Influencer marketing in the consumer space shows no sign of slowing down, but what about business-to-business (B2B)? B2B influencer marketing hasn’t experienced quite the same upward trajectory. However, savvy businesses are starting to realize the power of engaging decision-makers by partnering with opinion leaders and content creators in their industry.
B2B influencer marketing comes with a few challenges. Historically, it hasn’t been as easy to find the most relevant influencers for B2B influencer marketing campaigns. Influencers boasting large social media followings don’t necessarily have much credibility with B2B buyers. Also, B2B sales cycles are longer than the cycle for consumer products: buyers aren’t typically clicking a link from Instagram in order to make a purchase.
B2B decision-makers are different from traditional consumers, but that doesn’t mean influencer marketing isn’t an effective way of reaching them. Some of the benefits of B2B influencer marketing:
- Builds trust with your audience
- Humanizes your brand
- Overcomes ad and algorithm barriers
- Boosts targeted reach and engagement
It’s not enough to just “try” influencer marketing. To reap the rewards of working with influencers, your brand needs a roadmap for success. Every great B2B influencer marketing campaign starts with one thing: a great marketing strategy.
The Elements of an Effective B2B Marketing Strategy
Identify goals. In order to develop a strong B2B influencer marketing strategy, start by identifying business goals. What defines success for your influencer campaign? Are you aiming to raise brand awareness, increase leads, drive sales?
These goals will inform your key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs can include things like number of visitors, number of new subscriptions, and number of social shares. Campaign KPIs can be measured and analyzed to understand campaign ROI.
Understand your audience. Who are they, what do they care about, and what can your brand do for them? What does their sales cycle look like, and where does your campaign fit within that process? You can segment by business, industry, job function, and many other categories.
Of course, with B2B, purchases often need to be considered by more than just one person. Buyer personas can help you get granular with targeting, but don’t forget the big picture: what is it that the business as a whole is needing? Keep your unique value proposition in mind during this target market identification stage.
Choose the right influencers. Influencers are the heart and soul of your strategy. Don’t get overly swayed by follower counts, focus on their engagement levels and relevance to your audience and goals.
How to Find B2B Influencers
Like consumers, today’s buyers and decision-makers prefer reviews and recommendations from their peers, social networks, and industry experts over self-promoting businesses. While the task of finding a B2B influencer isn’t quite as easy as it is in the B2C space, it’s worth the extra effort.
In general, the ideal influencer for a B2B influencer marketing campaign will be familiar with your products or services, and will have an audience on the social platforms you want to reach.
Start by analyzing your existing customer base and targeting those with an active social media presence. Customer testimonials and effective case studies are common marketing practices in B2B, but you can also leverage these into social content. Reach out to your best clients and see if they’d be willing to post on your behalf.
Employees are another great resource. You want people with the relevant topical expertise, reach, and resonance that aligns with your business goals.
Potential B2B influencers can also be found by searching industry hashtags and articles, or through in-person meet-ups at conferences and other business events. Once you’ve found a good prospect, take a look at their connections on LinkedIn: they’re likely to lead you to more influencers in your industry.
Another option is to work with an agency like Sway Group. The Sway Content Studio eliminates the need to find B2B influencers, because we identify your buyers and produce the visuals and messaging they respond to. Our specialized B2B offerings mean that businesses can source compelling brand-owned influencer-driven content, without the need to run a full influencer marketing campaign.
Deliver Top-Quality Influencer Content
At its core, B2B influencer marketing is about adding credibility and support to great brand content. Your B2B content marketing strategy probably includes one (or all) of the following:
- Ongoing social posts across multiple channels
- Nuanced, targeted digital marketing that doesn’t get tuned out by ad-weary audiences
- eBooks, how-to videos, presentations, whitepapers, customer resources, and recruitment efforts
- Blog posts and website updates to ensure you continue to promote your visibility in search
- Dynamic visual email content that advances your pipeline and converts
- Promotional assets for trade shows, sales support, and distributor//VAR/OEM communications
Just like with B2C, B2B content can be used to expand audience reach, develop and strengthen brand affinity, and ultimately drive more leads and sales. High-quality content boosts organic search traffic and social shares, and captures the attention of your ideal audience.
Influencers are the key to getting that great content shared beyond your own brand channels. They know what resonates with their specific audience, and how to share information in a way that feels organic in social feeds.
Traditional creative agencies are great for when you need a rebrand or product launch — but they’re an expensive solution for ongoing content demands.
Consistently developing fresh, interesting content can be a major challenge for B2B organizations. With the Sway Content Studio, our fast turnaround helps you stay ahead of the curve with audience-centric images and videos that are perfectly curated for today’s social platform trends.
Co-Creation is the Name of the Game
People’s trust of advertising has reached an all-time low; we’ve learned to tune out traditional sales pitches and skip past commercials. While most reports focus on consumer distrust, the B2B industry is experiencing its own trust gap between buyers and vendors.
According to CEO and founder of TrustRadius, a customer voice and insights platform that delivers reviews for B2B technology:
“Buyers are bringing habits that they have developed as consumers into the workplace, and they have an expectation that they ought to be able to get the same amount of transparency and intelligence about products they buy in the workplace as they do in their personal lives. The reality is that buyers have already changed, and vendors have to adapt. The status quo of trying to control the message and using traditional forms of customer marketing, like highly-crafted case studies and gated references, is increasingly anachronistic. It simply is not the path forward for B2B vendors.”
In a recent study, fifty-seven percent of senior-level B2B respondents named branded content as the best tool to build B2B brand trust. B2B influencer marketing should have the goal of producing messaging that authentically speaks to customer needs, without simply repeating the same brand party lines over and over.
Bottom line: let influencers share your brand in their own unique voices. When influencers are marketing co-creators rather than sales billboards, audiences pay attention.
The Influencer Marketing Metrics That Matter
B2B influencer marketing can and should be measured. Campaign metrics give you the information you need to understand the impact of your current campaign, determine ROI, and fine-tune your future projects.
The type of metrics you’ll want to measure will be based on your business objectives. Maybe you were aiming for a certain number of video views or post shares. Maybe your focus was on likes, page views, newsletter signups, gated content downloads, or sales. Every campaign will have its own unique set of meaningful metrics.
At Sway Group, our proprietary reporting system that helps clients understand every detail behind their campaign performance. We embed specific tracking in our sponsored links so we can analyze the numbers that show involvement and interest in branded content:
It’s important to tie your B2B influencer marketing plans to quantitative performance metrics. After all, without measurement, you can’t determine success.
The Final Word on B2B Influencer Marketing
At its core, B2B influencer marketing is fairly simple: it’s about engaging and developing relationships with individuals. Your B2B prospects are searching for information in a sea of ad-heavy content and dubious sales claims. They don’t want more corporate party lines, they’re looking for authentic recommendations from their peers and industry leaders.
Influencer marketing lets you cut through the noise with solutions that resonate. There’s never been a better time to partner with industry influencers to deliver campaigns that turn interest into action.