How B2B Marketers Can Catch Up On Influencer Marketing

 

 

Why B2B Companies Need to Embrace Influencers

 

Working at my current company (Sideqik) steadily for the past year and being involved with their growth over the past few years has taught me a lot about influencer marketing. From industries in nutrition to pharmaceuticals and even to electronic goods and services, all brands are using influencers in some capacity whether they realize it or not and it’s really incredible to see the results from B2C and B2B brands alike.

Influencer B2B marketing has been pretty boring for a while now. It’s the same old-

“Oh wow, Tiger Woods is inspiring just like your brand’s consulting services!? Damn, you must be pretty good then- we should use you too, maybe Tiger will actually come by the office for our consulting session (but for real can I outsource my golf game to him? My handicap is pretty bad)!”

That hasn’t been too overused for the past 25 years, right? He’s obviously just a fan of the brand and isn’t being paid tens of thousands for each advert, right?

As if marketers don’t already know, almost everyone is active on social media, that goes for those VPs and decision makers too (They’re normal people too? Who woulda guessed?!). So why aren’t more businesses trying to tap into those authentic, brand advocates? That’s a great question and I wish I could answer that more concretly.

I think a lot of it has to do with perceived risk. Posting an image of some technology with features and specs and “educating the consumer” is a much more comfortable pitch for marketers, their bosses, and their companies; as boring and un-innovative as that might be.

B2B influencer marketing can also be a pretty intimidating market to get into. Having large Instagram and Twitter profiles push out content about your product makes sense, product placement isn’t really groundbreaking. So how does a service provider or a B2B company use influencers to drive awareness, long-term sales, and ROI? Well, let me learn you up on some stuff to get you brainstorming and understanding how your brand can effectively implement influencer marketing into a B2B environment.

Identifying Fans

The easiest way is to start by understanding your current following and brand advocates. This is assuming your company has a decent social following (if you don’t I’m going to need to write a separate post about building up your brand). People who already respect your brand or are users of your services/offerings are prime targets to collaborate with. Looking through that audience to see what they’re talking about, making sure they’re driving engagement around those topics, and what size of following they have is important, but even trying to target potential customers and converting them to be advocates works in the same way.

Understanding their audience is important too. They could be talking about topics your brand focuses on like IT, which is ideal, but their audience is comprised of males 18-25 (who knows, is there an @SexyITGal out there?). Unless things have changed, not a lot of VPs or decision makers are in that age range. Audience is important, but we could also argue that could be a good viral move or a long-term play to engrain your brand into the minds of future purchasers.

What about their content? Make sure the content they create is on target and in-line with your brands’ cause and goals. Check that they have no profanity (unless you’re “hip” and “cool” I suppose), are professional, and consistently on target with their messaging on all platforms including any personal accounts that might be affiliated with the ambassador.

I know, searching through posts on all their platforms can take time, but it’s incredibly important to know. Having Angelina Jolie post about IBM’s Watson technology just because her audience matches up is obviously not a good play and screams ingenuity. Slip-ups can be very costly and damaging to your brand, especially when they post something that could have been avoided easily with some diligence, so check those influencers thoroughly.

I Know a Few People That I’d Work With, So Now What?

Let’s say your company has a big hosted conference coming up. As a marketer, you should go to those top fans of your brand with large audiences and high engagement and talk to them about how much you appreciate their support (and/or their business) and want to offer them a free ticket and accommodations to come and experience the conference and talk about it. From this you’ll get a ton of content, awareness, and engagement with their audience that should be in-line with the content your brand looks to promote authentically. On top of the benefits of spreading content, you’re creating an experience with fans and clients that will never be forgotten- and that’s how you build brand loyalty. Knowing their Earned Media Value per post and the estimated amount of content you can expect will help you map out a good idea of an average ROI from content that they create.

Want to make those big influencers and key opinion leaders who create a lot of content feel really special and talk about you? Buy their plane ticket, hotel arrangement, and watch that ROI soar as you create a true relationship and deep connection you can continue to leverage. In addition to that, let them create the content they think is organic and authentic. If it’s negative, you know how to improve and if it’s positive it doesn’t feel forced and fake.

It’s the golden rule: Treat others the way you’d want to be treated and you probably wouldn’t want to be forced to publish content on your cherished social platforms that you didn’t create or know was tailored for your audience.

Another idea that can work well is creating programs where you produce content pieces with clients that to talk about their successes and put them (not your technology or company) in front of the spotlight. Give them something they can share that’s hosted by you or has references to your brand. This way they feel genuinely appreciated (as any client should) and will want to share that out within the company, across various platforms, and their network to drive exposure.

This idea can even be expanded one step further into creating advocate groups that can demo product, write pieces to be featured on your site as contributive content, interview series, and ultimately free events, services, and platform access in exchange for some social engagement. Some of our clients are even using promotions and rewards to incentivize employees to post and generate social engagement and awareness by producing social content around certain topics and events. By creating campaigns with objectives and tracking points and creating rewards and giveaways for companies that are fun, engaging, and relevant each week, employees are sharing more content that is informative and fun- and by integrating point systems through your business your employees don’t feel pressured to share everything so they can build up points and rewards over time.

 

Now What?

The fun part- measurement and optimization! Now that content is created you can compare the earned media value of those posts and ROI numbers to understand what sort of value your program is driving to compare it to traditional ad spend and ROI. A good idea is breaking out that value by influencer to understand which ones you should continue to engage or where your investments should be emphasized. Some may drive high value on Facebook, but fail to create any value from YouTube reviews as their channel is growing. In that case, you can reallocate spend in further campaigns to perfect how you work with those influential people in your industry. Whether it’s a client, a reporter,or just a YouTuber who has a deep knowledge of the industry there are so many opportunities to get in front of your target audience in authentic ways and I see B2B brands in general missing so much opportunity because of an inability to think outside of the box in how they can leverage and work with influencers.

The first B2B brands to use influencers in a compelling way will capture a huge portion of untapped ROI and potential revenue that small startups are stealing away from brands who won’t innovate upon their marketing strategies.

 

Thoughts on the Modern Marketer

 

 

 

The marketing landscape is changing dramatically. With all new marketing technologies, insanely deep metrics, and new platforms to reach consumers as old ones are quickly dying, it’s enough to make your head spin. Just like with any job in the 21st century, marketers have to stay quick on their feet and be able to adapt to anything and everything at a moment’s notice.

 

Marketing software to measure things like impressions, sentiment, engagement, earned media, and even identifying and predicting the success of campaigns before they begin are making marketing much easier to quantify, but also much more demanding. No longer can you send some mailers and hope people go buy your stuff or put a TV ad and hope that people were actually paying attention as your precious 30 seconds ran by.

 

It’s pretty amazing though, isn’t it? Now we know exactly who sees our content, how long they were looking at it, and what that can average out as far as value. On top of all that, it’s never been more cost effective to run campaigns by utilizing digital channels. Modern marketers must take advantage of these costs as first movers will see massive increases in the value they get from doing so. Facebook ads are still a steal, but think about how long they’ve been around- they’re getting so targeted and precise that the value will be, has to be, increasing in the near future.

 

Metrics have also been exploding in access and are only getting more deep and insightful. Marketers not only need to be creative, but understand statistics and numbers that can align to create and analyze campaign effectiveness. Risk taking becomes more difficult as numbers are more accessible so even understanding the pitch as to why you should try something is challenging. Why should we try a magazine ad that has no idea how many people will actually do something with it when we can do a PPC google ad (although those are arguably way overpriced for the use). These metrics can also be powerful as well and using them to measure campaign impact can be extremely useful in understanding the value marketing is bringing to your team and organization.

 

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Platforms and channels are also increasing in number and therefore adding pressure to be creative in order to appeal to the users in those channels. Let’s take musical.ly for example. Musical.ly has the possibility to be the hottest way to hit the preteen generation, they love it. It eerily reminds me of Vine 2.0, with people singing, doing skits, and creating humorous videos. Celebrities and influencers are tapping into it to get their fans directly involved and performing alongside with thousands of people. How cool is that? Being featured on someone you adore’s quick video because you were rocking out or playing along too? That’s so impactful, especially to a younger demographic who get to have their 5 seconds of fame and brag to their friends. Brands haven’t entered the platform in any significant way just yet, but think about the interaction possibilities there.Ford could put on a dance off with a celebrity, tapping into two audiences for someone to win a car in a series of competitions spaced out over a month. It’s American Idol where everyone has a chance to be on it- that’s a pretty simple idea, but I’m excited to see what marketers come up with to fully utilize the engaging platform (sidenote: I think this engagement is the future, Facebook Live and Twitter Live is a stepping stone into actually being a feature of the programs).

All in all, there’s more change than ever. TV isslowly dying to platforms on demand like Netflix Facebook and YouTube, Ad spend is switching from traditional to digital more and more each year (and by a massive margin), and our insights into how we are impacting and affecting consumers is more detailed and not at the mercy of the channel in many cases. Consumers have more power than ever and more ways to express their opinions and spend on brands, but so do brands. As marketers, we can now reach out and impact consumers in so many ways and find more and more personal, engaging methods to do so. We just have to learn to adapt, be ok with change, and go where our customers are. It’s a wild world right now, but we are living in a time that hasn’t experienced this much change since TV and radio came out, and that’s really amazing to think about.