Influencer marketing for B2B – why it works, and how to get started
Written by Giulietta Avenia
When most people think of influencer marketing, they’re thinking of it as a B2C strategy. Instagram accounts with millions of followers, Youtuber creators whose videos get thousands of views within minutes of going live, these kinds of lifestyle influencers can help raise awareness, increase sales, and lend credibility by association.
Influencer marketing can have the exact same impact when used for B2B.
There is often a long cycle of education and research involved before any purchase in the B2B buyer journey. Thanks to podcasts, mailing lists, webinars, livestreams, and social platforms, B2B decision makers are better informed than ever before. Rather than trying to cut through all that noise, savvy marketers are instead opting to utilise it, putting themselves where they know their audience will see.
Working with influencers is new territory for many B2B brands, but the guiding principles are the same as traditional influencer marketing.
Think of who you follow on LinkedIn, the posts you always read, the newsletters you always check – the people creating that content are likely influencers in your industry. If you’ve ever signed up to a webinar or listened to a business podcast purely for who was speaking, that person is a good candidate to use in B2B influencer marketing.
No matter what industry you work in, there are people making waves and building a following that you could potentially use in your marketing strategy.
Why B2B influencer marketing works
B2B influencer marketing works thanks to the fact that these thought leaders, CEOs, and disruptors have proven they know what they’re talking about by building successful businesses and brands.
But it isn’t the brands people are interested in, it’s the people that built them. More people follow Bill Gates on LinkedIn than Microsoft.
And in this Ceros survey, 95% of respondents said that credible content from industry influencers was their top preference of content.
Prospects respond to B2B influencers because they offer:
- A unique point of view, an original thought leadership angle
- Tried and tested methods of success
- Wide-ranging and valuable networks
The campaigns allow for a wide reach while also leveraging the credibility of the influencer. Influencer marketing of this type provides the audience with insights from a source they already trust, meaning that potential buyers will be more receptive to your messaging.
How to start a B2B influencer marketing strategy
Decide what action you want your influencer strategy to drive
First, consider what outcome you want from any influencer activity. Are you a start-up looking for awareness? Website traffic? Direct sales?
This should help shape the kind of content you and the influencer will create together. A long-form discussion podcast would be great for thought leadership, but might not drive sales.
Similarly, the desired outcome should impact which influencers you go after. An industry leader with half a million followers might not be as useful as someone who works in the exact niche you’re targeting.
Decide which influencers to work with
As with B2C influencer marketing, it’s not always about who has the most followers. Consider why these influencers are followed, who their audience is, and whether they’re the right fit for your brand in terms of style and tone.
Any influencer campaign should be mutually beneficial for both parties, so taking the time to make sure you have the right influencers on your shortlist pays dividends in the long-run.
How do you find these influencers? Begin by immersing yourself in your industry. Search it on YouTube, Spotify, and LinkedIn, see who is posting about it and regularly gets high levels of engagement. Who encourages discussion? Find out whose opinion matters on the big topics that are going on within your industry.
Once you’ve found some potential influencers to work with, it’s time to check them over. See what they post about, how regularly they post, and how much engagement they get. Do they talk about topics that resonate with your brand purpose?
Remember, to work with a good influencer, you’ll need more than money. You’ll need to work in the same industry, to have similar ideas, styles, and tones, and to offer a genuine creative partnership, one that ultimately results in good, useful, and interesting content for both their and your audience. It’s more of a business relationship than a simple transaction.
Analyse and maintain campaigns over the long-term
Once you’ve launched a B2B influencer marketing campaign, it’s important to monitor activity to see exactly what benefits you’re getting from it. If you’re aiming for increased awareness, how many impressions are the posts getting? If you’re aiming for website traffic, how many users are travelling from the posts to your site? There are a variety of social listening and analytics tools that can help you make sure your influencer campaign is driving the right impact.
Only 19% of B2B marketers that utilise influencers are running ongoing campaigns. This is a huge missed opportunity, as B2B purchase decisions can often take months of research and deliberation. You want your brand and content to be top of mind, and ongoing influencer activity is one of the best to achieve that.
On top of this, once you’ve built a good working relationship, both parties can stand to gain from ongoing work. The brand gains the compounding benefit of repeated exposure to the influencer’s audience, and the influencer gains a steady pipeline of content relevant to their followers.
Ditching the one-off campaign model and switching to a more long-term focused approach can help B2B marketers create a consistent drumbeat of content that reliably converts.
However, 60% of B2B marketers say that they don’t have the knowledge in-house to execute a successful B2B influencer campaign. If you’re looking to grow your awareness, bring in more leads, and ultimately drive more businesses, get in touch with us today to launch a B2B influencer campaign.
Read more of our advice on creativity in marketing, or find out how Walmart is turning its own employees into influencers.