Barbara on August 31st, 2009

I found a couple of interesting posts today on influencer marketing and word of mouth marketing.  This trio of posts focuses on social media influence.  While social media is a only one of the communications channels used by decision-maker influencers, it is an increasingly important channel.

The Role of PR in the New Media Landscape - Sally Falkow

The monetization of Chris Brogan - Mark Schaefer

Regular Joes and Janes are changing the way we advertise - Brandsplat

Right now, we’re seeing a spike in the number of bloggers and conversations centered on these topics. Many are inspired by the release of Chris Brogan’s well-publicized book, “Trust Agent”.  Please share new posts as you find them.

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Barbara on August 26th, 2009

Personal congratulations to Ray Wang, formerly with Forrester Research, and Jon Collins, head of Freeform Dynamics for taking top honors as “Analyst of the Year” in a survey of analyst relations professionals. More at Tekrati.

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Influencer Marketing and Influencer Relations Group at LinkedInI’m pleased to invite you to join the Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations Group at LinkedIn.

So, what’s the point of joining this group?  This is a good LI group to join if you’re interested in offline influence and online influence. Topics include influencer-related business strategies, best practices, latest research and news.  Members hold vendor-side marketing, analyst relations, consulting, staffing, sales and business development roles.

I’m an active member.  I’m taking a turn as group moderator, and it’s a great experience.  As you know, I generally focus directly on analysts and other types of influencers.  This group is different.  We operate on the other side of the table, the vendor side.  There’s no need to stay “on message” because we’re talking to each other — not to the analysts, media and other types of influencers.

We’re also interested in raising the profile of influencer relations professionals. The mavens on “social media influencers” have many outlets for visibility and personal branding.  We’re just starting to work with the LI group to develop similar opportunities for in-house professionals engaged with the broader sweep of decision-maker influencers.

See you there!

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Barbara on August 21st, 2009

It’s a sure bet that when CIO and IT decision makers gather in groups, tech sales people circle nearby, angling to slip into the crowd. The common wisdom is that every member of these groups is a sales target. Each member is ripe with purchasing potential. That’s certainly a practical way for tech providers to look at IT peer groups. Yet when you view these groups primarily as a source of sales leads you’re leaving their greatest potential untouched.

High-end IT purchase decisions involve many types of influencers, and some of the most credible and trusted are professional peers within the senior IT and CIO community.  We see the signs of this all around us, and we know the truth from our own lives.  Research studies help quantify what our guts are telling us. Case in point, a late 2008 Forrester Research study*:

Forrester Research: Who has most impac on B2B IT Purchase Decisions1

The members of these groups are gathering to share experiences, learn from each other and talk shop. In other words, they are influencing each other.

So, think twice next time you are compelled to drop an IT peer group into your lead funnel. You may be dropping highly valuable influencer networks into your cold calling program. That’s no way to treat an influencer.

* © 2008, Forrester Research. From “Using Buyer Social Behaviour to Boost B2B Social Media Success” by Laura Ramos, Oliver Young, Patrick Tripp.

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Barbara on August 11th, 2009

It sounds so simple: tell me your definition of an industry analyst. In truth, coming up with a viable definition for the tech “industry analyst” is not such a simple exercise. Clear-cut distinctions between industry analysts and other types of influencers have been dissolving over the last few years.

From 2006 to 2008, I helped the industry come to some common understanding by writing and curating the base Wikipedia article on industry analysts. It doesn’t quite do the job anymore.

Today, definitions of the industry analyst role run into trouble on several fronts. You’ve got big differences in the balance of research and consulting revenue streams at the largest to the smallest of analyst firms. There’s also competition from more and more quarters, including diverse businesses, organizations and social media groups publishing “good enough” research and vendor reviews, not to mention decision advice and thought leadership. Then too, there’s the growing number of SOHO professionals who take the label.

Hard and fast rules for what constitutes an industry analyst may work on paper, but they rarely hold up in the marketplace. Behind closed doors, tech decision makers and vendor AR teams alike regularly debate the criteria for what constitutes an industry analyst.

I think the conversation about what’s an analyst — the debate itself — is the answer.

Instead of aiming for one rock-solid definition that fits all analysts all the time, we can make deciding who’s in and who’s out part of an ongoing process. Each of us can make it our own process. Involve our customers and supply chain partners. Involve our salesforce. Revisit our assumptions, criteria and earlier judgements in a fluid never-ending process.

From an execution standpoint, this only works if we ask the tough questions regularly. We can’t wait for a decision event or a crisis to ponder whether someone is, or is not, an industry analyst.

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Here are two great ways to get up to speed on influencer marketing. First up, there’s a new interactive video of Nick Hayes’ recent presentation at the Commonwealth Club, “Marketing Is Broken, Influencers Can Fit It”. Much of the presentation — including the case studies — comes from his book on influencer marketing. And you can purchase the book at a special 50% discount through August 20th.

The interactive video is available through videographer Ron Fredericks, at the Lecturemaker.com blog. You can view the entire video or use the red navigation dots to zero in on key points. I’ve known Ron for years as an industry analyst. We’re honored that he decided to bring Nick’s presentation to a much wider audience via the web.

The special 50% discount on the book, “Influencer Marketing - Who Really Influences Your Customers”, runs through August 20th. You can only get this low price via the book website, InfluencerMarketingBook.com.

The live event took place in late May at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. It was produced by Kevin O’Malley, chairman of the Business and Leadership Forum at the Club and a principal at TechTalk / Studio.

About 60 of us attended the reception and presentation. There was a very good QA session at the end, and Ron has included excerpts of that in the video. Thanks everyone for making it such a special evening.

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Barbara on August 6th, 2009

Influencer programs can be a lever for building and sustaining trust. How well this works depends largely on how we enable influencers to build and convey trust in our brands. This is especially true given the global economic climate.

We know that influencers are trusted advisors. The question is, how are we enabling them to develop and convey trust in our brands. What kinds of stories, facts and insights are we sharing with them? Are we sharing the right points and conveying them in a compelling, repeatable and remarkable way?

Edelman last week released a mid-year update to their Trust Barometer. The study measures public trust in business and government. This latest survey finds an upswing in trust across the board in China, France, Germany, India, the UK and the US. It also hints at what adds up to trust in informed circles:

“Informed publics attribute increased trust in business to tangible actions that companies have taken in the past six months, giving the highest marks to repaying bailout money (81%), reducing CEO pay (80%), and firing non-performing management teams (78%).

“When asked what companies could do to rebuild trust in the long run, survey respondents put a mix of “hard and soft power” items at the top the list: treating employees well (94%), having transparent business practices (93%), and communicating frequently and honestly (91%) — along with maintaining quality products and services (93%), all of which far surpass increasing shareholder value (66%).”

Do a little of your own market research — whether surveys, focus groups or point conversations — to make sure your influencer program is aligned with the way your market thinks about trust.

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