B2B Influencer Marketing Truths You Need To Know

If you’re in the know, B2B influencer marketing is a big opportunity for many businesses.

There’s a chance to earn huge credibility and a massive new audience size if you can find the right way to make it work for you.

In fact, influencer marketing, in general, has huge benefits for businesses, and it will be a huge trend going forward.

However, in the B2B space, many businesses don’t know how to make it work for them.

They struggle to see where B2B influencers are or how to take advantage of B2B influencer marketing.

Simply put, they’re lacking all the information.

But I want to fix that.

Because B2B influencer marketing is so powerful, it’s important that you understand how to make it work right.

It’s the truths I’m about to give you that you need to start with.

B2B Influencer Marketing Doesn’t Work The Same As B2C Influencers

Before we begin, you need to shift the way you may think about B2B influencer marketing.

If you’ve seen or read anything about B2C influencers or any form of influencer marketing, you likely believe you’ll need to fit your products or services into shots of a tropical vacation.

While that might be true for consumer goods, at least to a degree, it simply isn’t for B2B influencer marketing.

Unlike most B2C influencers, B2B influencer marketing doesn’t take place among people who showcase a lifestyle.

B2B influencers earn their influence through their respective industries working for companies as experts in the industry. Click To Tweet

Instead, B2B influencers tend to be people who hold a level of status in the industry, primarily because they shape that industry through their company, products, and partnerships.

Influence isn’t their primary form of income.

The agreements you make with these influencers will likely look different from B2C influencers, as will the content you create.

Knowing that as you enter the process can help you understand to navigate it better.

You Need To Understand The B2B Influencer Marketing Landscape

Factually, the B2B influencer marketing landscape isn’t as simple as B2C influencer marketing.

At least not on the surface.

That’s because they come across in a very different way to reach a very different audience.

There are more nuances, and there has to be a completely different level of authenticity.

When dealing with B2B influencer marketing, you’re asking that influencer to put his reputation on the line for your company.

Damage done there can be more difficult to repair and suffer wider consequences.

Not that B2C marketing doesn’t have risks for you and the influencers you work with.

But the challenges are on a different scale.

By taking the time to understand how the B2B influencer marketing landscape works, you can mitigate those risks and have the most success possible.

You Can Find B2B Influencers Among Your Existing Fans

The first thing you might want to know is where you can find B2B influencers.

It’s a common barrier to B2B influencer marketing when a brand doesn’t know where to find the people they want to work with.

But the initial mistake is in our instinct to look outside our own sphere of influence.

We’re looking for someone who fits what we think a B2B influencer might look like.

However, we’re overlooking fantastic choices who already know about our products and services.

I’m talking about existing customers, fans, business partners, and employees.

Take inventory of the people already attached to the brand, be they social media fans or the PR department.

Use tools like FollowerWonk, SocialBlade, or any others you can find to determine how much influence those people hold in your industry.

Also, check Twitter and Instagram for mentions of your company.

Social conversations are so spread out that you may never know someone is talking about your brand or product without seeking the information.

When you find people chatting about your company and it’s offerings, check their level of influence as well.

Build an initial pool of potential B2B influencer marketing partners from those with positive social scores (in terms of followers and engagement).

Because these people have a pre-existing connection to your brand, they make great candidates to work with.

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The Best B2B Influencers Already Impact Your Customers

Unlike advertising, which focuses on influencing your target market directly, B2B influencer marketing is a step removed.

Influencer marketing, especially in the B2B arena, is about leveraging the influence that people have on your target market.

You’re looking to influence the people your customers are already listening to.

But to do that, you’ve got to know who those people who sway their decisions are.

There are a ton of great tools out there to help do that.

Affinio, SpotRight, and Comscore, as well as many of their competitors, all have ways of researching who is influencing your target market.

Of course, those have a cost.

If you’re not looking to increase your budget by too much, you can use something like SurveyMonkey to simply ask your audience who in your industry they’re paying attention to.

It might not hurt to find out how much they trust each of the influencers they name.

Data like that can help you dig in further to find other influencers that might be talking to similar audiences.

Identifying who your customers trust and who has built a similar trust with similar audiences is critical to B2B influencer marketing, which is founded on trust.

Because without trust, you don’t get anything from B2B influencer marketing.

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You Need To Know What Your List Of B2B Influencers Brings To The Table

Now that you have a list of people to begin B2B influencer marketing campaigns with, what do you do with it?

It might help to figure out which ones hold the most value for your campaigns.

Assemble profiles for each of these potential partners that include their entire influence portfolio, as well as any other information that might be relevant to the decision.

You need to choose data and other information that you can record in a format that makes it easy to compare.

These dossiers, if you will, are nothing more than a document containing everything you need to know about the potential influencer.

Document the strengths, weaknesses, history, and passions of each candidate.

Chart the things that help you measure their influencer value:

  • Which social channels are they on?
  • What kind of engagement do they evoke?
  • What topics do they usually discuss?
  • Are there hashtags that make a common appearance in their content?
  • Where are they and their audience located geographically?
  • What are their best posts?
  • Have they been a part of influencer relationships in your industry before?
  • Are there any behaviors on or offline that may cause a problem for your brand?
  • Do they affect their influence offline (books, speaking engagement, other media)?
  • How much are they in the media (news and/or industry publications)?
  • Did you find this person to be relevant to your customers?

This may seem like a lot of data, but without it, your decision to work with an influencer may be ill-informed and not gather the results you need.

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B2B Influencer Marketing Is Going To Take Longer

As you well know, the B2B sales process takes longer than consumer goods.

There are far more nuances and decision making, and much more data is needed before a business client decides to buy.

Naturally, the B2B influencer marketing campaigns you begin will take longer as well.

In a consumer company, one could pay an influencer to advertise the product and potentially expect sales within 24 hours.

Wouldn’t it be nice if B2B sales were that simple?

Also, because most B2B purchases aren’t made by an individual, but rather some kind of committee, it will take some time for your B2B influencer marketing campaign to affect more than one of those people.

Remember that you’re affecting decision making from a further removed position in B2B influencer marketing, so you can’t expect every decision-maker to get the message at the same time.

It doesn’t hurt, from that perspective, to use more than one influencer in conjunction with traditional B2B account-based marketing.

That’s going to help drive the message home a little faster for most of your target market.

The big thing you need to understand about B2B influencer marketing is that it is not a “one-and-done” strategy.

You can expect your campaigns to take six months or more to earn results.

Therefore, you should plan on long-term relationships of a year or more with your B2B influencers.

This is a big jump from the 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day cycles you might see with B2C influencers.

Be ready for those longer commitments.

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Some B2B Influencers Can’t Work With You

Remember how I mentioned earlier that most B2B influencers aren’t solely in the business of influencing?

Most of them have some kind of work that they do every day outside of the media and content they produce.

Maybe they’re a sole proprietor, maybe they’re a CFO, or maybe they just exist within a lower-level position in a company.

That position is what provides the influence you’re looking to benefit from.

But they’re tied to those same positions and organizations, and the decisions they make can have consequences that may impact those ties.

In fact, participation in B2B influencer marketing campaigns is often going to be determined by the existing situations those ties present.

Sometimes an influencer won’t be able to work with you.

Other times their participation may be limited to a level or format that doesn’t meet the expectations you had.

There may be a way to make these B2B influencer marketing partnerships work, but it may not be worth the trouble.

With that in mind, you need to make sure you’re giving yourself plenty of time to find and contract the B2B influencers you’ll be working with.

Like, a minimum of 60 days, but longer is better.

You’ll need that lead time for research, communication, and assessment of the potential B2B influencer marketing partnership.

Don’t put yourself under pressure that doesn’t need to be there.

Make Your Brand Attractive For The Right B2B Influencers

As a rule, most of your B2B influencer marketing partners will be people you’ve reached out to and asked to partner with.

That’s generally true about influencer marketing in general, but it’s for a far simpler reason with B2B influencer marketing.

There’s little glamor in B2B products to attract people with.

But it doesn’t have to be that way for your brand.

A portion of the most successful B2B influencer marketing partnerships grew from the influencers reaching out to the brands.

How did they make that happen?

In a single word: value.

By creating intense value through their content, they built a community that influencers chose to join.

Think about the different trade events in your industry.

Aren’t there certain personalities you can count on being there?

Those work to attract influencers by bringing value to the table.

You can do the same by focusing on content and community development.

While your results aren’t guaranteed, but you stand a good chance if you do everything in your power to make your content amazing and your community into a vibrant one.

If you can pull it off, it can create massive momentum for your brand.

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Take Your Time Building Relationships With B2B Influencers

B2B influencer marketing relies on great connections.

The kind that can’t be built quickly.

There’s a good chance that your first experience working with a B2B influencer won’t result in a huge campaign with massive results.

Unless they’re already massively promoting your brand, they probably won’t want to jump in headfirst at the chance to work with you.

It’s smarter, in that regard, to ask little of any single influencer at first.

Instead, connect with multiple influencers and ask a small question of them.

Producing a selection of influencer ideas around a topic would likely work better for you.

I’m certain you’ve seen articles like the ones I’m talking about.

“10 Ways Experts Say You Should…”

“15 Strategists Weigh In On…”

These kinds of articles allow you to reach out and begin developing relationships with influencers without eating too much of their time.

Because it’s such a small ask, in comparison, they’re far more likely to help you out.

You’re also taking the opportunity to introduce your brand, products, and mission to the potential B2B influencer marketing partner.

Once an article like this finds success, work to expand your co-creation and promotion relationship.

Look for opportunities to create content with further depth and detail.

And, more than anything, make sure you’re offering them an opportunity for their own benefit in return.

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Work With B2B Influencer Marketing Partners To Make The Content

You’re looking for something more than a copy and paste promotion for your brand or product.

If you weren’t, you would have bought a pay-per-click ad instead of working with a B2B influencer marketing partner.

So why would you want that partner to repeat your script line-for-line?

Allow your B2B influencer marketing partner to put their own spin, thoughts, and emotions into the content they create for your brand.

The authenticity that comes with their endorsement is what makes influencer marketing so powerful.

It’s how they move the needle on your behalf.

Your number one job with your B2B influencer marketing partner is to assure they’re educated.

They need to thoroughly understand your product, your brand, and your goals with the campaign.

Once they know what you want, let them develop the ideas to make it happen.

Influencers will have tons of content ideas that their audience will enjoy.

Those ideas will work well for promoting the things you want them to.

When the influencer leads the content creation, it becomes more interesting for them and their audiences.

Not to mention the fact that the outcomes will be far better.

Those B2B influencer marketing partners you’ve found didn’t become influencers without knowing what they were doing.

Trust them.

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B2B Influencers Can Be Fun Too

Why is it that so much B2B marketing is so boring?

B2B isn’t short for “bored to bed”, and your B2B influencer marketing content shouldn’t make it seem like it does.

Creativity makes everything better, including B2B influencer marketing.

When the content is more entertaining, it’s likely to have a better effect.

Thankfully, there are lots of ways to be creative.

If you and your B2B influencer marketing partners work together, you should be able to create content that’s fun to make and enjoyable to consume.

Content like that will have a wider range of success with your target audience.

It should be evident to you, too.

How often do you enjoy reading something that doesn’t have a little fun or watching a video that’s simply a list of facts?

That kind of content has its place, but it’s not usually in B2B influencer marketing.

Allow your partners to connect with their audiences on your behalf in a fun and entertaining way for significantly better results.

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You’ll Have Success With B2B Influencer Marketing When You Understand It

Now that we’ve covered everything you need to know about B2B influencer marketing, you can start to use it to benefit your company.

Make sure you thoroughly understand these ideas.

Your ability to make B2B influencer marketing work for you is dependent on it.

If you can master the ideas here, you’ll benefit from the under-utilized world of B2B influencers.

This information already puts you ahead of your competition.

Take it and build the B2B influencer marketing campaign that will change your business.

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About the author:

Michael McNew
Web developer, marketing innovator, technology enthusiast, and founder of Visceral Concepts, Michael McNew has developed a passion for delivering value to small business, turning his creativity towards branding and content marketing for small business owners.