By Ellen Linkenhoker, Insights & Strategy Leader – Marketing Strategy, ITA Group
According to Forrester, 71% of B2B shoppers reach selection at the end of the digital journey — without using traditional sales processes and demos. This means, if you’re a vendor, whether large, medium or small, you may have lost a deal without even knowing there was a deal.
When so much of the buyer’s journey is done before talking to a vendor or sales person, influencers play a critical role in building the story around your products and services.
While the idea of influence is becoming more and more common in today’s market (paid social media), it’s so much more than that. It’s someone with the ability to influence a potential buyer by promoting, recommending, and referring a product or service either online, in person or some other way.
And going forward, these are the kinds of channel relationships that vendors must turn to for getting in front of customers earlier in the journey. Here’s why:
Done well, influencer programs will help you fill the top of your funnel while simultaneously pushing leads further down the funnel.
You might already have a few influencer programs in place today — they just might not be called that. For example, here are some “influencer” activities that you may already be implementing or re-thinking.
But to truly optimize your efforts to persuade prospects, you have to understand and map your influencer ecosystem through partner data collection and segmentation. And it’s critical for your strategy to include measurement, attribution, and knowing exactly what you want these partners to do. To develop specific programs for your influencers, start by figuring out these key elements:
Breaking your influencer channel away from your transactional programs will help you create better onboarding, better enablement and better marketing initiatives. Additionally, identifying and segmenting other influencer channel partners inside your current ecosystem will help you map partner coverage and reveal gaps where you can start to recruit new influencing partners.
If you’re ready to dig into even more influencer program strategies and measurement tactics, here are the highlights. Each influencer partner you have will fall into one of these categories:
Each category has very specific needs and desires (i.e., their motivation) you can tap into in support of your brand. Going into each of these would make this ChannelView infinitely longer than it already is, but I don’t want to leave you hanging!
In my white paper — Influencer Channels: Maximize Your Brand Visibility & Lead Generation – you can get the details on how to effectively engage each of these influencers. You can access it here.
Ellen Linkenhoker is the Insights & Strategy Leader for ITA Group’s channel partner solutions and incentives practice. She has worked in technology, software and service companies both as part of the channel and as a vendor. She is an award-winning marketer and navigates all things channel, marketing, incentives and engagement in her role with ITA Group including pioneering thought leadership on channel partner ecosystems and the partner experience.