The latest edition of Inside Influence features B2B Influencer Marketing “OG”, Amisha Gandhi, VP Influencer Marketing & Communications at SAP. At TopRank Marketing, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Amisha for several years on a variety of influencer marketing programs from the launch of SAP Leonardo to developing a virtual reality experience featuring influencers for use at tradeshows.
In this 6th episode of Inside Influence, I talk with Amisha about the power of how creating mutual value between B2B brands and influencers drives returns across the customer lifecycle. Of course we also hit a few highlights of the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report.
In this 6th Episode of Inside Influence, we cover:
- The impact of the pandemic on influencer marketing for B2B brands
- How influencer marketing fits in the marketing mix
- What mutual value creation means for B2B brands and influencers
- The difference between B2C and B2B influencer marketing
- When to pay influencers
- Why Always-On influencer marketing is more powerful than campaigns alone
- How to win budgets for influencer marketing programs
- Where agencies can be most helpful for B2B brands with influencer marketing
- Top B2B influencer marketing mistakes
- Looking forward to post-pandemic influencer marketing
Here are a few highlights with the full video interview embedded below.
You know as much as anyone the impact that the pandemic has had on people’s lives and on business. What has the impact been when it comes to B2B influencer marketing?
Amisha: I think (B2B) people are definitely looking at their entire customer journey as now completely digital. I think you see an increase in digital social selling and you see an increase in digital demand gen if it wasn’t already. And with more maturity, many have now made that shift. People are looking at creating more engaging online experiences and virtual experiences now.
Many (B2B marketers) have had to go a hundred percent digital overnight and that just creates a really great opportunity for influencer marketing. @amishagandhi
I think many had to go a hundred percent digital overnight and that just creates a really great opportunity for influencer marketing. When you think about the customer journey, because we’re really trying to create conversations and engagement, now everything has to be done virtually, right? So even live experiences with your influencers, customers, employees, everyone has to be online. I think it just creates that opportunity for us to work with influencers, to manage and make those experiences as valuable as possible.
The research we did for the State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report found that B2B marketers are engaging influencers for content that does everything from build brand awareness (84%) to help generate leads (69%). Do you view influencer marketing as something you apply to specific objectives or can it be used more broadly? Or both?
Amisha: I think both, but it depends on what you’re trying to do. Something that we always talk about and we agree on is that influencer marketing, when you’re creating it, should be an ongoing relationship. It’s almost like you want to create a community of influencers around your business. Or if you’re at a large place like SAP, around the topic that you’re really trying to influence and the persona that you’re trying to influence. You really want to think about that long term aspect of it.
Influencers can really help you broadly, but they can also help you at every step of the customer journey. @amishagandhi
These influencers can really help you broadly, but they can also help you at every step of the customer journey. Think of how you can infuse influencers into those motions all the way across the customer journey, so when you do a campaign, you have influencers from awareness all the way down to advocacy.
You’ve said many times that effective influencer marketing is about mutual value creation. What do you mean by that?
Amisha: Sure. There are people who are influencers and that’s their business. But I think there are a lot of influencers, especially in B2B who are developers, who are actual implementers of technology, or they’re in the position of influence like CIO of CFO. Some of them have written books and some of them are academics. It depends, but they have some sort of inspirational guidance out there, right? And people follow them for reason. When you’re working with folks like that, it’s not always a contract. There’s value for them as well.
For example, it could be, you know, we have a large ecosystem partner ecosystem at SAP. Some of our influencers are also partners and some of the partner organizations like to come and do business with us, so we’re making introductions into our ecosystem on behalf of the influencer. They’re actually doing business with us or with our partners. We’re actually building business together.
That’s not to say that they’re out there endorsing SAP, but they’re a little bit more involved. So they’re getting that intrinsic value. For other folks there is the contract, but again, if you have the long-term relationship, it becomes less about the contract than the work.
If you’re asking people to do a keynote or if you’re asking them to write long articles or to do thought leadership, you’re paying them for work. I’m not paying them to endorse SAP. I’m paying them because they’ve interviewed tens of customers and they’re writing a really thorough piece of content and that’s their job. It’s based on their knowledge.
There is mutual benefit in building business together and asking your influencers, what do you want out of the relationship? @amishagandhi
So it depends. There are influencers we don’t pay at all. There are other influencers we pay some for certain activities and the others not. If we’re asking for a quote for an ebook and it takes somebody a couple of minutes and they’re a really great thought leader, they’re involved in that way. Longer pieces of content like a keynote, we pay for. You don’t want to take people for granted. You want to create that relationship.
There is mutual benefit in building business together and asking your influencers, what do you want out of the relationship? And really getting to know them and saying, how can we help you beyond just this? I think it works both ways because they’ll come back and ask you the same thing and you’re going to get this amazing value. Both ways.
Activating influencers to co-create B2B content might work great, but no program is getting off the ground without budget. What recommendations do you have for winning budget to do a pilot or even a longer term program?
Amisha: Budget is an issue for everyone these days. I can say that I started with no budget and I had to pitch my other marketing colleagues for pieces of their budget to actually do influencer marketing right and I started a global demand gen team. So what you really have to do is, is explain: here’s the context of what this is and here are the outcomes that you can expect.
Of course, a lot of these were just guesstimations because there wasn’t anyone else I could look at it and say, who’s doing demand gen? Who’s doing ABM? Or who’s doing a kind of co-created content with influencers? I had a lot of B2C industry stats for influencer marketing that were very helpful, but I had to have a very pointed sort of conversation about, here’s what we’re going to do and here’s what that could look like.
A program could be an ebook or some sort of event speaking engagement and then you could get some promotion out of that. Another thing was, here is some kind of demand gen content that could really work in your campaign. So you have to have a menu of options and outcomes to show what the context is. This is why it’s important and here’s some of the things I can do for you, business or marketing team. Plus, here’s the outcomes that you can expect. When you have that, then people are like, Oh, okay. It’s not just an idea. We’re going to see what happens.
When I started I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I had to be really pragmatic. Once I did that and showed the value, then people said, okay I can see that this will have some impact on what I’m doing to help me with my marketing campaign. Okay. Let’s see, let’s try it out.
My inbox was getting full because people saw the value (of influencer marketing). They saw it in action and they experienced it themselves. @amishagandhi
And that’s how I got a pilot from the CIO group at SAP. We started with an event and an ebook and they both did really well. Then we were able to share that with all the other teams and my inbox was getting full after that because people saw the value. They saw it in action and they experienced it themselves.
You want to be open about outcomes and communicate the outcomes and make it valuable to the person you’re talking to. So, know who you’re talking to and know what they’re about and know what they’re trying to achieve. Know how you can help them have the outcome and then always report back and try to share those results so that they can experience it themselves. Because once they do, then they will just want more and will want to think about it in a different way than, Oh, this was an ebook. No, actually, let’s think about it in a bigger way. And then that’s how you’re going to say, here’s the vision and here’s how we can get to the bigger plays with influencers and make it a part of our marketing stack.
In the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, we found that the things B2B marketers outsource most often to agencies include: identifying influencers, managing relationships, developing strategy and measuring effectiveness. What have you found to be most useful when it comes to using outside help?
Amisha: So I started in-house first and then eventually started working with folks like you (TopRank Marketing). We share the same philosophies which is really important. For identifying influencers, yes, you should get outside help. But there are also lists out there. You want to verify those things. Once influencers have been identified, you should be part of the relationship development and the relationship. I think when you outsource the relationship, it is very difficult to create that ongoing community.
You can certainly have the help of an agency to help manage the relationship, but I really feel strongly that the relationship that the influencers want is with the brand and not with the agency. @amishagandhi
You can certainly have the help of an agency to help manage the relationship, but I really feel strongly that the relationship that the influencers want is with the brand and not with the agency. Now, if the agency is a player in that industry, that’s great and it helps. But again, the brand needs to be the end goal for the relationship, especially for influencers.
I find that very few agencies have those relationships. You guys have them because you’ve been around and you understand B2B influencer marketing, which can be a big help for people just starting out. But again, the brand needs to have that relationship. Measurement and all of that can be outsourced. Or, you know, brought in-house. It can’t just be those vanity metrics that you want to show. You want to show deeper metrics and you have to allow your agency access to that, or kind of come up with a grid or what I call a dashboard that shows all the metrics that you’ve had impact on.
So, allow your agency for success by giving them exposure to those things and then ask what what works for other companies? This is what my sandbox looks like, so how can I be successful here? I think that an outside-in perspective, for someone who doesn’t have the experience, would be really helpful. But the relationship piece should be owned by the brand, especially in B2B.
To see the full Inside Influence interview with Amisha Gandhi, check out the video below:
Next up on Inside Influence, we’ll be talking to Pierre-Loic Assayag, CEO and Co-Founder of Traackr about the role of technology and software with ROI generating influencer marketing.
Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence interviews: