If you haven't utilized B2B influencer marketing in your B2B strategy, you're missing out on a potentially hefty chunk of revenue, as well as a great resource. B2B buyers are well-educated, and according to Sprout Content, 72% of them look for recommendations from industry peers before making a purchase decision.
That means that if you're the only one promoting your brand, 72% of buyers will likely pass you over. At the very least, you'll have to work very hard to win them over. In using influencer marketing, you are not only increasing your credibility, but also extending your reach to build awareness of your brand and boost lead generation.
Let's take a look at six practical steps that will help you to start your own B2B influencer marketing strategy.
6 Steps That Will Make You An Influencer Marketing Pro
1. Know Your Buyer
You can't influence someone without knowing who they are first. Marketers like to use a fancy term called buyer personas. These are portraits of your ideal customer based on data and market research.
Ask yourself the following questions to get an accurate picture of who your target buyer is...
- How can you describe your customers?
- Do you have some buyers who are price-sensitive, others more attuned to quality?
- Where do your customers hang out online?
- Are they young or old?
- Are they urban or suburban?
- Are they nerdy, traditional or the cool kids?
- How much research do they do before making a purchase decision?
- Are you marketing to CFOs, entrepreneurs, marketing executives, or someone else?
The answer to these types of questions will determine the right influencers for your brand.
2. Find an Influencer Who is a Good Fit
According to a Nielson study, 92% of consumers trust earned media, such as recommendations from people they know, above all other forms of marketing. This means you want to choose an influencer that your prospects already feel they know and trust.
You may be a fan of Robert Scoble, but he may not be the best fit for your CRM software. However, an industry leader who writes about marketing in trade journals may be just the perfect fit!
Who else is a powerful influencer?
Here's some examples of possible influencers:
- Industry leader working in fields that complement your own
- Speakers featured at trade conferences
- Professionals admired by your customers and team members
- Current clients
- Thought leaders active on social media channels
- Industry bloggers
Certainly, having the right voice behind your B2B brand means the difference between anonymity and wide-spread recognition, as is proven by the success of one startup.
3. Become an Expert Yourself
You already possess an in-depth understanding of your industry. Build upon this by collaborating with other thought leaders in your industry to create a powerhouse of information that drives customer decisions.
In fact, did you know...
The average B2B buyer doesn't contact sales until he's 57% through the buying process CLICK TO TWEET
Having a storehouse of content that showcases your expertise can help that buying process along.
4. Let the Experts Speak for Themselves
It may be tempting to turn the influencer into a puppet for your brand. However, that's not an influencer's role. The influencer's purpose: To lend credibility to your brand by being a neutral third party supporter.
Don't try to feed influencers what you want them to say. Instead, have a conversation about your goals and how you can work together to reach those goals. Ask them about the best way to reach their audience, and maintain an open mind. After all, they're experts in their industry for a reason.
5. Don't Underestimate the Power of the Blogger
Bloggers are in a seemingly endless supply. It's a good thing, too, because readers crave an almost constant supply of information.
When seeking a blogger for collaboration, don't simply gravitate to the person in your industry with the most readers. The end game of influencer marketing is always to increase credibility while building viable leads.
Check out who is actually engaging with the blogger. Comments left by readers should help measure the blogger's knowledgeability and industry awareness. Once you find this, you know you have a good fit.
6. Measure & Adjust
As with any program, you will want to see evidence that it works -- and measurement gives you that evidence. Before you begin a campaign, set benchmarks to monitor. This could be click-throughs, social shares, or other parameters that translate to success.
You can also measure results that are less tangible than views and social shares. You might monitor brand image -- are there positive discussions surrounding your brand on social or traditional media? Is your co-created content being used as a resource for others in the industry? These are positive results you don't want to ignore.
You can then use this data to tweak future influencer marketing initiatives.
How You Can Reach Out to Influencers
Once you've chosen your influencers, how can you reach out and engage them? Here are a few pointers that can help:
- Don't muzzle them. Let them speak in their own words
- Remember they're busy people. A quick email isn't going to do the trick. Meet them face-to-face, perhaps at trade shows, conferences, or even a quick cup o' Joe.
- Engage with influencers on social media to develop a rapport. They will be more likely to collaborate with you if you have already established a relationship.
- Don't tout the success of your business or product. You're not doing a sales pitch. Instead, engage them with pertinent questions about your industry.
2 B2B Influencer Marketing Examples to Learn From
Now it's time to take a hands-on approach. Let's look at two B2B influencer marketing examples that showcase the impact that influencer marketing has -- and how you can do the same.
1. HP: Reaching New Audiences
What do you do when you've got a great tool that's well... just not sexy? That was the predicament HP faced. The tech company had reached a bit of a stasis in its marketing. Its laptops were adequate, reasonably priced, and found virtually everywhere. However, they lacked the cachet of Apple's sleek design and the cool lifestyle that Apple connotes. Because of this, it was difficult for HP to woo tech bloggers to boost support for its products.
To remedy this, HP reached out to some of the most powerful influencers that would affect the buying power of the younger generation they were targeting. These stars of Vine, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter were given HP's X360 Convertible PC to document a behind-the-scenes look at Meghan Trainor's Video.
Check it out:
HP reached consumers on all the major social media channels that they would likely have never reached before. However, they also targeted the business world by showing how bloggers and others who work in the virtual world effectively utilize their product. The result? Bloggers and other influencers picked up on the thread and sang HP's praises.
Although this example speaks to the power of influencer marketing on the B2C scene, you can easily see how such influence can make a powerful impact on B2B audiences as well.
2. SAP: A Glowing B2B Example
SAP is a mastermind at using B2B influencer marketing to promote its brand and products. They expertly use influencers in several different ways, including through guest posting and content creation.
Take as an example SAP's mentor program, which is an advocacy program that uses bloggers, consultants, and other influential individuals to lend their voice on SAP's behalf. These mentors are customers or partners of SAP and work in a collaborative capacity with the company.
SAP has also used influencers in tandem with its Sapphire Annual Conference to drive conversations and reach new audiences. Thanks to its influencers, SAP reached a new, virtual audience that was interested in the event but could not attend in person. This initiative engaged over 80,000 people with video interviews and other features that helped fans and newcomers gain a new perspective on the event.
SAP has also appointed someone to oversee its influencer marketing efforts and nurture relationships with the influencers they work with.
The following is a video interview with Amisha Gandhi, head of SAP's influencer marketing that was taken during Content Marketing World 2017. It shines some light on how SAP has developed its influencer marketing strategy and why it's so important.
While not everyone operates at the same scale as SAP, it's a good idea to have a dedicated person to oversee and coordinate your influencer marketing strategy. This can help to ensure that your strategy stays on course and that your influencers have a positive experience working with your brand.
Certainly, having the right tools in your marketing belt and using them at the appropriate time is critical to success. Ready to map out your strategy? The first step is to get organized. Check out our FREE editorial calendar to get started!
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