The Art of Influencer Marketing for B2B
Smart B2B marketers are picking up on the growing role of influencers in the digital marketing landscape. Find out how B2B Influencer Marketing can help you bolster your business’s credibility, reach new audiences and generate new leads.
Businesses have always actively sought celebrity endorsements to build trust and brand loyalty with their audiences. As early as 1903, famous American author, Mark Twain, endorsed everything from luxury fountain pens and shaving accessories to whisky and cigars. His stamp of approval still has clout to this day.
You don’t have to have Mark Twain as an influencer to make a mark either. Some of the best influencers are local experts with small niche followings.
As successful as Influencer Marketing has been for B2C businesses, it has rarely been adopted for B2B purposes. However, all that is changing as the digital marketing landscape continues to evolve.
2017 saw a significant increase in B2B businesses employing Influencer Marketing strategies according to Smart Insights. A recent survey indicated “84% of [B2B] marketers said they would launch at least one influencer campaign within the next twelve months.” (eMarketer)
Part of the reason for the rising interest in Influencer Marketing comes down to technology having a dramatic impact on where we source information and whom we trust. Many modern influencers have access to wide audiences through digital channels, such as blogs, webinars and social media.
What is a B2B Influencer?
The definition of what constitutes an Influencer is fairly broad. Ryan Adams from The Influencer Economy, ha said that influencers “create a movement around their idea through collaboration, community passion and a shared vision”, and “can change a small idea into a world-changing idea, seemingly overnight”.
Influencers have the ability to start trends, mobilise ideas, and bring your message to their audience.
B2B relationships are about trust and loyalty. Unlike B2C buyer journeys, it can take months or even years to acquire a client; and that relationship can last decades once it is established. When you build the right kind of rapport, influencers help make up the human face of your organisation.
Influencer marketing succeeds in building higher brand connection, by putting a human face to your organisation. According to eConsultancy, “potential B2B buyers who feel a ‘high brand connection’ are 60% more likely to consider, purchase and even pay a premium than ‘low brand connection’ competitors.”
Benefits of B2B Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing can be a time-consuming investment, requiring you to develop personalised relationships and build trust over time. As a result, many businesses want to know how influencers are going to help their business and relate to their bottom-line.
Influencer marketing is terrific at achieving brand awareness and loyalty, which become deciding factors for prospective clients further down the buyer journey. These activities can also tie in really well with your businesses’ other content marketing strategies. Some of these benefits include:
1. Build credibility for your brand
Business decision-making teams are often faced with difficult purchasing choices. It can be hard for businesses to grasp the full complexity of B2B products and services, especially when there is the pressure to make quick informed decisions. Although you might offer a unique service or product that stands out from your competitors, it may be hard for prospective clients to grasp it over the course of their interactions with you.
However, as Jamie Turner from 60 Second Marketer says, “people buy for emotional reasons, and then rationalize purchases with logic.” We like to think that B2B purchases are more logic driven, and while this is true, business people are still people.
Having a credible source advocating your business and values could be the key to unlocking those closing sales and generating more favourable leads.
2. Authenticity in your messaging
Consumers are savvier and more sophisticated in their purchasing decisions than ever before – this is especially true of businesses. A lot of your wonderful messaging can get lost in a plethora of hype.
Having an outside brand advocate corroborating your message and backing your businesses’ products or services gives your brand authenticity. In fact, Andrew Reid, writer of The Authenticity Handbook, says that ‘authenticity in business is now imperative.’
Authentic brands also get more of a share of high-value customers according to the Authentic Brand Index. Not only does authenticity affect buyer decision, but it can affect the quality of your buyers.
3. Fresh content opportunities
Content can be hard to maintain. A lot of businesses find it difficult to identify and create content that is relevant to their industry. Finding an influencer who regularly shares content relevant to your business and its customers, can be a great resource for your content marketing activities.
By sharing articles or thoughts from your influencers, you are building a relationship with them as well as your larger target audience.
4. Reach new relevant audiences
The most important advantage of Influencer Marketing is reaching a wide audience. This can be an excellent tactic for businesses’ whose primary marketing goal is acquiring new customers.
It can be hard to know where to generate new leads. Influencers allow you to throw out a broad net, with the hope that some of the people reached may take an interest and investigate your business.
B2B Influencer Marketing in 5 Steps
It can be hard to know where to start with Influencer Marketing – where do you find relevant influencers? How do you approach them? How do you measure the benefits of your campaign?
Having specific SMART goals in place before starting an Influencer Marketing campaign is crucial. Are you trying to raise brand awareness? You might say your objective is to ‘increase LinkedIn followers by 20% over a six month period’. Or maybe you’d like to see a direct spike in sales? Set a goal like ‘generate a measurable $4000 monthly increase in sales from influencer generated leads on average over an eighteen month timeframe’.
Measuring and evaluating is the first and last step of every Influencer Marketing campaign. We will mention more about how you monitor your Return On Investment (ROI) in step five.
But, firstly, you need to consider who your business is and what message you plan to send out.
1. Develop your brand’s storytelling
Influencer Marketing is primarily about storytelling. You have a story to tell and your influencer is the one that shares it. You can sow the seeds of success early, by taking time to develop a relevant and engaging story for your brand.
What is your value proposition? Where does your business come from and where is it heading? What makes your business and its products and services unique?
Once you have established who you are, you also have to be clear whom you are talking to and why. Ask yourself why other businesses should care what you have to say or sell, and then find the clearest way to express that.
2. Look for relevant influencers
Finding influencers can be difficult depending on your industry and your budget. Find the right influencer is more important than finding the most popular influencer. Influencers can range from business leaders and executives to local journalists and community figureheads or even your own employees. In fact, a lot of B2B marketers advocate building relationships with micro-influencers, as they are more relevant and able to tap into a more niche market.
Do not get blinded by impressions, clicks or likes. Find an expert in your field that you know has sway amongst your target demographic. Having millions of likes is not important; having relevant and engaged followers is the key.
One reliable resource for influencers and marketers to connect is Tribe. Tribe is a purpose built platform to help businesses find the right influencer for their industry and values. Watch the video below for a concise overview.
3. Work on your content and making it relevant
Your business might have a lot of readily available content to use to approach influencers; however, have you targeted it towards them? Influencer Marketing is about personalising your message to individuals as opposed to large swathes of people.
After you have settled on an influencer, read up as much as possible about them and look through your existing content for things that will pique their interest.
One sure way to kill a relationship before it is even started is to be generic in your communication. Taking the time to tailor your messaging and content is the only way to get results.
4. Approach and build a relationship
Influencer Marketing doesn’t necessarily have to mean giving your influencers paying salaries or a $1 billion dollar lifetime deal like Nike and LeBron James. Influencer Marketing activities revolve around mutual relationship building. The types of activities you can involve them in are wide and only limited by the imagination. It could take the form of content-collaboration, social-media-sharing or hiring them for a creative business project like American Express did in 2015.
Start off small by commenting or sharing your influencer’s content. Ask questions and seek their advice. Once you have built an informal relationship you might consider formally introducing yourself through LinkedIn or email? If your influencer is local, or within your network, why not invite them to your business networking event?
As your correspondence deepens, offer resources and interesting articles you’ve found that might relate, or even contradict, what they write and speak about.
You might go into a relationship with an influencer with a project in mind to collaborate on – such as contributing to your business’s blog for example. Or you might just set up the groundwork for future collaborations. When the right project or opportunity appears, having that influencer at hand will be a great advantage.
5. Measure and evaluate
Influencer marketing is typically associated with the top of the sales and marketing funnel. Being so close to the start of the buyer journey, it is harder to relate these activities to tangible bottom line dollars and cents.
However, there are several forms of attribution you can employ to help measure your ROI. Below are some ideas.
Ask your influencer if they’d consider using tracking pixels. Pixel tracking is a useful way to find out how many people are coming to your website through your influencer’s content. It is particularly helpful for influencers involved in social media or who have their own blog.
Share across multiple channels
By asking your influencers to share content on different channels you have access to a wider array of analytics. This cross-promoting of content also gives each post a longer lifespan.
Using coupon codes are an old tactic but still as useful as ever. If your influencer happens to mention some of your products or services, why not offer a discount to those business customers that you acquire through them?
Not only are you able to potentially drive more sales, you are also creating a very reliable metric you draw back on for further insight.
When supplying links to your influencer to generate traffic, use specifically designed UTM codes to measure where traffic is coming from.
UTM codes are a simple code you can attach to any custom URL to track a source, medium and campaign name.
Examples of B2B Influencer Marketing Best Practice
Influencer Marketing takes many guises. Below are some of our favourite examples of Influencer Marketing at work.
1. American Express’s Love My Store Campaign
In 2015, American Express wanted to improve their storefronts to encourage storeowners to use their services. The company collaborate with Grace Bonney from popular blog site Design*Sponge to design six of their storefronts. This project was coupled with a video produced by media personality Emily Henderson showing how businesses could spruce up their storefronts.
2. IBM Internal Content Sharing Campaign
In July of 2015, IBM started included share links, promoting their software products, on their internal online hub. Since installing the new feature, over a thousand IBM staff have shared the posts on their personal pages.
“It’s not a requirement at all, but it’s something that, if they do it, they get recognized for it,” Amber Armstrong, program director at IBM Marketing Digital, said.
IBM ran a similar employee focused B2B campaign the year before called #NewWayToWork which resulted in 120 million impressions and 141,000 clicks to campaign content.
3. HubSpot’s Guest Blogging
HubSpot is prolific content marketing resource. As part of the overall strategy, HubSpot began actively approaching popular bloggers and experts to provide guest blogs.
Guest blogging is a terrific way to engage influencers and bring traffic to your website. A lot of the writers they approached were micro-influencers with specific niche knowledge and a small but fervent set of followers.
4. Microsoft and National Geographic’s ‘Make What’s Next’ Instagram Campaign
As part of International Women’s Day, Microsoft partnered with National Geographic to produce a series of 30 themed pictures across their Instagram channel. The campaign achieved over 3.5 million likes resulted in significant customer engagement with over 1000 people posting their own photos.
By leveraging the status of National Geographic and their photographers, Microsoft gained broader recognition and loyalty.
5. Salesforce’s CEO as an Influencer
Sometimes it can be hard to find ways to engage influencers, other times it is as simple as having them already on your team. Salesforce’s CEO Marc Benioff is a major influencer with a large audience of engaged business owners and marketers.
CEOs are the public face of a company. Positioning them in front of the media is another positive form of Influencer Marketing.
Hopefully some of these B2B Influencer Marketing examples have ignited your imagination and got you thinking of some interesting influencer activities you can employ in your overall marketing strategies.
Do you employ B2B Influencer Marketing at your agency or business? What types of activities do you get involved in? Do you have any recommendations for best or worse practise?
Let us know below in the comments. If you would like to find out more about related activities such as content marketing or blogging check out our website for more interesting articles.