Rani Mani, head of global employee advocacy at Adobe* delivered an impassioned presentation filled to the brim with B2B influencer marketing insights, with a special focus on how the best influencer relationships are in essence not that different from successful personal relationships.
Rani explained how she’s come to have a love affair with influencer marketing, and shared the process she uses to help turn mere social media heavyweights into long-term and deeply-engaged Adobe advocates — a plan than can be implemented by any brand willing to put in the time, effort, and especially the passion that Rani and her team have.
When it comes to the domain experts Adobe is leveraging for the good of the brand, there isn’t any magic involved — no algorithm or gimmicks to beat the system — instead simply leveraging the power of humanity within B2B marketing influencer relationships, just as we do in successful real life relationships, Rani explained.
Now let’s jump right in with the five top tips I took away from attending Rani’s insightful MarketingProfs B2B Forum #MPB2B 2020 session, “Influencer Love Affair: Dating With an Eye Towards Long-Term Commitment, Not One-Night Stands.”
1 — Building Sustainable B2B Influencer Relationships
Rani examined how building sustainable influencer relationships involves a journey through the funnel, from being generally unaware about your brand to obtaining a certain level of awareness, and then moving on to genuine interest, ultimately followed by engagement, connection, and becoming powerful and loyal brand advocates.
Rani suggested working with influencers towards a goal of making the conversion from being unaware to passionate advocates for the brand, at which point they can become active and important parts of a brand’s strategy.
Many of the best practices that Rani shared are equally adept in the oftentimes different worlds of B2B and B2C, she noted, sharing an “Influencer Mantra” theme she has used for Adobe.
The mantra focuses on how building new B2B influencer relationships can benefit from some of the similarities with dating, with an eye toward long-term commitment and engagement, while also recognizing that not all influencers want to be involved in long-term commitments.
2 — Starting Out With Long-Term Influencer Programs
How do successful long-term influencer relationships begin?
Many times they start with saying “thank you,” Rani suggested, coming in the form of a physical hand-written card sent through the mail system, or via e-mail or a public social media post. Whatever form these thank you messages take, influencers should be addressed by name, and thanked individually for what they’ve done for you or your brand.
Holidays provide additional opportunities to thank influencers with gifts, which Adobe uses to help show just how special their influencers are, Rani noted.
When posted publicly on social media, expressions of influencer thanks and appreciation can be powerful messages that other brands will often see.
Thanking your existing or potential B2B influencers can also come in the form of a LinkedIn* endorsement, and can even involve referring them for additional influencer work at partner brands.
3 — Investing Time Upfront Pays Off With Lasting Influencer Relationships
A big part of any lasting relationship is when we each learn about one another, and Rani explained how it’s no different in B2B influencer marketing, where savvy brands will genuinely want to find out what makes the heart of a particular influencer sing?
It’s important to put in the time to develop strong and enduring influencer relationships, Rani noted.
As in any relationship, learning who an influencer really is requires time, and speed-dating just doesn’t work, as strong relationships don’t happen overnight.
Learn about influencers by asking thoughtful questions to learn their passions and topics of interest, and this can be accomplished adeptly by asking open-ended questions such as “Where do you want to go, and what do you want to do?” Rani suggested.
Then comes the time to perform the match-making part of the influencer marketing equation, by putting the knowledge you’ve gained about an influencer to use in connecting with the most relevant campaigns, brands, brand partners, or with other similar influencers.
Rani also urged a share-the-mic approach when it comes to leveraging brand equity to build, grow, and help influencers.
4 — Meaningful Connections Are Still Vital & Possible Virtually
While face-to-face meetings may be on hold, their power shouldn’t be underestimated according to Rani, who shared several ways we can still connect virtually with influencers, including at Adobe’s upcoming Adobe MAX 2020 conference.
At this and other events Adobe works to create very special experiences for their influencers, including:
- Exclusive influencer summits
- Event pre-briefings
- Sneak-peeks into embargoed programs
- Special forums asking for feedback
These help us learn what an influencer’s community of social media followers and fans are saying, and to find out what an influencer would do in a particular situation — all valuable information.
In-person events allow for a variety of fun things that can greatly enhance camaraderie, such as at an AdWeek event Rani mentioned during which Adobe hosted a cooking extravaganza for their influencers.
All of these are designed to be fun and provide a low-key way to relax and connect on a very real human level, Rani shared, recalling the time Adobe’s influencers went to NASDAQ and each had time on NASDAQ TV to share their predictions. The influencers were happy to promote this on their own channels, and Adobe was able to as well, all combining to further build the brand fan base.
Bringing influencers to a company’s headquarters for briefings, tours, meetings with corporate management and other on-site activities can also be a great way to strengthen influencer relationships, Rani shared.
During the pandemic this can all be creatively done in our new virtual landscape, Rani suggested, stressing the importance of going out of your way to make these types of connections, even if it’s as simple as getting on the phone for an hour, a Zoom meeting or happy hour, or an online group chat.
Rani brought up Adobe’s especially active influencer direct-message Twitter group, a special forum she has found to be quite heartwarming, with influencers acting as trusted advisors for one another.
5 — Good Judgement Tops Any Algorithm
“Good judgement will always beat an algorithm,” Rani said, while also noting that a smart influencer marketing program will need a certain amount of numerical and other data to help select the right cultural fit for an influencer, but that it’s even more powerful to understand that influencers are humans and not merely the sum of their various social media numbers.
Rani urged B2B marketers to learn about influencers the way you would if you were checking on a potential soul-mate. How would you select someone for yourself, for a friend, or for your own family to date?
In addition to audience number data, it’s important to look at the authority level of their audience, and to take the time and effort to filter this information from a personal and human level to understand the influencer’s cultural and overall makeup.
Rani ended her insightful presentation with a famous Salvador Dali quote, “Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it,” and noted that while there will be disagreements with influencers, by having a long-term and mutually-respectful relationship, you’ll be able to honestly share such issues and work through them together.
Finally, during the post-session question and answer period, Rani shared some of the key performance indicator (KPI) elements often used for measuring success, but suggested that these always varies from campaign to campaign, and can include KPIs such as social volume, retention, sales, or pure engagement.
The ultimate KPI of an influencer having your back is both priceless and unquantifiable, however, Rani noted, offering examples of how Adobe’s influencers have been powerful allies when it comes to providing crisis management, as they are often the first to defend a brand.
In today’s virtual environment, influencer connection requires a bit more ingenuity and effort but accomplishes the same things as during pre-pandemic times, Rani observed, noting that we should keep in mind that the key tactics haven’t changed, and we shouldn’t use the current times as an excuse to not be human.
Be sure to check out our additional #MPB2B 2020 coverage listed below, and don’t miss our CEO Lee Odden‘s session “New Research: How to be Successful With Influencer Marketing” on Thursday, November 5th at 12:55 p.m. Eastern.
*Adobe and LinkedIn are TopRank Marketing clients.