I’m not a big fan of what passes for marketing as perpetrated by incumbent technology companies. It’s tone deaf & consistently irrelevant to me. Many others have shared similar opinions. As a “new media influencer” (I just made that up. Yes, I hate myself) I have a few points to make following a blog post from Lisa Caywood highlighting that gap between mass broadcast and point publishing (i.e. blogs, podcasts, SoMe).
The Internet democratized and sped up publishing, and in so doing swept the rug out from under the codified institutional authorities: newspapers, government spokespeople, industry pundits of various types. Now any schmoe can research and opine; independent, authoritative sources of information about a product or company are suddenly far more numerous and ever-proliferating–which is very hard to manage scalably from a traditional PR perspective–and at the same time they’re very easy for consumers to find, and they’re generally more trusted sources than the corporations themselves.
I think that a possible mindset can be summarised by “marketing where your customers are”. For technology companies, the Internet has changed where & how your customers see your message. While established media is and will remain some percentage of total communication a larger percentage of decision initiators & ‘new influencers’ are consuming newer forms of media. Therefore, you need to add new tools/choices to your marketing mix to extend into the mediums of twitter,blogs & podcasts and, more widely, the Internet.This will require some fortitude to develop new metrics and comprehension of a significant process shift.
Most people agree that the existing three-point model of “AR, PR, Marketing” is being disrupted but rarely agree on what model replaces it. As a consumer of all three modes of marketing, I can assure you that none of the old models work well. What would work is a new marketing role based around Influencer Relations or “IR” if you will. You need a process to engage with the ‘new influencers’ that is relevant to them and would be drawn from the AR/PR team which should be undergoing resizing (aka downsizing) anyway to match their changing/shrinking influence.
Now you have five facets of vendor marketing – AR, IR, PR, “Demand Gen” and ‘everything else’ Marketing i.e. trade shows, etc.
People are Finite
There are two ideas that I would like to highlight to corporate marketers.
The number of ‘new influencers’ is somewhat limited and probably a similar number to what the Analyst Relations teams manage already. There is some amount of rotation of ‘new influencers’ in the same way that analysts come & go. And the quality of each individual varies but this is similar to your average group of “industry analysts”. The mechanics of AR & IR are functionally identical while the delivery is significantly different.
New Influencers have limited time or attention. I have found that industry or financial analysts have much more time to receive briefings. Comparatively, New Influencers need fewer resources, less time but require marketers to do new things.
Possible Habits of IR. New Influencers have limited time but high levels of skill/training/expertise. Most individuals are influencing in their spare time or as a hobby. Unlike industry analysts, they are real practitioners who have latest skills and directly involved in day-to-day product consumption. Many shibboleths are extinct in this domain. Executives have little influence & rarely impress. Product & technology is the focus. Briefings must be short, targeted and cut to a core message. Unlike financial analysts, there are few legal limitations and no disclaimers that limit the discussion. Industry analysts are conscious of their ‘relationship’ and careful not to offend the company that is briefing them in case it prevents revenue. As a result, they are patient about overly long briefings or off topic content.
IR briefings should be short, technical and delivered by technology leaders who can communicate. Preferably someone who also has a SoMe profile and defined media persona.
Marketing professionals find it confusing that the old/existing methods will continue to work for some portion of the market and have missed the rise of Activist Customers/New Influencers. If you can’t see this, I can’t help you.
Example of Influence: Consider that I recently presented a 3-hour tutorial session to 200 people at Interop on Data Centre Design / Strategy for the next 10 years. How many people did I influence ? What is the quality of those attendees as potential leads for your company ? And did corporate marketing influence my content and presentations ?
As a sedulous digital native, I get my sources far from the traditional ‘information well’. A company doing ‘wall paper ads’ at airports or even Flipboard banners doesn’t understand the difference between exposure and influence which leads to ridicule.
When will corporate marketeers perpetrate acts of influence that are relevant to me & my peers ?
(With apologies to John Troyer for hijacking “perpetration of marketing acts” for this article. )