B2B Influencer marketing strategies can elevate B2B brands by creating a genuine human connection, building trust, establishing social proof, branding, and generating leads with potential customers to win business in a way no other media can compete with!
Is a B2B influencer marketing strategy one of the most powerful ways to drive engagement, build trust, and brand awareness, reach potential customers, and drive employee advocacy? Let’s go over the pros and cons to help you decide if an influencer marketing strategy is right for your business.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is defined as a type of inbound marketing using influencers and micro influencers in which brands create relationships with the most prominent leaders in their industry who share their values and work together to create content that is meaningful to both of their audiences. These are the people that already earned the trust of your target audience, and have their attention.
“If the influencer fits your brand persona and core values align, it means that the content is authentic to both the company and the influencer’s audience. It is a win-win for both,” says Srijana Angdembey, Director, Social Media & Influencer Marketing at Oracle.
What Do You Mean by Influencer Marketing Strategy?
Influencer marketing is not simply getting someone with influence to say they like your brand. It’s about getting them to authentically like your brand and want to partner with you to spread the word about the incredible work you do.
Once you’ve got an influencer on your side, anything you say or do can get fed directly into the world of your target communities. This can be great when, say, one of them falls in love with your brand, like the founder of Jouer Cosmetics, Christina Zilber, who fell in love with Birchbox a few years ago, blowing them as part of a Mother’s Day marketing campaign.
But not so great when they say they like your sneakers, but they couldn’t care less to edit their caption, like what happened with Naomi Campbell and Adidas—which is why, when it comes to influencers, it’s of utmost importance not just to have a strategy, but to have one that is genuine in nature and realistic to execute.
How Does B2B Influencer Marketing Differ from B2C?
There are many similarities, but you have different types of potential customers. If you’re coming from the B2C world, keep these three main differences in mind:
B2B influencer marketing requires longer timelines than B2C
You’ll probably have to find the influencers rather than the influencers finding you
Know who your customers are listening to, following, watching, and reading
Is Now a Good Time for B2B Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is not a science, but the science does indicate that B2B influencer marketing is worth it.
A July 2022 survey published by TopRank Marketing and Mantis Research looked at the impact of B2B Influencer marketing on several sectors, including Software and SaaS, professional services and consulting, agencies telecommunications, manufacturing, and more.
86% of B2B marketers who work with influencers say their programs are successful
70%+ B2B marketers say influencer marketing become more important due to the pandemic
Today, people are less likely to trust anything that resembles traditional marketing and influencer campaigns offer savvy marketers a new opportunity.
Over 70% of B2B marketers say their customers use advice from influencers. About 62% say their influencer engagements have improved their customers’ brand experience. And, 80% expect interest to grow over through the next year.
Harnessing the Power of B2B Influencer Marketing
It’s about both the bigger picture and the immediate goal when it comes to B2B influencer marketing.
We know about 86% of B2B marketers were happy with their campaigns, but what were their goals? And how successful were they when broken down?
Improving Brand Reputation—72%
Boosting Brand Awareness—70%
New Lead Generation—56%
Influencer marketing works for most B2B marketing goals, but it is easier to see results when you paint broad strokes of influence rather than invest in targeted, sales-driven campaigns, although they all have produced successful results.
Prep Work: Identifying Potential Influencers
A good strategy lives and dies on finding the right influencers, so before getting started with strategy, let’s examine who and what you should be looking for and how.
What Traits Do B2B Influencers Have?
Knowing what to look for in a person helps give you that gut instinct to identify influencers in the interview process.
Relevant to your audience. They don’t have to be relevant to your industry, just to your audience, for example, a golf pro may hold influence over the decision marketers at a SaaS company or can reach a global audience.
Trusted. This should go without saying, but if there are any unexplained or off-brand blemishes on their record, it could come back to haunt you. You should also feel like you can trust them personally. There are too many fake influencers out there and we’ll talk about how to flag them in a moment.
Expert in their subject. Make sure they can answer real hardball questions when it comes to their own area of expertise. They should already be respected for their level of understanding of topics related to your audience.
Values that align with the brand. Be yourself so you can find the influencers who are most likely to find success with your product. Have direct conversations and be forthright. If it’s not a match, it’s not a match. But when you find target influencers who do line up, magic can be made.
They publish content on at least one platform. Think outside the box of Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn, and YouTube. As the largest platforms, of course, they’re important, but for B2B brands, the publishing platforms can be smaller. Take, for example, an email newsletter, Slack group, or even just being on the speaking circuit at industry events.
Charisma. This is the ‘X’ factor you hear about on all reality shows. They have to be more than respected, they have to be inspirational. Sometimes charisma is all it takes for campaign success, but be sure to media train any person you put forth as an influencer, even existing brand advocates.
Professional credentials. Awards and accolades go a long way in helping to establish trust and authority. They aren’t necessary, but looking at award winners is a good place to start when it comes time to find a partner.
Where can the right influencers be found?
From employee advocacy to industry leaders, B2B marketers typically attract influencers from one of the following areas:
Industry Influencers. These people have already developed sustained respect from your target audience, have faced critical challenges, and understand the business world, making their endorsements valuable.
Internal executives. Many client success stories at influential brands involve elevating charismatic leaders at from within the company.
Existing Customers. Satisfied customers drive the power of a positive review to its fullest extent, helping you build relationships and reach diverse audiences in addition to your target market.
Employees. Happy and influential employees are often very close to the product and can speak authentically about the values of your company.
Established Influencers. Many niche industries have their own professional digital influencers who can only be found on social media platforms, usually regular people who have created authentic relationships with their followers.
Keep in mind that once you establish a relationship, it needs to be nurtured, so always keep an eye on the future of your B2B influencer marketing strategy.
More than 40% of brands work with a marketing agency to help them source and manage influencers and 52% have asked for personal connections. Influencer marketing software exists, but there’s a learning curve.
Should You “Buy” Influencers?
Of course, there will be a transactional component to your relationship, but it should not be built on a dollar sign.
Ann Handley—Chief Content Officer at Marketing Profs, author, and B2B Influencer recently shared 6 things she looks for when partnering with a brand:
Respect for the product
A genuine connection with the people behind the brand
A similar worldview as the brand
Aligned business values
Enjoy working with brand liaisons
Relate to the people who work there
Notice how these are all about intangibles like people, reputation, and beliefs.
Handley knows that if she builds her own brand in an authentic way, it will pay off in the end.
Of course, her services aren’t free—in fact, she’s very expensive! But a brand she doesn’t believe in won’t be able to dangle any amount of money to purchase her influence.
Fake Influencers: Red Flags
More than half of marketers report having experienced fake influencers. Before you invite influencers to the negotiating table, here’s what to look out for:
Unattributed spikes in followers
Their followers don’t look like real accounts
All they do is publish sponsored content
Low engagement rates compared to followers
No portfolio or marketing kit
Should have more followers than they are following
Always be skeptical and trust your gut. Ask for recommendations and do your research.
How to Build A Strong B2B Influencer Marketing Strategy
When it comes to influencer marketing, there’s no one set way to build a strategy, so think of each point below as modules that you can format to your own needs.
Nurture Influencer Relationships
Working with influencers and dating are very similar. Once you’ve gone past the first conversation and you’re feeling the butterflies, you want to make sure you keep the influencer’s attention….the right way. Give yourself the time and budget to do it. It’s easier for an influencer who already knows your brand or product, but if they don’t just be prepared to take things slow before you see a return.
Master Branded Content Strategy on Relevant Social Media Platforms
Producing top-quality content marketing yourself will land you on the same playing field as the influencers you’re looking to attract. They’ll see you are more committed than other businesses and will respect your thought leadership.
Set a Realistic Budget (and Get Ready to Be Flexible)
Every influencer will tell you they’re not in it for the money, and you should believe them. But it’s still a job. There are market rates, but there’s also a lot of negotiating, so think in ranges.
Then you have to consider the cost of creating the content. Beautiful content sells your brand to influencers. An influencer may not want to work with you if they don’t feel the production value aligns with theirs. Think about your goals and be realistic about what you can achieve with your resources. Adjust accordingly.
Ensure Creative Freedom
Even though you pay for an influencer, the relationship is still collaborative. You don’t have to do everything they ask, but you do have to include them in the content process. They will be the spokesperson, so their creative input is helpful anyway. It’s just about managing expectations so that when the final product is made everyone feels like they were heard.
Set Goals & KPIs
It’s impossible to run marketing campaigns without understanding the reason behind it all. You need to define a clear goal. Is the goal to increase your revenue? Your reputation? Registrations for events? Your answer defines your influencer marketing plan.
Make the goal of the business measurable. Even if your goal is brand awareness, try creating some kind of measurable goals like a contest, landing page hits, emails, or a hashtag campaign.
Influencer marketing is not the time to be boring. Showcase your most creative ideas. Let your personality shine. You don’t have to create a new template, you just have to approach proven templates creatively.
Educate Your Influencers
Don’t assume your influencers know everything about your brand. Be sure to keep them regularly updated with relevant company and product news.
If a new product is launching, clue them in early enough in the process so they can be prepared to promote it. You can create regular meetings where you provide ongoing reports to them about the values and accomplishments of your brand.
In these uncertain times, influencers are driven to make statements about a wide variety of topics that have nothing to do with your business or product. And sometimes what they say makes you cringe.
Influencers are people so they are not perfect.
Influencers may share most of your values but differ on one that your target community cares deeply about, forcing you to make a statement on a topic you never would want to be associated with.
But they can also take an opposing stance on an unexpected news event.
It may sound scary but the overwhelming majority of influencers do not make unexpected statements. The point is, do your research and be prepared.
ROI: Influencer Marketing Campaign Vs. Paid Advertising
Like many marketers, you’re budgeting between a paid advertising strategy and an influencer marketing strategy.
So which has the better ROI?
Paid ads are clearly easier to create, but you get more ROI from an influencer marketing campaign.
Pros and Cons of Paid Ads vs. Influencer Marketing
Higher engagement rates, warmer leads, more direct sales, fewer rules and regulations, increased rate of content creation
More effort, can be pricey, results are harder to measure, more unpredictable, fake influencers
Brands are also combining these two strategies with positive results.
Paid Advertising Tips for a B2B Influencer Marketing Campaign
Use influencer content in paid ads
Use influencer content in click-to-buy ads
Sponsored PPC social media influencer content (whitelisting)
Host or sponsor influencer events
How Do You Measure an Influencer Campaign?
When influencer marketing is going great, it doesn’t feel like work at all…until it comes time to submit your monthly report, and you’re left wondering how you quantify the business results of things like “the party was awesome,” or that 145 people saw your webinar? So what?
Influencer analytics is tricky but you can take control by learning what to measure and how to find the story, so let’s look at the best ways to measure your work.
Track Everything and Be Creative
Use landing pages, pixels, UTMs, and other product codes to measure whatever you can base on your work. There’s almost always a story to be found if you know how to look in between the lines.
For example, if the goal is landing page hits but you got a lot of email sign-ups instead, that still tells you people are interested in becoming aware of your brand…but you might want to look at your funnel structure.
Comments Are Fair Fame—Use Them Well
Don’t be afraid to use comments to support sentimental claims.
Look at how the comments line up against the likes, shares, and saves, and use them to tell the story of your customer.
Use an Integrated Approach
Track the social media metrics you can and consider upgrading to a broader system like Hootsuite or Sprout Social, which allows you to monitor results across social platforms.
Also, talk to other areas of your business. Did sales see an uptick? Were there more calls than normal? There’s a bit of detective work when it comes to influencer marketing and analytics. Keep the full picture in mind.
Take a Comparative Approach to the Competition
Look at the performance of your industry as a whole and your immediate competitors to help frame your results. A post may have gotten less engagement than you had hoped for but if the industry as a whole, and your competitors in particular, were doing worse, it can save you from making an unnecessary course correction.
Before starting the campaign, come up with a few ways to measure success. Look for things like audience growth and cost-per-engagement statistics.
What Is the Best Influencer Marketing Platform for B2B?
Talent management has undergone a digital transformation– You can now use an influencer marketing platform to help you with analytics built specifically to measure influencer marketing.
The best one depends on your needs.
One of the most popular influencer platforms, Buzzsumo generates ideas, creates content, monitors performance, and helps you find influencers.
GRIN is great if you are looking to expand your content creation standards. It specializes in the content creation process for eCommerce companies.
If you like doing things on your own, you’ll enjoy using scrunch. It’s designed as a DIY marketing tool with a focus on micro-influencers and is a great option for small businesses.
StoryClash helps you look past the vanity metrics of an influencer to pinpoint creators who align with your values and creative aesthetics.
International brands are the focus of StarNage which has over 5 million influencer profiles in over 180 countries.
B2B Influencer Marketing Campaigns Swipe File
Boost your marketing strategy by looking at how a few B2B brands successfully used influencers on various content marketing media platforms.
You may not think of E-books and influencers in the same sentence, but Introhive, a legal CRM platform, combined the two beautifully in an E-book where they had industry influencers describe how they used the product.
Cisco runs something called the Cisco Champion Program—a long-term marketing influencer campaign across social channels.
You can tell they develop relationships well and thoroughly because they encourage their influencers to make social media posts with tips on how to use their product.
Instead of paying for ads explaining the product, they created educational material for their influencers, who simply turn on their social media to do the selling.
In a rebranding campaign, account-based marketing database solutions company, DemandBase, enlisted influencers to take part in a digital comic book that added a narrative to their often difficult-to-describe product. They saw 800% greater page views than the benchmark.
Tech start-up, Videofruit, saw an immediate return on guest blogging.
Founder, Bryan Harris, landed a guest blog post on OkDork, a blog with many influential readers in the tech industry.
The day after the blog post, his website quadrupled traffic and they saw a 12% increase in conversions.
American Express—Hashtag Campaign
American Express partnered with a small business owner and an influential blogger to kick start the #lovemybusiness campaign, to promote and help small businesses incorporate the use of credit cards.
This influencer marketing campaign resulted in the distribution of 400,000 Amex decals on various social media platforms and earned 5 million impressions.
In order to keep its most successful influencer programs running, LinkedIn strengthened relationships through ongoing social media engagement with about 40 highly targeted engaged advocates.
LinkedIn was able to share brand stories that created value for both the brand and the influencers, who could showcase their expertise and drive engagement on LinkedIn.
The Key Takeaways
Influencer marketing isn’t just social media marketing with popular people. It’s the most effective way to endear your target audience to your brand.
Not only do you drive future sales, but you build brand awareness, grow your reputation, and set up leads for down the road. Paid digital ads may take a lower level of effort, but you see a much greater return on effort with influencers and industry experts on your side.
Make sure you know how to find an influencer, build a strategy, and produce a report you can be proud to present.
Partnering with relevant influencers is one of the best marketing efforts a B2B brand can take and the time is now.
However, with more and more business-to-business brands exploring influencer marketing offers, the top influencers are becoming harder to get.