Inside Influence 13: Tim Williams from Onalytica on Optimizing B2B Influencer Experiences

Tim Williams Onalytica

Tim Williams Onalytica

In this final 13th episode of Inside Influence where I talk with B2B marketing insiders about what’s working and what’s not in the world of influencer marketing, our perspective has shifted from B2B brands to the influencers themselves.

At TopRank Marketing, we conducted the first in-depth research into B2B influencer marketing which inspired this series and Onalytica recently conducted the first research study of B2B influencers to better understand influencer marketing from their perspective.

Any B2B marketer that wants a complete picture for success with B2B influencer marketing going into 2021 and beyond will benefit greatly from both reports:

To drill down into the insights around the Onalytica report, I talked with Tim Williams, CEO. We covered:

  • About Onalytica as a B2B influencer marketing platform
  • Tim’s role as CEO at Onalytica
  • The current state of B2B influencer marketing
  • The impact of COVID-19 on B2B influencer marketing
  • Why Always-On influencer marketing is good for both brands and influencers
  • How to convince more B2B brands to focus on the experience they create for influencers as much as they do for customers
  • Opportunities for B2B companies to leverage both external influencers and employee influencers for marketing
  • B2B influencer engagement trends for 2021
  • What B2B marketers can do to better showcase influencer expertise in content
  • What B2B brands can expect if they hire an agency
  • What to be optimistic about with influencer marketing post-pandemic

See the full video interview with Tim Williams in Episode 13 of Inside Influence here:

Below is a highlight transcription of our discussion.

Tell us about your role and what Onlaytica does

Tim: Great. So I’m the CEO of Onalytica and I’ve always been in social media, sort of marketing communication circles and formally in public affairs. I’ve always helped build software that helps brands try and influence the influencers who obviously then in turn influence the target audience or the end consumer. That’s been my passion. I’ve spent 20 plus years helping brands communicate their audience better.

At Onalytica we have an influence marketing software. We tend to use this in influencer advocacy, employee advocacy, virtual events, account-based marketing, and social selling. Those are these use cases that we help brands with.

I see it as my role to be out there to publish content and to try and lead from the front…listen to what customers are saying and see how technology can really advance the industry.

Then in my role, I’d really just try and listen to the brand. It’s a very immature marketplace. It’s evolving. So I see it as my role to be out there to publish content and to try and lead from the front. But importantly, listen to what customers are saying and see how technology can really advance the industry.

I’m not keen on us just taking a passive look at the industry and trying to sort of build more revenue with customers. I think that technology is often like a challenge and solution for the industry to mature. So I guess I see my role as just helping in whatever way I can to progress and really just help brands connect with influence communities to create inspiring content.

You and your team at Onalytica recently conducted a comprehensive B2B influencer research study. At a high level, what is the current state of B2B influencer marketing?  

Tim: Well, interestingly, it was off the back of the TopRank Marketing research report. Obviously TopRank are a great, leading agency in the field and producing lots of research and obviously you and I talk about research and have done quite a lot over the past few years. We’ve done some state of the industry stuff before with brands, but we really wanted to flip it to be able to give a 360 degree view on top of your research to people out there.

[Influencers] do make a big difference if brands are partnering with them in the right way.

I think what was really interesting is that it confirmed a lot of the beliefs in your report that the state of the industry is that influencers do give that third-party opinion. They do make a big difference if brands are partnering with them in the right way. It also showed up a lot of the gaps and a lot of the challenges for marketers on where the industry is going to head and what needs to happen for the influencers to feel like they’ve got a positive experience.

A lot of the people doing influence marketing now don’t have influencer marketing in their job description. It’s something that they’re just inheriting and running through pilot programs.

I thought it was really interesting. I was very encouraged by the results, the gaps. Some of them do still surprise me with the way some marketers approach influence marketing, but I think that’s just natural because a lot of the people doing influence marketing now don’t have influencer marketing in their job description. It’s something that they’re just inheriting and running through pilot programs. I just think it’s a natural outcome of people experimenting and I think the learning and the improving is really what we’re seeing now.

What do you think the impact of COVID has been in terms of the state of influencer marketing for B2B?

Tim: In April to May this year I think a lot of influencers were extremely worried, especially the ones that were flying around the world and getting paid a lot of money. They were probably having very lucrative retainers or one-off, gigs with brands and I think that work obviously immediately dried up and they had to pivot their proposition into virtual events. I’ve seen some influencers do that very successfully now.

I think it was a bit of a shock from April to May and I think in terms of the social media consumption and the influencer output on channels like LinkedIn and Twitter, we saw an increase in that social media activity and consumption. I think the biggest change was that we felt that the end consumers of the B2B to C, because everyone’s obviously a person at the end of the day, increased.

The appetite for influencers increased in a few months like it would over a five-year period…influencer marketing in B2B has been better for it.

The appetite for influencers increased in a few months like it would over a five-year period. Even though the budgets weren’t there from brands because everyone was pausing their budgets, I think the underlying factors have really advanced. So what we’ve seen is that from July onward, so in H2 of this year, influencer marketing in B2B has been better for it. I think it’s almost helped the industry rather than just being too like “marquee event driven” where influencers are paid a lot of money to speak all around the world.

The Onalytica research of B2B influencers found several similarities with TopRank’s survey of B2B marketers. For example, Always-On campaigns were described as far more successful for both influencers and marketers. You and I understand the reason for that, but how do you explain it to marketers stuck on campaigns?

Tim: I always see influencer relations as like there’s two parallel strategies. I think there’s the content or the events that you’re trying to run in campaign mode. Then there’s the longer term relationship building and building of great experiences for a campaign that you might run in three or four quarters time.

I think that the brands that are starting off and just like activating with a one-off mindset, they just don’t put as much effort into the long-term game. So the influencers by default then just invest less themselves because they don’t know whether they’re going to have anything in the future. So I think it’s just natural.

I think that it doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out with influencer relations, you can do a few things that make a big difference and build long-term relationships.

I think that it doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out with influencer relations, you can do a few things that make a big difference and build long-term relationships. First impressions can last for, you know, 20 or 30 years.

I think it’s hard, especially when brands are in quarterly budget cycles. Both of us working in global tech a lot and the restructuring is a major challenge because people do move around in roles. So I think everyone gets it, but I think when you show the results of a longer term attitude are better than a short term, then I think that’s when people can invest a bit more.

We’ve both talked about the importance of the experience that brands create for influencers and the impact it can have on an influencer marketing program’s success. Your research reinforces this in several areas from the need for quality outreach to who does the outreach to quality of the brief. How can we get more B2B brands to treat the influencer experience as important as the experience of the customers we’re trying to influence?

Tim: I think it’s a key area that the industry has to improve on. I think it’s about how much input you need to get the output that you’re wanting as a marketer. So, if you’re having to invest five hours to research an influencer that you don’t really know, that you’re not quite sure what output they’re going to give you, I think there’s a disproportionate amount of effort that marketers won’t invest in.

I think partly, agencies solve that problem, like yours. Obviously you know a lot of the influences and there’s sort of the trust of working with them. At Onalytica we built relationships with thousands of influencers and we know the ones that you can trust and there’s an element of credibility and time-saving there.

I think there’s also the ability to get to know someone within 10 or 15 minutes. This is really a technology solution where you can know what books they’re going to publish, what motivations they have and what days they like to work. I recall speaking to one influencer at Social Media Marketing World and they told me, “on Monday I write my blog posts, on Tuesday I do my research, on Wednesday I look after my kids and on Thursday I do this,” and I’m thinking, “how could a brand approach that influencer and really know what makes them work without hearing it directly from them?”

Influencers also have to make it as easy as possible for people to get to know them and what they want.

So, I think it’s a technology solution, which we’re trying to solve where if we showcase profiles that show what really drives the passion and motivations of influencers, then brands can quite quickly say, “Oh, there’s a great connection with what we’re trying to do here.” Then they have the confidence to reach out and it doesn’t feel like this kind of matchmaking dating where you don’t have a clue what they they’re actually interested in. It’s agencies, technology and I think influencers also have to make it as easy as possible for people to get to know them and what they want. And I think if we all close the gap, then it’s going to translate into a better experience for the influencers.

Influencers are not limited to industry experts as you know – employee are influential too. What opportunities are there for B2B brands to be more effective at engaging both to achieve marketing goals?

Tim: I think this is where the real magic happens for us when we’re talking about integrated advocacy. When we talk about employee advocacy, we see them as four segments.

We see them as the topics execs which need to show leadership. They need to be out there on social, creating content. There’s intrinsic value in what they say in the marketplace. So the execs are part of the employee advocacy for us.

The next level down is the subject matter expert. Say, in the tech industry or environment, it might be talking about AI or sustainability or supply chain procurement and any of the important topics that might be driving the thought leadership. So, you’ve got various different employees that are thought leaders, but maybe not driving as much impact externally for your brand. There’s a wonderful opportunity out there.

The third segment are sales. So, social selling or social enablement of salespeople as some people like to call it is really important. That’s the third category.

Then the fourth one is everybody else like your general employees. There’s lots of employee advocacy tools to help develop the general employees.

What we like to look at is the execs as subject matter experts and the salespeople. To give you an example of what we think works really well, it could be a LinkedIn live session with an external influencer. You might also bring in an industry expert into this who wouldn’t call themselves an influencer, but just has really deep expertise in your particular area. And then you could invite one of your subject matter experts internally to be part of that discussion.

Now, the subject matter experts might not feel initially comfortable with putting themselves forward, but then they start speaking on a peer to peer level with the external influencers and they realize that they get on, they have a lot in common, they love the subject matter that they talk about. Guess what? That relationship continues on LinkedIn, Twitter, offline, on WhatsApp, like whatever form of communication that they have.

It’s really powerful when you can start transforming your content through the voice of your employees and external influencers.

If you think about that one example and you amplify that through all of your workforce, your employees are the biggest asset that any brand has. It’s really powerful when you can start transforming your content through the voice of your employees and external influencers. That’s what we describe as the kind of dream integrated advocacy model. In terms of actually making that happen, because some brands have 300,000 employees and across different business units, markets and languages, obviously it’s a massive transformation change. But I think if you look at them as different segments, you can activate them in different ways, that’s a really, really powerful operation.

B2B brands engage with influencers in different ways from event activations to content collaborations to advisory councils. What engagement trends are you seeing going into 2021?

Tim: I think you touched on something really interesting. The advisory role as an independent analyst is often a bit of a hidden fact within the marketplace. I know a lot of influencers that were asked to create some content, but then suddenly they’ve started writing strategy documents for really large brands about how they should tackle certain challenges or innovation within the marketplace. They’re kind of ghost writing a lot of the strategy of companies.

The advisory role as an independent analyst is often a bit of a hidden fact within the marketplace.

I found that really interesting and shocking because I thought that it was the actual company that was writing their own strategy, but then it was an influencers actually shaping that. But I thought it was really cool because some of these influencers have so much experience that they’re taking on different personas.

I do think that’s something that is changing. And I think that when we talk about influencers a lot of people think that we’re talking about just the professional influencers that work on a paid basis and they’re on a retainer sometimes. They’re great at creating content and they’ve got big social networks. We see that this is a much larger community of people from industry experts that would never call themselves influencers: the independent analysts, advisors, consultants. Then you’ve got the events speakers, key opinion leaders in the industry. That’s where things are evolving.

I don’t think people are in love with the word “influencer”.

I don’t think people are in love with the word “influencer”. I think it’s got a really bad rap from the B2C industry.  I think that influential experts is more where we’re trying to go, but there’s, there’s many different personas. So I think how brands are leveraging the different personas and who owns it as a brand is really the cause of key trends going forward.

Content is most often the output from influencer collaboration but subject matter experts are not always expert content creators and many B2B brands are not really pushing the boundaries of effective content formats either. What can B2B marketers do to better showcase the expertise of the influencers who have collaborated?

Tim: I think it’s a really good question. Some of the influencers are content creators and they’re specialists at that. So actually having an influencer interview some of the subject matter experts is one way in which brands haven’t leveraged that enough, I don’t think. It’s interesting who should interview each other because you see both forms of that.

People are fed up of advertising…people are just not in the mood for product being pushed down their throats.

I think that the trend that we’re seeing is that people are fed up of advertising. They’re fed up with brand generic messages. There’s just so much content even since the pandemic. The content has spiraled even more so. I think people are just not in the mood for product being pushed down their throats.

I think the subject matter experts are the people that can personalize the content and I think that brands are investing in the platform to help develop the social profiles of the subject matter experts. I’ve seen a big increase in investment into that. I don’t think there’s any shortcuts. I think it’s about enabling them to feel comfortable maybe in video, like sitting down in a more traditional way, but then translating that into social bite sized video content.

Subject matter experts have the expertise, they just don’t know how to translate that into wonderful sort of social communication channels.

I know that you do a lot of interactive and visual content. I think the subject matter experts have the expertise, they just don’t know how to translate that into wonderful sort of social communication channels. I think that’s the job of marketers and communications professionals to be able to connect those two together. I don’t see any magic wand. I don’t know whether you’ve got any ideas or what you see from TopRank.

Well, this is a problem we solve every day for companies. When a brand does make the effort to invest in high quality content from industry experts or industry influencers, they can take that content and make something the contributors will be proud of. Something so good it will inspire them to want to make it even more successful.  

Tim: Yeah, I completely completely agree with that. And obviously the end customer is what we’re all working to influence and impress. I think that the activation of subject matter experts comes down to behavioral psychology of whether they want to develop their profiles, what their fears are and how to motivate them.

I think what has changed is that a lot of topics execs or subject matter experts traditionally speak to 20 people in a room or 200 people or 10,000 people in a marquee event. Now they’re seeing that they can actually speak to 20,000 people every week through social.  I think that  takes a couple of examples to really get through. So they have that light bulb moment and I think marketers and communications professionals, if they can help them switch that light bulb on in their heads, then suddenly they will invest a bit more effort into the content that they put out on social.

What are you most optimistic about when it comes to influencer marketing?

Tim: I think one thing is personalized, relatable content. I have a massive passion to just break out of the boring B2B into the inspiring, personalized content. But to be able to do it in a way that doesn’t feel hard.

I am very passionate about bringing technology to solve problems. And I know that there is friction – it seems easy. Like we can just pick up the phone to five influencers, create some content and then a couple of weeks later, you should have some great content and it can be that easy.

But in reality, some brands take three or four months and struggled to get to that outcome. So what I’m passionate about is the quality of content to improve. And from a technology standpoint, we want to try and reduce the friction so that people can create this content. And it seems not as easy as paid media and hitting a button, but it doesn’t seem like it’s too much effort for them to start off.

To connect with Tim, you can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence B2B Influencer Marketing show interviews:

To better understand what hundreds of the top B2B marketers are doing to succeed at influencer marketing, including case studies featuring SAP, LinkedIn, Monday.com and Cherwell Software, be sure to check out the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report:

B2B Influencer Marketing Report 2020

The post Inside Influence 13: Tim Williams from Onalytica on Optimizing B2B Influencer Experiences appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Inside Influence 11: Marshall Kirkpatrick from Sprinklr on Elevating B2B Content with Influencers

Marshall Kirkpatrick Sprinklr

Marshall Kirkpatrick Sprinklr

Without question the digital age we live in is marked by remarkable advancements as well as ease of information creation, distribution and proliferation. As they say, we live in an age of information overload. What can B2B marketers do to stand out? Simply create more “useful content”?

For 2021 and beyond, the bar for stand out B2B marketing is much higher than utility. Our guest, Marshall Kirkpatrick on episode 11 of the Inside Influence Show featuring B2B Marketing Insiders, has some smart insights on how influence can play a role in creating (Dan Pink quote) and connecting the dots between the kinds of insights buyers are attracted to, that drive engagement and action.

Marshall is the founder of Twitter influencer platform Little Bird which was acquired by Sprinklr where he is now Vice President of Influencer Relations, Analyst Relations, and Competitive Intelligence.

During our talk, we covered highlights of the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, some important topics for B2B marketers that want to better understand the role of influence in B2B marketing including:

  • Marshall’s evolution from the first blogger at TechCrunch to founder of Little Bird to VP at Sprinklr
  • How Dan Pink’s Symphonic Thinking translates to being a B2B influencer marketing thought leader
  • Insights into working with B2B influencers
  • B2B influencer activations that actually work
  • Opportunities for B2B brand executives to build influence
  • How to unlock influencer potential from executives who are not natural to social engagement
  • Advice on outsourcing an influencer marketing effort with consultants or agencies
  • What’s most exciting about B2B and influencer marketing in 2021

See the full interview with Marshall Kirkpatrick, check out the Inside Influence Episode 11 video below:

Below is a highlight transcription of our discussion.

You are an OG when it comes to influencer marketing. Can you share with us a little about your experience starting Little Bird and how you got to Sprinklr?

Marshall: My background is actually in blogging first and foremost. I was a tech blogger covering startups and ended up using tools to break news stories and was the first blogger ever hired over at TechCrunch.

I saw in that experience that when you’re in an influential position online, people bring you a lot of information. Lots of startups were always coming to us and saying, “Oh, look at this cool new thing. Here’s my perspective on the market.” And that was really an educational experience for me. And so, as I developed in my blogging career, I wanted to start looking around to find other influential people who were also receiving a lot of inbound information so that I could know who to watch and listen to in order to break news stories quickly and learn through watching them.

I wanted to start looking around to find other influential people who were also receiving a lot of inbound information so that I could know who to watch and listen to in order to break news stories quickly and learn through watching them.

So I built some research tools for discovering the most credible experts, the most influential people in any industry that I was covering as a journalist and in time ended up productizing some of those lessons learned in the form of a startup that we named LittleBird. LittleBird ran for five years and it did exactly what I was looking for as a journalist for marketers.

It said, let’s find the people in your target market that are being followed by the largest number of other experts and specialists in a particular field. So, especially good for B2B.

It focused on discovery, so five years after we founded it, LittleBird was acquired by Sprinkler, which is now the world’s leading customer experience management platform. Born of social listening, the technology listened to the keywords and people’s content in order for brands to manage relationships with customers and crises and opportunities. It was a really good marriage of our small startup that specialized in discovering experts and influencers and now this whole big suite of tools for actionability that Sprinkler has built in social listening and beyond social now as well.

It’s just a perfect fit for it. I’m not working on the product anymore. LittleBird has been turned off now for some time, but I get to see emails come through about big new deals with global brands that have purchased a wide swath of different sprinkler capabilities and products. Quite often I get to see in that announcement and included in the deal was Sprinkler influencer marketing and I got to feel some pride as a result of that.

In the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, you were named as one of the top 20 influencer marketing professionals. What does it take to be at the top of your game when it comes to B2B influencer marketing?

Marshall: I think that part of the challenge is that sharing valuable, interesting information in a time of information overload is tough because there’s no shortage of information out there. And the bar is quite high to rise above the noise. The way that I go about that is by engaging in a lot of what Dan Pink calls, symphonic thinking, where he says that in the emerging economy that we live in, one of the most valuable ways for knowledge workers to generate value is through symphonic thinking or the creation of connections between seemingly disparate people and ideas and initiatives.

One of the most valuable ways for knowledge workers to generate value is through symphonic thinking or the creation of connections between seemingly disparate people and ideas and initiatives.

When you create a connection between things, it’s like you light up a circuit and it’s a really generative kind of process. So I make a conscious effort to form connections between people and concepts and topics.

Furthermore, in order to do that one layer lower, I build systems to deliver a stream of interesting things to connect to one another. So, in addition to using Sprinkler to listen to thought leaders and conversations and all kinds of different industries, one of my favorite new tools is I’ve got a Twitter list that I maintain of just amazing, fascinating people. And I don’t just watch all of their tweets. Instead, I have bookmarked the search results page for a search inside of that list of people for any time they use the words, amazing, new, innovation or learning. It’s just a steady stream of amazing new, innovative things being learned by amazing, innovative people.

It’s a really high signal to noise ratio of a stream of information because of the care put into the source selection and then the creation of the interface. It’s like a little conveyor belt of amazing things to pick up and connect to other things on to try to generate value.

What are you most excited about when it comes to working with influencers?

Marshall: Well, for me, it still comes back to the same themes around discovery. I’m a very awe driven person and I find that really influential people, especially in B2B, are a constant source of awe for me.

One of my favorite examples is some work that I’ve done recently with John Hagel who was, by our metric when he worked at Deloitte, the most connected guy in all of Deloitte, the giant consulting firm, an incredible organization. In a social graph analysis of Deloitte people on Twitter in particular, he was the Deloitte person most followed by other Deloitte people. So you want to follow that guy, right? So I sure did.

I spent hours and hours reading John Hagel content: reading his blog posts, reading his books. And then I produced a podcast with him. The podcast was really fun and it was really nice to get to connect with him face-to-face. Then I created some derivative content based on that podcast. Then he went and he shared it out with his whole network of people.

The part of that process that has driven the most business value for us as well as been most exciting for me, was the very first step in the process when I was spending hours and hours reading John Hagel content.

But the part of that process that has driven the most business value for us as well as been most exciting for me, was the very first step in the process when I was spending hours and hours reading John Hagel content. That put all of his experience and knowledge and insights into my head s0 that I could deploy entirely behind the scenes at work and connect it to other projects and other initiatives that we have going on publicly and privately. That’s really where the lion’s share of value was available from. The advocacy that occurred in the end was overshadowed by all the business value available just from reading his work.

What are the characteristics that make a great B2B influencer?

Marshall: That’s a question that I have explored in a lot of different ways over my career. Currently, my standard or my criteria are three:

First, I look for people that have influence. Not just generally, not even just inside of my industry or our target market, but specifically for people who have influence with our existing customers and people like our customers. We’ve got a quantitative way that we can make that assessment. I pull out that yardstick whenever I consider engaging with an influencer. At Sprinkler it works really well.

It really requires a good amount of emotional energy invested to cultivate these relationships over time and keep them moving forward, if you want to make them authentic and sincere.

The second thing that I look for are people who are smart, that I feel like I can learn from. Because otherwise it’s easy to kind of peter out. It really requires a good amount of emotional energy invested to cultivate these relationships over time and keep them moving forward, if you want to make them authentic and sincere. And especially if you’re perhaps working with a more modest budget and it’s not just a big transactional kind of thing.

And the last thing that I look for are people that I like, because if I don’t like someone, then it’s not going to be much fun to work with them. And I want it to be fun. That ends up being the most effective work.

So once you find an influencer and you’ve defined what it is you’re looking for, what is it that you do with them? What do your activations with influencers look like?

Marshall: I’ve taken a lot of different forms. I’d say that one of the most heavyweight plays that are in our playbook has been a combination of a webinar, blog post and then private advisory phone call where we have anyone on our staff that wants to come and participate in a private phone call with one of these influencers, come and ask questions off the record and learn from their experience. You get the demand gen from the webinar and the blog post and then the more foundational value from the private advisory phone call.

One of the most heavyweight plays that are in our [influencer activation] playbook has been a combination of a webinar, blog post and then private advisory phone call.

I am very sympathetic to Forester’s perspective when they say that the most savvy brands in influencer marketing are not looking to influencers for reach because often that ends up in disappointment. But where influencers really shine is their ability to create high quality, high relevance content that breaks through the noise of this era of information overload. When coupled with paid media, then you’ve got a really awesome combination. It really works well when the brand brings the budget for the reach and the influencer is the source of the high quality, authentic, high relevance content.

That’s probably the most heavyweight of capabilities or plays in the playbook. But I do a lot of small stuff as well.

Yesterday I was watching some teammates prepare a presentation for the analyst firm, Gartner. I was providing some feedback on their presentation and watching which parts of the platform they were emphasizing, more or less. During a break I went and I opened up my list of amazing things mentioned by amazing people and Dion Hinchcliffe had posted a link to a survey that he had just published the results of, that said the number one thing that CIO’s are looking for today, especially in the pandemic around digital transformation, is a combination of automation and workflow management.

I thought that was really interesting because there was a big component of that in the Sprinkler story that we were preparing to tell Gartner. So I took that and went immediately inside the company and said, Hey folks, let’s elevate that part of the story. It’s really on trend right now and we’ve got a strong story to tell.

My favorite kind of influencer engagement: a kind of earned media and learning focused engagement that can be pretty lightweight [effort].

So thank you Dion, an influencer for that information. Then I re-shared that post of his publicly and some other folks then came in and engaged and affirmed that they had similar perspectives and I continued to learn and get more data points. And Dion came back and said, thank you so much for sharing it. And our relationship took another step forward.

Over the years, I’ve just learned so much from Dion. That’s my favorite kind of influencer engagement: a kind of earned media and learning focused engagement that can be pretty lightweight.

While much of influencer marketing has been focused on external experts, there are many opportunities for B2B brands to grow influence from within. What’s your take on opportunities to build brand executive influence?

Marshall: I think there’s a lot of opportunity for it. And yet, it’s a challenge for the ages. It is something that I think many of us have aspired to unlock for a long time for the executives that work at the companies. It is a great opportunity because so many of those executive leaders have tons of contact with customers and many times they’re great storytellers. They spent a lot of time with customers, they interface with other executive leaders and so are really efficient, high impact communicators.

[Executive influence] is a great opportunity because so many of those executive leaders have tons of contact with customers and many times they’re great storytellers.

The challenge I think, is finding ways to tap into that executive insight and flow of knowledge and access to information, much of which can’t be shared publicly. Some of it can and it requires a different sort of muscle memory, a different kind of workflow and often multiple sets of hands to help say, “Hey, let’s remember, let’s go unlock some of those stories that we get to hear, you know, in company meetings. Uh, let’s, let’s find some that are appropriate to share publicly because they’re such incredible stories.”

I know that’s the case for our executives at Sprinklr. The stories that we get to here inside the company walls are just amazing. The giant brands that we get to help solve really interesting problems for. When we’re able to reference those, either named or blinded, and do so publicly, they’re just great stories. They’re the kind of content that rises above so much in a world of information overload.

In the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, we found that the things B2B marketers outsource most often to agencies include: identifying influencers, managing relationships, developing strategy and measuring effectiveness. What have you found to be most useful when it comes to using outside help?

Marshall: We have been the outside resource a fair amount ourselves as a search technology on, uh, uh, management technology. And then we do a lot of our own internal influencer relations. I am real happy to do that for ourselves, but many times when working with brands that don’t have that experience or talent in-house, especially for the relationship cultivation and the practical management, well, frankly I refer them to you and your organization appreciate this.

You’ve done an incredible job of building brand equity and a demonstrated track record of success around that. I don’t know anyone who has come close to the kind of thought leadership and track record of success that you and the folks that TopRank Marketing have. So congratulations on that.

I appreciate that. It’s a great team and that’s where the magic happens.

I guess I would just suggest that people find good partners to work with and do it in a way that helps build your own capacity and learning instead of just outsourcing it.

Find good partners to work with and do it in a way that helps build your own capacity and learning instead of just outsourcing it.

It makes me think about something that Jean bliss says when she advises executives that are thinking about taking jobs in customer experience, but I think it’s good advice for almost any field. She says, when you go and you talk to a company about leading their customer experience, you should speak to the other leaders at the company and see how they talk about customer experience. Is it something that’s everyone’s job and that they are going to partner with you on? Or is it something that they’re going to outsource to you and then wash their hands of?

Because you really want to avoid being in that latter situation. You want to look for those partnership types of organizations where everyone is going to be participating and up-leveling their skills as they do, even though it’s one person’s bottom line responsibility. I just love that model.

What has you excited most when it comes to opportunities with influencer marketing in 2021 and beyond?

Marshall: I’ll tell you one thing inside of our company on one thing outside of our company.

I’m really excited about some of the new research and analytics capabilities that are being built inside of Sprinklr on top of influencer discovery in order to get early high quality insights into topics of interest to influencers and their communities.

Everybody says that they do artificial intelligence and machine learning, but Sprinklr has been doing a gargantuan amount of artificial intelligence for almost 10 years now.

Everybody says that they do artificial intelligence and machine learning, but Sprinklr has been doing a gargantuan amount of artificial intelligence for almost 10 years now and so has a really deep corpus of knowledge about a bunch of different, specific industry verticals. That means that we can discern what’s going on in conversations, especially in B2B, faster and better than any other source when monitoring influencers or discussions at large. So I’m excited about that.

For me personally and outside of the company context, I think this is a pretty nerdy answer, but I’m really excited about taking my notes from reading and learning from influencers and putting them into a startup called Rome research.

Rome is a note-taking app for networked thoughts. It’s a place where every note that you take is linked out to every page across the corpus of your notes, where the same words appear. It makes it really easy to jump from reference to reference of interrelated thoughts. And it’s just wonderful.

So, the incorporation of enterprise class influencer discovery and listening and understanding with last mile, human in the loop discernment of key lessons learned and insights and perspectives and filing that away in a note-taking system that gets automatically linked up to all the related notes from other influencers and other readings on that given topic, creates what some people call a second brain. It’s the ability to, upon reflecting on any topic, snap your fingers and say, Show me all of the things that I have read and take a note of on this topic, and put them all in one place, allow me to filter them, et cetera. I’m excited about unlocking more value from that this year.

To connect with Marshall, you can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence B2B Influencer Marketing interviews:

To better understand what hundreds of the top B2B marketers are doing to succeed at influencer marketing, be sure to check out the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report here:

B2B Influencer Marketing Report 2020

The post Inside Influence 11: Marshall Kirkpatrick from Sprinklr on Elevating B2B Content with Influencers appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Inside Influence EP10: Ryan Bares from IBM on Influence Inside B2B Brands with Employees

Ryan Bares IBM Systems

Ryan Bares

I have always believed that everyone is influential about something and that sentiment is certainly true within B2B companies. In the B2B marketing world, we’ve all come to understand that buyers trust individual voices more than formal marketing and advertising messages, so finding ways to optimize influence internally is becoming a key area of focus.

To drill down into the intersection of employee advocacy and influence, this 1oth episode of Inside Influence features my discussion with Ryan Bares, Global Social Programs Lead: Social Influencers & Employee Advocacy at IBM Systems.

Beyond hitting a few key findings from the The 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing report, Ryan and I covered a lot of ground including:

  • Increased focus on employees as influencers
  • Importance of senior B2B execs to grow their influence
  • Optimism about influencer marketing at IBM
  • The difference between B2B and B2C influencer marketing
  • How IBM Systems engages with B2B influencers
  • Advice on starting an influencer program at a B2B brand
  • Integrating influencer content with other marketing tactics
  • Opportunities for the future of influencer marketing

Below is a highlight transcription of our discussion with the full video interview embedded below.

Tell us about your role at IBM Systems and how you’ve been “blazing a trail” in the world of influencer marketing.

Ryan: Great question. I’ve been in the IBM Systems business group for the last five years and sort of started this influencer and employee advocacy program there. This was one of the first at IBM in general. We used to bring influential people who had great Twitter reach to our events, but we wouldn’t really talk to them for the next year. Then we realized that we needed something more consistent and about building relationships. So we changed the focus a little bit on building relationships and on employees: how do we get them involved and how do we get them to become influential themselves?

In the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, you shared a prediction about an increased focus on employees as influencers. Can you share more about that?
Ryan: Yeah, I’m kind of in this interesting position of having a focus on both of these things which is great. I think when we started, roughly five years ago, the focus was really on the external influence or those people that are thought leaders with great reach on social that can connect with our target audience.

We still love those relationships and we still develop them, but I think over the last maybe year and a half, two years, we realized that at IBM our employees are also great advocates for our brand. They understand the products and the offerings at a really great level. So we’ve spent some time building training and enablement for those IBMers because it’s not natural for a lot of people to go and be active on social right away.

We’ve realized that with the coaching, enabling the ROI is there, especially when getting our IBMers to advocate for our brand to engage on social in the right ways. We know that branded content on social media in general, is reduced. I think there’s a stat out there that content coming from an employee gets eight times more engagement than content coming from a branded channel.

So, we just naturally shifted our focus little bit more from the branded content and the @IBM channels and more on the SMEs, those subject matter experts and some of our other developers at IBM that really have deep knowledge about our products and offerings. I think that they can really connect great on social and through content with our target market, our customers or buyers or business partners.

How important is it for senior execs at B2B brands to develop their own influencer footprint?

Ryan: Yeah, I go to that, that stat of eight times, right? Eight times more engagement. I think senior level execs are great because they speak on behalf of the brand. We’ve actually leveraged them for some of our events to get out and drive awareness. We see the results when it comes to getting our senior level executives on board and the team around them to help amplify and drive some of the messaging we want in the marketplace, at least on social media.

I also advocate for anyone that is a subject matter expert to be active on social in the right way. They, as you mentioned, could be influential in one way or another. You don’t have to have the largest reach on social media. You don’t need to have the biggest connection number on LinkedIn. It’s really just about, what can you talk about? How can you create interesting content?

Then we’ll use other people, maybe an external influencer, to help amplify that and get them to the right markets or other pieces of media, email or digital that we can leverage to make sure that our customers or prospects are connecting with the stuff we’re talking about and doing at IBM.

Connecting in a meaningful way.

Ryan: Yeah, meaningful is definitely important. You want to be authentic. You want to be genuine. And I think having an, an IBM-er or an employee or whatever company you’re at, that naturally brings authenticity to what they’re talking about.

Think about yourself and scrolling through social media. You might not be buying some high-tech piece of hardware from IBM through your Instagram, but from my experience, scroll past the brands at times. But I tend to stop when I see somebody I trust or when I seen other human. And so, as a human element, I might stop and listen to what they’re saying about what kind of product that may be exploring or describing. And I tend to want to engage more that way.

What advice might you give to help other people at brands that want to help their employees or senior execs get over the reluctance to be active on social and become more influential?

Ryan: That’s a great question, because I do hear that a lot from whoever’s on the other side of the zoom call. Hey, we think it’d be great if you’re active on social in these ways. Then they’re like, yes, that makes sense. I want to go after more customers or white space or develop deeper relationships with our customers we currently have, but how do I do that?

We realized with senior executive leadership, it’s a team around them that is really helpful. For example, maybe they have a communications person or an executive assistant that really helps keep them focused. I’ve also realized that they tend to want to have content that’s unique to them. So, figuring out a way when curating content for them to share or for them to create while also making it unique to them as an executive or senior level executive versus maybe something that all the rest of your staff is sharing is important.

They want to feel special, so finding outlets that are particular to them and through their training and through their knowledge is key. “Hey, I can share this, I can amplify this, or I can build off of this piece of content that I saw from a third party outlet and give my own spin.” It doesn’t always have to be about IBM. I think it’s also key to talk about what you’re interested in. That could be your kids’ sports and how does AI relate to that. It doesn’t have to be hitting on IBM content all the time.

Our research discovered that 77% of B2B marketers say that their prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts and 74% agree that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experience with the brand. How does this optimism about influencer marketing line up with your own experience?

Ryan: I love those numbers. It helps me kind of showcase the importance of what I do and where this B2B influencer marketing trend is going.

I haven’t ran data myself at IBM on customers and how are they engaging with some of the stuff we’re doing with influencer marketing, but I know through people in the industry and through what I’m seeing from IBM Systems that IBM as an enterprise has a renewed focus on influencer marketing and a cohesive direction that we want to go. We’ve set up influencer councils recently and explored whether that’s internal or external and explored ways that we can sort of build playbooks for the entire enterprise.

I know that we find value and reach new audiences outside of our branded channels and we can leverage our employees to do that. We can also leverage external influencers to do that. So I definitely agree that those high numbers in the 77% and 74% are hitting our customers and they are finding value in that.

I go back to my story about the scrolling and these ads, right?  I personally, and I think a lot of people feel the same, that will stop on a person, like someone they trust or someone who is notable in that industry, whether an analyst influencer versus something the brand is saying through paid advertising or branded posts on organic social.

People join people. They like to follow people. Then the organization, the company, the brand follows. But I think again, we’ve been kind of talking a lot about the human to human, the personalized and the authenticity that really translates, from my experience as a consumer, scrolling through my feeds to the B2B space. There is a lot of intersection.

Can you share some of the ways you’re engaging with influencers at IBM Systems?

We really are focusing on relationships. That’s always been my go-to. That’s the platform, that’s the base, that’s the foundation of my program from the beginning – relationships over time.

I’ve really tried to avoid the one-off sort of campaign style activations or campaigns with influencers. What we’re doing is a lot of the content creation. So that could be blogging, that could be inviting individuals to events in the future. Some of our marquee events like IBM Think, video interviews, podcasting, you know, that sort of realm. That stuff lives in a variety of places. It can be on our IBM owned property like an IBM blog. It could definitely live on the influencer’s blog or their LinkedIn page, wherever the traffic is.

And we take a lot of direction from the influencers. We believe that they are the experts with their audience and the way they create content. It’s definitely a collaboration of how can we get the most bang for your buck to drive responses, drive interests, drive website visits, whatever the KPI is for that activity. Content is King for us right now even though we try to do less with more. So content is what we’re doing, blogging, videos.

Drawing on your experience with influencer marketing, what advice can you share for other B2B marketers who are thinking of starting their own program?

I reflect back on my time at the beginning, which has not been that long because this B2B influencer marketing is not old. I think for me, it is focusing and starting small with your program.

Where I started, it was like, I want to have X amount of people in our influencer program that have 2 million on reach on Twitter. Like, just made up numbers. And I went and did that and realized quickly that having that many people in a program, you’re kind of constantly trying to juggle and building relationships. It just becomes really hard for one person to do.

So I would recommend identifying four, five, or six individuals that really have a strong affinity for your brand, for the technology or the industry you’re in and build relationships with them. Set goals with them and kind of build this sort of advocacy program and grow it from there. That might take a year. That might take a longer time, but you have to be okay with that. And don’t rely on their reach. Don’t rely on how many connections they might have on LinkedIn. It’s more about the person and can they be a great advocate for you and your brand?

What has you excited most when it comes to opportunities with influencer marketing in 2021?

When we talk about relationships, and those are great over Zoom and email and email, but getting face to face – I am definitely excited about that for hopefully later next year. For me, it’s really just to improve in the same vein, improving on the digital events for next year.

You know, this year was the year of pivoting and trying things out, figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. What works with your network, your brands? Influencers like doing what they’re good at so I’m really excited about how can we adapt those learnings and hopefully perfect them next year in 2021.

Also personally, I’m just really excited about what IBM is doing in this space and focusing on influencer marketing. Up to this point it’s been kind of up to the brand channels and the different teams. If you have the resources, if you have the interest and time, go figure it out. But now there’s really some direction from across the enterprise on the best practices. These are the best individuals, this is how you can build a program. So I’m really excited about that personally.

To see the full interview with IBM Systems’ Ryan Bares, check out the Inside Influence Episode 10 video below:

To connect with Ryan, you can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence B2B Influencer Marketing interviews:

 

The post Inside Influence EP10: Ryan Bares from IBM on Influence Inside B2B Brands with Employees appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Inside Influence EP09: Brian Solis from Salesforce on How B2B Influence Adds Value to Customers

Brian Solis Inside Influence

Brian Solis Inside Influence

According to our research in the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, 74% of marketers surveyed believe that influencer marketing improves prospect and customer experience for B2B brands. If there’s one industry expert to tap on the topic of customer experience, I can think of few more qualified than the author of X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, Brian Solis.

As an 8 time best selling author, keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, digital anthropologist and Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce, Brian is a longtime friend that I’ve been able to collaborate with numerous times on marketing topics.

In a time of darkness, chaos, or confusion, B2B brands have an opportunity to be the light. @briansolis

Brian has a lot of inspiring insights when it comes to the intersection of experience and influence. Not only did he author the Influence 2.0 report that we partnered with Traackr on to research, but he contributed to the introduction of the first research report dedicated to B2B influencer marketing: The 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing. Here’s an excerpt:

“In a time of darkness, chaos, or confusion, B2B brands have an opportunity to be the light for their customers and customer’s customers. Meaningful customer engagement starts with discovery. When someone begins their discovery process, what do they find? How do they react? Does your content resonate in a relevant and empathetic way or does it push customers elsewhere?

B2B marketers now have an opportunity to reimagine engagement to ignite a new type of connection with customers. Beyond designing for and measuring the potent for engagement, design for humans and their intentions, needs, and desired outcomes. Engagement becomes a function of intent and purpose.

This is where influence and thought leadership transcend marketing to become partners to drive business growth.”

I recently had the opportunity to connect with Brian to record this latest episode of Inside Influence to talk about a range of topics based on Brian’s experience as an analyst and as one of the most sought after and respected influencers in the business world.

In our discussion, we covered:

  • Brian’s role at Salesforce as a Global Innovation Evangelist
  • The importance of Always-On Influence and creating value for customers
  • What B2B brands should expect from influencer marketing
  • The closing gap between B2B and B2C influencer marketing
  • What B2B executives should consider when incorporating influence into the marketing mix
  • What B2B marketers should expect from influencer marketing agencies
  • Most rewarding experience with a B2B brand as an influencer
  • The role influencer can play for B2B brands during times of uncertainty
  • Tips for B2B executives on becoming more influential (and why)

Below are some of the highlights of our discussion with the full video interview embedded below.

You’ll be coming up on a year into your role as Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce in a few months. Tell us about the work you’ve been doing and what you’re looking forward to in 2021.

Brian: A lot of what my role is what we’re going to be talking about. The word evangelist at Salesforce means something deeper than simple evangelism. It really gets to the core of what you and I have been talking about over the years, which is true influence.

We think about [influence] as adding value to people who need to make decisions about the future of their business. @briansolis

Influence is something that we don’t think about in terms of marketing. We think about it as adding value to people who need to make decisions about the future of their business. Therefore, taking the insights, thought leadership, and ideas to help them do something in a new, different, or better way. So it’s essentially bringing influence down to cause and effect. What is the effect or what is the outcome that you want to see and how you share content, ideas, or whatever package that is, to help that individual or help that organization move forward in ways that they couldn’t have otherwise, without hopefully seeing your work.

When we talk about B2B influence, let’s take out the, “How many followers do you have?” or “How many impressions are you going to drive?” and let’s look at it for what it is, right? A business or an executive needs help in these times of great transformation and disruption. And where do they turn for that when there is not a playbook about building the future? That doesn’t exist, right? What do you do? Where do you turn? Who do you listen to? Right? That’s the role of someone who adds value to the conversation.

You’re essentially building a community around people who are helping one another invent forward, right? To break convention or break mediocrity.

I want to thank you for writing an introduction to our 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report – the first dedicated study of B2B influencer marketing. You mentioned that the need for influence is Always-On. Can you drill down into that?

Brian: Influence never sleeps because people are always in need of information. There’s always something new. There’s always a new opportunity. There’s always a new way to do something differently moving forward. And so this is an opportunity to build an infrastructure within your organization that is constantly adding value to business customers as they seek it in a variety of contexts in their journey.

Influence never sleeps because people are always in need of information. @briansolis

If we think about customer experience in the B to C world, one of the biggest transformations that I hope we’ll see is we’ll see organizations be always on and always connected from within so that the back office and the front office then facilitates a much more intuitive, always on and personalized customer journey.

The same is true for business to business. Business customers are going through that journey. There’s different stages all the time, and they’re always in need of insights, information and engagement. That means the opportunity to engage, the opportunity to provide content, the opportunity to guide their journey is always on. That takes influencer marketing.

We can help that business customer at every stage because of the influencer program that we’ve put in place is designed to add value. @briansolis

Maybe this isn’t so much about influencer marketing as it is about influencer experience. We can help that business customer at every stage because of the influencer program that we’ve put in place is designed to add value. That takes the concepts of influencer marketing, content, and product marketing and essentially creates this much more powerful alliance of ways in which we can think beyond, “Hey, how many views did we get?”, “How many impressions did we get?”, “What was the reach on that last piece of content we created?”

Then we can start measuring things by how many questions we answered, how many people we drove towards the stage to want to know more. And how did we change the thinking among executives and really start to get to a much more meaningful place where influence is essentially a code word for helping people?

A few years ago we both worked (much more you than me) with Traackr on the Influence 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing research report where there was quite a gap between B2C and B2B influencer marketing adoption. Has that gap closed much in the past 3 years?

Brian: You know, I don’t have the data around me, but I have to imagine that you had a big deal to do with closing that gap because you’ve been a champion for B2B influence for a really long time. You’ve been a pioneer in actually making this a formal construct within companies. That report that we worked on was our way of not only showing the discrepancy between the two, but actually showing the need for them to be actually more similar than dissimilar.

Influence 2.0 is a concept that was introduced to help marketers think about influence differently than the way that it’s still largely thought about, which is a broadcast mentality or what I call a drafting someone’s social capital. That’s when a person has street cred within an industry and brands want to partner with them so that they can draft their credibility and attach it to our brand.

That’s all fine, but if you’re consistently adding value through strategic partnerships, building trust, and also becoming an influencer yourself, I always believed brands needed to become influencers as well, then we actually can forge an ecosystem, essentially a community of belonging together to make that community stronger for one another and for the market.

I always joked when I spoke to B2B audiences, I specifically loved to use the best B2C examples.  I mean anything besides the traditional stuff where we see influencers getting free products and they put it on Instagram.  That’s to me, the same as celebrity endorsements, I’m talking about influences outcomes. Like, “I trust you. I value what you’re thinking. You’re guiding me in my decision-making.”

I want to push business to business forward to remind them that there are human beings on the other side of that screen. @briansolis

Whether I’m a consumer or whether I’m a business customer, that’s what I talk about with influence. I want to push business to business forward to remind them that there are human beings on the other side of that screen, right? If you could humanize something, then people will find it more relatable. It’s not like as a business customer, they’re not consumers. It’s not like they say, okay, I’m done shopping for headphones and now I have to look at B2B enterprise systems here, so I’m going to forget what it was like to be treated as a human being. I actually think that humanization is what can make B2B even stronger.

Our research found that 77% of marketers say that their prospective customers rely on advice from industry influencers and yet 60% say they do not have the skills or expertise in-house to execute influencer programs. Of course many of those marketers trust outside experts like agencies to help. What do you think B2B marketers should expect from agencies or consultants when it comes to influencer marketing programs?

Brian: I hope that agencies think of themselves as partners in trust-building. Because it changes the conversation from marketing. Part of the challenge is, what’s the brief or what’s the remit? And how does someone respond to that?

I think for thoughtful organizations on the outside, you should probably consider influencing the decision makers as well. Meaning, that you should become an influencer in helping your customers understand that what they’re buying from you is not just the ability to connect them with people who have a lot of followers or audiences or networks or proven track record of content. But you’re actually partnering with them to build a market of trust, to build a community, an Always-On community. When I research the decisions I need to make it happens at midnight, you know? Influence never sleeps, right?

You have to find the things and the trusted voices when you can and you want them to be recent. You want them to be contextually relevant, which means I can’t just find an article. Maybe I want data visualization. Maybe I need a video, whatever it is, right. I need to find it my way. So, I actually think that this is an opportunity for agencies, partners, or consultants to influence their buyers so that the briefs now start to ask for bigger, better things.

This is an opportunity for agencies, partners, or consultants to influence their buyers so that the briefs now start to ask for bigger, better things. @briansolis

I wrote, I think, the first industry report on digital influence back in the day about 2011 and in that, I talked about authority and popularity and what I see, especially in B2B, we see it in B2C too, the authority part of this was always under appreciated. Authority essentially says, I not only know what I’m talking about, I know what you’re going through. So therefore, that’s what’s inspiring a lot of my work and hopefully I can earn your trust because that’s the consideration set I’m bringing to the table.

That’s the work that external partners need to do to help internal partners who are caught up in everything that they have to deal with beyond influence – everything that they have to constantly substantiate and try to justify all of the work in the investments that they’re making. Those things will become much more valuable within the organization if they can tie it to business outcomes or to customer lifetime value or to things that actually have an impact on the business.

I can tell you after doing this for so many years,  tying my work to those things, that’s all a customer is looking for: real help. And a business is looking for outcomes and the two are mutually beneficial. So let’s help those decision makers think beyond influencer marketing and more about influence.

The pandemic and many other forces driving a feeling of uncertainty and change have created an environment where there are new challenges, yet also opportunities. What role do you think influence can play in helping brands during these “uncertain times” better connect with customers?

Brian: I think ultimately, yes. It’s not that it’s never not been important. There’s just a lot of uncertainty right now. There’s also a lot of fear, anxiety, stress, and anger. These are just human, natural human feelings that exist. These are things we’re dealing with. We’re coping. We’re not just working from home or trying to work from home during a pandemic with a whole bunch of other stuff like remote learning or whatever it is in our households. Right?

So that importance of light that we talked about in the ignite moment, that’s more important than ever. Add to that the digital distractions that everybody’s dealing with that’s now compounded more because we have to be digital first. Those opportunities to deliver value and build trust are more important and actually more valuable than ever before.

Those opportunities to deliver value and build trust are more important and actually more valuable than ever before. @briansolis

That’s what I think we want people to think about here leaving this conversation. If I had to reinvent my definition of influence and my approach to it because of 2020, what would I do differently? If I could set aside 20 years of work in March and start all over again, you can do it, because it only makes you more relevant and better. That’s ultimately all we want to do and that’s ultimately what people are looking for.

Any tips you can share with senior B2B brand executives on becoming more influential themselves?

Brian: There are individuals that I think do a really amazing job within brands, whether they know it or not, that make that brand trusted and much more influential within the customer community.

Talk to Paul Greenberg for example. Paul’s a dear friend and an incredible, Godfather of CRM, an incredible analyst and also an incredible human being. He empowers individuals who feel like they want to change within organizations to go and change within these organizations because they know it’s what’s right for the community.

So, I think the first part is caring. You’re not just trying to be an influencer and run an influencer marketing program, because you care about the fact that customers are struggling to find information. They’re frustrated because they couldn’t previously do the things to make the impact that they really wanted to make. Influencer marketing or influence in that regard just becomes a means, a mechanism of which to activate a community.

What does it take to be a thought leader? Well, you have to be a thought leader. @briansolis

So that part is about caring, which is actually a rare, rare gift out there. The other piece is, what does it take to be a thought leader? Well, you have to be a thought leader. And that means you have to actually know what is happening out there, what people are struggling with. And you have to care so much about solving that, that is the heart of everything that you do. Then, hopefully it inspires you to see a different path forward of which becomes your unique voice.

Ultimately, what influence means is, “What impact did you have?” @briansolis

Of course, the mechanics of making that voice heard is not just about how loud you are or how you put fear into people or how popular you get. Ultimately, what influence means is, “What impact did you have?” I think those things are where businesses need to focus and where business leaders need to rethink what it takes to build that brand, that trusted brand out there.

To see the full Inside Influence Episode 9 interview with Brian Solis, check out the video below:

To connect with Brian, you can find him at BrianSolis.com, on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence B2B Influencer Marketing interviews:

The post Inside Influence EP09: Brian Solis from Salesforce on How B2B Influence Adds Value to Customers appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.