When you think about it, all marketing is influence marketing. You are trying to influence someone to buy your product or service. But in the case of this post, Influence Marketing actually aims a bit outside of your prospective buyer. It is a strategy that looks to leverage influencers within your industry to endorse your brand.
An Influence Marketing strategy is targeted at those individuals or groups who are “influencers” of your ideal customers. These influencers hold some authority with the buyer, who looks to them for advice when making a purchasing decision. This can be a very important tool to help shorten complex B2B buying cycles.
Make an Influencer Map
It is easier to identify and engage an influencer if you have developed buyer personas and mapped out the buying cycle.
In Status Quo, the buyer has been comfortable with their current solution.
A Triggering Event occurs to force the need for change: a Priority Shift.
Research to Options
The buyer now feels the need to Research solutions to the new and urgent problem they face.
During Research, the buyer begins to make a list of Options.
Step Back to Options
During Step Back, the buyer is questioning previous decisions.
The buyer needs to ensure the appropriate option was selected.
Validation to Choice
The buyer needs Validation of their selection, meaning further information is needed to cement the decision.
The buyer moves to the choice that they feels most closely fits their problem and that will have the most positive impact on their professional status.
There may be a different set of influencers at each stage in the buying cycle. Identifying and building authority among those influencers will help you move the buyer along the path toward closing a deal.
Manage Your Buyer’s Influencers
Find out who the influencers are by tracking who the buyer contacts, and through mirroring your customer’s communication pathways using tools like Graph Search as your guide. Once you determine who the influencers are you can build personas for them as well. Next, analyze influencer websites and social channels to learn the keywords and phrases the influencer uses to cause the buyer to take action, then map the appropriate content targeting the influencer.
Monitor the Relationship between Buyers and Influencers
You need to monitor how the buyer is reacting to their influencers to guide your influencer engagement tactics. Which influencers should you target? What type of influence do they have and how can you engage in the appropriate way?
Much of this goes back to a proper buyer persona which should tell you where the buyer is coming from and what their most important concerns will be vis a vis solving their problem. The buyer may look to peers on social media for information at one stage of the buying cycle, and seek out direction and advice from authoritative blogs at another.
You should also identify and monitor factors like competitor brand loyalty, which inform the opinions and decisions of influencers and buyers alike.
Measure Your Efforts
As with everything, if you don’t measure the outcomes you won’t know what is working and what needs to be changed. Map your buyers’ various actions back to the influencer who caused them and determine what activities were most responsible for the ROI of the campaign.
If you are capturing leads through forms on your website, tracking could be as simple as adding a “How did you hear about us?” field. You can also mine for influencer data by sending your past and potential customers brief email surveys.
Why Do All This Work?
It is no longer enough to know how many “likes” you have or what your Klout score is. In order to improve your conversions, you need to know what people or groups helped guide your buyers’ decision making process, then use that information to further your strategic and tactical development. You should be trying to hit the bull’s eye, not just the broad side of the barn.
The better you target your potential customers’ influencers, the more they will help push your buyer down the purchase path. Influencers can help shorten the buying cycle and increase the authority of your B2B brand. If the influencers believe in you, then your buyers will feel they can, too.