In a world over-saturated with content, it’s become challenging for brands to break through the noise, control their narrative online, and gain the attention of potential customers—regardless if you’re B2B or B2C. So how do you toot your own horn when 77 percent of US consumers say they find it hard to trust companies these days?
Enter the B2B Influencer
B2B influencers are just like traditional influencers. They have a significant following and a high level of authority and trust among their audience. The difference is B2B influencers are industry experts.
Why should you consider influencer marketing for your B2B business?
- They help you tap into niche customers you couldn’t otherwise reach.
- They can guide a customer’s purchase decisions without sounding salesy, since they have a great rapport with their audience
- They humanize your brand by creating unique, easy-to-consume, and entertaining content that centers on your product.
And the best part? You don’t have to build trust from scratch in your potential customers. The influencer has already done that legwork for you. Their followers feel they’ve been introduced to your brand by a friend—the trusted influencer.
It’s no wonder more than 38 percent of B2B companies are planning to explore influencer marketing for lead generation. And the global industry revenue is projected to reach a whopping $11.7 billion by the end of this year.
How to partner effectively with a B2B influencer
At this point, you’re probably starting to see the light; you can see how B2B influencer marketing works. You’re ready to get started. But where do you begin?
1. Define what you want to accomplish.
Forming quantifiable goals and KPIs will help you make data-driven
decisions and accurately examine your influencer marketing campaign’s
How do you succeed when you don’t know what you want to achieve? Maybe you want a bump in sales. Or perhaps you plan to build a community or boost brand awareness. Establishing well-defined goals for your campaigns helps to:
- Track your influencer marketing ROI
- Form a seamless and transparent relationship with the influencer
- Learn what influencer marketing tactics and channels work best for your company
Eighty-four percent of B2B marketers see measurable benefits in brand awareness by partnering with the right influencers, followed by 69 percent saying their most prominent benefit was lead generation.
While setting goals, be as specific as possible. Instead of aiming for the a vague goal like “increasing traffic on your website,” aim for something like “attracting 500,000 visitors per month in Q3.”
Next, make your goals solid by establishing metric-driven key performance indicators (KPIs). For instance, if your goal is to increase website visitors, you can track how much of your website traffic is coming from an influencer’s backlink.
Your goals can differ for every influencer marketing campaign. For example, when Microsoft partnered with National Geographic for their #MakeWhatsNext campaign, their goal wasn’t just to boost positive brand perception. They also wanted to shed light on a cause they truly care about—encouraging women to pursue jobs in STEM.
They also strategically aligned their campaign with International Women’s Day and highlighted authentic stories of real women in STEM. The result was more than 3.5 million likes and reaching National Geographic’s 91 million followers across their five accounts.
It’s vital to have these game plans for every step in the process—from outreach to deliverables.
2. Find influencers who fit your brand like a glove.
“Identifying the right influencers for your brand will serve as the beginning or end of your program where it will either thrive or die,” says Taylor Lagace, the co-founder of the influencer marketing agency, Kynship.
And he’s not wrong. It’s impossible to get your desired results with the wrong partner. But 61 percent of brands report struggling to find the best influencers for their campaigns. So, what’s the secret?
Step 1: Define a set of specific criteria for your ideal influencer.
They should include:
- Expertise in the subject matter and authority in the field
- Followers overlapping with your target customers
- An ability to create B2B content in an easy-to-understand way
Lagace also recommends studying an influencer’s ability to create videos. Why? Because as video becomes the future of media and marketing, you want to ensure the influencer you partner with can sell your product on video. How can you do that? Use Taylor’s three-question assessment:
- Does this influencer create video content that’s thumb-stopping?
- Does this influencer create video content that captures my attention in the first three seconds?
- Is this influencer articulate? Charismatic? etc.
Remember: Unlike B2C influencers, B2B influencers should be credible experts in their niche who work knee-deep in their industry.
For example, when Klaviyo partnered with influencers for their Less Stalking, More Talking campaign, they chose only relevant influencers, like Eli Weiss, who share their customer-first philosophy and have high authority in the e-commerce industry.
79 percent of marketers say subject matter expertise is an essential quality when choosing an influencer. So, while forming your criteria, remember expertise comes before influence in B2B.
Step 2: Source influencers.
You can mine social media, online communities, and industry news to find B2B experts with a significant audience. Consider niche leaders your customers already follow—via newsletters, podcasts, and social media—and see if you can partner with them. For example, if you’re an SEO software company, your customers likely follow Rand Fishkin.
If the manual process feels time-consuming, try this:
- Use tools like Traackr, Onalytica, or BuzzSumo to source the best influencers in your industry.
- Make a list of prospective influencers and rate them based on your criteria decided in the previous step.
- Shortlist influencers who meet most of the qualities you’re looking for.
You could also choose to hire an influencer marketing agency like TopRank. Again, working with experts helps you hire pre-vetted influencers and easily manage relationships with them.
Pro tip: Use a social listening tool like Hootsuite to track brand mentions online. It can help you identify influencers who already love your product.
Step 3: Narrow down your influencer list based on engagement insight.
Validate the size and authenticity of the A-list influencers shortlisted in Step 2. Ensure they haven’t purchased fake followers by using tools like GRIN.
This is also the step where you ask influencers for more insight into their social media metrics—including engagement rates, demographics of their followers, and success of past campaigns.
Note: Skip this step if you’re working with an agency that shortlists and evaluates the influencers for you.
3. Leverage influencers (and their content) beyond social media
B2B influencer Jason Fall‘s partnership with influencer marketing platform Tagger isn’t limited to his podcast Winfluence. He also regularly writes blog posts on their website, moderates their panels, and speaks at their events.
And he’s not alone. According to a study by TopRank Marketing, B2B influencers partner with brands in a variety of activities, like collaborating on content, serving as advisors, participating in media interviews, and more.
No one said influencer marketing has to breathe and die only on social channels.
You can also repurpose influencer content on your website, share their graphics on your emails, and highlight their insights in your blogs.
Influencers are expert content creators. You don’t want them to build amazing, high-quality, relevant posts for your brand once and never let it see the light of the day again.
Pro Tip: Be sure to add a clause in your influencer contract about reusing the collaterals an influencer has created for you. It might have an additional cost, but it’s worth the money.
4. Build long-term influencer relationships (not one-time transactions)
At its core, influencer marketing is about people. It’s not like buying ad space—you can’t just buy, analyze, and forget about it. Jason Falls says treating influencer relationships like a transactional media buy is the biggest mistake brands make.
“The thing you’re buying with an influencer is the trust and authenticity they are willing to share with their audience about your product. That can’t come across well in a single sponsored post. You have to invest with them over time, so the audience sees genuine proof that they truly are a partner with your brand and the brand is with them.”
The Always-On Approach
It’s in the data, too: Only 5 percent of B2B marketers who do periodic campaigns are “very successful” compared to 60 percent of marketers who implement ongoing influencer marketing campaigns.
LinkedIn is one of the best examples of leveraging long-term influencer marketing. It regularly asks for content contributions from influencers, features influencers in marketing assets, and nurtures long-term relationships with them.
LinkedIn asked various sales leaders to weigh in on their priorities for 2020—building solid influencer relationships and driving social conversations. Using this always-on approach, LinkedIn has built relationships with more than 75 sales and marketing influencers, garnering 2,000+ brand mentions and 84 million in social reach.
Be a Dream Brand for a B2B Influencer
In order to work with high-quality B2B influencers, you need to bring your A game. So what’s it take to be a brand an influencer loves to work with?
1. Craft a high-quality outreach message.
Finding the perfect match is a two-way street. Influencers don’t partner with every brand that comes their way. Instead, they care about maintaining the credibility they’ve built with their audience.
Amanda Natividad, a B2B influencer and VP of marketing at SparkToro, says she says yes to partnering with a brand “if I could see myself buying the product/service if I had the problem for which they provide a solution.”
So, when she partnered with the decentralized advertising company, Groupshop, for her newsletter, The Menu, her 3,000+ subscribers knew she truly believed in their product.
As much as you’re examining the influencer, the influencer is also examining you. So, do your due diligence before reaching out to an influencer. How is the partnership mutually beneficial? Why should they partner with your brand over others? Do their values align with yours?
2. Pay them well and on time.
With websites like F*** You, Pay Me, and Instagram accounts like #influencerpaygap, influencers have greater transparency about what they can potentially earn.
Low-balling your offers and delaying payments doesn’t fly anymore. Fair and prompt compensation also shows an influencer you appreciate the quality of their work and their efforts.
3. Focus on co-creation and allow creative freedom.
Influencers are professional content creators. They know what resonates with their audience. Stringent rules around content creation might hinder their creativity and dampen your relationship. See influencers as co-creators and allow for creative license.
Does this mean you have to lose the reins completely? No. Offer general guidelines, ask for revisions before publishing, and send a loose brief. Your approach should be to hand them the canvas and let them paint on their own terms. Remember, while this is an official partnership, it’s not officially coming from your company. So, many of the rules your company must adhere to, the influencer may be able to ignore.
But Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are influencer relationships. If you nurture them, you can create an army of advocates who speak well of your brand online and offline.
The bottom line
Don’t overlook influencer marketing as part of your overall strategy. It’s a solid way to break into new markets, establish your brand’s domain authority, and partner with experts in your industry. Because the truth is, today’s consumers want real input from real people who are relatable—it doesn’t matter if you’re B2C or B2B. Influencer marketing is all about people.