B2B influencer marketing is an ideal way for brands to drive digital conversations during the global health crisis, and we have 13 ways influencers can virtually deliver many of the benefits that have been lost due to postponed or cancelled real-world events.
With 45 percent of consumers spending more time on social media and 95 percent spending more time on in-home media consumption according to a recent GlobalWebIndex survey, now is an ideal time for brands to drive digital conversations using influencer marketing.
Another recent survey found that 92 percent of marketers believe putting on successful virtual events will be important or critical in the coming months.
Some brands have already chosen to postpone or cancel their events all the way through the middle of 2021, including major players Facebook and Microsoft.
Physical events typically offer a well-rounded array of benefits to everyone involved, from the organizers to attendees, exhibitors, partners, sponsors, speakers, and more.
Some of the traditional benefits of real-world events include:
- Boosting Brand Awareness
- Gaining New Audiences & Clients
- Forging New Business Relationships
- Building Highly Targeted Leads
- Researching Competitors
- Creating Lasting Impressions
- Advertising & Sponsorship Opportunities
- Providing Giveaway & Contest Opportunities
- Saving Time with All-In-One Conference Experiences
- Accessing Key People
- Testing New Products & Services
- Connecting with Attendees
As brands look to utilize virtual events it can be daunting to find relevant substitutes for all of these benefits that real-world events provide, and many have been asking themselves “How can I replace these key real-world event benefits?”
Luckily, B2B influencers can readily provide strong alternative benefits that don’t require physical events, and we’ll look at what they can offer for each of the traditional event advantages.
How B2B Influencers Bring Back the Benefits of Physical Events
How can influencer marketing help B2B brands create new virtual versions of the kinds of experiences that they’ve typically gained from traditional real-world events that are now cancelled or postponed?
“By collaborating with influencers on educational, entertaining and interactive online content, B2B brands can satisfy the hunger buyers have for credible content experiences that engage and inspire,” Lee Odden, chief executive and co-founder of TopRank Marketing noted.
B2B influencers helping co-create and promote these types of engaging content experiences can be particularly powerful now, as consumers are forced to seek out inspiration in a virtual world to replace what they typically gain through attending real-world events.
In substituting virtual for real-world, our client Adobe’s annual Summit conference chose to explore a “choose your own adventure”-style virtual session selection experience — a type of content especially promotable using influencers.
“We decided the best way to do the storytelling was to allow a lot of user choice and not keep them captive,” Alex Amado, vice president of experience marketing at Adobe*, recently told Adweek.
“We felt ‘choose your own adventure’ was the best way for the audience to get more value out of it. When you’re online there are distractions, so we had to play to the situation as best we could,” Alex added.
Uniting influencers with customers and media should now be a key marketing focus for brands, according to public relations and marketing consultancy Edelman.
“Digital marketing provides unique opportunities for cross-promotion in partnership with customers, vertical media and influencers,” Edelman’s Joe Kingsbury and Ben Laws recently noted in “Beyond Conferences: How B2B Marketers Should Approach a Covid-19 World.”“By collaborating with influencers on educational, entertaining and interactive online content, B2B brands can satisfy the hunger buyers have for credible content experiences that engage and inspire.” @LeeOdden Click To Tweet
B2B Influencers Help Gain New Audiences & Clients
86 percent of marketers in charge of ad spend allocation said that they either might or definitely would use social media influencer marketing during the health crisis, topping a list of marketing strategies in a recent IZEA survey.
Tom Treanor, global head of marketing at our client Arm Treasure Data, sees strong opportunities for influencers as brands look to replace the benefits of real-world events.
“With in-person events on hold indefinitely, marketers have lost one major channel,” Tom noted.
“Events are a place to connect face-to-face with potential buyers, to share thought leadership and to gain visibility in their target markets. With that channel gone for now, it’s an important time to look at other available — and often under-utilized — channels, including influencer marketing,” Tom added.
“Working with influencers is a potentially valuable channel for many companies. Why? Because influencers are tapped into the current mood and interests of their audience. Their insights can help you craft your messaging to better resonate with your customers. More importantly, influencers are able to provide your company with additional reach into the influencers audiences,” Tom said.
“Lastly, influencers are able to work with your company to co-create content or to develop content on behalf of your brand. So, consider how you work with influencers in areas such as podcasts, webinars, live-streams, eBooks, blogs and social content. Are there ways that your marketing can be improved with the help of well-connected industry influencers?” Tom concluded.
Tom was one of our “50 Top B2B Marketing Influencers, Experts and Speakers,” and was featured in our Break Free B2B video interview series, exploring B2B marketing personalization.
Among the top ways companies will need to pivot in order to embrace B2B marketing in a post-real-world event environment is influencer marketing, according to author and technology advisor Bernard Marr.
“Digital is likely to be the clear winner here, and companies — including ones that may not so much as had a Facebook page before – will need to move into social marketing, content marketing, SEO and influencer-led campaigns,” Bernard wrote recent in the Forbes piece “Why Companies Turn To Digital Marketing To Survive COVID-19.”“Consider how you work with influencers in areas such as podcasts, webinars, live-streams, ebooks, blogs and social content. Are there ways that your marketing can be improved with the help of industry influencers?” @RtMixMktg Click To Tweet
B2B Influencers Help Promote New Products & Services
With the real-world events B2B brands normally attend cancelled or postponed, what roles can influencer marketing play in providing virtual alternatives to physical exhibition booths and traditional in-person product demonstrations?
“Influencer marketing’s importance went up when in-person events were canceled,” Debbie Friez, influencer marketing strategist at TopRank Marketing, said.
“Brands are fighting for attendee’s attention and time, and finding influencers are there to help to spread the news on their personal platforms about the virtual events,” Debbie explained.
“Plus, brands still need independent thought leaders for keynotes, moderators and panelists for their virtual events. We are finding influencers have been using virtual media for years, and can easily adapt to the changing landscape with both ideas and the know-how to use alternative presentation channels,” Debbie added.
During this global shift to a digital-first customer experience, marketers who incorporate empathy into their efforts are especially well-poised to deliver successful virtual experiences.
“Data-driven empathy is essential for personalization across customer and employee journeys,” Brian Solis, global innovation evangelist at Salesforce recently noted.
“There’s no going back to the world we once knew, the only way to get to the next normal is by plowing straight through disruption,” Solis added.“Influencer marketing’s importance went up when in-person events were canceled.” @dfriez Click To Tweet
B2B Influencers Bridge the Media Coverage Gap
What roles can influencer marketing play in providing virtual alternatives to the media coverage and product announcements typically gained from traditional physical events?
“B2B brands continue to impress me with how agile they’ve been with their marketing in the swiftly changing landscape,” Elizabeth Williams, TopRank Marketing account manager shared.
“Marketers are being ultra-cognizant of their messaging, publishing cadences, and ensuring their POVs and messaging on COVID-19 — or lack thereof — are aligned with their brand values. Influencer marketing is a fantastic way to bridge the gap between what once was our 2020 marketing plan and what we now need to achieve,” Elizabeth said.
“We can show our audiences we are tuned into their world by creating virtual experiences that inspire. And, what better way to do that than featuring credible industry experts and thought leader influencers?” Elizabeth added.
“Influencer-driven content can lead the conversation through live panels, webinars, podcasts and larger virtual events. Or, influencers can add a refreshing seasoning of the latest insights or advice on the changing marketplace. Think blogs, LinkedIn* articles, interactive assets, videos and social content,” Elizabeth suggested.
“Regardless of what tactics suit your business needs and objectives, I’d encourage every B2B marketer to step back and reflect on whether influencer marketing is a fit to take their content to the next level in today’s extra noisy virtual world,” Elizabeth concluded.Influencer marketing is a fantastic way to bridge the gap between what once was our 2020 marketing plan and what we now need to achieve.” @ElizabethW1057 Click To Tweet
Boosting Brand Awareness With B2B Influencers
What additional roles can influencer marketing play in driving virtual brand conversations and boosting brand awareness?
Now is a great time for B2B brands to utilize relevant industry influencers who can successfully drive virtual conversations that expand brand exposure and help with lead generation, as our president and co-founder Susan Misukanis explained.
“Partnering with influencers is more important now than it ever has been. Targeting the right influencer communities can be the best way to expand virtual event attendance and reach into a broader audience — who may not have planned to travel to your live event or conference,” Susan noted.
“If marketers focus on bringing true subject matter expertise to their audience — especially in partnership with influencers — I predict that virtual events will actually grow to be even better than live events for reaching and building positive awareness with an audience,” Susan added.
Industry writer Katie Sehl recently suggested in a HootSuite article about the rise of virtual events that influencers take advantage of the social stories format, including hosting influencer takeovers — another way that influencers can drive brand conversations.
“Speakers often double as influencers — so provide them with the details they need to become event ambassadors,” Katie noted, highlighting the strength of influencers when it comes to digitally replacing some of the key benefits of real-world events.
HubSpot’s Caroline Forsey encouraged organizations adjusting to virtual events to implement “breakout sessions led by influencers and experts,” another way influencers can help brands replace some of their former real-world event momentum with online efforts.Partnering with influencers is more important now than it ever has been. Targeting the right influencer communities can be the best way to expand virtual event attendance and reach into a broader audience.” @smisukanis Click To Tweet
Begin Or Expand Your B2B Influencer Marketing Program
As we’ve seen, successful B2B influencer marketing has much to offer for brands seeking to replace the benefits of real-world events while they’re on hiatus due to the global health crisis.
Implementing a successful program takes time, effort, and dedicated strategy, which leads many brands to use a top B2B influencer marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing, which was the only B2B marketing agency offering influencer marketing as a top capability in Forrester’s “B2B Marketing Agencies, North America” report.Successful B2B influencer relationships take time to build and require time to maintain.” @LeeOdden Click To Tweet
Whether you work with a top B2B influencer marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing or utilize your own team, now is an ideal time to reach B2B influencers and work together to drive digital brand conversations.
Finally, as we all navigate the uncharted marketing waters of the global health crisis, here are several additional resources to help keep your B2B influencer marketing efforts safely afloat:
- B2C vs. B2B Influencer Marketing – What’s the Difference?, by Lee Odden
- Using Influencers to Pivot your Marketing & Comms Strategy, by Onalytica
- Jumpstarting a Pilot B2B Influencer Marketing Program in 5 Steps, by Nick Nelson
- How to Host a Successful Virtual Event: Tips and Best Practices, by HootSuite
- What Is B2B Influencer Marketing in 2020? Change Is Coming, by Anne Leuman
- How to Run a Successful Virtual Event [+ Examples], by HubSpot
- 5 Key Traits of the Best B2B Influencers, by Lee Odden
- COVID-19 Impact: B2B Events [Video], by eMarketer
* Note: Adobe and LinkedIn are TopRank Marketing clients.