Influencer marketing is one of today’s hottest marketing strategies, with both B2C and B2B brands pouring millions of dollars into large scale influencer campaigns. By leveraging the klout of social media stars and major public figures, brands are reaching massive new audiences and, ideally, enticing customers into making a purchase through the power of word of mouth.
A survey of B2B tech marketers found that 48% intended to adopt an influencer marketing strategy by the end of 2019. Many B2B companies, however, are scratching their heads about how best to fully leverage this new tool. Engaging an Instagram celebrity or YouTube legend is just not going to work for high-tech, highly-specific products and services with lengthy sales cycles.
Who Are B2B Influencers?
B2B influencers are people who are credible and authentic advocates for your brand, not always those people with the largest followings. Who are the respected experts, individuals, and organizations within your industry? Who does your audience listen to, read, and trust?
Identifying trusted individuals is important — 95% of B2B buyers say they prefer credible content from industry influencers, including webinars, case studies, and video content. Building relationships with subject matter experts who blog, are active on social media, attend industry events, or write for industry news outlets are a good place to start. However, don’t overlook your own employees, executives, and clients. Influencers can be anyone, whether it’s your CEO with a strong LinkedIn following or a client who retweets and shares your blogs and research.
Building Your Influencer Strategy
True influencer marketing is about give and take. It’s not about paying off celebrities to say nice things about your company — people easily see through phony marketing gimmicks. Influencer relationships should be beneficial to all parties involved. It takes time to build genuine collaborations, but followers will feel the authenticity and respect a message from someone they trust. Here are a few steps for turning your efforts into a formal strategy.
Choose your social platform
B2B companies are likely to have the most success on LinkedIn, but don’t overlook other platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube if your brand has a strong presence there. Think about the demographic you are trying to reach, and where people in your industry spend their time online.
Identify influencers in your industry
Like any good marketing plan, an influencer strategy is grounded in research. Start by identifying influencers who are active on your target platform, who are a good fit for your company, and who haven’t already endorsed a similar product or service. Look at follower counts and engagement, but don’t be hung up on numbers. Working with microinfluencers can be just as effective as working with people with a more “celebrity” status.
Influencers help expand brand awareness, so it’s important to create a plan for what messaging they should share. Influencer posts should be genuine and authentic, but you’ll want to offer guidance to align the message to your goals. You can provide them with an industry research report, case studies, or video content that informs and educates and is easily shared on social.
Tie influencer content into an overall digital strategy: Buyers have made it clear that they want expert content, not sales content, during the research stage of the buyer journey. With this in mind, smart B2B companies can start leveraging influencer content they are creating into paid search and social campaigns. What are your buyers searching for in Google? Instead of writing Google ads promoting your product, for top or mid funnel keywords, it may be best to share blogs or case studies. A similar idea applies to paid social campaigns. Leverage influencer messaging in LinkedIn or Facebook ad campaigns rather than a hard sell or emphasis on product features.
The Final Word
The benefit of influencer marketing is that, when done right, it reaches buyers at the critical information-gathering stage of the buyer journey, providing them with helpful content that allows them to evaluate and form their own opinions. When these leads do speak to sales, they are typically more qualified and show clear intent. If you want to stand out from the crowd and inspire action, you have to give before you get.
Interested in learning more? Get in touch with our team of B2B experts.
Nicole is Content Director at Beacon Digital Marketing, where she leads a team of writers, editors, and strategists in creating effective content strategies backed up by compelling content that gets results. She specializes in creating content for the fintech, cybersecurity, and risk and compliance industries.