The MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum always features top industry speakers, and the 2017 event did not disappoint. One of our most popular topics was "Proving the Value of B2B Influencer Marketing," presented by Lee Odden.
Fun fact: when I taught Internet marketing to to graduate students, Lee's book, Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing was required reading.
Lee's a digital marketing and PR strategist, consultant, speaker, and author. He's also the CEO and a co-founder of TopRank Marketing, a Minneapolis-based digital marketing agency specializing in strategic Internet marketing consulting services. The agency's clients include B2B and B2C companies, including SAP, Oracle, LinkedIn, Dell, HP, Microsoft, Staples, General Mills, and MarketingProfs.
I invited Lee to Marketing Smarts to revisit the topic of B2B influencer marketing (and why every company needs to get on board).
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
B2B marketers should take a cue from their B2C counterparts and try influencer marketing (04:30): "There's a lot of lessons that have been learned by B2B marketers when looking at their B2C counterparts. One thing is, B2C brands have really embraced the idea of co-creation and democratized content creation, and working with influencers is one element of that. We did a study with Altimeter Group and Traackr to understand what enterprise marketers are doing in influencer marketing, and [found that] 48% of B2C marketers have ongoing influencer marketing programs, so that's a sign of maturity. Only 11% of B2B marketers have ongoing programs. That's a sign of B2B lagging."
Influencer marketing works at any stage of the buyer's journey: It's not just for lead gen (07:15): "Think of the entire customer lifecycle. It's tempting for people, like right now, [to say] 'we've got to make our fourth quarter numbers, let's go to end of lifecycle keywords. It's all about the transaction, let's steal leads from somebody else by focusing on the kind of topics relevant to the transaction phase,' but influencer marketing is good for more than just lead gen. We have a lifecycle framework that's pretty common in marketing: awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy.
"The amazing thing is that co-creating content with people who have the respect of your audience makes sense in any scenario where your company is creating external and public communications. If you want that content to be believed, if you want it to reach the right people in a credible way, why not work with someone who already has that credibility to give it authenticity, to give it expertise, and they may help you promote it, as well, which will give you reach."
You can start small: Try a pilot (08:49): "Ways that you can work with influencers is to do a test of some kind. You hopefully have some understanding of a pain point amongst your customers where your product or service is a solution. How can you...address that pain through content that's credible with people that have expertise? In the case of DivvyHQ, one of their insights about their customers was that they were using spreadsheets to manage their editorial plans.... They felt that if they had to use software, it would be complicated. That's what DivvyHQ offers—a content-planning platform.
"So the pilot with influencers was, first, rooted in a story. 'Content Planning Tips So Easy Your Grandmother Could Do It,' to simplify it. And there was a Mrs. Doubtfire-looking character and voiceover on the motion graphic giving these tips about how content-planning software's actually going to make your life easier. But to give it credibility, we connected with tier-one content marketing influencers in the industry...to give practical tips. You could tap your own network and connect with people...you just need someone who's genuine and believable and has demonstrated expertise and you can grow from that.
"By inviting these experts to share practical tips around the topic—around the thing that we knew was a pain—we beat the benchmark goal for downloads of the main asset by over 500%. Connecting with people that already have expertise to solve a pain that you know exists within your customers in terms of information can be a great starting point. It's working exceptionally well."
Influencer marketing might sound warm and fuzzy, but you still need to measure ROI (23:55): "We segment our measurement scheme out according to our 'Attract,' 'Engage,' 'Convert,' keeping content accountable. These are all content programs. Anything you would use to measure content performance would apply to an influencer content initiative, as well as the performance of the influencer and their community, as well.
"With an Attract, Engage, Convert model, 'Attract' is making sure content is accountable to attracting that audience through whatever means is relevant to that particular customer. What are they searching on? What social channels? What are they subscribed to? What kind of advertising? Whatever surfaced that content to them from a discovery standpoint.
"'Engagement' are the metrics around interaction, obviously. We want to create a great experience, so there are metrics around content relevant to how we accomplish the buyer['s] consuming and interacting with the content itself. 'Conversion' is really about anything where a form is filled out. So we have those metrics around the content where influencers were contributors.
"But on top of that, we want to measure things about the influencer themselves. That's [the] 'Input, Output, Outcome' model there. We literally count how many things our influencer's making and doing, and then we take a look at what they're actually publishing, and then the performance of what they've published and its ability to influence other marketing outcomes."
Lee and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.
Lee Odden, digital marketing strategist, consultant, speaker, author, and CEO at TopRank Marketing—digital marketing agency. Lee is also the author of Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing. Follow Lee on Twitter: @leeodden.