Can influencer marketing be used for business-to-business (B2B) campaigns? When done right, absolutely.
Consider this: With influencers, companies can leverage the trust and intelligence of their niche’s greatest communicators to build notoriety. After all, why settle for a boring press release when your content could be produced by industry experts? Influencers are, above all, a content creation opportunity for smart B2Bs.
So, if this is the case, why aren’t more B2B marketers investing in influencers? I believe this is partly due to the misconception that “influencer” equals flashy Instagram posts of mason jar smoothies. The truth is, today’s influencer content is as diverse as the people who use social media. Influencers can produce explanatory videos about blockchain accounting, Facebook Live videos from expos or even useful infographics to circulate on LinkedIn.
The point is, there are bound to be voices that represent your industry, regardless of how technical it is. In my six years of working in influencer marketing, we’ve had the pleasure of helping a variety of clients run B2B campaigns, ranging from financial technology for banks to horse stethoscope providers — talk about niche!
How does one actually run a successful B2B influencer campaign?
The second and more complicated hang-up when it comes to B2B influencer marketing is the methodology. B2B influencer campaigns come with their own unique set of challenges that may leave marketers scratching their heads. These challenges include:
• How can businesses identify and recruit B2B influencers?
• How can marketers be sure that their content is reaching buyers and those in the C-suite?
• What kind of results can be expected from a B2B influencer campaign, and how does one calculate the return on investment (ROI)?
Having worked on B2B influencer campaigns, I can attest that they can produce incredible results when done right.
So let’s not waste any more time. Here are my five industry tips for smarter B2B influencer campaigns.
1. Seek influencers (who don’t already work for the competitor).
Unlike other types of content creators, B2B influencers are often professionals in their field. This is great for developing industry authority, but it has its shortcomings. For example, if the influencer’s employer is a direct competitor of the advertiser, it’s not going to work.
To avoid influencers who work for competitors, brands can opt for search tools that include eliminatory keywords (e.g., filter out any influencer who has used campaign hashtags from the competition). Alternatively, companies can take their offer to an up-and-coming influencer (growing audience, steady engagement rates) who hasn’t partnered with anyone yet.
Remember: The ideal B2B influencer is someone who has niche authority. They don’t have to be a larger-than-life key opinion leader, but they must be credible within the niche.
2. Vary your value proposition when working with B2B influencers.
Ready to recruit? It all comes down to delivering value for B2B influencers. Beyond offering money, you should provide them with ways to come across as experts in their field.
What does your business have to offer? A B2B value proposition may constitute industry insights (such as exclusive data sets, great infographics or new findings) or valuable experiences (invitations to live industry events, co-development of a new product, free trials). Essentially, anything that will help the influencer reinforce their position as an industry expert and feel like they have a seat at the table.
At the end of the day, the partnership should be a win for both parties.
3. Build leads, not your brand image.
B2B buyers are looking for information about your product first, not your brand. This means companies should collaborate with influencers to produce content that is both utilitarian and share-worthy. Anything too promotional won’t pass.
Unlike in business-to-consumer (B2C) industries, influencers are not selling a lifestyle, but rather, insights. Educate buyers with thoughtful infographics, e-books and expert reviews. This builds notoriety within a niche for your company and feels rewarding to the influencer, who has new insights to share with their audience. Plus, these types of pieces are “evergreen,” meaning they can be reactivated again and again in other marketing materials.
4. Prepare for a longer life cycle with quality partnerships.
Unlike impulsive consumer purchasing, selling a service to a business is a logic-driven process that takes place over time. This is why brands should aim to engage in longer-term influencer relations.
Not only is this important for the quality of the content (the longer the partnership, the more authentic it will be viewed), but it is crucial when nurturing a client’s opinion. Ongoing influencer involvement can encourage greater engagement and trust from buyers, which can lead to organic advocacy of the brand.
5. Know how (and when) to measure ROI.
Influencer marketing can feel like going down the rabbit hole if no one bothers to track results. In B2B influencer marketing, it’s important to pre-define your goals and decide what qualifies as a conversion before starting.
For example, a conversion could be a newsletter subscriber, a social mention, the use of a referral code, a trial or demo request, or, of course, a sale. Try to be transparent with your influencers about expectations and attribution practices. Most importantly, track results throughout the campaign, not only at the end.
Influencer marketing in the B2B space makes sense, as these buyers are online, too. To reach them, partner with influencers who have relevant niche credibility. Together, produce utilitarian content — that is to say, content that can serve as a resource for your potential clients. Lastly, don’t forget to mobilize and renew this content as a part of your larger marketing mix.
This article first appeared in www.forbes.com
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