Lee Odden

B2B Influencer Marketing Interview: Martin Jones, Cox Communications

Lee Odden on Oct 29th, 2018     B2B Marketing, Influencer Marketing

Martin Jones

I’ve known Martin Jones casually through marketing conferences for several years. Martin occupies that unique position of being someone who manages influencer marketing programs for his brand and is also an influencer himself.

In fact, it is through an influencer engagement for IBM that both Martin and I were involved with that I had a chance to get to know him in earnest. His climb at Cox Communications is a classic American success story and at the same time, Martin is incredibly humble and one of the nicest people in the industry.

In this interview, Martin shares his journey into working with influencers, tips on identifying, recruiting and managing relationships with influencers as well as insights on measurement and his thoughts towards the future.

What brought you to the world of Influencer Marketing?

It happened a bit by accident. I was part of a new product launch in Phoenix, Arizona. We thought it would be fun to have a tweetup, get a few people together at an event we were having at a Diamondbacks baseball game, and have everyone share the experience via Twitter.

I connected with Aaron Kilby who started and runs #MediaChat, and things took off from there. He helped get the word out, and between us, we invited 45 local people who were all active on Twitter and social media. As it turns out, almost everyone showed up, and we could not have picked a better city or group of people.

We knew that night that this was a special group, but I didn’t realize at the time, what an amazing pool of talent and influence we had gathered. I just knew that everything clicked and to this day, it is still probably my favorite event. Included that night were

And many others. The day after the event we looked at the results, and I was hooked.

How is influencer marketing different for B2B than B2C?

I some ways, I don’t know that it is different. At its core, influencer marketing is neither B2B or B2C, it’s personal. It’s about the personal connection an influencer has with each member of their audience or network. No one arrives to work as a consumer and then takes on the buyer persona or characteristics of a brand. They’re still a consumer, and they are influenced and make purchase decisions much as they would as a consumer.

Technically speaking, however; there are clear differences. For example; B2B or B2C will play an essential role in determining where to focus the efforts of influencers. For B2C, I may be all in on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. But for a B2B campaign, I will want to focus more on LinkedIn, online industry or trade articles, or contributions to influential business blogs.

B2C marketers look for influencers based on popularity and reach, whereas B2B marketers focus more on experts, authority and thought leadership. @martinjonesaz

Additionally, there are many instances where a B2C marketer will look for an influencer based on popularity and reach, whereas a B2B marketer will tend to focus more on experts, authority and thought leadership in a specific niche or industry.

What are 2-3 of the main benefits of collaborating with influencers for B2B companies?

A few of the primary benefits of collaborating with influencers is to overcome evolving shifts in marketing that is making it increasingly difficult for brands to reach consumers.

For example, adoption of ad blockers is soaring and traditional banner ads have become ineffective. Organic reach for brands on social media hovers around 1-2%, and consumers trust in brand advertising is at an all-time low.

For B2B marketers striving to reach targeted audiences, influencer marketing, when done right, can yield significant results over many traditional marketing tactics. @martinjonesaz

On the other hand, influencers connect with a much more targeted audience than banner ads have in quite some time. Ad blockers do not impact influencers and their content still has significant social media reach. Trust from an influencer’s audience typically runs somewhere north of 90%.

For B2B marketers striving to reach targeted audiences, influencer marketing, when done right, can yield significant results over many traditional marketing tactics.

What tips can you share about being more effective about influencer identification, qualification & recruitment?

Take your time and do the research. Selection of the right influencers for your campaign will be one of the single most significant factors in its success or failure. It’s easy to get excited about a big name or an influencer with a large following, but neither of those will necessarily translate to your ultimate goal of delivering results to your organization.

A good influencer is one that can activate their audience, regardless of if it’s an audience of 10 or 10,000. @martinjonesaz

Influencers should have a proven track record of getting their audience to take action; whether that is social engagement, making a purchase or simply re-evaluating their opinion or point of view. A good influencer is one that can activate their audience, regardless of if it’s an audience of 10 or 10,000.

Determine the goals or KPI’s of your campaign first. Are you looking to increase brand awareness, change public perception, boost traffic to your website, increase social following, grow sales, or establish trust and thought leadership? The goal of your campaign should determine the pool of influencers you will evaluate.

Do they have brand references? Evaluate their previous work and feedback from other brands. If they cannot document their ability to influence and activate their audience or cannot demonstrate they have previously delivered similar KPI’s, keep searching.

What characteristics make for a successful influencer / B2B brand relationship?

At the top of the list is whether the influencer is a good “cultural fit” for your brand or organization. In the eyes of consumers the influencers you select and work with will, in many ways, become an extension of your brand.

This is another area where research is critical. Due diligence in researching the potential influencers’ social media history will reveal a lot about their personality, style, character and more. You want to ensure that the influencer will in no way put your brand’s reputation at risk.

Influencers that align with your company’s goals, objectives, and values will advance your organization in many ways beyond a marketing campaign. @martinjonesaz

There is much more to a successful relationship than the dollar value and reach. Influencers that align with your company’s goals, objectives, and values will advance your organization in many ways beyond a marketing campaign.

What advice can you share about measuring success with influencer marketing?

Unfortunately, measurement is never one size fits all. It needs to be customized to meet specific campaign or organizational goals. The best advice I can give on measuring success with influencer marketing is to establish the goals of your influencer program or campaign before you do anything else. This will guide you on the tactics, influencer selection process, and key metrics to monitor. Once you have a clear picture of your objectives, KPI’s can be set to ensure alignment and affirm expectations for your influencers.

Speaking of technologies, any favorite tools or platforms you can share?

First, is one that is has been my favorite for some time. Buzzsumo.

Buzzsumo’s influencer feature is one of the best when it comes to researching top writers, bloggers, and publishers by specific keywords and topics. This makes it ideal for my work as it simplifies researching influencers (and topics) across many diverse business verticals.

One of the great advantages of Buzzsumo is that it also uncovers influencers that you will not find via any other method, as they are not “ranked” or registered as influencers in a traditional sense. They don’t appear on lists of the top 100 influencers of this or that, they don’t have 200,000 followers, and they tend to fly just under the radar, but they consistently create incredible content that is highly shared and influences their niche or industry.

Buzzsumo displays the number of shares per article, retweet ratio, page authority and more. It’s easy to use and can help someone quickly and accurately identify influencers for almost any topic, niche or industry.

Another, Sparktoro/Sparkscore is relatively new, and although the actual influencer tool won’t be available until next year, based on what is available now, and details of what’s they’re building, it’s safe to safe it will quickly become very popular. It was created by Rand Fishkin and is in many ways what I think marketers had hoped Klout would be. The Fake Follower Audit, Trend Feed, and Twitter Research tools that are featured on the current site are great and provide a glimpse of what’s coming.

How do you think influencer marketing will have evolved in the next year or two? What will it look like in 2020?

Artificial intelligence will play an increasingly important role over the next year or two. Currently, influencer identification and selection are somewhat subjective, require a great deal of manual research and are not without risk of research and results being impacted by fake engagement and social bots.

Artificial intelligence will play an increasingly important role (with influencer marketing) over the next year or two. @martinjonesaz

AI will go a long way in not only removing the risk but also significantly increasing the ability to surface and identify specific influencers for a brand, product, or service – evaluate their reach and performance, and determine a fair market price for their service.

Thank you Martin!

If you would like to learn even more about influencer marketing for B2B companies, 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 – three people at the top of their marketing game working with influencers.

Here are the details:

B2B Forum 2018
The Confluence Equation: How Content & Influencers Drive B2B Marketing Success

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’re compiling this series of interviews into an ebook which you can only get at the conference. We hope to see you there!

Be sure to check out the other interviews in this B2B Influencer Marketing Series:

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.