Toronto-based Influitive announced today that it has closed $3.75 million in seed financing, from a variety of investors including First Round Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Relay Ventures, Illuminate Ventures, CommonAngels, Resolute.VC and many more. The startup was co-founded by Mark Organ, who previously founded recently-public enterprise software company Eloqua, and wants to help provide a platform for managing and motivating customer advocates.
Influitive’s launch product is AdvocateHub, a new kind of marketing platform that allows B2B companies to easily make requests of and reward their top customers and key, influential evangelists using game-based incentive systems and simplified processes that take much of the work out of the process on both sides. Ordinarily, convincing advocate marketing targets to come on board and help a company advertise and promote their wares within the community can be difficult and time-consuming; Influitive wants to automate a lot of that process (building on the founding team’s experience with marketing automation of a different kind through Eloqua) to increase the rate at which advocates perform tasks like social media promotion and case study creation.
“Even at Eloqua, it was so obvious that we really wanted to shorten the buying process, which for a B2B business is the Holy Grail,” Organ said in an interview, describing the need Influitive addresses. “Most of the cash in a B2B software company, about 80 percent of it, is tied up in the buying process, i.e., people not being able to make a decision, because it’s too risky or they need more information or whatever. If you want to speed that up, the way to do it… is to actually get people who have credibility to go and influence the decision.”
In the past, that’s been a difficult process. Gathering references, social media recommendations, referrals and whatever else to accomplish that has involved a lot of footwork, and produced relatively poor results. According to Organ, that’s because until now, the focus has been on the buyer companies are trying to convince, and not on the advocates that are the key to convincing them.
“We have a platform to help companies mobilize their advocates, and generate way more of all that stuff [referrals, etc.],” he said. “The same advocate that might do a couple of referrals and reference calls a year, we can get them to four or five times that, and we do that with a system that makes it a lot more efficient for them to do what comes naturally, and also a lot more fun and rewarding.”
Unlike Klout, Influitive is less about identifying influential individuals and more about keeping them motivated and active around your product. Via their own AdvocateHub, companies can set up rewards for advocates once they hit certain thresholds, as measured by points they earn for performing the kinds of referrals and testimonials that B2B businesses thrive on. These rewards can be anything from virtual titles and pats on the back, to donations made on the behalf of advocates. The goal isn’t to set up a payment mechanism, after all, since that largely defeats the purpose of advocate marketing (which relies heavily on credibility), but to grease the wheels for the process to happen more smoothly.
Aside from its product, which seems to be poised to cater to an emerging subset of B2B marketing departments that could end up creating its own separate function at a lot of organizations, Influitive is also interesting in terms of the way it went about raising money. Organ credits AngelList for much of its success, after attempts to raise interest through traditional channels weren’t proving all that effective. He said that while some will criticize the company for taking so much so early from so many different investors (10 firms named in the announcement, and more firms and angels not listed), he believes it sets the stage for a big round during the next raise.
Influitive is free to try up to 20 active advocates, but incurs fees starting at $500/month after that. Organ said the idea is to offer a significant free trial with a sizeable threshold, because once users see the results, they’re more than willing to pay for more. In early trials, he says there’s been an 80 percent conversion rate, although he expects that to settle in somewhere around 20 percent when the product scales to a broader user base. It’s an early-stage market, but if Influitive finds the right recipe to largely automate the process of influencer marketing, it’ll have secured a good lead in what looks likely to become a sizeable opportunity.