Building a campfire for B2B influence marketing

The Influence Marketing Council is for tech marketers with soul

It’s 2013 and I’ve got a good gig. I was a Director at VMware, one of the top software companies in the world. Over my eight years there, I had rolled out VMware’s first blogging program, first blogger relations program, its Twitter, Facebook and social media programs, its first podcast, and its first advocacy program, the VMware vExperts.

I was at the top of my game and the center of a vibrant circle. Half of my my bonus was tied to an objective that literally read “Be John Troyer.” If you think about it, being paid to Be Yourself is really one of the sweetest gigs there is.

In the fall of 2013 at VMware’s big conference, VMworld, I was approched over and over again with the same question. How does our company get love and energize its community like you do? Because when you do that, that’s when customer retention and brand awareness increase, and those fuzzy community programs grow the business.

I wasn’t sure how to answer. Be John Troyer? Be human? Just have a great product? Don’t be a dick? I’m trained as a PhD scientist; surely there was a more thoughtful framework than that to describe how corporations should work with their ecosystem of customers, partners, and prospects with humanity and respect.

So in 2014 I left VMware to answer this question and founded our company TechReckoning with my wife Kathleen as business partner. Over the last three years, Kat and I have grown a consulting practice, developed newsletters and podcasts, organized a conference, and spoken at conferences around the world.

On one hand, we did what we set out to do: we raised the level of the conversation between vendors and their communities. But still we hadn’t cracked the original question:

How does a company get love, energize its community, and thereby increase its business?

We think we’ve figured out one way to get closer to the answer. We’re now very pleased to announce the launch of the Influence Marketing Council.

The IMC is an industry council for technology marketers who work with influencers, advocates, and community. The members of the council all have programs that are trying to bridge this gap: how do they make one-on-one relationships that are human but also drive the business? And how do they do this as a corporate program with budgets, repeatable processes, and scale?

Influence marketing, as we define it, encompasses a lot more than simply working or paying with influencers to do your marketing. Council members do work with influencers in their industry, but they also work on programs that touch content marketing, evangelism, developer relations, content marketing, community management, social media, and field events.

IMC members come from technology industry vendors, mostly B2B, mostly enterprise. Early council members include industry giants HPE, Dell EMC, VMware, NetApp; as well as tech players like Cohesity, Scale Computing, and Veeam.

The biggest benefit of joining the IMC is access to the other council members. Our private community allows council members to ask frank questions, share experiences, and help support each other throughout the year. There’s no better way to figure something out than to ask others who are facing the same questions. We meet online and offline to expand our network.

Influence marketing is new and always changing — the role of bloggers and Twitter in enterprise buying is surely different than we thought we understood five years ago. At the IMC, we’re sponsoring a series of member webinars and research to map out the road ahead.

Right now the IMC is focused on influence marketing in B2B technology— building professional relationships and communities centered around technologists. We love our colleagues at consumer brands like Coca Cola and Ford, but our tactics, our channels, our audience (and our budgets!) are often are very different.

Some of the council members manage communities, and some may even have a title of community manager, but the IMC just isn’t about managing a community; it’s connecting that community to the business.

Our initial discussions have covered topics like metrics, creating content, finding people of influence, org charts, working with PR, the tools we use, and even how to decline applicants gracefully from programs. We’re already discovering common issues and themes in how we’re trying to bring human relationships to the business of tech.

If you’re interested in running more successful influence marketing programs and want to roast some marshmallows around our campfire, drop me a line about the council. I’m or @jtroyer on Twitter.