Top marketers understand the value of integrating influencer marketing into their marketing strategy. In fact, 55% of marketers believe they get better customers from influencer marketing according to an Influencer Marketing Hub survey. For B2B brands, influencer marketing is a way to partner with industry experts who can add value to the brand’s content.
As a brand, how can you provide mutual value and a great experience for the thought leaders you engage?
I went straight to some of my top sources to ask their thoughts on the best way for B2B brands to collaborate with them. What stood out to me, was the way their key points aligned with how a brand might develop a marketing strategy.
Let’s start with understanding who your audience is and who they follow. Most B2B brands have personas created for their customers. Now think about how you can mirror those customer personas to align with those authentic thought leaders who you’re looking to engage with.
1 — Tim Crawford: Authenticity is Key
When I want to understand CIOs, I call Tim Crawford, CIO Strategic Advisor at AVOA, who has worked with nearly all of the top B2B tech brands. Tim asserts that by knowing the persona you are going after, you can ensure your messaging, and that the approach has authenticity. He also reminded me that opinion doesn’t replace experience, and Tim has plenty of valuable experience.
The value of authentic experience stands out to your audience. It is not merely opinion, but proven knowledge. “Consider the personas to target and leverage voices that bring authenticity to the messaging which will, in turn, build trust with customers,” Tim says.“Consider the personas to target and leverage voices that bring authenticity to the messaging which will, in turn, build trust with customers.” — Tim Crawford @tcrawford Click To Tweet
2 —Ramon Ray: Seek Influencer Excitement
Entrepreneur, keynote speaker, bestselling author and editor and founder of Smart Hustle Magazine Ramon Ray encourages brands to, “Look to work for influencers that are excited to work with you and your product or service.”
When it comes to excitement, Ramon’s comes shining through. In an interview we partnered with him on for Dell Outlet*, his smile and enthusiasm were felt even with just audio.“Look to work for influencers that are excited to work with you and your product or service.” — Ramon Ray @ramonray Click To Tweet
3 — Helen Yu: Let Your B2B Brand’s Values Shine
What does your brand stand for? What value do you bring to your customers? “It is important for B2B brands to crystallize what their brands stand for, whom their target audiences are and how they would measure the success prior to engaging B2B influencers,” says Helen Yu of Tigon Advisory Corp. She advises finding influencers who represent the organization’s values and who can contribute to sustainable business growth.
Helen also encourages brands to share their value proposition with thought leaders to help them focus their efforts in the right direction for amplifying the brand’s vision.“To make the engagement more productive, I recommend that brands think about how they would describe their value in 3 words. Influencers can then focus on how we deliver the work reflecting and amplifying their value.” — Helen Yu @YuHelenYu Click To Tweet
You have a strategic marketing plan. Does that plan have influencer marketing as a tactic? If so, then be sure to include an engagement plan for any work with influencers. More than one influencer has told me stories of being asked to participate in an event — online or in person — only to find that there was not an actionable plan to bring the partnership to life, or if there was, it was delivered to the influencer at the last minute.
4 — Tamara McCleary: Focus & Specificity
Keynote speaker and Thulium CEO Tamara McCleary recommends that you “Have a plan for your influencers. Do you know what you want your influencers to do? Do you have a clear strategy for utilizing them? One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when bringing in influencers is a lack of focus and specificity.”“One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when bringing in influencers is a lack of focus and specificity.” — Tamara McCleary @TamaraMcCleary Click To Tweet
5 — Ian Moyse: Empowering Influencers
Ian Moyse, cloud social influencer for a range of global brands commented, “Come to an influencer with a clear brief and clear budget offering. Brief them and provide good supporting info and links to empower them to do a good job for you. Provide them imagery, #hashtags, and @handles upfront to use. Where possible create images for the influencer such as quote cards with their photo, and share and engage with the influencers content from your corporate brand account, and encourage your staff to do the same.”“Brief influencers and provide good supporting information to empower them to do a good job for you.” — Ian Moyse @imoyse Click To Tweet
6 — Michael Fisher, Jr.: Better Communication Avoids Confusion
Michael Fisher, Jr., senior systems analyst at Whitcraft Group, cyber security consultant and technology evangelist, confirms good communication is key.
“My one top tip would be overall good communication around the program, which may include meetings, PowerPoint slides and a schedule. Without good communication [the partnership] may lead to confusion and overall less productivity,” says Michael.“My one top tip would be overall good communication around the program. Without good communication the partnership may lead to confusion and overall less productivity.” — Michael Fisher, Jr. @Fisher85M Click To Tweet
7 —Dan Gingiss: Give Audiences the Answers they Crave
Chief Experience Officer at The Experience Maker LLC and CX thought leader Dan Gingiss encourages brands to engage influencers to elevate their customer experience.
“By giving influencers the platform to engage with your audience, you can facilitate great customer experiences by providing the answers your audience craves,” Dan shared.
Influencers allow you to add credibility to your brand’s point of view (POV), move prospects down the purchase funnel, and support customers in successfully deploying your product or service — all in a way that builds community and facilitates open conversations.
It’s important to keep in mind who you’re engaging and consider their primary business goals. “Remember that influencers are often solopreneurs who are trying to build or grow their own business. So while they may be willing to help you grow your business too, ultimately they have to do what’s right for their own business first. Their personal brand is their livelihood, so be careful asking for the moon and offering nothing in return,” said Dan.
He reminds B2B brands that “The best influencer programs highlight an authentic relationship between the influencer and the brand, and the best way to accomplish that is to ensure a mutually beneficial program.”“The best influencer programs highlight an authentic relationship between the influencer and the brand, and the best way to accomplish that is to ensure a mutually beneficial program.” — Dan Ginigiss @dgingiss Click To Tweet
8 — Shonali Burke: Be Prepared & Specific
How you approach an influencer can set the tone for the relationship. As someone who has been on both sides of the table as a consultant looking to engage influencers and as a sought-after thought leader on digital strategy, brand elevation and analytics, Shonali Burke, President and CEO of Shonali Burke Burke Consulting, Inc. shared a great messaging tip. “If, as a brand, you’re looking to work with influencers, you will almost always get a response if, in your very first communication, you lead with a very specific ask, which shows at least equal benefit to them as to you,” she advises.
Shonali expands on such an approach, “This shows that a) you’ve done your research; and b) that you really understand what ‘influencer’ marketing is about. Simply asking for a call or meeting ‘to introduce ourselves to you’ is unlikely to work; (that’s what the internet is for). But if you have a really specific ask, e.g. you think they’d be a great potential speaker, etc., you’re almost guaranteed to get a response — as opposed to… crickets.”“If, as a brand, you're looking to work with influencers, you will almost always get a response if, in your very first communication, you lead with a very specific ask, which shows at least equal benefit to them as to you.” @shonali Click To Tweet
Of course you measure the success of your campaigns. But have you thought of sharing that with your partners? “If you’re not sure what to do, ask. Many influencers have years of experience in serving the needs of B2B brands,” says Ramon.
Ramon invites B2B brands to “Know what your measure of success is and share this with the influencer.”“Know what your measure of success is and share this with the influencer.” — Ramon Ray @ramonray Click To Tweet
While it can be easy to do a flashy one-time campaign, B2B brands with the most success build brand awareness with a community of influencers who they trust and build strong relationships with over time. Tamara McCleary advises, “Think long-term. It’s important to look at an influencer program as a long-term relationship-building program. A long-term program will allow your brand to create true brand advocates, powerful brand evangelists, and raving fans.”“A long-term influencer program will allow your brand to create true brand advocates, powerful brand evangelists, and raving fans.” — Tamara McCleary @TamaraMcCleary Click To Tweet
9 — Lee Odden: Ongoing Influence
The TopRank Marketing blog has a new Always On Influence series exploring lasting relationships with influencers. These lasting relationships can be a foundation to grow in the years ahead.“Relationships take time and that means influencer engagement is an ongoing effort, not just when influencers are needed to provide content or promotion.” — Lee Odden, TopRank Marketing CEO @leeodden Click To Tweet
Bonus Tip — Peggy Smedley: Be Mindful and Serve Others
When I asked Peggy Smedley, editorial director and president at Specialty Publishing Media, for her tip for brands, she took on the task as her mission, as she often does for TopRank Marketing clients.
“This specific question leads me to recall a radio interview I recently conducted with a former Navy Seal. Simply, as influencers we are here to serve the mission and that our influence on people comes from our ability to be a role model. We need to be very mindful about what we say and how we say it. We are always leaders and mentors and we need to focus on the needs of others first because we have been tasked with leading others. We always need to serve others and by doing that we are doing the best for ourselves,” Peggy revealed.
I know this to be true from a recent engagement, where Peggy and I were speaking and emailing at 8 p.m. in the evening to make sure we had everything correct for a client. That’s the way to be a role model! Brands need to be mindful of the role these professionals play and show them the respect they deserve.“Simply, as influencers we are here to serve the mission and that our influence on people comes from our ability to be a role model.” — Peggy Smedley, @Peggy_Smedley Click To Tweet
B2B Influencer Relations Tips
I’m not an influencer, but I have learned the best way to work with anyone is to have a conversation with them upfront. Then keep the conversation going to drive the best collaboration and create successful outcomes for your brand.
I appreciate the candor and openness of these amazing leaders, who continue to allow me to have an ongoing conversation with them.
Remember these key tips top B2B thought leaders shared for building successful relationships and campaigns:
- Be Authentic
- Align influencers with your audience personas
- Find influencers who are excited to work with your brand
- Share your brand values and value proposition
- Have a specific ask upfront
- Have a plan and brief the influencers
- Create great experiences
- Share how you want to measure success
- Build a lasting relationship
* Dell Outlet is a TopRank Marketing client.