We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Effective B2B influencer marketing is rooted in building lasting relationships.
The premise is simple: When brands invest time, effort, care, and money (when it makes sense) to cultivate partnerships rather than one-time or “on-my-terms” engagements, industry influencers and experts are far more apt to do the same. Oh, and the outcomes of influencer/brand engagements (i.e. reach, engagement, thought leadership, increased share of voice, etc.) are more fruitful for all parties, too.
But as we’ve also said before, building the right relationships is critical—and time consuming.
The right relationships aren’t sowed solely based on social network size nor are they grown without proving mutual value. In fact, there are several must-have characteristics of influencer/brand relationships. What are they? Let’s discuss three of them and hear what a few seasoned experts have to say on the subject.
#1 – The Fit Factor
Topical and cultural alignment is absolutely essential to any influencer/brand partnership. Why? Without alignment here, you’ll miss the mark on creating relevant content and audience experiences—and potentially damage, rather than boost, your brand’s credibility and reputation.
Topically, the influencers you work with must have relevant expertise, insight, interest, and audience, ultimately aligning with your goals and expertise of your brand. Culturally, their character and conduct need to be a match, too.
“In the eyes of consumers, the influencers you select and work with will, in many ways, become an extension of your brand,” Martin Jones, Senior Marketing Manager at Cox Communications, told us in an interview. “Due diligence in researching the potential influencers’ social media history will reveal a lot about their personality, style, character, and more.”
He went on: “There is much more to a successful relationship than the dollar value and reach. Influencers that align with your company’s goals, objectives, and values will advance your organization in many ways beyond a marketing campaign.”
In addition, fit isn’t necessarily one-size-fits-all—and your definition can change over time. Your influencer relationships can and should be diverse, helping you power different objectives and provide a range of perspectives to your audience wherever they are in the buyer’s journey.
“It’s not always about the number of followers or connections an influencer has,” Ursula Ringham, Head of Global Influencer Marketing at *SAP, has said. “Some people think: ‘Oh my God. We have to work with this person. They have a million followers.’ Your influencers have to be able to relate to your audience and that skill isn’t necessarily determined by a large following.”
#2 – A Foundation of Trust That Translates into Value for All
Strong relationships are built on trust. While that’s cliché to say, in today’s tumultuous social, political, and digital landscape, it’s more relevant and important than ever. And arguably, trust can form when both parties are invested in the success of their partners—a place where value exists for all parties.
As TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden recently wrote in regards to improving and managing influencer experiences: “Far too many B2B brands treat their influencer relationships transactionally and in terms of what the brand can get from the influencer. B2B brands that make any effort at all to learn more about influencer goals, preferences and capabilities in combination with providing opportunities to connect with other influencers, will go along ways towards building brand advocates and inspire more effective influencer behaviors.”
Furthermore, trust and value are fully unlocked with transparency. It’s not only fair, but also paramount for you to be honest about what your brand is trying to achieve with the help of your influencer partners. Several seasoned influencer marketing leaders at B2B brands share these viewpoints:
“The key here is a relationship—realize that in order to be successful, the work has to be mutually beneficial to both parties … Also, be very clear up front on the goals of your influencer program and what success looks like.” – Lucy Moran, Senior Vice President of Brand, Digital, and BU Marketing, Dun & Bradstreet
“I think trust is the most important characteristic of a successful influencer/brand relationship. We have to trust that the influencer can deliver on a project whether that be a study, an eBook, a keynote, or a webcast. We’ve certainly had our share of learning experiences. But those influencers that deliver high-quality work definitely earn our allegiance. And we have to hold up our end of the bargain, too, and be a good partner. We must set clear expectations, make the process seamless for paid engagements, and provide timely feedback on deadline.” – Angela Lipscomb, Influencer Relations Manager, SAS
“Open, honest, regular communication about what success looks like to each party is vital to a win-win relationship. It has to be based on mutual trust and respect, not to mention a genuine interest in the other party’s success.” – Rani Mani, Head of Social Influencer Enablement, Adobe
“When you look at the characteristics for a successful B2B brand relationship you are:
- Looking at creating value for both parties
- Creating a long term and lasting relationship that is a two way street
- Setting up your influencers for success and arming them with knowledge before they walk into any kind of engagement
- Arming your brand stakeholders with information as well so interactions are high value between the company and the influencers
- Being clear with the influencers on what it is that you’re trying to achieve”
– Amisha Gandhi, Vice President of Influencer Marketing and Communications for SAP Ariba
#3 – A Commitment to Co-Creation Collaboration
B2B influencer marketing is not about hiring or enticing industry thought leaders to hawk your product or service. It’s about building something together—something that will inform, engage, entertain, and inspire your audiences.
When a commitment to content collaboration is part of your influencer/brand relationships, 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.
While some influencers such as internal subject matter or niche experts may not have much content creation experience, you can coach them—helping you strengthen the previously discussed characters. On the other hand, influencers who have a knack for creating content will welcome and expect opportunities for content collaboration.
Less On-Time Transaction. More Long-Term Interaction.
Building relationships with the right influencers is undoubtedly time consuming and downright difficult at times. But with the right focus and attention to detail, the effort you put forth can result in fostering partnerships that are beneficial on multiple levels of everybody involved.
What’s on the influencer marketing horizon? On May 30, 2019 tune into Seth Bridges, founder at Rival IQ, live interview of Lee Odden where he’ll be discussing influencer marketing trends and more.
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