Increasing numbers of marketers are enthusiastic about the power of influencer marketing – and not just in the B2C marketing world. B2B marketers are also discovering that influencer marketing goes beyond things like asking bloggers to vouch for their products on Twitter in return for a free sample.
Professionals with clout are engaged in active digital conversations about things that matter to them with their audiences – audiences that contain buyers that are influenced about which products and services they buy. According to a study by Nielsen, 85% of consumers seek out trusted expert content when considering a purchase.
Aligned with these influencers, B2B brands can build relationships, speak to industry issues, and form mutually beneficial partnerships. As Lee wrote recently, influencer marketing can be a faster way to build thought leadership than creating it from scratch. We’ve been implementing B2B influencer content programs for ourselves and clients for several years. The impact has been substantial, creating greater awareness, consideration and authority for the B2B brands involved. We’ve also learned the importance of gaining consensus about what an influencer marketing program can achieve.
Savvy B2B marketers know that changes in marketing strategy and tactics require some convincing and support in order to be successful. Before you go full steam ahead with something new like an influencer marketing program, it’s important to get buy-in from executives, your stakeholders, and anybody else whose support is needed with marketing strategy decisions.
So how do you take a new B2B influencer marketing plan back to your constituents on Monday morning and get them as excited as you are?
Even if you’re enthusiastic about how an influencer marketing will help your B2B brand grow awareness, you may still be a few steps removed from getting your boss on board. From conceptualizing content marketing campaigns to carrying them out, marketing teams already have hefty to-do lists. Researching and writing content, designing visual components, building ebooks and landing pages, hosting webinars – you and your team’s hands are probably already pretty full.
To your stakeholders, the idea of adding a relationship-building outreach component may bring up a few questions:
- Concern that your brand’s messaging will lose its focus by bringing in other people to contribute,
- Worry about a potential bottleneck to the content creation process, or
- Doubt that pursuing influencers will contribute to your overall goal of generating more leads or sales.
And yet for many B2B brands, influencer marketing is working – and it’s worth a shot for your brand, too. TopRank Marketing influencer content programs and those of clients like Dell, LinkedIn, CMI and MarketingProfs are great examples of B2B influencer marketing in action.
To echo the Beatles, brands really do get by with “a little help from their friends”. So how do you communicate that vision to the powers that be?
Be the expert
Working with influencers is a whole new world for many B2B marketers. As the marketing expert spearheading the influencer marketing program, you will need to serve as the guide that your stakeholders can trust.
Help your boss and constituents understand what influencer marketing is and is not:
- Influencer marketing is aligning with prominent industry leaders in order to develop relationships with the goal of mutual promotion for everyone involved.
- Influencer marketing is not stalking and schmoozing popular people with the hopes that their breeze will lift your sail.
Depending on your company’s business goals, make sure you highlight how implementing an influencer content marketing program will help you achieve the bottom line – or contribute to facilitating the customer journey. Communicate the potential benefits of an influencer marketing program. This includes:
- Increased brand awareness where buyers and other influencers seek expert information
- More awareness amongst industry media and blogs
- More social engagement and social penetration for your content
- In-depth expert content that can be repurposed in blogs, white papers, social messages, and more.
- Lasting relationships with real people who matter to your industry
- Contacts and leads
- Shorter sales cycles
Show them the data
There’s no guarantee of success with every new marketing initiative, but you can go in with some analytical confidence that you’re making a smart move with a clear line of sight to important business goals. In one study from Augure, 70% of marketers reported success from their influencer marketing efforts. From the consumer standpoint, numerous statistics show that consumers listen to and trust what influential folks are saying on social media when they make purchasing decisions. Furthermore, 92% of consumers trust earned media, according to Nielsen.
Industry proof points will also help your stakeholders get on board with an influencer marketing program. Consider:
- Which of your competitors are moving in this direction?
- Are there others in your industry who have chosen to pursue influencer marketing?
Before you make your case, do a little research so you can say with confidence whether or not your company would be pioneers and leaders in this venture, or whether there is an opportunity to one-up what’s already being done.
As buyers become increasingly wary of brand-first, sales-oriented communications, the data definitely supports joining hands with influential friends in your industry to provide education, engagement and affect purchasing decisions.
Share a game plan
When pitching an influencer marketing program, bring a well-defined strategy, but be open for discussion. Will you go all in, or test how influencer outreach goes first? Starting small could mean wholeheartedly targeting a few quality influencers for an upcoming campaign, and then analyzing the results afterwards to gauge the success of the tactic.
Provide examples of a thought leader who is already speaking to your target audience – whether it’s a prominent expert who tweets hourly about the issues your C-suite executives are battling (that you can help them fix), or an entrepreneur who shares productivity tips with a following of business managers who may also need your B2B solution. Share steps for how you might attract, engage and partner with those influencers.
The success of a B2B influencer marketing program will ultimately depend on the cooperation of your selected influencers. But if you can make strategic outreach informed by social data to the right people, the results and relationships that come out of the initiative could truly be spectacular. If your stakeholders believe in the power of friendship and the notion that “a rising tide lifts all ships”, it’s likely that they’ll be enthusiastic about the prospect of an influencer marketing program, too. With that consensus, your executives will be more willing to support whatever time and effort you need to make an influencer content marketing program happen.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What other tips do you have for getting B2B buy-in for an influencer marketing program?