Howdy Partners #41: Key Tips for Leveraging Influencers

Will Taylor and Ben discuss how influencers can create trust around brands and impact the buying processes.

They unpack how influence plays into the nearbound motion along with intel and introductions. They talk through the process of working with influencers, from compensation structures to attribution conversations to comparing the costs of working with influencers vs. generating leads in other ways.

Subscribe & Listen On:

Episode highlights:

  • Intro to today’s episode. 0:03
    • The rise of the influencer and how they should be treated.
    • The three eyes of nearbound, influencers, intel, and influence.
    • The difference between affiliates and influencers.
  • Why partnerships are becoming such a critical go-to-market are partnerships motion. 3:53
    • Why partnerships are becoming such a critical go-to-market motion.
    • The importance of trust and trust.
  • How do we engage with influencers? 6:58
    • Trust in analyst firms and influencers.
    • How to engage with influencers on LinkedIn.
  • How to compensate influencers for accessing your audience? 9:06
    • Best way to compensate influencers for accessing their audience.
    • Pay to play vs pay to play.
    • The value of paying upfront for influencers.
    • The overhead of managing an influencer.
  • The cost and overhead of influencer marketing. 13:08
    • The overall cost of an influencer vs a traditional channel partner.
    • The overhead of operations.
  • The opportunity cost of influencer marketing. 14:56
    • Onboarding and ramping up with influencers.
    • Transitioning from pay-to-play to commission-based
  • Managing influencers and affiliate programs. 17:05
    • The management of influencers vs affiliate programs.
    • The difference between influencer and affiliate.
    • Incorporating influencers into the business.
    • Using an account mapping tool to get introductions.
  • How do you figure out who your influencers are? 21:12
    • Two ways of doing it, manual and automated.
    • Tactical next step for influencers.
    • Have a marketing free-form field.
    • Get credit in some form to build trust and incentivize

Full transcript:

Will Taylor 0:03
Howdy partners, and welcome to the howdy partners podcast where we give you tactical insights so that you can execute in your role and hit your number. Today we're going to be talking about the rise of the influencer and how they should be treated in the partnerships motion. Before we talk about that. It's been a while since I've chatted with Ben. Ben is joining me today, Ben, how's it going?

Ben Wright 0:27
I'm Oh, good, man. Yeah, it's a shame that I haven't been on the podcast in a couple of weeks. But I know you and Tom have been have been holding down the fort and pumping out some great content. But yeah, excited to be on today. And definitely excited to talk about this topic. It's one. As I mentioned, I think when we were kind of chatting about the subject matter for this episode, that I am kind of running at the moment, it's something I'm running into something that I'm trying to figure out. And so yeah, excited to kind of impart some knowledge, hopefully, to the people that are listening to the podcast today.

Will Taylor 0:59
Yeah. And I've been thinking about this kind of thing for a while now, when I saw all of those sales influencers. In the past, when I learned about the remote work world, I was like, Hey, I could do that. So then, you know, trying to build influence in the partnership space,

Ben Wright 1:14
and you've done it, you've done it, you've done it, you're an influencer now. Well, there you go. Like, I feel like the sign of being an influencer is when you mentioned like, oh, who should I chat to in the punch space? And they're already like, I've already talked, I've already spoken to well, he puts out good content. Right. So I think that's a good sign when you've I know you've constantly been in trying to write content. But I do think a sign of influence is when people are organically bringing you up when you talk about that topic. Right? So I think you've done a good job there for sure.

Will Taylor 1:43
Well, you got me blushing. So I'm glad that it was effective. But this topic is close to both of us. Because same thing to you, man, you're you're doing the exact same thing. And I think it's not just because we're in partnerships, and we're thinking about it, I think it's a sign of the times and how business is operating. And so, you know, partner actor has been putting out a lot of content around near bound, especially the three eyes of near bound. And I think the influencer play plays really well into all of this, and especially with that narrative of the Hulu economy, because, you know, you can Google things and go to a nameless website, or you can go to LinkedIn and find your favorite influencer. And they're probably going to be recommending some of those same things, or tactics or tools that those blog posts are recommending, as well. And so at a high level, the reason that an influencer can engage through this new round strategy is because one, obviously there they are their own watering hole, which is very powerful, and of its own right. But they can enact in the three different eyes of near mountains, the Intel, the introductions and the influence, because they're so connected, they probably know somebody at a company or they know somebody who knows somebody at a company that you need Intel introductions or influence and, and so engaging with them is really smart idea. There's even new technologies being developed to help track this kind of thing. And what we're going to talk about today, and kind of like, draw the line in the sand is affiliates are one thing. And influencers can be affiliates. But I feel like there's this distinction between the influencer themselves and how you can get engaged with them, versus the more traditional affiliate that is focused on links and maybe a blog, or maybe they make a YouTube video. And there's a link in that description. It's much different now when it comes to tracking influence versus direct linking. So why is it that these influencers are rising? And what is it about the change in how the market is engaging with businesses? What's your take?

Ben Wright 3:53
Yeah, it's really a really interesting point to consider. So I think, how I'll first answer it is like, the reason that partnerships are becoming such a critical go to market motion is because direct motions has got sat had become saturated, right? So you think about cold email, cold calling, all that type of stuff still works. But I would argue becoming less effective because so many people are doing it. I think in a similar way you look at like SEO, content production, or that type of stuff, also becoming extremely saturated. And then I also think there's this piece, which you mentioned at the start, which is trust. And for me, like, great if I'm going on and searching for five top sales tools for a startup, and I come across an article which has stuff listed and linked out right. In the back of my mind, I kind of know what's going on. It's literally been put there just as a, you're gonna find this, I'm going to kick you over. I'm going to add some money. In actual fact, like and you mentioned at the start, you bought that you're going to build up your brand and partnerships and so when somebody books on your calendar and says, Hey, will tell me about part chips, you've earned that trust, because you put out really good content, you've had the experience. I think in a similar way, the reason influencers are so, so important not just to go to market, but also where they differ from your traditional affiliate is that they have a faith, they have a name, they have experience they've already earned or trust through content. And so for me, if somebody on LinkedIn that I follow that puts out sales content, I mean, we talked about Scotland's prior, who's probably one of my favorites, or Samak, Canada several, right, if they put a post out, which has five top sales tools that I use, in my day to day, there's somebody that sort of already given me value. So I trust that they know what they're talking about, they've had experience in sales. And so for me, that's like, a lot more of a trustworthy source for me to consider when I'm actually thinking about sell stuff.

Will Taylor 5:50
That's where the idea of like they are their own watering hole, you know, you search for something, you land on a blog, maybe you click something, but you're probably not hanging out there. You know, maybe they try and prompt you to subscribe for the newsletter, or maybe they got other stuff going on. But for the most part, you're not as compelled. Because there's no face, there's no trust, it's just, this is what is at the top. And that used to work but no longer.

Ben Wright 6:17
It kind of is comparable to the reports that Forrester and Gartner run that they really dig into, like analysis of tools, really deep on like evaluation, and considering which tools are best from like a quantifiable metrics perspective, in a similar way, like got an influencer, that has actually been a VP of sales and has intimate knowledge of using those tools, there's that kind of further validity to that word. And so it's not just at face value, like his five tools, it's actually like, I use these tools to build this company into $50 million of revenue. And so I think the actual experience that they've had just gives them additional kind of seal of approval. And so you trust what they're saying as well.

Will Taylor 7:00
Yeah, it's that certain level of competence. And I think that's why there's still this sense of trust in the analyst firms, because, you know, that's what they do, they're supposed to be unbiased. They're supposed to be doing their due diligence, and all of that. And that's even like the persona that they live through. However, they may not be in the watering holes, they are technically a watering hole themselves, but they're not necessarily showing up all the time delivering, you know, this other value on like, tactics, per se, you know, they might, but it's probably less likely that they're really getting into the weeds and, you know, having a podcast conversation with someone about you know what to do. And so it's basically like a different kind of trust that people are getting exposure to time and time again. And so when we think of, I'm a business, and I can engage with that, you know, you can pay for an analyst firm to, you know, include you in this report, and, you know, acquires resources for them to review it, and so on and so forth. How do we engage with influencers, while we talked about the affiliate links, but you can usually tell when a post has a link on it, and it may remove the genuine end of it. But there are, you know, other ways that you can go about this, whether you are tracking influence through other means that are not direct linking, or we were talking before this about the pay to play, you know, pay the influencer to make a post. There's been some conversation about that, that we've seen on LinkedIn. And I honestly don't see a problem with it. I think there's only a problem when the content is disingenuous. And it's really just kind of like shilling where it's like, I yeah, I got paid for this. And here's this tool, here's why it's great. Instead, it should be, hey, here's this core problem that everyone faces, here's some genuinely good content that can help you regardless of if you use the tool or not. And you know, here's my experience, that's going to land a lot better. So Ben, what are your thoughts on this, like, pay to play and let's say someone who's listening to this, they've either done that, or they want to do that? What do you think is the best way to navigate compensating these influencers? for accessing their audience? And then both from like, how should you actually compensate them? But then also, how can you make the interaction as value driven as possible?

Ben Wright 9:23
What I'm not an advocate for is pay to play when the influencer has never used the tool. And so basically, you're saying Brian post, they have no idea what the tool does, and like, so it's kind of like false advertising at that point that they're saying, hey, use this tool. They drove revenue by X amount, never use this like, well, that's, to your point, very disingenuous. I think if they're a fan of the tool, they've used it, they get value out of it. The difficult you've got as a partnership manager, especially if you've got somebody that's got 100,000 followers on LinkedIn, Ryan, people have done it to me to be candid, like, hey, got this new partnership. Who will give you 30%? Commission for, for every person you send our way through your posts, right? I think that is hard to quantify. So if you're asking me, like, I'll give you 30%, save some of what, like, I have no idea of the demand I can drive and what that actually might equate to. So I'm a fan of paying influencers a fee initially, so maybe $500 a month and running like a three month test where you can actually start to quantify the amount of demand that they that they drive, both from your perspective, so you can actually see like, Hey, there, they could influence it, do they have the right audience, but then from the influencers perspective, instead of it being this nebulous, like 30% revenue share, you can say, okay, we're paying you five builders. But actually, if you move to this agreement, which is they've sent up dirt or whatever it might be, you could have $10,000, let's say, right, and so you're proving the value, but then you're also giving them that piece of like, oh, shit, like, I'm going to post more now, I'm going to post a ton more, because I now know the value, I can drive to this business. So that's what I'm an advocate for.

Will Taylor 11:03
When you think of, you know, on the receiving end, you have no idea what the conversion is going to look like, even if they give you some, like, average contract value. You don't know what the value is. But if you're paying consistently, then you at least know generally what the value is, again, as the influencer. But then also, if we think about as an influencer, you make a post. And let's say you don't have an affiliate link or a direct link. From there, how do you know that you are not getting? Or how do you know that you're getting paid for everything that you actually influenced? Like, there's going to be a lot that is mis attributed through marketing automation platforms, or, you know, not even captured appropriately. And so paying upfront, then allows you to kind of mitigate any potential misfire there. Now, if I was approached, I would probably ask a lot of questions around. Well, do you have, you know, the marketing free form field that says, How did you hear about us, you know, if it says, well, is LinkedIn posts, then great, I'm getting that attribution, and I'm more comfortable knowing that the actual influence is being tracked. Whereas a lot of companies, they probably don't do that. And so if you approach someone and say, Hey, here's your affiliate link, that's not going to land well, because they're going to say, well, you know, nobody's clicking direct links, or maybe they think it but you can, so you're gonna miss out on some of that. And so that's where I think getting really focused with these influencers is going to benefit a lot. And you had a really good point on like, the overhead of managing a partner or hiring an SDR Do you want to reach, let's say, 20,000 impressions, and let's say half of those actually even look at it 10,000 people through one post for, you know, whatever it is per post, let's call it 100 bucks? Or do you want to try and reach that many people through a cold email for someone that you pay? Whatever it is, you know, three $4,000 a month? So I think that's a really interesting comparison. What are your thoughts on even just like the overall cost on what an influencer is willing to accept, and the potential outcome, and then also the overhead of kind of the the regular, so to speak operations?

Ben Wright 13:23
Yeah, I just think about like, Okay, if we think about a traditional channel partner, let's say, so let's say I'm a sales company, I'm reaching out to a consultant to onboard them on to our channel partner program, right, like just using that use case in isolation. For me to do that there needs to be outbound, because maybe I'm a partner manager, I've done a couple of LinkedIn jumped on a call, then I've signed them up, then after that, you've got one board, enable them, you've got the regular check in before they probably even generate like one lead for your program, right? In that period, you spent a considerable amount of money just in management resource to use right? In comparison, you go out, you do a three month retainer project with an influencer, where you say, I'm gonna pay you 500 bucks a month, you're gonna do two posts, three posts, whatever it might be, I would say that there's a higher likelihood of you getting a lead in the door, using that method than actually going the channel partner route. So that I mean, it's not sustainable, right. So in the same way that like, once you do get channels going, like the I'd say the potential is far larger, but I think when people complain about what I was spending 1500 bucks on this influencer, just to do posts, in actual fact, like, you need to quantify that against what it takes to onboard and and get like a channel partner going. So that was my point. Like, I think initially upfront, it can seem like a large cost investment. But when you compare it against like your traditional hot motion, it's actually not that bad. I've kind of

Will Taylor 14:52
Yeah, I would agree even on like, let's say it's a new hire. Let's say you don't even have the STR hired yet. You have to deal with onboarding and ramp and then you maybe can execute on those more traditional routes, but they're also getting noisier and noisier. So it's like, there's also that opportunity cost of the speed to lead and testing things with the influencers, what messaging actually works, because you probably already have some marketing copy that you can deploy. And these are like seasoned creators for the most part. And so they know what's going to resonate with their audience and reach those people as well. So yeah, you got me thinking about that even further. So you mentioned the process of okay, you pay them you, I'm imagining you would also give them copy, you know, not necessarily write posts that are only focused on the product itself. But having some sort of narrative that kind of fits their voice would be ideal. How do you make that transition? What's like, let's say, I'm the influencer, we just ran this program. There was some success for you, you saw a lot of conversions, and it was on the pay to play model and you're now wanting to transition to the Commission's, what does that conversation look like?

Ben Wright 16:12
Yeah, I think for me, again, it comes down to like that, with all these influences, you need to be able to quantify with them like, Okay, I don't pay annual or like 150 bucks a month, or whatever that might look like. But let me show you how much you've driven. And then let me show you like the dollar value that you could have, if you've just gone to the revenue model. And so I think, again, it's just proving the value and using your data to actually show them that it's a, it's a bad deal for them. And again, like put it this way, if they don't want to go into that model, and you're still, you know, from a business perspective, great. Like, for me, it's like, I can go to the CEO and say, recruited 10 clients with a, you know, an ACV of 100 grand, but there's influence just from 500 bucks a month, it's like, no brainer, right? And so if they don't want to go into that model, great, but I think use numbers to show them the value they can drive, just going on to a reoccurring revenue model. I think the other point you made, which is interesting is like the actual management of of influencers, I think, a lot, a lot of software companies will have affiliate programs, which for me have always been those people that write blogs, basically anything that's clicked driven, right? So it's like, blogs, YouTube videos, whatever that might be. I would argue that an influencer is needing a more kind of white glove experience, which is more like, Hey, we're going to jump on calls, make sure you're good to your point, maybe seed them with posts, ideas and stuff like that. And so I think that's the other point I'd want to make is that you have an affiliate program, I wouldn't run your influence, kind of bucket in a similar way, I'd be a lot more kind of white glove and bespoke in the way that you manage them as a partner.

Will Taylor 17:48
Yeah, so having that specific distinction of influencer versus affiliate affiliate is very volume focused, you know, how many links can we get? And how many places? Obviously, if they're having more traffic, then that's great. Maybe we prioritize some over others. But with the influencer? Yeah, it's, in my mind, separate from the affiliate and much more focused on that relationship, so that you're truly acting as a partner where, you know, the thing that they want is probably easier content, or some compelling narrative that might break up the noise a little bit, or maybe even, you know, video content, if they don't have video content, if you can give them the thing that they want most, then they're going to be more likely to work with you. But you should also work with them on that level, you know, regardless of its pay to play or the commission, version, and what I would venture to say, as well as like, get them immersed in your business, you know, if they are, if they offer consulting, or training or anything like that, what I've seen a lot of companies do is they actually work with that person in their own team internally, so that they, you know, they themselves know that they can trust this person, but they're also giving them this opportunity, maybe there now this success story for them as well. I've seen that done a lot for the like sales influencers, who are also consultants, they'll go into the organization train, you know, the SDR or a e team. And then now they're building this partnership where that influencer will now talk about that company. So, you know, you don't necessarily need to go to that length, but try and incorporate them in some form where you're throwing a webinar, why not include them and make it easy for them? You know, 30 minutes, you show up, you talk about this topic, you're already an expert. Maybe we have a dry run for 15 minutes a week before, that's all and you're getting in front of you know, X 1000 people, and we're going to repurpose the content send it to you like for me if that was if someone approached me and they said, Hey, come on my podcast or Hey, come on my webinar, and then they gave me all of this pre written pre edited stuff. I'm in Haven't right now, because then I'll schedule that stuff out, you know, maybe I'll change it depending on how well they wrote it for my voice. And if they're paying me to do this as well, knowing that they'll get this conversion of whatever the ACV is, let's call it $10,000. And they paid me 500 bucks, like, I'm okay, getting paid 500 bucks for a month doing this kind of stuff, because it's easy for me, but it's also getting you as the company this exposure. And so all that to say is this white glove experience is not, hey, here's your link, here are some resources, good luck. It's, hey, get immersed in our business, what's happening so that us as a business can get immersed with you and your ecosystem, but you can also benefit from working with us. So it's getting more to be that true partnership. And I'm also curious, Ben, from your perspective, like, what could we do to make that go even further, like, should we use an account mapping tool to then see who we can get introductions from with this influencer? What are your thoughts on that from getting focused with those select few important influencers and really driving, you know, the influence the Intel, the introductions, etc.

Ben Wright 21:11
Simon has two ways of doing it. There's the manual way, which is like, it's pretty easy to figure out sales influences partnership influencers, sales enablement, influencers, customer support influencers, like steal or hashtag search on LinkedIn, you'll be able to find the people that are the most vocal and have the most followers. And then from there, you can you can bridge relationships, there are tools like cabal out there, which is a core tool, which allows you to actually see like overlaps in your network, and then tie it to your account list and basically figure out like, who are people that can make the introduction. So I think cabal might even be free to spin up. But there is a paid version. And again, if you want to kind of systematize and automate a little bit more Kabyle is a good option to get as part of your your call stack. And so I think it was something we were chatting about prior to the call. But imagine a world where you've got your account, your account mapping tools, like your crossbeams and your reveals, you've got your cabal data, well then actually, like you've got so many different angles that you can attack an account with, like you could go directly to your partner and say, Have you got an intro? You go to your influencers and say, Hey, can I get an intro? And so you're just giving yourself more opportunities or getting back to the customer. And so I love your idea of like combining the two, your traditional partner led account mapping tools with a kind of social influencer type tool like like a ball. Yeah, I think that's the way to do it. Just give yourself as many at bats as possible through through those tools.

Will Taylor 22:35
So then what is that tactical? Next step for people in your mind? I think you should give one and then I'll give one because I have a couple in my mind.

Ben Wright 22:45
Yeah, I think my first one would just be like a word of advice, which is Don't sleep on influencers as a as a partnership model. I think my tactical takeaway would be, if you're considering an influencer program, do not wrap them into the same bucket as your affiliates. I would say they have their own bucket, their own motion, their own enablement. And so that's the other kind of tactical takeaways. If you've got influences in your affiliate bucket, I would separate and run different punching.

Will Taylor 23:13
Nice, completely agree and mine would be if you are approaching them with this idea of Commission's or you plan to make sure you have the proper attribution. And so one easy way to do that is to have a marketing free form field that says, How did you hear about us, it generally does not reduce the number of submissions, Chris Walker talks about this all the time. And from there, you'll be able to track where this influence is coming from people will mention, I saw you on this podcast or this post and this person said it, and then you can start attributing more directly to those organic channels, versus whatever the marketing automation system tags, or those direct links, which again, people are going to be less likely to click it. And another piece for that is if you have a call recording software, then try and have the key words of that person's name or their podcast or whatever it is that they use. Have that as a keyword that gets tagged and call recordings. And then you can surface Oh, people mentioned, whoever it is, you know, will tailor on 18 different calls. And three of those turned into opportunities and one of them close great well should get credit in some form. That is going to allow you to build that trust with that influencer and help you move away from just paying this flat amount for them to post. Maybe they get paid more. So they're going to be more incentivized because there's this proper attribution. And of course for you as a partner person, it'll get attributed to partners where you're then getting this credit and you can play with the data a bit more and have more levers to pull in your arsenal. So the data side extremely important. And to summarize that quickly, call recording software keywords tagging with that will allow you to attribute and then also that marketing freeform field over time you'll see a lot of interesting information from there. Thank you everyone for listening to another episode of The howdy partners podcast. If you are an influencer and you want to work with people, let us know your thoughts reach out to us or if you want to become an influencer, we'll help you out. Or if you want to, you know, work with us. Hey, we talked about exactly how you can work with us. So do it. Thanks for listening.

Ben Wright 25:36
Yeah, cheers.

You've successfully subscribed to PartnerHacker
Great! Next, complete checkout to get full access to all premium content.
Error! Could not sign up. invalid link.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Error! Could not sign in. Please try again.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Error! Stripe checkout failed.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Error! Billing info update failed.