B2B software vendors operate on such a tight customer base that marketing in this field is a niche game. I’ve already written about ten ideas where to promote your SaaS product and I’ve pointed out that you need to identify your niche and dominate that category. Granting that you have that niche firmly fixed in your mind, let’s focus on tapping influencers and thought leaders in this niche to promote your project management software. In this article you’ll lear the five most effective to promte your product and engage influencers in your field.
1. Stand out in B2B review platforms
Technically, they’re not influencers. B2B review sites act like search extensions because they dominate SERPs during the buyer’s initial product research. For example, if you want to compare different project management software for small business, most of the search volume you’ll get point to a popular review site like FinancesOnline. On suvh review sites users can compare products or search for an ideal software for their company. But take a closer look at B2B review sites and you’ll see that some apps are prominently displayed or that they have extra coverage. What gives?
These software vendors are buying influence on B2B review sites. The influence does not mean that a bad review is magically turned into a good one. No, what you’re buying is extra exposure of your software’s key strengths; in short, to influence the site to display your content first. In a place where your closest competitors are also vying for readers’ attention, having this extra exposure for your software is a big plus at the critical moment when buyers are comparing their options. The offers are a varied lot, but they have one goal: to help you get traffic to your free trial page or homepage.
Let’s illustrate how influence works on B2B review sites by using one of the most popular ones, FinancesOnline, as an example. All software products get a standard review about their pros and cons, pricing, key benefits, integration, and user comments. You’ll be happy to know that this is free, but all your competitors get the same benefit too.
Buyers should have an easy time comparing the software products against each other because they have access to all your and your competitors’ software information on the review site. But in reality, with hundreds of apps to choose from, buyers are unlikely to read through all product details. They’ll likely to limit the comparison to the first five to ten apps that they’ll encounter on the site. This is where a priority listing matters most. For example, your software can be displayed first in your category regardless of the actual review score which allows you to steal some of you competitors’ clicks. Or your software can be shown as a suggested alternative on your competitor’s product page or when users compare other products of your competitors. Primary listing may also include other benefits such as a detailed review of your product or gistinguishing it with awards and quality certificates that highlight your strong points and let you stand out from your competitors even more. All these tacticts will allow you to get more potential clients to your landing page and consequently, improve the sales of your product.
If you’re serious about getting an upper hand in B2B review sites, you should start using these marketing offers because your competitors surely do it already. You can ask for marketing possibilities for your product directly on FinancesOnline website.
2. Engage influencers and thought leaders
Tapping thought leaders or influencers to promote your software is nothing new. You buy your way into their influence over potential customers. In B2B, however, influencers walk on thin ice trying to monetize their influence while protecting their credibility. So, unless your proposition fits into the influencer’s beliefs, expertise, or advocacy, you’ll have a difficult time initiating a relationship.
The technique, then, is not to look who are the top influencers in your niche, but who are the people already supporting issues that align with your software; in short, who share your interest. This way, you’ll have a better chance of creating a brand ambassador out of the influencer (often with the right fee) because he’s, in fact, already supporting issues favorable to your software. Scour LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium, and other social platforms for these angels.
There’s another technique to butt in into an influencer’s network: challenge his views. However, make sure you have a solid argument that supports your software against his opinion. His followers and fans will be paying close attention to your rebuttal, so you should discuss issues, not sell your software, to come out as objective and sincere. So, aside from looking for positive social mentions for testimonials, you should also look for negative issues that can be used to initiate discussions relating to your software. Do you know someone with a large Twitter or LinkedIn audience who argues against SaaS project management apps? There’s your chance.
What if an influencer attacks your software out of a malicious campaign? You should be happy because he gives you that opening to argue back and tap into his audience. This happened with Freshdesk when an industry analyst, Ben Kepes, tweeted in 2011 that Freshdesk, then a newcomer, is “an unethical troll trying to cash in on #Zendesk’s good name.” Kepes might not be a paid hack (who knows?), but his attack gave Freshdesk an opportunity to rebut with a brilliant response, which was celebrated across tech blogs. Freshdesk argued that the term “desk” apparently had been used by apps older than Zendesk, hurling Keppes’ rock back to Zendesk. In the end, the whole debate made Zendesk look like the bully threatened by the new friendly kid on the block, ironically exposing the newcomer to more potential users. I know this is an old issue (Keppes had since retracted his tweet), but it’s a classic example how to engage attacks by influencers. Argue with facts, not emotions or malice, and you win the crowd.
3. Promote value content
Instead of buying mailing lists to promote your value content–they have lots of junk email addresses, anyway– consider approaching B2B consultants with long mailing lists. There’s an entire sub-industry in B2B marketing where, instead of selling products, marketers are offering their lists and networks to potential affiliate partners with an interesting topic. Unlike organic influencers who just blog about their opinion, these marketers are professional consultants who invest in promotions to build a large audience so they can offer a lead generation pipeline to B2B businesses like yours. The catch is, you must have an interesting and helpful topic that they can engage their audience with.
They may not be a best-selling author like Malcolm Gladwell or industry guru like Seth Godin–besides, these big names won’t likely to entertain affiliate setups–but marketers like Perry Marshall (PPC), Daniel Levis (info-marketing), Jon Shugart (traffic and conversion), and other influencers have significant niche B2B audience and are open to affiliate programs. B2B Marketing Insider gives us more of these under-the-radar consultants who may be willing to coop with the topic you’re promoting along with a subtle call-to-action pitch to your landing page. Preferably, negotiate for a revenue share off the email campaign instead of a flat fee to ensure you’re getting absolute ROI, not just promise, from their mailing list.
4. Write for influencers
It sounds incredulous that you’ll write for them instead of the other way around, right? But remember, these influencers often have blogs that require regular new content to sustain their wide readership. Some of the them may be feeling the daily grind of publishing and a free content is most welcome. However, the key is value content, not a sales pitch, so your content is accepted as a B2B blog post. In return, you get the coveted exposure to the influencer’s audience, many of them potential buyers, and that juicy backlink to your website.
As a project management software vendor, you’re a credible expert (or ought to be) on solving issues related to project management. If not you, maybe your key managers or developers can write tips about efficient project management, which is what your software is about after all.
When targeting blogs to write in, don’t be limited to project management sites. Almost all industries require the discipline and dynamics of project management, which means you can discuss this topic on blogs with as varied themes as marketing, business, finance, fashion, and technology. However, make sure that you’re writing for a high-traffic blog to get a good ROI. Some of the metrics to check include:
- Blog’s Alexa ranking
- Volume of comments on posts
- SERP rank using the blog’s keywords
- Number of websites linking to the blog
- Social proof like no. of Twitter, Facebook followers
5. Be an influencer!
To me this is the essence of blog marketing, not just to tell readers how fun the company party was or how cool your software is. A blog should be the repository of your thoughts as an industry player in your field. That means you should write about topics and solutions, not just your product. There are benefits to this.
First, sharing knowledge is a powerful way to elicit trust from readers because they see that you can relate to their issues. Second, the law of reciprocity–our innate behavior to give something back when we receive favors–works here. Readers who learn something from your content will look at your software favorably. Third, topical posts attract readership, after all, nobody wants to read product brochures. And finally, sharing your knowledge is showing your expertise, which rubs off onto your software. All these factors can help generate leads at the top of the sales funnel. Neil Patel of KISSmetrics and CrazyEgg is an excellent example how the founder becomes the product by sharing his knowledge and personal experience to make his products a top-of-mind brand.
Tapping thought leaders and influencers in B2B marketing often means that you, the CEO or owner, becomes the product and a thought leader yourself. What you say will be taken as a reflection of your expertise, which is then rubbed off onto the credibility of your software. Likewise, you need a lot of influence or borrowed influence to make sure your software gets a steady stream of leads and, hopefully, paying users.