Influence the Influencers

One of the questions most CMOs wrestle with is how to quickly build awareness of their company or their product in the marketplace.  It is prohibitively expensive for most firms to reach the entire target audience directly with an advertisement.  A much cheaper and faster approach is to leverage the 10-20 influencers who the market is already listening to (the influencers).  If you can convince these influencers to become carriers of your message then your story will propagate through the market at a much faster rate.

To get started find out whom the 10-20 most influential people in your segment are.  I recommend excluding end-user customers – although some of them might be quite influential.  Instead, think about analysts, journalists, bloggers, consultants and leaders at industry associations.   Who are the short list of people that everyone seems to be listening to?  Who are the ones shaping opinions about vendors, technologies and standards?

Journalists – Who are the reporters writing about your sector online?  Is your sector being covered by TechCrunch, GigaOM, Business Insider, Fast Company, Information Week, ZDNet or eWeek?  If so, the journalists at these firms need to hear your pitch.  You also need to keep them to up-to-date on your product releases.  Many of these journalists also do freelance work on the side.  Consider putting them on your payroll.  Or if you can afford to, hire them.  With print subscriptions and advertising revenues on the decline, some journalists will be attracted by the job security and compensation increase that comes with working for a vendor.  And finally don’t underestimate the power of independent bloggers.  In certain segments, bloggers have tremendous credibility and quickly shape the views of the crowd.

Analysts – like it or not – control a lot of mindshare, especially at big companies.  Your target list of analysts should include the key opinion leaders at Gartner, Forrester and IDC. But don’t stop there.  In most sectors there are “Tier 2” and “Tier 3” firms covering the space as well.  Some analysts will make you pay for their time.  An analyst day can cost $10K-$15K, which is relatively expensive.  Pay it.  Have the analyst come on-site to meet your leadership team and hear your story.  If you have created the right messaging the analyst will walk away not only educated, but inspired.  He or she will then “name drop” your brand at various speaking engagements around the world.  It is hard to get this level of visibility through other channels – especially for $15K.

Consultants – can be very influential as well.  Find out who the thought leaders at firms such as IBM, Accenture, CSC, CGI, Perot Systems (Dell), SAIC, ACS (Xerox), Booz Allen Hamilton, Capgemini, Getronics, AtoS, Indra and Tieto are.  Get on their calendars.  These firms bet their reputation on offering vendor-neutral, independent advice.  So they want to be aware of all the vendors in a space along with their strengths and weaknesses.  Smaller, niche consulting firms can be very influential as well in certain sectors.  Much like with the analysts, have the consultants come on-site to meet your team and hear your story.  Then find a way to keep in touch with them on a regular basis.  If they liked your story they will name drop you to clients and other influencers.

Vendors – Technology vendors play a big role in seeding and educating the market.  And there are people at many vendors who are definitely influencers.  But how can you influence companies that you are competing with?  A good tactic is to start with the “arms dealers.”  You know – the vendors who are not selling directly to customers, but are the ones selling to all the other vendors.  They don’t care who wins or loses or if the end-customer is successful.  They care about getting their technology embedded in as many accounts as possible.  These types of companies can be very influential in spreading news or ideas.  If you can influence them you can influence the market.

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