Influencers; the key to B2B sales success
A survey conducted by The Geehan Group and mentionned on Marketing Profs showed that, in a B2B space, companies who outperform competitors have a radically different balance of their marketing budget. Average companies spend 75% of their budget on users, 15% on influencers, and 10% on decision makers. Leading companies spend 35% on users and purchasing, 35% on influencers, and 30% on decision makers. In the context of this survey, influencers mean people inside the prospective customers organization who are involved into the due diligence process leading to a purchase decision without being necessarily users themselves.
The findings of the survey should not come as a surprise to seasoned sales or marketing professionals. B2B decision makers prefer to take advice from trusted sources. Even while being engaged into a direct dialogue with vendors because of the buying process, they tend to look for information from other sources – inside and outside the company – that they perceive as neutral. This is why influencers, internal or external to the prospective customers are so crucial.
Below are a couple of very pragmatic tips to get started with influencers-focused marketing and account management.
- Before the sales process starts, analyze the generic ecosystem, identify all categories of relevant influencers and develop a good understanding of their needs. This is best done through team work involving sales, pre-sales, marketing, delivery, as well as your marketing and PR agencies. A team workshop, possibly facilitated by an external consultant, is a good way to get started. The outcome should be a map of your generic ecosystem and some matrixes describing influencers, their needs and how to engage with them.
- Drive marketing to become relevant to the (right) influencers and to the decision makers. This means less focus on promoting the company’s products and more focus on showing that your company is able to bring valuable insight into business issues that are important to the influencers. The most common marketing tactics to achieve this are PR in leading printed and online publications, e-newsletters, white papers, specialized blogs or forums on social media and speaking opportunities at well selected events. Put a lot of energy into demonstrating true knowledge as it will differentiate you from most of your competitors.
- When the sales process starts with a specific company, identify the decision makers and the individual influencers and analyze their roles. Here as well a map of the target company should be created showing all the involved person, and analyzing their needs and their position toward your own company.. Once decision makers and influencers have been identified, feed them with useful and relevant information as part of the sales process. This is part of the best practice of account acquisition and account management.
- Once the sale is won, maintain the relationship with influencers alive; it will secure internal support in case of problems and, in the long run will help generate upselling and cross-selling opportunities.
- Last but not least, strive to turn key contacts at happy customers into external influencers with a Reference Client programme and by involving them into marketing activities such as case studies, e-newsletters guest blogging, and speaking opportunities.
None of this does require that you spend more on marketing. It requires a shift in how the budget is balanced and a different mindset. In B2B, marketing and selling your company is all about engaging with influencers!