Influencer engagement is, without a doubt, the key to building buyer interest.

It’s spread out today like a strange religion that’s creeping up on the industry and taking a strong fold across all aspects of how we market, how we message, how we sell and most importantly – how well we sell.

Brands are grasping at straws because there’s virtually no proven, quantifiable way to measure their influencer engagement strategy. The habits and preferences of industry influencers have been changing continuously with time. In this blog, we’ll be covering four crisp and accurate steps through which you can bulletproof your influencer engagement.

Gartner found out in a recent study that technology buyers spend nearly 50% of their buying effort engaging with people and organizations independent from the providers being considered!

Yes, you read that right. FIFTY PERCENT.  With people OUTSIDE the brands being considered.

This has now lead to a pool of really powerful middlemen, who can make or break business deals for you. And whether your brand’s story ends in a climax or an anti-climax – rests on their pen.

This drives the need for tech industry product marketers to increase focus on broad influencer marketing efforts. There are many types of influencers. We’ve finally cracked the code. It finally hit us, why every technology buyer is bewitched by what opinion the influencer has to offer before they make a buying decision. While the TSPs have been too caught up in the science of things, the influencers exploited the core humanities of the buying process.

You see, brands sell goods and services.

Influencers sell relations, stories, and magic!

This leaves you no choice, as a seller, but to increase focus on broad influencer marketing efforts. Whether it adds up in your techie’s brain or not, the irrefutable truth is this – Buyers view influencers as a key source of trusted information and insights.

The Influencer Stamp of Value

Product reviews have risen in prominence over the last several years. You probably know this.

But did you know?

The most valued product reviews come from people that buyers perceive to be independent experts.

Who are these people and where can you find them?

They are peers in other organizations, analysts, consultants, academic experts, government representatives, credible reporters or bloggers, communities, associations, and others.

These people, collectively, are your influencers. While they are not directly affected by the buying decision, their opinions, insights, and stamps of approval, are critical to the buying decision.

Don’t faint yet. While it may sound daunting, you have the right strategy in place, you can make them stamp their approval on your product or service.

For example, begin with your customer programs. Communicate to your existing customers about various review platforms and encourage them to submit reviews on these sites. This way, you can build your own influencer assets, synthetically. If you’re wondering where to get your existing customers to drop a review, begin with your own website site.

Following that, you can expand to partner websites, or independent review sites such as Gartner Peer Insights, Software Advice, Capterra, G2 Crowd, IT Central Station or others.

Divide, Rule And Conquer

Influencers come in all shapes and sizes. Do not, we repeat – DO NOT think you can get away with a one size fits all influencer management program. Categorize influencers based on their role in the technology buying cycle, influencer their organizations they work for, their profile, reach and special interests.

Here’s a pro tip from Gartner.

“Opinion leaders often have their biggest impact early in the buying process, helping buyers make the decision to make a change. Individuals or organizations that serve as selection consultants have a big impact during the evaluation and engagement activity streams. Industry analysts can have an impact throughout the buying process.

Ideally, your influencer marketing program will include coverage across the entire buying process, helping you leverage influencers as you guide buyers toward a purchase and successful project.”

Influencer marketing requires consistent communications and processes that are personalized to the specific influencer. If you don’t have a list yet, you need to start building one.  Ask the decision makers and other members of the buying team from your potential clients, which influencers they trust and rely on. The influencer sweet spot lies at the point where your own knowledge of the market and insights from your customers meet.

Get your entire team on the table, and fight tooth and nail to create the perfectly segmented list of influencers.  

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

As you build relationships, take the time to understand the preference of key influencers.

The most instinctual approach most brands make is to bombard the influencers with a truckload of information about their products and services, and telling them all about themselves. This is a sure shot way to make destroy your relationship with influencers for good – without redemption.  

Instead, develop influencer interest by making interactions about them. Exhibit your products and services in such a way that they align with the views and values of the influencers. Begin by understanding their perspective of the market, align your core messaging accordingly and focus the discussion around those areas.

Begin by adapting your communications approach to their preferences can enhance the relationship. Depending on whether they want regular, scheduled updates via email or other channels, reach out to them accordingly. Try to step beyond the realm of regular relationship development approaches. For example, begin by strike a conversation with them by sharing customer success stories. Try not to assume that the influencer is well adjusted to the details of your products and all the business solutions it comes up with.

Take a much more humble approach instead. Assume that they are not aware of your product or the business problem it solves, and try to slowly build awareness and interest around your brand by talking to them about it, beginning from the fundamentals of where your product comes from or what it does.  

Measure And Never Miss   

The unvarnished truth when it comes to influencer management is that they impact the revenue indirectly, thus making it very difficult to accurately measure the investment on these programs.  

It’s a bitter pill to swallow. Influencer impact is not always easy or straightforward to measure. You need to approach the process as an awareness building campaign, rather than a lead generation campaign. Here are some important metrics you can use to measure the impact of your influencer program, according to Gartner.

  • pipeline growth
  • sales cycle time reduction
  • improvements in the effectiveness of sales campaigns.

Apart from this, keep tracking influencer involvement in each sale that you make. Train your staff so that it becomes a matter of habit for them to ask customers what external materials or interactions they used during their buying process — and what impact each one of them had.

Yes, we understand that a solid influencer management system takes blood, sweat, and tears to design implement and improvise. But it’s worth going that extra mile. Influencer management is an invaluable investment that’s going to pay out high dividends in the future.

A good marketer you should know how to let influencers influence your brand.

But as a brilliant marketer, you should know how to influence your influencers.

  Balakarthiga.M

  Marketing Consultant