Guest post from Hally Pinaud, Product Marketing Manager at PeopleFluent
Have you heard? Half of all B2B researchers are Millennials – up 70% in just two years. Yes, the complex buying process is alive and well, and now you’re standing up to the scrutiny of a bunch of 20-something gatekeepers.
Which means you’re really going to have to rethink your influencer approach. But probably not in the way you’re used to hearing about…
The user is your best advocate
First, let’s talk a little bit about the whole concept of “influencer marketing.” My observation is that often as marketers, we err on the side of writing solely to the person who signs on the dotted line, our “buyer,” which is a mistake. The majority B2B buying decisions are done with 7 or more people. And if your buyer happens to be an executive, they’re usually inundated (seriously – my “buyer persona” probably gets dozens of vendor emails a day.)
If that’s your only touchpoint… yikes.
What works is writing to a whole slew of so-called “influencers,” while continuing to prioritize the buyer. But I’m just going to call it like I see it. Not everyone around the table really cares about your product, glorious though it may be. For example, IT gets pulled into every B2B tech decision. They’re there, but often just to know how much will be required of them in implementation and support. (This is a whole other persona conversation, folks.)
The real story is the boss’s team – ultimately, your users. In B2B processes, the fact is that only 29% of content sharing is from the top down. But who’s really doing that sharing? It comes back to why the Millennial influencer is in rapid ascendency. Users of the product are going to have to live with whatever gets purchased. And they want a say, especially those loudmouth 20-something tech natives.
Meanwhile, smart buyers care more about their users’ opinions. If you’re on the hook for a decision, you want the people using what you bought and loving every minute of it.
This is why user marketing is some of the most important marketing you can do.
Boss content is for the boss
Let’s dispel another wrongheaded notion of junior-level influencer marketing (user marketing), which is “write to the executive, your influencers all want to be their boss anyway.” So you make every piece of content for that single buyer persona, usually the most senior title in your buying chain.
Folks: wanting to be the boss is an entirely different reality than being the boss.
Your job as a marketer is to understand the nuance that exists between those perspectives and create content accordingly. Here is where I pause for a very important note.
DON’T DO ANYTHING ELSE BEFORE YOU:
(1) Identify your users
(2) Interview your users
(3) Start to build intelligent personas [http://bit.ly/persona-guide] for your users
(4) Use those personas to sketch a more inclusive buyer’s journey… how can you help them help you?
Helping them help you
Typically, when we interview buyers, we identify challenges, pain points, objectives, etc. One extra dot you’ll want to connect with users is their place in the decision hierarchy. This goes back to that point of helping them help you.
How far removed are they from your buyer? What kind of relationship do they have with that person? How can you win them over and prepare them to plead your case? What can you do to assure the user that advocating for your product is low risk for them? The goal of great user marketing is to make these people – the ones whose lives will be made better by your product – feel empowered to say so.
This can help you make really truly compelling content that will be brought to your buyer’s attention and considered. It’s sort of a Trojan Horse strategy (minus the malicious intent.)
A final word on user marketing
Pre-sales is only part of the battle here. User marketing is a continuum.
Just to state the obvious, an awesome customer experience means word of mouth. If you’re equipping users with that experience, they’re going to have no qualms about advocating for you, whether that’s to a peer, a new boss, or to their own team when they’re the boss.
The most effective user marketing should be your product itself, and I would argue that part of your product is continued marketing. We need to keep making content for users during every stage of their journey – and the user journey goes on much longer than the buyer journey. That means we marketers can’t cut and run when the MQL is delivered, or even after the sale is closed.
So quit focusing on the boss alone. Convince and empower your best advocates – your users – instead.
Hally Pinaud is an experienced technology marketer with a passion for helping people discover and champion those B2B products that actually make their lives easier. She is currently a member of the Product Marketing team at PeopleFluent. Prior to this role, she spent time at Harte Hanks/Aberdeen Group and at Boston area start-ups. Hally holds an MBA in Product and Brand Management from Boston College and a BS in Marketing from Bentley University. She’s also the current Content Director for the Boston Product Management Association’s growing online content program and ProductHub blog. Follow her on Twitter at @HallyPino