THE IMPORTANCE OF INFLUENCER MARKETING FOR B2B MARKETERS
Descriptions of influencer marketing abound on the web and often concentrating on the practice of engaging with famous specialists in a way that helps promote the brand.
As influencer marketing expands, it is necessary to look at influence as something everyone has to some degree. In fact, niche influencers have been found to be even more effective than well-known “brandividuals” with huge social followings.
Here is my definition: Influencer marketing is the practice of engaging and collaborating with industry and internal specialists that have active networks to help achieve measurable business goals.
Most B2B marketers would agree that the lack of a content marketing plan could be suicidal for any service or product. The surprise is that there aren’t that many marketers who actively promote a strong influencer relationship approach to make the most of good content beyond their customer’s channels.
I want to talk about a recent marketing study which revealed among other things, possessing a good influencer relationship strategy is the goal of at least 85% of all professional marketers this year.
So just what is exactly an influencer relationship plan?
To put it simply, the influencer relationship is concerned primarily with guiding and growing the relationship with an audience who are perceived as having an influence, an impact, with a business’ purchasing customer base. Such recognized influencers include members of the industry analysts, blogging community, prominent consultants, even trade association leaders — the total list, of course, is next to endless.
Experienced, skilled marketers, like Ezra Hernandez from Blue Raven Solar, pretty much all say the same thing: “Influencers are the heart of far-reaching and successful insightful campaigns and content marketing. But the difficult part comes in making exact pairings of companies and influencers — the yin of a recognized influencer with the yang of service or product that they can instantly brand in a forceful, positive way.”
It can be hard to find and manage the exact right influencer to impact marketing strategy and move overall sales. But the experienced influencer specialist/agency in marketing can be a big help.
HOW INFLUENCE WORKS IN B2B
Influencer marketing has modified applications, ranging from periodic content collaborations to ongoing engagements with influencers obligated to form content on a regular basis and do events.
With influencer marketing programs, companies typically recognize topical areas of importance that present the intersection of brand interests and the requirements of the target audience. Then they qualify, identify, and engage with influencers to cooperate in some way. When it approaches content co-creation, these collaborations could be as simple as interviews, providing quotes, and blog posts to authoring ebooks, assisting with media and events.
Influencer contributions to brand content add credibility, and when influencers promote that content to their networks, it can increase reach to new buyers that are difficult to engage through traditional means.
Sadly, reaching B2B decision-makers is not easy. They are well-educated, sophisticated, and skeptical about marketing and sales. That means that — even if it is more complicated than for consumer brands — the most practical way to overcome this doubt is by influencing their decisions through trusted third parties — influencers. Think about the following data points:
- Content shared from and created by influencers provided 10x higher ROI than the average display advertisement after one year, according to a case study accompanied by Nielsen Catalina Solutions for TapInfluence.
- 92 % of marketers that used it in 2017 said that influencer marketing is effective at reaching audiences, a Linqia survey found.
- 71 % of marketers believe that ongoing ambassadorships are the most effective form of influencer marketing, a 2016 Altimeter Research study for TapInfluence discovered.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF USING INFLUENCER MARKETING IN THE B2B SPACE?
In the same study, 57 % of marketers indicated that influencer marketing would become fully integrated into all marketing activities over the next four years. As more and more B2B influencer campaigns evolve from experimentation to a more relationship building, strategic, joint goal setting, will become the standard and the benefits of integration will be experienced.
These benefits are very similar to those offered by “social proof.” Today’s users want to know someone else had a positive experience with your service or product before they’re willing to give it a shot. Client’s reviews are part of the equation as they provide user experiences. Influencer marketing takes it one step forward by creating a feeling of loyalty and security. When users associate your business with an industry leader they respect and trust, your business gets those same benefits by proxy.
Additionally, it offers these advantages:
- Extends your reach and improves brand awareness. When an influencer supports your brand, your reach is extended to their readership, audience, and following.
- Gives your SEO an increase. Through cross-promotion, you will have valuable inbound links from high-quality websites.
- Increases in user engagement. You’ll see an increase in comments and shares for Tweets, blog, posts, and advertisement spots featuring a known industry insider.
Your business receives instant credibility. This is particularly true with newer companies.
What are some of the methods they use that you can include in your campaigns effectively?
Here are some ideas.
1. DELIVERY IS AS VALUABLE AS THE CONTENT
The first step is also the most significant. It begins with the understanding of your audience. Can you clarify just who they are? And who is it they prefer to talk to first when pondering a major purchase? What are the platforms they use and trust most?
This isn’t a one-answer-fits-all situation. The B2B strategy has traditionally been very complicated. B2C is a piece of cake, in contrast. According to Joseph Serrano, President of CX Insurance, “Using an influencer to motivate such disparate groups as capital markets, retail banking technology buyers, enterprise technology purchasers, and also the telecom industry, takes a confident and deft touch. Too wide a stroke means that pinpointing the influencer won’t be possible, and the wasted time and money can become considerable.”
To understand who your influencers should be you have first to understand very wholly who your target market will be — and which platforms offer the best possibility of finding them. Then comes some tough work in locating the people with the most influence, and comprehending just exactly how to interest them with your message through your content — and this means doing it beyond the bounds of your in-house channels. This could mean payouts and quid pro quo for the team creation of good content as well as the earliest access to crucial insight.
2. MAKE YOUR MESSAGE SWEET AND SHORT
One of the most common errs a B2B marketer can make to make their key message too wordy. Key influencers shouldn’t be verbose, whether it is for B2C or B2B campaigns. Get your influencers on board with the ‘elevator pitch’ idea of presenting themselves to your clients.
You should be able to have your influencer motivated to explain in four short sentences, or less, how the brand is relevant to clients and also how it works.
3. MAP OUT YOUR INFLUENCER PLATFORMS WELL AHEAD OF THE CAMPAIGN
What is important is NOT what tools you are using, such as Earned/Paid Owned/or Shared influence outreach and content. What matters is that your influencer contact is going into all the proper channels promptly.
Before anything else, find out just exactly which channels are going to be your influencer’s priorities. This calls for the detailed and early planning of content. The proper format is also a vital key. Your influencers will usually have some solid concepts and input with your developing content, so do not freeze them out of the process. After all, they’re the ones who have clout with the target market, so it is only reasonable to suppose they know something about it.
The aim is to create a flow, or ‘waterfall’ of quality content at a very steady rate. Dribs and drabs of content aren’t effective, and will eventually drive away your client base and frustrate your influencer. Keep a detailed editorial calendar. And do not discount the importance of external events, such as an external trade show.
4. IDENTIFY THE STAKEHOLDERS, AND WORK THEM HARD
Do not make the err of meeting with your influencer and getting an obligation, and then allowing things fall apart as soon as the meeting is over. Recognize the stakeholders in the process and instruct them and give them a timeline as to what is expected and when. It is the only way to ensure that you get full mileage out of your influencer and their following.
5. INTERNAL MOMENTUM IS KEY
We would not be nearly where we are today if other folks had not latched on to the idea that this plan was a difference-maker. Be bold when you are explaining why it matters to the main stakeholders in your organization. After all, you have hordes of influencers within your organization. The people who are passing your services or have customer relationships need to build their brand and be savvy influencers before you can bring others in. One very well received approach was designing a marketing-hosted workshop on social media and digital influence. Our first was so popular that we’re already planning our second workshop.
6. JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Be innovative in how you do it. Two to three years ago, social media marketing innovation felt much more optional than it does now – depending on your customer market of course. At my organization, social media activity historically felt forced and stagnant that is until we rallied around why it was necessary. Not only we are encouraging the thought leaders at our company to be more active at developing their personal brands, but we have also had great success starting a topical LinkedIn discussion group where leaders across all industries can discuss best practices, network, and of course learn about the greatest and latest and thought leadership. By creating a network of professionals and building a group sharing the same interest, we are fostering an environment of influence, trust, and expertise for our customers and prospects alike.
7. SEEK OUT UNUSUAL PARTNERSHIPS
Another success in our influencer marketing adventure is that we have also started a podcast series where we’re interviewing executives across multiple industries about business topics where we share a common interest. It’s great for their brand, helpful to our customers, and builds our credibility in the market. The beauty of influencer marketing is that, when done correctly, it makes your content seem more informative and valuable and less promotional. Linking your expertise to another brand or individual who is successful in his or her space is a great approach. You will tap into brand new audiences when you think outside the box with your partnership requests.
B2B companies that execute influencer marketing programs should look at both short-term campaign-level measures of success like demos, downloads, and business inquiries as well as long-term relationships with their influencer network. There is no better method of marketing than word of mouth and advocacy born out of a solid brand and influencer relationship can pay dividends over time that far outweigh the results from short-term campaigns.