Influencers may be potential buyers themselves, or they may be third parties. These third parties exist either in the supply chain (retailers, manufacturers, etc) or may be so-called value-added influencers (such as journalists, academics, industry analysts, professional advisers, and so on).
Influencer Marketing is enhanced by a continual evaluation activity that sits alongside the four main activities.
Market research techniques can be used to identify influencers, using pre-defined criteria to determine the extent and type of influence. For example, Keller and Berry propose five attributes of influencers:
Most of the literature on influencers focuses on consumer markets. There is less insight into business-to-business influencers. A key distinction between consumer and business markets is that most of the focus in consumer markets is on consumer influencers themselves. This is because word of mouth communication is prevalent in consumer environments. In business marketing, influencers are people that affect a sale, but are typically removed from the actual purchase decision. Consultants, analysts, journalists, academics, regulators, standards bodies are examples of business influencers.
Not all business influencers are equal. Some have more influence than others, and some mechanism of ranking is required, to distinguish between key influencers and less impactful people. A model for ranking business influencers has been developed by Influencer50, thus:
Several other companies including Ammo Marketing and Liquid Intelligence in the US, SCB Partners in Europe and Vocanic in Asia have developed their own proprietary methodologies for identifying and targeting influencers for a brand.
Fred Reichheld, a consultant at Bain & Company, has developed a methodology to determine the extent to which firms’ growth is influenced by customers’ propensity to make referrals to colleagues. Reichheld distills his research down to a single question: how likely is it that you would recommend company X to a friend or colleague? From answers to this question, a Net Promoter Score is determined, which correlates strongly with a firm’s growth rate.
Sources of influencers can be varied. Marketers traditionally target influencers that are easy to identify, such as press, industry analysts and high profile executives. For most B2C purchases, however, influencers might include people known to the purchaser and the retailer staff. In higher value B2B transactions the community of influencers may be wide and varied, and include consultants, government-backed regulators, financiers and user communities.
Forrester analyst Michael Speyer notes that, for small and medium-size business, "IT sales are influenced by many parties, including peers, consultants, bloggers, and technology resellers. He advises that "Vendors need to identify and characterize the influencers in their market. This requires a comprehensive influencer identification program and the establishment of criteria for ranking influencer impact on the decision process."
As well as a variety of influencer sources, influencers can play a variety of roles at different times in a decision process. This idea has been developed in Influencer Marketing by Brown & Hayes. They map out how and when particular types of influencer affect the decision process. This then enables marketers to selectively target influencers depending on their individual profile of influence.
The influence of bloggers and other social media users is a topic of much discussion. This is covered in depth in Paul Gillin’s The New Influencers. Brown & Hayes also cover the subject but are less convinced of the importance of the impact of social media, particularly in B2B settings.