By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
Late in 2015 we started producing a radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which currently runs every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific. It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.
We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests coming up. Our very first guest was Funnelholic author and Topo co-founder Craig Rosenberg. Next we had Mike Weinberg, incredible writer, speaker, author, followed by Conrad Bayer, CEO & Founder of Tellwise. Recent Guests: Jim Keenan; Joanne Black; Aaron Ross; Josiane Feigon, Meagen Eisenberg, and Trish Bertuzzi.
We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes. You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.
Matt’s guest is John Hall, author of Top of Mind and he is the Co-founder and CEO of Influence & Company.
Business is never “just” business. It’s always about relationships. It’s always about a human connection. When you’re viewed as a valuable, trustworthy partner, the opportunities are endless. Position yourself for success by establishing and developing content-driven relationships that keep you and your brand Top of Mind.
This will be a great conversation for you to walk away with tips and nuggets. Join us.
More about our guest: John Hall is the co-founder and CEO of Influence & Co., a company focused on helping brands and individuals extract and leverage their expertise to create, publish, and distribute content to gain influence, visibility, and credibility with their key audiences. In less than three years, John has grown Influence & Co. into one of the largest providers of high-quality expert content to the world’s top publications, ranking No. 72 on Forbes’ “Most Promising Companies in America” list and named Empact’s “Best Marketing and Advertising Company of 2014” at the United Nations.
John has a weekly column for Forbes and Inc. and has contributed to more than 50 publications, including Business Insider, The Washington Post, and Harvard Business Review. He is the author of the best-selling book, Top of Mind.
Matt: I appreciate everyone joining us today. Another episode of Sales Pipeline radio. We are here every Thursday at 2:30 Eastern, 11:30 Pacific. If you’re joining us live, I appreciate you joining us in the middle of your workday. If you’re joining us, through the podcast, thanks very much for subscribing. You can catch every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio at Google Play and the iTunes store and you can catch all past episodes as well at SalesPipelineRadio.com. Every week we are featuring some of the best and brightest minds, interviews, discussions, updates, new data and trends in B2B sales and marketing. We cover the entire funnel, not just the top or the bottom but everything that’s working to help companies build sustainable repeatable pipelines.
Very excited today to have with us, John Hall. He’s the co-founder and CEO of Influence and Company. His business helps, really specializes in creating content. They help fuel companies’ content marketing efforts helping their employees become influences in the industry, a very hot topic in a lot of circles in B2B marketing. We’re excited to have John with us here today. John, thanks very much for joining us.
John: Thanks for having me. Can you hear me fine?
Matt: Yeah. You sound great. I appreciate you joining us and I know that a lot of marketers and a lot of even sales people are thinking about the idea of influence, what influence means. Could you give us, what is your definition of influence in a B2B context and a sales pipeline context? What does it mean and why is it important?
John: Yeah. I mean, for this context it’s pretty simple. If you can engage people in a way that change, that results in a behavior that results in either a sale or something positive, whether it’s brand advocacy a lead, a referral. That is a great way to have influence from this standpoint and so for the purposes of this call and a lot of times talking to sales people it’s about how you’re engaging with different audiences to get them to change a behavior that’s positive in your direction resulting in a sale, brand advocacy, partner referral or something also beneficial.
Matt: Can you help us break that down a little bit because I think a lot of people when they think about influence they think about one of two ways and sometimes I think of this in terms of inbound and outbound influence. Some, in a lot of cases you’re trying to engage with people who already have influence to sort of share the message about your brand, your story. In other cases, you’re trying to create influence. You’re trying to become an influencer that can sort of join those ranks and gain sort of notoriety for your organization. How do you think about that? Is that an appropriate way to think about the differences or is there a different way you guys think about that?
John: Sure. Yeah. I mean, for me influence is actually, from a sales standpoint it’s pretty simple is that if you can get someone to trust you and if you can stay top of the mind so that when they’re in a moment to purchase or to have one of those moments that I talk about being beneficial, then that is the purpose of building influence. There’s a variety of ways to build trust and I’m not saying they have to be, you’re the person they call when they’re in jail trust. I’m saying that there’s different ways to have, I call them trust touchpoints. Points at which you engage them where they like for example, a lot of times in sales it’s helping them out in some way.
If you got them an article that was valuable to them, that addressed a pain point, so it could be coming from you or with something you’ve curated but ultimately it was something that was valuable to them. They go, “Wow, that was nice,” or “That was really helpful towards me,” and it has a small little touchpoint that creates a moment of trust that sets up. Over time the more you have those, the more that you gain their attention. It’s diving in deep to all the things that are those trust touchpoints, making sure that you’re doing them best as you can and then most of the time those will result in some sort of a good benefit for you.
Matt: Talking today to John Hall, who’s the CEO and co-founder of Influence and Company. You can check them out at InfluenceandCo.com. I think a lot of organizations as they warm up to the idea of influence or marketing, as they’re thinking about that is influence or marketing and content marketing together. They’re also in many cases curious, who owns this? I think it’s marketing should in many cases owns it. You don’t see a lot of sales organizations owning it but who in the organization should own it. It’s getting assigned in many cases, I see the PR departments that have media relations and analyst relations. Can you talk a little bit about how PR and influence or marketing work together especially in your context where you guys are doing a lot of guest contributor content? You yourselves are a contributor to INC. Magazine, a columnist at Forbes. I think the lines are blurring a little bit. How should people be thinking about that? How do you operationalize that?
John: Yeah. Well, they’ve kind of all merged together to be honest with you. I mean, before you had PR, marketing, recruiting, sales, all very separate. What’s happened is that over the last 10-15 years, sales has changed. Like I grew up door to door sales, now it’s changed to that, what we’re a lot of times offering is being focused on the audience, or the consumer, or the potential sale and how we can help them and get them good information, help them out in a certain way. That’s what changed the, this kind of trend of sales that standalone because now marketing is creating context. PR is creating content that’s valuable and to be used in other parts of the business. So, that’s why PR, I think and marketing have merged and for a lot of companies the CMO over the CFO. And then there’s something also that a lot of time the CMO oversees sales, or at least there’s a very good connection with that head of sales.
And so, you’ve got to look at it as that, okay what are we doing, from a sales side of things, what are we doing to listen to customers? And what I call content triggers are triggering when there’s a moment when a sales person listens to a customer and realizes “Wow” there’s an aha moment. Something I said to them, was super engaging and helped with the sale. Or, there’s this moment where they have a sales barrier. It’s not hitting very well. And so they have to communicate that back to the central point, or the department that’s leading that. A lot of times right now, it’s still marketing, but it’s starting to merge into a head of strategy, will be dictating that.
It’s important to have the content triggers because then that team who let’s say it’s the marketing team, they can fuel your efforts by creating content based on those aha moments or content triggers, that you can use directly. Then also they can see the industry with that content so that those barriers happen less and less and there’s content support when you’re selling to people. So, the short answer to that is, you know most of the time these kind of areas of marketing and PR kind of combining in a way and merging and there’s a central content creation. Or a team that’s creating content that both PR, marketing, you know they’re using and there’s an overall strategy between when we get a PR mention this is what is important having there.
When we’re doing byline pieces, this is what we need to get in there so that it’s useful not just for brand awareness but also our sales and marketing team.
Matt: So how do you engage existing outside influencers as part of this as well? I mean in every industry there’s a handful of people that already have influence, you know I think if we were having this conversation 15 years ago we’d be talking about a smaller set of more traditional publications, more traditional journalists and analysts that you really had to sort of engage. There’s a long tale now of individuals that have influence, people that started a blog and became influential. People that work at a company function and became influential amongst their peers?
What are the best practices for companies that want to leverage that new PR opportunity? Those influencers that have an audience, that in some cases aren’t held to the same formal rigors of PR and media relations. What are the steps companies can take to begin to build influence among those influencers?
John: Gotcha, well the first step is to actually build your own influence. So it’s one to document and actually how you’re going to build internal influence.
A lot of times people only look at influence for marketing is only external, I don’t. I look at influence for marketing as something that is internal and external, because you want to build your own influence and you also want to build external influence with people that are influencers not within your organization.
But it’s important that you’re looking initially out the gate is, how are we building up our key employees, our CEO, our VP of sales, our VP of tech, as influencers? Because it will make your life so much easier to integrate, to work with other influencers in the industry, because you have something that they want. There’s the one thing that influencers love more than money, is more influence.
So what I’ve realized with our company is that once we actually built a following that people pay attention with and we have a certain influence, there’s a lot of people that have influence that want to do stuff with us. They want to do cross marketing, they want to do webinars with us, they want to do things that put our influence together so that we can feed off each other. So that’s the first part that you’ve got to be very clear is that when we’re doing something with marketing strategy, it’s vital that you’re building your own influence first. It makes your life a lot easier down the road.
One of the examples that I give is with speaking. There’s a lot of companies that do sponsored speaking a lot, but we don’t do any of it right now because a lot of times companies are wanting us at their event. Now, that’s because we’ve spent time building up, throughout our company that we get asked to do that.
There’s another company that I talked to that they’re paying for every time they’re doing a key note. That’s why it’s so important to earn it first and to build it within. Now to do that, it’s making sure that you’re committed to it, that you’re investing in employees, not just one, but actually several employees that you have critical mass in case one leaves, but then also that speak to different audiences. It’s a lot more powerful when you have three that have specific audiences they’re going after, than one who has like a general audience.
And so, you have to look and say “Who are we investing with in this organization to have influence?” And then “How are we investing in them?” Are we doing a byline campaign with PR mentioned, getting them on lists. Are we investing in their social account? What are we doing to get them speaking gigs? There’s all these things that happen. It could be that we’re investing in this person that has a book about this topic, but what ends up happening when you do that is that there is this threat effect. Because once you do some of these things, those don’t go away. A book doesn’t go away, when you get PR mentioned, you can commit to that, and then look at how you’re leveraging that across the company not just in their personal brand.
Matt: Talking to John Hall today, the CEO and founder of Influence and Co. We’re going to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be right back talking a lot more about influencer, I like the idea we’re thinking about the term in-bound, out-bound, internal and external influence. Lots of opportunity for companies here. We’re going to try and break it down a little further and help you understand the next steps how to do this for your own organization. We’ll be right back, Sales Pipeline Radio.
Matt: Excited to have John Hall with us today talking about influence. How to build influence, how to leverage influence and how to use that to drive business and drive pipeline in your organization. Lots of great guests coming up in future episodes in future weeks in Sales Pipeline Radio, next week we are going to feature our very own Brian Hansford, he is going to join us and talk about the latest research we’ve seen that his team has conducted around marketing performance management. How are companies better understanding what marketing is working, which marketing they should double down on, which marketing they should start to ramp down and how that can directly impact not only optimization of budgeting but also pipeline results. In future weeks we’ve got Nadjya Ghausi, joining us to talk about conversational sales presentations and much more coming up. Make sure you don’t miss an episode, join us at salespipelineradio.com. You can join us live every week on the sales lead management radio network, you can also join us via our podcast. Make sure you never miss an episode at Google Play and the iTunes Store.
We are continuing to discuss influencer marketing with John Hall, who is the founder and president and CEO of Influence and Co. You can check them out at InfluenceandCo.com.
We were talking before the break about helping your internal employees become influencers. And my follow up question to you John, is how do you decide who should be one of those influencers. I assume that there is some science in terms of selecting people that are going to be most likely a. Successful influencers and based on personalities and based on insight, like what are some of the primary factors that make someone more likely to be successful as an influencer within your company and for your brand?
John: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great question and there’s multiple things that we look at, we look at one, what’s going to benefit the company the most? From the stand point of external people and the stakeholders. So is it going to be valuable for the CEO position? Because, that’s a lot of time, looked as the top leader of the company. A lot of times that is the person, and it’s pretty obvious they are.
However the problem is, there’s other factors that prevent you from doing that. I’ll give you an example of one. There’s a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company that I know that would be terrible because it’s impossible for him to get him to respond to anything. You can’t have a prospective fault leadership strategy from with in, and when you have someone who’s just not going to be effective to work with, and it also sets a terrible example for the other people that follow. Cause ultimately with most companies you want to build off, as you grow that fault leadership across the company. You want to build off of it.
And if you start with two people that aren’t going to contribute and have the time to be a part of that, then they’re not going to be great for it. Then that’s when you look at other options. So first obviously is the benefit to the company internally. Two, who’s going to cooperate and actually be a good influencer and fault leader within the organization that will spend time and differentiate the content as well.
And then you look at what are important strategies for the company? So, for example, there might be … we worked with Dell for one campaign, where were focusing on their entrepreneur division because that’s what Michael strategic focus was. So we worked with that entrepreneurial group there, because it made sense that that was the strategic focus to get constant from them, that was influencing that industry and targeting entrepreneurs so it made sense that it wasn’t coming from somebody like a Michael, or the main part of the company, it was this specific area.
So, there’s a variety of things that factor in there. Also, with the employee, is this person going to be staying around? Does everything point to that? Are we set up well where they will stick around and not leave after a couple months. So there’s variety of those things that we look at, those are probably like four of five main ones, but there’s probably I would say five to 10 other ones that are minor. But you look at that and you say “Okay, this makes sense.”
Or, for example budget, could also be an issue. We don’t have any budget, so we have to do one or two. So you look at all those factors and then you map it out and say “Here’s where we’re starting, here’s where we can grow, here’s what measurements are for that.” And then you scale it based on that, and some companies might start off with one or two that end up doing seven or eight, after things get really rolling after a year or two.
Matt: You brought up one of the criteria of trying to identify influencers inside the organization as someone that’s going to have some longevity. That’s a hard thing to control. So how do you figure out the trade off between having someone that is predisposed to being engaging to become an influencer. Do you put golden handcuffs on those individuals or do you simply say “Okay, we’re going to leverage them as long as they’re here.” And benefit from that, even if they end up leaving at some point.
John: Yeah, I mean you can do it. I mean I’m not terribly scared of employees leaving. I think Branson’s quote “Invest in people, so that they can lave, and treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” I don’t know I could have butchered it, but that’s how I feel about things.
We’ve invested in some of the VP’s brands and had one or two leave, and as crazy as it is, it has been really beneficial, cause we’ve built up their influence and they’ve gone to another company and, we have non-compete and things like that but, they’ve been huge advocates for us.
So it’s been, as crazy as it is, it’s worked out well in our case. I’m not saying that every company, somebody leaves, and they have influence and it like benefits them, that doesn’t always happen. I would say that there’s’ a couple things you can look at. Obviously there’s things you can put in compensation, that actually motivates them to stay. It can be, how you present them with it. Say “Hey, we’re going to invest in your brand here.”
So, a part of that is you’re going to stick around, we’re going to have this expectation that we are going to money, and invest in you and this is kind of what we’re agreeing to. There’s different things you can do, to say like “Okay, we’re going to be supporting you, but this also goes away if you leave.” You know, there’s a variety of things you can do to actually, and then what I’ve found out though, is ultimately you’ve got to … we invest in the people that there’s a certain level of trust with. And we’ve been lucky thus far, where we haven’t had a lot of turn over with those people.
A lot of other companies, if you can’t somewhat trust the employees that you’re going to be investing a good amount of resources into, then it probably won’t end up being worth the investment.
Matt: So how do you get started with this? What are the components, if you were to give someone sort of a checklist. Whether or not they’re committed to being the long-term forever influencer, but the things you need to have the building blocks, the foundation. Is it content? Is it creating content? Is it curating content? It setting up your social feeds? Is it engaging with other influencers? What are some of the building blocks.
The people listening to this, either want to be influencers or want to start to enable the potential influencers and their influences in their organization. What are the few things they should be doing to get started?
John: Oh yeah, absolutely. And here’s some inspiration here. It was like five or six years ago, before, it was six years ago before we started this company. I didn’t even have a linked in profile, I don’t think. If I did it probably didn’t even have a picture and it was crappy, didn’t have any presence. I would say outside my grandma and mom and family, besides that I was pretty much a nobody, from a national stand point.
When I look at where I was to where I’m today, now I’m not also the most well-known person in the world either but at the same time, the influence that we’ve built in five years, to me it’s pretty significant. That’s resulted in opportunity for myself and the company. Now, what I did was not rocket science and it’s as simple as the first thing as documenting and saying: “Here is my documented strategy for though leadership, how we’re going to build influence.” And it’s not going to happen in two to three months. It’s not going to happen just like that. We’re going to keep moving towards it, we’re going to start off … the most common thing is to document here are the things that can be beneficial to building up influence and thought leadership.
There’s bylines op ed, there’s PR mentioned there’s getting on lists of your own media. So like your blog, building up like what you’re doing here with an audience that pays attention to you as a trusted source for information.
There’s all these things that factor in and there’s content that you can look at that I’ve written, and different things out there that can help you kind of form what that looks like. Then it’s just every month or two address that. Did we move towards where we were able to create some bylines here, for example. Well, bylines did you get enforced? No, you’re not necessarily just going to all the sudden get in every dream publication you want, or The Times. You got to look and say “Okay, well it might be starting off with this blog.” Or starting off with this smaller site.
My first site that I got in was youngentrepreneur.com. It was written by the Toren brothers who are good friends of mine now, and I remember my mom actually putting that up on the refrigerator. Which is hilarious, at this age, I’m 33 and my mom is doing that. It was not a Times, it’s a good site, but was very limited to young entrepreneurs at the time. But it did great things, honestly for me. There’s people who saw it, my network starting seeing me contribute, and it was a start. And I kept going and leveraging things, where, we added press mentions, started building social channels as a part of the mass that we can created. But always the consistent content coming from me has been consistent from the start.
Because you want to be that trusted source of information that people go to, so no matter what the document strategy has to be core at the beginning. You have to start getting content coming from you, and then a lot of these other things like social aggregation and some original content. That makes sense. The PR mentioned getting talked about as an expert and a leader in a different things. Or even at this point, having a book. That’s kind of in year four or five that’s what we knew that we would probably do, around this time. And that’s how it all plays into each other, and over time as you take those steps, it all starts off with those couple things and it grows and grows and grows, but you have to be dedicated and committed to keep moving forward. And not have this expectation that overnight you’re going to be key noting the largest events in the world.
Matt: It think it’s that commitment and that patience that sometimes separates those that are successful from those that give up on this. This is not like a paperclip campaign that you can just turn on and expect to see clicks and results immediately. This takes time. Just in the couple minutes that we have left here to finish up with John Hall, who’s the CEO and founder of Influence and Co. What’s the recommendation you give people in terms of how long you should expect it to take to start to see an ROI? From influence marketing.
John: It just depends on your goals and which ones you’re tackling. So for example, if you’re like “Hey, we want a bunch of leads to have that result in sales within a month or two.” That’s harder. I mean right now our in-bound is a huge part of our business, but it probably took a year or two to actually be a major part. Did we see some success early on the first six months to a year? Yes, but it wasn’t anything that was going to dramatically change our business, now it does, with the in-bound lead that we get. So like on sales and in-bound, you’ve got to be committed to it. Trust me, there’s other ways of sales that you can do to get more sales in short term, than what I’m talking about here.
In the long term, it’s by far one of the best and most saleable. So that’s why it’s important to a commitment, and the first six months to a year you’re not going to see anything that’s going to change your life, in my opinion, yes sometimes there are some people that have early success but, I just want to set expectations. Also, it’s how you leverage it. So for example, if we have a client that’s like “Yes, that is our goal.” But we also, like the clients that I love are the hawk media, is that Eric, their CEO, and Tony, their President, they leverage the content in so many different ways. They use it in their sales process, they use it in for recruiting, they add it to their newsletter, they share it on social, like they actually really embrace when they just started out the gate creating content. PR mentioned and these things.
That’s why they’ve had a lot of success earlier. So that’s an example of one where it’s like okay, that happened sooner. But then there’s other goals, like we had one client say “Hey, we’re specifically using this, we already know our 200 clients and we don’t even have more than 200 clients, but we need to nurture them and we’re going to use this in the sales pipeline.” Well they immediately out the gate started using that content in their sales pipeline as part of the process and their conversions went up. I think it was like in that six month span, they went up 50%, which is pretty high. That’s very high number to set that expectation, but 50% of conversion increase from adding this though leadership content to the sales pipeline.
So, that was a little different where it’s like hey that’s not Lee’s generation, that’s helping convert with sales, so it depends kind of what your goals are but those are some examples of expectations to have.
Matt: Absolutely, well I want to thank our guest John Hall from Influence and Co. You can learn more about them at InfluenceandCo.com. We’re going to have to jump and let some other companies and other hosts have their show here. But thanks very much for joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio. If you want to hear more, share this conversation about influence marketing with others on your team. You definitely go to salespipelineradio.com, find that replay and also obviously join us on the podcast at the Google Play and iTunes Store. Thanks again for joining us today, we’ll see you next week. From my producer Paul, this is Matt Heinz, we’ll see you next week. Sales Pipeline Radio.
Paul: You’ve been listening to Sales Pipeline Radio with your host Matt Heinz, right here in the funnel radio channel for network listeners like you.