As advertising costs rise and organic reach on social media shrinks, reaching your target market gets more challenging by the day.
This is why so many brands use influencer marketing to effectively reach their target markets and generate ROI.
Consumer brands have been using influencers for years, but does this strategy work for B2B brands?
On the surface, it appears working with influencers is best for consumer brands in verticals such as beauty, fashion, and travel.
That’s because it’s easy for consumer brands.
On the other hand, B2Bs don’t have consumers who make decisions on emotion or a whim.
Instead, they make decisions based on budget, planning, and relationships.
Decisions that are carefully considered and can take weeks, even months to complete.
The good news is influencer marketing works great for B2Bs, much in the same way it does for consumer businesses.
It just requires more skill, consideration, and planning.
Just take a look at some of the most respected B2B brands in the world.
You’ll see they are leveraging influencers to reach their target markets and generate ROI.
I’m talking about companies such as SAP, HP Enterprise, Blue Raven Solar, and others.
Influencer Marketing as a Strategy
So let’s take a closer look at why influencer marketing, as a strategy, is compelling for brands.
Here are some stats that will grab your attention:
- Blog reviews influence 60 percent of the buying decisions of consumers while shopping
- Forty-nine percent of consumers choose to buy products if recommended by influencers
- Ninety-four percent of marketers who used influencer marketing deem it as an effective method
- Influencer marketing delivers 11 times more ROI than traditional methods of digital marketing
- Influencer marketing is 49 percent effective in raising awareness, 41 percent in increasing customer loyalty, and 34 percent in driving sales
And these statistics are possible because their followers believe in these influencers.
Whether they blog, post to Instagram or YouTube, or write white papers, influencers are all content creators—and that authenticity is key.
Their content is liked, shared, commented on, and even questioned.
When influencers recommend something, a percentage of their audience will take action on it—click a link, download a PDF, or buy something.
So you can see why this strategy is popular with many brands including B2Bs.
Who Qualifies as an Influencer?
For consumer brands, it’s easy to find influencers because social media personalities are everywhere you look—YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter.
For B2Bs, though, many consumer-oriented influencers are not a good fit. So it’s necessary to dig a bit deeper, which takes time.
That said, many B2B influencers are on social media platforms, but instead of Instagram or Pinterest, you’ll find them on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Another place to look is business partners such as manufacturers, retailers, suppliers, and prominent consultants because they know your industry and are familiar with your brand.
In developing relationships, correctly leveraging influencers can help guide your ideal customers through the “buyer’s journey” and ultimately to your solution.
And that’s not all.
The added advantage influencers have is they can communicate your message to their audience more effectively and with authority.
Depending on program goals, ROI can help raise brand awareness, generate leads, and even sell products.
Know Your Target Market
A critical component when identifying influencers is understanding your target market and what motivates them.
It doesn’t matter if you are B2B or a B2C.
What I’m referring to here goes beyond mere demographics of age, gender, and location.
You must understand their pain points, how they like to buy, who they look to for advice, and where they congregate online.
Identifying these factors makes it easier to find influencers because you understand the target market.
How to Find Influencers
You’re likely already following some influencers in your industry, so start there.
It can be through their blog, podcast, YouTube channel or LinkedIn content.
Another method is to look for influencers using Google search.
The best part is other people have already done the hard work for you by putting together lists of influencers.
As an example, let’s say you’re looking for procurement influencers.
Search for something like “top procurement Influencers” of “best procurement Influencers.”
Look at the results and choose the ones you like.
Another way is using one of the many influencer marketing platforms available.
Many of these are expensive, so check if they have a free trial period allowing you to test it out before plunking down a lot of money.
Finally, you can do hashtag searches on social platforms that matter to your business.
Instagram and Pinterest are consumer-oriented, so they might not make sense for you.
However, LinkedIn and Twitter are worthwhile places to look.
How to Leverage Influencers
Once you have a list of influencers, it’s important to know what you want to do with them before contacting them.
Know your goal and what you want to accomplish before you begin.
Do you want to raise brand awareness for your company and your products?
Or is your goal to generate click-throughs to a landing page or generate leads?
Knowing your goals will help you establish KPIs so you can track program performance.
And be sure to communicate to the influencer what you are looking to do and the strategy to accomplish this.
The influencer must be informed so they can provide feedback – which is something you should ask for.
Remember, your influencers are very attuned to their audiences and know them better than you do.
So use this to your advantage and ask for their opinion.
Set your influencers up to succeed by giving them relevant information about your product or service. The more information you give, the better.
And if possible, provide them with sample products or let them try your service for free.
This prompts them to create social media content using their voice to talk about your brand, product or service.
Another reason to provide influencers with your product or service is because many will not promote something without trying it first.
Consumer brands do this all the time, and when possible, B2B brands should too.
Since followers trust them, influencers naturally want to maintain that trust, and not risk breaking it by promoting something they have not tried for themselves.
Give your influencers the chance to be authentic.
B2B brands have a variety of influencer strategies they can use to boost brand awareness and drive traffic.
Here I’ll share a rundown of a few that work.
Co-create Shareable Content
Meet with your in-house marketing team and ask them to create shareable content that appeals to your target market.
Some shareable content includes:
- Video interviews
- Podcast interviews
- High quality, compelling images with captions
- Blog posts and white papers
To make this more powerful, enlist influencers to assist you in creating content.
Since your influencers know their audience well and interact with them daily, they’ll have ideas about what content to produce. Be sure to incorporate their suggestions into the content.
Once you create the content, enlist your influencer to help publish and evangelize it with their audience.
Remember, influencers get a credibility boost by working with brands as it proves they are authorities and much sought after.
You can scale this strategy by simply adding more influencers and setting up a content creation and publishing schedule.
Once you start working with your influencers, you’ll be able to assess which ones to consider for the next strategy.
Enlist Brand Ambassadors
Many companies enlist influencers as brand ambassadors.
However, the influencer you choose for this role needs to have similar goals and the target audience you want to impact. So, you’ll need to carefully consider who you approach.
If you decide to do this, have a contract in place with them to represent your business for a certain duration. And if the relationship works to everyone’s advantage, then renew the contract.
This is a viable strategy to leverage. If the influencer continually engages with their target audience, you can insert your brand into the conversation to gain mindshare and edge out competitors from the online conversation.
If you have a video channel on YouTube, video marketing campaigns are a great way to leverage influencers to get in front of your target audience.
If you don’t have a video channel, then consider starting one. It’s simple and easy to do.
The hardest part is setting up a content schedule.
But if you already have a company blog, you’ll likely have a similar schedule to work from.
In your videos, make the influencer the center of attention by interviewing them.
Talk about what they do, their thoughts on your industry, where it’s headed, key products and services and more.
Influencers love to talk about these things, and this gives them the opportunity.
For example, I’ve done interviews with companies in my industry about influencer marketing.
From these interviews, they got content while I got another opportunity to express my thoughts and educate others.
Something else to consider.
By co-creating videos, you’ll get shareable, interactive content you can repurpose.
You can promote the video on multiple channels by editing into snippets and publishing on your social media channels and website.
The list of possibilities is limited only by your creativity.
Influencer Marketing for B2B
Influencer marketing is an effective, long-term strategy to reach your market with authority and authenticity.
And by leveraging influencers, you are no longer beholden to social media platforms and their costly advertising algorithms.
Using influencers can help provide your B2B with increased brand exposure, build your reputation, and engage many people at once while generating leads.
So whether you are trying to promote a product, service or promotional offer, recruit influencers to help you out.
Photo by Elijah Macleod on Unsplash