Beyond Decision-Makers: Why and How to Target Influencers in the B2B Buyer Journey

How to Target Influencers in the B2B Buyer Journey
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By Michael Skladony, GM of Consumer Services at Semcasting 

The majority of B2B buyers (59%) report that there are more than three stakeholders involved in their purchase process, and a quarter involve seven or more individuals. In a world where we’ve seen massive technological innovation, the decline of legacy behavioral targeting approaches and the rise of hybrid work arrangements, advertisers must differentiate themselves by thinking beyond just the decision-makers—with whom all their competitors are also talking—to target the influencers surrounding them. 

Research shows that B2B influencers are more likely to be trusted by potential customers, as they have an established reputation in the organization and have personal relationships with those making the buying decisions. This trustworthiness can be invaluable when it comes to influencing a conversion in the company’s favor. 

To bring this notion to life a little bit, think about a CEO at a software company. Although the CEO is the head decision maker, the CEO will often turn to her sales team to understand what sales enablement or CRM tools will be most helpful for them in the day-to-day operations to get more leads or secure more deals. This scenario and ones like it raises the question – who is the actual “decision maker”? Is it the person who ultimately signs the contract? Is it the people who will be using the tools and understand the benefits when you demo your product?

A better question is how can you define who your decision-makers are? 

Finding the B2B Influencers

B2B influencers have the ear of the CEO or decision maker and can be extremely important in guiding the decision-making process. These individuals are more impactful to a conversion in your favor than a display ad about how to transform a function within the organization that the CEO does not touch on a daily basis. 

Essentially, B2B influencers are the end-users. Just like consumers are influenced by recommendations from people they follow, the decision makers, especially in larger organizations are influenced by their team. 

B2B influencers are also more likely to have a greater understanding of the unique needs of a company, as they are already familiar with the industry and its trends as well as the organization and its nuances. They can therefore provide more tailored advice and insight on how to transform a function within the organization that the CEO may not be familiar with. This allows companies to find solutions that are both relevant and valuable to the decision-maker, increasing the chances of a successful conversion. 

Filling the Top of the Funnel 

Maximize media dollars by filling the upper funnel with more targets who ultimately have the ear of the person who will sign the contract. From the previous example, think of the sales reps who are constantly updating their VP of Sales and CEO on the status of leads. Marketers can reach more people within an organization by expanding their digital campaign to the titles of people who will be hands-on with their respective project or service. 

With several marketers fighting to reach the same assumed decision makers, you also can differentiate yourself from competitors who are laser-focused on the VP of Sales or CEO, by reaching those who will sign the contracts or have the company credit cards through B2B influencers. 

Building awareness with the B2B influencers and converting them to endorse your offering to the decision-makers within the organization can help move the needle. Ultimately, it’s a branding play so that when the decision-makers give permission to purchase a new service or solution, your brand is top of mind with the people who will help guide that decision.

Moving B2B Influencers Down the Funnel

It is important that once you have identified and begun to reach these influencers you continue moving them down the funnel with a variety of messages.

However, in order to do this successfully, marketers must consistently empower influencers with the critical information they need, such as updates on product features and benefits, customer success stories, and industry trends. This will help influencers become more familiar with the brand and its offerings, and eventually, become advocates.

By monitoring impressions delivered to users identified as B2B influencers in an organization, an influencer can be promoted to a succession of messages based on impressions they view in real-time. This moves the influencer from awareness to persuasion and then to conversion marketing messages. Marketers can monitor influencer lists at the impression level in order to customize the campaign’s reach and sequence their messaging in order to avoid wasted spend. This will also help marketers determine which messages are performing the best and reaching the right audiences.

In an era of digital transformation, the ability for marketers to build relationships with B2B influencers has never been more important. As industry leaders, these influencers can shape their peers’ opinions and make or break the success of a product or service. By engaging influencers and moving them down the funnel, marketers can benefit from the power of influencers and turn them into brand advocates, allowing B2B marketers to reach a larger audience and gain more brand recognition and loyalty.

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