The influence of influencers in the B2B sphere

Kanita Čopra
Digital Marketing Specialist
The influence of influencers in the B2B sphere

Word of mouth is a very powerful tool in marketing and has a great effect on people’s decision making. 

People are far more likely to believe the word of a person who they know and trust when it comes to making any purchase than the word of a brand, who they may not know and trust.

In life, we rarely trust someone, a business, a piece of advice etc, unless we have known the originator for quite some time and have a history of trustworthy dealings with that person.

But, now more than ever, as we emerge from and still battle several world crises, experts predict that building trust is set to be one of the cornerstones of modern society.

So, how do we navigate this in business and perform as a brand that’s to be trusted? The answer is simple – by building good old-fashioned, hard earned, trust. 

But actually doing it, is the tricky part.

Is our trust broken?

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) “how the world will transition in 2022 and beyond will depend on whether, and how we can rebuild that essential foundation of modern living: trust.” (Source: WEF )

By January 2021, The Edelman Trust Barometer had found that governments globally were less trusted than both businesses and NGOs.

In the WEF article, business and economics editor Matthew Bishop, writes that building trust should be at the top of everyone’s agenda in 2022.

In the report, Bishop cites a really interesting excerpt from the new book Why Trust Matters by economist Benjamin Ho:

“We were born to trust, but we were born to trust only a few. Over the centuries, we have developed the instincts and tools and institutions to expand our circle of trust to millions.”

In the book, Ho makes the arguments that trust has long been “crucial to our growing prosperity and human progress.”

But COVID-19 provided an unprecedented test of our trust-enhancing instincts, tools, and institutions on a global scale.

This testing period in our social history (a time many would argue that we are still going through) has left people being distrustful of others and organisations, from governments and their leaders to the mainstream and social media. It also extends to the experts who are meant to guide public thinking on topics most of us aren’t experts in ourselves and therefore need trustworthy information on, such as medical science and economics.

So, in this time of global social upset, when our hackles are raised and our instincts are out of whack across the board, what steps can your business take to cut through the noise and emerge as a brand that people can believe in and put their faith in? What will help you build a relationship and ultimately result in sales?

Enter the influencer

Influencers have been a big part of advertising for quite some time now, since 2009 to be exact (wow, is it really 13 years already?) especially for consumer goods. 

  • But it’s expected to reach $22B in 2022. (Source: Zen Media )

Even some B2B brands have taken advantage of influencer marketing, and this is only expected to grow in the coming years. People prefer to buy from people, it’s proven.

  • 77 per cent of marketers say their prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts.
  • 64 per cent of B2B marketers said they increased the credibility of brand content working with influencers.
  • 53 per cent of B2B marketers said they increased new leads by working with influencers.

(Source: Top Rank Blog )

Compelling stats. But does influencer marketing really work? What makes one person take the advice from another that they see on a variety of (usually) social media channels, but don’t really know?

Brand building

The most significant advantage is brand building. Influencer marketing might generate leads, which is of course, great.

If you follow someone on social media you are more likely to be interested and invested in them than an advert which enters your feed without being invited. You have most likely chosen to engage with the influencer’s post or video. They may even have a cheeky discount code just for you as their loyal follower.

But you may only be following that person because you like their charitable endeavours, or their political outlook, or it could be because you like to follow their relationship drama or like the films or TV shows they appear in.

Simply enlisting an influencer and getting some leads or sales is not actually the main indicator of this type of campaign’s success. Brand building and awareness is the key takeaway here.

Again, you are more likely to look at the post/watch the video of a person you are engaged with, than an advert that invades your feed. You will at least then notice the brand, and most likely begin to have more faith in it if someone you engage with backs it.

Marketing activities with focus

Even though some B2B brands have already been using influencer marketing in their strategies for a while, it is still a fairly new approach for most of them.

Marketing in B2B can be challenging, and marketers must significantly narrow down the target market and focus their marketing activities.

Many B2B firms sell to a small number of clients, but these are frequently high-value contracts.

B2B buyers usually go through a long, well-researched process before deciding to make a purchase, hence B2B companies typically have longer sales cycles. (Source: Influencer Marketing Hub )

These factors can make B2B strategies less straightforward and savvy marketers are always on the look-out for new avenues to broaden their marketing toolkit. In this sphere, influencer marketing is a fairly new tool and can provide a company with a competitive edge.

But, even though influencer marketing has great potential, it is not yet widely accepted and incorporated into the B2B marketing strategies.

  • 74 % of B2B marketers agree that influencer marketing improves customer experience with the brand, yet only 19 per cent are running ongoing campaigns.
  • 60 % of marketers who do not implement ongoing influencer marketing programs report not having the right skills in-house or knowledge to execute them

(Source: Demand Gen Report )

Another key point is that businesses and influencers are often not aligned in terms of the marketing preferences.

According to the above report: “The most popular collaboration is posting social media content, with 79 % of influencers doing this for brands, but only 44 % of influencers enjoy this type of collaboration.”

So, what do they enjoy most? Talking! 68 % of influencers say they enjoy speaking at events, while 56 % enjoy participating on panels. 

(Source: Webiquity )

So, could we be missing a trick? Getting an influencer to understand your product to really talk it up, not just on social media, could be a good way to go.

Could your brand be missing out?

Many B2B brands are probably missing out on the opportunity of including influencers in their marketing strategies.

Influencer marketing brings a lot of benefits, including:

  • brand awareness
  • improving brand reputation
  • increasing the social reach and credibility of a brands content
  • and it has a proven positive impact on lead generation (if done well and this shouldn’t be the main objective).

Some of our aforementioned B2B challenges can also be solved by this tactic:

  • As most B2B brands still rely on tried and tested paid advertising channels, fresh approaches can yield competitive advantage.
  • More persuasiveness is required in B2B marketing to get attention of potential customers compared to B2C industries, which can be supplemented by a loved and trusted influencer.
  • To solve the question of focused targeting, influencers can reach niche groups.
    And let’s not forget that ‘influence’ is relative i.e., a micro influencer with a small but engaged audience of followers with the correct type of interest in your brand can be just as influential as one with a much larger audience.

What can influencers offer?

  • A unique point of view that has the power to resonate with your target B2B audience.
  • Original thought leadership. The kind that can shine a light on your existing content and, in turn, help make your brand more visible as well as more desirable by proxy.
  • Give you access to invaluable networks and professional contacts you otherwise wouldn't be able to reach.
  • Authentic professional credibility that can help provide answers to the pain points of your target audience. (Source: Influencer Marketing Hub )

Next steps

Consider allocating some of your advertising budget towards influencer marketing. But ensure you dedicate time and budget into planning and researching credible influencers with the right values for your brand to ensure you find the right people to target your desired audience.

Here are some steps to building an influencer marketing strategy:

  1. Define objectives and set KPIs
  2. Decide on the budget
  3. Do thorough research on influencers to find the best fit for the business and those who are relevant to your niche
  4. Do some research on who your existing customers are following to see whose opinion they value the most
  5. Make sure that you educate the influencer on the product or service your business offers
  6. Participate in content creation
  7. Build a relationship with influencer.
  8. Consider long term collaborations. 12X more marketers are very successful who run always-on influencer programs vs. those who do periodic campaigns. (Source: Top Rank Blog modern )

Some of the tools available to help you get around the influencer search include:

  • BuzzSumo
  • Followerwonk
  • Pitchbox
  • GroupHigh
  • Traackr
  • Onalytica.

B2B goals for an influencer marketing campaign

One B2B company which used influencer marketing successfully, is American Express. 

In the #loveMyStore campaign a small business owner and blogger talked about the importance of accepting credit cards.

Obviously, the cards should include Amex. The result of this campaign saw Amex issuing over 400,000 new deals to store owners and receiving a whopping 5 million impressions on the ads.

In a second successful influencer marketing campaign, Amex worked with a blogger who travels frequently and likes to use the Centurion Lounge. 

The influencer talked (again!) about how being able to use the lounges helped her get through long trips. 

This campaign was targeted towards business travellers, as the ones who spend the most time and money travelling. 

But it also drew attention from people who needed to make decisions about which corporate credit card to use as it demonstrated the value of Amex to executives.

So, if the key takeaway here is to build brand awareness and relationships with your brand, B2B influencer marketing is a great step towards achieving this.

You can reach your target audience and possibly new audiences which will ultimately increase sales. 

It’s also a good way to manage the reputation of your brand, especially if it needs a boost, or needs to be seen as more serious or fun. But take heed and make sure you research your influencer and its audience first. 

Don’t get caught out by choosing someone you think is high profile, but also promotes brands which are at odds with your own.

Useful links for further reading:

B2B Influencer campaigns visuals: - American Express - IBM employee advocacy

Kanita Čopra

Digital Marketing Specialist

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