Lee Odden

5 Ways Influencer Marketing Can Grow Your B2B Company in 2016

B2B Influencer MarketingInfluencer Marketing programs for B2B companies tend to focus on a handful of marketing objectives. The thing is, like many marketing focused investments, influencer marketing can yield many more benefits than the simple act of a famous person in your industry saying nice things about your product or brand.

When B2B companies focus on influencer marketing solely from a campaign perspective, they miss out on the need to maintain relationships. There’s a lot of competition for well known influencers and relationships can keep the connection strong in your brand’s favor.

The future of influencer marketing is bright and with business to business marketers, it’s even more important to include influencers in ongoing marketing because buyers are so self directed in the sales process and they trust experts more than brands (Nielsen).

Justifying resources to manage influencer relationships starts by fully understanding the value. Beyond advocacy, an influencer’s expertise, network reach and talent for creating content can be very valuable to marketing outside of campaigns.

To help you expand your view of what B2B influencers can bring to your brand, here are a few ways working with influencers can increase effectiveness and even reduce costs.

5 Influencer Marketing Tips for B2B Marketers

1. Marketing – From content co-creation used in online marketing programs to outright advocacy, the focus for most B2B influencer marketing is, logically, on marketing and customer acquisition. Rather than viewing influencers for stand alone campaigns, organize content in a modular way where one piece of the puzzle is “influencer”. Always consider with every content project whether it’s a blog post, a white paper or an event, where you can best incorporate relevant influencers from your industry. Just like you optimize content for keywords and consider which social and/or advertising channels it should be promoted on, you should also think about influencer activation.

Optimized, socialized, publicized and influencer activated – all should be on your content checklist.

Influencers can facilitate greater reach of your content, improve quality and some say influencer content can inspire more buyer engagement to leads and booked deals. Ongoing influencer involvement can also lead to organic advocacy of your brand, products and services.

Other marketing centric influencer engagement options include:

  • Maintain an ongoing content partnership as contributors to your content hub (think outside the campaign)
  • Survey influencers for opinions, ideas and insights
  • Get feedback to optimize your influencer marketing efforts
  • Nurture influencers into expanded roles as partners, employees or advisory board members

2. Public Relations – In between campaigns, maintaining relationships with influencers is essential. Including influencers as subject matter experts in contributed articles to industry publications is a great way to bring authority to your earned content and shine a light of exposure back to your influencer partners. Improving the credibility of content your brand publishes with industry websites, magazines and other publications can help achieve brand goals as well as improve the effectiveness of overall PR. Whether the value is from increased PR effectiveness or reduced PR agency costs is up to how you implement.

3. Recruiting – Competition for talent is greater than ever, so it’s important that companies create useful content for prospective employees who are self directing their journey to new opportunities by doing research. Influencer and success are pretty much synonymous, so connecting your talent acquisition efforts with influencer partners to share career advice as content is an “everybody wins” situation. Influencers get to share unique insights of high value for great exposure, candidates get useful advice and career inspiration and it all happens in the context of your brand’s content. Will you reduce recruiting costs because of influencer career advice content? It’s worth a try.

4. Customer Service – Smart marketers collect the questions customers often ask your support teams to gain insight into what’s important, trends and even product enhancements. Answering customer questions in an online knowledge base or FAQ can create some very search friendly content and take some of the load off email or phone support staff. Find some of the customer questions that would make sense for influencer subject matter experts to answer. Their contributions to content used in customer service can add credibility and a fresh (outside) perspective. This can be particularly useful when repurposed for marketing content.

5. Corporate Social Responsibility – Companies are increasingly taking social responsibility seriously and implementing programs. Ask your influencer community to participate in your CSR efforts where there are common interests either as an ambassador or in content co-creation. As with marketing, PR, recruiting and customer service, including influencers in these content efforts can add credibility and reach – hopefully increasing the effectiveness of your contributions and efforts.

As you can see, there are many ways that influencer relationships provide access to resources that a business can use to support a variety of objectives. Whether your company is just testing the waters with influencer marketing and isn’t sure where to start or your focus has been solely on campaigns, the 5 benefits above should provide you with multiple ways to engage in an influencer program. Keep in mind, your influencer program doesn’t have to be all about marketing – but inevitably, it can grow in to that when there is content co-creation involved.

Increasing effectiveness and in some cases, lowering costs, are all part of the realm of possibilities when working with influencers. The key is to maintain those relationships in a way that justifies your brand’s effort and creates value for participating influencers equally and satisfactorily.

If you have engaged influencers outside of marketing campaigns or in ongoing ways not mentioned above, please share in the comments.

Top image: Shutterstock

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About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.