One of the trickiest aspects of business-to-business marketing is selling to influencers – people who are not end-users of a product or service but whose opinions influence the purchasing decision.
As a B2B marketing consultant, I’ve seen many situations where an influencer torpedoed the deal – or helped steer the selection of a particular vendor. That’s why it’s essential for B2B marketers to understand the role of influencers and how to approach them.
Here are seven tips for marketing and selling to influencers in a smart B2B marketing strategy.
Business purchases are often made by a group. This group can include:
- End-users: The people who will use or work with your product or service on a daily basis;
- Decision-makers: Higher-level executives with the authority to approve the deal; they often supervise the end-users;
- Influencers: Top company officials, managers from other departments, or executives in the same department who play a consultative role in evaluating and selecting the supplier.
B2B marketers tend to focus marketing campaigns and sales materials on end-users, who want the details of how a product or service works, and decision-makers, who want to solve the problem the end-users are having.
But it’s important to market to influencers, too. They may have other priorities and concerns – and failing to address them can cost you the sale.
7 Tips for Marketing to Influencers
Here are seven ways to get influencers on your side and convince them you’re offering the best solution.
- Know who they are: Think about past sales situations where influencers have been involved in the buying decision. What are their responsibilities at the company? Why are they in the room? You need to know who you’re dealing with and why they’re part of the evaluation process.
- Understand their perspective: What do influencers care about? How will they be impacted by what you’re proposing? Chances are, they’re thinking about big picture issues, like integration with existing systems and processes, transitioning to a new vendor, minimizing disruption, staying on budget, or the applicability of a solution beyond one office, project, or location. Put yourself in their shoes so you can anticipate and address their concerns.
- Create content focused on their interests: Smart, insightful content can be the key to winning influencers over. Create white papers, case studies, research reports, and other information specifically focused on the aspects of your product or service that influencers care about.
- Market to them directly: Create a marketing campaign targeting influencers with messages relevant to their interests. Direct communication shows you know the importance of their role and you’re ready to offer a solution they’re going to like.
- Be visible in their professional world: Where do influencers turn for information about their industry or profession? Trade media? Conferences? Look for opportunities to be visible in these places via articles or presentations. Establishing your position as an authority in your industry can build your credibility with this audience.
- Look the part online: Everyone checks your website before meeting with you and probably your profiles on LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter, too. Make sure your website will impress influencers and that your social media presence reflects your professional qualifications.
- Don’t ignore external influencers: Not all influencers are inside the company. In fact, outside influencers sometimes are paid to oversee supplier selection. In marketing, for example, companies hire advertising agencies to guide their decisions about buying media and choosing production vendors.
Why Marketing to Influencers is a Smart Strategy
Every company varies and not all influencers involved in a B2B buying decision are truly influential. Some are invited to sales presentations out of respect for their position.
But when a lot of money is on the line – or when the decision is going to have widespread impact across the organization – you need to be prepared. Influencing the influencers to recommend you is smart marketing.