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B2B Influencer Marketing: The Authoritative Guide

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Who is truly influential? 

In the B2C world, the answer is simple: whoever has the biggest audience. If Taylor Swift or Beyoncé promotes your product, millions of people will give it a try.

But in B2B, it’s a trickier question. Even if the biggest pop divas in the world endorsed your SaaS solution, would that persuade the executives who sign the checks?

The most influential people in B2B can rarely be found playing to sold-out arenas. Instead, they’re reinventing their industries, providing consultation to other companies, racking up wins and sharing their best practices with an audience hungry to do better.

It comes down to the three R’s:

  • Relevance – Who is reaching your brand’s most valuable audience?
  • Resonance – Who is inspiring your audience to meaningful action?
  • Reach – Given the first two, who has the biggest audience?

In fact, in the B2B Influencer Marketing Report, “size of audience/network” is only the fourth-most essential quality for B2B influencers. Numbers 1-3: Trustworthiness, relevance of audience, and professional credentials.

It’s clear that B2B influence operates on a different paradigm than B2C. TopRank Marketing helped turn B2B influencer marketing into a strategic discipline with measurable results across the entire marketing funnel. Here’s what we’ve learned along the way.

Already ready to get started? Learn about TopRank Marketing’s B2B influencer marketing services now.

Learn about B2B Influencer Marketing:

  • What is B2B influencer marketing?
  • Why use B2B influencer marketing?
  • How does influencer marketing work in B2B?
  • Creating a B2B influencer marketing strategy
  • B2B influencer marketing examples
  • B2B influencer marketing resources

What is B2B influencer marketing?

B2B influencer marketing is the practice of brands collaborating and creating content together with influential people in their industry. Influencers add credibility and substance to brand content, while both brand and influencer benefit from reaching new audiences.

While most marketers think of influencer marketing as a top-of-funnel tactic, B2B influencer marketing works across the entire marketing funnel. 

Nearly 2/3rds of marketers improved their brand’s reputation and built awareness, as you might expect. But over half said their influencer marketing program actively generated new leads, and one out of three can directly attribute revenue to their efforts.

So, what is B2B influencer marketing? It’s an indispensable full-funnel tactic that should be in every B2B marketer’s toolkit.

Why use B2B influencer marketing?

The simplest answer: Because it works. In our report, 86% of B2B marketers who use influencer marketing reported success. As we said at the beginning, these successes cover everything from awareness to lead generation to revenue.

But beyond the obvious, influencer marketing helps because B2B marketing is always a long game. B2B sales cycles are longer and involve more decision makers than the average B2C purchase. It makes sense: While the biggest consumer purchase might be two people deciding on a $300,000 home, a B2B purchase could be several times that amount and involve a basketball team’s worth of stakeholders. 

In order to win with prospective buyers, your brand needs to build credibility, gain memorability, establish relationships and provide value. And you need to do it all for people who are not in the market yet, and maintain those relationships until they’re ready to buy. 

Influencer marketing makes it easier to:

  • Build brand credibility
  • Establish thought leadership
  • Provide memorable content experiences
  • Offer extra value to your audience

Ultimately, B2B influencer marketing is an investment in the future success of your brand, as well as offering short-term gains like lead generation.

How does influencer marketing work in B2B?

The most successful influencer marketing programs involve co-created content. Instead of having the influencer simply endorse brand content or vice versa, the marketing team works with influencers to make something new, together.

The content you co-create can take many forms:

Social-first campaigns use influencer expertise to start conversations directly on a social channel, without linking out to other assets. The brand presents an influencer quote and a discussion prompt, and both brand representatives and the influencer engage with people who post in the discussion.

Long-form assets can have many influencers contributing brief quotes along with commentary from brand representatives. For example, your CEO might byline an introduction to an eBook that contains 150-200 word quotes from experts in your industry, consultants and even prospects. 

Interviews, podcasts and panel discussions can feature 1-3 influencers along with your brand representatives or executives, offering thought-provoking discussion about issues facing your industry.

Blog posts can be written by an individual influencer to post on your brand’s blog, or multiple influencer contributions can add substance to a single post. 

Regardless of what you and your influencers create, it’s important that the content be:

  • Non-promotional
  • Practical and useful
  • Uplifting and inspiring
  • Creative and fun

That last bullet point is essential. According to LinkedIn research, creativity is essential for gaining memorability with your audience. And creative content is more fun for influencers to create, so it leads to greater enthusiasm for promoting the content, and ultimately more delight for your audience.

Creating a B2B influencer marketing strategy

A sophisticated B2B influencer marketing program has both short-term and long-term goals.  It starts with creating a content plan and continues through building long-standing influencer relationships. Here are the steps:

Plan your content

Before you start reaching out to influencers, it’s important to know what you’re reaching out for. Will you be creating a single asset? A social campaign with supporting blogs? Have your content plan in place first. 

When you start getting influencer attention, you’ll want to show them a content plan that includes everything from theme to subject matter to goals.

Identify the right influencers

Relevance and resonance are the key for finding truly influential people that your target audience already trusts. Tools like Traackr can help you find the influencers who are talking about relevant subject matter to your brand. You can then see which people are getting the most engagement with their audience, and which are merely broadcasting. 

A good influencer mix should include:

  • Practitioners who work in your industry and have a history of achievements to build credibility
  • Consultants/thought leaders who advise your industry
  • Internal influencers like your executive suite and subject matter experts
  • Clients and prospects to add more practical experience and build working relationships

Engage with your influencer list

Your goal is to start an ongoing relationship with influencers, not just present them with a business proposal (or a request for free content). Before you ask for anything:

  • Follow them on social media
  • Share their content with your brand’s audience 
  • Leave insightful comments on their thought leadership posts

Nurture the most responsive on your list

Some of the influencers you identify will likely not engage with you. That’s okay! This helps you narrow down the list to the people who will make the best co-creation partners. Segment those friendly folks and continue to nurture by:

  • Engaging on social media
  • Helping promote their content
  • Tagging them in industry conversations
  • Quoting their existing content (with full credit given, of course)

Co-create content together

The next step is to work with your influencers to create content. From your content plan in step one, you already have a memorable theme and a general idea of your subject matter. Create an influencer brief that explains what you’re looking to do, how the campaign will come together, and how each influencer fits into the plan. The goal is to build excitement and enthusiasm to work with your brand and create something meaningful, useful and cool.

For the easiest co-creation, give your influencer a list of questions they can answer to generate their content. Specific questions are better than general ones—they’re more likely to elicit specific responses. For example, instead of “What is the biggest trend you’re seeing in X this year?” Ask, “One huge trend we’ve noticed is X. How can business leaders take advantage of this trend? What will help them successfully capitalize on it?”

Make it as easy as possible for influencers to contribute their content. You can offer a half-hour phone interview which you’ll transcribe, or accept their answers in a document or email. Options, flexibility and generous deadlines are all good for ensuring people cooperate.

Release and promote the content

When you have your influencer responses and have finalized the content, it’s time to put it out into the world. It’s better to keep influencer content ungated—most influencers don’t like to send their audience to a lead gen form. If you must gate the content, make sure you have a robust landing page that’s worth visiting in its own right.

Make it easy for influencers to promote content by providing sample social media messages, images and templates they can use with minimal effort. The easier it is to promote, the more likely your influencers are to share and reshare.

Make sure your brand is actively promoting as well, with both organic posts and paid ads to boost visibility. Tag your influencers in every post so they have an opportunity to engage.

Build a community for ongoing collaboration

The next level of B2B influencer marketing sophistication is creating a community of influencers. It’s an approach that has seen amazing results for brands like Dell and Adobe. A community of influencers should:

  • Be aware of and engage with each other
  • Be featured in multiple pieces of brand content a year
  • Be incentivised to engage with your audience
  • Have public and private channels to communicate with the brand

In our report, 100% of those with an ongoing influencer program reported success. It’s easy to see why—you reduce the overhead of identifying influencers for each campaign, and you have more time to get to know the influencers and produce richer, more valuable content together.

Read more on our blog: What’s the Secret to Influencer Marketing for Enterprise Brands? SCALE!

B2B influencer marketing examples

TopRank Marketing has helped B2B brands in multiple industries to find success with influencer marketing. Here are a few quick success stories:

Cherwell triples their click-through rate 

The Brand:

Cherwell Software wanted to raise awareness of their digital transformation solutions with a core audience of C-suite executives. 

The Program:

TopRank Marketing worked with the brand to identify trusted technology experts to co-create video, interactive content, and blog posts.

The Results:

  • 342% better click-through rate on influencer content
  • 5.45M in potential reach through influencer promotion
  • 90% of all visitors were net new for Cherwell

Read Cherwell’s story here

Mitel drives reach and landing page visits

The Brand:

Business communications company Mitel was looking to drive consistent, scalable performance with their influencer program, including expanding reach and bringing traffic to their landing pages.

The Program:

TopRank Marketing identified the right influencer platform to meet Mitel’s needs and scale into the future, and helped identify influencers and content mix to get the right content in front of the right people.

The Results:

  • 7.2M+ social media reach
  • 5,000+ visits to the landing page
  • 270% increase in influencer placements

Read Mitel’s story here

LinkedIn sees massive results with always-on influence

The Brand:

Social media giant LinkedIn had an existing influencer program, but was looking to level up with an always-on approach. They wanted to build relationships with a community of experts and continuously activate them to create and promote content.

The Program:

TopRank Marketing identified and engaged with influencers whose audience and expertise aligned with LinkedIn, in order to develop an always-on strategy.

The Results:

  • Nearly 2,000 brand mentions from influencers and their networks
  • 84M in potential reach
  • 200-450% above benchmark engagement on influencer content

Read LinkedIn’s story here

83% of B2B marketers who are “very successful” with influencer marketing outsource most or all of their programs. (2023 B2B Influencer Marketing Report)

B2B influencer marketing resources

Learn more about B2B influencer marketing, its benefits, and key elements to a successful strategy by exploring the blog posts and resources below.

Whether you’re kicking off a new program or leveling up an existing one, TopRank Marketing is here to help. Check out our B2B Influencer Marketing services to get started.