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What do successful B2B influencers influence? Well, just about everything and every audience.
I like to think of myself as a discerning consumer. And yet, from books and bedding to productivity apps and exercise equipment, strangers on the internet have convinced me to buy a surprising amount of stuff. As much as I try to avoid it, I’m not immune to the power of influencers.
And, as it turns out, I’m not alone.
The global influencer market was valued at more than $16 billion in 2022, according to Statista. It’s grown exponentially over the past five years and is projected to continue multiplying for the foreseeable future.
And today’s influencers aren’t just filter-happy young people with enviable lifestyles peddling consumer goods like athleisure and electronics. Online personalities are also generating demand for B2B brands.
But why is influencer marketing so powerful, what does B2B influencer marketing look like in practice, and how can you leverage this rapidly growing marketing strategy to fill your pipeline? In this post, we’re tackling all of the above.
Influencer marketing (at least as we know it) is a relatively new concept that emerged with the meteoric rise of social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube. But the secret to its success is rooted in human behavior as old as time: if someone you like and trust endorses something, you’re more likely to believe it has value. A vote of confidence from a peer holds more weight than even the highest-budget ad campaign.
For example, we all have at least one ultra-trendy friend with an effortlessly stylish wardrobe, a beautifully decorated home, or an encyclopedic knowledge of the best new under-the-radar restaurants. You take their recommendations seriously because you respect and appreciate their taste.
Social media gives us access to millions of these people. Some have massive followings while others are more niche, but they all have one thing in common: a loyal and highly engaged audience. And when these influencers promote a product or service, their followers listen.
Think of social media influencer marketing as word-of-mouth marketing set to its highest gear. Instead of an individual recommending a brand to a peer, it’s a revered content creator with the rapt attention of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of eager consumers.
For most of us, the word ‘influencer’ conjures images of 20-something lifestyle bloggers, YouTubers or TikTok stars. But the definition of an influencer is much broader.
Spend just a few minutes on LinkedIn, and you’re bound to see business influencers doling out career advice and gaining a flurry of reactions and comments. Attend an industry conference, and you’ll see influencers there, too, speaking on stages and signing their books.
In the B2B world, influencers often look a lot more like thought leaders — people with a proven history of success and a dedicated following of fellow professionals eager to draw from their expertise. Smart B2B brands feature these individuals in webinars, testimonials and success stories.
B2B influencer marketing could include a well-known tech industry leader discussing the merits of a software product on their podcast or promoting a piece of content from a brand they like on Twitter.
If you’re interested in leveraging B2B influencer marketing to grow your audience and attract new buyers, here are five tips to keep in mind:
Start by finding advocates and evangelists who already know and love your product or service. These are happy and active customers who have experienced success with your offering and may be willing to share their opinion with others.
Then, hone in on high-profile individuals, like senior executives at well-known organizations or customers who have amassed an active (and relevant) following on LinkedIn, Twitter or elsewhere.
Influencers don’t have to be internet celebrities with millions of fans — they can also be everyday professionals who wield a small amount of influence. For example, you might opt to work with an industry leader who consistently garners engagement on their LinkedIn posts, participates in multiple professional organizations or hosts a niche podcast. Sometimes, the smallest audiences are the most committed.
While a B2C brand might contract an influencer to promote its products or services through one or two social posts, B2B influencer marketing is most successful when you foster ongoing relationships. Select people you’re willing to grow with and support long-term.
Offer them VIP treatment, like early access to new features and ask for their feedback as you roll out updates. By folding them into your processes and giving them a peek behind-the-scenes, you’ll earn genuine loyalty.
B2B sales cycles are typically much longer than B2C. And often, there are far more decision-makers involved. So while an eyewear brand might see a near-immediate jump in sales after a lifestyle influencer posts a story wearing their sunglasses, it can take longer to see returns from influencer marketing for, say, a medical device or cybersecurity software.
B2B buyers can see straight through phony ploys and staged endorsements, so it’s vital you prioritize authenticity. This is why it’s helpful to look for existing evangelists in your customer base instead of paying off a well-known industry thought leader to promote your offering. If someone is genuinely excited about your product or services, it’ll come through in the stories they tell to their audience.
It’s easy to assume influencer marketing will only benefit B2C brands, but there are plenty of opportunities for B2B organizations to leverage the power of influencers too. By tapping into your happy customers’ spheres of influence, you can quickly expand your reach and connect with new buyers.
At Kuno Creative, we have experts on leveraging influencers in your industry, and we’ve helped B2B companies across industries achieve measurable impact with powerful content strategy. If you want to explore more about how we can help you, schedule a time to talk with us.