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IF View - Issue No. 15

KEY
INFLUENCERS
IN MARKETING
CHANNEL
STRATEGIES

Issue No 15

Marketing Channel Strategy Consultants
USA - EUROPE - AUSTRALIA - BRAZIL - HONG KONG
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Identifying, reaching and motivating key influencers may be the difference between effective and ineffective channels strategies.  The importance of influencers in the purchase decision process arises from positive impact they have when they support a company’s products or services.

A key influencer is defined as:

“Any party(ies) which exerts significant influence over the purchase decision”

Key influencers may be directly involved in the purchasing decision or indirectly influence the decision.  Key influencers should be included in marketing channels strategies.

It is important to note that key influencers are not always members of a company’s distribution channels.  Their influence over a purchase is the reason they are important.  Key influencers can impact the purchase decision of channel members when considering a purchase from a supplier and can also influence end customers when considering which channel member to buy from and the brand selected.

Identifying Key Influencers

Some examples of key influencers in marketing channels strategies...

 Industry

Key Influencers Include:

  • Financial Services

  • Accountants, Trade Unions

  • Consumer Services and Entertainment

  • Family and Friends

  • Construction and Building Products

  • Specifiers, Consultants, Builders and Architects

  • Automotive Retail

  • Supplier and Channel Members eg fitters

  • Heavy Machinery

  • Supplier (or Agent)

  • Automotive Smash Repair

  • Insurance Companies

  • Computers

  • Consultants

  • Decorative Paints & Hardware

  • Retailers and Store Staff

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The examples above illustrate the influencer may be overt as in the building products industry or more subtle as in consumer services and entertainment industries.

To more clearly identify key influencers and determine the best strategy to reach them it is necessary to:

·         Talk to end customers and channel partners

·         Analyse business sources

·         Review sales by channel and market segment

·         Perform a marketing channels audit

Why Are Key Influencers Important?

Companies often don’t recognise influencers’ importance or are unable to determine how to effectively reach them.  The risks of neglecting influencers are expensive and the rewards from reaching them are significant.

Rewards of Reaching and Motivating Key Influencers

Risks of Failing to Reach or Neglecting Key Influencers

More lead referrals, new and repeat customers

Potential loss of customers to suppliers who successfully reach key influencers

Improved sales and market share

Stagnant or declining sales and market share

Greater market power and channel member loyalty

Alienation of key influencers and reduced loyalty

Sustainable competitive advantage which differentiates from competitors

A disadvantage in the marketplace

Endorsements which enhance image and reputation

A deteriorating image and reputation

Reaching Key Influencers

Problems and Obstacles

A company may face several issues when trying to reach its key influencers:

  1. Reluctance by a company to change its traditional business methods

  2. The cost and logistics of dealing with all the industry’s key influencers

  3. Key influencers don’t want to be too closely associated with a single supplier

  4. Key influencers are already aligned with a competitor

  5. A company is unable to differentiate itself as the best choice for key influencers

  6. Key influencers do not respond to a supplier’s approach

  7. The supplier does not understand the key influencer’s needs

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How to motivate key influencers

By positively motivating key influencers companies will resolve many of the issues outlined above and ensure influencers’ commitment to their products or services.  Tools which will help suppliers reach key influencers include:

  • Training

  • Product and technical information

  • Advertising and promotional support

  • Technical support and giveaways

  • Exclusive deals

  • Excellent customer service

  • Sponsorships

  • Recognition

  • Pricing, margins and discounts

  • Regular communication

Some key influencers require independence from suppliers but will respond to service and support motivators who meet their own business and professional needs.  An example of this is in the computer industry where consultants are a key influencer.  The consultant will identify the needs of a client and specify the system/s capable of fulfilling those needs.  As consultants their reputations are at stake when preparing specifications and therefore need to have confidence in the products and suppliers they are recommending.  The motivators in this case are excellent communication, technical information and training.

Other Key Influencers do not require the same degree of independence from suppliers e.g. building products.  Effective motivators may include exclusive deals, advertising support and product and technical information.

Conclusion

Three important steps are involved to include key influencers in a company’s channel strategy.  These steps are:

Reaching and motivating key influencers will enhance a company’s image and reputation and help it achieve a sustainable competitive advantage through loyalty.

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