It’s no mystery that we’re big fans of influencer marketing where B2B brands engage with industry experts and key opinion leaders to drive conversations, consideration and conversions.
Marketing leaders at B2B companies large and small are realizing how much influence can play a role in virtually every customer communication. As 2021 picks up steam, the practice of influencer marketing presents unique opportunities to optimize digitally transformed B2B marketing.
That said, while the role of influence can be universally present in content and communications, the approach that will work for any given B2B brand is by no means cookie cutter. Influencer engagement is not simply an advertising buy or some kind of programmatic marketing tactic. It’s simultaneously dynamic and open to certain kinds of optimization and scale through process, operations and expertise.
Before embarking on a pilot, campaigns or an evolved always-on influencer program, it’s important for B2B marketers to answer a few key questions to make sure the rationale is sound, the approach has merit and the expectations line up with resources and goals.
At TopRank Marketing we’ve helped numerous B2B brands run their very first influencer marketing pilot projects and campaigns. Our work with B2B brands like LinkedIn, SAP and Dell over the past 9 years has taught us that there are many key questions to be answered in order to ensure
Influencer marketing makes sense for a particular B2B brand
That a specific approach matches goals, resources and expectations
The tactics of identifying and engaging influencers are appropriate to content formats, channels and audience
The program reaches expected KPIs and drives value both for the business and influencers
Early efforts set the stage for future success
To help B2B brands thinking about launching an influencer marketing initiative, here are 5 of the most important questions to answer:
1. What is a B2B influencer for our brand? Our customers?
Success with B2B influence means avoiding falling into the popularity trap and thinking that all influencers must have a massive following.
An influencer in the B2B world is someone that has domain expertise, is recognized by peers for that expertise, creates content or communicates about that expertise, and has attracted the attention and trust of a network.
B2B influencers are also often called subject matter experts, key opinion leaders, or simply experts about a certain topic. This differs than in B2C where popularity and being able to publish influencer-created content on their own channels to a large audience reigns supreme. B2C influencers are most often very self aware of their actual or aspirational influence and bring content creation, personality, persuasion and publishing skills to the situation.
For B2B influencers, the idea of being an “influencer” may not be a priority, so B2B brands need to find ways to activate and engage them in ways that might be new to the influencer. Fortunately, there are best practices around how to nurture both external and internal subject matter experts to collaborate with marketing in ways that can drive authentic conversations amongst a desirable audience.
There are several key characteristics to look for in a B2B influencer: Proficiency, Popularity, Personality, Publisher, Promoter. For a deeper dive into what top B2B influencers look and sound like, check out Season 3 of Break Free B2B in progress.
Understanding that everyone has some degree of influence is as important for a new influencer marketing effort as is understanding that B2B brands need to be clear about what topics they want to be influential about. Finding B2B influencers for a specific brand means identifying the topics that matter to customers in the context of the B2B Colombia Phone Numbers List brand’s marketing narrative. Topics of importance to customers relative to the B2B brand’s key messages, products and solutions helps us understand whether a particular influencer has the attention and ability to influence their network. We do that by using software that helps evaluate a given influencer’s audience for topical relevance, resonance and reach.
There are different types of influencers to engage according to the type of influencer marketing project being implemented. Some programs might call for celebrity level “brandividuals“, others might focus more on those with industry analyst level expertise, or niche influencers that have deep product expertise and specific media creation skills that align with the content preferences of a B2B brand’s audience. At the same time, some influencers might already be fans of your B2B brand and others might be strong advocates of ideas that align with your brand but not be advocates yet.
The opportunity in identifying what a B2B influencer looks like for your brand starts with understanding the topics of influence that matter to your customers and that are most relevant to your solutions. That topic understanding can be extended.