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Influencing the influencers through communication

Valcort’s 35 Keys to Business Growth: #20--“Have strong communication with people who can influence iStock_000080994891_Mediuma buyer’s decision, based on addressing a buyer’s most important needs.”

Think about your last major purchase.  As a business owner, it may have been a piece of equipment or a building. As a home owner or a parent, you may have just purchased a new set of patio furniture to prepare for summer, or a new bicycle for your 10-year-old.

Whatever it may be, you did not make the purchase in an information vacuum. Even if you made a somewhat quick and seemingly impulsive decision, it is highly likely that your decision to buy and your choice of what to buy were both made on the basis of a long stream of communication. Whether or not you are aware of it, that stream of facts, impressions, stories and emotion influenced your decision.

When you’re in the business of selling to customers, whether they are consumers or business-to-business, filling that communications stream is a key to growing your business. The goal is to “influence the influencers,” people who influence your customers’ decisions.  To do that, answer these questions:

  • Who influences your customers at the level of their most important needs?

Understanding who influences your customers is part of any good marketing strategy. Consumers look for trustworthy individuals to educate them on a purchase. These influencers come in three general categories:

  1. Positional Influencers are the inner circle around a customer who directly impact purchasing decisions. Such as a family member or a trusted friend.
  1. Expert Influencers are authorities or subject experts in a specific niche or industry. People depend on them for information and advice, and they can have great influence on purchasing decisions.
  1. Vicinity Influencers are incidental connections, such as co-workers or neighbors who are in the right place, but may or may not be directly connected to the customer, and still have to earn trust.
  • How do you reach influencers with critical messages about your offering?

After targeting the groups and individuals who are likely to influence your customers, determine how you are going to reach them with your communication and messages. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Watering holes of expert influencers

If you're looking at establishing B2B influence, go where expert influencers go.  This might be an industry conference or trade show. Every industry has its own set of watering holes where you really need to be seen to merit mention.  Find the best way to establish a presence, from sponsoring a noticeable event to becoming a conference speaker.

  1. Crank up social media

Social media changes every day, so you have to pay attention.  Here are a few tips for the top three social media for connecting with influencers:

  • Network on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn is one of the most important social networks for getting noticed by influencers, especially if you’re marketing B2B. Here’s what you do:

  • Search for your chosen influencers using the search box.
  • Search for your keywords on LinkedIn to find influencers.
  • Send these people a LinkedIn connection request. Tell them how you know or know of them.
  • Follow their LinkedIn company page and then like and share their posts.
  • Join LinkedIn groups they belong to. You can reach out to people directly when you are members of the same group.
  • Engage on Facebook

Facebook is a great social network for both B2B and B2C companies to build a following. It allows you to get in front of a targeted audience for your business. Tips:

  • Search Facebook for your influencer and keyword or phrase to find out who is important in your industry.
  • Like their personal profile and/or company page. If they like you back from their personal profile, message them with a call to action.
  • Like their content and then comment on and share their posts. Post a message to their page about how much you like what they have to say, but avoid being promotional. Also, consider giving them a positive review.
  • Join a Facebook group they belong to and engage with them.
  • Search for the pages they like and like those pages. Also, consider running a like advertising campaign where you target people who like them.
  • Interact on Twitter

There a several online services to help you find influencers in your sector and build your community.  They all charge a fee for service, so you’ll have to make a commitment to this strategy.

  1. Build relations, as in relationships

Hunt for the people that you can build a relationship with who will carry the message and credibility with them. There are a lot of ways to address this challenge, but building relationships always begins and ends with shared values, building trust, and delivering on your promises at every point of contact.

  1. The usual suspects

Don’t totally lose the traditional. There is still an audience for traditional marketing, such as targeted print and digital advertising, trade show presence, well-placed articles in the right media outlet, and direct mail.  As one marketing leader writes here, companies are still using traditional methods and channels for several reasons, but the most important reason is that they still work.

 

Regardless of the mix of tactics you choose, it’s hard work to create a communications process that will reach influencers.  But it can be one of the most important tools for growing your business.

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