Amisha Gandhi On Influencer Marketing and B2B Engagement
March 1, 2022
Earlier this year, I had the great pleasure of speaking with Amisha Gandhi on the topic of B2B marketing. Attached is a copy of the transcript.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Data for Betterment podcast, Reimagine Hybrid Work, with your host Maribel Lopez. Maribel is the founder of the Data for Betterment Foundation and Lopez Research. The Data for Betterment Foundation is a nonprofit organization that helps individuals understand and prepare for how their career will change as companies embrace new technologies. Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm, helps companies understand how technologies such as connected devices, collaboration, cloud computing and AI changed the customer and employee experience. The firm’s clients range from startups to global corporations, including 10 of the Fortune 30. She’s also the author of the highly regarded business book on how those technologies are transforming the company, employee and customer experience, Right-Time Experiences, published by Wiley. She’s also a frequent public speaker at corporate events and contributor at forbes.com. Maribel is currently researching and writing her next book on how to build successful strategies for workplace transformation. We hope you enjoy the show.
Maribel Lopez: Hey, I’m Maribel Lopez, the founder of Lopez Research and Data for Betterment, and welcome back to the Reimagine Hybrid Work podcast. We’ve been covering a lot of different ground in the podcast, everything from collaboration tools to AI, a little bit on culture. One of the things that we really haven’t covered is anything related to marketing. And there is an element of the customer experience in hybrid work, there is an element of the employee experience in hybrid work, so I decided we should add some more marketing into this podcast. And to do that, I thought I would go out to an expert, and this is why we are interviewing Amisha Gandhi today, which I’m really thrilled about. Amisha, welcome to the show.
Amisha Gandhi: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
Maribel Lopez: So Amisha’s the SVP of marketing at Tipalti. I’ve known Amisha for a long time. She has a deep history in this field. She’s been in Burson-Marsteller, SAP, now Tipalti. She’s SVP of marketing there, as I mentioned. So what do you do at Tipalti, Amisha? Tell me a little bit about that.
Amisha Gandhi: Sure. So Tipalti is a FinTech company, we’re a SaaS company. We work in the global payables space. So payouts, we’re a payouts platform. We cover everything from payments to accounts payable, to PO management for mid-size companies. And then what I do there is I run the core marketing team under our CMO in mostly North America, so that includes everything from demand, branding content, to PR and comms and the like.
Maribel Lopez: So one of the things I like about this podcast is I’ve been able to talk to some amazing executive leaders and now some amazing female executive leaders. So can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into marketing?
Amisha Gandhi: Sure. So a little bit about my background. I am a med school dropout. I love creativity, I love theater. So that’s what I studied was theater and pre-med. And then I was looking really for a career that would allow me to join my left brain and right brain together. So for me, that ended up being marketing, and I got my start and I worked at a publication and then I worked at a startup, which was my really first real job. It was almost like getting a thorough training in marketing. I did every single piece of marketing, I started out in sales, I ended up doing sales operations, and then into creative marketing advertising, demand gen marketing, product marketing, and that’s where I got my start.
And I went from there and I went into agency life, and I worked, like you said, at Burson-Marsteller and several other agencies. Everything from food and wine to tech, I even did politics and I had small stint there. And then I moved on and I ended up actually at SAP, and I had a really long career there, where I did everything from global communications, product marketing, demand gen marketing, and I actually ended up starting influencer marketing there seven years ago. So when it wasn’t a thing in B2B and I started the influencer marketing at that time for B2B. And then this January, I came over to Tipalti, which I’m really excited about.
Maribel Lopez: So one of the things I love is every great story seems to start with. “I was an XYZ dropout,” which is perfect, and then the other thing about that is that journeys aren’t linear. You do many different paths to get to where you are. I actually started out in accounting. I had wanted a job in the strategy, I went into accounting, eventually I ended up in market research, and here I am today. So everybody has their own journey.
Marketing is actually a very interesting field right now. It’s changed a lot, particularly post-pandemic. And I want to ask you a similar question that I asked the author, David Meerman Scott. He actually is the author of Fanocracy and talks a lot about creating fans. But to me, it seems like it’s never been more important to genuinely connect with people. We have a lot of tools to do that, yet companies just don’t seem to be getting meaningful results. So what are we doing wrong and what would you suggest people do differently?
Amisha Gandhi: So when we think about connection, so now, connection is more important than effort, because we all feel a little bit lost and we’re coming off, we’re somewhere in this pandemic cycle. So when you think about it, what companies think about is, “Okay, I want to start a community. I want to make a connection, but I want to get a sale,” or, “I need some business outcome.” So you know what the business outcomes are. I know what my business outcomes are and what I need to achieve to help support the business. But if you really want to create connection, you want to create curiosity about your brand, you want to create engagement. You can’t do that if you’re selling. You have to take a step back and think about what it is that you can offer of high value to someone, to get them to engage with you. If you can get engagement from someone, real engagement and keep them there and have them think really well of you, whether they’re looking now, or maybe later, they’re going to take that with you.
I’ve seen a lot of online communities spring up, and then you ask the question, “Well, how come not every community works?” The communities that work really have it’s powered by that brand, but they’re creating a space for professionals to come together, either for career, either for advice from other like-minded peers. And sure, they’re part of that and they can put things in and invite people to their branded events and the like, but the main purpose is that you’re offering something that’s of higher value. And I think that’s where people miss the mark when they just go in for the kill, because then it becomes very transactional. And I think people are tired of that, and there’s so much digital, you have to get beyond the transactional.
Maribel Lopez: Yeah. I think this concept of building a relationship has always been something that we thought about. And when we went to digital, I think actually for a while, digital abstracted the relationship and people wonder why we had that sense of relationship, and it did become very transactional. And now I think we’re on the flip side of that, where literally every company I speak with is talking about experience in some manner, shape or form. I had three different companies today mention the concept of total experience. So that was actually very different because I think we’re starting to get a different mindset and perhaps different technology and tools to do that. You’ve actually had some interesting digital marketing experience, which seems like digital marketing has changed quite a bit in the pandemic. Just wanted to get your take on what you think is interesting in digital marketing now.
Amisha Gandhi: I think digital marketing now, people are looking for connect. Everyone is Zoomed out. Everyone is sick of webinars, and they’re like, “Okay, I want to go.” You have to give the [crosstalk 00:08:05].
Maribel Lopez: She says, as we’re recording a video podcast, which is so true.
Amisha Gandhi: Not sick of this one. Come on. But you’ve given choice, you have voice. So it’s about two things. It’s about a couple of things. So you don’t want to be transactional. You can do that by giving choice, different formats of content that people want to consume, whether it’s mobile, whether it’s voice, podcast, whether it’s video, whether it’s educational. I think educational content is going to really win out right now because people want to learn. We’ve learned that in this pandemic, people want to learn, people want to engage. So offer that, offer activity without being intrusive. So when you think about your customer journey, think about all the touch points you have and how can you connect those so someone has a journey with you, whether they come in somewhere where it’s a mid-funnel level piece of content or whether it’s a top-funnel piece of content.
Think about when, where they engage with you, what their next step with you might be, and that gets to the bigger experience. So then you will not seem as transactional and it will make sense to them what they’re receiving. So think about what you’re sending out when and how that works. Think about the engagement you’re trying to get, think about making it educational and higher value and then bring in… I’m going to say this, bring in influencers and bring in other third parties. They’re not going to validate your message, but they’re going to help you tell a story that’s of value or give advice, and people really want that. So if you know someone is big in the industry or someone is really a great speaker, you want to offer those access points to folks because they’ll come, and then the reason why they’ll stay is because they’ll find something else of value. So I think content hub, experience hubs are going to start becoming more important in the digital journey so people can choose their own adventure with you.
Maribel Lopez: Okay. You brought up the I word, influencer. I have to ask you more about this, because I’m actually an industry analyst, but I’m also an influencer. It all depends on which company you speak with what I’m called, which is really interesting because at one point, you used to define your own title, but now the market helps define who you are and how they see you. What is influencer marketing? In my opinion, I think a lot of people don’t do it correctly, but I’m not going to lead the witness here. I’m just going to start with what is influencer marketing and what do you think people should be doing?
Amisha Gandhi: So influencer market, it’s a very interesting question. Sometimes people think it sits in comms, sometimes people think… It’s marketing. So if you’re doing influencer marketing, for me, influencer marketing goes across the entire customer journey and it’s influence marketing. What are the points of influence you’re trying to exert on the customer journey with either external influencers, internal influencers, customer influencers, or partner influencers? So an influencer is someone who has an active network that you want to tap into. They’re either a personality in their field, they’re a thought leader, they are an academic, they’re an author. They could be someone who has left a publication, has now brand themselves. Someone who has influence on the personnel you’re trying to reach, they have an active network and you can work with them to tap into their network, or they can help you influence the network that you have.
So that’s my definition of influencer marketing. And so there are many different types of influencers, so analysts. For me, it’s different buckets, but everyone is an influencer and how you work with them might be different, but they’re still an influencer. And the idea for me, is to put all of the influencers together and you co-create content, co-create ABM programs, co-create different elements across your customer journey. And I think that’s the true value, especially in B2B for influencer marketing. I think when people just do the events, you’re only getting a very small piece of the pie. When you really bring influencers in, and they can be internal as well, and they bring their content and they bring their voice and their audience along, you are getting a lot more value and conversation around your brand and not just externally, but within the actual sales cycle.
Maribel Lopez: You brought up something that I think is interesting, a couple of things that are interesting, but I’m not necessarily sure the audience, if they’re thinking about influencer marketing in B2B. Most people think of it in B2C and it’s things like Instagram and, “Can I get somebody to wear this pair of shoes?” or to speak about something else. And I think that we’re actually a real interesting rise of influencer marketing in the B2B segment, because so much of B2B is basically people learning from other people about what products and services can do and how to shortlist different things based on what they’ve heard. So I think the B2B influence marketing is going to pretty big. Is there something that people do wrong in B2B influencer marketing?
Amisha Gandhi: So When people think of B2B influencer marketing, they think, “Oh, who can I bring in to… I have like this really great asset. How are they going to amplify it for me?” We boil it down to amplification only, and I think that’s a big mistake because then you’re really missing out. By the way, if an influencer is amplifying everything you have, how influential are they? And their audience will see that. So people who are really influential and in B2B, they have built these audiences over a period of time. There’s a level of trust. Their audience is looking for advice or they’re looking for salient point problem solves with this person or to get that point of view that they may not get, or career advice.
So they’re looking up at these folks, or maybe looking at them as influential peers, because you have customer-to-customer influence. So when you have that, you miss it if you’re just doing it for social and events, you to think about how you can bring people in to maybe do workshop with you. Big implementations. How can this person help tell your story better? But they’re going to do it in a way that’s not salesy, but it’s going to be resonating with the persona that you’re trying to reach because they walk in those shoes.
Maribel Lopez: Absolutely. That’s some great feedback because I do think that a lot of times, it’s this weird, interesting hybrid of PR to marketing that I think people get the mix from. So in general, for people who are listening to the call, any marketing tips that you’d like to share or piece of advice that you’d like to share with the audience?
Amisha Gandhi: So I think when we think about marketing, people look at brand and you look at your demand team and everyone’s talking about customer experience and experience. So think about when you’re putting your campaigns together. Are they integrated? Are you doing top, middle? Are you bringing your teams together, planning together? And then creating, for me, integrated campaigns are really important because you can really create these touchpoints that make sense together. So when somebody comes in, in a webinar, they don’t go to some other piece of content and it’s kind of connected, but not really. But these are all puzzle pieces meant to go together, and I think campaign hubs and content hubs are key because then people have a choose your own adventure and they can roam around and spend time and see something they might like to connect, find a value, right?
So you create high value, educational content. Then you have some other content, then you have your content that goes down to your products and features because you’ve brought people into that, but they’ve already learned a lot of other things along the way. So think about creating these integrated journeys that will lead you to these experiences. And they don’t have to be some massive digital undertaking, you can make it as simple as a campaign or a content hub or landing page hub, and you can start there and then grow into other experiences that could be interactive, like maps that lead to different studies that you’ve done, and things like that. I think research still has a lot of value. If you own data, is there some research or insight that you can offer yourself? And then you become part of the conversation, not just pushing out stuff and only your point of view. So think about that.
And the other thing is who are you reaching out to put yourself in their shoes and say, “What can I do to help them do their job better?” Because then when you have them as your customer, you are their champion, they have brought you in and they have put confidence in you, so you need to do that. And it starts from when they’re a prospect and then don’t forget about them once you have them on board. Continually communicate to your customer and be truly customer centric. Don’t just say that you are. I think those are the three things people really need to think about coming out of where we’re coming out of, when they think about digital and marketing and touch points.
Maribel Lopez: I think this whole customer life cycle, and it keeps feeding, because they start, they buy something, they’re with you, you have to give them education on how to do adoption and make that really work for them. And then at some point they flip around in the cycle again. But if you don’t maintain that relationship, it’s like you’re starting all over again to get them back to the first part of the cycle for whatever additional products or services they might need. So I think that’s really critical advice. And so now it’s time for the 10-second recommendation. So what is a book, movie, activity, travel destination, whatever you want to do, business or non-business, that you would recommend to the audience?
Amisha Gandhi: So we talk a lot about connection and I love to travel, right? So I would love to do travel as soon as we can and it’s more safe to do so. People are-
Maribel Lopez: Someday we’ll do that again. Yeah.
Amisha Gandhi: So that would be really nice, but I think there’s a lot of self discovery and I think mental health has become not a taboo anymore. I think it’s really important as leaders that we think about our teams and we create conversations and we get to know people. So I started a new role and so a game and an activity that I recommend to everybody, I think it’s great, even with your friends and family. There’s a game called Sparked and you can pick different categories, adventure, or aspirations and you can pick these cards and you spin the thing around and you pick a card and one of the questions could be, if you were going to give a Ted talk, what would that be and why? And that can create some really great team building exercise and the like, because we’re not…
And even when we first meet in person and there will be a lot of people on your team that you’re meeting for the first time, it’s called Sparks, sparks interesting dialogue and healthy conversation and it can make teams. It’s great for families, it’s great if you have kids. So we’re all in this pandemic, but I think that sparked conversation can be great for brainstorming. There’s so many different things you can do with that, but I think if we have sparked conversations, that’s the thing that I think would be-
Maribel Lopez: I love the concept of sparked conversations. And by the way, I think that we’re really entering a new area of self discovery. So I think that’s really important for individuals to have a way to figure out things like, “Well, what am I passionate about that I give a Ted talk about?” If you just take it outside of your day-to-day role, and that could lead you to a whole new career. So things like that are really incredible. Thank you so much for that recommendation, thank you so much for sharing your insights on marketing. Folks, Amisha Gandhi. Where can we find you in social?
Amisha Gandhi: You can find me on LinkedIn, which by the way, is the best place for B2B influencer marketing, as a channel. LinkedIn and Twitter. On LinkedIn, I’m just am Amisha Gandhi. You can find me.
Maribel Lopez: Great. And on Twitter, you are?
Amisha Gandhi: @AmishaGandhi.
Maribel Lopez: There you go. Amisha Gandhi, folks. Thank you. Cheers everybody.
Amisha Gandhi: Thanks for having me on.