According to Forrester, 71% of buyers reach vendor selection at the end of the digital journey—without using traditional sales processes and demos.
If you’re a vendor—no matter if you’re large, medium or small—this means you may have lost a deal without even knowing a potential deal was on the table.
When so much of the buyer's journey is done before talking to a vendor or sales person—influencers play a critical role in building the story around your products and services.
While the idea of influence is becoming more and more common in today’s market (paid social media), it’s so much more than that. It’s someone with the ability to influence a potential buyer by promoting, recommending, and referring a product or service either online, in person or some other way.
Going forward, these are the types of channel relationships vendors need to turn to for getting in front of customers earlier in the journey. Identifying and engaging your influencer channel will help you find viable leads that fit your ideal buyer(s). It can also shorten your sales cycle and bring in prospects at a vendor selection phase.
But don’t just take our word for it—the proof is in the statistics:
- 65% of B2B buyers said they prefer credible content from industry influencers (DemandGen)
- 91% of B2B purchases are influenced by word of mouth (Incite Group)
- 84% of B2B sales begin with a referral (HBR)
Design Your Influencer Programs Holistically
When it comes to the influencers in your channel ecosystem, a program ought to be designed holistically and include measurement, attribution and an overarching understanding of what exactly you want from partners.
To develop specific programs for your influencers, start by answering these five questions:
- Who is your ideal buyer (or buying group)?
- Where do your buyers go for information (when, why, how)?
- Who holds the influence over a purchase decision for your products or services?
- What are the spheres of influence inside your industry or specialization?
- What will motivate them to influence others to seek out your brand?
You might even have a few influencer programs in place today—they just might not be called that. The program you may already have in place could be called:
Types of Influencers in Your Ecosystem
Influencer programs will help you fill the top of your funnel while simultaneously pushing leads further down the funnel. In order to launch these types of programs you have to understand and map your ecosystem through partner data collection and segmentation.
If you’re ready to dig into even more influencer program strategies and measurement tactics, here are the highlights. Each influencer partner you have will fall into one of these three categories:
Each category has very specific motivations you can tap into in support of your brand as well as suggested program design strategies.
Build a Program to Serve Early Digital Influencers
Understanding how and where the influencer channel works can make a profound impact on the top of your funnel. Influencer programs have historically lived under a marketing budget as a cost-center; this can be changed to a profit center and even be structured in a way to drive leads that eventually turn into sales. Download our white paper, Influencer Channels: Maximize Your Brand Visibility & Lead Generation
to learn more.