Despite that 96% of marketers engaging influencers for marketing deem their programs successful, there are still a very large number of B2B companies evaluating where influencer engagement fits in their marketing mix.
After spending the last 8 plus years working on developing influencer marketing strategies, creating pilot projects, implementing campaigns and running ongoing influencer programs for brands that range from 3M to Dell to LinkedIn, here are some of the top benefits B2B companies of all sizes are realizing through their influencer marketing efforts.
Before I get to the list, I think it’s important to mention that benefits realized are directly connected to goals imagined. That may seem obvious but the application of influence to marketing is viewed in many different ways and therefore, the outcomes can be just as different.
For example, a pilot is often meant to be a proof of concept and sparks connections with influencers.
An integrated influencer content marketing campaign that runs over several months and across channels produces a lot of useful content and helps identify which influencers are effective.
An Always-On approach over time develops a rich source of content and relationships with influencers which can accelerate the quality and promotion of the content by influencers as well as organic advocacy.
So the benefits B2B brands can realize from incorporating influence into their marketing mix really depends on the approach. Here’s a list of 5 of the most common and impactful benefits of working with external and internal influencers at B2B companies:
1. Influencers add credibility and authenticity to brand content
Properly identifying the topics that matter to customers that the brand needs to be more influential about leads to finding people who already have the desired influence. Collaborating with experts that are respected authorities on the topics of influence produces content, communications and often advocacy that is believable, is empathetic to the concerns and goals of real customers and is trusted by the audience the brand is trying to reach.
2. Influencers partnered with executives build brand thought leadership
Connecting external influencers with internal executives to collaborate on content, video conversations, virtual events and similar exchanges of ideas can validate key leadership messages of the brand. Whether it’s running a webinar discussing the findings of the brand’s most recent research or whitepaper to conducting a series of livestream video or podcast interviews between key executives and external influencers, connecting trusted industry voices with brand messaging can drive credibility, differentiation and leadership.
3. Influencers can co-create better content experiences for customers
According to research in the State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, 74% of B2B marketers believe that collaborating on content with influencers helps improve the experience for prospects and customers.
An increasing number of professional influencers in the B2B world bring both expertise as well as media creation savvy. That means the ability to produce video content, podcast content or graphical and text content that is in tune with customer expectations for more experiential content that the brand might not have the resources to produce.
Alternatively, even if the B2B brand has the resources to create great video, audio, graphical and text content, adding influencer contributions “optimizes” for credibility and authenticity, which is a better experience than brand content simply pontificating its importance.
4. Influencers accelerate content production, promotion and impact
When effectively designed and planned, an influencer engagement effort can create a community of influence that the brand can tap for a variety of content creation efforts. Imagine having a group of 10, 25 or as in the case of LinkedIn or Adobe, 60-75 industry experts on-tap to engage on content projects?
Developing a community of influencers means creating genuine relationships between the brand and influencers based on mutual benefit and shared values. Not only does an engaged community of influencers help create content, but they are invested in the success of content distribution and impact because it benefits their own interests and that of their audience.
The reputation influencers develop on the topics of influence means trust when it matters most – making decisions about which B2B solutions to consider, evaluate and purchase.
5. Influencer collaborations can help optimize brand content for search
There is a compelling connection between the topics and keywords that people search on when looking for solutions and the topics around which industry experts are influential.
Optimizing content with keywords is at the core of improving the findability of brand content on search engines. Including influencers on those same topics in the content is a way of optimizing for credibility. What good is being found in search if people don’t trust what they find?
Going a bit deeper into the influence and SEO connection, marketers could consider whether the influencers they are working with are recognized as entities within Google search results. When those same influencers contribute to content published by the brand, their identity imparts credibility and relevance for search.
Another consideration is to evaluate the SEO effectiveness of where influencers publish – their own blog, contributed articles or columns with industry publications and elsewhere online. What is the Domain Authority of where the influencer publishes and do the links they include in their content carry weight? Does the influencer’s content “rank” on search engines for the topics the brand wants to be more influential about? Is the influencer creating the kind of content that ranks? Video, audio, images, text, scholarly articles, books, etc.
The SEO value of working with an influencer is not universally true across topics, but with some due diligence and research, some very valuable opportunities could be uncovered and relationships built to help brand content become findable and credible at the very moment customers are looking.
Of course this is not a comprehensive list of benefits for B2B brand to work with influencers, but it is a compelling list. While many B2B marketers may skim the surface of what’s possible from working with influencers, those who can look a little deeper can find tremendous upside and value that not only accelerates the impact and effectiveness of marketing for short term campaigns, but for longer term brand and thought leadership perception in the industry.