It’s no surprise that influencer marketing was a more than $5 billion industry by the end of 2022, and that number is only expected to climb this year. But how do we define influencer marketing and what does it mean in the B2B context?
Influencer marketing is a relatively new form of marketing that originates from celebrity endorsements but applies to the modern-day world of social media and the online space. Unlike celebrity spokespeople, influencers can facilitate an interactive conversation with their audience. Defined as someone who has established themselves as an authority figure in a specific niche, influencers have the power to influence the purchasing decisions of their often loyal and enthusiastic audience.
Influencer marketing involves a brand collaborating with these authority figures to market their product or service to the partner’s loyal audience. Since consumers today spend significantly more time online than watching TV channels, for example, companies partner with influencers on a series of videos or blogs for brand awareness rather than a traditional commercial slot.
It’s important to keep in mind that most influencer marketing campaigns will be focused on top-of-funnel awareness and brand exposure. Influencers are known to have a solid reputation and loyal following with knowledge of how to reach those followers with content they’ll love. By sharing your product with their audience, you’re getting your brand in front of eyes that may never have discovered it. It’s a great way to re-energize your program and implement a different traffic source—becoming another stream of potential customers for your brand.
We’ve all seen influencers proudly showcasing their favorite clothes and beauty products, but do influencer partnerships really work the same way in the B2B space? Can B2B marketers expect to see the same growth and return from influencer marketing as B2C?
Unlike B2C influencers who can recommend a variety of products to their audience, B2B influencers work a little differently and truly hone in on a niche. It’s most likely taken far longer to develop the audience they have in a certain B2B space than a B2C influencer. This is because B2B influencers must gain the trust of their audience by positioning themselves as experts in the industry. They still leverage their loyal following to incite enthusiasm and curiosity to try your product, however, B2B influencers must have some sort of credential in their niche to be successful (e.g. experience).
Targeting the influencers that company decision-makers follow is a key way to tap into this audience—but how exactly do you make that happen?
Discover Influencers in Your Niche
Though this stage can take some time, putting in the grunt work here can massively pay off in the end. Do your research to determine who the experts are in your industry and where those decision-makers are spending their time online, or what events they’re attending. Do they use social networking sites like LinkedIn and YouTube, are they reading industry publications and newsletters, or are they attending conferences?
Carefully examine influencers’ credentials and see what types of partnerships they’ve worked with in the past, as well as the success of those campaigns. Taking the time to find the right influencers will be the key to your influencer marketing campaign success. Seeking out a dedicated and diversified recruitment team can help with sourcing partners if you’re unsure where to begin.
Define Your Goals
As I mentioned before, influencer marketing is primarily focused on top-of-funnel brand awareness, but working with influencers that give a more detailed explanation and walk-throughs of your brand can reach the end user at the bottom of the funnel as well. It’s important to set goals and KPIs before launching an influencer campaign. Discuss your goals with the influencer beforehand and make sure you’re aligned with outcomes and deliverables before the campaign launches.
Set Guidelines for Your Brand Promotion
Guidelines are meant to be general rules when working with influencers. After all, they are experts in marketing and using their talent to generate content, and as a brand, it’s important to accept that. Educate them about your product and brand voice and messaging, but make sure to give them creative control so their audience knows the content is authentically theirs. They know their audience and the best ways to reach them.
Nurture Your Relationships Over Time
B2B influencer marketing isn’t likely to drive tremendous results straight away, so it’s important not to get discouraged and to have patience. Seasoned marketers know the rule of seven—that a person needs to have contact with a brand seven times before actually making a purchasing decision—and that holds especially true with the nature of the B2B buying journey. When you nurture your relationships with the influencers you work with and maintain consistent partnerships, you’re going to have more success in the long run than a one-off campaign and create a mutually beneficial relationship with those influencers.
Influencers also like to keep their audience engaged by providing added perks to signing up for the subscription or buying the product through them. Providing individualized discount codes further incentivizes them to promote to their audience and will help nurture this relationship. To remain trustworthy to their audience, they also might want discounted or free access to your product to test it out before committing to working with you. Working with influencers in the affiliate industry can also mean an expected commission payout on top of whatever flat fees the influencer charges upfront. Determining your KPIs and negotiating appropriate commission structures that will be beneficial to all parties involved will help nurture these relationships as well.
Much like everything in the world of affiliate marketing (and marketing in general), you’ll want to test a variety of influencers across the funnel. Brand exposure through podcasts, webinars, YouTube channels, blogs, and social media networks are all great ways to begin working with B2B influencers. This is because it humanizes the B2B space in ways we’ve never considered. The world of B2B isn’t just software anymore, and the increased popularity of social media and authentic content has made it clear that we’re all simply humans at the end of the day.
If you’re looking for even more B2B expertise in the affiliate and partnership marketing industry, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re happy to help!