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The Rise of Influencer Programs in B2B Channel Sales

Cristiano Ronaldo, Selena Gomez, Kylie Jenner and Duane Johnson are just a few of today’s top social media influencers – transforming influencer programs into a more than $6.5 billion industry. In a B2C world, this is no surprise large CPGs, luxury brands and consumer-focused companies across all verticals understand the power of the “influencer.” However, can the power of influencer programs be translated into a B2B and/or a B2E environment? Larry Walsh of The 2112 Group thinks it can and dives into the many benefits of a robust and organized influencer programs in channel sales.

During a lively discussion on the upcoming ChannelEdge Podcast, hosted by Steven Kellam of 360insights, Walsh offers valuable insight into the new ways B2B brands are leveraging influencer programs as the next big thing to move the channel. Brand evangelists do more than just offer referrals. As communicated during the podcast, a well-planned, strategic B2B influencer program can usher in new levels of trust, loyalty and engagement within the channel – resulting in more sales.

According to The 2112 Group’s recent B2B Influencer Success Factors report, “partnering with influencers who will showcase your product and offer their own tips on how to interact with it, in conjunction with your brand’s words of advice, can reassure the buyer of their purchase and ensure they’re getting the most out of it, so that they, in turn, become influencers or advocates for your brand.”

1. Cast a wide net

In order to understand how to motivate influencers, you need to know where to find them. Influencers may look and behave very differently from traditional channel partners. They may dwell deep inside their specific vertical, where they have extensive knowledge and expertise – making them a trusted resource. Finding them is key.

2. Share what works

Tracking the effectiveness of influencer efforts may be difficult – as it’s often a more intimate, conversational exchange. However, implementing a more formal B2B program with specific, trackable metrics (leveraging an automated platform like the Channel Success Platform) can be the answer to understanding the data and results – transforming both into actional business outcomes.

3. Target influencers with purpose

Money motivates, but effective training, targeted and personalized marketing does too. Leveraging the right mix of channel incentives (i.e. SPIFFs, MDF/CoOp, etc.), along with a digital marketing program with hyper-personalized messaging, can work together to motivate the right B2B influencer in the channel.

Influencers with honest, informed opinions can provide loads of pertinent data. They’ve already walked a day in the salesperson’s shoes and can provide detailed and candid reports on how it felt. It’s their job to do so, as influencers are, by trade, excellent communicators and usually have the brand’s best interest at heart. Therefore, executing a formal channel influencer campaign can offer an excellent supplemental sales-bolstering tactic that works well with other incentive, marketing and engagement efforts already in play. It also can reassure that these same influencers are transforming other channel salespeople, delighted with their experiences, into new influencers and advocates. See the snowball effect happening here? 

About the Author

Steven Kellam Senior Vice President, Marketing and Alliances Steven is a respected leader in channel incentives and marketing with a comprehensive end-to-end understanding of what it takes for brands to succeed selling through complex sales channels. He has over twenty years of executive management experience combining leadership, vision and execution applied to sales, marketing, business development and operations. At 360insights, Steven drives growth through alliance building, thought leadership marketing and collaboration with the sales team. Steven is a strong strategic leader with a passion for growth and operations excellence. Prior to joining 360insights Steven served as President of CCI (now E2Open’s incentive business). At CCI, Steven led efforts to form alliances across the channel software market, grew its MDF and co-op advertising business, and expanded its solutions offering across its product suite to include rebates, sales incentives and APIs to support strategic partnerships. Steven studied Economics and Marketing at Virginia Commonwealth University and Hampden-Sydney College, respectively. Steven lives in San Francisco and is a competitive athlete, participating in triathlons and open water swims including the Escape from Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge and the Kona Ironman in Hawaii.

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