Oct 30, 2019

5 Ways You Can Leverage B2B Influencer Marketing

It's no secret that influencers are the hottest thing on the digital scene at the moment. From an Instagram fashion influencer that leveraged brands deals for her "surprise" global scavenger hunt engagement to YouTubers like Logan Paul who use comedic and zany gimmicks to build followings in the millions -- influencers are here to stay.

In the examples above, it's easy to see how influencers can build global communities and entice audiences through storytelling within the consumer market. However, the influencer ecosystem is also extremely valuable within the B2B marketplace. In fact, according to Marketing Charts, influencer marketing is one of the top four trends that marketers included in their strategic stack in 2019.

With different goals and conversion timeframes than B2C marketing; B2B marketers can utilize influencer marketing to further brand affinity through authentic storytelling, build community, tap into the millennial and Gen Z audience, and much more. Here are five lessons on how to involve influencer marketing to do so.

Lesson #1: It's all about authenticity – know your audience and be true to them

Let's face it, audiences are smart to marketing messaging, and in today’s ‘woke’ culture, consumers want brands to be real with them. Marketing speak doesn't go far nowadays. When brands talk to their audiences on a relatable level, that is when the magic happens.

With B2B influencer, marketing and engagement are about quality, not volume. Marketers need to be on the hunt for influencers who can relate to your products and values. In this case, it's not necessarily about how many followers you have, but understanding what makes people influential to their audience. It would be best if you preserved their authenticity and yours as an enterprise.

Credibility is king. You lose the opportunity to impact and influence individuals without credibility, so identifying the right people who align with what you have to say and offer is essential.

Influencer Marketing Takeaway: Work with influencer marketplaces or search on professional social media channels to find influencers that align with your brand and can speak to your audience with a knowledge-base that is true and informative. You can easily email them or direct message them on the platform to connect to learn about whether a partnership makes sense for the brand and influencer.

Lesson #2: Meet your audience wherever they're at

There is a multitude of social media channels that vie for attention spans and eyeballs. B2B marketing influencers might be on the standard channels like Instagram and YouTube, but it’s more likely their thought leadership will be hidden within communities like Reddit or on the professional social network, LinkedIn.

Once you're able to target influencers, become part of the community and listen and take in their content; from there, you can determine how, when, and where to engage. Within these niche communities like on Reddit, you must add value to the influencer and their community. If you can't, the relationship won't be authentic.

Influencer Marketing Takeaway: Just like with B2C marketing, when a massive celebrity like one of the Kardashians promotes a product that their audience can tell is ad-sponsored content (e.g., fit tea or teeth whitening), think of the same with B2B marketing. You need to have a product-influencer fit, and this occurs when you truly understand the influencer and the community they're a part of and how your product could benefit the audience.

Lesson #3: Find your influencers in your boardroom -- with employee advocates

Employees are often an untapped influencer base for enterprise companies. Big companies have many influencers within their employee base – companies must find a way to identify these people, learn about their audience then authentically support them.

As employees are passionate about their work and within B2B it can be highly technical -- they can be your best asset for informing and educating audiences in a myriad of ways. They can speak at industry events or be the face of your social media channel or even host their own YouTube channels where they speak about larger B2B technology trends.

Influencer Marketing Takeaway: You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Find influencers within your own company. Employees speaking authentically and engaging about your product will highlight a strong culture and knowledge-base about your product.

Lesson #4: Give life to the intangible

B2B marketers are tasked with taking intricate technologies and humanizing them in efforts to connect with audiences. Whether it's artificial intelligence, blockchain, or machine learning, enterprises must think creatively about how to ‘humanize’ and bring intangible ideas to life.

Marketers can surprise audiences by moving an abstract concept to a tangible idea via creative content by utilizing influencers, and in the case of a large enterprise like IBM, who used the AI capabilities of its Watson supercomputer to compete against humans on the US game show, Jeopardy, in 2011; illustrating how telling compelling and visual stories about what exists today, and what the world could look like in the future.

Influencer Marketing Takeaway: Think way outside the box on how you can take sophisticated technologies and make them relatable for your audience. Although, many in B2B marketing enjoy long-form content like white papers; use your imagination to entice your target buyer audience to create innovative, creative content that shows your technology in a way that is digestible for all to understand and enjoy.

Lesson #5: Recognize and accommodate generational nuances

There’s no such thing as a single influencer tactic that influences all audiences. B2B companies must understand the differences and motivations between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and others. This will inform which influencers and messages matter to each generation.

For Gen Z and millennials, principles and authenticity matter. An all-encompassing trend across all generations is nostalgia; which can be fun and connect multiple generations. Enterprises have more insights and content in their history than they think. Tap into this for clever social and influencer opportunities using the ubiquitous #ThrowbackThursday or #FlashbackFriday hashtags.

Influencer Marketing Takeaway: Be strategic in how you’re crafting content towards a specific audience. With analytics and data, you can make informed decisions for creating content that will appeal to your audience. The majority of influencers are digitally native millennials and Gen Z’ers, so when working with them, provide guidance on how they can be inter-generational, if need be.

Going forward with influencer marketing

As you can see, influencer marketing can have a tremendous impact on your business goals and bottom line. By leveraging these lessons in B2B influencer marketing, you can take highly complex technology and engage audiences in an authentic way. No longer does B2B content have to be dry and dull, but you can bring it to life through influencers that can humanize your product and educate your target audience in an entertaining manner.

Kate Talbot
Kate Talbot

Kate Talbot is a marketing consultant working with global clients. Based in Silicon Valley, she has led content marketing and social media at Virgin America and Kiva, scaled user growth at B2B and B2C startups, and crafted thought leadership strategies and content for top tier venture capitalists. She is a senior contributor to Forbes, and the author of the bestselling book 'Oh Snap! You Can Use Snapchat for Business'. She has been featured on NBC News, CNBC, Huffington Post, Newsday, TechCrunch and VentureBeat. You can find her at her website and on Twitter

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