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If you had to list some of the most valuable assets available to brands today, social proof would undoubtedly be right at the top. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling company shirts or other branded merchandise – having someone who has already captured your audience’s attention on your side is critical to success.
These days, people have lost their patience with traditional advertising. An “old school” ad just isn’t enough to cut it in terms of getting the word out about your products and services. People trust recommendations from friends and family members more than marketing itself – and influencer marketing plays directly into that.
Influencers are people online – be it via their own websites or on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter – who have established audiences that overlap with your own. These are people who use Facebook post scheduler to add their posts online & have worked hard to establish themselves as an authority – a voice worth paying attention to. Therefore, if you can build a relationship with these people and get them to talk about your products and services, you create a mutually beneficial situation for everyone involved.
Source: Photo by airfocus on Unsplash
Although the mechanics of influencer marketing may seem complicated, the actual execution couldn’t be more straightforward.
For the sake of example, say there is a blogger that posts content on a regular basis about topics that are relevant to your industry. They have an established following, and people really take what they have to say to heart.
If you can reach out to this person and get them to review your product or provide an overview of your service, you have the opportunity to break off a little piece of their audience and make it your own. You’re exposing your brand to a whole new crop of people you might not have access to, which is really what influencer marketing is all about.
On the surface, influencer marketing techniques of B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) are actually quite similar. You’re still trying to find someone your audience trusts and respects, and you’re still trying to build a relationship with these people.
The major difference is that with B2B influencer marketing, you need to hone in on someone with deep industry knowledge, as B2B clients tend to do a significantly larger amount of research before making a purchase.
Source: Photo by Malte Helmhold on Unsplash
Remember that the buyer’s journey for B2B customers is much longer and more complicated than that of B2C customers. Where a B2C customer might be content with reading a few blog posts, B2B customers need to go deeper. They want white papers, e-books, video webinars. They want all of this to make absolutely certain that their marketing budget is going to the right place.
You need to adopt this same approach when it comes to the influencers you reach out to. It can’t just be anyone – it needs to be someone who knows the industry inside and out and who is a trusted voice in the ongoing conversation. Only then will you be able to use influencer marketing to generate those B2B conversions that you need.
B2B businesses should focus on influencer marketing because it helps give them a competitive advantage in a wide range of different ways.
For starters, you’re getting access to someone with a unique point of view – one that resonates with your target audience. You’re harnessing the voice of someone that the audience is already paying attention to and using it to your advantage.
Likewise, B2B influencers can give an organization access to an invaluable network of professional contacts that can then be used to expand your reach further. But the real benefit comes by way of the credibility you lend to your brand. If someone trusts an influencer, and the influencer trusts your brand, then that contact is more likely to trust your brand as well.
One great example of how effective B2B influencer marketing can become is by way of Maybelline. Not too long ago, they employed the help of 15 different makeup experts from 15 different countries around the world to showcase their products.
Those social media influencers created tutorial videos, showcased tips and tricks to get the most out of your purchase, and more. The campaign itself was a huge success, significantly expanding the company’s reach on social media each week that new content continued to run.
If executed properly, the right influencer marketing campaign is absolutely worth the initial investment. In fact, according to one recent study, 89% of marketing professionals said that the return on investment that they saw from influencer marketing was either comparable to or better than that which they had seen from all other marketing channels.
Again, much of this has to do with the fact that you’re enlisting the help of someone who your audience already trusts. Instead of spending all your money on “traditional” advertising, you’re creating a relationship with someone who has a powerful voice – and a sizable audience. If that relationship allows you to funnel even a small percentage of that audience to your website, your e-commerce store, or something else along those lines, the investment will have been more than worth it.
As an example, consider the fitness clothing brand, Gymshark. They frequently collaborate with fitness influencers with a large follower base that overlaps with their target audience. The company selects its partners with the intention to grow their e-commerce – they hone in on influencers with a strong voice. By combining powerful promotional campaigns with influencer marketing, they’ve grown to be a $1+ Billion Brand.
All told, it’s important to remember that there is no “one right way” to execute an influencer marketing strategy. There are so many variables that need to be accounted for. Not only do you have to consider the product that you’re trying to sell, but you have to make a proactive effort to understand as much as possible about the audience you’re trying to sell it to.
Then, you have to find influencers who align with both of those things. You need people who share the same values that you do and who support your vision for bringing your product or service to market.
So while there is no one precise road map that you’ll be following, there are a few steps you can take to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible.
One of the biggest mistakes that many B2B brands, in particular, make is that they fail to set goals before their influencer marketing campaigns begin.
Your campaign itself cannot be created in a vacuum. It needs to be built around specific, achievable, realistic goals in order to see the results that you want. Are you trying to increase sales to your e-commerce store? Are you trying to gain more visitors to your website? Depending on your goal, a lot of the decisions that you make from that point on will change.
Likewise, you need to pick key performance indicators (KPIs) so that you always know where you are as the campaign progresses. Don’t forget that you can’t improve what you’re not measuring, and KPIs will help you measure everything to make sure you’re embracing what is working and are getting rid of what isn’t moving forward.
Another important step to take for B2B influencer marketing involves defining your budget before the campaign begins in earnest. Even prior to reaching out to influencers to see if they’d like to establish a relationship with you, you need to know how much you’re willing to spend.
Some studies estimate that the average budget for influencer marketing is about $10,000 per year per influencer, although that will obviously vary depending on who you’re working with and what they end up doing.
Next comes what is arguably the most important part: finding the right influencers to work with on your campaign.
Find people who post a lot of content about industry-related topics and who also have large followings. Watch and read a lot of their content to make sure that their values align with your own. You don’t want to partner with someone who ends up being controversial, as it could cause more harm than good to your business.
Along the same lines, you’ll want to be proactive about identifying influencers that your clients already know. Don’t be afraid to talk to clients to see which blogs they read or which YouTube channels they subscribe to on a regular basis. Check industry blogs to see who has already captured the attention of the audience that you’re trying to reach.
All throughout this time, it will certainly be tempting to stick to a few key social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn. This is a good start, but it should be seen as only that – a start.
To really find the people who you can turn into loyal brand advocates, you need to expand your horizons and go beyond social media. Read industry trade journals and reach out to the people who write columns.
Look on industry websites to see who is generating the most content – especially in the opinion section. You need to look anywhere and everywhere to find the right people to establish a relationship with. This will also allow you to build a connection with a larger number of influencers, too.
Again, you don’t want to enter into a relationship with someone who ultimately proves to be controversial with your target audience. Go back through as much of their content as possible and see what you can find.
Never forget that the Internet isn’t written in pencil – it’s written in ink. This means that even if someone posted a controversial video 10 years ago, there’s still a chance that it might come back to haunt them – and you. Therefore, you need to do your due diligence and vet every influencer as carefully as possible to avoid a potential catastrophe moving forward.
Once you do find those influencers who you think you can work with, you’ll want to do whatever it takes to help nurture those relationships. Note that this doesn’t mean promising them money or even free items in exchange for a good review. Influencer marketing works in large part because it’s genuine, and there is nothing genuine about this type of quid pro quo.
Instead, offer to send someone a free product sample in exchange for an honest review. See if they’d be willing to write a guest post for your website’s blog. Ask them if they want to sit down for a one-on-one interview that you’ll eventually air on your YouTube channel. All of these are great ways to start – and maintain – a relationship with these people.
Another step that B2B marketers in particular often skip involves education. You have a unique product – you can’t expect an influencer to know the ins and outs of it immediately. You need to communicate to them what your product is, what it does, why that is important, and what makes it different. Only then will they be able to give their educated opinion to both you and your audience.
Never tell an influencer what to do – that defeats the purpose. Instead, give them the creative freedom they need to interact with your products in a way that both their audience and yours will respect.
Make sure you’re not choosing influencers who are also posting content for your competitors, for example.
Content marketing involves the creation of things like blog posts, white papers, e-books, and even social media posts. It’s a great way to reach an audience by offering something of value without expecting anything in return. When outlining your strategy, it is important to create a content map that analyzes customer interests and helps deliver content that will drive engagement.
Nearly all of the content marketing tactics can be executed by collaborating with influencers. For example, you can host a podcast with an industry expert influencer, publish an influencer-written guest post, or co-create a Youtube video. The possibilities for working on joint influencer content are many, so be sure to pick the right one for your marketing strategy.
Anyone can say that they’re an influencer – what you need is someone who is a legitimate expert in your industry. Only then will influencer marketing grant you the level of credibility you seek.
As your relationship with an influencer goes on, their enthusiasm for your brand should increase. They should quickly become a loyal army of brand advocates, ready to sing your praises far and wide.
Is an influencer going to be in your area anytime soon? Reach out to them and take them to dinner to deepen the relationship that you’ve already worked so hard to cultivate. Or invite them to that next big industry event that you’ll be participating in.
Finally, don’t be afraid to send company swag or trials for your products and services or software. Again – do not do this under the assumption that it will be in exchange for a good review. Do so with the acknowledgment that all you want is an honest opinion.
Overall, influencer marketing is a great way to reach a bold new audience for both B2C and B2B organizations alike. If executed properly, it has the ability to expose your brand to a whole new audience you wouldn’t normally have access to – and is the most important benefit of all.
About the author
Ivo is a passionate writer with experience in digital and social media marketing. He enjoys sharing his insights and past experiences to help others learn. Ivo enjoys reading, hiking, and watching as many TED Talks as possible in his spare time.