B2B influencer marketing with Amisha Gandhi, SVP Marketing at Tipalti

 

Marketers know the power of influencers for B2C consumers, but how about B2B? B2B influencer marketing is a strategy for you to connect with your audience directly, understand them deeply and make a strong impression so that your brand resonates. 

On this episode of the FINITE Podcast, hear from Amisha Gandhi, SVP Marketing at Tipalti, who has an extensive background in B2B tech, and working with B2B influencers. 

This episode covers:

Listen to the full episode here:

 

And check out more of the FINITE B2B marketing podcast here

 

Full Transcript

Alex (00:06):

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the FINITE Podcast. On today's episode, we're going to be talking all things B2B influencer marketing with a Amisha Gandhi. Amisha is currently Senior Vice President of Marketing at Tipalti, a global payables automation solution, fast growing FinTech business. 

 

She's passionate about B2B influencer marketing. It's not really a topic we've touched on on the podcast before. So today we'll dive into the what, why and how of thinking all about B2B influencer marketing. Enjoy!

 

FINITE (00:36):

The FINITE community and podcast are kindly supported by 93x, the digital marketing agency working exclusively with ambitious fast growth B2B technology companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out how they partner with marketing teams in B2B technology companies to drive growth.

 

Alex (00:58):

Hi Amisha. Thanks for joining me today.

 

Amisha (01:00):

Hi Alex. Thanks for having me on your show.

 

Alex (01:03):

Looking forward to talking, we've got a great topic lined up, one that I think was kind of sitting under my nose and that we hadn't really talked about weirdly in the world of B2B influencer marketing, which I'm looking forward to diving into with you. But before we do that, I will do what we always do and ask you to tell us a little bit about your background and yourself and your current role.

 

About Amisha’s background in marketing 

Amisha (01:24):

Sure. I'm happy and I'm excited to talk about B2B influencer marketing. My background is mostly in marketing and communications. I've worked both at agencies and at companies and at brands like SAP, TimeWarner, Accenture, Gap. So B2C and B2B companies, mostly in the high tech and entertainment industry. 

 

And what I really enjoy about marketing and communications, it's all about storytelling, right? As marketers, we're all storytellers. And so in my background, I've done many different parts of marketing. I've done product marketing, I've done content marketing, I've done website marketing. I've done all the different pieces. 

 

And what I'm known for probably is starting the influencer marketing program at SAP about six, seven years ago, when it wasn't very popular at all in the B2B side. And I was able to do that at SAP. And then I just moved over this year to a really great FinTech startup called Tipalti, and they do payments automations. 

 

So they automate the entire accounts payable cycle from procurement through to payment. And it's just a really hot space. And we work with mid-market companies. And influencer marketing will be part of my remit, but I look after marketing there for North America. And it's really exciting to be there in a hot space and see how influencer marketing can add to their marketing mix as well.

 

Alex (03:01):

Yep. Well, I'm looking forward to diving into that and before we do just tell us a little bit about the marketing team and organisation at Tipalti.

 

Amisha (03:08):

So the marketing team at Tipalti has the traditional demand gen, but we also have content and brand and social and PR, which would be corporate marketing. We have product, industry, partner and customer marketing, and we have demand gen. We inbound outbound campaigns, global campaigns. Drip marketing, we have all the different pieces. And I think the most important thing is how do you bring all those pieces together to orchestrate a cross-functional marketing campaign, team and outcomes?

 

Alex (03:53):

Cool. Well, let's dive into the subject: B2B influencer marketing. I think everybody, when they hear influencer marketing, thinks somebody on Instagram posting a picture of some diet tea or something completely random. What is B2B influencer marketing from your perspective?

 

What is B2B influencer marketing? 

Amisha (04:11):

So when people think about influencer marketing, they think about many different things. But one of the things that I think people don't think about is, there's different subsets. So in B2C, it's more of going on media buys and sponsored content. 

 

In B2B, you really want to think about it as influencer marketing, there's influencer relations, which is a relationship with the influencers and doing social, but marketing is how do you bring those influencers in to your entire customer journey and put influencer content, people and plays, whether it's demand gen lead gen. 

 

So my definition of influencer marketing is looking and working with internal and external influencers. People who have active networks and audiences, social or not, that can help you reach the audience that you want to reach and engage with for measurable results. That's my definition of influencer marketing.

 

Alex (05:19):

Nice definition. And what would you say are common misconceptions on the B2B side of influencer marketing in particular?

 

Common misconceptions about B2B influencer marketing 

Amisha (05:30):

When people think about B2B marketing, they really think about it from, I'm going to work with influencers and they're going to help me evangelise what I'm doing. They're going to help me just amplify my marketing message. Instead of thinking about it as these are thought leaders that have audiences and you should be working with them to figure out what works best with their audience versus just right. 

 

They're not there to parrot your message. You're bringing influencers in to capitalise on their thought leadership, right? Not just your own. And I think that's a mistake that's often made by companies. If you approach influencer marketing like that, you are going to have a very transactional program and not be able to really get more of the high quality of what you're looking for. 

 

And quite frankly, a lot of influencers won't want to work with you or your brand if that's your expectation. I think that's the wrong expectation to have.

 

Alex (06:38):

Makes sense. So from your perspective, how do you feel that influencer marketing in the B2B space can go beyond just events and social in terms of being the two areas of influencer marketing? I guess in B2B and B2C it comes up most regularly, deeper into the funnel as such.

 

How is B2B influencer marketing a strategy for the entire funnel? 

Amisha (06:58):

So, let's talk about who the influencers are. They can be analysts, they can be authors, they can be academics. They can be business consultants that are actually working in your business and in your industry. So they have this very, they can be developers. And if you're a technology company, they can be very deep seated in knowledge. 

 

And so how do you tap into that? And what are the things that you're really trying to engage, who are you trying to engage on the other end, the audience? Who are the people that they're following, listening to getting advice from? And then you're just providing a gateway to those folks in a way that's very effective. 

 

So you can bring and work with influencers to co-create demand gen content, co-create lead gen content. A lot of them have their own top level, top funnel things like podcasts and newsletters and things that aren't just social, right? There's online communities. You tap into that and that's the top funnel, and then you can bring them into your content, and then you bring them down. 

 

Some of them have lead generation content opportunities or experiences to get in front of their audience. And you could even bring them down funnel by creating your ABM plays with some top level influencers as well. So you can really bring people on a journey where you have maybe an ebook or a podcast series or something that's very top funnel with influencers and bring them to the next thing, which is very high value content that people will want to give you their information for, whether it's advice or insights or research done with these folks. 

 

And then you move them down even further into an ABM or an experience where they're getting access to that person or people. And so then you're moving, but it's creating a pathway, cause you don't know if someone's going to come in on a webinar. Or if they're going to come in a top funnel asset, they may come in on a webinar and then they see something else that you've done influencer content wise on your site. So think of it as a multi touch point program and generation that you want to do with influencers.

 

Can an influencer be a brand? 

Alex (09:24):

Makes sense. And some of those examples you gave of running lead gen type things and podcasts and communities and other things. When we talk about influencers from your angle, cause I guess some of those sound more like media companies, and I guess to some extent that's what we're building at FINITE, which is kind of that for marketers, and we have sponsors and partners that want to reach our audience. Is an influencer a person or a brand, or both from your perspective?

 

Amisha (09:52):

It can be both. When I think about influencer marketing, I almost think, where we're going with that is influence marketing, right? It can be a company, it can be a person, it can be a partner, it can be a customer. So there's many different influences right? Across your customer journey, what are those touches? Who are those touches? And then think of all the influences. 

 

And then you can really map, this is how I influence my audience to engage with me. People aren't just going to come and say, I'll give you my email now and we'll lead, they want to get something of value. They want to engage with your brand. That's how people create brands that you may never be a customer of that brand, but you will have brand affinity. 

 

People create that brand affinity. It doesn't happen overnight, but they have some level of influence in a market. And when they talk about certain topics, people do pay attention because they're thought of, they know what they're talking about because they've done X, Y, and Z. 

 

So if you are a brand you're not well-known or you're well-known, you entrench yourself with folks like this, you have the conversations, you become not just having the conversation, creating the conversation with those folks. Therefore you develop your own as a thought leader. I think of it that way.

 

Alex (11:21):

Yep, makes sense. And how does this differ to some extent from, what would be called sponsorship technically? I guess it's not uncommon for some large enterprise companies to have celebrity endorsements. I'm not sure whether this is something that you ever did at SAP, but I think about Salesforce, for example. The conferences they run, they've got like rock stars and celebrities and people showing up, do you consider that to be influencer marketing? Or is that slightly just more of a brand awareness building endorsement type thing?

 

The difference between influencers and brand ambassadors 

Amisha (11:53):

That's more brand awareness building and that's more like brand ambassadors, right? Which is different. So you've paid a celebrity to come, they're not there to really talk about the issues and challenges of your personas. They're there to entertain, inform, engage, create a nice experience, right? For your audience to come and enjoy something with you together. 

 

When you talk about getting brand ambassadors that are those people, but it's a different play and it comes off differently to your audience when they know they're a brand ambassador. If you do endorsement marketing, that's very different from influence, right? 

 

Because influencer is really about creating influence versus I buy this brand or do this with this brand because, in a case study. That's a very different thing versus being a reference. It's more about we're trying to reach a CFO audience, what's important to CFOs? What's keeping them up at night? We do a podcast or we do something like that, which is going to have a bigger impact on our persona. 

 

Then doing something else and having a celebrity coming in, be a brand ambassador. That will hit the top funnel. What we're doing with podcasts is going to hit across the journey and be of high value in something that someone may want to listen to and say, I got a lot out of that versus I heard about what this company does. Nobody really wants that.

 

What value can a micro-influencer bring to a B2B company? 

Alex (13:21):

And in the B2B space in particular, particularly in tech and software, a lot of our listeners will be working with some pretty niche products and services and some quite focused areas of the technology, verticals and markets. I guess we often hear the term micro influencer now in terms of someone not having a huge audience, but having one that can hopefully add a lot of impact and a lot of influence. 

 

Is that something that you've come across in your work in terms of having people that have influence over tens or hundreds of people, not millions? I think when we hear the word influence, we almost immediately think like millions of Instagram followers. But in the B2B space, it can be a lot smaller, but still super effective.

 

Amisha (14:06):

And those influencers are actually creating conversations and they're talking about trends that are very important to your audience. So when you're looking and vetting influencers, you really look at the conversations they're having. Are they having them with the same people, is their audience engaged? Are they just doing Q and As? Are they creating the conversation that you can become a part of or help you lead a conversation to really engage that audience? 

 

And so micro influencers have a very specific audience. And that audience is there to talk about specific topics and they have a specific need. And when you look at influencers like that, it's really valuable because you can hyper target the conversation and you can hyper target the audience that they have cultivated. 

 

And actually you get better results because it is a focused audience with attention versus someone who is a massive audience and they could be covering many aspects of it. And it may not even be the persona. It could be just people that are interested in that topic and will never buy from you. 

 

When you go to the micro influencer model, you're really looking at, you are reaching that direct persona so it can become hyper-focused. And so an example of that is in a podcast for procurement, it's a very specific topic with a very specific persona, with some very specific influencers and voices. 

 

And that yielded 16,000 downloads in three months, which was more popular than other podcasts that we're doing that talked about lots more broad facing technology to a much broader audience on AI and IOT and everything else. And there were many different topics, but this one yielded more results than that because I think it was very hyper-focused and very specific. And that kind of content really played well with that audience because it was truly tailored and important.

 

Alex (16:13):

Makes sense. I guess that makes me think about how influencer marketing plays that role. We talked a bit about social media already, but people often think when they hear influencer marketing, they think social media posts. But I guess social is just a channel for everything you're doing on the influencer side to be talked about and distributed across. And it's a means to an end, rather than a social first tactic?

 

Amisha (16:39):

That's true. People think about it that way, right? They think about, it's not the end, that's a channel in your mix. So with social media there are online communities. I think people dismiss this and it's so powerful because that's where people are having the conversation that you will not be involved in. And the people running those communities are hyper influential to that specific audience. So you have those, that's a channel, you have your own channels. 

 

But it's a mix of channels and a mix of influencers. And people forget about employee advocacy. You have those internal voices that are engaging online every day. So you have those voices as well. You've got your customers. Peer-to-peer influence is the highest sort of influence you can have. 

 

So your customers are also another channel. Think about how all of these channels and people play across and you can do a mix of these things and you're going to hit a really nice play and your audience is going to find you in many different places.

 

Alex (17:41):

And let's talk a bit more about some of those things that you've worked on. And actually examples, you mentioned one in terms of that procurement podcast, was that something that you did at SAP?

 

Alex (17:49):

Yes, that was something I did at SAP. And it worked really well because it was a specific, very niche audience. Very different than what a CIO or even a CFO would look for. So it's very particular.

 

Alex (18:03):

And what about other things? It sounds like you launched this across SAP, and I'm sure you worked on a few other things. So tell us a bit about some of the other influencer focussed strategies that you worked on and implemented.

 

Tips for starting a B2B influencer strategy 

Amisha (18:16):

When I started influencing marketing, it was very different. People were like, what is that? And why do we even care? So it was a very different time period to be doing that. I think the one thing that when you put that word out there, people are like, oh yeah let's just do influencer marketing, cause it's the new thing or the hot thing, or it seems like everybody's doing it. 

 

It's figure out why you want to do this and what is the outcome? Because when I started, I had to say, here's the value. If you do this, here's the value. And I don't think you should change that conversation. If you do influencer marketing, what is it? And what will it be here? What's the outcome that we can hope to achieve? If you start with the outcome, it will lead you to who are the influencers that you're trying to reach? 

 

Which is key, picking the right people to work with you because then you'll have the right audience and the right engagement. What are the mechanisms and channels you're going to hit with whatever your program or campaign looks like? And then third is the measurement and the look back of, this is what we did, this is why it worked. And the last thing is the community that you'll create. 

 

So if you're starting, you want to get to those core groups of influencers that are going to go on the journey with you over a long time. You want to create a nice long-term relationship with these folks. So those are the things that you should really be thinking about when you're approaching influencer marketing versus a lot of people just starting out like, 'these are the influencers in our space and we see them everywhere. 

 

Let's just have them come and do a bunch of activities with them.' You can do that, but you probably won't get the deeper, longer-term results or relationships that you really want for the same amount of effort and investment.

 

Should you pay B2B influencers? 

Alex (20:01):

Makes sense. And what about the payment side of things? So I guess this is something that comes up. Influencers get paid on the B2C side of things. I guess there's been a lot of, at least here in the UK, there's been a lot of progression around advertising standards and being pretty clear about '#ad' on a post on Instagram or those kinds of things. 

 

I don't know how different it is in the US but I assume there's some rules. And so I guess, how does it work in the B2B space on that front, if money is changing hands and is it required?

 

Amisha (20:32):

Like you're saying, B2C is more in advertising. People are trying to put that in the advertising bucket. When you look at B2B, you can have it sit in many different places. But more importantly is when you are working with influencers and you've asked someone to come to a keynote, you've asked somebody to host a session or be a webinar host, there's work they will be doing in order to prepare for that, bring their thought leadership and their audience. So you're paying them for the work that they're doing. 

 

People don't work for free, right? There are some people who are your partners or people who also want to reach your audience, but those are far and few in between. Even at big brands, B2B brands, if you approach influencers, it's not like you get to work with our brands so that's why you should be grateful that we've graced you. That is part of it, but it's a very small part of it. 

 

But if you're asking people to do work, then you should pay them for the work. If someone is doing a long form piece of content for you, then that is actual work and they're doing research. So you're going to pay them like you would an analyst, for that output they're giving you. 

 

There are many times where I haven't paid influencers to come to an event, but then you have to make a business proposition for them, whether they're going to get to meet other people across your marketing departments or in your business, that they will then have a business result for themselves in it. If they're a business consultant, maybe it's meeting our customers, or maybe it's talking to partners and deepening their relationships, there's some business outcome for them. 

 

And sometimes we'll ask influencers for their quote or a quick thought leadership that only takes a few minutes. We don't always pay for that. And then if you're doing something deeper in all these programs, and you're asking for more than you pay for that, but I don't sit there and say, if you do 10 tweets, I'll pay you this. If you start doing things like that, then it becomes very transactional. 

 

Also, if you do that and you say, if you come to my event and speak, you do the keynote, you do promotion, you loosely decide what that promotion looks like between you and put that in the contract. So it's really clear what you expect and what they will be doing. But if you get super prescriptive like that with influencers, especially when they're amplifying, it doesn't create organic content. It doesn't allow for organic amplification. So I've done it both ways. 

 

And in B2B, be prescriptive, say what you expect, they'll tell you what they will do and you come to an agreement. But leave some room for organic amplification and other things to happen. Because more often than not, when you allow that they really do become more of an advocate for you and your brand, because you're also offering experience. Some influencers have told me that they've gone to brands and they've been told, this is what we expect, they'll pay X amount and they'll do it. 

 

But they're like, by the time I get to nine tweets, I'm kind of like, they're just giving me stuff to do and it's not something I'd put out to my audience and then they do it, but it's not with their full heart or their full self. So then they probably wouldn't come back and work with that brand as much, or maybe think about it again versus a brand that's giving them a great experience and understand saying, what kind of content do you want to see? 

 

What do you think your audience would like? Who do you want to talk to? And what kind of conversations do you want to create? If you start doing that, then it becomes very easy for them to create content for their audience. This doesn't become like a chore for them. That's what you want to get away from.

 

How to be authentic with B2B influencer marketing 

Alex (24:08):

That's a good tip. Often associated with influencer marketing generally is a question mark around authenticity, or how authentic is this content? Is somebody just being paid to post this content? Do they actually mean it? I guess we don't have to deal with that as much in the B2B space as we do in the B2C space. But if you leave room for more organic work, as you said, maybe that avoids that risk, and it's not as much of a threat to influencer marketing in the B2B space.

 

Amisha (24:40):

They have to be authentic, the influencers to their audience. So if we pay someone to do a keynote, they'll say I'm a paid speaker. If we pay for someone to come to an event or when we're doing events more in person, which will hopefully come back in the fall and next year. 

 

People will say I was paid to speak, I'm a speaker at this event. So their audience knows, but they are putting out thought leadership content. The influencer shouldn't and will not leave ambiguity with their audience because they've built trust with that audience. The last thing they want to do is lose it. 

 

So that's something else we look for when we vet influencers, how do they speak about how they work with brands. Which is really important because again, there's rules around that also. There's the same sort of legal rules around B2B influencers. But also you want the audience to know, because then they understand how their influencer has been involved, invited, and they're doing these activities with this brand. 

 

They can be exposed to good thought leadership. But it's not a sponsored ad. It's not the same thing, but it's similar, and the influencers need to be authentic because otherwise they'll lose the trust with their audience.

 

Alex (25:56):

And how do you even go about finding these influences? Some of the time, I know in certain verticals, there's these ecosystems, which once to work in that space they're quite obvious. But I guess again, in the B2C space, there's a lot of platforms where you can sort by audiences and see how big their audiences are and how much engagement they get. And these kinds of influencer marketing type platforms, I'm not sure whether something exists on that front in the B2B space. 

 

But I guess with the numbers and people being micro-influencers like we talked about, everything's at a smaller scale. And so it may be harder to pick up, but any tips or any ways that you've gone around looking for stuff? Or is it really just a manual process where you're talking to the right people in the right world?

 

How to find the right B2B influencers 

Amisha (26:33):

Both. I think whenever you're doing so B2B is not going to have the volume. It's not the volume business like in B2C. It becomes transactional at some point because it becomes a little bit of a volume business. But in B2B, it's not. So at SAP, we ended up with a few hundred influencers. And thousands and thousands of few hundred influencers across the globe in the end. 

 

But when I look at where I'm at now, we're going to find like 30 people, and that's our core group. So how do we find these really great folks to work with? There are tools also in platforms on the B2B side. So, in the past I've used Traackr. If you're a smaller company and you don't want to make a big investment in the platform, you can look at things like BuzzSumo, they have free tools like that for single use. And that's great to get you started.

 

There's people like Onalytica who do the searches for you and have a platform, but service too. They're good on the B2B side as well. So you have Traackr, BuzzSumo, Onalytica, and then you also should do a Google search, there's lists for everything nowadays. There's a top list, Analytica puts out a lot of lists. 

 

So you can look at these lists as a starting point, and then you can look at the conferences, right? Look at the books that are coming out, that your person is reading, look at all these different things. I even think academia is great because some of those people have such great, inspiring thought leadership for your audience. 

 

So start looking at all these folks, then you're going to say, I'm seeing some names keep popping up.' Or, 'I found this really great influencer, look at the audience engagement and conversations they're having.' And you start having the people. I think a lot of times people look at the number of influences and that's how a lot of these lists are made. 

 

So be careful and make sure that, sometimes people have so much audience, they're on every technology, B2B technology list. Then you have to take a look and say, is this the right person? I get air cover, people who cover a lot, they're air cover. And then you have very specific personas and specific niches or micro-influencers. So you have like a tiered model of influence then. And then you find the people and you'll have a nice community for yourself to start off with.

 

Alex (29:07):

Everything in our world of B2B marketing these days comes back to what's the impact? What are the numbers? Show me the results. It sounds like you've got a really nice perspective on this generally, in terms of seeing the long-term value, understanding the value of community and multiple touch points and things take time and it's organic and all of these words that you used. But ultimately someone somewhere is going to say, show me the impact you've made. How do you approach that side of things?

 

How do you measure the impact of B2B influencer marketing? 

Amisha (29:35):

So you have to show impact. You can't just say I got this website traffic, and this social and when you get to social, there's vanity, what people call vanity metrics. And so when you're speaking to your executives and you're speaking to your CEO, your CFO and sales, you're trying to show the value of what you're helping to impact and what you're bringing in. Your metrics should reflect the same. 

 

So if you are using, not using, so I should correct myself there, we don't use influencers. We work with influencers, right? So that's something that we should also keep in mind as we're talking about influencer marketing. But look at where those pieces you create in the funnel are. So if it's lead gen, you look at the leads and see was this more impactful? Which influencers brought in what? And what does that translate to? 

 

You could even get into those metrics, because then that helps you tell you who you're working with and who is really helping you. And who's giving you air cover and brand lift, right? So there's different things. So you look at leads, you can look at demand metrics. Like website, traffic, leads, different things in your campaign. 

 

Then you can see what led to qualified ops. Were those the things that led from the influencer program or not? So you can start getting some ABM. You get your metrics from that. So you start looking at everything on your campaign dashboard, or however you're measuring your entire campaign or program. Then you can say, soup to nuts, how influencer incorporating influencer helped. And if you've done a similar campaign, hopefully apples to apples comparison over time. 

 

It'll help you set a benchmark and say, this is the benchmark for influencer campaigns here at this company. So for example, I just launched with our team, we just launched a really great IPO campaign for Tipalti. And we're looking at that and we have influencer content, we've gated content, we've ungated content. We have blog posts, we have videos, right? So all of that is different pieces of the funnel content and plays. 

 

So then we're going to start measuring that and then we'll see, by incorporating influencers, this is how it helped our campaign on top awareness. It helped us with lead gen and help with demand, help speak to the audience. Do we get a better audience? So we'll start being able to look at those metrics and compare, but then we can go back and say, we should do this in this way, because it's a valuable thing to do. And here's why, and here's the numbers and measurement and impact on the business.

 

Alex (32:09):

Well, I think there's some pretty useful tips there for anyone. I feel like a lot of marketers listening to this will be doing certain things in this space, will be working with some media partners, they'll be doing events, but they won't necessarily have thought it through or from the angle of formalising it into the influencer marketing type campaign. So I think you've given some really great tips and actionable insights. So thank you for joining and thanks again for giving up your time.

 

Amisha (32:36):

Thank you so much. I just want to close it by saying, when you think about influencer marketing, you're really trying to get people to say, I'll have what they're having. They're surrounded by everything else, and somebody is having something out of the can and you're surrounded by bottles. You want that person to say, I want with that person is having, and that's really the true power of influence. 

 

And don't forget, you brought up events, I think everybody does reuse that content. It can live for a long time. And especially now, we're more digital as they say, and there's a lot of noise. I feel like this is a really great time for influencer marketing to become more embedded in the marketing mix. But thank you for having me, I really enjoyed our conversation and look forward to connecting with everyone.

 

FINITE (33:25):

Thanks for listening. We're super busy at FINITE building the best community possible for marketers working in the B2B technology sector to connect, share, learn, and grow. Along with our podcast, we host a monthly online events, run interview series, share curated content and have an active slack community with members from London, New York, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Melbourne, and many more to strengthen your marketing knowledge and connect with ambitious B2B tech marketers across the globe, head to finite.community and apply for a free membership.

 

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