Influencer Marketing picked up a lot of pace in 2017 and has stayed strong throughout 2018; a trend that is here to stay. In simple terms, Influencer Marketing is having someone advocate marketer’s story for them, like a blogger reviewing their product or someone on twitter sharing his or her opinion about the brand.
Using Influencer Marketing for B2B companies for demand generation is a lot different than B2C due to the different mindsets among audiences. But is it really effective to use influencers in B2B marketing as well?
Well, there are a lot of good reasons to invest in influencers and here are some:
- An influencer may have their own platforms and audiences on it that a B2B marketer can reach out to by connecting with the influencer.
- Influencers’ opinion is considered by their audiences as independent, unbiased and trustworthy.
- Often a popular influencer could help a marketer reach not only the digital world but also the traditional media, which is a win-win for the business.
Over the years, the digitization of the media and marketing world has not only fueled the era of Influencers but also encouraged them to come up with their own set of platforms. This helps create more opportunities for the marketers to reach out to their audiences through the influencers.
In 2018, B2B brands have increasingly used Influencers as their secret marketing technique. Consumers are more informed these days as they are very well connected and have more media inputs than ever. With the growing social media influence on consumers, Influencers play a crucial role for businesses to not only get their attention but to also, convert them into potential customers. According to a study conducted by NCS, Influencer Marketing can contribute to 11x higher return on investment than traditional marketing.
There is no denying that Influencers could be very effective and work marketing miracles for B2B if done correctly, however, choosing the right influencer could be complex. The big question though is how can B2B marketers find the right influencers for their businesses.
The most common mistake that’s made by the brands is going after popular influencers just because of the reach - the total number of people they can reach. Going after influencers that may have smaller but more targeted audience can help B2B business create a higher engagement. Larger reach doesn’t necessarily translate into better influence.
However, it’s important for the marketer to clearly understand and define what they would want to achieve through influence marketing. If the aim is to just create awareness, going after the popular influencers is fine. But if the goal is to make the audience engage with the brand, then it’s important to identify the right influencer with the targeted audience. Influencers could be categorized as:
- Opinion Makers/Experts- Even though they may have a large number of followers as well, what makes them come out and be different is they are subject matter experts in their areas and simply exude the confidence while sharing their opinions which people trust. Trust can easily translate into buying decisions for their audiences.
- Advocates/Ambassadors- They are the ones who share their interests, opinion and the passion for a brand or product on a regular basis with their audiences on public platforms. They may not have a large audience but are very influential within their small groups of audiences and this translates to niche targeting for the brands. B2B companies may not consider these influencers as their best bet at influencer marketing, but it helps a great deal to connect with these advocates.
An example of the above was the strategy of employee advocacy used by the company - Landis+Gyr, a global provider of energy management solutions across 5 continents and a pioneer in the energy industry. They shared content about their focus on customer needs, innovation, and core values through their employees’ social network. It worked really well for them as their campaigns accrued more than 1800 content shares and an estimated earned media value of over $10,800.
IBM, a market leader in technology, on the other hand, promoted their IBM Watson platform by enabling a fashion designer to create the world’s first AI-inspired garment (Saree). This was unveiled at a awards ceremony for a large audience of women. It was very unique for IBM to market their AI platform using a celebrity fashion designer as an influencer.
Cisco, a leader in networking and communication technology, has their community of IT advocates which they refer to as “Cisco Champions.” They have created a marketing program around them and use various incentives and awards to get these advocates to share their opinions and expertise on Cisco’s products on social media.
It’s true that B2B influencer marketing is complex and choosing the right influencers could still be a work in progress for the industry. However, it might help a brand to have a good social media presence and keeping in touch with their customers. This may not only help to create opportunities for repeat business as a short-term impact but also create a way for successful influencer marketing in the long run.