Influencer marketing entails many aspects of public relations. Along these lines, CloudNine PR agency is sharing results of its bespoke study of how 300 IT chiefs in the UK prefer to access news and info about the IT industry. I’m quite surprised by 4 findings in particular: LinkedIn ties with vendor emails as a useful or very useful source for 31%; and Twitter and YouTube are on close to even footing as well for about 20%.
What methods do UK IT chiefs find ‘useful’ or ‘very useful’ for keeping up-to-date on IT industry developments, including general news from vendors? Here’s CloudNine PR’s take:
- Online publications 64%
- IT blogs 52%
- Trade shows 50%
- Printed publications 47%
- Vendor Events 44%
- IT Analyst blogs 40%
- IT analyst events 38%
- Vendor emails 31%, LinkedIn 31%
- Twitter 20%
- YouTube 19%
- Facebook 13%
- SlideShare 12%
About the study: CloudNine PR commissioned Vanson Bourne to conduct the survey. It consisted of a poll of IT decisionmakers, including CIOs, IT directors and IT managers in 300 UK companies. The sample included organisations with 50 to 250 employees, 251 to 1000 employees and over 1000 employees. There was an approximately equal split of companies operating in Financial services; Manufacturing; Retail, Transport and Distribution; and Business and Professional Services.
If you’ve been following my blogs or are a client, you’re familiar with my position on alternatives to the tech industry analysts for research and advisory.Â With this post, I’m bringing these conversations about alternatives to the industry analysts online. This post introduces some basic ideas and examples.
My position is simple: well-respected alternatives are out there; more sources are popping up all the time; only a fool ignores the good ones. Likewise, only a fool rushes in. The supply ofÂ ersatz research is bountiful as ever. Caveat emptor.
Today, I see very few cases where the alternatives completely displace the industry analysts. Typically, they coexist as vital resources. Often, they’re served up side-by-side in an integrated information portal available to employees. The alternatives tend to be most useful in 3 scenarios:
- Supporting specific decisions in real time
- Delving into topics that don’t attract dedicated industry analyst coverage
- Helping professionals develop broader, deeper or more inclusive perspectives
So where’s the good stuff? That depends on whether you want data-driven intelligence to help you buy and implement tech, or build and sell it. To start, here’s a short list of examples.
Associations: Long a sales and marketing channel for the tech industry analysts, many associations now offer their own research services to members and the public. Â Some groups permit members to conduct custom research and encourage well documented case studies and best practices. Others leverage member-supported research for advocacy and thought leadership. Classic examples include theÂ Consumer Electronics Association, IEEE, NASCIO and Socitm.
Academics: The ongoing disconnect between business and academia, at least here in the U.S., baffles many including me. The mutual disrespect might have been appropriate in years past. It is not today. Here’s the bite: some of the most successful companies in the world know this and fund research. Â Classic examples in this category include MIT Sloan School of Management, Stanford University and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Consultants: Management consultants have produced insightful research for decades. This group has the greatest overlap with the industry analysts who advise tech buyers. Classic examples include Booz Allen Hamilton,Â Deloitte and Â PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Smaller associations, universities, and consultancies can produce equally valuable data-driven insight. Plus, there are several other categories. Media and government agencies jump to mind.
Data-driven insight is available from many reputable sources. IT professionals look to them for information, validation and advice. As a result, tech providers need to see them for what they are: influencers.
Lots of people play a part in a typical B2B purchase decision and naturally, identifying them is an important activity for any influencer relations program. You need to know who they are, including their name, job and location. First, you have to figure out who they are. That’s no so easy.
The big temptation is to start by asking the primordial question, “Who’s influencing the decision-makers at my accounts?”, and then jumping right to the obvious answers.
Not so fast!
It pays to back up one step. Start by thinking about the different kinds of people likely to be involved in purchase decisions for your products and services. This exercise helps you form a more complete picture of the influencer landscape. It also helps you avoid falling into ruts. This step encourages you to think about new types of influencers that may have emerged in your market and types of influencers your company tends to overlook.
In my case, I use the 24 categories of influencers from the Influencer Marketing book (page 55) with some additions for some clients. Generally, this basic list covers the ground and more:
Authors and management thinkers
Bloggers (and microbloggers)
Business and trade journalists
Buyers groups, purchasing lists and procurement authorities
Commentators and other individuals
Conferences and events
Consumers and consumer groups
Government agencies and regulators
Individual and niche consultants
Industry bodies, forums and federations
Peers (role-based, industry-based)
VARs, distributors and similar channel partners
Venture capitalists and investors
Get the most out of this exercise by concentrating on the types of influencers likely to have an effect on decision-makers during the actual decision process. Influence can be exerted directly — one-to-one, influencer to decision-makers — or indirectly. Indirect entails exerting influence through intermediaries.
Juniper Networks is updating its consultant relations strategy to better reflect the role these influencers play in customer decision-making. The new consultants program, under the umbrella of its channel partners program, is aimed “at partners who influence a customerâ€šÃ„Ã´s buying decisions but donâ€šÃ„Ã´t actually take part in the sale.”
This is an interesting approach to formalizing and updating consultant relations as part of a sales influencer program. For example, Juniper is looking to the consultants to provide neutral business or industry expertise as part of each customer’s decision-maker ecosystem. They bring in the consultant, or the prospect brings in the consultant. Either way, Juniper formally recognizes and supports the consultant during the sales process. This includes a stated emphasis on protecting the objectivity and independent advice of the consultant.
In a recent article in Business24-7.ae, Samer Shaar, a regional managing director for Juniper Networks explained:
“Independent players like Kallis, General Dynamics, Deloitte and Touche do not specialise in IT solution, but focus on the business concept. The system integrator and alliances come after that. Such an approach provides a business ecosystem that is functional and the neutrality of the consultant is also not lost… This is a trend and will become the next wave although it has not yet gone completely mainstream.”
It’s still fairly rare to see a corporate partners program embrace consultants in this way. Normally, the field organization ends up with the responsibilities — from ferreting out consultants in their accounts to putting together information packets and building relations without any special support from corporate.
It looks like a good approach.
Can winning industry awards help sell products and services? According to the Influencer Marketing book, the answer is no:
“Industry awards are primarily self-congratulatory ‘feel good’ exercises, which have limited marketing value and all but zero influence on the top decision-makers.”
– Nick Hayes and Duncan Brown
They do credit awards with some value in the early stage of a decision process, such as in response to a Request For Proposal.
Is that the practical extent of the value of an industry award?
I agree with them insofar as few industry awards have the impact of the Oscars. However, that seems more a shortcoming of the typical awards organizer than the nature of awards in general.
Every industry has its awards programs that amount to little more than karaoke. It pays to avoid those. Or, bury them.
Likewise, every industry has its awards programs that do matter.
As with all forms of influence, the trick is knowing which is which.