(Updated October 18, 2018)
Are you surprised to learn that 92% of people seek referrals from people that they trust before making a purchase? This includes experts that they follow on social media. B2B influencer marketing wields incredible power for marketers, and is not a tool to be ignored.
Not too long ago, we published a post entitled, Why the Best B2B PR Campaigns Use Influencer Marketing, and outlined how to leverage the power of influencers in your various campaigns. Now, we’re going to look at new developments in the realm of influencers, and some of the best practices for dealing with influencers.
Marketing guru, Lee Odden of TopRank, defines influencer marketing this way: “The practice of engaging internal and industry experts with active networks to help achieve measurable business goals.”
This raises some important questions, including:
- What is the role of influencers in B2B communications?
- How do we treat them?
- How do we measure their success?
- What can we learn from real-life B2B influencer marketing examples?
Why Are Influencers So Powerful for Marketers?
Influencers have built their career around trust. People follow and listen to influencers because of trust. Companies approach influencers because they want to build trust (or credibility) in their brand. They act as a bridge between their audience and the vast array of brands that vie for attention.
Influencers can help you meet your marketing objectives by:
- Adding an authentic, non-salesy, voice to your content
- Using their industry expertise to add more depth to your content
- Increasing the amount of content that you might be able to produce on its own
- Increasing the reach of content beyond what you could accomplish on its own
Influencer marketing has been around for about a decade and B2B marketers have become smarter and more skilled in their use of it. We've identified 10 ways influencer marketing strategy has changed and what you should do about it.
10 Surprising Ways that B2B Influencer Marketing Strategy Has Changed -- And What You Should Do
1. Greater Emphasis Will be Placed on Influence
Influencers' priorities are changing. While some have offered up their audience in exchange for money, more and more are increasingly interested in expanding their audience.
Let’s face it, their influence is their bread and butter. A wider audience deepens their roots as influencers. As you grow your audience, this will become a valuable commodity to exchange for influencers' involvement in your marketing strategy.
2. The Definition of an Influencer Expands
A nationally recognized industry leader with 500,000 Twitter followers may have a lot of influence to throw around -- but that’s not always the influencer you want. More companies are realizing the power that micro-influencers wield in B2B communications. These lesser-known influencers often play on the local or industry level, but may have greater sway with their smaller audiences.
A niche or trade-specific influencer has a unique audience -- more serious and more engaged in your industry content. Plus, micro-influencers may be easier to contact and work with in the long run, since their attention isn’t so divided. A marketing strategy is more likely to succeed if it includes both big name influencers and lesser known micro-influencers.
3. Straight-Up Endorsement Won’t Fly Anymore
Audiences are becoming more discerning, and overall more distrustful of endorsements as a whole. Influencers who have been paid to simply promote a product -- with no true love for it -- face a potential backlash from their audience.
The solution? Influencers need to be more authentic, and companies need to choose influencers who truly enjoy their product or service. The very nature of influencers means that people look to them for their real opinions, not paid ones.
Influencers have already begun to be more selective in their partnerships -- choosing to advocate for companies that they already like instead of the highest bidder. You as a brand can a play a part in this by choosing influencers who already know and love you.
4. You Need an Influencer Relationship Teams
The value of influencers in marketing has increased sevenfold, according to an article published in Business Insider; depending on the industry, and number of followers, influencers can now make up to $100,000 for one post! It only makes sense that the way we treat them would change as well.
That means companies need to form ongoing relationships with influencers rather than rely on one-time blog posts or social media mentions. To ensure that happens, assign actual individuals to reach out and nurture these relationships for use in the future.
If you don't have the time or resources to invest in a influencer relationship team, you can turn to a B2B PR agency that specializes in these kinds of relationships.
5. Influencers Will Grow in Importance in the B2B Field
Typically, B2C marketers have embraced influencer marketing more than B2B marketers. However, B2B marketers are catching up, recognizing that influencers wield great power over potential customers and inspire trust in their audience.
One of the best B2B influencer marketing examples is from LinkedIn. To promote its marketing channel, LinkedIn teamed up with well-known marketers to create an eBook entitled, The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn, with pro tips provided by these influencers. The influencers shared the eBook with their audiences, and the results were tremendous -- thousands of shares and millions of dollars in new business.
6. B2B Companies Need a Higher Brow Influencer
While both B2B and B2C companies benefit from influencer marketing, the kind of influence changes with B2B marketers.
One major difference is the buying process. With a typically higher price point and more complicated sales process (with multiple people involved in the purchase decision), B2B makes for a harder sell than the B2C counterpart.
How does this change your influencer marketing? The most effective influencer in the B2B space will be someone with in-depth industry knowledge along with a steady follower base in one or more of your market segments. Their established expertise makes them a credible candidate to influence an array of B2B buyers.
7. Appeal to the Reputation of B2B Influencers
B2B influencers are not accidental influencers -- they have achieved this status through years of honing their knowledge and abilities, building up their trust through years of hard work. They may have invested in thought leadership marketing to get to the place of trust and respect that they now hold.
How does this affect the way you approach them? You need to appeal to their reputation as a trusted leader in their industry. You might do this by showing them...
- How your product is impacting the industry.
- Clients who have had amazing results as a result of using your product.
- How your product reduces risks that exists in the industry.
- Research that proves the success of your company.
Work this into a story that tugs not only on an emotional level but also showcases knowledge and expertise.
Take this example from TopRank, a leading blog on issues surrounding digital marketing. During their Content Marketing World Conference, they had over 40 influencers join them to promote and be present at the event. Some of the keynote speakers for this event included such B2B marketing influencers as Ann Handley, Christopher Penn, and Robert Rose.
8. Companies Will Want to See Proof of ROI
Measurement and analytics have exploded on the marketing scene -- from blog views to CTA clicks, everything can be measured. So it only makes sense that we develop a way to measure the impact of influencers.
Here are a few areas that you can use to prove the ROI of your influencer marketing campaigns:
- New B2B leads
- New partnerships
- More influencers spreading your content to their audiences
- Increased traffic to your website
- New sales
9. Influencers Are Long-Term Relationships
The use of influencers has exploded and many marketers have reaped the rewards. But some companies have started to abuse the influencer relationship -- they get a coveted brand mention, and then quickly forget about the influencer.
For influencers to work with you long-term, they need to feel like more than a tool. Learning about them, their interests, what they do, what they write about...all of this will help cultivate a relationship that you can call upon in the future. After all, the world of influencers is fairly small.
In short, if you hope to work with influencers again, don’t burn that bridge. Send out a thank you once they’ve given you that mention or blog post. Treat them well. Mention them to your social media audience. With a little extra attention, you’ll gain allies for the long haul.
10. Influence Is Not Limited to One Media
In the past, we only thought of influence as a social media tactic -- but now we cannot possibly categorize it into any one media strategy. Let's just briefly review ways that you can use influencers in all levels of the PESO model (a model used by our B2B PR agency and others, and which stands for paid, earned, shared, and owned media):
Paid Media -- Use paid media to get into the sights of influencers. Craft a piece of content that will add value to influencers within your industry. You might even link that content to the sites of a few select influencers. Then create an audience list of the influencers that fit your industry and brand. When the time is right, pay to promote that piece of content to reach those select influencers.
Earned Media -- Develop a relationship with influencers by liking, commenting, and sharing their posts on social media. Monitor the kind of content that interests them and develop similar content. When the time is right, approach them with a soft sell pitch, mentioning that you've noticed that they like similar content.
Shared Media -- There's a reason social media was the original place to interact with influencers. Social media lets you eyeball influencers, including how they post, how they discuss industry matters, and what excites them. It enables you to get to know them better and eventually reach out to them.
Owned Media -- You might ask several influencers with whom you have a good relationship to contribute to an eBook on a pre-chosen topic. Write an introduction, and present it to your audience with the influencers headlining the offer. This kind of offer is evergreen and will continue to hold its value for years to come.
Have you thought about using these media forms within your influencer marketing strategy? If not, now is the time to take a powerful step forward into the modern era of influencer marketing.
What's Your Next Step?
Do you currently use influencers to reach your marketing goals? If not, where do you begin to find an influencer who aligns with your company?
Find the right influencers. There are many online tools that make it easier to find influencers in virtually any niche subject matter you would want. Tools like Traackr, BuzzSumo, and Klout offer services (both paid and free) to help you identify influencers, what they write about, and how to contact them. Some of these tools even offer analytics to measure how effective their influence is for you.
Do your research. Again, your goal should be to cultivate long-term relationships with influencers. So before you contact influencers, do your due diligence. Learn as much as you can about their specific niche, and the kind of content they create.
Reach out. Take time to build a relationship. Follow them on social media, like and leave comments on their posts when appropriate. After a little time, once they’ve seen your name and engaged with you, you can approach the subject of promoting your brand.
Be nice and genuine. Remember, influencers are real people, and they respond to kindness and consideration. Make them feel special -- tell them why you want to work with them specifically. What articles have they written that you value? What niche expertise do they have that could help you reach your marketing goals? Tell them.
B2B influencer marketing is here to stay. Embrace it, and see how it can grow and work for your brand’s marketing goals.
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