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Published April 18th 2017

Interview: Amisha Gandhi on the True Value of Influencer Marketing

We interview Amisha Gandhi of SAP about her biggest challenges, the impact influencer marketing has had on her work and best practices in the industry.

In today’s post, part of our influencer marketing series, we had the pleasure of talking to Amisha Gandhi, who leads the influencer marketing strategy for SAP.

She’s been in the public relations and marketing industry in Silicon Valley for the past 15 years, working for everyone from startups to large enterprises such as HP, Google, Accenture, and Time-Warner.

We talked about the biggest challenges in her job, the impact influencer marketing has had on SAP, best industry practices, and what’s next. Have a look below to find out what Amisha kindly shared with us.

I’d like to begin our conversation with a brief overview of your job responsibilities and your influencer marketing strategy at SAP

I work in the global audience marketing team which sits in our global marketing organization at SAP.

We started influencer marketing last year so I set up the framework for SAP, for us to do influencer marketing within our team and now it’s expanded to different parts of SAP.

I think a lot of folks do influencer relations and there’s a lot of folks who do influencer marketing and then some who do both, right? So we approach influencer marketing as a strategic marketing function versus a communications function.

Amisha Gandhi

We are working with our influencers to create programs, content, and events to really help with the demand-gen, lead-gen and nurture part of the sales cycle.

So we’re really looking to work with folks to reach our potential customers and customers and have a high-value touch. We don’t work with influencers to promote our products.

We work with influencers to join conversations, be part of conversations, to really reach our customers in a way that’s real and valuable to them with some sort of information or offering that they’re going to get a lot of value out of and create engagement with our brand.

So what we’re really looking for is creating more engagement with our brand in the sales cycle.

What is the impact that your work with influencers is having on SAP?

For example, we did a webcast with an influencer and a customer and that webcast had 4x the amount of registrations and downloads interactivity that we normally see on a webcast.

So that shows us there is a great impact. If we have a written piece of content, we get two to three times the amount of views, registrations, whether it’s gated or ungated… We always have a higher number when we work with influencers than just putting something out ourselves.

They could be an author, a thought leader, a speaker, an academic person, etc. So it’s somebody who is well known enough that people are like, ‘Oh…what is this person saying about this particular issue, trend, or topic,’ and gaining some insights from that kind of offer that you’re making.

What would you say is the top challenge that you face in your role?

Measurement is the biggest challenge in influencer marketing for anyone. There is a need in the market to find out what is the true measure of impact on actual business.

Amisha Gandhi

Some marketers will tell you sales went up a certain percent because of a specific influencer program, but they also have advertising and plenty of other marketing activities happening at the same time, so how do you know where it came from?

Additionally, another common challenge is finding the right influencers to collaborate with. And that doesn’t necessarily mean someone who is willing to work with you, but an influencer who covers the right topics and has a target audience that matches your industry/services. That ties in with the importance of getting a deep understanding of what an influencer can do for you by listening to them.

When an influencer doesn’t feel like the brand is investing in them as an individual or trying to help them, then it becomes a very transactional collaboration. It’s important to figure out how to make that relationship non-transactional and turn it into a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship

What do you look for in an influencer?

The first question we ask is who is the audience we want to reach? Secondly, who are the people talking about that specific topic?

We use a variety of tools to find influencers and we look at their reach, resonance on social, and also at their LinkedIn profiles.

The questions that follow are:

Do they talk about SAP? What are they saying?

Do they publish somewhere? What are the topics they cover?

There could also be the case of an influencer who doesn’t have a massive number of followers, but they could be followed by fifteen of the top CIOs and CEOs in the world. In this situation, quality prevails over quantity.

Think about what you’re trying to achieve in your program and then choose the best people to reach your goals.

What forms of compensation have proved most effective in your work with influencers?

So it depends on the type of activity you’re running with influencers. If you’re asking them to help you write a research paper then yes, you’re going to pay for that just like you would with any analyst firm or research firm. It’s paid work.

But I think the real investment is your time and introducing them to the right business people in your business. We don’t usually pay anyone to attend our events, but if they have to write a keynote, for instance, which takes up a lot of time, then we normally compensate.

Some of the influencers are thought leaders so they come and they speak for no fee but they’re getting brand awareness in return, so there always has to be some sort of value that you’re offering to an influencer.

If your ask is something that requires a lot of work, time or effort, just be cognizant of it.

People are out there and they have to make a living too, but at the same time, we don’t do pay for play either. We don’t pay per tweet. Our programs are a little bit more holistic if you will.

Which group of influencers has helped you generate better business results? Micro or celebrity?

It depends on the type of program you’re running. For B2C, the celebrity type influencers tend to play better.

For SAP, I look at enterprise influencers, and some of them have really huge followings. But we also work with more industry-specific influencers in public sectors like oil or gas, and some of these people have really small followings by numbers, but they’re actually extremely influential in their market. So numbers of followers aren’t necessarily a deal-breaker for us.

If you look at some of our enterprise kind of folks, they’re a type of celebrity because they’re always speaking on stage, they’re always in the public eye. People in the industry know them really well. So we do work with people like that. But when you say celebrity I think of movie stars, musicians, and so on, and that I think plays better for B2C.

For us, in this program, it’s a little bit different. We look at the people who are going to really impact our buying audience.

Amisha Gandhi

How do you see influencer marketing developing over the next ten years?

I believe the practice of influencer marketing is constantly evolving and we’re going to see a lot of growth in the B2B sector going forward. It’s to play a much larger role in marketing, especially content-wise and it will have a bigger impact on all other marketing functions.

People need to view influencer marketing as a two-way street about making long term relationships that provide value to both parties. I think it’s an exciting new way to innovate in marketing, so I’m really excited to go on this journey and I’m learning and evolving every day, too. There’s still loads to come!

Thank you to Amisha for sharing her expertise with us.

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From May 8th, all Crimson Hexagon products are now on the Brandwatch website. You’ll find them under ‘Products’ in the navigation. If you’re an existing customer and you want to know more, your account manager will be happy to help.