When you think of influencer marketing for B2B, or B2B marketing in general, what images come to mind? You might see an attractive person posting on Instagram about the latest hair care trend, beauty product, nutritional supplement, or smoothie they’ve tried and loved. Or you might envision a purely consumer-focused form of marketing, designed to reach a younger generation that has money to burn.
Here’s a secret — influencer marketing works for B2B brands, as well. Throughout the business world, you find thought leaders, or influencers, who are able to sway the opinions and buying decisions of other business owners.
Just because influencer marketing works for B2B as well as B2C companies doesn’t mean you should use the same tactics for one that you would with the other. If you’re hoping to use influencer marketing to reach a B2B audience, you’ll need to take a slightly different approach.
Influencer Marketing for B2B vs. Influencer Marketing for B2C
How is B2B influencer marketing different from B2C influencer marketing brands? The two differ in a few substantial ways — and a few that are less substantial. As MarketingLand points out, the decision-making and buying process is considerably longer and more in-depth for a business than it is for a consumer.
If a consumer sees an influencer post about an inexpensive product, the consumer can quickly buy it, no questions asked. In this case there is no need for a lengthy review or listing of the pros and cons. In contrast, if a B2B buyer is considering a product purchase, they can’t take immediate action after seeing an influencer promote it. They usually need to consult with others at their company and conduct further research.
For that reason, B2C influencer marketing can often have a more immediate result. With B2B influencer marketing, it can be a few months before a brand notices an increase in sales or other positive changes as a result of an influencer marketing campaign.
Additionally, a B2C influencer is more likely to be spotted on image-centric platforms like Instagram or Snapchat, with Instagram being the most popular social media network for B2C influencers. Around 36 percent of B2C brands think that Instagram is critical to their social media or influencer marketing strategy. Only 13 percent of B2B brands think the same.
Instead of asking a B2B influencer to post a quick Instagram photo about a product or service, it makes more sense for a brand to ask for something a little more in-depth. A B2B influencer marketing campaign might involve comprehensive reviews of a product, interviews between an influencer and the manager or owner of a B2B brand, or a well-researched white paper or ebook.
CMSWire notes that the type of influencer also differs between the B2B and B2C worlds. In the B2C world, the influencers with the most clout are the bloggers or reality TV stars (such as the number of “Bachelor” contestants who’ve found second careers as Instagram stars.)
Platforms for B2B Influence Marketing
In the B2B world, an influencer can be a brand’s clients, a brand’s employees, or even another brand. Unless a “Bachelor” star launches their own business, it’s unlikely that a B2B brand will have any interest in working with them.
Which platforms are the most popular for influencer marketing for B2B? Your brand is likely to have more luck on LinkedIn or Twitter. B2B thought leaders might also be able to influence other businesses by creating posts for their own blogs or websites.
Why Influencer Marketing Is Worth It for B2B Brands
If influencer marketing for B2B is a longer process compared to B2C, why should your brand bother with it? For one thing, B2B influencer marketing works. According to an infographic from LinkedIn, 66 percent of those who use the platform for marketing see positive results from it. The majority of B2B marketers – 94 percent — use LinkedIn as part of their marketing.
Trust is another reason influencer marketing for B2B is worth it for brands. According to research from Nielsen, the most trusted forms of advertising include recommendations from people others know and recommendations posted by other people online (such as the opinion of a B2B thought leader).
Examples of B2B Influencer Marketing
Sometimes, it’s helpful to look at how other B2B brands have used influencer marketing to get a sense of how your brand can make it work. Below are a few brands that have made influencer marketing for B2B work for them.
The CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff, is an influencer in his own right, with nearly one million followers on Twitter. Benioff has used his influence to promote his company, as well as to discuss ongoing issues and topics in the tech field.
Dell has partnered with Walter Isaacson, the former CEO of CNN, for its podcast series Trailblazers. As a former journalist and noted biographer (he wrote Steve Jobs’ biography), Isaacson is an ideal figure to host the podcast series, which highlights innovations in various subjects and fields. Topics he covers range from the evolution of gambling to the development of the modern sneaker.
Hubspot uses influencers in the marketing and sales fields to write posts for its blog. The influencers might not have huge followings, but they tend to have tangible connections to the industry. These connections are able to give the site’s blog an injection of new ideas and quality content.
How to Get Started With B2B Influencer Marketing
Is your B2B brand ready to give influencer marketing a try? Here’s what you need to do to get started.
Set a goal
If you don’t know why your brand is using influencer marketing, it will be difficult to get started. Think of what you want to achieve with your influencer marketing. Are you hoping to increase sales, boost leads, or raise awareness of your brand? Having a concrete goal in mind will shape the rest of your influencer campaign.
Find your influencers
B2B influencers can come from a variety of places. Consider utilizing your company’s employees, connect with clients, or work with an outside influencer who believes in what you do and what you have to offer.
Work with influencers
Expect to negotiate when connecting with influencers. Depending on where the influencers come from, your brand might find that using an influencer marketing platform or marketplace helps to streamline the process of connecting with influencers and negotiating pay rates and project terms.
Put together a story
What do you want the influencer to say, or what is the story you want an influencer to tell? Will it be strictly on social media? Do you expect the influencer to create blog posts or other content as part of the campaign? When people come into contact with the influencer content, what is it that you want them to take away?
Go live and track results
Once the campaign goes live, influencer marketing isn’t finished just yet. Next, you want to pay attention to performance. Are brands or customers looking at the content? Are they downloading any ebooks or white papers, or are they sharing social media posts your influencers have put together? If so, then you’ve got some success. If not, it’s worth going back to the drawing board and re-evaluating your approach to influencer marketing.
Why Influencer Marketing for B2B
Influencer marketing for B2B might have been slower to catch on compared to B2C influencer marketing, but it has a value and use for B2B brands just as it does for consumer-focused companies.