Barbara on September 30th, 2008

Paul Gillen draws a surprising line between direct marketing and influencer marketing in a guest post at Deliver.

Connecting those two dots in particular — DM and influencer marketing — is heresy in many marketing circles. Common wisdom dictates that the influencer contact list and the direct marketing database should never meet.

We’re seeing the beginning of the end of conventional marketing wisdom as we know it. Sure, we’ve all heard the horror stories of influencers being spammed. The problem with this line of thinking is that it implies that it’s alright to spam anyone at all in the first place. Spam shouldn’t be part of the marketing strategy to begin with.

The direct marketing team can be a tremendous asset in supporting influencer relationships. Success depends on preparation and follow-through. Get started by:

  • Defining the DM roles in relationship support
  • Mapping DM team members to specific types of influencers or to specific relationship managers
  • Train the DM team on influencer relations - the who, why and how
  • Goal and compensate the DM team based on realistic influencer marketing objectives
  • Put a flexible, “light” problem escalation and resolution plan in place
  • Use common sense in caring for the influencer contact list. Consider maintaining an entirely separate database of influencer contacts, with access restrictions.

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Barbara on September 29th, 2008

Economic conditions, cutbacks in marketing spending, and staff downsizing are top of mind with many of the tech marketers I’ve met over the last few weeks. One group that stands out as much more upbeat is the analyst relations community here in Silicon Valley. Many of the AR practitioners who gathered last week at an IIAR meeting told me that their client work is on the uptick and funding levels are holding.

That makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

We’re all more risk-averse during uncertain economic times. So it’s natural that we turn to our trusted advisors — our influencers — before putting money on the table. The same goes for clients and prospects.

Analysts are just one type of influencer that can boost marketing performance during these uncertain times. Take advantage of AR and your other established influencer programs for ideas in reaching out to the other top influencers in each of your markets.

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Barbara on September 23rd, 2008

Vinnie Mirchandani is one the enterprise IT influencers not attending Oracle OpenWorld in the flesh this year. Instead, he’s plugging into event content and buzz through the new “Oracle OpenWorld 2008 Influencer Community.” Smart move by Oracle.

Oracle invited media and bloggers alike to join this event-specific influencer community. That means bloggers don’t need to request access from different marketing groups or provide different kinds of information. There’s just one place/process for joining, whether you are a journalist, blogger-journalist, blogger-analyst, blogger-consultant, blogger-pundit, etc.

This is not to say that Oracle marketing, sales and support departments no longer quibble over how to classify specific bloggers. Silos are a fact of life in most marketing departments. It’s just that in this instance, the silo mechanics are hidden neatly behind the curtain.

Big step in the right direction.

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Barbara on September 22nd, 2008

Peggy O’Neill, vp of analyst relations at H&K, was in touch with an invitation to Silicon Valley AR professionals for a special meeting in Palo Alto this week. The purpose of the meeting is twofold: hold an industry dialogue with independent analysts, and gauge interest in launching a Silicon Valley chapter of IIAR (the UK-based Institute of Industry Analyst Relations). No charge to attend; no obligation to join. Simply RSVP to Peggy.

The meeting, hosted by Peggy and Evan Quinn, director of corporate analyst relations for HP, will begin with a panel discussion about “life as an independent analyst in Silicon Valley.” Independent analysts Rob Enderle, Josh Greenbaum, Charlene Li, and Maribel Lopez have agreed to participate. AR teams frequently struggle with how much attention to give independent analysts, some of whom have more media influence than buyer influence. The non-compete clauses at some of the major analyst firms limits analyst mobility, resulting in more independent analysts in California particularly. Are these analysts undercutting the influence of the branded firms? What’s the best way to work with them?

After the panel, IIAR board member Ludo Leforestier of Oracle will lead a discussion about IIAR and take questions about membership benefits. IIAR is considering opening a Silicon Valley chapter. Established in April 2006, the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations is a non-profit organisation dedicated to raising industry awareness of the value of analyst relations, promoting and sharing best practice in AR, enhancing communications between vendors and analyst firms, and providing opportunities for AR professionals to meet and network with their industry peers.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 25 at the Auditorium at Hewlett-Packard’s Palo Alto headquarters: 3000 Hanover Street, Palo Alto, California, 94304-1185 USA.

Please be sure to RSVP to Peggy, peggy [dot] oneill [at] hillandknowlton [dot] com.

See you there!

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Barbara on September 19th, 2008

Duncan points out a real world example using influencer marketing to create common ground and shared thinking among traditional marketing silos — PR, analyst relations, events, partner programs, et al. It’s easy to overlook the significance of this point.

I’ve sat through many marketing department meetings where the only meaningful common ground was the catered lunch.

Analyst relations can play a lead role in helping peers shift to an influencer marketing way of thinking. After all, AR operates in a world of named influencers: you don’t brief Gartner, you brief specific analysts at Gartner.

Making business that personal can be a daunting shift in thinking for other areas of marketing.

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Barbara on September 18th, 2008

Voices arguing that blogger popularity does not equate to influence lost a little more ground this week. A new ad network promises to deliver influential blogs to media buyers. My reaction is a mix of cheering and concern.

What’s up: San Francisco-based BuzzLogic has launched its BuzzLogic Ad Targeting service. Essentially, the service enables companies to identify and place ads on the most popular (linked) blogs on a given topic. The ad service is based on BuzzLogic’s social media monitoring solution for PR.

I cheer because many high-profile bloggers need more and better revenue options. Most find out the hard way that advertising revenues from Google Ads do not trend upward with any kind of reliability. Meanwhile, sponsors can be hard to find and harder to sign. Even influential bloggers like Tom Foremski speak candidly about the challenges of growing new media revenues.

I cringe because there’s been so much controversy over the impact of pay-for-play on the reputation of industry analysts. There’s a deep-rooted perception that vendor revenues taint analyst objectivity. What’s to stop the same sort of backlash from tarnishing the most popular bloggers?

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Barbara on September 16th, 2008

The high tech industry analysts aren’t making much headway among the SMB decision-makers, according to this week’s Sage Market Pulse from Chadwick Martin Bailey. In this survey, independent consultants and colleagues lead all other types of external advisors on IT needs and solutions.

You can see that SMB decision-makers are a smart bunch. They set up a well-balanced decision ecosystem for themselves. They distribute their attention among 3 primary groups — independent consultants, colleagues (peers), and the combined sales channel — direct, VAR, SI, outsoucing providers.

CMB/Sage Market Pulse #226 - Information Sources for IT Solutions - Share on Ovi

The CMB Sage Market Pulse is a free weekly email blast. I’ve subscribed to it for years, long before CMB acquired Kathryn Korostoff’s Sage Research. Good read for marketing and sales. Highly recommend it.

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Barbara on September 8th, 2008

If you sell technology, you already know that sourcing advisors figure prominently in your influencer ecosystems. Have you ever wondered how they manage to get into your accounts in the first place?

Most likely, they’re getting to your customers and prospects through word of mouth referrals, vendor referrals, or direct sales. That’s according to a new study on the sourcing advisory business by Phil Fersht, AMR Research analyst and blogger, and Ed Nair, Global Sources (part of CyberMedia India Ltd.). The survey finds sourcing advisors get as many business leads from vendor referrals as they do from their own direct sales efforts.

In other words, sourcing advisors obtain the lion’s share of their business through influencer marketing (word of mouth, vendor referrals).

This helps explain why sourcing advisors are such a disruptive and persistent force during a decision process — they walk in with networked authority.

The study is free and well worth a read, despite the dubious title and tagline — “The Definitive Survey of Sourcing Advisers”, the first ever study on…. (Phil, you ought to know better.)

Hat tip to Vinnie Mirchandani.

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Barbara on September 3rd, 2008

There’s quite a debate raging over whether IT decision-makers are influenced by blogs and other forms of social media. No matter which side you take in this debate, you’ll find good news and bad news in the latest installment of the “IT Social Media Index.”

The IT Social Media Index is becoming a twice-yearly survey conducted by ITtoolbox (now part of the Corporate Executive Board). It’s sponsored by PJA Advertising + Marketing.

This time out, the Index finds social media content consumption is up across most IT job positions. IT professionals are spending more time per week with social media and user-generated content.

The survey defines social media types as discussion groups, peer-to-peer networks, social networks and profiles, blogs, wikis, podcasts, and mash-ups.

Which is most popular overall with IT professionals?

You probably guessed it: discussion groups. Discussion groups command the most time per week.

There’s an odd split in results among tech decision-makers. The “executive decision-maker” respondents are consuming less social media and user-generated content. That’s bad news for social/UGC advocates because presumably, these are the very decision-makers that the high-rolling tech advertisers will pay dearly to reach.

Meanwhile, the “IT decision-makers” are consuming more social media and user-generated content.

Visit ITtoolbox to download and browse survey results. It’s absolutely free. Plus, there’s some interesting trivia, from early mentors to tastes in music and politicians.

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Barbara on September 2nd, 2008

The latest Post2Post Book Tour links to a funny cartoon on buzz marketing by Tom Fishburne. In it, he captures a powerful objection to influencer marketing: fear.

The simple truth is that many executives would rather ignore top influencers than engage with them and risk a negative outcome.

Fear of influencing can show up in subtle ways. Some executives express it as an unwillingness to free up budgets or calendars. More aggressive types go on the offensive, expressing it as a lack of confidence in the influencers or internal relationship managers.

You’ve probably been on the receiving end of fear-driven objections, if you’ve proposed changing the status quo in areas such as analyst relations, blogger relations, channel programs or strategic alliances.

Objections to influencer marketing come in all sizes, shapes, and denominations. Active listening — and a little humor — can help address them.

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