Proactively building relationships with influencers and industry experts is a powerful way to generate leads and positive word of mouth (WOM). Most of us know this as influencer marketing, aka influence development.
Influence development is a practice of building relationships with key individuals who have influence over your buyers’ decisions. There are multiple opportunities with influencer development, which include:
- Getting more opportunities with people and companies you may have not otherwise engaged with
- Increasing your close rate and reducing sales cycle time by earning an influencer’s “seal of approval,” thus leveraging their credibility
- Increasing your influence via the “halo effect” by helping thought leaders build their platform, which will also help build your influence
- Testing and refining your messaging and value proposition. Influencers feel the pulse in the marketplace, and you can learn how you’re perceived and what messaging works in the market by talking to people who live and breathe within each space.
Here are four steps to engage and develop leads via influencers:
Step 1: Target — Map out the key players, experts and opinion molders in your industry
Look at speakers at industry events, authors, bylines of contributed articles in trade journals and blogs authors. Also be sure to interview your sales team and your potential buyers. This will give you a pretty good map of the people you need to know.
Step 2: Focus — Research them, their companies and their clients or customers
Do they work with companies that fit your ideal customer profile? To determine whether or not your customer bases are similar, you can search for relevant keywords. You can also use tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Alerts.
Create your short list, and prioritize who you think will make the biggest impact. Remember, less is more. Build personas for your influencers. Clarify your value proposition from an influencer point of view by answering the following:
- Why should I pay attention?
- What’s in it for me?
- What’s in it for the people I influence? (i.e. my customers, audience)
Step 3: Execute — Engage them and be relevant
The following chart shows how influencer engagement might look. The point is to see it as building a relationship and a conversation over time.
Also, Kevin Cain’s post on Convince&Convert has some great suggestions on how to engage influencers and what to say:
Step 4: Measure your results and make adjustments
Developing an influencer program takes time, but as you measure you can make adjustments.
Here are some questions to ask as your measure:
- Can we see the impact our influencer program is having on targets?
- What testing can we do to determine if we’re targeting the right influencers?
- What can we do to improve?
Bonus material on influencer development:
Many influencers and experts will give you permission to post their articles and resources on your website or newsletter. The “about the author” section will give them more exposure as well as position you as an expert because their credibility rubs off on you. This means you benefit positively from the halo effect.
As you build your lead generation program, your experts may be interested in codeveloping white papers, special research reports, articles and even events with you.
Experts and influencers pride themselves on their professional integrity, so they will likely refer business to you and a competitor (assuming you have them) at the same time. You will still have an edge by investing in the relationship. They are more likely to favor someone who has shown an interest in them and given them value.
Why does this work? You begin by being genuinely interested in their business. Secondly, experts stay experts by continually updating their knowledge of industry trends, information, key players, tools and ideas.
Experts need to be “in the know.” Consider this as you engage them. They will continually seek out other relevant resources that could possibly help their clients. If you can be a good resource for their clients, they need you.
Finally, when experts are doing their consulting, writing and speaking, they are not completely focused on new business development. The result of this is many experts and influencers go through phases of feast and famine. You and your company could be sales lead referral source for them as well.
You may also like
Influence the Influencers: 5 Tactics to Generate Demand [MarketingSherpa how-to article]
Amplify Your Content Strategy with Influencer Marketing [Via Convince and Convert]
Lead Generation: It’s all about building relationships [More from the blogs]