Influence Marketing = Customer Co-marketing: Mining for Gold

Influencer marketing yields great dividends
Influencer marketing yields great dividends

Influencer marketing is a little more involved than many will tell you.

On the surface it looks fairly simple: find the relevant influencers in your space, develop an email introduction and then start engaging with them on behalf of yourself or a client’s brand.

But if your intention is to develop long lasting and mutual beneficial relationships, you will need to change your way of thinking a bit.

I’ve also noticed that the term influencer is getting a bit overused lately.  It can mean different things depending on who you are talking to.  By influencer, I am not referring to Hollywood celebrities or general online personalities.  Instead, I’m talking about influencers who can become your brand advocates over time if you cultivate the relationships well enough.

In particular, for this post, I’m going to focus on the technology space in the blogosphere.  At Ivy, we work with many technology influencers and have done so for a number of years as we wrote about in our book Social Media Judo.

I’m going to narrow it down even more.  Let’s frame this discussion around the SMB space within the technology blogosphere.

Now, let’s take a look at an influencer many companies would bypass and let’s discuss why that is a big mistake.

Until recently, John Obeto has not been getting the attention of more well known influencers in the technology blogosphere.  Few among the millions of people who visit Gizmodo, Engadget or Techcruch have ever heard of or visited John’s blog,  Many technology companies will look at the online traffic figures and skip past him.

By doing so, they miss out on one of the most influential bloggers in one of the most difficult-to-reach markets –the SMB market.

Brands that can effectively market to SMBs while in their early growth stages and solidify them as customers as they succeed, stand to enjoy long term, profitable relationships.

Okay, so John doesn’t have a huge audience, but he’s one of the few influencers who writes a blog specifically and only about small to mid-size businesses (SMB) computing issues.  He has a fraction of the audience of the biggest blogs, which focus on general technology or consumer computing.

John also runs a managed services provider, LogikWorx, that serves the SMB community.  He has offices in the Los Angeles, Lagos, London.

I think it is safe to say he knows the SMB technology space well.

He’s one of the most positive and concise influencers we know, yet he has to work hard to get companies to talk to him.  Those that take a look at his site and take the time to find out what he’s about, however, will find his content and audience are pure gold.

But like finding gold, it takes effort.

Why is John Obeto’s audience so great?  Almost all of his readers are prime customers for tech companies — all of which spend a log of time and effort trying to find and market to this group (SMB).

SMB customers make up one of the largest customer pools, but it’s a pool that’s fractured and often difficult to reach.  Rather than finding one customer to spend $100,000, companies have to find 100 customers who will each spend $1,000.

Nevertheless, groups of small- and midsize business customers will congregate in certain areas where they can find solid advice, and Obeto’s is one of those gathering areas.

There is a relevant lesson in all of this: when seeking out key influencers in any industry, companies have to look well beyond traffic numbers.  They have to discover the true value of the content producers who influence their customers, and they have to understand those online conversations at both micro and macro levels.

It’s one of the basic skills any marketer must possess, but when applied online, the skill requires that shift in mindset that’s seemingly so elusive. A marketer must look at what really defines influence, because its far more than just page views.

Whether out of laziness, budget or time constraints, or simple naivete, many marketers will simply think the bigger the better.  As our experience has demonstrated, the number of page views does not equal influence or driving sales.  An might reprint a snippet of your press release (or, more likely some other site’s mention of it) with a snarky comment relevant to only a small fraction of its readers.

In contract, will use your product over a long period of time and in a context relevant to the target market.  By providing that kind of insight that engages most of its business readers, John and influencers like him cater to specific markets and niches that lead to a significant bearing on actual purchasing decisions.

In one such case, after reviewing a server product, John reported that one of his readers made the decision to purchase a unit like the one he reviewed over a competing product.  Gold.

Isn’t this what we are all after in the end?

The fundamental shift in mindset that I mentioned has to happen before any of these skills work, but thinking only generates sales when its accompanied by action.  As we discuss in our book, Social Media Judo, a Judo master develops the most basic skills so he or she can react quickly when precision is most important, and like a Judo practitioner, a marketer gains expertise only through repeated practice of fundamental marketing skills.

In both pursuits, building expertise with the basic tools is essential to understanding how and why certain techniques work and others fail.  A marketing group that does not invest the time and energy in learning and mastering the basics — such as identifying the real influencers in their market and finding mutually beneficial ways to engage them — will by pass a guy like John Obeto out of ignorance.

Don’t let this happen to you.

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