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Choosing The Best B2B Influencers Is Key To Success — Here’s Why

Posted on Mar 24th, 2021
Written by Lane Ellis
  • Blog
  • B2B Marketing
  • Choosing The Best B2B Influencers Is Key To Success — Here’s Why
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    Why is it important to find the right B2B influencers?

    Are there right and wrong ways to approach the process of choosing the best B2B influencers?

    The crucial task of selecting B2B influencers who will drive the greatest success for a brand isn’t a simple one, yet it’s one often shrouded in mystery — a question that we’ll explore utilizing a collection of do’s and don’ts.

    39 percent of B2B marketers state their top challenge with influencer marketing is that the process is too manual, and only 25 percent of less successful influencer marketers use software versus half of the most successful to identify influencers, according to our State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report.

    There is no single more important element in B2B influencer marketing than finding subject matter experts who will provide the best relevance, resonance, and engagement for your brand.

    Join in as we take a look at what a smart B2B influencer selection process looks like, and why some approaches are better than others. If you’re wonderful why influencer marketing is a winning solution for B2B brands, also be sure to check out our recent “Why Influencer Marketing Should Be a Priority 2021 Tactic for B2B Brands.”

    “There is no single more important element in B2B influencer marketing than finding subject matter experts who will provide the best relevance, resonance, and engagement for your brand.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis Share on X

    Don’t — Rely Solely On Follower Counts

    Mere follower count tallies tell only a partial tale when it comes to whether an influencer’s audience is first and foremost authentic — and not filled with fake accounts and the like — along with being topically relevant to the issues that are important to a brand.

    A potential influencer’s follower count plays a role in the selection process, certainly, however learning whether an industry expert’s followers are actively engaging with them by posting, commenting or by utilizing other forms of social sharing is usually a more important element when it comes to finding ideal influencers.

    This type of follower analysis requires a deeper variety of research into whether a potential influencer will likely be a good brand match, and as we’ll explore, it requires both taking full advantage of powerful tools for measuring social media engagement as well as a human touch.

    As our CEO and co-founder Lee Odden has shared with audiences since the dawn of B2B influencer marketing, in the B2B world you actually have to be an expert to be a great influencer — you can’t just be good at making videos, tweeting, or other individual particular forms of social messaging, as is often the case in B2C.

    Do — Measure Follower Relevance, Resonance & Engagement

    As we’ll explore, there are numerous helpful tools and platforms that help to a certain extent in the process of finding the best influencers for a particular brand, however their numerical measurements and rankings are only able to do so much, and often work best when several tools are used and then combined and analyzed by a competent B2B influencer marketing researcher.

    It’s key to look at a potential influencer’s topical relevance, and their resonance — the degree to which that topic resonates with the audience network of a particular influencer.

    “There are numerous helpful tools and platforms that help to a certain extent in the process of finding the best influencers for a particular brand, however their numerical measurements and rankings are only able to do so much.” @lanerellis Share on X

    Don’t — Take A B2C Influencer Approach For Reaching B2B Audiences

    B2C influencer marketing’s traditional approach, often built on paid relationships with minor or major celebrities — while occasionally utilized in B2B marketing — typically isn’t well-suited to creating the kind of expert credibility that B2B buyers and customers are seeking.

    Instead, smart B2B marketers use an influencer selection process that heavily relies on locating the most relevant subject matter experts for a particular topic — professionals who may be famous only on a certain niche industry Reddit channel or other social media platform.

    Their form of celebrity, however — while on the micro side — resonates well with B2B buyers, as the fame a good B2B influencer has built is based on genuine expertise about a topic.

    As Lee has explained over the years, if you want the best influencer content, invite the scientist, engineer, educator, or academic to share their perspective. When they do this as an influencer, it’s going to lift the quality of your brand’s content and help make it great.

    Simply seeking true celebrities for influencer marketing and hoping for massive engagement offers very little return on investment in the B2B arena, where influence has reached a level of democratization. This presents new opportunities for influencers, and makes the process of finding the right influencer more challenging than ever, despite having what may be a bigger pool of influencer talent than ever to work with.

    As Lee and others have suggested, smart brands will find B2B influencers that help them go for a little bit from a lot of different people in an important niche, where the micro-influencer approach has increasingly become more relevant as a way to build advocacy and co-create content in a way that speaks closely to the voice of the customer.

    Do — Recognize B2B Brands’ Unique Influencer Challenges

    The process of selecting the best influencer matches for B2B marketing should include substantial recognition of the nature of B2B influencer marketing, with its unique challenges such as significantly longer buying cycles than in B2C, while also being aware of the opportunities that are unique to B2B influencer marketing.

    There’s little doubt that today’s B2B buyers are overwhelmed with options, and that they have often grown distrustful of marketing and advertising, which has increased the power of influencers, who are expert sources of trusted information.

    Choosing the right B2B influencers leads to the creation of credible connections with people who are actively interested in paying attention.

    B2B’s longer sales cycles result in vast amounts of content being created to help buyers learn, and the research they do is increasingly self-directed, so unlike in traditional B2C influencer marketing, B2B influencers must have the credibility to influence others.

    When you’ve successfully found the best B2B influencers, you generally have people who are truly invested in improving their industry in the long run, so taking the extra time and performing the additional steps to discover and vet them are costs that are usually well spent.

    Don’t — Settle For An Automated Generic Approach

    We’ve touched on some of the tools and platforms available to help marketers find potential influencers — utilities such as Traackr, Onalytica, BuzzSumo, and dozens of others — and why even when combined, the numerical rankings such services can deliver will only take you so far in your journey to find the best B2B influencers.

    As Lee has noted in his various presentations on B2B influencer marketing, it’s important to utilize software during this stage — tools that can crawl millions of social messages and algorithmically identify the people who have a particular combination of reach, network size, popularity — but more importantly — the topical relevance that shows that a potential influencer is indeed publishing content on the topic that you as a brand want to be the best answer for.

    Do — Use A Human Touch To Refine Tool & Platform Recommendations

    Perhaps the single most important work in finding truly the best influencers for a B2B brand takes place once the apps have been utilized, the platforms have been thoroughly put through their paces, and the social tools have crunched their final numbers — this is when the human touch begins, and takes the B2B influencer selection process to an entirely different level of success.

    Using platforms and social tools, successful B2B marketers can have piles of data on potential influencers to work with, but what sets apart the best plan from the rest is when a professional familiar with every facet of B2B influencer marketing methodically assesses that data as just one piece of the digital tapestry of successful B2B influencer marketing success.

    A cohesive approach to the B2B influencer selection combines the best data available about potential influencers with a human touch that includes such elements as:

    • Staying True to a Brand’s Mission
    • Weeding Out Irrelevant Data
    • Prioritizing the Best Data
    • Moving Influencer Recommendations into Solid Strategy

    Other human-powered elements that go well beyond influencer research platforms and tools include the use search, customer relationship management (CRM), and social data relating not only to potential influencers but to a brand’s mission, to get an understanding of what it is that people are thinking about relevant to the brand and their customer connections. This type of information can help uncover intersections of topics that can be factored in when selecting the best influencers for a particular brand.

    63 percent of B2B marketers say they enlist agencies to help integrate influencer marketing programs with other marketing tactics from social media to SEO to PR, according to our State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report.

    “The best plans use a professional familiar with every facet of B2B influencer marketing to methodically assesses data as just one piece of the digital tapestry of successful B2B influencer marketing success.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis Share on X

    Don’t — Use Only A One-Off Approach

    A short-term approach to B2B influencer marketing isn’t well-suited to activating the unique power that the top B2B influencers have to deliver stellar results to brands.

    One-off B2B influencer campaigns are akin to merely borrowing influence by working with top industry experts, and when that’s the extent of a brand’s commitment, they’re not going to reap the full value and the many benefits of influencer marketing.

    As Lee has noted, when you take a short term approach, you’re also typically not going to form the type of ongoing emotional connections with influencers that are central to an always-on approach to B2B influencer marketing.

    Countering the short-term variety of B2B influencer marketing is always-on influence, which succeeds in part because buyers are always on, and our digital world of today certainly also is.

    Do — Utilize The Power of Always-On Influencers

    When choosing B2B influencers, be cognizant of the advantages of an always-on strategy, which thrives in making the type of lifelong commitment to clients and customers that creates avid fans. Despite its advantages, just 19 percent of B2B marketers are running ongoing influencer marketing programs, research from our State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report shows.

    Among the many reasons why ongoing B2B influencer marketing programs are successful, the following insights from our research help reinforce the point:

    • 60 percent of marketers who use always-on influencer marketing programs are very successful versus 5 percent who do periodic campaigns
    • 12 times more marketers are very successful when they run an always-on influencer program versus those who opt for periodic campaigns
    • 89 percent of B2B marketers who use an always-on approach expect their budgets to increase or remain the same in the next 12 months
    • 94 percent say that influencer marketing will grow in importance over the next 12 months
    • 75 percent saw an increase in their views of brand content using an always-on approach

    The process of finding and selecting the right B2B influencers benefits when right from the beginning it’s understood that an always-on approach to influencer marketing will be used.

    Among the human elements that go beyond prospective influencer ranking data to find the best influencers is an understanding of whether the relationships between brands and influencers will be short-lived or one that will stand the test of time.

    A healthy selection process takes this into consideration, along with all of the other influencer research elements we’ve touched on.

    Say ‘I Do’ To A Best-Answer Influencer Search

    via GIPHY

    By knowing what not to do when it comes to finding and selecting the best B2B influencer matches, saying “I do!” to the right ones suddenly becomes much more straightforward. We hope that the insights we’ve explored here will help inform your own B2B influencer selection strategy.

    More B2B brands than ever are turning to a dedicated specialist B2B influencer marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing, which has worked with brands from Adobe, LinkedIn, and SAP to 3M, Dell, Oracle and many more. Our research shows that 60 percent of marketers don’t have the right in-house skills or knowledge to execute an influencer marketing program. Learn how to begin an influencer marketing pilot program or start a full-featured always-on influencer program.