Marketing circles have been enthusiastic about influencer marketing for years. Today's consumer is increasingly ignoring traditional advertising and recommendations from respected people seem more authentic.
What does influencer marketing mean?
Influencer marketing is when a company uses (paid) influencers to promote its brand. As a rule, these are people with recognized professional competence, a high level of awareness and, above all, with a large and committed presence on social media. The influencer can generate the advertising content himself or it can be co-produced by the brand. This powerful technique is now well established with B2C marketers. And more and more B2B marketers are becoming aware of the idea.
What is a B2B influencer?
A B2B influencer differs from the typical B2C influencers who operate on YouTube, Twitter or Instagram. A B2B influencer is usually an industry insider, a prominent consumer, a well-known (specialist) journalist or the company's employees. A B2B influencer is a person who has a high level of authority and authenticity or a certain impressive expertise in your industry. If a film and television celebrity likes your product and talks about it on social media, that's great, but not particularly relevant to your customers.
People who have bought your product for an entire department or company and are convinced of it are better suited. In the B2B world, the level of awareness as an influencer's factor is less in the foreground; what counts is his expertise and know how.
How does influencer marketing work in B2B?
The B2B buyer's journey has changed dramatically since the dawn of the internet, affecting B2B sales and marketing. Gone are the days when the company's sales teams drove the buying process forward and the influence of when and which information was presented to interested parties and how. Now the buyer himself has control over his level of knowledge about the products and services. The role of the sales team is now shifting to the consultant and at best it is developing into an influencer in its area of expertise.
This makes B2B influencer marketing an opportunity for companies and is becoming increasingly important. Because interested parties are looking for expert content in order to evaluate their purchase intention and the product or service behind it. Content that is shared by industry insiders is more credible than pure product descriptions that can be found on a company website. Indeed, a large proportion of buyers are giving content to the industry as influencers more credibility than the information provided by the classic sales team.
What is different in B2B influencer marketing than in B2C influencer marketing?
B2B buyers typically don't click a link on an Instagram post, go to a company website and buy a product. With B2B influencer marketing, the process is more complex. Technology and business influencers can't shoot a video of your SaaS platform or take a photo of your factory floor and increase sales anytime soon. Even an influencer with a large fan base on Snapchat or Instagram has little credibility with B2B buyers, unless they work in the same industry - which is not a typical scenario, however.
What is important in B2B influencer marketing?
B2B buyers typically start the buying process by reading reviews, checking specifications, and Googling for more information. Most B2B transactions are more about long-term goals and require a certain level of commitment, so the sales cycle takes longer. Potential B2B buyers routinely search among colleagues and do extensive research before making direct contact. This process is often initiated through a conversation with a colleague. B2B buyers spend hours, days and sometimes months researching a product, asking questions and drawing ideas from their network.
Another difference between B2C and B2B influencer marketing lies in the type of content that customers find compelling. In B2C, the interests and tastes of normal consumers predominate. Lifestyle posts and humor can play a huge role. In B2B, the decision-makers are more focused on the special needs of their company and are characterized by the skepticism that accompanies a decision with long-term consequences in the workplace. A trusted third party is especially important to people in their position.
Influencer marketing should be integrated into the marketing mix alongside other marketing measures, as potential customers trust you and consider you credible.
How do you develop a B2B influencer marketing strategy?
The development of a B2B influencer marketing strategy is a multi-stage process . In many ways, the procedure is similar to developing a strategy for B2C influencer marketing - however, more attention should be paid to the goals, which sometimes differ drastically.
Determining the Goals of Your Strategy
The first step in developing a strategy is to define your goals. What would you like to achieve for your company, your brand with an influencer campaign? The common B2B and B2C goals include increasing brand awareness, increasing leads or increasing sales. There is of course a difference between the target groups, since B2B influencer marketing is not aimed at private consumers, but rather at decision-makers in B2B. In most companies, these can be found in buying centers, which are made up of representatives from different departments with different functions. The decision-makers may therefore consist of a large number of people with different interests.
Telling a Story
With a goal in mind, focus on the story you want to tell about your brand. Who are you? How do your products or services help other companies? What makes you different from other companies? What do you do differently from your competitors? Why should a buyer choose your offer?
Identify Suitable Influencers
The next thing to think about is who your ideal influencer could be. What kind of audience does your favorite influencer reach? What kind of experience does he or she have? How is this person's influence? Does he or she have a successful blog or a strong social presence? Or maybe they are affiliated with companies that would use your product?
Connect with the influencers
They will then contact the influencers and suggest they work together. At this stage, it helps to plan the type of content that will go into the campaign, and then come up with a plan for creating, publishing, and distributing it.
Measure the Results
Once the campaign is over, your job is not done. Now is the time to measure and track the results. That way you can see what works and what doesn't. This gives you important information about what changes you may need to make in the next campaign.
How do companies find the right influencer?
Finding the right influencer (s) is one of the central tasks in developing a B2B influencer marketing strategy. Many marketers often use just one data point to determine which group of influencers they are dealing with. This is usually the "range".
An influencer's reach is an important metric, but it's not the only one. In total, four different metrics need to be considered when choosing a B2B influencer:
Reach on social media
Relevance to your products or services
Response and engagement from followers
References from other influencers
Reach: How big is the influencer's social community on all digital channels - blogs, RSS subscribers, contributed posts? Reach is important because you want to know how far your message will be carried by the influencer.
Relevance: How often do the influencers refer to topics and keywords that fit your company or describe your industry? What topics does an influencer write about? Do the content match your brand philosophy, your company values and products. The quality of the content is crucial. Relevance is a metric that either confirms that the influencer is frequently engaged in their topics or reveals that at some point the influencer only shared an article and then left the conversation.
Response: Does the influencer regularly exert his influence? Are backgrounds illuminated and discussed, are opinions exchanged with others? Influential influencers are actively involved in forming opinions. This metric helps separate real influencers from those who have a large social community but hardly generate any engagement from their audience. In some cases, you can filter out those influencers who resort to shady tactics that make them seem more influential than they actually are.
References: Are the favored influencers referenced by other influencers? In other words, do the other influencers in your community share, comment, like, or retweet content?
A great way to connect with your influencers without putting a heavy strain on your marketing budget is to connect with them on social media. Start by liking their content, share it, and comment on the posts that are relevant to your business and audience.
Maintain a culture of sharing. Once you've built a relationship with an influencer, empower your entire team - especially your most active salespeople - to share the content you create with the influencer's activities, be it an interview on your company blog, an infographic, or a simple one Link to her latest article. This will help you generate additional reach for your company's content while also increasing the influence of the industry expert you have developed a relationship with in a very "human" way.
Helpful tools when looking for B2B influencers
Once you have your brand's unique story, there are a number of tools on the web that you should use to find the right influencers. The following tools can help you find the people who share your passion and expertise in key categories related to your business.
BuzzStream: With BuzzStream You can search contact information for top influencer on any topic, prioritize and find. The platform also tracks your conversations and follow-ups with influencers and supports team collaboration. With BuzzStream, you can turn a webpage or blog entry into a contact record in your database. For example, when you bookmark an article by an influential journalist, BuzzStream automatically collects all of the email addresses and social profiles associated with that journalist. You can then contact the influencer directly via the platform.
Onalytica: Onalytica is a platform that enables both biographical searches and content searches. If you are looking for an influencer - an editor, journalist or engineer - who talks about "artificial intelligence", you can easily find them with Onalytica and view the content in real time. Upload or link any content on your topic Onalytica's algorithm finds the top influencers. Onalytica demonstrates the capabilities of its tool by creating data-based lists such as the top 100 B2B marketing influencers.
Upfluence: Upfluence is an all-in-one solution for B2B influencer marketing. This influencer marketing tool offers many different options from selecting relevant influencers to managing your campaigns to monitoring their performance. Upfluence has an extensive database with, according to its own information, over 1 million influencers, who can be selected using advanced keyword combinations and filters such as geo-location, metrics for social networks and languages.
Further tools that can support you in your B2B influencer marketing campaign:
Examples of successful B2B influencer marketing
The following examples show how companies around the world are successfully using B2B influencer marketing. That these are big companies is pure coincidence. It does not mean that B2B influencer marketing is only a suitable marketing tool for international corporations.
SAP: SAP is the leader in enterprise software with thousands of enterprise customers benefiting from their solutions. How does SAP use influencer marketing? SAP influencers are top executives and industry experts. SAP is known to invite its influencers to events that help them increase social engagement and brand awareness. For example, at an event, SAP invited five influencers to talk about topics such as machine learning, data analysis and IoT. These influencers received 50 percent of all social media mentions about this event. For another event, SAP worked with eleven influencers. The influencers reached between 80,000 and 100,000 people online via live video streaming. The influencers went live and answered questions from interested parties who were unable to attend the event. SAP later used this content in its blogs and social media profiles.
American Express: American Express is one of the top companies that invest heavily in their B2C and B2B marketing. From working with celebrities to micro-influencers, AmEx has left no stone unturned in influencer marketing. The company has run numerous influencer marketing campaigns to attract both corporate clients and consumers.
For example, American Express worked with influential bloggers to reach out to small businesses. The campaign was called “Love My Store” . The aim was to let customers know that small businesses accept credit cards too. The campaign resulted in the distribution of 400,000 Amex decals and earned 5 million impressions.
The B2B influencers used help to win over executives and companies for American Express's premium services.
Landis + Gyr: Landis + Gyr is an example of how a company's employees are used in B2B influencer marketing. Landis + Gyr started a program to create employee advocates who are active on social media. The focus was on the use of the social channels of these employees to convey customer orientation, innovative spirit and other values of the company.
The advantages of B2B influencer marketing
The word “influencer” almost always conjures up associations with the B2C world, in which young fashionistas and beauty bloggers advertise the products of well-known brands. Maybe that's why B2B influencer marketing has made slow progress so far and is still viewed with a high degree of skepticism. Studies and the successful B2B influencer marketing campaigns by well-known and lesser-known companies show, however, that B2B influencer marketing can help your company by bringing you into contact with an audience that you would otherwise find difficult to reach. This is especially true if your company, brand and products are still unknown.
By working with an influencer, you can use the influencer's existing network and thus expand your customer base and get in touch with companies that were previously inaccessible.
More on employee advocacy and influencer marketing please read here.
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