Why Influencer Marketing Is Going From Fad to Marketing Trend

I have a prediction for 2020. I think 2020 will be the year when influencer marketing becomes a “big time” tactic. A confluence of factors are driving influencer marketing, including the supporting trends of historically low brand trust and the growing difficulty in getting meaningful brand exposure.

I have a prediction for 2020. I think 2020 will be the year when influencer marketing becomes a “big time” tactic.

A confluence of factors are driving influencer marketing, including the supporting trends of historically low brand trust and the growing difficulty in getting meaningful brand exposure.

Along with this prediction, I would like to make three recommendations for marketers to consider:

  • First, recognize that influencer marketing is still just an ad channel with good and bad exposure opportunities.
  • Second, Influencer takes discipline to manage. Most brands will want to work with multiple influencers to target a broader audience and the process can get unwieldy, quickly.
  • Finally, Influencer marketing will be hard to measure, but measure it you must.

Why I Think Influencer Marketing Is Here to Stay

We are spending an enormous amount of time on our smartphones and the bulk of that time is spent consuming entertaining or informative content. As a result, marketers have been pumping billions into mobile adverts.

One way that marketers have tried to reach consumers is through mobile banner ads. Every advertiser knows that most clickthroughs are accidental outcomes of trying to close the ad.

While video ads have better luck, it is still not stellar. IPG Media brands Media Lab published findings in 2017 that 65% of users commonly skip video ads.

Personally, that number feels low. When legitimate brand exposure does occur, it is dampened by the historically low levels of brand trust. That’s something that I describe as a silent tax on brand exposures.

The solution to this crisis is finding quality exposure. Brands can build trust with content providers, loosely called influencers.

Why Brands Still Need to Be Careful

Before we all start an ad bubble (and it may have already started), there are many reasons to be cautious of influencer marketing.

  • First, not everyone with compelling content is an influencer. But they are all called influencers. Some content providers just have “train wreck” value, and followers see them as part of a digital menagerie — with no credibility.
  • Second, it is also possible that influencers have artificially inflated their follower count. Most social platforms, so far, are not interested in policing follower counts beyond weeding out bots.
  • Third, influencers may not have a relationship with their followers. This limits their ability to influence on behalf of brands.

The full list of cautions around influencer marketing is longer. The larger lesson is this; Influencer marketing is a big opportunity, but it is also full of low-quality opportunities.

Now for the Good News

Influencer marketing works very well when influencers are carefully selected, and the brand content is authentic.

A 2019 report by Mediakix states that 80% of marketers found influencer marketing “effective” or “very effective.” However, to achieve good results takes discipline. This includes a willingness to mine social and other online data to understand the influencer’s own brand and history. Some influencers are not well-known beyond a core following. They sometimes have taken positions or done things that may not associate well with your brand.

A key step should be testing them for brand fit. Good judgment is important, but not enough. There are a growing number of tech and data-driven approaches to scan social history and bring forward potential issues. Making sure you understand how unintended brand traits may transfer onto your brand is also important. A good brand fit study is critical; especially if big dollars are involved.

Once you are comfortable with the brand fit, then comes the fun part. How do you leverage the influencer’s credibility in a way that feels authentic? There are many models for how this is done. One involves sponsoring content with a simple acknowledgment from the influencer. A better model is having the influencer interact with your brand and make it part of their engaging content. For this to work, brands have to cede some creative control to the influencers. A smart influencer will be attuned to actions where they might seem disingenuous — or worse, look like a shill. The advice most successful influencer marketing pros will give is to let the influencer be themselves and don’t over-prescribe.

Influencer Marketing ROI

Finally, we come to measurement. And it is the biggest challenge facing influencer marketing. Not only are the number of views, likes, and followers often over-reported, they are also weak measures of engagement and tough to link with real financial value.

The right approach means making measurement and analytics considerations a part of the content design process.

When thinking about content, everyone should seek out opportunities to make it digitally interactive. Unlike the commercials of old, digital channels provide many opportunities to interact with content, such as forwards, downloads, comments, and shares. These deeper engagement measures tend to be less bloated and better reflect viewer intent.

As a result, you are better able to measure campaign success. I have also found that they correlate better with financial outcomes.

Taming Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing today is often described as the “Wild West.” Anyone who has heard this analogy knows it really means chaos with immense potential.

The good thing about this channel is there are literally thousands of small influencers with whom brands can experiment to uncover that potential.

3 Effective Bottom-of-the-Funnel Marketing Tactics for Social Media

Up to 74% of social media users have been influenced to make a purchase thanks to brand exposure. It just takes a focused approach to tap into the intricacies of the channel. This begs the question: Where do action-prompting, bottom-of-the-funnel marketing tactics fit into the complex world of social selling?

At this point, every marketer knows how important social media is for building a presence and making sales. However, marketers also know that selling products or services on social media requires a vastly different approach than “spray and pray.” This is because most people simply aren’t surfing their feeds for sales pitches (although they’ve come to expect it now); they are looking for something interesting to keep them busy — away from work.

While they certainly have their place, the flashy promotions and deals need to be placed perfectly to avoid turning people off. A study by Sprout Social found that 57% of social media users get annoyed by — and consequently unfollow — brands flooding them with promotions.

That said, up to 74% of social media users have been influenced to make a purchase thanks to brand exposure. So obviously, sales are still taking place here. It just takes a focused approach to tap into the intricacies of the channel.

This begs the question: Where do action-prompting, bottom-of-the-funnel marketing tactics fit into the complex world of social selling?

Given the massive amounts of content being published every second, expanding your reach depends heavily on your ability to position content in the right place at the right time. What you need to consider is your industry, message, location, and platform. Let’s talk about how you can get your sales content on social media without getting on your followers’ nerves.

Use Influencers and Brand Partners to Promote Coupons

Coupons have been a staple in bottom-of-the-funnel sales tactics for generations. For retail or e-commerce businesses, coupon promotion is a necessary evil. While coupons have taken a number of different forms in the digital age, the effectiveness has remained constant. A report from Valassis found that coupons influence 80% of consumers to purchase from a brand.

However, there’s no hiding from the fact that social media’s educational and informative nature is not exactly the ideal environment for coupons. Thankfully, there are a number of strategies you can use to get your promo codes and deals out there without making your page resemble an obnoxious salesperson.

Perhaps the best way to promote your coupons on social media is through extensive partnerships; especially with influencers. Keep in mind, a few coupons here and there won’t annoy most social media users — at least, not to the point of unfollowing. That said, if you have a higher number of partners/accounts to spread out your coupon campaign, you are:

  1. Reaching new audiences, and
  2. Not overburdening them with promotional jargon.

Influencers and micro-influencers can be instrumental in getting your promo codes in front of a larger, more targeted, more engaged audience. Having a micro-influencer or authority in a topic recommend a relevant product or service makes the audience more receptive toward trying it out, while building trust for the brand.

SEMrush, my former employer, recently used this strategy to great effect by getting dozens of digital marketing experts to spread the word about its first-ever conference in India, using personalized coupon codes:

Credit: Twitter

When you are looking for influencers or brand partners to promote your coupons, you need to look for relevancy and content overlap. The key here is not to go overboard. For instance, let’s say you have two coupon codes you are looking to promote on social media. If you have six partners, you could have three of them promote one of the coupons and the other three do the same the following week, with a total of 12 posts over two weeks — a number that likely won’t irk followers.

Pushing coupons on social media is a task where you want to tread lightly. Using a “proxy mouth” to spread the word is a fantastic way to draw attention, without agitating users.

Use Chatbots to Move Prospects Through the Buyer’s Journey

Chatbots are one of the most interesting (and widely debated) developments to emerge in social media in the past few years. Essentially, these are AI-powered tools that can be programmed to provide instantaneous, pre-fed or learned responses to customers and prospects.

The machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) capabilities can spot the patterns in customer interactions and adjust accordingly. While many brands use these bots to handle common customer service inquiries on their Facebook pages around the clock, some use them to take and process orders.

In fact, research by HubSpot indicates that nearly 50% of consumers would buy a product from a chatbot. So, while bottom-of-the-funnel content may have a limited place on your public page, it could be extremely useful if programmed into a bot.

ManyChat is one of the of the most user-friendly Facebook Messenger chatbot tools. It requires zero coding skills and uses NLP to understand certain phrases and preferred responses. In terms of refinement, the program lets you split test certain responses to optimize your sales tactics.

Credit: ManyChat.com

Further, you could set up the bot to make upsells and cross-sells. However, creating a chatbot to do this seamlessly is no simple task. At the end of the day, robots cannot replace humans for all tasks (at least, not yet). Programming a chatbot to nurture leads and create revenue requires frequent analysis and refinement; especially when it has to be made to understand and use language. Keep in mind, this technology is still very much in the infancy stage.

Social listening and monitoring tools can be of great help here. You can use them to generate vast datasets from social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and more for market research, analyzing user sentiment, targeting segmented audiences with personalized content, and generating sales leads.

For example, NLP processing would look for terms like “hate,” “love,” “favorite,” etc. Some of the more advanced tools are designed to recognize slang terms to differentiate the meaning of certain sentences such as, “That video made me sick!” from similar-sounding ones like “That video was sick!”

Chatbots are fantastic for creating real and personalized sales experiences, without an expensive-to-maintain team. Used in conjunction with other platform-specific social media automation tools for building fan followings, content creation, scheduling, and engagement, a chatbot can potentially be your most powerful sales weapon on social media.

Use Videos as Calls-to-Action

It’s no secret that the essence of social media is shifting toward video. The major networks are slowly but surely becoming channels centered around video content. The big Facebook algorithm update in 2018 essentially proved this.

Video now holds a great deal of weight, in terms of how content is placed on people’s feeds. There are many ways you can go about maneuvering your bottom-of-the-funnel sales content to play to this concept. Creating product demonstrations to highlight the best features is one of the most effective and proven ways to go about this. For example, Blendtec runs a series of videos titled “Will it Blend?” in which they famously blended an iPhone X.

They have also blended things like marbles, rake handles, Justin Bieber’s biography, and more. All of these episodes are shown on the “Will it Blend?” Facebook page. The beauty of these videos is they promote the blender, while displaying its capabilities in a comical way. So, it never really feels promotional or bottom-of-the-funnel-esque.

The major social networks have made one thing blatantly clear: Produce video content, or be left behind.

Now, if you don’t have much experience producing video content, it might take a while to find the groove, depending on your product or service. The most important part is that each has a clear call-to-action that prompts sales. For example, at the end of the video, you can talk about special deals or time sensitive offers to get people to take an action toward purchase as soon as they finish watching the video. Or, you can bundle it up with live streaming, with subtle sales pitches built in.

Over to You

Social media, in general, is at a transitional point in its short existence. It has morphed from a tool to connect with friends and family to a powerful engine that influences people’s mindsets.

Simply put, pure sales-oriented content will not do well on social media, unless it is optimized for engagement. Further, you’ll constantly need to analyze your campaigns and the reactions of your audience. If you misread them and promote your BOFU content too hard, they’ll ditch your brand without a second thought.

An Instagram World With No ‘Likes’ — How Does the Test Impact Advertisers, Users?

Instagram made a big move. What’s the official motive behind testing a social media world with no “likes”? The CEO of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, stated in the announcement that the test in the U.S. and Canada was “about creating a less pressurized environment, where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.”

Instagram made a big move. What’s the official motive behind testing a social media world with no “likes”?

The CEO of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, stated in the announcement that the test in the U.S. and Canada was “about creating a less pressurized environment, where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.

For all intents and purposes, Instagram’s latest power move has an alibi: The platform claims to be more concerned with the well-being of its users than with making a profit. Whether or not the company’s true motives are in line with reducing mental illness in its young users — including their stress, anxiety, and depression — the test has certainly changed the way the platform operates.

Diving into the many possible outcomes of this potential change is essential for marketers and Instagram users, alike, in order to best understand what to expect from the future of social media.

Whether positive or negative, the removal of likes has garnered opinions from the masses. Feelings toward the test range from anger to animosity to excitement. The fact of the matter is, likes have been a major catalyst in the way Instagram is used and success is measured, both personally and professionally. For brands utilizing influencers for promotion, likes have acted as a currency by showing how engaged an audience is, while effectively helping brands make decisions on whether or not an influencer should endorse their product or not. Without it, the marketplace will have to be optimized by these advertisers as they uncover what’s to come on the forefront of social media marketing.

Why Instagram Users Are Angry

It comes as no surprise that many of the users who are angry fall under the influencer and celebrity category. For many of them, Instagram likes have completely built their platforms as social media stars. Many of them uncovered the amount of engagement it took from early on and were able to build a fan base of loyal likers in order to gain enough clout to start being paid for promotions. It has been hypothesized by some influencers that Instagram doesn’t actually care at all about the wellbeing of its users. In fact, while its CEO claims the company “will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people’s health,” others are claiming that the test goes deeper than that, and is ultimately in favor of Instagram’s business: It has been hypothesized that this is being done as a means for control.

While influencers do have a home on Instagram, the brand deals and partnerships they forge on the platform do not currently have anything in them for Instagram. Thus, the removal of likes could make it so that marketers opt to spend their advertising dollars directly through Instagram, more heavily utilizing Instagram’s advertising tools. This begs the question(s): Why would they no longer go through influencers? Can they still get a feel for the overall engagement a user has? Unfortunately, because the metrics marketers rely on when selecting influencers will no longer be visible, it may become challenging to obtain real and true metrics, as these numbers can be easily manipulated if sent over from the source.

And frankly, for some losing likes simply means stripping down and removing their online social status, and they don’t like it. The measurement of likes acts as a symbol for popularity and fame, and many have expressed their dislike toward the change because of this. Removing likes will make it harder for users to determine if someone is cool simply by measurement, and understandably, for those for which Instagram has helped shape careers, this poses a threat to their success.

Why Instagram Users Are Excited

More obviously, many Instagram users are excited; particularly younger users and their parents. Having the platform to rely on for social status and humble brags has created uncharted territory in the adolescent social scene. Likes are the most obvious cool factor when looking at a user’s profile. For regular users who peruse Instagram as a social tool and not to create a business, the pressure to depend on likes as a means of validation, a measurement of self-worth, and a ranking of social status, could completely shift the way young users post. This feeling of “not being enough” if you don’t have the most likes in your social circle is exactly what Instagram claims to be tackling head-on with this test.

But this may not just be a positive change for common users; some influencers have actually expressed their excitement and support for the change, as well. As mentioned, Instagram has evolved over the years from a simple photo-sharing tool to a space where people are constantly trying to be the very best on the scene.

Many users claim that a major shift in the way Instagram was used happened when it changed the feed from chronological order to placing the most engaging posts at the top. The reason many influencers rose to where they were when this change occurred was because people genuinely enjoyed the creative energy they were putting into their profiles. When top-engaging posts were the first thing seen upon opening the app, influencers (and regular users, alike) had to evolve with the change, if they wanted to continue to get the attention they were used to. As a result, many sacrificed their own creativity by means of posting something less original that would guarantee high engagement.

For those who have felt the need to conform to the more popular style of posts, removing likes would mean they may no longer feel constricted or bound to posting things that are guaranteed to perform well (i.e. attract enough likes to deem them relevant enough for the top of the feed). This may allow for a more fruitful array of postings from influencers, celebrities, and young users of Instagram, bringing back into the picture a sense of creative freedom and self-worth.

What It All Means for Users and Marketers, Alike

Whether or not the test is here to stay, the statement it’s made so far has shaken many of its users, and most have an opinion. From regular users — particularly those in Generation Z — to influencers and celebrities, and brands that use Instagram as part of their sales funnel, the feelings of frustration and utter glee are certainly worth evaluating as Instagram chooses how to move forward.

Do Marketing Influencers Really Influence? Or Do Brands?

The critical role of marketing influencers on driving sales and loyalty for brands in both the B2B and B2C space is nothing new. We marketers have been “influencing the influencers” for decades. But the game has changed and continues to do so at a rapid pace.

The critical role of marketing influencers on driving sales and loyalty for brands in both the B2B and B2C space is nothing new. We marketers have been “influencing the influencers” for decades. But the game has changed and continues to do so at a rapid pace.

Now, with all of the technology available, anyone can create videos on any topic, spark viral marketing campaigns, and get instant fame, likes, and tweets on social media and start influencing others in some fashion at some level. As a result, “influencer marketing” is much more complex, hard to define, and much harder to nail. Yet it is also painstakingly more important than ever.

To succeed at influencing influencers to influence purchasers, we need to step back and review some of the basic fundamentals:

First, what really is an influencer who is worth is influencing in today’s market, when just about anyone can pin on that name? It used to be we could identify influencers by the numbers of followers they had on social media. Well, that’s not so easy in an age where likes and followers can be bought, and often are. There are now many other characteristics of “influence” that marketers need to address.

According to an Influencer Marketing post from Feb. 1:

An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with his/her audience. An individual who has a following in a particular niche, which they actively engage with.

Given this definition, who are the top influencers today?

Well, according to MediaKix, an influencer marketing agency that aligns brands with social media influencers ruling YouTube and Instagram, the top influencers in the world are young adults who have mastered the ability to entertain millions of followers by making fun of life as we know it today. They comment on beauty or fashion trends in ways that entertain and inform, or engage followers in game activities. Seriously, most of you reading this post will find little if any value in their trendy, narcissistic, and often meaningless tweets; but somehow, these people are influencing millions daily by just doing nothing but ranting or raving on video channels that anyone can access and use.

Yet these influencers with little talent compared with mainstream entertainers who cross over the big screen to the little screen, sell. MediaKix posts examples of influencer marketing campaigns that engaged these “influencers” in marketing campaigns for clients like Kenneth Cole. The marketing influencers show results that include social reaches of tens of millions, story views also in the millions, high levels of social engagement rates, and, of course, increased sales for sponsoring brands.

Marketing Influencers Seriously Influence Sales

Geometry Global and gen.video released a report in 2017 at VidCon that showed 90% of social media users are influenced to make a purchase after seeing content. Categories most influenced by social media content are consumer electronics, fashion food/beverage, health/beauty, and travel.

Quite importantly, they also learned that social media influencers are now the “most effective and trusted source at driving sales, 94% more than friends/family, and more than six times more than celebrities.

Wow.

When you look at those numbers, its hard not to wonder how traditional broadcast channels are still able to get advertising dollars.

B2B influencers on social media have far few followers than pop culture influencers, who have as many as 80 million followers on Instagram. Yet, the followers they do have pay attention to every word and every idea. B2B influencers ruling social media are those who share their wisdom, ideas, and help others learn from them, without asking for anything in return, other than maybe a follow or like.

By “influencing” others with their intellect and stories that followers can relate to and actually emulate in their own jobs, they have anchored themselves as thought leaders beyond just their tweets or posts. They are authors and speakers. They are executives at companies who are changing the world as we know it, or some aspect of the business world. The leading B2B influencer on social media, Tim Hughes of London, has fewer than 200,000 Twitter followers, which pales in comparison with the consumer influencers who entertain with short, often raunchy, episodes about their daily lives, or jokes about others’ lives. Instead, he tweets his expertise and insights on digital marketing and social selling, and provides tidbits about his personal life. And people look forward to reading everything he says.

The key to a successful influencer marketing campaign for businesses is exactly the above. Make your tweets so relevant and valuable that people look forward to reading your posts and learning from your every word. Another key factor is to spur influence among all areas of your business, not just your leadership. You can light up social media much faster with multiple influencers than just highlighting your leadership and their ideas.

The first step in influencer marketing is to recognize the “influencers” in your own ranks. That’s your staff at all levels, not just the top. Note that many of the top influencers are employees of companies vs. owners or founders. They tweet about what they do, what they learn, and what moves them within the context of their brands and their own personal visions.

Successful employees have a passion for what your business does, and what they do to further your business. And they have intellectual capital and experiences that are worth sharing. As the marketing lead for your company, you can direct social conversations and get people talking about your company, your insights, your value propositions, and even a day in the life of your business.

Here are five ways you can start influencing people at all levels of your industry:

  1. Identify a Theme a month with which you want to align your company’s expertise. Define talking points that support your position, and potential social media themes to help get those talking points read and shared.
  2. Build Relevant Content for your employees to share on their business and even personal accounts. Align the content with what matters most to your audiences and write it in a way that creates anticipation for subsequent posts. It’s not that hard, if you know what’s on the mind of your audiences and have even basic writing skills.
  3. Enable Employees to set up social media accounts, specifically to tweet about your business and industry. Break down those security firewalls and encourage employees to play around on social media on the job and tweet within the guidelines you set.
  4. Set Guidelines about what can be said, and not per compliance and proprietary issues, and ask employees to tTweet about it.
  5. Use the Business Pages on Social Sites to Reflect Your Top Leaderships’ Thoughts and Insights, and post regularly. Encourage employees to share those thoughts with the network they build within their peer circles.

By setting up employees at all levels to be influencers among peers at all levels, the awareness and buzz about your brand will grow exponentially. And as we have learned from recent political elections, awareness gets more attention and action than just about anything else. People won’t necessarily remember every tweet, comment, position you take, or every insight or idea. But they will remember your name when it comes to “voting” for brands or partners to consider for business deals.

7 Steps to Advertising to the Emerging Gen Z Consumer

Advertising to the emerging Gen Z consumer is both as challenging and simple as it has ever been, which is an oxymoron in itself. But it perhaps explains the complexity of this 32% of the global population, which is edging out Millennials.

Generation Z, the post-Millennial group of digital natives born after 1997 who have an insatiable desire for instant gratification and personalization in all aspects of their lives, is arguably the most unique generation to come. Advertising to the emerging Gen Z consumer is both as challenging and simple as it has ever been, which is an oxymoron in itself. But it perhaps explains the complexity of this 32% of the global population, which is edging out Millennials.

Before we get into methods for marketing to Gen Z, it’s important to understand who this generation is and the qualities that make them unique. Generation Z has never lived in a world without the web. The Internet has always existed for Gen Z; though it has evolved into an entire entity in the last decade or so, life without an online presence is but a vague and distant memory to them. In this day and age, 96% of Generation Z members own a smartphone and, on average, they spend more than three hours a day perusing their devices. Social media is the beast that lies within these smartphones and has proven to be a powerful tool highly utilized by this generation.

For some, reaching Generation Z may seem difficult for this very reason — from the outside in, they are seemingly out of touch with the real world. For advertisers, however, it has made Gen Z more reachable than any preceding generation. Making a connection has a whole new meaning in advertising, due to the realm of social media and smartphones. Here are best practices on how to reach and engage with the Gen Z audience:

Reaching the Gen Z Audience

While Gen Zers have earned a reputation as arduous customers, there are various methods advertisers can tap into to successfully sell their brands/products to this tenacious bunch. As a well-informed and arguably opinionated generation, they generally respond well to brands that earn their loyalty as customers. This is unique to Gen Z, as other generations have typically chosen what they consume based on tradition. And just how can advertisers earn their loyalty? Sell the all-encompassing brand and its story to give it a sense of relatability.

Authenticity

When determining how to best reach this demographic, one word should be kept top of mind: authenticity. Research shows that 63% of Generation Z want marketing from “real” people, as opposed to celebrity endorsers. I put “real” in quotation marks, because this category does not stop at trusted friends and family of Gen Zers. A trusted source or friend can be found anywhere from an inner circle to their favorite social media influencers and bloggers. Influencer marketing has proven successful with this generation, because hearing about a product from an average, everyday person (with 10,000-plus social media followers, that is) resonates more deeply with Gen Z than seeing a high-profile celebrity endorse everyday items.

Influencers

Influencers are more trusted by Generation Z because they don’t seem like they’re trying to persuade; rather, they’re just filling their audience in on something they enjoy. In turn, influencer marketing does not feel like corporate manipulation. Furthermore, their followers are just that: people who follow and are invested in their lives. They are already sold on the person, which makes it easy to trust their opinion.

Keep Reaching Out/Retargeting

Online retargeting is key in engaging this generation and staying top of mind. Once Gen Zers begin researching a brand, it is vital to remain relevant to them, and retargeting is one of the best ways to do so. It is an easy way to take them through the buying process, so they end up as loyal brand advocates. As a generation obsessed with fast-paced, instantaneous moments, it can be easy to forget about something if it’s not reinforced. Retargeting — by means of social media and banner and display ads — is paramount to success with Gen Zers.

With the power of online retargeting, however, it is important to put a cap on the frequency, as to not fatigue the potential buyers. If a member of this group sees an ad too frequently, it can wind up in lost interest. They may feel it is being pushed too hard on them — which is quite the opposite of feeling authentic and caring.

Authentic Reviews

Online reviews are another important factor when Generation Z considers a product. Creating a space where they can hear from people of a similar background in a written or spoken testimonial to the product can make all the difference. Reviews get customers involved and allow their voices to be heard, tying in an element of personalization. In order to receive genuinely positive and highly regarded reviews from Gen Z, it’s important a company is honest, maintains the quality it guarantees, and makes them feel special throughout the process. They don’t want to be considered another number; rather, they’d like to feel included and impactful.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Generation Z also cares deeply about brands that have a positive social or environmental impact. It is of the utmost importance for a brand to come across as one that cares — in all aspects. Though Gen Z can seem like they lack character or substance, because they spend so much time disconnected from the world around them, this group actually has a tendency to express their values online and want to vocalize those beliefs. Therefore, they appreciate when a company does the same. Voicing inclusivity, social justice, and sustainability can majorly impact a Gen Z target while they determine whether a brand is worthy of their purchase. Typically, members of this generation look at a brand from a holistic standpoint before deciding to become a customer or not. This is why a company’s social media presence is one of the most important upkeeps. Serving as a place to express oneself, it’s the prime method to communicate a brand’s the progressive values.

Engagement

Ultimately, the best way to engage with Gen Z and make them purchase is to foster a connection that does not feel contrived. They love realness above all and prefer that a company is upfront with what it has to offer and what it values holistically. With technology at the tips of their fingers, Gen Z members have almost always done their research before purchasing. This is why marketing to them is more crucial than ever: the way a brand portrays itself online and the decisions it makes can make or break its profitability. Advertising geared toward Gen Z should always pique their interest and keep that interest alive until they decide it’s time to buy. The initial point of contact in getting this audience’s attention will push them to look further into a brand to ensure it’s something they’re interested in putting their money toward. As such, it is vital to a company’s success to maintain strong marketing and advertising tactics — from start to finish, throughout the buying process.

Brands: Show You Care About Gen Z

The bottom line of advertising to the Generation Z audience is that you should always sell the brand as one that cares not only about its own success, but also about the success and ultimate happiness of its customers. Maintaining happy customers, at the end of the day, is the main driving force behind the success of any Gen Z-focused company.

10 Most Fascinating People in B2B Marketing From 2017

Top 10 lists are everywhere this year. I even ran across a top 10 list of top 10 lists—hilarious! My list is about the most interesting people that I came across in B2B marketing during 2017. I find them fascinating not only as interesting people, but also for making valuable contributions to our business and our world. So, meet this year’s fascinating B2B marketers.

Top 10 lists are everywhere this year. I even ran across a top 10 list of top 10 lists — hilarious! My list is about the most interesting people that I came across in B2B marketing during 2017. I find them fascinating not only as interesting people, but also for making valuable contributions to our business and our world. So, meet this year’s fascinating B2B marketers, and let’s not forget the outstanding members of my lists in 2016 and 2015.

Katie Martell

Katie Martell coined the term “on-demand marketer” to describe herself and her business. Very apt. After years of developing wildly creative PR strategies for D&B NetProspex and Aberdeen Group, she now advises companies large and small on how to create buzz in B2B. Have a look at her case for how to manage PR in the “age of the Kardashians.” The payoff? So that sales people can operate in an environment where prospects say “Oh, yes, I’ve heard of you.” We all need some of that.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner was SAP’s pioneer in developing the powerful Internet marketing strategy of building a website community to serve the information needs of top-of-the-funnel business buyers, to generate leads and “own the category.” His new book The Content Formula explains how you can do the same: how to find the budget, sell the concept, and measure the results. Highly recommended.

Anahi Traba

Anahi Traba takes B2B marketing to the streets, as CMO of the gigantic construction equipment company Sullair Argentina. Sullair’s headquarters in Buenos Aires is located in the funky industrial neighborhood of Barracas. Their yard crammed with forklifts and cranes is surrounded by a 7-foot concrete wall. As Anahi noticed graffiti artists tagging in the neighborhood, the idea hit her: Why not invite these neighbors to use the Sullair wall as a canvas? The project turned into a huge community relations win, with enormous press coverage, books, films, and even the birth of an in-house employee-driven photography project. “I like to combine the art and science of marketing,” she says.

John Whelan

John Whelan heads the for-profit media division of HIMSS, the global association for healthcare information and technology. I’ve served on John’s board for 5 years now, and recognize him as a master of extracting value from media properties — trade pubs, websites, databases, seminars, conferences, online training programs — and rounding up data sources across a complex organization. To his credit, he achieved the difficult milestone of moving the trade pubs to 100% digital in 2016. Bravo.

Steve Greshik

Steve Gershik, B2B consultant and thought leader, is developing some fresh thinking for B2B marketers that I find very compelling. He calls it the “funnel beyond the funnel,” namely a strategy to systematically address the opportunity to deepen existing customer relationships — an area often neglected by B2B marketers in their relentless search for leads. “Spending 80 percent of marketing investments on net new customer acquisition spells doom for B2B marketers, especially those in SaaS and other subscription businesses,” says Gershik. “It’s the post-sale experience where success lies.”

Amy Guarino

Amy Guarino and I first met in 2014, when she was heading Marketo’s effort to foment the marketing automation revolution in Japan. Hats off: Marketo is well established there now. Last year, Amy moved to her next hot trend, artificial intelligence. She’s now COO of Kyndi, a startup AI platform focused on government, healthcare and financial services. Kyndi’s hook is taking AI out of its black box, and making it “explainable,” so users really understand the reasoning behind the conclusions.

Todd Lebo

Todd Lebo began his career in marketing for newsletters and other business publications, and has cleverly migrated those skills to build Ascend2, a nifty research program that B2B marketers — mostly in martech — use for content development and lead generation. Marketers value Asend2 for their 60,000-name database of marketing professionals who answer survey questions and request the results. Journalists love it for the hard data that fuels great stories. Hint: How about someone extends this model to other B2B segments, like manufacturing and financial services?

Up Your Price Potential by 8X

It’s easy to assume that B2C is more emotional than B2B — as more consumer goods have hedonistic appeal, while B2B products have utilitarian appeal. But that’s not true.

B2B Influencer Marketing
Credit: Pixabay by Thomas Malyska

It’s easy to assume that B2C is more emotional than B2B — as more consumer goods have hedonistic appeal, while B2B products have utilitarian appeal. But that’s not true.

Research by Google and Motista shows that 10 to 40 percent of B2C customers feel emotionally connected to a brand while 50 percent and higher of B2B purchasers feel emotionally connected to the brands with which they do business. And when you create the right emotional reactions, you can increase your chances of getting a premium price by eight times. Strange, but true.

Think about it. When we buy that $30,000 luxury handbag, we are emotionally connected to how we feel having bought a luxury brand item that few people can afford. We feel superior, awesome and like we’ve arrived at a place in society where others have not. Yet, in time, that wears off, and you replace that “uber awesome” handbag with another one which often puts the first one on the back shelf and the back part of your mind.

Yet when you buy that $30,000 CRM system to automate your email campaigns, analyze customer behavior — and are thus able to sort customers according to propensity to buy sooner than later, and thus get higher response and results and sales on a marketing campaign — that feeling lasts a lot longer. It hits much deeper chords in our emotional vessel — security, actualization, and aspirational fulfillment, and a sense of comfort that we will be able to maintain what we have earned vs. lose what matters most: our ability to survive and provide for our families.

The coolness factor of the handbag doesn’t add to our sense of security or help us achieve higher goals, like a job promotion, praise and recognition that lead to job security, potential end-of-year bonuses and so on. These outcomes from a wise business purchase can help us achieve outcomes that last far longer and have much stronger applications for our long-term wellbeing than a trendy luxury item. When you can strike these emotional chords among B2B purchasers and then deliver customer service and products that fulfill the implied promises, you are far better poised to generate sustainable sales and increase existing customer value.

To achieve success in B2B marketing and up your chances of getting a premium price by eight times, think of daisy chains. Big choices that are associated with big outcomes are often made up of decision daisy chains of which the purchaser is not even aware. Back to purchasers of marketing technology or marketing services, such as consulting or agency work. It is not as simple as buying the coolest brand, trendiest design or the lowest price. The choice is complex and influenced by a chain of “what ifs.”

  • What if I buy something that doesn’t work or takes too long to implement?
  • What if I waste my budget and can’t buy what else I need to perform and reach goals?
  • What if the agency doesn’t deliver new ideas that beat past programs?
  • What if I look bad to my bosses?
  • What if I don’t get recognized for doing a good job?
  • What if I lose my job because I didn’t reach my goals?
  • What then will happen to my job security, income, ability to pay my mortgage, car payment and support my kids’ dreams?
  • … and so on.

While you don’t want to craft messaging that creates the fear of the “what ifs” happening, and position your brand as the fear monger or a manipulator, you do want to subtly project your brand’s ability to dismiss all the unconscious and conscious “what ifs” that come to mind during any B2B purchasing process that has substantial implications and outcomes.

You can do this by tapping into psychological drivers and influencers such as:

  • Authority: Who are the authorities who support and align with your category and/or brand? How can you use their allegiance to attract others? Better yet, who are the authorities within your brand and how can you elevate their voices?
  • Social Proof: Share case studies as part of your “thank you” follow up after a sales call. Showcase brands that reflect your prospects’ brands and show results that you can help new clients achieve, as well.
  • Actualization: Tell a story about how your brand helps clients’ achieve the emotional goals they strive for within their jobs. Whether they are purchasers of marketing technology, IT, educational systems or medical devices, there’s always a deeper purpose or “why” behind what they do. In most cases, it is not about the products they buy for their companies, but their ability to influence positive outcomes for the people they serve, like a better education, smarter way to work, or medical devices that deliver an accurate diagnosis the first time.

When you can do even just the above, you take price out of the equation, and put partnership in the process, which lasts a lot longer than the joy of a quick sale for low price, and much much longer than the joy of having a beaded crocodile handbag that will be forgotten in a few months’ time.

It’s Good to Be a Stranger in a Strange Land

We should all play at being a tourist from time to time. But the question is, are you going to be the tourist who gets sucked into all the tourist-trap locations and activities — with cheesy souvenirs galore — or are you going to be the tourist who does some research and hunts down all the local hot spots, exploring neighborhoods and connecting with the community?

VisitAllthePlacesWe should all play at being a tourist from time to time.

But the question is, are you going to be the tourist who gets sucked into all the tourist-trap locations and activities — with cheesy souvenirs galore — or are you going to be the tourist who does some research and hunts down all the local hot spots, exploring neighborhoods and connecting with the community?

Hint: It’s a better experience usually if you go with Option No. 2. And the same rings true when you play tourist in the professional world.

Last Thursday I attended the first day of the NY Travel Fest in Brooklyn (my favorite borough), which was cool for two reasons:

  1. Travel is awesome, and getting to talk about it — and how people market traveling — is doubly awesome.
  2. It’s fascinating being a fly on the wall of a world that isn’t your own.

As we explore more of the vertical industries within the realm of marketing, me and my fellow editors are finding ways to learn more about them in any way we can. So when Roni Weiss, the founder and organizer of the NY Travel Fest invited me up, my response was an enthusiastic “yes!”

During a day packed with sessions and networking, I absorbed some interesting things that are specific to travel, as well as things that not only resonated with me — as someone who writes about marketing — but with the larger marketing population.

Here are some of my favorites:

• Travel is an “Industry of Relationships.” I had never heard that phrase before, but really, I think it extends to all marketing. Or at least the good stuff. We want to have connections with our customers, and if you think of that connection as a relationship, then perhaps you’ll take better care of it.

• Different platforms allow you to tell different stories. Panelists during the session titled “The Evolving Media Landscape: Perspectives on How to Maximize Your Media Interactions” explained that first you must consider the type of story you want to tell, and then figure out the platform that fits it best.

  • Do you have a lot of images to share? Consider Instagram for its editorial look and feel.
  • Want to bring your audience into the moment? Think about using Periscope to record live video and have someone maintain the live chat.

And these are just social platforms to consider … the possibilities are endless for storytelling, ranging from video to print content and everything in between.

• Align yourself with influencers. You’ve heard it a million times before, but here it is again. Influencers — who often identify as social media-savvy bloggers — can help you tell your story through organic content creation. Since they’re outside your organization, they can bring fresh ideas to the table and help you create an unforgettable campaign. (Don’t believe me? Check out the #WurstAdventure). However, be sure to thoroughly ask yourself why you want to work with an influencer and which influencer in particular.

• You can’t ignore negative reviews. Genna Gold of Yelp brought this up, and explained that a study showed people found no response from a business to a negative review was worse than if the business responded in a not-so-polite way (e.g., calling someone a jerk for writing a negative review). And with 92 percent of consumers reading online reviews to determine whether a business is a good business, according to Bright Local, you can’t afford to ignore the review space, no matter what your business is!

• You need strong visual anchors. Ask yourself: What’s the story … what are the visuals … what are people connecting to? Humans are a visual bunch, and we respond to visual storytelling.

30th Street StationMTA subway seatWelcome to Brooklyn
Brooklyn Bridge
Rocco's Tacos Chandelier
Negroni Pie from Butter & Scotch
See? Using my Instagram photos I’ve managed to tell a quick story about my day in Brooklyn, instead of writing about it for 200 to 400 words.

So go ahead … be a stranger in a strange land when you’re able. You never know what you’re going to learn, who you’re going to meet and what slice of pie you’re going to have.

3 Reasons Popularity is Overrated

It seems that we never really lose our obsession with the popular kids. Case in point: the current marketing craze of finding and tapping into influencers.

It seems that we never really lose our obsession with the popular kids. Case in point: the current marketing craze of finding and tapping into influencers.

The Palms made big news last fall when it announced the launch of its “Klout Klub,” a program designed to serve up top-tier service and access to guests with high “klout” scores (a measurement of social media influence). And the hysteria around finding and befriending top “mommy bloggers” is nothing short of out of control.

So, is all this adulation for and effort toward winning over the so-called beautiful people of social media deserved or necessary? Consider the following three points to help you answer that question:

1. Domain specificity of popularity. The problem is that popularity is rarely absolute; rather, it’s domain specific. This even applies to high school, where the reputations of even the über-popular kids rarely extended beyond their class and almost never out of their school district.

Translate that to the real world: A Java programming genius has a following of hundreds of thousands across his blog posts and Twitter stream. He’ll show up as a highly influential individual, but his influence is grounded in his expertise. Will his fans and followers care what he has to say about programming? Absolutely. About his opinion of disposable razors? Not so much.

For every rule there’s an exception. And her name is Oprah. (You thought I was going to say Mr. Bieber, didn’t you? Actually, his popularity is extremely domain specific.) Oprah’s popularity is as close to absolute as you can get, and if you have a chance to get on her good side, do so immediately. But you already knew that. Moving on.

2. Reaching out to the popular may not be the best solution. The real question isn’t whether influencers are important — of course they are. Ask yourself what you would do for influencers that you wouldn’t (or couldn’t) do for the less socially skilled? Generally speaking, you always want to take an “inclusive outreach” approach — i.e., communicating with as many prospects, customers and influencers as you can, assuming there’s little or no incremental cost. That would be the case for much of what marketers focus on, namely using content, information or entertainment to promote a product, event or special offer.

Conversely, if there’s a hard cost involved or quantity is limited (e.g., a private event or physical gift), you have to rely on an “exclusive outreach” approach and limit the number of people with whom you’re communicating.

3. The real influencers may not be the most popular. Let’s say you’ve decided that an exclusive outreach approach is right for you. Before you resort to third-party services and elaborate algorithms and overlays to identify influencers, consider the possibility that you may already know your most influential advocates.

I recently looked at Twitterverse for mentions of our client’s brand and found that those who were tweeting had more than twice the number of followers than the average Twitter user. There’s a bit of cause and effect at play here. Those who are most active socially will often have the most fans and followers.

If you’re focused on an exclusive outreach program, start by looking close to home. You might be amazed at how many popular kids are already friends with you (well, at least with your brand). Don’t forget that the tried-and-true still holds: Always take care of your best customers, regardless of how they score on a popularity meter.