Customers' purchases are influenced by what's around them. Sometimes knowing who or what influences their decisions can give companies the leverage they need to increase sales.
"If we can influence those influencers, and they can in turn influence the buyer, that would give the company a much better hit rate," says Nick Hayes, President, Influencer50.
Hayes’ team specializes in helping B2B companies identify and influence the top 50 influencers in their markets. Although his team does not typically work with consumer-marketing companies, the principles his team follows are directly applicable to consumer markets.
Below, we highlight five tactics Hayes’ team uses to win over influencers.Tactic #1. Do not sell to influencers
Influencers in consumer markets are often journalists, publications, website operators and celebrities. Influencers in B2B markets are often individuals rather than organizations. They may be experts in a large company, or they may be consultants who work for several companies.
In any case, most influencers have a common trait: they hate being sold to. Treating influencers as customers, marketing to them, and pushing them to purchase is "the biggest mistake that companies make when they’ve identified these individuals," Hayes says.
"We try to reach influencers so they at least have an opinion. We can’t necessarily make that opinion positive, but we want them to have an opinion and we want it to be as informed as possible," Hayes says.
Be sure to listen to their needs. Instead of sending influencers your marketing materials, ask them how your company can best help them.
"It won’t be that he wants every booklet and brochure that your marketing department has ever produced," Hayes says.Tactic #2. Offer access and networking
People become influential because of their contacts and expertise. When your company reaches out to an influencer, be sure to offer them networking opportunities and access to key leaders in your company.
For example, Hayes’ team often finds influencers are interested in meeting other influential people in their markets. Your team could offer to introduce several powerful people either in person or over the telephone. An influencer is likely to know some of these people already, but they are unlikely to know everyone.
As for access, tell influencers that you can set up calls with mid- or executive-level members of your company so they can learn more about your products and organization. This will help build their expertise and will afford influencers the special treatment they deserve.
Sometimes, Hayes says, influencers will mention that they reached out to a company only to be pushed off to a low-level regional sales rep. By giving them access to leaders in your company, they get the feeling that they are being taken more seriously.Tactic #3. Interact with influencers individually
Hayes’ team typically identifies the top 50 influencers in a client’s market, hence the company name, Influencer50. This number is hardly arbitrary. Hayes says it’s a small enough number to enable a company to focus on each person on the list, and large enough to have a real business impact.
"Any more than 50, and it becomes just another database," Hayes says. "These 50 are important enough that a company should know them on an individual basis."
Reaching out and interacting with each influencer on an individual basis is necessary to provide the attention each deserves. Reaching them with mass emails and direct mail pieces is too much like marketing or selling to this group and should be avoided.Tactic #4. Influencers can be flattered
Do you homework before calling an influencer. Know the person's title and role in a company, and understand what the company sells. If you call and make it clear that you do not know much about them or their company, they’re likely to be put off.
However, if you tell influencers you’ve completed a two-month project to identify the most influential people in your market and they made it onto the top 10 list, you’re more likely to get a positive response.
"Most influencers respond to flattery," Hayes says. "Influencers hate mass mailings."
Some influencers do not realize they are influential and will be delighted by the news. Others are very aware of their power and appreciate the confirmation. Tactic #5. Prepare for reluctance
Some influencers, such as journalists and consultants, are open to additional attention. Others, such as those within a company, do not always welcome the limelight.
For example, an employee may not recognize her influence and be skeptical of any comments saying otherwise. Or an employee may be aware of his influence but prefer not to be recognized due to personal preferences or company policy.
In these cases, do not push. Simply leave contact information for a leader in your company and express that the person can reach your business at anytime. Do not give them the same contact information that’s available to the public; give them higher access.
While some people are reluctant, "generally, people are flattered and intrigued" when Hayes’ team reaches out, he says.Useful links related to this article
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