If you’re new to this series, Inside B2B Influence is a podcast and video series that goes behind the scenes of B2B marketing and showcases conversations with industry experts on influencer marketing for B2B companies. We’re doing our best here at TopRank Marketing Blog to elevate the practice of growing influence within and outside of B2B brands to drive thought leadership, create demand and grow revenue.
In Episode 15 of Inside B2B Influence, Justin Levy, (@justinlevy) Director of Social and Influencer Marketing at Demandbase (client) and I connected to help answer some key questions about working with influencers at a technology company. I’ve known Justin for many years and we’re both members of the esteemed Marketing Fitness Group on Facebook. His work with influencers goes all the way back to when he and Chris Brogan ran a marketing agency back in 2008.
Justin has also been in leadership positions at Citrix (interview 2014) and ServiceNow and is a recognized pro when it comes to social media marketing.
Highlights of this episode of Inside B2B Influence with Justin include:
How influencers fit in the marketing mix at Demandbase
Opportunities for B2B brands to work with influencers post-pandemic
What makes a good B2B tech influencer
The importance of growing influence for brand executives
Advice for B2B marketers new to influencer marketing
What should B2B marketers expect from an influencer marketing agency
B2B technology and marketing influencers to follow
Listen to episode 15 (Optimizing B2B Marketing with Influence) of the Inside B2B Influence podcast here:
You can also check out the full video of my interview with Justin here:
Transcript – Inside B2B Influence Episode 15: Optimizing B2B Marketing with Influence
Tell us about Demandbase and your work there as Director of Social Media and Influencer Marketing
Justin: The simplified version and what our customers purchase is account-based marketing software. That helps bigger customers identify the right accounts to go to at the right time with marketing that’s personalized for them. It’s not a spray and pray with a piece of content, it’s a focused piece of content that hits you at a right time in your buying cycle and that’s catered to your role.
I own social media for the company as well as influencer marketing. I’m part of a broader content team and our content team is responsible for everything including social, influencers, our blog, our webinars, eBooks, video strategy, everything of that nature. Kind of end to end content cycle, even if there’s other people within the marketing team that are technically executing. Our demand gen team might execute the webinar, but we might help with the content angle or partner with them on the strategy or how to communicate that out through social.
Where does influence fit in the marketing mix for Demandbase?
Justin: It comes in different forms depending on what we’re doing at any given time. We engage influencers whether it’s at a point in time or through the development of a number of relationships. We like to put together and run long tail, long-term relationships and develop those. We are able to utilize those for a variety of different things, not just kind of transactional in the sense of what we need from them, but also help promote them and showcase them.
We engage influencers whether it’s at a point in time or through the development of a number of relationships. @justinlevy
Also when we have certain things happen like when we announced an evolution from account-based marketing to account-based experience. We recently launched our CMO, Jon Miller’s book, The Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Experience. There are moments in time like that where we reach out to our influencers and also to a broader set of influencers. Not just those people that we’ve worked with in the past, but to a broader set where we think it will be of interest to them.
Jon’s book is a 250- 260 page book, but it’s packed with data, insights, worksheets and information from various firms, analysts and other companies. That’s appropriate, not just for our technical term of an influencer per se, but that’s applicable to CMOs that other companies that maybe wouldn’t fall under what we would consider a social influencer, but they’re an influencer because they influence other people within their company and within their market. That book in this instance is really key for them to have.
What opportunities have emerged for B2B brands to work with influencers out of this chaos and change that’s happened over the last year and a half?
Justin: I think that you have to be creative with how you engage with influencers. Like, how you build those relationships and then the way that you bring them together almost to thank them or to do things to celebrate them. We’re starting to emerge from the pandemic and might start to see some of this again, but you might be at an event like Dreamforce and host an in-person get together dinner with a small group of people with access to certain executives in the company that they can speak to. That helps build that deeper relationship with the influencers.
As a way to thank [influencers] you might do something like a mixologist happy hour with them or send them some type of a gift that’s not just a fruit basket, but it’s an experience. @justinlevy
Now, I think over the past year you have opportunities to do virtual events with them, right? You might do whatever your engagement is, but as a way to thank them you might do something like a mixologist happy hour with them or send them some type of a gift that’s not just a fruit basket or something, but it’s an experience.
We haven’t done some of these before, but I do know some people that will do a beer happy hour with a craft beer company or wine tasting. These companies will send them everything. Or if it’s mixology happy hour, they might have to go pick out a couple of their favorite things. Or cooking. I’ve seen some do different kinds of cooking classes. It’s a nice way for the brands to thank the influencer so it’s not all transactional.
Another thing that I’ve seen and we’re working on is, creating customized pages for the folks we’re identifying that we want to work with. These pages that we’ll launch soon, will help to promote not only the influencer, but other content that we have. We want to showcase them, but there’s also content that’s relevant not only to them, but it’s stuff that we’ve produced. So it’s a shared relationship.
How would you describe a good B2B influencer? What is it that you look for?
Justin: It’s not always just by the follower numbers. You want to look at what their engagement is with what audience, Even so, you can have a lot of engagement, but that could be with a B to C audience. They have this large audience, it just so happens to be a B to C audience.
So, are they in B2B? Are they engaged with say, Director plus roles? What type of other companies that can see and have analyzed, have they worked with in the past? Are they in that like playing field? Almost that sandbox of other companies that you use or you want to play with or be associated with. Then it takes some creative ideas and campaigns, because like you said, it’s not as easy as B to C. Brands work really hard on that side, but it’s also a little easier just as far as the types of products that they can provide or things of that nature.
In B2B, there’s usually nothing usually tangible, right? It’s about coming up with ideas to engage their audience with content that’s relevant. So it can’t just be transactional where it’s like, “Hey, go tweet this for me”. Is the content I’m providing to you helpful to your audience to help you with your thought leadership or help promote you more with your audience?
What’s your take on the value of growing influence within your brand, especially with key opinion leaders, executives, or certain subject matter experts?
Justin: I think that it’s critical. You do yourself a disservice if you don’t foster your employees.
While this pertains to identifying or helping to grow influence, within there that can even be looked at more broadly like with employee advocacy – you have this group of people.
At Demandbase, we have across the board about 550 employees. Within there you have a lot of people that specialize in various topics. Not everyone can be an influencer. You do have to pick and choose based on audiences and what have you.
I think [growing influence internally] is critical. You do yourself a disservice if you don’t foster your employees. @justinlevy
When I stepped into the company, Jon Miller our CMO was already an identified thought leader and expert in the space. He was one of the people that helped create account-based marketing, or really kind of grab with it and run. He’s one of the co-founders of Marketo, he was the CEO and founder of Engagio, and now he’s here. He is a thought leader. It’s not hard.
We have another woman on our team who’s an RVP, her name is Catie Ivey. She speaks and has the built a really strong platform around sales and around women in sales and thought leadership. This whole platform where she’s invited to speak on podcasts and at events and things of that nature.
And then we almost have micro influencers throughout the company. There are these people that have this very specialized audience. They’ll create a video and launch it on their social channels like LinkedIn. And because they know how to engage that audience they’ll have 5,000, 10,000 plus views on their video. That’s pretty good when it comes to engagement on a personal profile.
So, we look for those people. When my VP and I stepped into the company, some of those people were already identified. We already knew about them, but there’s other people that you can look at and start to foster their expertise. You kind of provide the technology or the information and education on how to do this. And then you make them look good and you can take their expertise and turn it into something great.
What advice would you give to someone at a B2B company who’s just thinking about starting an influencer program?
Justin: I think that you want to obviously develop relationships with some of the people that are influencers in the space. I mean, they’re known influencers in the B2B marketing space. There are people that you might’ve seen keynote at several conferences, or maybe you read their blog everyday and it’s helped teach you what you know about B2B marketing.
But you also have to understand that they’re receiving an onslaught of requests, whether it’s to speak or to be part of influencer campaigns at a number of brands. They don’t want to oversaturate their personal brand, right? So if they attach themselves to all of this, there’s going to be a kind of bend and break for them.
You have to look at those other influencers that you might start to work with? A lot of times they’re very niche to your space. So you want to have these couple of circles. You want people that are almost in this broader B2B marketing circle, but in our case we also look at who is within ABM specifically and how we can engage with them.
We’re engaged with a lot of them already, so we’re fortunate that way. Jon obviously has a lot of deep relationships that we’ve been able to leverage, but there are those two separate groups that you want to tap.
Every engagement looks different and what comes out of it for that person, for the influencer on the other side, is going to be different. @justinlevy
You might be in a different industry that you need to look at that have industry experts within that field that you also want to go after. You also have this broader group that might be director plus, it might be C suite, it might be director and below. It just depends on where your buying group is.
Those are people that may be your customers, or they may be your prospects. It’s just going to depend on the company. That’s a whole other set of influencers because you may want to influence them for a number of other reasons. If they are customers it helps or retention, if it’s prospects it helps with sales. But they are also hungry for the content and to help share out through their social channels. Every engagement looks different and what comes out of it for that person, for the influencer on the other side, is going to be different.
What should a B2B marketer expect if they go to an outside resource like an agency to help them with an influencer marketing program?
Justin: I think that there needs to be clear expectations on what’s going to come from it, because the agency may have a different view. You can go to agencies across the board and that can be influencer or social or probably any other agency and they have different metrics. They have different ways that they work. They have different ways to create content. You want that to be very aligned for both the brand and for the agency. Then have clear metrics in place. Both for the brand and the agency relationship, whereas that’s transactional a bit, this is what we expect. Yep. That’s what we want. So on and so forth.
We also need to measure the influencers. We had X agree. We had X share. Now, what was that reach and engagement? Did it drive traffic? I see that across the board and in companies I’ve been part of and when I talk to friends or other people in the industry, that it seems almost like people don’t measure traffic back to the website.
Driving traffic back to the website, to that landing page is the conversion metric. You should always have that. @justinlevy
For social and influencer programs you can have reach, impressions, engagements or whatever kind of social numbers there are, but if you’re not driving traffic back to the website, if you don’t have any benchmarks for that, that’s one of the ultimate goals. Of course engagement and reach are the awareness metrics that are really important. But driving traffic back to the website, to that landing page is the conversion metric. You should always have that.
I’ve experienced in other companies where that’s not a metric or I’ve talked to people, this is more on the social side, but I’ve talked to people and asked the web team or the analytics team, Hey, what’s the percentage of traffic that social has driven? And they’re like, it’s so low, it doesn’t matter. I said, no, no, no I want to know that number because even if I bring that from one percent to four percent, that’s an increase. Because the next quarter, I want to take it from here to there. So, I think you have to have agreement on content expectations, but also on metrics.
Are there any B2B marketing or B2B technology influencers that you think people should follow?
Justin: Yes, she was just on your previous episode Ann Handley, one of the nicest and most knowledgeable people, you know. I have been friends with her for, I don’t even know how long at this point.
On the kind of tech side of the world, if you want to become very confused, very fast, Christopher S Penn is one of them. Even when I ask him to dumb stuff down for me, I still don’t understand it, but he understands. He explores data and spends hours upon hours a day outside of his client work, trying to figure out how to help marketers and help himself exploit data.
I think we all have a number of other people, Jay Baer or Mark Schaefer. I think they’re all people that if, you know, you’re looking for influence and looking for best practices, several of those people are great follows.
Be sure to stay tuned to TopRank Marketing’s B2B Marketing Blog for our next episode of Inside B2B Influence where we’ll be answering the B2B marketing industry’s most pressing questions about the role of influence in business marketing.
You can also download The State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report featuring insights from a survey of hundreds of B2B marketers plus case studies and contributions from marketing executives at brands including Adobe, LinkedIn, IBM, Dell, SAP and many more.