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Breaking Down Influence 2.0 with Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group

Feb 23, 2017

New research from Influence 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing indicates that 83% of brands cite one-on-one influencer relationships as a top priority.

As practitioners and executives navigate the influencer marketing landscape, we had one question: How do the findings from Influence 2.0 compare with what thought leaders experience in real life?

In search of enlightenment, I reached out to my friend, Michael Brenner, who I knew would be able to share words of wisdom. Michael is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. These days, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. As someone who has been recognized as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer, I knew Michael would be able to provide the insight I sought.

Influence 2.0 Interview with Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group

How do influencer relations play a role in your work at Marketing Insider Group (MIG) and beyond?

As a marketing consultant and a CEO, there are two important ways influencer marketing plays a role in my own work. First, as a CEO, I have always invested in helping influencers to achieve their goals, first and foremost, to develop relationships. So I do round-up posts and interviews like many of us. But I also try to support and encourage their own personal brands and content as much as I can. These relationships are important to me and relationships only work if they are two-way.

Second, as a consultant (and an influencer) I teach my clients how to follow that lead. The biggest mistake I see brands making with influencer marketing is focusing on what’s in it for the brand. And not considering how their requests help the influencer as well. And again, long term relationships are the best way to achieve value on both sides.

After reading the report, how do the findings in Influence 2.0 stack up against what you see day-to-day in the marketing space?

This report does a great job at defining the challenges marketing is facing across the board. Digital transformation is a struggle for all functions in today’s business. Tactical thinking and self-promotion no longer work at making an impact in today’s world. That is an organizational culture challenge. Influencer marketing is an important part of the customer journey. And this report defines the biggest challenge of the current thinking in terms of influencer lists and short-term campaigns. Influence 2.0 is about empathy and customer-centricity and real engagement that leads to business impact.

Did any of the findings in the report surprise you or inspire you to dig deeper into a specific topic?

I was pleasantly surprised by the statistic that the companies who spend the most are planning to increase their budgets at a much higher rate than those who do not. This shows us that there is a minimum level of commitment to influencer marketing. But those who make that commitment are seeing better results.

What ways do you see influencers impacting the customer journey?

The biggest impact influencers have in the customer journey is not in “Brand Advocacy,” the goal cited by most survey respondents, but in reaching, and engaging customers authentically, without any yucky feeling that the influencer is an endorser. This provides the brand with the benefits of being the platform for engagement, not a sales pitch commercial.

As consumers continue to avoid traditional advertising, what role will influencer relations play?

Influencer Marketing is going to continue to be one of the hottest trends in marketing. I have been saying for some time now that HR (employees), Customer Service (customers) and Influencers are the new marketing departments. Because ads don’t resonate with most of us. Ad blockers saw a 30% rise in adoption in 2016. Studies are starting to show that ad repetition causes sales to DECLINE. So what is a brand to do? As this report states so well, we have to put relationships at the center. And relationships are exactly what influencers can help a brand achieve.

What’s stopping marketers today from effectively understanding and serving their customers? Can influencer relations help?

The biggest obstacle for marketers today is the natural cultural inclination to always promote the brand. Who we are, what we sell, why we are better. This messaging doesn’t work any more. As my friend Ann Handley so eloquently states, we have to make our customers the hero of the stories we tell. And that’s hard for marketers to justify. Influencers can help a brand “fake it until they make it.” It gives marketers some space to measure the results without the pressure of creating brand-promotional campaigns.

How can marketers begin implementing digital transformation and other learnings from Influence 2.0?

I think customer journey mapping is a great place to start. We need to move beyond personas to define content requirements. Personas are a great place to start, but then you have to follow the trail through content and context at each touchpoint. Then you start to see the influence that customers, employees and influencers all have in today’s customer journey.

What is the one takeaway every marketer needs to know from this new research?

If brands do one thing, I would advise them to form long-term and authentic relationships with their influencers. My former colleague from SAP, Amisha Gandhi explained this brilliantly in the report. She argues for treating influencers like customers to drive mutual benefit. That’s great advice.

For more marketing wisdom follow Michael Brenner on Twitter @BrennerMichael to stay in the know. If you have not already, I highly suggest you download your copy of Influence 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing today. Now that we have Michael’s insights, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. How does the report compare to what you are experiencing in the influencer space?