If you want to learn how interactive influencer marketing, virtual reality, and augmented reality can help B2B marking go from boring to bold, then be sure to check out the recent discussion between TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden and Demand Gen Report editors Brian Anderson and Klaudia Tirico:
Brian Anderson: Are you seeing that more folks are looking to influencer marketing strategies to get more creative with go-to-market strategies?
Lee Odden: Influencer marketing is a really big trend right now across the board with B2B and B2C. B2B has been a little slower to adopt, but what we’re finding is that with so many people going after influencers, they’re just putting them in the same old content — eBooks, white papers, blog posts, and info-graphics, and that sort of thing — and that’s all fine and good. It does lend some credibility to that content, but expectations are rising among B2B buyers in the way that you see a lot more consumerization of martech software. We have more consumer-friendly type experiences with marketing software or technology interfaces. That same expectation among B2B buyers is transferring over to their content, and they’re expecting more B2C types of experiences among the B2B brands that are dispersing useful information.
Brian Anderson: You’re seeing that kind of pivot — the mentality around the product-centricity aspect of it — to that customer-building and that customer relationship, and you’re seeing folks taking that type of approach. You had David Meerman Scott talking about it with giving away free things. Oftentimes in the B2B marketplace everything is always about filling out forms. The number of forms I have to fill out in the day just to do research is kind of mind-numbing, but you’re seeing a lot more organizations now getting into the idea that content can be free, can provide value, and start that relationship. There are times and places for the forms and for the contact information.
Klaudia Tirico: Giving those items away for free, sometimes it just leads to good karma, so it’ll come back, and it’ll be beneficial to your business.
Lee Odden: A lot of companies are putting far too much confidence in their nurture emails, and being far more effective at getting buyers to do what they want them to do, versus content that is un-gated, and when you have frictionless content — that has the added benefit of having industry experts included in that content — now we’ve got something that is more credible, and if it’s amplified by those influencers it’s going to reach audiences that are ignoring those B2B brand’s ads and their formal marketing communications.
There are also some other things you can do in terms of interactive, more creative — those “not boring” treatments of content, and make it even more effective, even though it’s un-gated and would be a more effective tool at helping to attract and engage audiences to then do organically what you want them to do. Or help them lead themselves to the conclusion that you as a vendor, or your software or your product, is the best choice.
Klaudia Tirico: Lee, you had a really awesome presentation today on interactive influence or content. Only 23% of CMOs say that they are producing the right content and delivering it at the right time in the right format. 23% — that’s kind of low, right?
Lee Odden: It is pretty low, and I think that the bar of expectation for CMOs and content and marketing performance continues to increase as pressure on CMO performance increases. As we all know, CMOs don’t have the longest tenure when it comes to the c-suite, so the pressure is on to deliver results, and I think a lot of the pontification and advocacy among martech vendors, these are the kinds of results you should expect with content marketing but which aren’t necessarily being realized, and I think the reasons why are varied. It could be that they’re not investing in the technologies that they need to support that kind of targeting, delivery, and timeliness. It could be not using outside expertise to help create the strategy that would actually inform that kind of approach. Ultimately, they’ve got to not sit and complain about it, but they’ve got to do something about it.
Brian Anderson: I saw that you did that Twitter poll about different content formats in general, about which ones were the most boring. I saw that white papers were the most boring, and it makes sense because white papers are boring, but there’s still a foundational concrete asset within the marketing strategy.
Klaudia Tirico: Our research has shown that white paper buyers are still reading white papers.
Lee Odden: It is interesting — there’s this simultaneous truism that they’re both boring and yet effective. So there is an opportunity there, and Michelle Liro from PTC gave a really great quote in an asset we’ve created to promote this event, and talked about the fact that people are still reading traditional formats like white papers, eBooks, blog posts and that sort of thing, but what you’ve got to do is create visually engaging content to capture people’s attention and give them an idea of what to expect — what are they going to get if they go through that gate? What are they going to get that they have to endure the black text on a white background for a while?
Klaudia Tirico: TopRank Marketing created this awesome Ceros experience with some of our speakers. That’s basically a form of interactive influence content, right?
Lee Odden: Absolutely. That’s the whole idea — walking the talk.
Klaudia Tirico: For those who haven’t yet dipped their toes in influencer marketing in general, what kind of advice would you give them?
Lee Odden: I think if you’re just thinking about working with influencers, you’ve got to think about what it is that you want to achieve. If you’re launching a new product, or your a challenger brand, and you want to get a leg up on the leadership, you’ve got to think about what is it that you want to achieve — what are the topics around that goal — and find the people who already have influence. I think if you’re just starting out you should look at your own employees. You should look at using social monitoring tools to identify people already saying positive things about your brand in the context of that topic, and invite them to co-create some useful content for the industry.
Just get started. Put your toe in the water and just see what that exchange is like. See what the quality of the content is that comes out, and how successful you might be at trying to build a use case. Out of that you’re going to get some data, and we all know that use case with data and performance information gives you a lot more ammunition to get budget, and to start rolling things out more in earnest. Then you can start investing in influencer relationship technologies, technology specialists, and other things.
Brian Anderson: Part of your presentation showed a micro-site that had a personal assistant aspect. I’m seeing a lot more of these different types of voice assistants — there’s a big conversation in the space now around chatbots and their impact on content engagement, so I’m curious if you could tell us a little bit more about that, and what these types of new forms of engagement are doing when it comes to content in particular?
Lee Odden: It’s a function of empathy around what it is that your buyers are expecting in terms of how they want to discover, consume, and act on information. Obviously everyone knows what Siri and Alexa are, and their whole mechanism of using voice to get what you want — to get information — is a model that’s in everybody’s head, and this is something that everyone can relate to.
In the case of this B2B campaign, we manufactured a simulated voice assistant named Penny, for a corporate performance management software company selling software into the financial planning and analysis marketplace. This doesn’t spell “sexy” necessarily. The topic was around machine learning and finance, so what better way — using something that is powered by artificial intelligence — to use as a mechanism for navigating this useful content from influencers.
You could use this voice assistant to find topics around finance and AI, and then the content would be delivered to you in audio as well from industry influencers. This campaign has had over 600% more engagement than our goal, and 75% to 80% of the content was created by the participating influencers — not by the brand, and not by the agency.
Klaudia Tirico: Another hot topic throughout the day was mentioned in a session presented by Maureen Maggioni of Salesforce, and in a DemandGen power panel comprised of some awesome ladies in Demand Gen, and there was a lot of talk around AR and VR. How are you expecting those two new innovations to change content marketing and 2019 and beyond?
Lee Odden: With our work at TopRank Marketing with B2B influencers and content for the last six or seven years, we have some really sophisticated clients, with maturity in the space, and they’re asking us for new experiences — new content experiences that can really differentiate not only information that can be consumed by buyers, but information that will be compelling for influencers to be a part of.
VR and AR are starting to emerge a little more in popular culture and are something that people can relate to. So, we developed a mock-up of an environment with a few influencers displayed on different signage in this little mini city, where you could move from one place to another. We’re now developing a VR influencer campaign for a client.
Watch the entire video discussion from B2B Marketing Exchange with Lee, Brian, and Klaudia here: