In case you’re new to the blog, our agency is pretty sold on B2B influencer marketing. Now, when we say influencer marketing, we’re not talking about tanned and toned Gen Z’ers sitting poolside, endorsing your SaaS solution. At least not for your first campaign.
No, influence in B2B is all about value and credibility:
- Your brand lends credibility & new audience to influencers
- Influencers lend credibility & new audience to your brand
- Both audiences get trustworthy, valuable content
As our recent report shows, B2B marketers are steadily increasing their influencer marketing sophistication. But despite the progress, many still think of it as an exclusively upper-funnel tactic.
Just like content marketing, however, influencer marketing works better with a full-funnel approach.
Here’s how to tailor your influencer mix, topics and content types for each stage of the funnel.
Top of funnel: Reach & Attention
For customers at the beginning of their journey, influencer content is all about reaching as many relevant people as possible, establishing brand credibility, starting conversations, and building relationships. Aim to make a big splash with thought-provoking content from household names (at least, household names with established influence on your topic).
While our research shows that follower counts/audience size isn’t as important as credibility and relevance are, at the top of the funnel you do need folks with a sizable network.
At TopRank, we call these folks “Brandividuals.” That’s not an insult — these are people who have worked hard to build their thought leadership, credibility and audience. They’re keynote speakers, consultants, podcasters and social media geniuses. For top-of-funnel content, brandividuals should be the stars of the mix.
As with all top-of-funnel content, your topics will be more high-level, aimed at showing off your knowledge of the industry and the challenges your potential customers are facing.
Think about topics like:
- Industry trends. What’s happening now and what’s on the horizon? How can your audience best prepare?
- Best practices. What processes need fixing in your industry? What are people falling short at?
- Starting points. What is the first step towards a transformation? How can your audience get the ball rolling?
Gate or no Gate?
If at all possible, keep your ToFu influencer content ungated. Save the lead gen forms for further down the funnel.
Example: DemandBase Assembles a Marketing Superteam
I use this example a lot, but that’s only because it was a) really, really cool and b) got great results for our client, Demandbase. Together, we built an animated comic book to raise awareness of their new Smarter GTM™ solution. It’s bold, colorful, creative, and features some of the biggest names in the B2B marketing biz. And there’s not a gate in sight.
Mid-Funnel: Practical Utility
To reach people who already have the big picture, you have to get into actionable, highly useful content. This type of content helps endear your brand to your audience. If you can help a key decision maker look brilliant in front of their boss, get a raise or get promoted — well, that’s worth more than gold. As such, your influencer mix will reflect a more “on the front lines” mentality.
A brandividual or two is still a good idea for a mid-funnel campaign; you still want to reach a wide audience. But look towards adding folks with practical experience in your industry. That means either those who are actively working in your field, or those who have moved up the ranks but still keep a finger on the pulse of the industry.
For example, someone who retired as a CFO and now runs a CFO interview podcast would be a great fit for talking about the finance department. But so would a potential prospect who is doing great work and enjoying success in their job.
For these folks, it’s less about massive reach and all about useful, actionable information.
Your content should aim to help people in specific ways that improve their business, job or employee experience. You can also bring your solution into the conversation, but sparingly. It’s fine to say, “A platform like ours makes it easy to automate this process.” Just don’t go as far as “The entirety of our advice is to buy our platform.” The latter is a bad look, especially since influencers typically shy away from outright endorsement.
Stick to content types like:
- How-to guides
- Challenges & solutions
- Process refinements
Gate or No Gate?
If you have a really useful offer — original research, for example, or a truly comprehensive guide — gating can work at this stage. Just remember to build a robust landing page that features your influencers, their head-shots, and a taste of their content; in other words, give them something they can feel good about sharing.
Example: Prophix Wants to Make You a CFO
The Finance Career Acceleration Center features expert advice from CFOs and other finance department practitioners. The multimedia content here has a singular focus: To get their potential buyers to the next stage in their careers.
Bottom-Funnel: Differentiation and Proof
When your buyer is this far into the journey, they’re not looking for famous names and industry thought leaders. They want to know why your solution is the best option, and they don’t want to take your brand’s word for it.
Here’s where the definition of influencer gets even broader, to include your in-house experts and customers.
Most of the influence here should come from people with hands-on experience with your solution. Use these fresh voices to tell the story of what makes your brand different from the competition. Customers in particular are useful here, as they can (preferably in their own words) paint a picture of life with and without your solution.
Consultants and other brandividual types likely won’t play a role here. Two exceptions:
- If they have a history with your brand and solution and are willing to speak directly to that experience, awesome!
- If they are willing to write an introduction that lends credibility and sets the stage for why your solution is the right one.
Your content for bottom-of-funnel should use influencer voices to highlight what makes your brand, your people, and your solution special. In particular, seek to:
- Highlight the outcomes your solution makes possible – show what success looks like
- Show off your support system. What’s it like to be your customer?
- If relevant, introduce some of the people who make the company work, whether it’s engineers, contact center reps, or your CEO.
Gate or No Gate?
Bottom-funnel content is the right place for a lead gen form, certainly. As I said above, though, make sure to offer enough value in front of the gate that your influencers feel good linking to it.
Example: Deluxe Takes Bankers from Maps to GPS
For their Off the Map asset, Deluxe wanted to highlight how their Banker’s Dashboard can help small banks and credit unions to automate processes and become more efficient. Advice from industry experts, practitioners, and customers all come together in an ungated asset.
Lead capture comes from a more promotional section on the landing page itself, leading directly to a “Contact Sales” CTA.
Remember, “influencer” without “funnel” is just “icer”
It’s true! All the letters of “funnel” appear in the word “influencer.” A coincidence? Most likely! But let it remind you that influencer marketing is a full-funnel practice, not just for raising awareness. With the right influencer mix and choice of topic, you can work with influencers to guide your buyers from awareness all the way to purchase and beyond.
Ready to get started? Download TopRank Marketing’s B2B Full-Funnel Lead Gen: A Guide for Optimized Lead Quality & Conversions now!