One of the great things about social media is connecting with other professionals and Angela Lipscomb and I have been connected on multiple networks for several years. I appreciate her relationship focus towards PR and influencer relations because so much of what is being done in the name of influencer marketing is transactional. As I like to say, it’s the meaningful not the mechanical connections you make that contribute to success.
As the Influencer Relations Manager for SAS (business analytics software and services), Angela developed their first influencer program back when her role was in corporate communications. Her work there and on to media relations were ideal prep for her current influencer relations role to identify, engage and manage influencer relationships.
In this interview, Angela shares how influencer marketing is structured within SAS, specific tactics, tools and advice on measurement. She also shares great insights about developing solid brand and influencer relationships.
What brought you to the world of Influencer Marketing?
My background is good, old-fashioned PR. About 10 years ago, I was managing the launch of a social media product and realized that a traditional press launch just wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted to combine traditional press with social media experts (I don’t think anyone had coined the term “influencer” yet) and I didn’t really know where to begin. But even while I was doing it I knew it was a new dawn for PR.
After that experience, I realized that ignoring influential social personalities meant we were missing out on a lot of possible promotion and coverage. So, I began a kind of skunkworks operation within my regular PR duties. My management team recognized the value and supported my efforts, and it gradually evolved into a full-fledged global influencer relations program.
The more personal touch-points an influencer has within our organization the more successful any engagement we have with them is. @AngelaLipscomb
How is influencer marketing positioned within your company? Ex: independent department that serves the brand and departments / business unites or is it more decentralized? What are the advantages of that structure?
Influencer relations at SAS sits within the external communications division. I, and my colleagues, are responsible for identifying influencers, initiating outreach and maintaining contact. However, we are closely tied to our go-to-market (GTM) leads in marketing, our internal subject-matter experts, our event staff and our social media team. I am in daily contact with our GTM leads as we work on campaigns and events. But everyone helps build the relationship with influencers and contributes to the success of the relationship. I find the more personal touchpoints an influencer has within our organization the more successful any engagement we have with them is. Influencer relations at SAS really is a community effort from the C-suite down.
What tips can you share about being more effective about influencer identification, qualification and recruitment?
We used to think quantity was the key to everything. The more influencers we engaged with the more successful we’d be, and the more followers those influencers had the more successful they’d be. We don’t think along those lines anymore. Now it is much more about quality over quantity. So, we’ve scaled back the scope of our engagement activities to focus on developing collaborative relationships with fewer individuals. That means that sometimes we focus on influencers who may not have the largest reach but have greater engagement and subject-matter authority and the ability to inspire.
I want to get to know what makes that person tick, and how SAS can be of help to the influencer, and not just how they can be of value to us. @AngelaLipscomb
Influencer relations shares many similarities with PR, and much of it is relationship based. My approach has always been to develop a genuine relationship rather than a transactional relationship. I have found that meeting in-person is invaluable. One of the things I most enjoy about my job is all the people I get to meet. Influencers are never boring! I want to get to know what makes that person tick, and how SAS can be of help to the influencer, and not just how they can be of value to us. That works both ways. I very much appreciate when the influencer is also genuinely interested in SAS. Some influencers take the time to attend an event or visit our headquarters to get to know us. That demonstrates a true interest in a partnership.
Are there specific B2B influencers that you keep going back to because they are so amazing?
Well, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I am today if it wasn’t for Paul Greenberg. He was my mentor for all things influencer related when I started out a decade ago. He introduced me to other influencers like Ray Wang, Denis Pombriant, Esteban Kolsky and Brent Leary, who also helped with advice and support. Those guys were at the vanguard of the influencer movement in B2B. Now we work with influencers from lots of different backgrounds including academics, system integrators, consultancies, and independent analyst firms to name a few.
Trust is the most important characteristic of a successful influencer/brand relationship. @AngelaLipscomb
What characteristics make for a successful influencer / B2B brand relationship?
I think trust is the most important characteristic of a successful influencer/brand relationship. We have to trust that the influencer can deliver on a project whether that be a study, an e-book, a keynote or a webcast. We’ve certainly had our share of learning experiences. But those influencers that deliver high-quality work definitely earn our allegiance. And we have to hold up our end of the bargain, too, and be a good partner. We must set clear expectations, make the process seamless for paid engagements, and provide timely feedback on deadline.
Speaking of technologies, any favorite tools or platforms you can share?
We’re currently using Onalytica for identification and reporting. I had no idea when I first started working with them that they’d become an extension of our team. Not only are they providing a software solution, but they act in an advisory capacity also. We have regular meetings to discuss goals, and how to evolve the program. Obviously, they are living and breathing influencer relations and bring a unique outside in perspective.
Do you have a favorite B2B influencer marketing campaign that you can share? What made it successful?
We recently worked with an influencer on an SEO project. We wanted to appear on page one of Google search for a specific term. We invited the influencer to participate in a thought leadership Q&A on the topic and made sure to optimize it for keywords. With the help of the influencer promoting the piece we quickly realized our goal.
The holy grail of all metrics is to trace an influencer-related activity back to sales. But lead gen isn’t the be all and end all. @AngelaLipscomb
What advice can you share about measuring success with influencer marketing?
The holy grail of all metrics is to trace an influencer-related activity back to sales. This is something that everyone in the organization can agree is a bona fide success. So, we like to involve influencers in lead-gen campaigns that we measure and track in the pipeline. And we can compare campaigns that include influencers with campaigns that don’t to really see the benefit of influencer participation.
But lead gen isn’t the be all and end all. Many different results can be counted as successes. We’ve had multiple instances of an influencer tweeting a link to a SAS e-book or a paper and it going viral. That always causes a lot of excitement internally.
The influencers we invite to our events are always in the top five for total reach and engagement so we appreciate their contribution to SOV. And it’s always wonderful when an influencer mentions SAS positively in the media. That is the result of informing and briefing and maintaining a relationship with that influencer, so they feel they can speak with authority about our company and our products. When an influencer also recommends SAS products to a client that is always a cause for celebration. That means they believe in us and our products, and that they trust us. And trust is the ultimate foundation of any relationship.
Thank you Angela!
If you would like to learn more about B2B influencer marketing, I will be moderating a panel at MarketingProfs B2B Forum November 13-15th in San Francisco featuring Amisha Gandhi from SAP Ariba, Dr Konstanze Alex from Dell, and Luciana Moran from Dun & Bradstreet.
Here are the details:
Content and influencer marketing are hot topics for B2B marketers all over the world as two of the most promising strategies for attracting, engaging and converting ideal customers. What many marketers don’t realize is how collaborating with influencers can create even more credible, relevant, and optimized experiences for target accounts. Join moderator Lee Odden and an expert panel of B2B brand influencer marketing executives from SAP Ariba, Dell, and Dun & Bradstreet to learn how working with influencers and their communities can help scale quality B2B content that gets results. You’ll learn:
- The variety of benefits from B2B influencer collaboration
- How major B2B brands plan, implement and measure influencer content
- About processes and technologies that support influencer marketing success
We hope to see you there!
Be sure to check out the other interviews in this B2B Influencer Marketing Series: