How Citrix’s Beth Anne Ballance built a BtoB influencer program from scratch

When Beth Anne Ballance joined the Citrix social team, she started developing a vision for how they could shape their influencer programming.

“I came from a BtoC background,” says Beth Anne. “And through that experience, I understood the rise of influencer marketing.”

“When I got to Citrix and started taking inventory of our social channels, watching conversations, and getting to know our community, I realized that one thing that we weren't tapping into were the advocates that we had,” says Beth Anne. “While we had some people who were willing to talk about us, it wasn't creating the level of excitement that I thought it could.”

So Beth Anne devised a strategy to leverage influencers and make their integrated campaigns more social by design.

If we got our influencers aligned with our marketing campaigns, they could help amplify what we were doing across our platforms.

“I thought, if we got our influencers and our advocates aligned with our marketing campaigns, they could help amplify what we were doing across our platforms.”

To put this plan in motion, Beth Anne drew up the strategy of what the program would look like with a mix of content creators and syndicators and went to her VP and presented her idea to see what they thought about it.

She put together this strategy ahead of Q4 — a big quarter for the accounting industry as they prep for tax season. “We had a launch of a new product that would really help accountants, and I felt like all the stars were aligning to put in an accounting influencer program and see what we could do,” she said. “My VP thought it was great, and they gave me enough budget to get some t-shirts and put together little care packages. It was like a tax season prep kit with t-shirts, candy, and a stress ball.”

Then she went about finding the most popular influencers in the accounting and bookkeeping space through online forums, Twitter, and Facebook.

“I wanted to know what people were making a difference and being listened to,” explains Beth Anne. “I made a list of about 50, and I sent them all this delightful tax prep care package with a handwritten note in it. At the same time, I contacted a few advocates and customers I knew I could tap into.”

She had them write up some blog posts and reached out to an industry thought leader with the rest of her budget for two blog posts and syndication.

“It was a mixture of one big influencer and tapping into all of these other micro-influencers in order to drum up some excitement,” says Beth Anne.

As a result of this initial outreach, Citrix saw an increase in people tweeting and sharing pictures of their brand on Facebook.

“It also really opened the door for me to email them back a few months later to say, ‘Hey, I'm so glad you enjoyed that. By the way, I'm kicking off the formal influencer program, and I would love to explore what that partnership might look like for us,'” explains Beth Anne.

The initiative went so well that Citrix decided to make an entire Q1 goal around the influencer program. “That was probably the turning point for this program,” says Beth Anne. “I had to sit down and figure out the metrics that would matter if I was really going to do this past my initial surprise and delight and a few blog posts.”

“I set out to prove that I could get a lower CPM and CPE with a higher engagement rate than the standard social media spend through the program.”

It was a mixture of one big influencer and tapping into all of these other micro-influencers, in order to drum up some excitement.

“We already had data that proved social media was an effective way to drive awareness and consideration. We also already had data that social media was a more efficient spend than traditional media when it came to awareness, share of voice, and sight traffic,” says Beth Anne. “Despite this, I was questioning whether I could prove that influencer marketing could be an even cheaper way of doing it with a higher engagement rate.”

This time, Beth Anne and her team went after attorneys to see if they could translate the success they had with accountants into another industry. After their experiment, they achieved the lower CPM — and the higher engagement rate — and decided to throw their weight behind it.

“All through 2017, I tested every single major focus industry that we had to see if we could gain traction, stabilize the numbers, and make the decision for whether we should keep testing new industries or double down on what we knew worked,” Beth Anne explains.

Through these experiments, Beth Anne found a lot of takeaways for how BtoC and BtoB companies have to approach influencers.

“In BtoC, it can be easier to find your advocates,” explains Beth Anne. “For example, I did a review and two sponsored posts for a Keurig machine when I was an influencer, and it was really easy for them to find me. I was a new mom who loved coffee and was tweeting about how much I loved coffee. It's really easy to locate people who are raising their hands and are saying, ‘This is my need.'”

“It also seems that BtoC often does one-off relationships when they find an influencer. They work with them for one campaign, but then may jump to someone else for another campaign,” says Beth Anne.

According to Beth Anne, it's the opposite for BtoB.

I had to sit down and figure out the metrics that would matter if I was really going to do this.

“BtoB companies want to see that a person has been talking about them for years and understands their offering,” says Beth Anne. “They want to see that this person has really explored everything, knows the people behind the product, and can really speak to it from a technical level.”

She shares how their team would be fine with an influencer writing about Citrix products every month for the next three years if they had the knowledge to back it up. “In building BtoB influencer programs, it's more of a long term relationship than doing a campaign, paying them money, and then moving on to the next person,” explains Beth Anne.

Beth Anne shares, “My biggest piece of advice for building an influence program is, before you do anything else, set the metrics that matter.”

“You should meet with your leadership team or key stakeholders, whomever they are, and figure out the metrics that will make a difference to your business,” says Beth Anne. “It's easier to set up the program for those metrics than it is to back track at the end when you discover you wish you'd been measuring for something else instead. Influencer marketing is really difficult to measure, so just make sure you are setting yourself up for success as much as possible.”

Beth Anne Ballance has been a member of since 2016. You can follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.