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Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More! My guest today is Leo Odden. Lee is a good friend, a CEO and Co-Founder of Top Rank Marketing, an excellent and fast-growing B2B marketing agency. He is also a speaker and the author of the book Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing.

Today we talk about B2B influencer marketing and the best practices.

In this episode:

  • Different influencer marketing definitions and what does it mean from a B2B perspective.
  • What questions should brands/businesses answer before launching a B2B influencer marketing campaign?
  • Do brands always have to pay to engage with external influencers?
  • What are the different types of influencers, and who are the “prospect influencers”?
  • What is the role of internal influencer and subject matter experts?
  • How can an enterprise or any B2B business start with influencer marketing?
  • What kind of tools can businesses use to find influencers?
  • How to collaborate with influencers and create a great experience for them?
  • What are the biggest mistakes in implementing B2B influencer marketing?
  • What are the three biggest takeaways from the first-ever B2B influencer marketing report?

Quotes from the episode:

“Many people think about influencer marketing and are now starting to look at it from a B2B lens and see it through how B2C works. B2C influencer marketing is almost exclusively paid engagement.”

‘There are many different things that you can do, but keeping that love alive, showing appreciation and building genuine relationships is an incredible investment in everyone’s success when it comes to B2B influencer marketing.”

Today I welcome an exceptional guest – Leo Odden. Lee is a good friend, B2B professional, author of Optimize, and speaker at various conferences. Lee, so happy to have you on my show!

Lee Odden: Wow, this incredible energy, Pam. I’m so happy to be here. I’m even happier to be here now. Love your energy as always.

Pam Didner: Thank you. So how is everything? How is everything in Minnesota?

Lee Odden: Everything’s, everything’s very interesting here, you know? Um, it’s been very warm. It’s been, uh, vacation weather almost.

Pam Didner: Oh really? Oh, fantastic. So are you out and about already?

Lee Odden: Yeah, a little bit. Getting out, uh, doing some running, walking the dog outside, doing all kinds of other fun things in the yard as you do. In Minnesota, I don’t know if it’s like that where you are, but when spring comes, we have to clean up the carnage that winter has left, and so that takes a couple of weeks so that we can properly enjoy it.

Pam Didner: Yeah. The weather. I guess, probably a ceremony that you do, the ritual that you do to welcome the arrival of the spring (laughs)

Lee Odden: Sure, it feels that way.

Pam Didner: You’re like, “Pam, whatever!” (laughs) So influencer marketing, that means different things to different people. And before we start, can you define influencer marketing so that we are on the same page?

Lee Odden: Sure. And I think I distinguish it to say B2B influencer marketing, especially that’s the area where I play. And we’re one of the few companies that do that. And so for me, and for the, you know, the clients that we work with, which are companies like SAP and LinkedIn and Dell and dah, dah, dah, it’s the practice of engaging or working with both internal external industry experts. Right. And what we’re doing with them is we’re looking for those people that have active networks. They have people paying attention to them, and we collaborate with them on content in a way that creates mutual value, both for the brand, of course, and their customers, but also for the influencer. And we do this in a way that drives measurable business goals.

So the definition might sound a bit wordy, but it’s about finding people who have the expertise, people following them. Uh, and what we do with them is to make something, we make something together that creates mutual.

Pam Didner: Yeah. Which is the majority of times the content.

Lee Odden: Most of the time, um, it’s content, but it could be manifested as simply as advocacy. I mean, it depends on what kind of influence or relationship it is. And, uh, and ultimately it has to be accountable and drive measurable business goals.

Pam Didner: I love that. So you do influencer marketing for the sake of like that has a specific goal in mind is there’s a specific business objective that you want to accomplish it’s not creating content for the sake of creating content.

Lee Odden: Well, of course, absolutely. I mean, when you look at what is influencer marketing, it’s about creating trust. It’s about creating reach. But none of that works unless you have topics and goals defined, meaning what is it that our brand wants to be influential about? Why does that matter to our customers? When we answer those questions, then we know who to partner with. Because those outside voices have the attention of our customers, when we bring them into our brand content, now, what we’ve done is we’ve sort of optimized that content, not just, not for SEO so much, but for credibility.

And we can add that sort of social proof or third party validity to brand content that people are looking for. As you’ve heard, we don’t trust marketing. They don’t trust advertising, but they trust people that they follow. They trust their peers. Right. They trust experts.

Pam Didner: So, with that definition in mind, as you said, you work with the internal subject matter expert or external influencer. Does that mean that it is a paid sponsorship or pay opportunity when you work with the external influencer? I mean, do, does the brand have to pay to engage with external influencers, period?

Lee Odden: Right. Sometimes. And you know, many people who think about influencer marketing and are now starting to look at it from a B2B lens see it through how B2C works. B2C influencer marketing is almost exclusively paid engagements. That’s why everyone’s coming to the party–to get paid or to pay somebody.

In B2B, most of the engagements are organic, meaning the brands aren’t necessarily, uh, conducting a financial transaction to get the influencer to do something. In many cases, there’s a mutual value I spoke of before. There’s a value exchange. Maybe it’s access to content, access to people with the company, exposure, the influencer having the opportunity to join other well-known people that makes them look good. Also, they want to be associated with a brand that is offering the engagement opportunity. That’s one format of activation.

But increasingly, in B2B, you have professional influencers. These are people that are, can be accountable, meaning that they are professional media creators. They have audiences, they have a podcast, you know, they have different distribution channels, and they can bring a pretty consistent and I don’t know if I’d say verified, but a quantified audience to the brand. And in those situations, absolutely those folks are getting paid.

But there’s, there are different types of influencers, right?

If you think of who you are in a company, if you’re a comms person, right. You want to do some original research. Reach out to an analyst level influencer who can do original research along with the narratives that you’re interested in as a brand and then conduct the research and create the content and then actually distribute it to their audience as well as the brand’s audience. I mean that that’s somebody that you pay, right?

Pam Didner: Got it. Yes, I 100% agree that’s a paid kind of opportunity type engagement, yes.

Lee Odden: But there’s another type of influencer that I call a prospect influencer. So, you know, uh, a B2B sort of ABM effort might bring prospects into an influencer software program to identify all of those prospects who are most influential, who are creating social influence around the topics that matter? Invite those folks to collaborate on content in a way that warms the sales conversation.

Pam Didner: Or I create some sort of mutual win-win, uh, collaboration and communications.

Lee Odden: Always a win-win. Yeah. Yeah. Cause it gives them exposure, uh, at a minimum, they’re getting exposure and advancing their career because they are being recognized as an expert contributor to something bigger than themselves.

Pam Didner: So, you know, you talk about the influencer marketing, and you talk about engaging internally with the subject matter experts and the different opportunities of uh, working with the influencer externally for enterprise, and also for B2B that they have never done influencer marketing before, or the influencer marketing has been done purely in the field of PR. Right. The PR marketing team is doing it, but not necessarily the B2B marketing team. And how would you suggest they start?

Lee Odden: I think the starting point has to be around the topic or topics they want to be influential about. Because, the function of influences is an idea that is important for customers to understand, adopt and act on for the business to grow. Right? Um, and it’s not more than just buy our product or service. So what do we want to be influential about? what are the key pain points that our customers have? or what are their goals?

Pam Didner: What are some of the key communication objectives that you want to accomplish? Start with that.

Lee Odden: Yes, exactly know what those topics are because once you identify those topics, we can use those topics to find the people who are influential about those topics. In other words, if your brand wants to be influential about something, what better way to become more influential than to partner with people who are already influential, not these very same things. Yes, let’s make content together.

Pam Didner: (laughs) We’ve used “influential” like five times in one sentence!

Lee Odden: I’m optimizing myself. But the thing is, is things like chasing a famous person because they’re well known cause some guy or gal in marketing or comms said, so not validated by data is a waste of time. It doesn’t give the tactic and opportunity to do what it can do. Versus actually understanding what it is we’re trying to achieve. And what are, like you said, our messaging, uh, goals. What topics do we want to be influential about? Then we can intelligently make an informed decision about who we can partner with. Not only who has domain expertise, but also other alignments in terms of values they have; the type of content they can create that resonates with our community and that sort of thing.

The starting point is getting those topics down and then going from there into the content collaboration process.

Pam Didner: Understood. So my next question is finding the influencers can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Do you suggest, or do you have any suggestions about what kind of tools people can use to find the influencers?

Lee Odden: Yeah, there are myriad influencer marketing platforms. There’s so many. Probably 90% of them are B2C focused, so they’re focused on Instagram and, you know, maybe TikTok and, uh, Snapchat and that sort of thing, YouTube. But that doesn’t mean B2B doesn’t have a place on some of those platforms, but they’re not many B2B friendly. A platform that I’ve used for many years is Traacr t-r-a-a-c-k-r.

Pam Didner: Yeah. I’m aware of them. Yes.

Lee Odden: And Analytica builds itself as a B2B specialist influencer marketing platform, and they work a little bit differently, but ultimately one of the key characteristics they have is a database of people and content that they crawl–like Google bot crawls content to serve up as search results–um, these influencer marketing platforms will ingest, if you will, in different ways, it’s not just literally a bot crawling social content, some of it’s manual actually. But they get people into the database, and then they use their social activity or anything that can be crawled to indicate the topics they’re identifying as personally. What are the topics that they publish content about? And what are the topics that resonate with the people that are following that person?

You know this is a no brainer. If I wanted to create some amazing B2B marketing content, I would want to reach out to you, Pam. Because you are at the top of so many lists, even lists that we publish. Using these data points to determine, well, again, people who self-identify as the topic, but people who credibly author content on the topic. But most importantly, topics that actually resonate and people are resharing, they’re linking, they’re retweeting. They’re engaging with those things. Um, that’s who you want to work with. Some other tools that are kind of fun to use, effective one is BuzzSumo and also Keyhole. Keyhole is a very fun tool. I’ve been playing around with that one for a while, and they just added even more cool features, um, that give you a neat picture of the media that the influencers are sharing around the topics you’re tracking. And then you can eat more easily, identify [00:12:30] and engage with them.

Pam Didner: All right. Those tools are fantastic. And you mentioned four tools to share with our listeners. Thank you so much. And, uh, I understand that you’ve been doing influencer marketing for a long period of time. So based on your experience of influencer marketing, what are the biggest mistakes you have seen or have made when people are implementing influencer marketing?

Lee Odden: Um, I guess, yeah, I’ve got a lot of them. Um, I did that. You know that song “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover?” Uh, I did 50 ways to fail it. Influencer marketing posts a long time ago. Um, I guess one of them, one of the big ones, is people waiting to recruit. So they’re deciding all right. We’ve just created some really good content, now let’s go find some influencers to help us promote it.

Pam Didner: That doesn’t work. I 100% agree with you.

Lee Odden: If they’re not involved in the making, they’re not interested in being part of the promoting of that content.

Pam Didner: You have to give them the incentive to do something, right?

Lee Odden: Yeah, and simply being a participant or a contributor, that’s the first step. But suppose the content you make in collaboration with influencers isn’t a great experience, if it doesn’t make them look good, if it isn’t, you know, really, uh, a pretty good step up in terms of production and that sort of thing. In that case, you know, they’re not going to be as inspired to share and help make it successful. And that’s one of the reasons why a lot of the influencer content collaborations that we do with our clients are interactive content. Or—

Pam Didner: And also make sure the quality is top-notch.

Lee Odden: Yeah, podcasts. I mean, we do a podcast with SAP called Tech Unknown, and it’s a story-based podcast. So instead of just an interview, which would be the normal thing to do, I mean, I have a podcast as well, and if that’s what it is, it’s an interview. What we do is. It’s topic-based, so we’ll talk to internal subject matter experts and a couple of different external subject matter experts, and there’s a host Tamara McCleary. The magic of editing pulls it all together through edit, and we lay a background track on it. So it’s like, okay, the starting point, you were in the paddy fields of Thailand. And so you can hear some background music. Now we’re in a coffee shop in Portland. You can hear background music around that. And so it’s sort of this cool storytelling format, and everyone who’s heard it is like, “Okay, I’ve never heard a podcast in the B2B world like this!” right?

Pam Didner: So the production value is good. Is very solid. That the huge amount, this will be a huge amount of money to spend on the post-production, I mean-

Lee Odden: Well, not in our case. I mean, we’re producing we’re I have magicians podcast magicians that worked for my company and, um, they’re able to produce that and, you know, we’re good at creating processes around things like this to make it efficient. And so the massive, massive price tags don’t have to go with that. But the perception of a price tag in terms of great experience is what happens as a result.

So it’s creating a great experience, obviously is a theme in B2B marketing for customers. But creating a great experience, not just for customers, but for influencers as well as super, super important, because if they’re inspired to share, it’s just going to be that much more successful.

Pam Didner: I agree. I agree.

Lee Odden: I, I think, you know, some of the other mistakes are, you know, believing the hype of popularity only going by popularity metrics to decide who you work with is, is a problem. Um, mismatching content. So, you know, believe it or not, people will do this. They’ll reach out to a YouTuber and say, “write a blog post for us.” Or, you know, they’ll reach out to someone.

Pam Didner: (laughs) Yeah. That’s not, that’s not gonna work. I mean, it’s not the right format. It’s not their forte.

Lee Odden: Well, the audience is used to a certain format. When you evaluate an influencer, you’re thinking about what topically they are relevant for and the media creation skills they bring to the table? What type of content, what content formats does their audience love from them? Then let’s have them do those things, not with the brand thing is most important. Right?

Pam Didner: Well said, well said. So I know that you published the first-ever influencer marketing report in that report, is there any finding that surprises you? What are the three biggest takeaways from that report you can share with us?

Lee Odden: Well, this is the first influencer marketing report specific to B2B. So I, I was very interested. We’re very interested in what the findings were. And one thing I thought was interesting is the impact on customer experience. We found that 74% of marketers agree that influencer marketing helps create, or improve, both prospect and customer experience with the brand. Meaning when you have more credible people, co-creating content with the brand it’s a better experience than the brand, just sort of egocentrically beating its chest. And, and other things are just broadly, you know, kind of interesting. I mean, there’s a lot of stats and, and I’ll share a URL for accessing the report in a second.

But one thing I thought was kind of interesting is that, uh, 63% of the marketers who took the survey that wasn’t necessarily implementing influencer marketing felt that they would have better results in their marketing program if they were using or working with influencers. Why aren’t you using, working with it? Because 60% said they don’t have the skills in house or the expertise to execute and do a pilot.

Pam Didner: I was going to say, a lot of times they don’t know how to go about doing it.

Lee Odden: They didn’t know what to do. Yeah. And they can’t afford to fail. It’s like going it alone, you know, do a pilot, just to have someone help you set up the pilot. And then, you know, the pilot can be your use case. The last one I’d say that was pretty compelling was that always-on is what wins. So we found that 12 times more marketers running always-on influencer marketing programs, uh, we’re very successful than those who are only doing periodic campaigns.

Pam Didner: When you always say the engagement with the influencer or the collaboration with the different influencers is continuous. And it’s not like it’s not campaign driven. You run it for three months. You stop. And then another four months later, you decided to do it again. It’s a very consistent effort.

Lee Odden: You’re allocating some resources to create touchpoints with those influencers regularly. And it’s a lot easier than people think. Um, a big part of it is around the idea of repurposing, uh, the original influencer collaborative content. But there are many other reasons to engage with those influencers. You know, if you’re a brand that doesn’t have a full-time influencer marketing manager to do this, there are lots of social media people on your team. There are comms people on your team, and you can get a checklist of different things you can do, and you have monitoring and alerts. If you’re using influencer marketing software, you can watch. The 25 influencers you’re most focused on, and whenever any of them says something that matches one of the trigger words, that will prompt you to reach out to them and say, “Hey, that was cool.” Or just like that message or whatever.

So there are many different things that you can do, but keeping that love alive, showing that appreciation and building genuine relationships is an incredible investment in everyone’s success when it comes to B2B influencer marketing.

Pam Didner: Well said, well said, can you share the download link with us.

Lee Odden: Sure. It’s download.influencermarketingreport.com.

Pam Didner: All right, right there. Easy to remember. I love it. So before I wrap up, I have one silly question I would like to ask. What is the most useless talent you possess?

Lee Odden: Unfortunately for me, Pam, there are many useless talents I have, so I’m going to pick one of the useless talents I have, and that is the speak about 30 words of Danish. (laughs)

Pam Didner: Really? Let it go! Do it now!

Lee Odden: Let it go! (laughs and speaks in Danish) And, uh, boy, maybe not 30, maybe it’s only four or five.

Pam Didner: (laughs) I love it! I don’t think that’s a useless talent.

Leo Odden: That’s why I said it’s one of them.

Pam Didner: It’s not useless if you talk to the right people.

Lee Odden: Yeah. Well, I was fortunate to go to school in Denmark for a few months during college. And then, in the last four or five years, I’ve been able to visit three times. So it was incredibly useful as an entertainment thing, cause no one could understand me anyway when I tried to speak Danish there, but it was very entertaining for them. So it was very valuable for me on those three visits, but not here in America.

Pam Didner: Very nice. I love it. Lee, thank you so much for coming to my show and sharing the first-ever influencer marketing report for B2B folks. And then talk about your process and intent. Also, share the platforms that people can use to implement influencer marketing in the B2B world.

Lee Odden: Well, thanks. Thanks for having me. It’s always fun to talk with you, Pam and folks understand that that influencer marketing report, there are, um, not only results from the research study but also case studies and best practices, all kinds of really good stuff.

Pam Didner: Very good. I’m glad you mentioned that. Okay. Thank you so much, Lee.

Lee Odden: Thanks, Pam.

—————

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To expand your knowledge about Influencer Marketing check out some of my previous podcast episodes

Should Influencer Marketing Be Part of Your Marketing Mix

How to Build a Winning Content Marketing Plan

Marketers Can Make An Impact on Buyer Research and Sales Engagements

 


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