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Influencer Marketing for B2B Markets

By Michael Bouso

Influencer marketing is well established in the B2C market. So much so, that when you imagine influencer campaigns you probably think of endorsements by celebrities or social media phenoms. So, how can that fit into a B2B marketing strategy? Is it worth pursuing? Who exactly are the influencers in the B2B space? 

Influencer Marketing in the B2B Landscape

There are challenges inherent in utilizing influencer marketing in B2B. These include awareness, cost justification, and unpredictable ROI. Perhaps these are some of the reasons B2B marketers are playing a game of catch-up when it comes to their B2C counterparts. Recent research found that:

  • 48 percent of B2C marketers are currently running influencer programs.
  • 49 percent of B2B marketers are considering or beginning to experiment with it.
  • 11 percent of B2B marketing teams are actively running influencer programs.

While the role of this type of marketing isn't yet clear in B2B, other tenants of inbound marketing, like content, product placement, and social media, consistently perform well. This begs the question, what benefits can this marketing possibly have in B2B?

What are the Benefits of Using Influencer Marketing in the B2B Space?

In the same study, 57 percent of marketers indicated that influencer marketing would become fully integrated into all marketing activities over the next three years. As more and more B2B influencer campaigns evolve from experimentation to a more strategic, relationship building, joint goal setting, will become the norm and benefits of integration will be experienced.

These advantages are very similar to those offered by “social proof.” Today's consumers want to know someone else had a positive experience with your product or service before they are willing to give it a shot. Customer reviews are part of the equation as they provide user experiences. Influencer marketing takes it one step further by creating a feeling of security and loyalty. When consumers associate your business with an industry leader they trust and respect, your business gets those same benefits by proxy.

Additionally, it offers these benefits:

  • Expands your reach and improves brand awareness. When an influencer endorses your brand, your reach is extended to their audience, readership, and following.
  • Gives your SEO a boost. Through cross-promotion, you will have valuable inbound links from high-quality sites.
  • Increases consumer engagement. You will see a boost in comments and shares for blog posts, Tweets, and ad spots featuring a known industry insider.
  • Your business receives instant credibility. This is particularly true with newer companies.

How to Determine Who the Influencers are in B2B

This is all about context. In the B2B world, the influencers are the luminaries and thought leaders who have earned respect and trust of your customers and prospects. While it would be impossible to list the industry leaders for every business sector, we do recommend that you take a look at traditional insider publications, blogs, and conference speaker lists. Here you will find the most recognized names in your area of expertise.

The great thing about working with business insiders —as opposed to other celebrities, is that they are more accessible. Reach out through mutual business contacts or business social platforms like LinkedIn. They are also more likely to be agreeable to co-authoring content, than other types of influencers. Of course, you will need to find room in your marketing budget to pay for guest blog posts or endorsements. However, it will cost considerably less than a typical B2C influencer campaign.

Another less obvious way to utilize influencer marketing effectively in B2B is through case studies. Make your customers the hero of the story. Case studies are powerful tools that savvy B2B marketers are finding increasingly persuasive. We know by now, that customer centricity is essential for content marketing to work.

B2B Influencer Marketing Tips and Best Practices

  • Use platforms like LinkedIn and even Twitter to find and connect with industry leaders.
  • Utilize apps and information found at Traacker.com to help you develop your B2B influencer campaign.
  • Thoroughly vet your target. Make sure that they align in character, personality, following, and reach with your company.
  • Don't fall into the sporadic content trap. Work to build long lasting relationships with your influencer, just as you would a customer.
  • Focus on short-form content from influencers. It is easier to get a Tweet or a "pull quote" to use in a blog referencing your company than an entire review or promo piece. It is more authentic as well.
  • Set actionable goals. As with any marketing campaign, you will need to justify the added expenditure with the decision makers.
  • If you are looking for a cost saving tip, consider combining influencer marketing with a scheduled corporate event.

Like it or not, influencer marketing is here to stay, and it is expected to grow into the B2B space entirely by the end of 2020. Therefore, it is important to be proactive in developing a strategy that includes influencer marketing with your inbound marketing efforts.

Keep the goal of customer centricity in mind and allow that to inform your content. Remember, whether you are working with industry insiders, or your own satisfied customers to co-create content you are adding a voice and authenticity that most B2B marketers miss.