When we conducted our research for the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, we found what the most successful B2B marketers have in common. They:
- Have a Documented Influencer Marketing Strategy
- Engage in Always-On Influencer Engagement
- Have a Centralized Influencer Program
- Use Software to Identify Influencers
- Rely on Experts and Analysts
- Use Blogs as Content Platforms
- Create Interactive Content with Influencers
Learning from those who are already successful in a fast growing discipline is what the Inside Influence Show is all about. Of course, measuring success comes in many forms, from achieving and exceeding the specific goals of a marketing program to industry recognition. When someone is able to achieve both consistently, that’s a special source of insight. Today we’re bringing that special combination to you with Jen Holtvluwer, Chief Marketing Officer at Spirion.
We’ve had the good fortune to work with Jen on multiple award-winning influencer marketing programs for B2B brands that not only earned industry accolades, but also high 7 digit sales pipeline goals. Whether it was the deep customer insight that informed a campaign for Cherwell Software that could be attributed to 22% of sales pipeline for the entire year or the innovative industry awards campaign for Alcatel Lucent that generated 7 figure sales pipeline, Jen has the track record we all aspire to as marketing leaders.
In this Inside Influence interview, Jen and I talk about a spectrum of B2B influencer marketing topics including:
- What it takes to be at the top of your game when it comes to B2B marketing
- The secret to Jen’s award-winning influencer marketing success
- Lessons learned from successful influencer marketing campaigns
- Whether it is reasonable to expect both brand awareness and lead generation goals from influencer marketing – Qualities to look for in an influencer
- Top challenges when it comes to working with influencers
- Opportunities for B2B companies to impact brand and sales by supporting executive influence
- What to say to other B2B marketing executives who do not believe there are influencers of their customers that they can work with
- How influencer marketing and B2B marketing will be different in 2021 and beyond
- Career advice for other aspiring CMOs
Here are a few highlights with the full video interview embedded below.
A lot of influencer marketing is about demand gen, awareness, and top of funnel. As someone with experienced being responsible for sales in your career, do you feel like influencers can play a role in sales initiatives?
A hundred percent. I was just on our quarterly board meeting yesterday and it came up. How much we’re getting mentions by customers, which are certainly influencers. Also, how much we’re getting mentioned by journalists, editors, and media which are all influencers as well. And one of our board members said, “How are you turning that into opportunities or SQLs?” And I said they don’t always bring opportunities directly, but we take those mentions and we apply them in our demand generation and our prospecting efforts and they certainly influence and can accelerate the opportunity stage.
When people see your brand is being mentioned by an influencer, it gives them that double-take that validates you more in the market. @JenHoltvluwer
So that’s, that’s where our sales uses influencer mentions because when people see your brand is being mentioned by an influencer, it gives them that double-take that validates you more in the market. So it certainly influences and can accelerate lead to opportunity efforts for sure.
Of course winning awards is not the only objective for an influencer program, but the reason you’ve won awards is in part because of great performance – like one campaign being attributed to over 20% of sales pipeline for the year and another instigating multiple large deals. What lessons have you learned from these kinds of influencer campaigns?
I think one thing that I have done differently is make sure that the expectations of what you’re wanting to gain from the influencers that you align with is very clearly outlined. Right? We’ve had some influencers that said, yes, you know, we’ll sign up, we’ll participate. And then when it came time to roll out the actual program, we didn’t see as much participation as we would’ve liked.
So, I think the communication upfront with the influencers about what you’re expecting to gain from them is very important. They appreciate that too, because then they know fully what they’re signing up for and what they can and can’t do. I think that’s a big lesson learned: make sure expectations are clearly outlined with influencers so that there aren’t any surprises when you roll out the program and achieve what you need to accomplish.
84% of marketers say brand awareness is a top measurable benefit from engaging influencers followed by 69% that say lead generation is a top benefit. Is it reasonable to expect both?
Absolutely. I started my career out very heavy on the demand generation side. It will always be my go-to passion. But I really have the firm belief that if you do branding, right, the demand will follow. And that makes taking your stories to market that much more memorable. So with influencer marketing, it’s certainly helping with share of voice because you’re getting more exposure through the influencers that you’re partnering with. When it’s done right, your sales team can actually take those actions that you’re creating, those influencer soundbites, those nuggets, and build credibility and value into the business case sooner.
If you do branding, right, the demand will follow and that makes taking your stories to market much more memorable. @JenHoltvluwer
I think we’re all finding now that it’s a big struggle trying to market during a pandemic and a recession. I bring that up because you’ve really got to create value sooner in the funnel so that people understand. If an influencer is endorsing this or sharing this and talking about this, I better take a look at this sooner, right? Because it’s probably something that I need to be taking action on too. So there is a nice balance where I do think that the branding that you get out of influencer marketing can most definitely be used to accelerate the demand side, which leads to those opportunities that we’re all wanting to get at the end of the day.
What would you say to an executive that says, “There are no influencers in my industry”?
I think that there are influencers in every industry. There’s buyer influencers, there’s market influencers. It’s up to us as marketers and sellers to find out who those influencers are. For us in data, privacy, data security it is definitely the chief information security officers. What we’ve done is create our own podcast where we invite customers to come on. And it’s not where we’re talking about our brand. We’re talking about impactful things that are happening in the industry. For example, the Blackbaud data breach is very top of mind for the CSO community right now. Inviting influencers in to participate with you is very important to do, especially in times like today.
There are influencers in every industry…most executives understand that you’ve got to align yourselves with people that are going to be that champion for your cause. @JenHoltvluwer
I think most executives that I work with, maybe it’s because I’m so convincing and have a pretty good portfolio of examples to share, understand that you’ve got to align yourselves with people that are going to be that champion for your cause. If you can ever tie it back to data, which is one thing I think my team has done very well, you know this works. This has moved your share of voice X percentage point. This has brought in X number of pipeline resulting in X revenue. There are studies out there that show that impact too. So I think it doesn’t take much to convince an executive when you have published data to back up your idea and your approach to influencer marketing.
You’ve had an impressive career at companies like BMC Software, Cherwell, Alcatel Lucent Enterprise and now CMO at Spirion. What career advice do you have for other aspiring CMOs?
When I look back at my career, I’ve had some highs and I’ve obviously had lows like we all do, but what’s been the thing I’ve always had is I’ve always sought a champion within the organization that’s at that director level or above that I’ve aligned myself with. And that is not something that you can just do. You’ve got to earn that trust. So you’ve got to put in the time to show that you’re someone that they do want to put some time into, to mentor and coach. I think it’s really important that people seek out who a person who is going to be a champion for them if they want to advance and grow their career.
It’s really important that people seek out who a person who is going to be a champion for them if they want to advance and grow their career. @JenHoltvluwer
I’ve had David Weiss, Matt Dircks, Carolyn Tague, Sandra Booth. I’ve had so many that I still keep in touch with today that have been that champion for my cause. So I think it’s really important to not to do it alone and make sure you put in the time and that your time is noticed. And make sure that you’re marketing yourself to the right champion in the business. Then they’ll stay with you and refer you as other opportunities come up. That’s, that’s really been my success. And that’s what I like to pass along to people when I get asked that question.
To see the full Inside Influence interview with Jen Holtvluwer, watch the video below:
Next up on Inside Influence, we’ll be talking to Amisha Gandhi, VP Influencer Marketing and Communications at SAP about creating mutual value with influencers.
Be sure to check out our previous Inside Influence interviews: