Influencer marketing is an extremely effective strategy for B2C brands. It works because it’s non-evasive and helps brands tell their stories authentically. However, B2B organizations don’t typically rely on influencers.
The reason is that selling digital products is not as simple as clicking an Instagram story – B2B buyers are educated and skeptical about marketing. Also, the average sales cycle of enterprise software is much longer than consumer products.
2018 is the perfect time for a B2B brand to experiment with influencer marketing. Don’t forget that B2B decision-makers are also “humans.”
When done right, it’s possible to earn the trust of your buyers and extract the same benefits as B2C brands. You need to put the time to find relevant thought leaders in your niche and create high-quality content.
Here are five simple steps you need to follow.
Step 1: Define an ‘influencer’ in your niche
As a B2B organization, it makes even more sense to go after such influencers and ditch mega-influencers. You should choose a “reach” of a few thousand trusted in your narrow niche.
Typically, here’s how a micro-influencer might look like.
Specifically, write down these two aspects to calibrate influence in your niche.
- Reach – What is the typical distribution channel? And what is the approximate number of eyeballs touched by an average piece of content in your industry? Generally, the most effective channel for B2B content distribution is email.
- Content subjects – Suppose you are a lawyer in Philadelphia looking for an SEO consultant. Whom would you prefer to hire an expert SEO for lawyers in Philadelphia vs. an SEO consultant that has worked with Forbes?
Most brands will go for the thought leadership of the local expert as they will have a better-trained eye for “their” kind of businesses. So if you create a marketing software for lawyers in the USA, then you should ideally work with “local” experts.
Now, you should have an idea of what an influencer looks like for achieving your desired business results.
Step 2: Create a list of thought leaders
You can begin your influencer search at Onalytica and create a sheet listing your prospects.
Besides the two aspects we discussed in step one, you should look out for qualitative aspects like credibility and authenticity.
In the past, which clients have the influencer served? Have other industry leaders retweeted their content?
Above all, you should look for the kind of engagement received by the influencer’s updates. Fake followers and bots are not going to buy your products. Hence, you need to evaluate the quality of the relationship between the influencers and their audiences.
A great place to start recruiting influencers for your brand is within your ambit: “your employees.” They know your products inside out as they might have created them.
IBM relies on employee advocacy to influence its diverse audience across financial services, education, technical, and other sectors. Their CMO, Amber Armstrong spoke about the importance of custom tweets, and she encourages such tweets from their employees.
You can add relevant employees to your sheet as well. It comes across as more trustworthy and also leads to higher employee satisfaction.
Step 3: Set up KPIs
Since you’re working with micro-influencers, you might need to work in quantity to achieve your desired brand lift. This might mean managing a lot of campaigns and cause problems in measuring the ROI. Views, impressions, and other vanity metrics do not affect your bottom line.
You need more robust metrics and tie them to your revenue. You can use customized links to measure the traffic and conversions an influencer drives. A more direct way is using promo codes and affiliate links to find out the impact on sales generated by an influencer.
You can also fall back to earned media revenue to estimate the impact of your influencer marketing. I’ll talk more about it in step five.
Step 4: Experiment with different content types
For selling your products as a B2B brand, a product video might not persuade your customers. For generating trust, you need to educate and take a data-oriented approach. Case studies, video testimonials, and white papers remain powerful soft selling tools.
Further, with an influencer, you can create ultimate product guides and detailed product reviews. Let me show you a couple of examples.
- Matthew Woodward published a detailed review of Ahrefs showing twenty-five ways to increase search traffic. The article has over 4,000 shares and 300+ comments and generates a decent affiliate income for Matthew. It also means he’s regularly generating leads for Ahrefs.
- Brian Dean recently published an incredibly in-depth BuzzSumo guide. It received close to 1000 shares and 150+ comments. Brian isn’t an affiliate of Buzzsumo – he published the guide out of a genuine love for the tool.
However, that didn’t stop Buzzsumo from promoting the article on Facebook, and likely getting a handful of signups.
You can proactively reach out to influential content creators in your niche and solicit product reviews. Else, you can also partner with an influencer and create a detailed guide. Preferably, include video content in the mix as it connects at a deeper emotional level.
Step 5: Measure the performance of your influencer marketing campaigns
Congratulations, you prospected influencers and snagged a few partnerships. Ultimately, though, you need to analyze the performance of your campaigns against established KPIs.
You need to identify the influencers and the kind of content that have significantly impacted your bottom line. In 2012, Buffer acquired 100,000 customers by writing 150 guest posts in 9 months.
What if your influencer marketing efforts can’t tie back to cold hard revenue and number of customers?
Your brand uplift is also measurable. For instance, Landis+Gyr launched an employee advocating program to extend the reach of their brand authentically. The result was an estimated earned media value of over $10,800 (that came from 1,800 content shares and 1,500 engagements).
Even as a B2B brand, you can allocate a small budget and experiment with influencer marketing. It’s an extremely effective strategy to scale your brand’s reach and sell authentically.
Have you experimented with influencer marketing? Please share your results in the comments below.