How Influencer Marketing Impacts B2B Brands
Content marketing, social marketing, PPC and programmatic advertising have long been a part of the B2B marketer’s arsenal. Typically absent from this cache, though, is influencer marketing. While the use of influencers has exploded in the B2C realm, it has been slower to catch on with business marketers. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for influencer marketing in your B2B warchest.
It’s easy to understand the tepid growth of B2B influencer marketing. A CIO isn’t likely to make a major ERP purchase because of an Instagram post he or she sees. Most decision makers won’t be impressed if Kim Kardashian endorses a product or service he or she is considering. (Well, perhaps they would be impressed, but likely not influenced.)
There’s a lack of impulse buying in B2B – one common tenant is that buyers are halfway through the purchasing journey before they even contact a vendor – and the channels that work well for B2C influencer marketing (Snapchat, for example) simply don’t translate well to B2B. It’s just different.
But reality is that people listen to other people. Research clearly shows influencer marketing can be effective, as illustrated by this pair of nuggets:
- 86% of marketers used influencer marketing in 2017, 92% of whom found it effective.
- Influencer marketing delivers $285 incremental sales per 1000 views, that’s 11 times ROI over all other forms of digital media.
So can a B2B marketer tap into that kind of power? If you master the who, what and how of business influencer marketing, then the answer is yes.
Who are the influencers?
First, let’s be clear about what we’re talking about. Probably the easiest concept of an influencer is a celebrity endorsement, of course. But as we’ve noted, that’s not necessarily the ideal B2B influencer.
Ryan Williams, author of The Influencer Economy, offers a definition that relates more appropriately to business-to-business. He calls an influencer, “Someone who leads a movement based on the passion and loyal support of their niche community.”
For B2B influencers, that’s going to be industry analysts and consultants, industry bloggers and thought-leaders, trade association leaders and perhaps even journalists. These are the people who have the ear of your industry. The rock stars of your niche, if you will.
Sometimes these people won’t be obvious. If you’re unsure who might be a potential influencer in your particular field, try analyzing who your customers are engaging with on social media. Through their conversations you will likely identify the people they find influential.
Perhaps a best case scenario is that a potential influencer is already a customer of yours. If so, you might be able to create some free or quid pro quo arrangements for content.
If all else fails, there are research tools and paid services that can help you identify and find potential influencers.
What do you want from an influencer?
Of course you want an influencer to make you look good and to sell more of your stuff. But it isn’t so simple as convincing someone to praise you and watching the money roll in. There are several things you want from an influencer (and a lot of them seem to start with the letter R).
It’s important not to get lost trying to chase so-called vanity metrics – the most followers, likes, etc. You want reach, certainly. It’s a major factor in all forms of advertising, and that doesn’t change for influencer marketing.
However, you want that reach to have relevance. Not just relevance to the audience, but relevance to the topics related to your industry and your niche. If your business is selling widgets and your influencer is ranting about the latest political debate, that reach isn’t serving you relevance.
You also need the influencer’s content to resonate with the audience. You can have the reach, and even the relevance (get those keywords in there!), but if the content isn’t engaging, meaningful or useful, it won’t resonate, and that reach becomes all but useless.
If the content resonates, that will result in references (or reposts, retweets, etc.). Others in the industry will pass along useful information to peers. And that gets to the crux of influencer marketing: people sharing content from your influencer means people sharing content about you.
Finally, don’t forget about the relationship. The deeper the bond with your influencer, the more likely it is that his or her content seems genuine, believable and trustworthy. If you find someone who is already a customer or fan of your service or product, it will be easy for them to promote it. Cultivating these relationships can often foster earned (unpaid) influencer marketing.
What does good influencer marketing look like?
Ideally, you don’t want your content marketing to look coerced. Decision makers are smart and will see through inauthentic endorsements. There are plenty of approaches to influencer marketing, such as guest blogging and link sharing, but influencer marketing for businesses can extend far beyond these basic concepts.
Perhaps one way to spark ideas for using influencer marketing at your business is by exploring what others have done well. In this article, Entrepreneur put together 10 great examples of different ways B2B influencer marketing has worked at successful companies. Perhaps it can work for your business, as well, even if it isn’t Kim Kardashian posing with your product on Instagram.