Between traditional methods of marketing and the emergence of mobile and social media, we have more opportunities than ever before to reach new audiences. As a result—as many B2B marketers know all too well—audiences have become increasingly niche and more difficult to target with broad marketing campaigns.
This is where the power of influencers comes into play. Even within the most niche B2B communities, there are people with close relationships to your core audience who can influence their behavior. Teaming up with them can help your business raise brand awareness, boost web traffic or referrals, and even increase sales.
But how is influence defined in the B2B world? Who are the true influencers? And how do you find them?
While the specific answers to these questions will differ depending on your industry, business goals and customer behavior, there are a few common threads. Here are some key elements to consider when planning a B2B influencer marketing strategy.
Know who you’re trying to influence
An influencer marketing strategy shouldn’t actually be focused on the influencer. It’s about your customers and the people you’re trying to influence. Are you looking to influence potential buyers of your product or service, or those who will be actually using it? For many B2B businesses, those are two separate groups of people who will be influenced by different things (and different people).
While your inclination may be to always aim high and target the C-suite, that may cause you to overlook those who can be most influential overall. According to Google, 81% of non-C-suite individuals in a B2B business have a say in purchase decisions, and almost a quarter (24%) of them have final sign off power. Either way, deciding what target audience you want to influence is a critical first step.
Look for power, not popularity
Once you’ve determined who you’re trying to influence, it will be easier to determine who it is that can truly influence them. For example, let’s say you work for a SaaS company and want to raise awareness about its new employee benefits management tool. You’ve decided to target HR professionals with purchasing power. Who influences that group? Start by looking at the speaker list of a recent HR conference, or use a tool like Buzzsumo to find people in the HR industry who have an audience of engaged followers on social media. Look at who these potential influencers interact with on a daily basis—is it your target audience? Don’t conflate a high number of followers with the potential of influence. It’s more important to find trusted individuals whose audiences overlap with your own customer personas. These are the people who wield real influence.
Build strategic relationships
Develop relationships with potential influencers the same way you would network with anyone else. Follow them and share their content on social media, reach out to them at a conference or event, and show genuine interest in their work. Keep the following things in mind before approaching them about a partnership:
Know what they want. No one wants to work for free. A successful influencer marketing campaign needs to be mutually beneficial, so make sure you have a deep understanding of the influencer’s audience and motivations.
Be clear about your expectations. Have clear goals. Let the influencer know what you want them to help you achieve, be it referrals, web traffic, sign ups, or an increase in sales. Work together to outline roles and responsibilities.
Stay flexible. Influencers have their own personal brand, and you’ll be leveraging their authenticity to reach a new audience. Protect your brand, but let them be themselves.
Be prepared for a no. True influence is a delicate, hard-earned power that some people may not be willing to use on behalf of any businesses who comes knocking. Authenticity is their most powerful currency, which means they may choose to remain critical and/or unbiased. Have a backup plan, including a list of other potential influencers you can reach out.
Whether you’re co-creating content with an influencer, tapping into their networks to amplify your company announcements, running contests, or seeking product reviews or referrals—keep these components at the core of your strategy to unleash the full potential of influencer marketing.
Image credit: Jon Evans
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