What I learned about influencer marketing in B2B – from SAP Ariba and Traackr

Is influencer marketing right for you? And if so, what do you need to do to make it work, and scale it effectively? Here's what I learned at our recent interactive session with Traackr and SAP Ariba

I spent a fascinating morning last week with the good people from SAP Ariba and Traackr learning about the latest trends in influencer marketing in B2B – a widely misunderstood and sometime even maligned discipline.

Before the interactive panel and Q&A, which I chaired, Nicolas Chabot, EMEA EVP of Traackr, revealed the results of their annual survey into key trends in B2B influencer behaviour and activities, after which Amisha Gandhi, VP of influencer marketing at SAP Ariba, spoke candidly and enthusiastically about how that organisation is using influencer marketing to improve its customer journey and interaction.

These presentations, and the following discussion, went a long way to deepen my understanding and counter a lot of the cynicism which exists in some quarters around influencer marketing, particularly within B2B. There was a wealth of knowledge and insights from these sessions, and below I have listed just a small sample of the things which resonated most with me. If you’re struggling to understand how you could make influencer marketing work for you (and indeed, whether it’s right for you) hopefully some of these points will convince you to find out more.

  1. Start small with influencer marketing – pick a defined use case and run a trial. Don’t try to boil the ocean. Although it has lots of potential applications, it’s not a panacea for all your marketing ills.
  2. As influencer programmes scale, compliance is becoming the number one issue. It has wide-ranging implications across your business, and how it engages with customers, and these need to be understood and the risks mitigated at a central level.
  3. Direct peer-to-peer is key to managing your top influencers, most likely between the programme manager and/or the organisation CMO, because ultimately people buy people. “Relationships start with a handshake and end in a hug.”
  4. In many instances, influencer marketing is taking the place of traditional media – the balance of paid/owned/earned is shifting.
  5. Agencies can potentially handle the management of influencer programmes, at the beginning, middle and end of the maturity curve – they can add different value at different stages. But for companies who are mature in their use of influencer, the bulk of the activity is likely to be managed inhouse.
  6. Technology can allow both agency and client to work from the same dashboards, sharing metrics and having the same visibility over effectiveness. This is transformational when compared to old-fashioned PR (which is from where may influencer programmes emerged).
  7. You don’t need to pay B2B influencers to collaborate, apart from things that you would pay them for otherwise in other capacities – eg. conference speaking, co-creating content. Most will offer their insights and contribute towards content activities (through interviews) if they perceive and understand the value exchange.
  8. The style of engagement with influencers must be about ‘collaboration’, not ‘management’, like you would a supplier of other kinds of marketing services. Your first question to them must be: “how can I help you and your audience?”
  9. Influencers will probably value their relationship with their audience more than their relationship with you.
  10. You should think of influencers as the new stakeholders in your business.
  11. GDPR potentially makes influencer marketing more relevant and pertinent – it’s another barrier to reach people via traditional means.
  12. You need a c-suite sponsor to trial influencer marketing effectively – and probably an individual tasked with building a business case and proving the relevance.
  13. Even though you may not have an influencer marketing strategy, it’s likely that you’ll doing some ‘serendipitous’ influencer marketing, in isolated areas across the organisation, with no coherent strategy.
  14. Social isn’t the be-all and end-all of influencer marketing – it’s just the icing on the cake. You should to do effective influencer marketing without social media.
  15. Most important of all, at its best, influencer marketing is an ethos, rather than a tool or a channel. It runs throughout your marketing activity, underpinning and supporting all aspects.

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