In today's fast-paced digital world, the average consumer or corporate decision maker is more savvy, demanding and discerning than ever.
So, what does this mean? Well, in a nutshell, it means that people are no longer susceptible to plastic digital advertising and the one size fits all marketing strategies of yesteryear. In fact, 92% of people trust recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them) over brands or businesses. When you consider that so many people trust the opinions of their peers, it's little wonder why influencer marketing is so popular - and effective.
B2B Influencer Marketing:
- What is B2B influencer marketing, exactly?
- The benefits of using influencers in your B2B marketing strategy
- Shining examples of B2B influencer marketing campaigns
- Finding influencers for your campaign
- Challenges of Measurement for B2B Businesses
- Measuring Awareness
- Some Awareness Measures are Quantifiable
- Don’t Forget SEO
- Less Traditional Social Media Measures
- Qualitative Measures May Give A Better Demonstration of Success
What is B2B influencer marketing, exactly?
Before we delve any deeper, let's consider what influencer marketing is and what it means in the realms of B2B.
Essentially, influencer marketing is a field of marketing that focuses on using key leaders to drive or showcase a brand message to the larger market. Rather than selling directly to a big group, instead, you can inspire, hire or even pay market influencers to promote what you have to offer.
As we said, people are far more likely to take action based on the recommendations of their peers - and in the B2B world, this notion is no exception.
Most influencer marketing campaigns employ active elements of social media as well as content marketing. Why? This is because, in today's world, content is everything and to enjoy success, you'll need to create content to engage with the influencers you're targeting.
In the B2C world, influencer marketing yields great results. MediaPost recently reported a healthy ROI of $6.50 returns for every dollar invested - not bad at all.
In the B2C world, consumers tend to rely on two main factors: empathy and detail. Now, in the B2B world, buyers often shape their decisions based on experiences with industry influencers in their personal lives - and they're looking for the same level of convenience and connection in their professional lives.
For a B2B influencer marketing campaign to be successful, those in the driver seat must adopt a similar approach to B2C marketers, but it's essential to find innovative ways to target those with deep industry knowledge; the kind of individuals that can influence corporate buyers and seamlessly tap into key business-to-business conversations.
The benefits of using influencers in your B2B marketing strategy
Okay, so we've talked about what influencer marketing is and how it applies to the B2B landscape. Now, let's take a glance at the benefits of using influencers as a core part of your B2B marketing strategy.
- A unique point of view that has the power to resonate with your target B2B audience.
- Original thought leadership. The kind that can shine a light on your existing content and in turn, help make your brand more visible as well as more desirable by proxy.
- Give you access to invaluable networks and professional contacts you otherwise wouldn't be able to reach.
- Authentic professional credibility that can help provide answers to the pain points of your target audience.
Shining examples of B2B influencer marketing campaigns
To give you a better insight into the power of B2B influencer marketing, here are two shining examples for your reading pleasure.
One of the most traditional and potent forms of B2B influencer marketing is guest blogging. By encouraging market influencers to publish original, informative and engaging industry insights on your publication, you stand to increase your reach and hugely boost your credibility. And this notion works both ways…
Bryan Harris, founder of marketing agency VideoFruit, produced an article for the OkDork blog, a niche digital marketing publication with a healthy B2B following, and by offering a fresh tone of voice, coupled with valuable industry information, the results were rather incredible.
On the same day the post was published, VideoFruit's page views increased by over 500%; unique page views rose by a whopping 600%; the average visitor time went up by more than 8% and last, but certainly not least, the bounce rate fell by around 6%.
By using its internal talent to influence a large targeted B2B audience, VideoFruit reaped great rewards, increasing conversions and boosting brand awareness in a big way.
As a high street makeup giant, Maybelline is a brand with a fairly sizable amount of street cred, to say the least.
Now, to reach a host of new consumers in a relatively short space of time, Maybelline used the power of social media marketing to implement an incredibly successful B2B campaign. By using its very own Fashion Week 2016 as a promotional platform, Maybelline utilized a host of its corporate partners, as well as notable beauty experts affiliated with them to branch out to new consumers and businesses.
The brand used 15 makeup experts from 15 different countries to roll out videos, tips and tutorials (chiefly through Instagram) during the course of the week, resulting in a monumental reach of 13.9 million businesses plus consumers in addition to a grand total of 3.9 million likes worldwide.
By using the credibility of other influential brands, businesses and industry experts to your advantage, it’s possible to expand your reach and connect with exciting new prospects; get the timing right, and you’ll enjoy maximum B2B influencer success.
Finding influencers for your campaign
Regardless of the approach you plan to take when setting up your B2B influencer marketing campaign, if you don't find the right influencers, you won't be able to reach the right business audience.
By understanding the B2B buyers you're looking to target, you'll stand the greatest chance of success. To do so, you should create a B2B buyer persona - an in-depth profile of your target buyer.
Once you've created a comprehensive profile, research the businesses you feel best fits the mould regarding the services you offer and look at which websites they visit, which trade organisations they're a member of, who they interact with on Linkedin and who they follow on social media.
By collecting this data and using your newfound knowledge to paint a detailed picture, you'll be able to understand the kind of content you'll need to create to engage with them, as well as which industry influencers to use to your advantage. At this point, you’ll have a decent idea of the influencers that are worth branching out to, but if you need a helping hand sourcing the best people for the job, these tools will help:
Create yourself a comprehensive buyer persona, conduct your market research, use the above tools to find the most valuable influencers for your marketing efforts and you’ll be able to forge new business relationships in no time.
Once you've sourced your influencers, you'll want to execute your strategy. There are three additional components to an effective B2B influencer marketing strategy...
- Create a content campaign directed at the influencers you're targeting.
- Put together a secondary marketing campaign for the influencers to drive greater awareness to a larger set of target buyers.
- Track key metrics relating to reach, sales and brand awareness to measure the ongoing success of your campaign.
Challenges of Measurement for B2B Businesses
While there may be more pressure on B2B firms to provide evidence of success in marketing campaigns, there are numerous challenges facing companies seeking concrete evidence of campaign success. Some of these are due to the nature of the B2B business relationship. However, some of these issues are more inherent in influencer marketing overall.
B2B products are often large and complex. It is typical for B2B companies to produce niche products, for whom there are few potential customers. As a result, many B2B companies sell to only a small number of clients, but they often involve high-value contracts.
Marketing in this situation can be tricky. You have to pinpoint your target market and make your marketing campaigns far more focused than most B2C companies have to.
This situation also emphasizes the importance to B2B companies of retaining customers. If you have only a few high-value customers, each one is of much value to you, and you would feel their loss keenly.
The typical B2B buyer follows a slow, well-researched journey before he or she finally decides on making a purchase. It is not like a standard B2C purchase where a consumer sees a promotion, like what he or she sees, and buys there and then. B2B firms usually have long sales cycles.
As a result, it is difficult to know for sure which item of marketing leads to a particular sale. This lack of a clear pathway Is particularly so with content marketing. The typical B2B buyer goes through many stages before signing a contract.
According to a recent Forrester survey , an average B2B buyer performs more than half his or her research online. That means that he/she will have seen many different items of content, including a range of material presented by your influencers.
The buyer will likely have seen a mix of content across digital and social channels, from peers, on YouTube, at events, and through sales reps, before he/she makes any decision.
Indeed, if there is a significant B2B purchasing decision to be made, it is unlikely it will be up to a single buyer to make the decision. The person researching the purchase will look at a range of options and, depending on company policy, could well formulate a short list to give to a team of people to make the ultimate buying decision.
B2B influencers do not restrict themselves to the traditional online platforms. They are far more likely to have physical meet-ups with their followers than B2C influencers. B2B influencers will often speak at conferences, trade shows and even local business events, such as After Five networking occasions.
The lack of a clearcut buying process provides an immense challenge when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of influence. How do you measure the effectiveness of somebody who talks positively about your product at a local trade show? This is particularly the case for a genuine supporter of your product whom you are not paying for their praise.
It also means that it is difficult to isolate particular B2B marketing messages. It is tough to know how much impact one specific blog post or social media message has on a company’s buying decision. But, taken as a whole, an entire B2B influencer marketing campaign could have an immense impact, and ultimately change the views of a buying company.
No B2B buying process can be successful if the buying company is unaware of the selling company’s product. Awareness is the first gate to be passed through on the way to a sale.
Influencers can help with the awareness process. They can be a vital tool for launching a new product or for announcing changes to an existing product.
The hardest part of building your personal following is creating the initial awareness. Even brands with a high social presence, such as Red Bull, had to build up an awareness before they were able to succeed themselves.
Awareness is one of the more straightforward metrics to measure. Engaged people are aware people. If your influencers can show evidence of active engagement with the posts they make on your behalf, then this suggests that they are creating awareness. You can take notice of Likes, Comments, and Replies, along with any relevant click-throughs.
This does presuppose that a company has been careful in its influencer selection. There is little value in high engagement if your influencer is not engaging with the people who are part of the B2B purchasing decision-making process.
B2B companies take far more interest in engagement statistics than they do in reach. If you only sell to telephone call centers, for instance, there is little point in trying to pitch your content to 1 million followers. Your interest is in how successful your influencers are at presenting your content to the decisionmakers in call centers.
You could consider using attribution and conversion tracking, such as Bizible, to show the progress of leads through the funnel.
Some Awareness Measures are Quantifiable
Although it can be challenging to measure awareness in quantifiable terms , you can use such statistics as the number of downloads of particular files, for instance, white papers, that result due to influencer recommendations. You could look at the number of visitors to a specific landing page that an influencer is asked to promote. You could take note of increased brand mentions on Google Alerts after an influencer campaign, for instance.
Don’t Forget SEO
With the typical B2B buyer doing half his research online, you cannot afford to ignore organic search. Your influencers have an impact on this too. While the SEO-effect of social media posts may be minimal, blogs with proper SEO can reach the upper echelons of search results. A major component of Google’s search engine is linking. The more high-quality links your influencers can generate back to your content the better the content is likely to perform.
High-quality content produced by influencers can give you an SEO advantage. Again, this may be difficult to measure tangibly, although there are plenty of tools that show where your best links come from and their amount of ‘link juice”.
Less Traditional Social Media Measures
There was a time when social media predominantly meant Facebook, and possibly Twitter, with Google trying to push Google + to join the big boys. As we have seen in many other articles here, social media has diversified into newer channels. Instagram, for instance now has 1.2B active monthly users , and is the fasted growing influencer marketing channel. Instagram at least provides clear engagement statistics. It can be harder to determine influencers engagement on channels like Snapchat where snaps vanish as soon as people view them.
Similarly, it can be hard to measure the effects of live streaming, although they may be significant. Imagine the benefits to a brand of a panel discussion between experts on a live stream with one or more of the experts advocating the benefits of using your product to solve a problem.
Qualitative Measures May Give A Better Demonstration of Success
Qualitative measures are always harder to measure and more intangible than quantitative numbers like likes or shares. However, often the most benefit comes to a business through these qualitative means.
Some of these occur when influencers promote or endorse about your product in a less formal setting. For instance, they may promote it when they network at events or in a speech they deliver. They may advocate your product when working face-to-face with their clients or anybody wanting their advice.
There are many situations when people ask for advice. One example is in online forums. For instance, Windows Secrets Forum is a forum with the motto, “Everything Microsoft forgot to mention.” Members leave messages on the forum if they have a problem in virtually any (Windows) computer-related niche.
Over time various members have developed into influencers because of their knowledge and ability to troubleshoot other members’ problems. They will often suggest products they believe will help ease the members’ issues.
In reality, the makers of these products are unlikely to know that influencers have recommended their product. Yet, they will make sales because of such recommendations. There is no hard quantitative statistic to show the effects of these suggestions, but they do help each company.
It would not be too tricky for companies to track mentions in forums, and keep statistics about the number of positive mentions, for instance. While it would be tough to tie in these remarks with specific sales, they are still relevant and beneficial to the company in question.
The use of forums has dropped in recent years, but that does not mean that unofficial product advocacy has vanished. There are many influencers in Facebook and LinkedIn Groups and other online communities who happily recommend products they like.
The holy grail of success measurement for business, B2B or B2C, is increased sales. The problem is the lack of a clear correlation between specific influencer messages and increased sales.
With B2B buyers taking their time to decide on making a purchase, and with many purchasing decisions being made by a team, there will usually be a time lag between influencer marketing activities and the new sales that they inspire.
A company will know that its influencer marketing campaign is a success if it leads to increased sales ... but when? A campaign today may lead to increased sales in six months if the decision making and lead time are sufficiently long. It is possible that you may not know that you were operating a successful influencer marketing campaign until many months after you abandoned it because you thought it was not working.
Influencer marketing is one of the most potent tools available to any B2B marketer. It offers the freedom to engage with other businesses on a personal level using those who are making real waves in your chosen industry.
In today’s world, people don’t want to be sold plastic promises, they want real insights from real people - those who understand the market and know their stuff - and that is what B2B influencer marketing is all about. Focus on influencer marketing, forge relationships with the right people and you’ll enjoy amazing success both this year, and beyond.