What does it take to create smart B2B influencer marketing campaigns that deliver measurably strong marketing results? How do brands and businesses begin partnering with influencers, and what kind of results can they expect to achieve? Don’t worry — we’ve got it all covered for you here.
Lee shared numerous B2B influencer marketing take-aways during his time with Alan, and we’ll look closely at five helpful tactics and insights to strengthen your own existing B2B influencer marketing program, or to assist as you begin a new influencer pilot program:
- Where Do I Begin With B2B Influencer Marketing?
- Simultaneously Growing B2B Brand Influence & Business
- The Growing Role Of Maturity Models in B2B Influencer Marketing
- A More Sophisticated B2B Influencer Marketing Approach
- Always-On Influence & The Role of Validation
Sit back and let’s get right to it and take a look.
1 — Where Do I Begin With B2B Influencer Marketing?
Today’s B2B buyers are overwhelmed with options, and are growing distrustful of marketing and advertising.
How do we solve that? We solve that by connecting them with sources of information that they do trust, including peers, industry experts, and industry influencers.
B2B influencer marketing can solve some of the biggest problems in terms of creating credible connections with people that are actively interested in paying attention, and by co-creating content marketing content with those who have influence.
In B2B, if you think about the longer sales cycle, there’s so much more content that is put out there to help buyers educate themselves, and they increasingly are self-directed.
There are people who are relying on old-school tactics like SEO, advertising, and that sort of thing, but what good is something that’s find-able if it’s not also credible.
The role influence plays in a lot of content marketing is that we can optimize for findability, but we can also optimize for credibility with external influencers, external subject matter experts, and also use those tactics to increase the influence of the brand and key opinion leaders and executives within the brand at the same time.
2 — Simultaneously Growing B2B Brand Influence & Business
B2B brands need to think about how they can grow influence within their business at the same time, so they can own that influence.
You may wonder, will B2B ever catch up or take the lead over B2C when it comes to investment in influencer marketing?
Lee said that he doesn’t think that B2B is going to take over B2C from a quantitative standpoint, because the nature of consumer products and services have a greater volume of influencer activity.
Unlike in typical B2C influencer marketing, in B2B you actually need to have credibility, domain authority, and earn your influence by others citing you as that expert.
From a qualitative standpoint, B2B certainly has an opportunity to lead B2C because of the required validation, its legitimacy, and the lack of fake followers and blatant opportunism.
When it comes to B2B influencers, you have people who are genuinely invested in making the industry a better place.
3 — The Growing Role Of Maturity Models in B2B Influencer Marketing
There’s a maturity model we’ve developed over the last six or seven years that we’ve been implementing for influencer marketing programs with B2B companies.
For brands at the beginning stages, it’s experimentation — sort of digitally throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. They’ll only work with people for one campaign, and then completely ignore them after the campaign ends, looking at it as just a transaction, and as only an advertising buy.
This short-sighted approach typically leads them to realize the influencers that they were trying to work with are ignoring them. This can lead them to begin thinking, “We’ve actually got to develop legitimate relationships with these folks. We’ve got to invest in software, to think about the bigger picture, and how working with these folks can not only add to performance on an individual campaign, but by educating influencers about things we both care about, that they can become organic advocates for us, even outside of the campaign.”
If you’re just borrowing influence by working with people who are top experts in an industry, and that’s all you ever do, you’re not going to get the full value and benefit of influencer marketing.
If, on the other hand, you’re doing that and simultaneously looking at up-and-comers in the industry, and looking at key opinion leaders within a company and helping them become more influential — that investment in helping them be more successful is going to be something that they’ll appreciate. You’ll both have skin in the game then, and will be doing something together — making the industry a better place, and that typically results in amazing organic advocacy.
When you take a short term approach, you’re not going to connect emotionally with influencers.
4 — A More Sophisticated B2B Influencer Marketing Approach
When you are more sophisticated and have more experience with this, you can hit the ground running and do certain things to help a business — such as doing a pilot — and you’ll start to see some of those metrics that will get attention from executive sponsorship, and win you more budget to roll out that program in a much more significant way.
It’s important to approach this as a strategic move to build the brand and to grow influence at scale, that will ultimately result in the kind of advocacy that really grows a business.
More sophisticated approaches to influencer marketing are able to fix the plane while it’s flying, so to speak.
The counter to this sort of short-termism is always-on influence, because buyers are always on, and the internet certainly is always on.
Always on is an approach to working with influencers that helps you maintain relationships and show that all-important love.
The influencer has the experience of collaborating with you in an ongoing fashion, with:
- Interaction opportunities
- Earned media
- Mentions in your newsletter
- Mentions in your eBooks, blog posts, and infographics
This continues to show the influencer that you’re giving them attention, which is what they want, because that’s how they monetize.
5 — Always-On Influence & The Role of Validation
There are also other opportunities that are always on. We’ve done consulting for Adobe, and our CEO Lee Odden has been identified as an Adobe Insider, working with Adobe as an influencer. Rani Mani, head of employee advocacy at Adobe, is behind this, and she and her team are absolutely brilliant, and you can learn more about her approach in our “B2B Influencer Marketing Interview: Rani Mani, Adobe.”
Adobe maintains a relationship and a community of individuals that have different types of expertise. They engage the whole group by bringing them all to an event like Adobe Summit, and then invite them to do different projects — a webinar, a live stream, contributions to an article on cmo.com, and so forth.
How important is trust in influencer marketing?
Trust is a two-way street of multidimensional elements when it comes to influencer marketing.
If the brand is empathizing with the influencer, they’re not only finding out if they’re topically relevant for the thing they want to collaborate on, but also they understand the influencer’s motivations, their needs, their wants, their pain points, and the return on investment (ROI) to which a collaboration with a brand will help solve those things.
If they’re able to be empathetic in that way, influencers are going to trust the true intentions of the brand.
Simultaneously, brands have got to validate the influencer, and show that they are who they say they are. They’ve got to trust the influencer as well.
The other dimension to that trust element is of course that the brand-influencer collaboration is something that is truly legitimate, so that the customers trust it. Ultimately, it’s the end consumer and the buyer who have to trust that this is a legitimate collaboration.
Build A Smarter B2B Influencer Marketing Brand Strategy
Using the five helpful tactics Lee has outlined here for finding relevant influencers, optimizing for credibility, building benchmarks and keeping track of influencer effectiveness, studying buyers, creating ongoing value, and empathizing with audiences, your brand can build a smarter B2B influencer marketing program.
Taking these tips to heart will help you build a more successful B2B influencer marketing program. To gain a deeper understanding of each of Lee’s expert insights on building B2B influencer marketing success, listen to the complete podcast interview with Alan.