Archive for Influence Marketing

Great social media resource - Marketing in the Groundswell

I just read a great little book called Marketing in the Groundswell, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. I want to emphasize that it’s a little book. 119 pages, to be exact. And each page is tiny. You would think a book that small wouldn’t have enough meaningful content to be really valuable, but this one does. It’s chock full of interesting ideas and case studies about current social marketing trends.

The “groundswell” as the authors define it, is “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of from companies.” This trend scares most marketers, because if people don’t need companies to get the things they need anymore, they certainly won’t need marketers either. The authors take a very practical approach to soothing overwrought marketers, including suggesting vendors to help get you started with groundswell marketing, outlining typical costs and ROIs for each approach, and suggesting where you might want to start. It’s a very helpful little book, and I highly recommend it to anyone still sitting on the sidelines of social media.

Comments entering social media space

Last week, I attended’s annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. It was a great event, with all sorts of exciting announcements and fun activities. One I found to be most interesting was salesforce’s announcement that they would be entering the social media space, with their new product named Chatter. CEO Marc Benioff described Chatter as Facebook for the enterprise, a tool that will enable co-workers to network and collaborate in whole new ways. In addition to bringing people together, Chatter will also bring other workplace entities (e.g. projects, content, plans, etc.) to collaborate along with the people. With Chatter, employees can follow and easily interact with members of their workgroup, their cross-functional project team, influential peers around the company, or key executives; they can also follow and provide inputs into various projects, content, strategies and reports as they evolve and are updated by others around the company.

Facebook’s astounding growth would indicate that there was an unmet need for social interaction services. That need is certainly just as high within the enterprise as outside it. Motivated employees always want to be better informed about things that are going on around the company, and Chatter will be a great tool for feeding that hunger. Salesforce’s timing is great too, because millions of working adults are already familiar with social media, and so adoption should be quick and easy wherever the service is acquired. My question is how many companies will consider a service like Chatter to be a “must have” vs. a “nice to have” in this economy. But the experts keep saying that our economy has turned the corner, so salesforce’s timing may turn out to be great in that respect too. For companies that do adopt, I’m guessing that effective use of Chatter will quickly become a performance criteria, just as effective use of social media in general is starting to become a key hiring criteria, at least for marketers (see post on that topic below).


Can influence marketing increase adoption?

As the challenging economy continues, more firms that I come into contact with are asking about how to improve their adoption rates. By this, I understand them to mean that they want to know how to get the customers they already have to increase their usage of the products or services they have already bought so that the relationship is more valuable to the firm, and presumably the customer too. It’s a close-cousin to cross-sell, where firms try to get the customers they already have to buy some additional products, so that the relationship increases in value. In the interest of time/space, this post is only going to try to tackle adoption, not cross-sell. It is also only going to focus on influence marketing as a solution, and will not address the myriad other possible solutions that might be invoked in these situations.

Adoption challenges can take at least the following two forms, and each requires different influence strategies.

Adoption challenge #1
The supplier has sold a product into an entire enterprise, but the employees of that enterprise are not embracing it in sufficient numbers to meet the supplier’s objectives. The influence strategy that is most likely to work in this situation is to speak to the non-adopters through the adopters.

For example, say a supplier sold the firm a pet insurance policy for its pet-owning employees, but only a few of the company’s pet-owning employees signed up. What influence strategies would be most appropriate to address this situation?

  • Engage those employees who did adopt the pet insurance to provide live testimonials at the firm’s employee benefits day, during open enrollment meetings, and at brown bag lunches arranged specifically for this purpose. Encourage those giving testimonials to detail how having pet insurance provided them with peace of mind, and helped them to avoid a financial catastrophe when their pet recently required costly surgery.
  • Digitally record testimonials from employees who did sign up for pet insurance, and (with permission of course) make the videos available to the company for use on their intranet, corporate website, and video monitors located at employee sites.
  • Extract quotations from the recorded testimonials and publish the quotations (with permission of course) in brochures about the pet insurance product, and in handouts used for new employee orientation.
  • Adoption Challenge #2
    The supplier has sold a product into one department of a firm, and the appropriate number of people in that department have embraced that product, but in order to meet its objectives, the supplier needs to convince leadership in another department that their workers should adopt that product as well. The influence strategy that is most likely to work in this situation is to explicitly refer non-adopters to the adoptors, rather than having the adopters initiate the dialogue with the non-adopters, as above.

    For example, say a supplier sold marketing services into one of three marketing departments within a large firm, and needs to sell marketing services into the other two departments to meet its objectives. What influence strategies would be most appropriate to address this situation?

  • Leverage your relationship with the department that did buy your services to learn about any important differences between the three marketing departments, to ask for guidance about how best to stimulate a response from the other two departments, and to prepare the key contacts in the client department to answer questions that might be posed by the other departments.
  • Employing what you learned from the client department, reach out to the other two departments directly with information about your services, an offer that will pique their interest, and a specific reference to your relationship with the department that did buy your services. More often than not, that will at least spark an inquiry by the non-adopter department to the adopter department.
  • Comments

    Is influence marketing the future?

    With the rise of social media in recent years, some have suggested that influence marketing is the most important skillset for marketers going forward. A few in this group have even gone so far as to say that influence marketing will replace traditional marketing some day. I’m not so sure that’s true, but I certainly will agree that influence marketing has an important place in a marketer’s toolkit, whether it is done through social media or more traditional channels.

    I was first exposed to influence marketing early in my career, when I held a low level position in a Wall Street firm. When we had a security underwriting that was complex and expected to be difficult to sell, we didn’t just take it to market as we would a more straightforward offering, but rather shopped it around among key influencers in that marketplace first. The influencers in this case were largely employees of institutional money managers, folks who regularly spoke to money managers and ultra-affluent individaul investors about upcoming investment opportunities. Our tools of the trade in those days were in-person meetings and overhead projectors and plastic sheets with graphs printed on them, not social media.

    In many businesses, influence marketing is still done through in-person meetings. The technologies used for these meetings have changed a bit, of course, now involving Powerpoint, laptops and projectors, or, in some cases, web-conferencing. But the most important aspect of this strategy — the ability to establish and nurture a personal relationship with the influencer — hasn’t changed at all. In my most recent position, at Advent Software, influence marketing was done through traditional influencers (e.g. industry analysts, and media dedicated to the industry), and also through non-traditional influencers (e.g. large hedge funds and fund administrators, implementation consultants). In both cases, the goal was the same, to educate and inform these key influencers about Advent’s products and services, and build a personal relationship with them so that they felt comfortable recommending Advent to their clients/readers. Largely, this strategy was effected through in-person meetings.

    Many companies, particularly those that operate in a broader market space than Advent, have now moved on to using social media as their tool of choice for influence marketing. It is a great way to identify influencers who wouldn’t already be known by your company. It’s also a great way to build relationships with many small-sized influencers, in markets where there aren’t just a few respected authorities. Social media can also help you improve your relationships with known influencers, in that it can increase your perceived transparency when you release information to all of them at once, and can provide a forum for the influencers to speak to each other about your products and services, which many will perceive as value-add. It wouldn’t be cost-effective for you to do these things without social media, so social media has expanded your influence marketing opportunities in at least these key ways. That said, I don’t think it will replace other forms of communication (e.g. in-person meetings, phone calls, emails) anytime soon. Real, not virtual, personal relationships will still dominate the world of influence marketing for some time to come.