Does influencer marketing work in B2B?

Influencer marketing is very much the marmite of B2B Marketing. Kerrie Malone discusses its place in the industry and how you can learn to love it

Does influencer marketing work in the B2B arena?

When it comes to adopting innovative ways of marketing, B2B brands could be accused of trailing behind their B2C counterparts; from social media and content marketing to using video to engage customers. Unfortunately it’s often the case that B2B businesses are far more cautious about testing and adopting new ways of reaching their audience.

Influencer marketing is already a well-established marketing method for B2C organisations – if you have an Instagram account, it will probably only take you a few scrolls to come across a post plugging a particular brand’s product or service. But B2B businesses are still warming to the idea of engaging with influencers – just 15% of B2B brands have an integrated or ongoing influencer marketing programme in place.

What’s in it for B2B?

Influencer marketing can be just as successful for B2B marketers as it is for those in the B2C space, although marketers will need to tweak their approach to suit a B2B audience.

That’s because ultimately, the B2B buying process still involves people buying from people, so your marketing must appeal and engage the people behind the organisation. And as we know, ads have lost their credibility with customers, who are far more inclined to trust reviews and opinions of their peers when making buying decisions. In fact, 91% of B2B purchases are at least somewhat influenced by word of mouth.

By engaging with influencers that your audience respect and look to for guidance, you can not only significantly increase your brand’s credibility, but also ensure your products and services are front-of-mind among your target audience.

How to win leads and influence people

When done right, influencer marketing can help you to connect with customers who would otherwise ignore your messages – but ensuring you’ve got the optimum strategy can be complex. Here are our top tips for optimising your approach to influencer marketing:

  1. Choose the right people for your brand.

When you’re searching for influencers, it can be tempting to select those that have the largest amount of followers in your target area – but this could be a mistake. People actually engage with those that they can relate to more than those that have hundreds of thousands of followers – in fact, the ratio of likes and comments to followers peaks at around 1,000 followers.

It can be useful to create a buyer persona, to get a well-rounded idea of who will have the most influence over the people you’re trying to reach. Which social media sites do your buyers use, who do they follow, and (more importantly) whose posts do they like, comment on or share? There are a number of software solutions that can help you to do this, but if you have a limited budget – and some time to spare – you should be able to achieve this with some desk research.

If you have an ABM strategy in place, you could refine this process by identifying who the decision-makers within your key accounts are following and engaging with on social media: these are the people that you should aim to develop a relationship with.

  1. Have a realistic timeline

A key difference between influencer marketing in the B2B and the B2C space is timing – the time it takes to develop the relationship and the time it takes to see the results.

For B2B organisations, the timeline is likely to be much longer than for B2C companies, so you will need to factor in sufficient time for your influencer marketing strategy. Firstly, it’s important to build a relationship with an influencer you’re interested in working with as organically as possible. In B2B, the influencers you’re interested in are likely to be experts, and influencing is probably not their day job. Therefore, building up a rapport with them by engaging with them on social is likely to be much more successful than simply sending out a cold email.

You will also need to develop realistic expectations when it comes to seeing the results of your campaign. While B2C companies may see an immediate increase in purchases on the back of a single influencer’s post, the B2B buying process involves more people and takes longer. This means that you should expect to work with an influencer over a matter of months (or longer) to ensure your campaign reaches as many people within that buying process as possible.

  1. Take a collaborative approach

When it comes to influencer marketing, your goal shouldn’t just be to have an expert parroting your key messages – customers will see right through this, and it will do nothing to improve your credibility.

Instead, you should take a collaborative approach to working with influencers. As they regularly engage with your target audience, they’re likely to have insights and expertise that you may not – so make sure you use this to inform your content. Work with them to build your content plan, as they may also be able to identify new channels for reaching your target audience.

Once you’ve got a well-established relationship with an influencer, it should become easier for you to make the most of your collaboration. Remember influencer marketing isn’t just limited to influencers pushing out content on social media – try inviting them to speak at your events to boost your credibility even further and get the most value from your relationship.

Influencer marketing is a relatively new trend, and as such, it might be daunting for some B2B organisations. But those that don’t give it a try could be missing out on a great way to reach new customers - B2B marketers must be bold if they want to stand out from the crowd.

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