Influencer marketing continues to spread like wildfire across the B2C industries with varying levels of success. But how does it translate to B2B industries with more complex products and offerings?
Influencers: They live among us. They’re next to us in restaurants taking boudoir photos of their food, on our social media homepages shilling discount codes for meal delivery kits, and on the sidewalk blocking our path with their silly little dances. Now that social media has decentralized content creation, anyone can be an influencer. And consequently, every business — even B2B ones — can now find a way to use influencer marketing to strengthen their brand and connect with new audiences with higher returns than traditional strategies.
Unfortunately, B2B influencer marketing is more than just discount codes and dancing. It requires a well-designed expansion of your marketing mix and a strong understanding of your brand and its values. However, when done right, influencer marketing can be the key to skyrocketing your organization above the competition.
What is B2B Influencer Marketing?
Unlike well-known B2C influencers who help drive immediate sales, B2B influencer marketing is much more focused on the long game of building trust and expanding brand awareness that hopefully translates to sales down the line. In fact, B2B influencers don’t usually call themselves “influencers” at all. Instead, they are typically referred to as “thought leaders.” They are established members in a particular industry, working as seasoned executives, keynote speakers, authors, and consultants.
And with that in mind, let’s consider the four key benefits of leveraging influencer marketing in the B2B space:
- Tap into new audiences: Thought leaders understand how to engage people and, provided you work with the right ones, will help you tap into audiences you may not have had access to beforehand.
- Gain loyal customers: Thought leaders come pre-packaged with a highly dedicated audience who look to them for perspective and recommendations on complex B2B offerings and topics. When you partner with an influencer who believes in your brand, their following will likely extend their loyalty to you.
- Establish your brand as an industry leader: When you align with smart people, people assume you’re also smart. The same concept applies here. Organizations can easily use influencer marketing to supercharge their content marketing strategy, and vice versa.
- Build credibility and trust: Modern consumers have a level of skepticism and distrust of traditional marketing and advertising tactics, especially when employed by companies they don’t recognize. But influencers can put a familiar face to your brand and give users something to relate to.
How to Build and Incorporate a Successful B2B Influencer Marketing Strategy
Yes, it’s easier said than done, but here’s how you can roll out your own B2B influencer marketing strategy in just four steps:
- Define your goals, budget, and timeline: Unlike the fast-paced world of B2C, B2B influencer marketing demands patience and long-term strategic planning. Your initial timeline for any influencer campaign should be close to one year, with real results coming in at around the six-month mark. Yes, it can seem like a heavy commitment for a brand-new strategy, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, was it?
- Identify the whos and wheres: You can’t just pick any influencer, put them in front of a camera, and have them say: Get ready with me while I tell you about this enterprise resource planning tool that will totally change your life. While B2C influencers can promote a wide range of consumer products, B2B influencers are trusted because they’re proven experts at what they do in their niche field. Therefore, you need to study your audience to see who they follow and which influencers demonstrate good rapport and engagement with people in their community. And don’t forget that influencer marketing isn’t limited to social media. It’s a good staple, but you can also leverage channels like podcasts, conferences, and other places where great minds meet.
- Choose the right influencer marketing platform: Platforms are like shoes — it’s all about the fit. While some platforms are great for sprinting one-off campaigns, others are better suited for the long-haul of B2B work. You’ll also need to consider reporting capabilities, content management, and how much of your influencer relationship can be handled within the platform vs. another method (like emailing). Or, of course, if these questions have you feeling a little overwhelmed, your next best option is to work with an agency that can simply plug you into their influencer management platform.
- Consider (and leverage) trends: Relevance is the cherry on top of any marketing sundae. Some current trends in B2B influencer marketing include video content, diverse representation that speaks to your entire audience, and value-driven content that addresses your audience’s pain points. Above all, find an authentic influencer who is genuinely interested in your industry. Even better — consider looking to a current customer.
Is Influencer Marketing Right For You?
Even if my passion for social media marketing didn’t create bias, the answer is yes, if for no other reason than not wanting to be left behind. Hubspot’s 2022 Marketing Industry Trends Report identified influencer marketing as the #1 trend marketers plan to use this year. And that’s probably because, in the traditionally formal and unattached style of B2B marketing, influencers are proving to be an effective (and incredibly cost-effective) way for brands to cut through the noise and connect with promising prospects.
But if that’s not enough to convince you, check out these numbers: In one 2022 report, 86% of B2B brands considered their influencer marketing campaign successful. In another marketing survey, 72% of B2B businesses said it improved their brand reputation, while 56% said it generated new leads. Meanwhile, 33% of respondents reported their influencer marketing increased sales and revenue.
Are you already making a list of thought leaders who’d go hand-in-hand with your organization? Jumpstart your influencer marketing program or explore the potential of B2B influencers with us.