Center Of Influence Marketing – part 1 of a 2 part series
Center of Influence (COI) Definition
Center Of Influence marketing involves working with a trusted person or business in a position of greater than average influence upon your target market. Trust is one of the key elements to having influence within their sphere of contacts and clients.
The level of trust is usually in proportion to the importance of the decision on the business and financial outcomes. An influencer suggesting that their customers see a certain movie will need less trust than one who refers a business to a builder for a new manufacturing plant. Although there does need to be trust even when referring a friend or client to a see a movie.
Center Of Influence Marketing Initiatives
I always consider COI marketing as a type of community outreach. While using Center Of Influence marketing can be quite effective for many businesses, it should not be your only source of securing new clients. Center Of Influence Marketing is usually most effective when combined with other kinds marketing and advertising.
Usually new marketing initiatives are rolled out and implemented while current marketing programs are still in place. It would be wise to start your COI program in addition to what is now working for your business. There are some exceptions, but most businesses find they need to still have other forms of lead generation.
A Center Of Influence Marketing initiative is a long term strategy.
Again, I need to mention that trust is one of the most important parts of a Center Of Influence strategy. Not only does your COI need the trust of their clients, they also need to trust you. Usually this trust is built over a period of time. This is both a customer centric type of marketing and relationship marketing.
How to build Strategic alliances with a Center Of Influence
As my friend Jack B. ReVelle, Ph.D. says we all have a customer. We are all someone’s customer and those we provide products or services to are our customers. In every job you are a customer and you have customers. You may be the customer to your supervisor, if you don’t get what you need to do your job it will be hard to meet the needs of your customers, such as the next person in the system.
The point I am getting at is that your Centers Of Influence are your customers. They need to be treated as the VIP customers of your business.
Usually when I’m first initiating a new relationship with a COI I will schedule an appointment to go in and talk with the person I want to work with. I will go over what I do and how I do it. Next I go over how I have helped past clients and how I can help the influencer I want to work with.
In my last business I would get buy in to try me out with one or two clients they did not have time to deal with and who needed help in what I specialized in. However, for me the best strategy for working with a new influencer was to have a couple of my own clients refer me to the influencer. This made it much easier to get the appointment to go over what I could offer them and most important, it built the trust I needed for us to work together.
First and foremost an influencer strategy should be centered around excellent service to your clientele. In order to win the trust of your Centers Of Influence you need to serve those whom they entrust to you with a high degree of relevance and satisfaction. It doesn’t matter what you give an influencer, if they can’t trust you, there is little chance they will risk their reputation and refer to you.
In fact it’s best to think you are working together when you work with your COI. This is how I always approached the relationship when I had my previous business. I was always working with those who introduced me to their clients. I would try to keep the referring professional in the loop. I would tell the client what I was doing and often I would send written report if that was one of the arrangements I had with the referring professional. At other times I would go in and talk with them or their staff.
Don’t think you are getting a referral, the proper mindset is you are working with your COI.
Who makes a good influencer partner?
Ideally this will be a long term professional relationship, so you need to choose who you invest time with. Choosing who to work with requires some forethought and guiding principles. For higher end clients it’s probably not going to be easy to work with many key influencers at once.
It is suggested that you select 20 influencers you want to work with and then initiate a contact plan. I used to have a list of between 100 and 200 key influencers I would see on a yearly basis. However, I only worked closely with 5 to 20 in an ongoing supportive relationship. I would probably visit 50 or so every month or two. Every year some of the uncommitted 100 to 200 key influencers I knew would convert to working with me in a mutually supporting relationship.
There are several reason for prospecting the large group of key influencers. The first is that while my key relationship were long lasting there is some churn. It’s often caused by retirement, death, or the business or practice being sold to a new owner or corporation. Churn caused by client dissatisfaction can be mitigated with good communication. Frequent updates and ongoing communication is one reason it’s difficult to maintain a large number of solid COI relationships.
The second reason I liked farming a large number of key influencers is that meeting with them or their staff would often give me key strategic industry insight. These visits also allowed me to tell about my new project and develop a leadership position in my niche. I always tried to do one big project every year. Some examples of my yearly projects are writing a book, doing a TV show, inventing a new product, and developing an online learning course with software used by school districts and universities. Over the years some of these projects ended up making me a Center Of Influence to some of those I wanted to work with.
Each relationship if developed properly will take time and commitment. You may find that you can only work with 3 to 5 key influencers and often this is all that’s needed to increase year to year profitability.
You will want to make sure those you work with share some of your values and conduct business in a manner that’s compatible with you and your policies. In turn you will need to fit your Center Of Influence’s standards as well. Because you are in a supporting role with your COI you should both have a similar view about professional standards, customer service, and how customers should be treated.
Stay tuned for part 2
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