Spokespeople. Brand advocates. Experts. Sponsors. Thought Leaders. Influencers. Call them what you will, but leveraging the voices, expertise, appeal, and reach of influential people has been a standard marketing and advertising practice for at least a century. In the B2C realm, that is.
As TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden recently pointed out: “B2B brands are running a little behind B2C in terms of influencer marketing sophistication and have not been investing as much in technology, staff or the influencers themselves.”
In fact, recent research shows that an impressive 48% of B2C influencer programs are ongoing, however, just 11% of B2B influencer programs are always-on. But on the flip side, research also shows that interest and commitment are growing. In fact, 65% of multinational brands will increase influencer marketing spending in the next 12 months, reaching $10 billion over the next five years.
So, how do we reconcile the different worlds these statistical snapshots create? From my perspective, it all comes down to perceived value. B2B marketers, who have the difficult task of nurturing buyers through a long and winding sales cycle, want to ensure that a traditionally B2C tactic can drive the kind of results they need and want.
In a digital landscape that’s bursting with content, bubbling with consumer distrust, and growing demand for personalization—influencer collaborations offer enormous value and benefits. But don’t just take my word for it; take it from influencer marketing leaders at a range of B2B brands.
From security scandals and privacy concerns to consumers’ dwindling confidence in the world’s core institutions, consumer trust is on the downslide. That general distrust coupled with an historical skepticism of marketing and advertising messages makes it imperative that B2B marketers work to build genuine trust and credibility with buyers and prospects.
When you co-create content with influencers, you not only provide influential experts with a medium to share valuable insights, but can also provide your audience with a mix of perspectives—upping your storytelling capabilities and credibility.
“Year over year, we’ve seen consumer trust of brands decreasing, and people turning to seemingly more objective sources when making buying decisions: peers, third-party review sites, analysts, etc.” Whitney Magnuson, Global Head of Social Media and Influencer Programs at IBM, told us not long ago. “Partnering with an influencer allows you to highlight your brand’s own existing narrative in a new way, so that you can reinforce the proof points you really want your customers to know.”
Partnering with an #influencer allows you to highlight your brand’s own existing narrative in a new way, so that you can reinforce the proof points you really want your customers to know. @whitneymagnuson @IBMSystems #B2BInfluencerMarketing Click To Tweet
With low consumer trust and competition forever increasing, authenticity can be one of the biggest differentiators for brands. At the end of the day, your B2B buyers are consumers who are looking for partners that understand them and that they can feel comfortable with. Influencers can help you do through the content you create together.
“The main benefit is that influencers humanize a brand and capture the personality behind the logo,” Rani Mani, Head of Social Influencer Enablement at Adobe, says. “Additionally, influencers raise brand awareness and engagement by giving companies access to an audience they may not otherwise have through a trusted and credible source.
The modern digital landscape is not only overloaded with content and simmering with distrust, but demand for personalization and relevance is increasing. But influencers provide a way to overcome these obstacles and capture new content opportunities.
As Luciana Moran, Senior Vice President, Digital, Content and Creative at Dun & Bradstreet, shared with us, she sees two of the top benefits of influencer partnerships as “exposing your message to a new or different audience than you are currently reaching today, especially through your website or other organic channels,” and “adding credibility to your message by partnering with a trusted voice in the industry.”
And Martin Jones, Senior Marketing Manager of Business Social Media, Content Marketing, & Employee Advocacy, at Cox Communications, is right there with her.
“[One of the] primary benefits of collaborating with influencers is to overcome evolving shifts in marketing that is making it increasingly difficult for brands to reach consumers,” he said. “For example, adoption of ad blockers is soaring and traditional banner ads have become ineffective. Organic reach for brands on social media hovers around 1-2%, and consumers trust in brand advertising is at an all-time low.”
He added: “Influencers connect with a much more targeted audience than banner ads have in quite some time,” Martin said. “Ad blockers do not impact influencers and their content still has significant social media reach. Trust from an influencer’s audience typically runs somewhere north of 90%.”
Deep audience knowledge is part of the foundation of your marketing strategy. Beyond demographics, you need to understand their needs, pain points, motivations, and how and where they search for answers. What better way to collect qualitative, near real-time intel than engaging and collaborating with an industry expert on a regular basis?
“Working with B2B influencers allows our brand to have a constant pulse check with purchase decision-makers,” Dr. Konstanze Alex, Head of Corporate Influencer Relations for Dell, said. “Informed influencers who share our vision of the future based on their own experience and expertise provide for independent, third party validation.”
She added: “Strategic partnerships with influencers provide for an outside in view when creating content for our customers. We need to constantly ensure that, as a brand, we don’t start talking to ourselves, but keep a keen focus on the evolving challenges our customers have and on language they use to express these challenges.”
You heard it from the experts. B2B influencer collaborations can help you create content that builds trust and credibility with your audience, humanize your brand, overcome ad and algorithm barriers to garner targeted reach, and keep your finger on the pulse of your audience.
Now for a final piece of wisdom to any B2B marketer who’s still on the fence, courtesy of our own “Influencer Marketing Influencer” Lee Odden:
“Influence is the ability to affect action,” he often says. “And everyone is influential about something.”
The bottom line? For any kind of content a business creates and releases to the world, there is an opportunity for collaboration with credible voices that have active networks interested in what those voices have to say.
We have no shortage of strategic tips, tactical tricks, and amazing insights on influencer marketing. Take some time to peruse our recent posts on the subject.
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