The buyer is the individual within an organization or department who holds the purse strings. They have the power to greenlight a purchase and bring a new tool or service onboard.
Of course, the buyer matters! Without their commitment, you will never close a deal. There will always be a bunch of stakeholders involved in any potential deal, and amongst these, the buyer is very important.
However, it is crucial to not neglect another figure: the influencer.
I’m referring to “influencer” in the marketing sense of the word. I don’t mean product placements on TikTok, but individuals at companies who can influence buying decisions.
Influencers don’t have the buying power, and they certainly won’t be making the ultimate purchasing decision. But what they do have is the power to change the minds of people who do. And that makes influencers powerful. Which makes them valuable.
In a B2B setting, influencers are typically directors, managers, and individual contributors. They have been tasked by their senior leaders to find a vendor, test the products, read the specifications and white papers, and extensively review a product’s potential.
Their recommendations carry a lot of weight. This is an angle that many companies fail to capitalize on.
Although there is an ultimate decision-maker, at every stage of the buying cycle, there are people who can exert influence over purchasing decisions.
It’s critical for B2B companies and their marketing teams to identify who these people are.
Here are five key influencer types you must be aware of:
- User Influencers: People or teams that will ultimately use and/or benefit from your product or service.
Financial Influencers: People who look at products and assess how these will impact profits and losses. These influencers include accountants, financial controllers, and CFO’s.
- Research Influencers: People tasked by their organizations to search the market for potential solutions to their problems. These are also the ones who present the viable options.
- Reference Influencers: People who exist within or outside your organization and have worked with you before. Ranging from a business partner, supplier, or end customer, these influencers impact purchasing decisions with their valuable first-hand testimony.
- Market Influencers: External individuals whose commentaries carry substantial weight and can be very persuasive. They are product reviewers, journalists, bloggers, research and advisory firms, and market commentators. Their opinions are usually published or broadcast in a public forum.
In our experience, Researcher Influencers are #1. Why? Because they are tapped by the leadership team for potential solutions. They are asked to light up a Proof of Concept (POC), and make recommendations.
There is only one, or at most a handful, of economic buyers. However, there can be dozens of influencers. For this reason, it’s logical and economically practical to market to a larger pool of people that can walk you into an organization.
How much money should you invest in influencers?
If I had just one dollar to spend on marketing, I would spend 80 cents on the influencer, and 20 cents on the economic buyer.
Remember, purchasing decisions are rarely made by one or even two people. Influencers will be involved in different stages and can exert as much influence as they like, depending on their motivation.
When you market to influencers, content and messaging matter.
Influencers are seeking vendors to solve a particular problem.
That is why the content you produce must be built around the solution to the problem that they want to address. This isn’t a list of features and benefits. It’s told as a story, where you take the influencer on a journey that shows the value and benefit through relevant examples, quotes, customer stories, etc.
In complex sales situations, you will likely have four or more different buyer personas that play a role in the decision-making process. As a vendor, you need to put a premium on influencers and their opinions, since they have the power to propel you to success or stop you in your tracks.
Buyers will always matter. But don’t neglect the influencer!