Does influencer marketing work for B2B brands?

Influencer marketing is widely seen as a silver bullet for many business and marketing objectives, with billions of dollars pouring into the industry. But, with negative connotations on the rise, is it safe for B2B brands to explore the opportunities provided by this age-old tactic?

It’s often said that people buy from people. Or, if you’re keeping up with industry trends, people buy from influencers. Stripping away all the buzz words, an ‘influencer’ boils down to someone whose opinion your customer trusts. That could be anyone from celebrities and sports superstars, to leading business minds or even your mates down the pub.

Influencer marketing’s been around since marketing became a thing: not just Nike’s Air Jordans in the mid-80s, but far further back in history. Right across 17th Century Europe, fashion was influenced by the costumes of the French court, and artefacts from across the Mediterranean have been found in archaeological digs in the UK, suggesting people had heard of these goods from travellers and coveted them enough to grab a piece for themselves.

Word-of-mouth (and more recently, word-of-mouse) has been part of every successful marketing mix since the Godfathers of modern marketing, McCarthy and Kotler, popularised the seminal 4Ps model 60 years ago. And it’s still a staple in every marketer’s toolkit.

But whilst there are many credible ‘influencers’ in the public eye, there are others that are less authentic. Today, the term ‘influencer marketing’ conjures images of privileged millennials hawking luxury brands to their followers on social media. Something they’ve been paid to do based on their follower count rather than any genuine relationship with a brand.

 

Can influencer marketing work for a B2B audience?

So, can (or should) B2B brands look to leverage the power of influencers in their own marketing strategies? Well, if they want to have meaningful interactions with an audience that’s already engaged with what the brand stands for (which, let’s face it is THE goal of marketing), the answer is a solid ‘Yes’!

In a world of content proliferation, where we’re all bombarded with up to 74GB of data each day, B2B buyers as well as consumers are leaning towards recommendations from peers and experts before committing to purchases.

Embracing the power of influencers provides brands with the opportunity to add credibility to their marketing efforts. By partnering with thought-leaders in their target audience, organisations can communicate the brand’s value proposition in a way that resonates with the audience.

 

A strategic approach

B2B influencers may be harder to identify and engage than our flashy millennial friends, but this is exactly why partnering with them is so valuable. Leading business minds got to where they are precisely because of their hard work, busy schedule and dedication to their field.

Imagine trying to book a meeting with Bill Gates. He’ll have an army of people zealously guarding his time (so good luck getting your foot in the door), but I bet he’s happy to give time to causes he finds value in.

 

How to create a B2B influencer marketing strategy

The first step in creating an effective influencer marketing strategy (as with any marketing or business strategy) is, of course, to analyse your current situation and assess where you want to be in 1, 3 or 5 years’ time. Set yourself some measurable objectives and KPIs so you’ve got something to measure against, later down the line.

Next up, identify your brand’s value proposition – what is it your company does better than anyone else? What’s its reason for being? There’s a high chance you’ve already done this thinking during your business planning, but it won’t hurt to re-visit and consider whether it’s still relevant.

 

How to find B2B influencers

Let’s talk tactics; now that you’ve nailed down your proposition, it’s time to start researching your influencers. There are many online tools to help you here: Traackr is one of the best influencer relationship management platforms out there, and Mention is a great online listening tool that can help you spot any likely suspects that are active in your space. The key is to identify personalities with suitable:

  • Reach (the combined size of the influencer’s network)
  • Relevance (the cross-over between the influencer’s audience and the brand’s target audience)
  • Responsiveness (how engaged the influencer’s audience are in their content, sometimes known as resonance).

 

The Influencer Marketing 3 Rs

Once you’ve selected your influencer, make them an offer they can’t refuse! Then it’s time to create your content (in many circles influencers are now known as content creators, which is why this is such a perfect partnership) and roll out your awesome new campaign.

But save congratulating yourself on a job well done until you’ve reviewed the analytics. Remind yourself of your initial objectives and review the KPIs to see how the campaign has performed. Use these insights in your ongoing planning to tweak your activities and make sure you’re tracking in line to achieve your end-goals.

 

A B2B revolution or just Marketing 101?

The opportunities offered to brands by influencer marketing are (almost) endless. Yes, influencers can be personalities or celebrities, but as noted right at the start, an influencer can be any entity in whose opinion your audience believes and finds value.

Influencers have been around since the dawn of endorsement marketing – over a century ago Mark Twain was co-branding pens – but as with all marketing, it’s about how you optimise and amplify your campaign.

Though there are some notes of caution, as long as you’re clear about what you want to achieve and have partnered with the right influencer to create a credible campaign, the results should speak for themselves.

 

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