Is B2B Influencer Marketing Worth the Investment?
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How is B2B Influencer Marketing Different from B2C Influencer Marketing?
Most of the news coverage surrounding influencer marketing centers on B2C efforts, where top celebrities pitch brands to their thousands (or millions) of followers on social media platforms like Instagram or YouTube. While this approach often works well (depending on the product and target customer), consumers are beginning to be more skeptical about celebrity influencers – especially when PR disasters like the ill-fated Fyre Festival make the headlines. Brands can no longer assume that celebrity will translate to influence when consumers begin to doubt influencers’ credibility.
B2B influencer marketing can also be a very effective tool for businesses, but it differs from B2C influencer marketing in terms of the type of messengers used and the way marketers allocate it in their budgets. The biggest challenges for using B2B influencer marketing are identifying credible, trustworthy brand surrogates and determining the most appropriate messaging strategy.
Why B2B Influencer Marketing is so Valuable
The pandemic has brought an abrupt halt to field marketing, trade shows, and experiential marketing. During the past six months, most marketing efforts are being conducted online, which is where influencers have the largest impact.
In the absence of in-person efforts to market products or services, businesses are increasingly dependent on trusted, respected industry experts to persuade buyers about the merits of a company’s offerings.
But while 74% of B2B marketers believe that influencer marketing is good for business, less than 20% are running ongoing efforts. Those who do use influencer marketing are often not approaching it in the correct way, and so are not seeing the types of results they expect.
B2B Influencer Marketing Mistakes
Businesses see the value in using influencers for their B2B brands, but one of the biggest obstacles is finding the right people to use for these efforts. They may rely on the subjective recommendations of others instead of doing their own research to vouch for the candidates.
A traditional approach to B2B marketing planning and budgeting often uses “influencer marketing” as a campaign tactic. But B2B brands’ customers don’t wait for campaigns to drop to look for solutions to their problems – they’re faced with difficult decisions year-round. And if B2B companies don’t put enough effort into building and maintaining ongoing relationships, they will be at a disadvantage.
How Companies Can Most Effectively Use B2B Influence Marketing
If B2B companies want to ensure that influence marketing pays off, they must recruit the most persuasive influencers, and then execute an appropriate messaging strategy.
Use Micro Influencers, Not High-Profile Celebrities
It’s not necessary to choose a high-profile name for your influencer efforts. Using a high-profile spokesperson likely won’t backfire the way it could with B2C marketing, but you’ll pay a high price for a business “celebrity” when there are other very good options.
The influencer you choose must come across as trustworthy and authentic, and industry leaders with anywhere from 1,000 – 10,000 social media followers usually have an attentive and engaged audience base. It’s also more cost-effective to choose an influencer with a lower follower count than to select one with hundreds of thousands of followers.
Use Your Own Employees as Influencers
If you’re trying to save money and boost your team’s morale at the same time, consider recruiting your staff to act as influencers.
Evidence shows employees trust company information that comes from fellow employees more than they trust when it comes from the CEO. And employees likely have a lot of connections – much more than the number of followers the company has. Finally, employee shares of content posted by the company has a click-through rate that’s more than double the original post.
Your employees can write blogs to post on your website, on LinkedIn, or on an industry site. Influential personnel could supplement blog posts with white papers or e-books to provide an example of your company’s leadership.
Of course, you’ll have to vet your employees to find the ones who exert the most influence, but this approach has so many benefits for the organization.
Use Software to Find Influencers
If you’re not sure you can trust the recommendations of colleagues or you just don’t have the time to put in the effort needed for recruitment, you could rely on software to find credible spokespeople.
Besides identifying the best influencer recruits, this specialized software also monitors engagement and tracks results. It’s reported that the most successful influencer marketers use software to help them find the right people.
B2B influencer messaging should establish authority, trust, credibility, and engagement. Your goal is to develop relationships with your customers via your influencer spokespeople.
Focus on Storytelling and Education
Prospects aren’t interested in developing relationships with influencers who are just surrogate salespeople. They want to hear stories – about both the influencer and the company he or she is representing. Just as with other types of content, consumers are looking for relevant and valuable information, and to be assured that the company shares their values.
B2C influencers share their stories too, but sometimes the shared images or video look too perfect or staged, which can detract from their authenticity. It’s better to appear more natural and less posed – if it still comes off as professional.
Use Influencers on an Ongoing Basis
As suggested earlier, influencer dollars shouldn’t be allocated as a year-round effort and not simply assigned to a particular campaign. It takes time to build relationships, and since your prospects are continuously looking for solutions, they’ll want access to your influencers when it’s needed.
Influencer Marketing for Now and in the Future
Digital communication is currently replacing face-to-face meetings, so it’s wise to use influencer marketing to pick up the slack. But even when business operations return to normal, consider using B2B influencer marketing to help build and maintain customer relationships with your brand.