The B2B landscape is tough. As marketers, we need to do whatever we can to stand out from our competitors, and encourage people to pick us. You may believe that your product is ideal for many firms in your niche. Yet other businesses are not going to simply take your word for your claims. Indeed it may be difficult, and expensive, to spread your message about your product - certainly by traditional marketing methods.
Some managers may still remember the days when sales reps would turn up unannounced at the office with a suitcase of samples, trying to peddle their wares. Many of these sales reps could give a good speech. They knew their products' benefits and could effortlessly give you a spiel on how their latest gadget would increase your sales, reduce your costs, or keep the showroom tidy.
Yet after they left, you were often left with an uneasy feeling. Had you just been conned? You had this shiny new widget sitting in your office - perhaps where it would still be sitting for eternity. The sales rep was undoubtedly good at his job. He made one-off sales easily. But was there trust? Were there repeat sales?
Summary: Quick Jump Menu
- B2B Influencers
- 1People buy from people - we all know this, so why don't we leverage it?
- 2People want to see content that relates to them, not you
- 3People research, more than you think
- 4People are more likely to buy if they come to you
- 5People will read your content, they just have to know it exists
In this online age, things have hardly changed. The media may now be email, social media and a website. But unless there is some form of external proof - social proof perhaps - there will always be doubt about claims a firm makes about itself.
However, if the claims are made by somebody external, somebody is respected and trusted, that is a different story. If there is some form of external proof, potential purchasers are far more likely to accept your claimed benefits are genuine. Even business buyers, potentially spending millions of dollars worth of other people’s money, will believe the word of an influencer, over a brand itself.
So who would most likely be considered an influencer in the B2B sphere? Any of the following who have an active social online presence probably garner sufficient respect to be considered B2B influencers:
- Market analysts
- Industry executives.
There is a key question you need to ask yourself about any potential B2B influencers. Do they influence the types of people who make important purchasing decisions?
Here are five reasons that B2B companies should be advertising through influencers if they truly want to make an impact.
1People buy from people - we all know this, so why don't we leverage it?
In theory, there is a clear difference between B2B and B2C sales. Both types involve a business selling - the B2 part of their acronyms. B2B sell to businesses, B2C sell to consumers. It’s clear-cut, isn’t it?
Except there is a problem with this scenario. A “business” may be a legal entity. But it does not actually make decisions by itself. The purchasing decisions in businesses, indeed ALL decisions in businesses, are made by people - the same people who are consumers in their non-working lives.
Therefore, the people who make purchasing decisions in business will be influenced by many of the same factors that affect their personal shopping decisions.
Yes, a business Purchasing Officer may undertake more in-depth research in their work, than they do when shopping for themselves. Yes, there may be more people involved in a business purchasing decision. But ultimately the two types of shopping are the same.
Whether you purchase goods as a consumer or purchase on behalf of a company, the key to your decision making still comes down to trust. How much do you trust that a seller's claims for their product are true and correct? Can anybody provide independent proof that your product meets your claims?
People trust experts more than they do brands. If somebody recognized as a genuine influencer makes claims about a product, people believe them far more than if the brand makes the same claims itself.
2People want to see content that relates to them, not you
Influencers are content creators. As a B2B marketer, you can leverage Instagrammers, YouTubers and writers not just to create social posts, but also to help you create content for your own brand channels.
Influencers will know their audience well and will know the types of content that work best for these followers.
People who consume content on the internet want to do so on their terms. They search for content and follow people on social media that interest them.
Think about your own internet browsing. Even if you are simply looking for entertainment, you choose where you go and who you interact with. If your aim is to make a B2B purchasing decision you will direct your product research activities.
The key point is that you follow after content that you believe is relevant to you. You don’t care about what the person who created it wanted.
Business executives are likely to follow key influencers in their sector - their blogs, their emails, and their social media postings. Why? Because they are likely to be genuinely interested in what the influencers have to say. They may even be open to learning new ideas that can improve their business.
If these influencers present content that paints a flattering picture of a product in your niche, there is a high likelihood that many of the influencer's followers will want to learn more. Because they learned about your product from a trusted influencer, and the content is likely to be of interest to them, they are far more likely to follow through to further stages in the buying funnel, than if you tried other means of promoting your product.
3People research, more than you think
Although there are a surprising amount of similarities between B2B and B2C transactions, B2B buyers tend to undertake more research before they buy. This makes sense. They are after all spending somebody else’s money - they simply have stewardship over it. B2B purchase values are often larger than those made by consumers. Also, there is a possibility that the purchaser - or his boss - could get fired f they make a bad, poorly-researched decision.
According to Demand Gen’s 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey, nearly two-thirds of buyers suggested that content had a significant influence on their decision. Clearly, most see the value of making the effort to research the pros and cons of various products before making their final decision.
The same survey also showed that 72% of the B2B respondents used social media to research a purchase solution and 57% connect directly with potential solution providers on social media.
Statistics also show that 54% of people will visit a business website after reading a positive review.
Therefore it is vital for B2B businesses to have an interesting, useful website with compelling copy that informs more than it sells. They also benefit from having an active social presence, along with influencers to amplify their content to a wider market.
4People are more likely to buy if they come to you
In many ways, this is the key difference between traditional outbound marketing and modern inbound marketing. For years, brands have created ads in various media, where they have basically sent the message, “Hey we are the best. Come and buy our product today”. This is at the heart of nearly every tv commercial that has ever been made.
Outbound marketers often have to create a market. It’s very hard to advertise, “Come and buy our Thingamebob” if nobody knows what a Thingamabob is.
Much B2B marketing, even online, follows this basic pattern. Online display ads are a typical example of this, although platforms like Google are better at targeting these ads, so at least they are usually only sent to relevant people.
However, most content marketing, in particular, that distributed by influencers, is designed to provide useful, relevant information to those who come to your site. In this situation, a potential purchaser is probably already interested in your product. They have made a deliberate decision to come to your site, read your content, and collect relevant information they need before they either make a purchasing decision or provide the information to the actual decision makers.
5People will read your content, they just have to know it exists
Just because people place their trust in influencers more than they do in your brand, doesn't mean that you should give up producing content. People are still interested in the content you produce - even in traditional old forms like press releases, to some extent. They may not necessarily believe everything you say at face value, of course.
If a business intends to make a purchase of any sizeable value they are likely to undertake extensive research first.
The problem is that unless your product is already well-known, your potential customer may not even know of your existence. Think of how many products you see mentioned every day when you search the web. How many of these were unknown to you prior to your search?
Today, a domino effect needs to occur across social media in terms of likes and shares.before an item of content can gain popularity,
If you produce interesting, detailed, valuable content, the people who make business purchasing decision will notice it. They just need to learn of its existence first.
So how can you ensure that potential purchasers see your content? The best way is to know who the most influential people are in your field and to make the effort to build genuine relationships with them.
Another great idea is to work with LinkedIn influencers to share your articles on LinkedIn Pulse, ensuring you reach more people and your contact is shared by credible sources. LinkedIn is the most respected of the social media channels for C-Suite and other senior executives. They regularly seek and engage B2B content on LinkedIn - more than they would on FaceBook or Instagram.
You will notice that the common trend in the above reasons is 'people'. Often as B2B marketers, we forget that we're simply a company, standing in front of a consumer, asking them to love us.
The true heart of influencer marketing is that while consumers trust people, they inherently don’t trust businesses. And while you can argue that B2B marketing doesn't actually involve consumers that isn’t true. Businesses are staffed by people; people who are consumers in their own right. A business doesn’t make its own purchasing decisions. People make those decisions.
Influencer marketing provides the trust that the business itself is often lacking.