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Influence marketing: secret to success in the 1990s.

In the 90s, the name of the game is Marketing. Ever notice how many products and organizations are available to help you improve yourself? The same is true for your company. All sorts of advice can be obtained on videotapes, CDs, seminars and books. Consultants are available to help a company improve its image and market presence.

But what are some important new developments in marketing? In particular, what are some useful techniques in what we'll call "personal marketing?" In these days of job uncertainty, telecomm professionals must be prepared to compete for a limited number of positions with hundreds of equally qualified peers. What can you do to help your chances in this market?

Susan Kuttner, who headed Rolm's Consultant Liaison Program, and was a familiar face to us at conferences and trade shows, now runs a consulting firm called Creative Partnerships, in Carmel Valley, Calif., 408/659-5866, which focuses on strategic marketing techniques.

The concept to consider is called "influence marketing." Traditional marketing assumes diligent research, such as analyzing competition through statistics. By contrast, influence marketing is based primarily on who one knows.

According to Kuttner, well-known marketeer Regis McKenna has been quoted as saying, "Industry participants form 'old-boy networks' to keep each other informed about new developments. One recent market-research report showed that such a network plays a key role in the telecomm industry. Gaining access to the network is critical to success." She notes major studies by vendors, associations, and publications which show that influencers impact 75% to 95% of all high technology sales.

"Influence marketing is a process in which you identify those people," Kuttner says, "and then, through outreach programs based on education and support, establish a positive opinion of your products and services."

Examples of these people might include research analysts, industry experts who speak at conferences or get quoted in the press, seminar leaders, consulting divisions of accounting firms, consultants who develop strategic plans and recommend products to clients.

Are you tapped into this valuable resource? More importantly, are you one of the people who is sought out for your ideas?

Virtually every company that wants to be successful should use influence marketing. According to Kuttner, influence marketing is a cost-effective way to ensure that the company's exposure to market opinion is positive.

How can you as telecomm professionals benefit from influence marketing?

First, recognize it by its more familiar name: networking. According to Kuttner, "Identify people who have knowledge and influence--either within their own organization, or elsewhere." Approach these people for their help. "Truly important people enjoy helping others," she adds, "if they see the people are sincere about their desire to learn and grow."

From a career perspective, what's wrong about the way telecomm professionals market themselves today? We usually start out with resumes, hoping for an interview.

"This process is heavily oriented at what we can do," Kuttner says, "It is not targeted at what we want to do." Ever notice that you spend little time looking for aspects of your work about which you are passionate? According to Kuttner, once you focus on your passion, it is easier to develop the right marketing approach.

We must differentiate ourselves from our peers. Could influence marketing help set you apart from the crowd? According to Kuttner, a key process is to "initiate and network."

"Start by proactively contributing good ideas," she says, "do your homework to support them, and then take them to your network."

Influencers are always looking for innovative and creative achievers, Kuttner adds. Act as your own agent. Just make sure you market yourself carefully so you don't appear too pushy.

How do you develop an influence marketing program? The first goal is to figure out where you want to go and what you want to do. "Next, develop a data base of the people who can influence your goals," Kuttner says. "Be honest with your influencers about your goals and how you envision them helping you."

It's also important to be prepared to offer something in return.

Prioritize your outreach programs based on the level of impact you anticipate from specific influencers.

Another important technique involves personal outreach activities on a regular basis. "The personal touch reveals not only your expertise," Kuttner says, "but it also emphasizes your sincere interest and support." These activities can be as simple as a phone call, lunch with a client, or even a national seminar tour. Many of these activities can also be done on an individual basis by you.

How can a consultant support an influence marketing program? In the case of Creative Partnerships, the process begins by helping companies and individuals focus clearly on where they want to be. This is called "positioning." Next, the firm works with clients to find the most effective and creative vehicles to achieve the desired position.

Another important activity is to help clients identify and establish positive relationships with key influencers, particularly ones who can impact their success.

Creative Partnerships develops outreach programs, which can range from mutually beneficial partnering arrangements with key influencers to educational seminars, newsletters and even referral services.

The final step is a feedback loop. The influencer data base is regularly updated with information gleaned from various sources, such as marketing and sales activities.

That way the data base becomes an increasingly valuable tool for product, account and market planning. It is also an invaluable tool for personal marketing during a job search.

Finally, it is important to know and capitalize on individual and corporate strengths, while maintaining high standards of integrity.

Are you ready for an influence marketing program? Chances are you have already done much of the work. But don't let your data base of influencers get stale and out of date. Keep it updated.

Call people you haven't talked to in a few years. Find out what they are doing. Ask them if they know of any companies looking for help. See if you can return the favor by offering your services in some useful way.

But just keep networking. That's the real key to influence marketing.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Kirvan, Paul
Publication:Communications News
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:1012
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