When most people think about what influencer marketing includes they tend to think of B2C tactics: “product reviews,” “endorsements,” “sponsored social posts” and other paid promotion approaches. While, those are all tactics in the influencer marketing suite, influencer marketing doesn’t stop at B2C industries. Choosing the right B2B service or product provider can be tough, and there might be many touchpoints necessary before deciding; including consideration of influencer opinions. In fact, according to a study by Twitter & Annalect, 49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions.
Influencer marketing, defined simply, is the art of building relationships with those who your target audience is already engaging with or influenced by. The B2B space is no different, just a little more complex and convoluted! Let’s use how I found Buzzstream as an example to look at the “points of influence” for a B2B audience.
Here was my path to BuzzStream use for our team:
- Point of Influence #1: Google search
We were searching for an alternative platform to one we were outgrowing for link development and influencer outreach efforts.
- Point of Influence #2: A colleague’s referral
A co-worker at Vertical Measures raved about BuzzStream because they’d used it at a past agency—I was intrigued so I did some research.
- Point of Influence #3: An influencer article
I took to sources I trusted, Point Blank SEO being one where I found this article about outreach platforms helpful. I read tons of comparison articles at this point evaluating all my options. I wasn’t committed or completely sold on BuzzStream yet, but it pushed me in that direction.
- Point of Influence #4: More influencer reviews…
I continued reading reviews on the platform from sources I tend to agree with. Such as this review of BuzzStream’s features on Page One Power. All reviews lead me to believe that this was the platform for us.
- Point of influence #5:
I was pretty convinced by this point so I started a free trial! 1 year after my search began.
People are apt to like brands that other people they trust like too. Think of the people in your life that you trust or take advice from—I bet not all of them are celebrities. As B2B marketers we must think about, and approach influencer marketing in a different way. We must think about how to get in front of the people who our target audience trusts in a helpful and authentic way at each “point of influence” in their decision-making process.
Let’s dig deeper into some of the ways B2B marketers can approach influencer marketing.
1. Build specific content for your influencers
Creating content aimed at helping your consumers and direct customers is incredibly important. Content marketing is built on this goal of providing useful and helpful information to your customers. But, this content doesn’t always match the type of content that influencers are looking for in the B2B space. If you’re not creating content that influencers are interested in, it will be difficult to get them to spread the word for you, or gain their attention.
You’re a company that offers point-of-sale software to small retail businesses.
Your target audience is… small business owners with minimal knowledge of software development—they’re looking for a user-friendly software to implement in their store(s) and comparing different products and solutions. The types of content they want are: user manuals, how-to articles, software comparisons, etc.
They are not actively using this content in their own content creation efforts, and rarely share this content with their audience.
Your influencers are…others in the small business service and consulting space. Because your target audience regularly reads business journals, and are actively listening to podcasts by leaders in the retail marketing space these are the people who hold influence. These influencers are looking for content such as: industry reports, white papers, case studies, etc.
It’s important to not only create content for your target audience, but for your target influencers as well. These influencers often quote or reference this content in their own writing, and actively share content they find useful on their social channels.
Create the content that your target influencers will quote, share and give attention to. With this content, influencer outreach will become much easier!
Tips on Influencer Content Ideation:
- “Build yourself up” content: Encourage reviews and comparisons of your product or service on third party sites
- Search for sites talking about competitors of yours, or do backlink checks on your competitors to see where they are mentioned. Build a targeted list of publications that might write about you.
- “Make it easy” content: Write about topics your influencers are struggling with or want to hear more about
- See what questions people are asking about your service or product. Check out subreddits, Quora questions, blog comments, etc. to see what questions are commonly asked.
- If you have access to a social media listening tool use it to see what’s trending. Create content aimed at adding value to the trending topic.
- “Stroke their ego” content: Make influencers a part of your content
- Feature them in an article round up or “top” list
- Create a list of events, conferences or conventions in your industry where many speakers or contributors attend.
2. Create a Culture of Sharing
As we discovered above, “points of influence” in B2B industries are often not a straight line. Which is why being present, active and responsive on social media is that much more important.
The first thing they teach you in kindergarten is that to make friends, you must share things that you care about. Marketing is similar—when you release great content out into the wild, you’re giving away valuable information to not only your customers, but to influencers in your industry, and sometimes even competitors. And that’s okay so long as your promoting a culture of sharing!
Chances are a good portion of your content won’t be shared by your target audience like you would expect in the B2C space. In the B2B space many of the people who share your content will be others in your industry, which opens a world of possibilities for content collaboration (our next step) if you connect with them socially. According to a study by Regalix, out of 640 senior marketing executives and business leaders 81% stated LinkedIn was their top social platform, 71% cited Twitter, and Facebook and YouTube were both tied at 54%. Choose the platform that other leaders in your industry are frequenting most, and create an internal and external sharing plan to support engaging those individuals.
Here are some ways to leverage social for B2B influencer efforts:
Do you actively ask your internal team to share content for you? If not, you’d be surprised how many people within your organization will share for you if you make it easy enough. The example below is a “help us share” email that includes:
- Quick “lazy” tweets for easy copy-pasting
- The author’s Twitter handle
- A custom link
- An image attached
Are there people who regularly share your content, or have recently shared a similar piece of content you wrote? If you’ve established that someone has found value in one thing that you’ve posted, it can’t hurt to reach out with other content they might find interesting. Those who have shared your content can make some of the greatest allies. Try to:
- Share or reply to an article of theirs
- Share your new industry case study via a direct message, or a quick email
- Ask them for feedback on your new article
- Recommend another article they might like by your company
- Recommend another article by another company that you respect
- Share something you enjoyed of theirs
- Follow their blog and reach out to them with praise or feedback on an article
Make friends, be helpful, and try not to solicit. In other words—be human. The less you automate this the better luck you’ll have.
3. Co-Create Content
One of the best ways to get influencers attention in the B2B space is to include them in your content. Let’s take that example from above again—a company that offers point-of-sale software to small retail businesses. How might they use co-creation in their content?
- A blog post round up of the best quotes from small business marketers
- A blog post round up of the top 50 leaders in the customer service space
- An interview with a respected author of a book aimed at small business owners
- A collaborative webinar or podcast with a CEO of another small business software company that offers a service that complements your own
- A section of their site dedicated to user generated content
- A sponsorship at a local small business development conference
The list can go on, and on, and on…the idea is to get creative and think about ways and places that your influencers are already communicating with your target audience. How can you facilitate that in an authentic way that will drive engagement and be mutually beneficial? If you are a leader in your space, then it may be easier to get influencers on board. If you’re not yet a leader in your space, then you’ll need to think about what’s in it for that influencers outside of thought leadership, sometimes these engagements will require compensation.
Influencer outreach in the B2B space is all about building relationships early, often and authentically. Provide helpful information to both your target audience and your target influencers, create a culture of sharing and co-create and collaborate wherever and whenever you can!