How to Leverage B2B Influencer Marketing for Powerful Results
B2B influencer marketing is the latest buzzword — an rightly so. In the past year alone, it has expanded its usefulness and effectiveness. It hsould be part of any thought leadership strategy. Are you keeping up with this fast-moving trend — and making the best use of it within your company?
Many mistakenly view influencer marketing as a famous person recommending a product or service. Influencer marketing goes way beyond a simple recommendation, and involves an ongoing relationship between a company and influencer.
Influencers are industry experts with a following and the cachet to engage others. Their influence has the power to:
- Improve or change the perception of your brand
- Connect you with a new audience of buyers
- Support your thought leadership goals
- Connect you with other industry experts
- Increase the quality and number of your leads
- Shorten sales cycles
- Increase your brand’s mentions on social media
Wouldn’t we all love these results? Influencer marketing is poised to help you do just that. This is especially true on the B2B scene, where buyers are bombarded with advertisements, along with products and services that often carry a hefty price tag. Influencers can help you break through the noise and give prospects a clearer image of your company and products or services.
How can you find the right influencers, and then engage them in an effective program? Here are a few key ways you can implement an effective influencer marketing program and make it part of your thought leadership strategy.
How to Engage Influencers in Your B2B Influencer Marketing Program
1. Get Involved on Social Media
Let’s face it, social media is no longer a “nice to have” — especially when it comes to influencers. If you would like to add influencer marketing to your toolset, you need to be active on social media.
Social media is the prime means of conversation and engagement for influencers. You need to be able to connect with them on social media. That means keeping your social media profiles up to date. Influencers will likely check out your profiles to learn more about you. Your profiles should be up to date, and should represent you well.
2. Identify the Influencers You Want
To truly be successful in influencer marketing, you want to choose your influencers carefully.
For starters, identify the specific goals you want to acheive in your influencer marketing program. This could be anything from increaseing brand awareness to geting more quality sales leads.
Next, think about the type of content and subject matter you would like to develop with an influencer. How does your audience like to digest their information? Through videos? Podcasts? Blog posts? Do you want to focus on creating an eBook or white paper for people who are nearing the end of the buyer’s journey?
This information will help you narrow down what influencers within your industry would be the right fit. Review what influencers have written and said. This will help you form relationships with influencers if you can show that you know and appreciate the work they do.
3. Understand the Person Behind the Influence
Influencers are not created equal. While this may seem obvious, many approach influencers as if they’re all cut from the same cloth.
Each influencer will have his or her own work styles and interests that sets him or her apart. It is important to thoroughly research an influencer before approaching an influencer about a partnership. At the very least, that personal interest may cement a future working relationship.
4. Maintain Ongoing Influencer Relationships
Influencers are not simply a tool that can be pulled out whenever you need them, and then ignored. If you want to harness the full power of influencers, you must nurture ongoing relationships.
Many companies establish teams whose sole purpose is to nurture influencer relationships. The members of these teams are responsible for keeping track of what influencers do and how they are used within marketing and PR departments.
5. Be Committed to Your Influencer Program
Influencer marketing is not going to be a “quick fix” to your marketing woes. You must be committed to a long-term relationship before you see real results.
If you really want influencer marketing to make a difference in your business, you must take the time to create a solid influencer marketing program. The goal of such a program should be to look for long-term and mutually beneficial relationships.
Note, however, that “mutually beneficial” doesn’t always have to mean a big check. You can make this relationship beneficial for the influencer by sharing their content, and recommending them to people on social media. Before you engage influencers, stop and reflect on additional ways that you can help them — not just the other way around.
As with any program, you will want to see evidence that it works. Before you begin a campaign, set certain benchmarks that you would like to monitor. This could be click-throughs, social shares, or other parameters that translate to success.
This could also be something less tangible than views and social shares. You could decide to monitor brand image — are there positive discussions surrounding your brand on social or traditional media? Is your co-created content being used as a resource for others in the industry?
You can then use this data to tweak future influencer marketing initiatives.
Let’s now look at a few B2B examples of how you can use influencer marketing in various roles to bolster your company and your thought leadership strategy
The Benefits of Making Influencer Marketing Part of Your Thought Leadership Strategy
This may seem redundant — since we are talking about influencer marketing — but there are still a lot of options. Traditionally, marketers used influencers solely as brand advocates or for product promotion, but there are many other ways they can be used.
For instance, you may choose to partner with an influencer to create content (such as a blog post or white paper), or to organize and promote an event. You could also use various influencers for ideas, insights, and opinions on industry matters, or get feedback on how to improve your influencer marketing program.
Down the line, an influencer’s role could also be expanded to that of employee, advisory board member, or partner. Don’t limit yourself by using influencers in only one way.
The competition is higher than ever to get the right talent for your company. Star candidates often do their research before considering any position — and influencers can play a key role in their decision making process.
To reach this audience, you can leverage an influencer in conjunction with your talent acquisition program. Content that focuses on career advice in connection with your company can increase your desirability. This method could reduce your recruitment costs in the long run.
3. Public Relations
There are various ways that influencers can be used in the context of public relations. For example, you can work side-by-side with influencers who are experts in your industry, and create content that will be featured in trade publications. The influencer’s name alongside your brand will boost your credibility and increase brand awareness.
4. Community Outreach
Almost every company nowadays recognizes the importance of community outreach, and the difference it can make. Whatever cause you are passionate about, you may be able to involve an influencer to increase your success.
You can use influencers to create content, or just simply get the word out about your cause. Including influencers in your social causes can add incredible force to the credibility and reach of the project.
Key Points to Remember…
- Take the time to choose the right influencer who is going to positively impact the direction of your company.
- Develop a strong influencer marketing program to nurture influencer relationships and decide who influencers will be used.
- Measure the progress of your influencer marketing program to see where you can improve, or what needs to be adjusted.
- Remember, influencer marketing can be used in many capacities, such as marketing, public relations, and recruitment.
As B2B influencer marketing grows, are you growing with it? Analyze how your company engages with and uses influencers — you may discover you’re not using them as effectively as you could.