — including everyone in that book — into my 1994-era genealogy database program.

Take-Away: Inspire and mentor young marketing talent by imparting your own passion.

9 — Break Through With Hyper-Personal Relevance

One of the ah-ha moments in genealogy comes when a researcher suddenly realizes that their very own family history is vitally intertwined with a history that they hitherto only knew as something utterly distant and probably considered quite boring. When a family history researcher discovers a Civil War or Revolutionary Way ancestor, or one who overcame great obstacles of any type, history comes alive in a new and much more personal way.

In marketing, unlocking a similar key comes by breaking through messaging that goes from boring-to-boring B2B to hyper-relevant personal digital storytelling with heaps of passion and purpose.

We’ve made efforts to do that in our video interview series including Break Free B2B Marketing, and our new Inside Influence series — each episode featuring a leading B2B marketer who is making a difference.

Make that vital connection that brings far-off dusty history or marketing alive with hyper-personal relevance, by learning as much as possible about your audience, and making efforts to connect personally with those who express interest in your campaigns.

Take-Away: Create ah-ha marketing moments that make hyper-personalized connection through passionate storytelling and break free of boring B2B marketing.

10 — Peer Inside Your B2B Marketing DNA

Is there a marketing equivalent of DNA?

DNA has helped expand interest in family history and its ability to help solve many types of genealogy questions, from “Who was my real father?” to “Where did my ancestors like 2,000 years ago?

While marketing doesn’t have scientific DNA, some similarities can be drawn between DNA and the early efforts into neuromarketing and other attempts to improve marketing through a greater understanding of how the brain works.

Now fairly well-established, neuromarketing faces additional challenges as brands and marketers ask whether it’s worth shifting ad spend to, and the Harvard Business Review took a look at how consumer neuroscience is meeting those challenges head on.

Take-Away: Keep tabs on neuromarketing and similar efforts to hone in on some of the universal truths that make for successful marketing.

Create Amazing Marketing To Make Your Ancestors Proud

via GIPHY

We hope that our look at the lessons B2B marketers can learn from family history research has provided you with at least a few helpful tips to implement in your own amazing marketing efforts.

One powerful way to combine many of these top marketing elements is by leveraging B2B influencer marketing, as we outline in our all new 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, featuring insights from hundreds of marketers surveyed as well as expert analysis by the TopRank Marketing team and contributions from top B2B influencer marketing professionals from SAP, LinkedIn, AT&T Business, Adobe, Traackr, IBM, Dell, Cherwell Software, monday.com and more.

Contact us today and find out why TopRank Marketing is the only B2B marketing agency offering influencer marketing as a top capability in Forrester’s “B2B Marketing Agencies, North America” report, and discover how we can help create award-winning marketing for you.

Inside Influence: Rani Mani from Adobe on the B2B Influencer Marketing Advantage

Inside Influence Rani Mani

On the heels of the release of the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report and the announcement that several of our clients (LinkedIn and Alcatel Lucent Enterprise) have won awards for B2B influencer marketing campaigns, I am very happy to share the launch of a new video interview series: Inside Influence: Interviews with B2B Influencer Marketing Insiders.

What is Inside Influence?

This is a show that goes behind the scenes of B2B influencer marketing and showcases conversations with insiders from the world of B2B influencer marketing. We’ll be talking with practitioners at B2B brands of all kinds and sizes to answer the rising number of questions about working with influencers in a business context.

The 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report has provided data for B2B brands to benchmark some of their strategies, operations and best practices. The report has also helped drive more conversations around B2B influence and the Inside Influence series aims to answer questions, provide deeper insights and also highlight many of the talented and unsung heroes of influencer marketing in the B2B world.

First up is the amazing Rani Mani, Head of Employee Advocacy at Adobe where among many responsibilities, she manages the B2B Adobe Insiders program which I am very happy to be a member of. We’ve had a chance to talk to Rani before in this interview and with Inside Influence you will get to see the conversation happening on fresh topics that matter today and into the future.

In this first episode of Inside Influence, we talked to Rani about

  • 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report
  • The role of influence across the customer lifecycle
  • How influencers bring freshness and creativity to brand content
  • The benefits of working with B2B influencers during the pandemic
  • How influencers can help humanize B2B brands, including Adobe
  • Top challenges working with B2B influencers
  • Insights into the B2B Adobe Insiders community
  • The future of B2B influencer marketing

What are some of the other outcomes B2B brands can expect from working with influencers?

Rani: For us it’s been thought leadership in terms of getting some fantastic minds to tap into, you’ve got your pulse on what’s happening in the community and you’re able to anticipate what’s coming up around the corner. Also reach of audience that you normally wouldn’t is also a really nice benefit.

Something we’ve seen firsthand is crisis management and reputation management. When folks are misconstruing who we are and what we stand for, it’s so nice to have trusted advisors swoop in and save the day and explain what’s happening in a way that’s relatable and digestible for the everyday person. And it’s so much more believable when it comes from a peer vs. an executive from the company or a brand channel.

customer experience management
In the report, you mentioned one of ways influencers help B2B marketers create advantage is that influencers bring a heavy dose of freshness and creativity to the content a brand produces. Can you share an example of that influencer creativity in action with Adobe?

Rani: I have so many. One is what we did a couple of years ago with you and your company, TopRank, when we did this very unique and interactive digital storytelling around reimagining and reshaping customer experience management and the future of CXM. We leveraged several brand personalities such as Ann Handley, Scott Monty and Shama Hyder. That was a very interesting piece of content that lives on today.

In addition we went to New York, you were there with us, for Advertising Week and we had all of our Adobe Insiders on camera at NASDAQ where you gave your top challenges in advertising and also gave predictions on what the future of advertising would look like. That was super compelling because not only did it produce wonderful wisdom for the industry, I think you had mentioned, what a fabulous experience it was for the individuals going through it.

You know our good friend and colleague Abhijit Bhaduri, he is out of India and does these fantastic visually compelling sketchnotes when he does his content. It’s really a wonderful way to get through thought leadership and it really cuts through the clutter out there in the digital area. Similarly there’s Kathleen Hessert and her GenZ Group, they do a lot of infographics chock full of memes and emojis that relate to that generation, very fun and playful. Adobe has benefitted from a lot of fresh, creative content from all of you.

Let’s talk about the future of B2B influencer marketing – what do you think will change in 2021, What needs to change?

Rani: I really think the power is shifting. Individual influencers are taking more control and have the opportunity to be more selective about who they do work with and what kind of work they do.

I think we’ll see a lot more influencers standing up for their creative freedom and creative license and I think we’ll see less prescriptive micromanagement from brands. I think the high quality influencers simply won’t stand for that any more. You’re not here as order takers, right? You’re here to collaborate and to co-create and you’re here to be thought partners, not to be puppets. I love that statement and I feel that is the evolution that’s going to happen. It’s already underway but I think it’s going to go in full force as we move past the pandemic and into the future.

Check out the full video interview with Rani Mani here.

For more B2B influencer marketing insights and her overall awesomeness, you can connect with Rani here on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Next up on Inside Influence we will be talking with with Garnor Morantes, Group Marketing Manager at LinkedIn and the brains behind the LinkedIn Marketing and Sales Solutions influencer community.

What Does Award-Winning B2B Influencer Marketing Look Like?

Professional businessman making a heart with his fingers image.

In a time of increased competition and uncertainty, standing out is more important than ever.

Of course there’s plenty of B2B marketing that stands out, but what kind performs? Is it ads, content marketing, SEO, social, ABM or influence?

At TopRank Marketing we make it our business to deliver on and exceed expectations for content experiences that will inspire customers through influencer marketing. But what does award-winning B2B influencer marketing look like?  How can you infuse your own campaigns with the type of powerful elements that combine to deliver stellar marketing performance?

To help answer those questions, let’s take a look at two highly-successful efforts from our clients LinkedIn and Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) to find out what common elements both campaigns share to make for decidedly uncommon success.

Award Winning B2B Influencer Marketing in Action

Awards Image

We were thrilled that the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) B2 Awards awarded TopRank Marketing its silver winner in the social media category, for our work with LinkedIn in the successful “LinkedIn’s Social-First Approach to Engaging Influencers & Audiences Alike” campaign, and that the 2020 Content Marketing Awards has selected TopRank Marketing as a finalist in its best content marketing program in technology, for our work with Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) in the successful “IT Vanguard Awards” campaign.

The ANA’s B2 Awards recognize the top performing B2B marketers with a unique focus on driving demonstrable business results, and in 2020 entrants submitted in 47 categories which have evolved to reflect the growing role of B2B marketing and rapid industry changes.

The 2020 Content Marketing Awards recognize and award the best content marketing projects, agencies and marketers in the industry each year, recognizing all aspects of content marketing, from strategy to distribution, from design to editorial, and is the leading international awards program for corporate content creation and distribution.

LinkedIn’s Social-First Approach to Engaging Influencers & Audiences Alike

LinkedIn Case Study Image

The average daily time that a user spends on social media is approximately 153 minutes (Statista). And, with 706+ million registered users (63 million of which are in decision-making positions), the LinkedIn platform presents a big opportunity for brands to engage their target audience. (LinkedIn).

But reaching and connecting with both marketers and sales professionals has become increasingly difficult due to the overload of information thrown at them each day. The brand LinkedIn also faced this challenge, even on their own platform.

So, in order to better reach these decision makers, LinkedIn Marketing and LinkedIn Sales Solutions set out to create a social-first campaign that would communicate authentically to then attract attention to specific LinkedIn Showcase Pages. Goals included:

  • Increase engagement and continue to humanize LinkedIn as a brand by partnering with well respected industry experts to share real-life struggles, stories and obstacles with a focused audience.
  • Drive new audiences to the targeted Showcase Pages via the influencer’s audiences (that were not already following or engaging with the LinkedIn brand).
  • Continue to nurture and grow relationships with the influencers themselves as part of an ongoing influencer program.
  • Engage the audience in-channel (versus sending to alternate content off platform).

LinkedIn Campaign Insights & Strategy

LinkedIn Image

To create and optimize this social-first influencer content campaign, specific insights and strategies were leveraged:

  • High-level audit of the LinkedIn Marketing and Sales Showcase pages to identify the most engaging content based on:
    • Content Length
    • Topic
    • Visuals
    • Featured Influencers
    • Best Publishing Time/Day
  • Identification of best-fit target influencers based on:
    • Audience Relevance
    • Participation Likelihood
    • Best Stories
    • Relevance and/or admiration of target audience
  • Research into appropriate hashtags for the campaign.

Based on these insights a campaign approach was created, including:

  • A messaging/post formula including:
    • Context at the beginning of each post
    • Tagging the contributing influencer
    • Showcasing their story/insights
    • Utilizing hashtags
    • Compelling visuals
  •      Activation of influencers when posts went live.

Influencer Content Campaign Concept

In order to better reach an overloaded audience, we focused on the idea of partnering with influencers to make professional networking more personal vs. more traditional “best practices” content that fills most professionals’ social feeds.

Instead, relevant influencers we asked to share real-life stories based on 3 key questions:

  • Describe a defining moment in your career and how it shaped you as a marketer or sales professional.
  • What is one thing not on your LinkedIn profile that people should know about you?
  • Who is one rising star in your field that you’d like to recognize? What makes them amazing?

By shifting from purely professional content to a combination of professional and personal, LinkedIn was able to better connect with the audience around their own professional opportunities and provide them a platform to engage directly with experts they respect.

B2B Social Influencer Campaign Results

Results for this influencer marketing and social media program exceeded all target goals. Below is a breakdown of the results:

#MyMarketingStory

  • 239% above reaction benchmark
  • 348% above comment benchmark
  • 150% above shares benchmark
  • 100% influencer activation around the campaign

#MySalesStory

  • 247% above reaction averages/goal
  • 215% above comment averages
  • 400% above shares averages
  • 100% influencer activation around the campaign

Influencer Metrics

  • 14 influencers activated (leading to 75+ over time)
  • 228 total social posts (excludes LinkedIn data)
  • 853 engagements (excludes LinkedIn data)
  • 5.84M estimated reach (excludes LinkedIn data)

LinkedIn Social Influencer Campaign Insights

The goal of this campaign was to drive authentic engagement, on platform, between LinkedIn and their customers. With over 706 million registered users including 63 million in decision-making positions, LinkedIn Marketing and LinkedIn Sales created a powerful and successful social-first campaign leveraging LinkedIn Showcase Pages by connecting with content on both a personal and professional level.

LinkedIn Looks at What’s Next in Marketing Content Together

“At LinkedIn, we’ve worked with the TopRank Marketing team for about two to three years now, and what I really like about working with TopRank is they really, truly come to the table as collaborative partners,” Judy Tian, marketing manager at LinkedIn observed.

“I’ve worked with a number of agencies where in marketing, I’m asking for deliverable A and they just give me deliverable A. But what’s great about TopRank is they also think about B, C, and D and really try to push my thinking of what’s next,” Judy added.

“I think in marketing you are only as good as the creativity of your team and your ideas. The more voices that we bring to the table and the more proactiveness and willingness of everyone contributing ideas, the better off your marketing campaigns will be, and for us at LinkedIn, TopRank has truly become an extension of our own marketing team,” Judy explained.

TopRank Marketing & Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Not Afraid To Innovate: The IT Vanguards Awards Program

Alcatel Screen Shot

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE), a 100-year-old business technology company, decided it was time to raise the stakes in sales funnel management. While ALE had hundreds of contacts, the company was not achieving the desired traction with their current methods.

Their big idea was a recognition program for IT network and IT enterprise communications leaders. By celebrating industry leaders, ALE hoped to forge stronger relationships with clients and prospects — and build a more robust contact list.

But how could ALE make sure that this seed of an idea produced the desired fruit — not only in its inaugural year but in years to come? The company looked to TopRank Marketing to help them create an innovative program, unlike anything that had been done before.

TopRank Marketing provided end-to-end support for the initiative, collaborating with ALE on branding the IT Vanguards program, and then executing a strategic marketing plan which included influencer engagement, press releases, LinkedIn Pulse content, emails, and blogs.

The IT Vanguards website doubled as a way to collect nominations and celebrate the winners. Once the winners were announced, the IT Vanguards website was populated with the honorees’ top leadership advice. These insights positioned both the winners and ALE as thought-leaders while also providing meaningful value long after the close of the program.

All milestones — from announcing the program to celebrating the winners — were promoted using a strategic blend of content marketing, influencer marketing, and social media. The content was amplified on social channels through paid ads as well as posts by ALE employees, program judges, honorees of the IT Vanguards program, and relevant third-party organizations and industry associations.

Results of the IT Vanguards Program

By all definitions, the IT Vanguards program was a resounding success. With more than 50 quality, relevant nominations, the IT Vanguards program was an effective means to identify and celebrate the best IT network and IT enterprise communications leaders.

The program also excelled as a way to generate brand awareness and engagement. There were nearly 14,000 combined landing page views during ten weeks of contest promotion. On social channels, the program boasted 100% engagement from program judges and honorees through activities such as direct conversations with the ALE and TopRank Marketing teams, social sharing, and internal sharing.

The program also spurred third-party recognition of the honorees’ prestigious achievement, including press releases and special ceremonies held by the honorees’ local governments, school boards, and companies. These activities further heightened the credibility of the IT Vanguards program and the market leadership position of ALE.

Lastly, the IT Vanguards program delivered in terms of business development. Using the IT Vanguards program to celebrate the IT network and IT enterprise communications leaders, ALE generated opportunities for meaningful conversations with prospects. The company attributes three million in the pipeline to the campaign.

We’re honored…

…to win the ANA B2 Awards silver award for our combined efforts with LinkedIn — an especially strong campaign as we outlined above, and to be named a finalist at the 2020 Content Marketing Awards in the best content marketing program in technology category for our joint efforts with ALE.

Get Your Own Award-Winning Results From TopRank Marketing

TopRank Marketing, the only B2B marketing agency offering influencer marketing as a top capability in Forrester’s “B2B Marketing Agencies, North America” report, delivers award-winning work to clients including LinkedIn, AT&T, Adobe, SAP, Dell, 3M, monday.com and others. Contact us today to discover how we can help create award-winning marketing for you.

For additional new case studies and to learn more about B2B influencer marketing trends, best practices and predictions for the future, be sure to access the all new 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, which features insights from hundreds of marketers surveyed as well as expert analysis by the TopRank Marketing team and contributions from top B2B influencer marketing professionals from SAP, LinkedIn, AT&T Business, Adobe, Traackr, IBM, Dell, Cherwell Software, monday.com and more.

B2B Influencer Marketing Report Preview

5 Ways B2B Marketers Can Boost Productivity and Focus

Focused and Productive B2B Marketer

Across every industry, profession, and discipline, work productivity is in peril.

How could it not be? Outside distractions have mounted over the course of the year, from a global pandemic to rampant social unrest to a headline-hijacking presidential election, all in the midst of economic turmoil. Through it all, many of us have been acclimating to a remote work setting that upends our established workflows and routines.

Frankly, we all deserve a pat on the back for being able to stay focused on work at all. So go ahead and give yourself one. But with plenty left to accomplish here in 2020, there’s little time to sit back and take a beat.

Marketing is a field that’s especially susceptible to negative productivity impacts at a time like this. We’re scrambling to adapt to changing circumstances for our companies, clients, and strategies. We’re rewriting best practices on the fly. And in a job where creativity is often a driving force, we’re trying to keep our minds clear and energized enough to produce unique and high-quality content.

If you find yourself looking for new ways to power up your team’s productivity (or your own) and get more done each day, here are a few suggestions that might help.

Boosting B2B Marketing Productivity

Based on my own experiences and some tips shared by others around the web, here are five techniques that are working when it comes to finding your groove and producing great work in tough times.

1 — Find and Preserve Your Productivity Pockets

Right now, each day can feel like a constant barrage of forces beckoning us away from the work we are trying to get done. Setting aside everything happening in the outside world, there are the things going on in your own space — maybe kids at home from school, or increased familial commitments, or a roommate who’s sharing an “office” (living room) with you.

As I wrote when sharing my own experiences as a content marketer in the pandemic, I believe it’s essential to carve out “productivity pockets” — dedicated periods of time where you can completely tune into your work, uninterrupted. Use this pocket to tackle your most intensive tasks.

It may be that your circumstances aren’t conducive to routinely scheduling this productivity pocket during standard work hours. In these cases, aim to create asynchronous structures that enable active collaboration with your coworkers, even if it’s not simultaneous.

“It’s essential to carve out ‘productivity pockets’ — dedicated periods of time where you can completely tune into your work, uninterrupted. Use this pocket to tackle your most intensive tasks.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN Click To Tweet

2— Scrutinize the Purpose Behind Meetings and Video Calls

At Digital Summit MPLS 2019, Workfront’s Mike Riding shared marketing productivity tips and noted that almost two-thirds of marketers point to meetings as the No. 1 barrier that gets in the way of their work. One year later, the environment has changed but that underlying issue has not; if anything, it’s magnified.

Zoom fatigue is real, y’all.

Riding listed five reasons why meetings exist:

  1. Give information
  2. Get information
  3. Develop ideas
  4. Make decisions
  5. Create warm, magical human contact

I would argue that in many cases, only the last one requires an actual meeting (and while the warmth and magic may feel a bit more artificial through a computer screen, they are still plenty valuable). Now more than ever, his recommendations for managing meeting overload are worth heeding:

  • Shave meeting times from 60 minutes to 30 minutes when possible.
  • Decline meetings that don’t have a set agenda.
  • Stack meetings back-to-back so as to minimize unproductive gaps in between.
  • And, as suggested above, block out time for your real work that is off-limits for scheduling meetings.

3— Consume New and Unfamiliar Content

Yes, it’s worthwhile to keep an eye on what your peers in the B2B marketing world are doing to stay informed and inspired. But I would also advise moving outside of your typical lane or comfort zone. Look into successful examples of B2C marketing campaigns to see how brands are connecting with their customers in empathetic, humanized ways. Watch a show or movie on Netflix that is beyond your usual genre mix. Play a story-driven video game. Read a new book.

Sameness, silos, and unrelenting routines can be destructive for creativity and productivity. As we like to say around here … Break free!

4— Unplug During the Weekend

Just as it’s important to have dedicated and uninterrupted work time, it is equally important to have dedicated and uninterrupted non-work time. The nature of our current situation is that work/life balance can be exceedingly difficult to maintain. If you can, try to keep the weekends to yourself.

This doesn’t mean you need to lay around and do nothing all day on Saturday and Sunday. In a recent post at Forbes on developing weekend habits to boost happiness and productivity, Syed Balkhi offers up ideas like going on solo “dates” and conducting weekly personal check-ins. The idea is to occupy yourself with enjoyable and invigorating activities, so you can return to the grind on Monday morning feeling refreshed and motivated.

Bottom line? It’s tough to be professionally productive if we aren’t personally content and fulfilled.

5— Manage Attention, Not Time

We recently helped our clients at monday.com put together a collection of tips on maximizing creative team output from a varied field of influential experts. All of the insights are worth perusing for those interested in the subject at hand, as is the accompanying guide, 7 Habits of Highly Productive Marketing and Design Teams. One concept that was raised multiple times in these contributions was a shift in mindset: from time management to attention management.

“The biggest challenge for getting important work done is not that we don’t have enough time. It’s that we have too many distractions,” said author and speaker Maura Nevel Thomas. “This is especially true for creative professionals who need to maximize their imagination, innovation, and inspiration. Instead of time management, focus on attention management.”

“One often-undervalued component of this is daydreaming,” she added, “which is when new ideas and insights form — a necessity for creative professionals.”

This ties back to the first recommendation above. You may very well produce more (and better) output during the one hour in the evening where you can fully focus and commit yourself to the work, as opposed to three hours during the day where you’re being continually pulled away by family, emails, chat messages, and meetings.

“The biggest challenge for getting important work done is not that we don’t have enough time. It’s that we have too many distractions.” — Maura Nevel Thomas @mnthomas Click To Tweet

Find Your Edge and Finish Strong in 2020

Talent, tactics, technologies … they all contribute to successful results for B2B marketing organizations. But heightened productivity is that one difference-making intangible that can really set apart high-performing teams.

Finding and maintaining a strong level of productivity may require different mindsets and techniques than it did a year ago. Identify habits and routines that work for you and your teammates, get locked in, and produce your best work for the rest of the year and beyond.

Want more guidance on doing more with less? Uncover 5 Time-Saving Tips to Overclock Your B2B Marketing Efficiency from our own Lane Ellis.

Get Ready For Video In 2021: Watch 5 Creative Examples of B2B Marketing on YouTube

Smiling man against a creative colorful background image.

What’s new at YouTube, and how are B2B marketers using the world’s largest video platform in creative and engaging campaigns?

Let’s take a look!

Google’s omnipresent YouTube brought in revenue of over $15 billion in 2019, has over two billion monthly active users (MAUs), and by some estimates is considered as the world’s number two search engine, making it nearly inescapable for B2B marketers seeking to host and promote video content. While not necessarily out of this world, YouTube’s orbit casts a wide swath in the B2B marketing universe.

Planets VisualCapitalist Image

During the pandemic, video and webinar content has seen the largest increase in views according to recently-released PathFactory survey data, leading the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) to suggest that “Now Is the Time for B2B Content.”

64 percent of B2B buyers have increased their use of online video during the pandemic, according to newly-released report data from Google and Ipsos, which has also showed a whopping 88 percent increase in the usage of digital marketing overall.

Think With Google Chart

Another study by MediaPost and Bombora also saw increased interest in video during the global health crisis — a move that’s not surprising considering the power of video to drive authentic engagement in as little time as possible, as we’ll see in our five examples from B2B firms using YouTube in creative ways. First, however, let’s look into the latest news surrounding YouTube.

What’s New At YouTube?

YouTube just launched a beta trial of its new YouTube Shorts 15-second vertical video creation function — presently only for users in India with a global rollout planned — joining Instagram’s recent test of its similar Instagram Reels capability.

YouTube Shorts Image

These short video features squarely spring from the popularity of TikTok, and have come at a time when the beleaguered company — now sought for acquisition by Oracle* — has faced significant challenges with its U.S. operations. Oracle’s proposed deal with TikTok — owned by ByteDance, its parent company in China — has met with initial approval by some advertisers.

Oracle, which has recently forged partnerships with firms including Zoom, may at first seem like an odd fit for the acquisition of an app dedicated to short-form video creation and sharing, however should it succeed in controlling TikTok’s U.S. operations it would undoubtedly lend a significant infusion of enterprise-level business exposure.

That could pave the way for increased B2B use of the type of short videos that can be created with TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts, and with ever-more content being viewed on smartphones, vertical video undoubtedly has a massive audience.

YouTube — which said that its Shorts feature provides a way to “discover, watch and create short, vertical videos on the YouTube app.” — has allowed users worldwide to upload short vertical video using the #Shorts hashtag, which will feature Shorts videos on YouTube’s coveted homepage.

YouTube Shorts video can include music and feature multiple segments and playback speeds, along with timers for recording hands-free video, the firm said.

The rise of vertical video brought on by TikTok and now Instagram and YouTube may end up making the format another standard digital asset for B2B marketing design teams, with its own strengths in areas such as mobile, and weaknesses in others such as display on traditional desktop and non-smartphone devices.

On the advertising front, YouTube is planning to launch engaged-view conversions (EVC) metrics by the end of the year, bringing data on viewers who watch at least 10 seconds of a video ad and subsequently click away, yet nonetheless end up converting within a set number of days, YouTube recently noted.

“By the end of the year, we will make engaged-view conversions a standard way of measuring conversions for TrueView skippable in-stream ads, local campaigns and app campaigns,” Nicky Rettke, YouTube director and product manager of YouTube Ads, explained in a recent post on the Google Ads & Commerce Blog.

On the live-streaming front, YouTube has continued to embrace the multi-billion dollar esports vertical —  which is comprised of more than 400 million players globally — offering a number of advertising opportunities for certain B2B brands.

Whether 2021 will see more B2B brands sponsoring esports players or events remains to be seen, however B2B marketers may be taking a closer look at opportunities in esports, as Rosalyn Page recently examined in “What Brands Need to Know about Esports.”

Live-streaming has also gained momentum in the relatively new area of streaming e-commerce, backed by firms including Amazon, and as Bloomberg News recently reported, the practice is expected to generate more than $100 billion in global sales in 2020.

While more video is being watched than ever due to the pandemic, a significant amount of video seen on social media timelines is viewed with the sound turned off, making it more important than ever to ensure all video content has quality subtitling available along with a #Captioned hashtag.

A good resource for information about video captioning for YouTube and elsewhere is Meryl Evans, an acknowledged “#Captioned pusher” and a fellow former bulletin board system SysOp.

In B2B marketing, YouTube video content doesn’t necessarily always need to be traditional camera footage, as alternative formats such as animation are becoming easier to create than ever before, as Victor Blasco, chief executive of Yum Yum Videos recently explored in “Making Animated Marketing Videos That Engage Customers.”

Now let’s jump-cut to five recent examples of B2B marketers using YouTube to tell creative and engaging video stories.

1 — HP’s Dear Future Me

In more ways than one storytelling is truly at the heart of powerful marketing messages, as witnesses in spades in HP’s new “Dear Future Me” video campaign, which offers a heartwarming spin on the practice of writing a letter to your future self, chronicling the stories of six recent high school graduates who wrote themselves such letters six years ago, when they were in the sixth grade.

As part of the campaign, HP’s landing page for the initiative offers a downloadable PDF form where anyone can write their own letter, and incorporates a “We can’t wait to meet the future you” message to end the first of the two-part series of mini-documentary videos.

The second episode lets current sixth graders write letters to their future 2026 selves, and shows them telling their own stories centered around the challenges of the pandemic. “Just try to remember: if you got through this year, you can get through anything,” one student encourages her future self.

HP’s YouTube video descriptions for the series include handy links to the other video in the series, along with an extra link to subscribe to the firm’s channel — a simple yet often-overlooked practice that allows viewers who may have over years trained themselves to ignore YouTube’s own ubiquitous red “Subscribe” button.

2 — Adobe’s Honor Heroes

Adobe’s* “Honor Heroes” campaign, a collaborative global artistic effort to help support the battle against COVID-19, is centered around a single minute of video that has to date tallied nearly 3.5 million views.

During that one minute the work of artists and other creative people is shown, each piece inspired by the pandemic.

On Adobe’s YouTube channel the video’s description includes the campaign’s hashtag #HonorHeroes, and a link leading to a section of Adobe’s website with an image of each of the 116 people chosen as heroes, and a link to their respective Instagram profiles. The campaign’s video is also playable from the page.

Adobe ties the page into their own Instagram account as well, encouraging page visitors to see more about the heroes campaign using the same hashtag this time to link to their Instagram profile and specifically those posts utilizing the campaign hashtag — a technique that can be effectively used to move customers to content on various brand social media channels.

The campaign was also featured on the company’s blog, offering additional context about the campaign with insight from some of those involved, a donation link to the Direct Relief organization, and an embedded instance of the campaign’s YouTube video.

3 — Constant Contact’s Power Hour

Constant Contact regularly publishes video content to its YouTube channel — sometimes releasing up to 12 videos weekly — making it an important part of the firm’s social media efforts.

Recent videos have included answering frequent customer questions, spotlight videos on businesses using the platform, a “Pro Series Power Hour” featuring ABC’s Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary, customer success stories, and a visual series dedicated to using various elements of the firm’s service.

For Kevin O’Leary’s video, Constant Contact has used a detailed description of the spot, with a link to learn more on their website’s blog along with links to five of the firm’s social media profiles.

4 — Deloitte’s A World Reimagined

In Deloitte’s “A World Reimagined: The 2020 Global Millennial Survey” video, the effects of the pandemic on young people in the millennial and Gen Z demographic are visualized and brought to life, highlighting their energy for building a better world.

In addition to watching the video, a micro-site for the campaign allows visitors to download the related report — which surveyed more than 18,000 millennials and Gen Zs across 43 countries — view a replay of the initial live-stream video event related to the effort, and offers an infographic for download and sharing.

The site also includes a Twitter stream of tweets centered around the campaign’s #MillennialSurvey hashtag.

Deloitte also successfully uses YouTube for its “Life at Deloitte” series of company culture videos, using storytelling to build empathy and trust, a tactic MarketingProfs explored recently in “Five Tips for Making Company-Culture Videos That Captivate Your Customers’ Hearts.”

5 — Ernst & Young’s Megatrends 2020 & Beyond

In its “EY Megatrends 2020 and Beyond” video, Ernst & Young looks ahead to future trends and their overall larger meaning — one of its numerous YouTube channel videos exploring the firm’s service offerings and helpful financial-related insight.

Ernst & Young also uses its YouTube profile to share how it has responded to COVID-19, to announce its world entrepreneur of the year, and to archive its live-streaming video from LinkedIn* Live.

Maliha Aqeel, director of global communications at Fix Network World and former assistant director of brand marketing and communications at Ernst & Young, sat down with our senior content marketing manager Joshua Nite to share a look at the role of B2B company culture in driving employee and customer satisfaction, in “Break Free B2B Series: Maliha Aqeel on How to Ace B2B Company Culture.”

Marketers and communicators within organizations have to take the charge. Our job is to take all of those values and say, ‘Here’s how it could look. Here’s how the intangible becomes tangible.’ @MalihaQ on #CorporateCulture #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet

Snap A New B2B Take On Creative YouTube Marketing

via GIPHY

YouTube offers much more to marketers than simply being the default spot to host and play back video, with ample social features for B2B brands to highlight other channels to follow, threaded viewer commenting if wanted, the forthcoming YouTube Shorts format, an ever-increasing number of ad formats and placement options, and remains a powerful platform for B2B influencers to engage their audience.

We hope you’ve gained at least a few new ideas from looking at the latest news about YouTube, and that you’ll find inspiration from the five fine examples we’ve explored from HP, Adobe, Constant Contact, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young.

Video is only one facet of a well-rounded B2B marketing strategy, yet one that plays an important role in campaigns that attract, engage, and convert. Find out why firms including Adobe, LinkedIn, SAP, AT&T, Dell, 3M and others have chosen to work with TopRank Marketing — drop us a line.

* Oracle, Adobe, and LinkedIn are TopRank Marketing clients.