B2B selling is becoming more complex than ever as the digital revolution continues to transform a once predictable, linear purchasing path to a more circular pattern of touch points. Customers are more self directed as they research, evaluate, select, and share experiences about products and trust experts more than brands. So what should B2B marketers do?
Influencer programs are becoming the holy grail of B2B digital marketing. Companies are transitioning to better ways of building relationships with those industry leaders that will reach their target audience. When you are able to align your storytelling with the right communities and with the right content, you will see an increase in brand awareness, web traffic or referrals, and even increase in sales. The process begins AFTER you nail down your target market and outline your buyer personas. But to start, it’s important to understand exactly what a key influencer is, and why you need them before putting together a strategy to engage with them.
Who Are Influencers Anyways?
Influencers are typically third-party individuals who shape a consumer’s purchasing decision and have a greater than average reach or impact in a specific marketplace. Who are your influencers? Who influences your buyers in particular? Who has close relationships with your target audience and can influence their behavior? B2B influencers come in many different types and it’s important to segment them to help prioritize your PR outreach, social media and content marketing efforts. Below are some categories of influencers for B2B businesses:
Influencers can be industry analysts who analyze, size markets and decide where your company should be positioned within your market category. After being in B2B tech marketing for over 20 years who doesn’t want to be in a leadership position within a Gartner, Forrester Research or IDC report?
Influencers can be the media – bloggers most influential with your target audience, top ranked websites, editors and journalists at online, IT, trade, vertical or business publications that have audiences that you want to reach most relevant to your buyers but don’t have access to with your own resources. Some recent studies have shown that influencer size has a negative impact on engagement. Identifying influencers with a smaller following is where brands can find the most value, the study found. Brands that are interested in engagement over reach, and conversions over awareness are better suited to work with these micro-influencers.
Influencers are the thought leaders driving industry conversations from mainstream publications like Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, or Forbes and social media influencers with large social media audiences that crank out a ton of relevant and insightful content around specific topics. Why not get these people to publish or talk about your content?
Many B2B companies also forget their best brand advocates are their loyal customers. Remember that an advocate is not the same as influencer. You need to find those advocates that have the credibility, respect and reach to extend your message beyond their immediate group. Your customers can become your influencers by championing your products or services so make sure you have implemented appropriate incentive and customer success programs to cultivate these from the start.
Business peers are one of the most effective influencers over purchasing decisions that participate in various online forums or communities or at relevant industry conferences, associations and events. Many industries such as life sciences and banking also have powerful industry associations that should be considered as an influencer category as well.
Lastly, consider your employee advocates and strategies to engage them in sharing, tweeting or liking your company’s marketing efforts. It will go a long way for increasing reach and engagement for your branded content.
Why Do You Want to Engage With Influencers?
Next ask yourself what is my goal with these different categories of influencers? Do I want to build a relationship with key industry analysts to ensure my company is positioned accurately and positively in their reports? What can I bring to the table that can benefit the relationships I build with these people?
Influencers are everywhere and are constantly changing. B2B companies can benefit from these relationships by having a unified content marketing effort and amplifying the social reach of their content as well as links and mentions to increase SEO and web site rankings. So set tactical goals on what to expect with each influencer group that are measurable over time.
Stay tuned for “Changing the Game With B2B Influencer Marketing Part 2”, where we’ll talk about ways on how to identify your B2B Influencers and find out who has share of voice in your market space.
If you want to get started, check out our Beginner's Guide to Social Media.