“Have they even tasted the tea?”
That’s the thought that used to cross my mind every time I saw any of the weight-loss tea #sponsored #ads on Instagram. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the persuasive aura of celebrities that contributed towards making influencer marketing such a huge success. Even if I’m scoffing at the ad now, maybe the next time I visit the store I’ll pick up a pack just because it’s on the top of my subconscious mind.
Is that how it works? Maybe.
We can’t deny the fact that our purchase-decision is somewhat affected by popular opinion. If it’s a bag we’re shopping for, we’ll send a screenshot to our friend asking for their opinion; and if it’s a software we’re looking for, we’ll ask an expert for their recommendation. That’s when B2B influencer marketing is brought into play.
Umm… isn’t that a B2C thing?
Yes, but that doesn’t mean that the framework can’t be redesigned to suit B2B needs. People trust people, not chatbots (*coughs*) or faceless brands. Especially for startups, you need a dash of credibility to stand apart from the crowd. You need a trustworthy ‘face’ for your brand – not to pose with your product, but to guide your target audience, to win them over.
B2B influencers bring a number of factors to the table – authority, reliability and their own niche follower base. They have their own voice and opinions, and they are trusted members of the community. They know what their followers are struggling with, what they are looking for, and what their interests are. As an outsider, there’s a high probability that if you try to reach this inner circle on your own, you won’t receive the warm reception you’re hoping for. Whereas, the influencers know how to trigger their interest, how to make them care for your product.
To get the influencers to partner with you, you need to employ a rather particular approach. Make them notice you, engage and build rapport with them. Ask them what you can do for them, support their endeavors. Transparency plays an important role here. You need to give them creative freedom, not chain them by imposing your ideas on them; by drawing up rules and guidelines.
If you are considered an influencer in your own niche, leverage that to market your product. Your ideal influencer should be someone who is passionately involved in everything that’s happening in your industry. They should have the required knowledge, experience, and the authoritative voice to demand attention. They can be VCs, founders, experts, thought leaders or even micro-influencers with a distinct personality and unique point-of-view. It’s advisable to choose someone who is socially active, owns a popular blog with good domain authority, and whose content gets shared by other influential individuals.
Most importantly, their follower base should match your target group. Stalk them obsessively to find out how they interact with the followers and if they have a separate community. Consider evangelists who create original, popular content that matches the style and tone of your brand.
For startups, it’s better to go for micro-influencers who have a niche following and are extremely active in the startup space. According to a study conducted by Experticity – “82% of consumers are “highly likely” to follow a recommendation made by a micro–influencer.”
Impressing them will be a tough job, but if you manage to do so, they’d endorse your product creatively. They strive for greatness, and if you give them freedom and the opportunity to create something amazing, they’d help you surpass your goals.
You can take help of tools such as Followerwonk, Traackr, Awario to find out who the influencers are in your field. Create a list and follow all of them. Use tools like Nuzzel to track what these influencers are sharing on social channels, and proactively leave insightful comments on their posts, share your observations. Follow them on popular communities such as Inbound.Org and engage with them. Hone your detective skills and scrutinize their connections, industry peers, followers, writings and other activities. It’ll be time-consuming, but with a little bit of legwork, you’ll be able to spot the perfect influencer for your short and long-term goals.
Before you begin your search for the influencers, you have to take some time out to define your goal – whether you want to boost awareness, engage with your target audience, drive sales, launch a new product, or promote an event. Below, I’ve chalked out integrated marketing strategies for each of these goals. You can follow any of these plans, or mix and match different steps to get the most out of your B2B influencer marketing campaign.
Goal: Brand awareness
Building positive reputation from the ground up requires patience. A lot of it. Blaring out the product attributes to anyone and everyone in the vicinity won’t capture people’s interest. You have to start with addressing the pain points that ails your buyers. Nobody wants to feel that they are being fed spoonfuls of barely-camouflaged-value-proposition. To get them to consider your product, you have to get on their radar, and for that, you don’t need divine intervention (thankfully), just one credible influencer.
Plan a casual video interview with the influencer. Create a short clip about the topic, introduce the influencer and share it all over your social channels. Also, request them to promote it as they see fit.
Conduct an awesome interview.
Break it down into meaningful clips, highlighting the parts directly pertaining to your services and play it as skippable video ads on YouTube.
Upload sections of the interview on LinkedIn with the link to the full interview.
Elaborate on the topic and co-write an ebook. Promote it extensively.
Request the influencer to write an article with links to the ebook and your website (have a pre-defined landing page ready), and share the content on LinkedIn Publishers.
Goal: Product launch
Launching a product is stressful, to say the least. You’re going to need any help you can get to make sure it lands on the market with a bang. To achieve that, you have to devise a game plan way before the launch date. Opt for an influencer who writes about new products and is interested in startup communities.
Get them geared up for your product. Give them an exclusive tour and seek their opinion. Request them to write a review piece on their website that’ll lead to a well-designed landing page where people can sign up for early access.
Kick-start your blog with an influencer guest post.
Create a video series with the influencer, where they can talk about interesting and relevant topics and share the clips on their product launch communities. To boost brand recognition, the influencer can don a company-branded t-shirt or a jacket in the videos.
Goal: Building community
To build a thriving community, you have to initiate the conversation and engage with your target audience. It won’t do you any favor if you talk about the product blatantly; instead, add value to the conversation, leave helpful comments and share your thoughts.
Hand-pick influencers who are either admins/active members of niche communities. Participate in ongoing discussions, answer people’s queries, ask interesting questions, create polls to learn more about your target group.
Arrange for weekly Twitter chats with the influencers about topics relevant to your industry.
Build connections with other industry influencers by asking for their opinions and compile those in an ‘Expert Roundups’. Ask them to join the branded chat session once in a while. This way, you can tap into multiple influencers’ follower base.
Let the conversations flow. Once it has attracted enough traction, arrange for podcast interviews with them. Ask the community members what they’d want to ask the influencers, and add the most important ones in the interview.
Collaborate with the influencers to work on a ‘Masterclass’ to teach the tricks of the trade. Gather leads and send out the materials or webinar links via email. Build up a community around it and keep collaborating and sharing educational content.
Goal: Promote event
Here you’re allowed to be quite the opposite of low-key. You need to grab as many ‘quality’ eyeballs as possible, so make sure to promote your event extensively!
Invite the influencer to speak at the event. Write blog posts about the topics, request the influencer(s) for guest posts and mention that they are going to speak at the conference at the footer area of each post.
Create social media campaigns leading up to the day of the event. Feature the event announcement on the website banners or create interstitial ads for your app to capture people’s attention. For those who can’t attend, they can subscribe to receive news/updates/session clips from the event.
Create short announcement video clips with the influencers and share it on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
On the day of the event, leverage the hype around it to keep the buzz going. Live tweet from the venue, create session videos/interviews and bank them for later.
After everything’s done and dusted, create blog posts for each session, tag the influencers and engage with them. Send out the videos and other exclusive content to your subscribers.
Goal: Driving sales
Time to get down to business. If you are venturing into influencer marketing to drive more business, the marketing plan should also align with your intention. Growing your Twitter follower, or increasing your blog traffic will surely help you in the long run, but for now, you need to focus on how to get people on board. Influencers can influence people (unsurprisingly) to consider your product, but they can’t force someone to make a transaction. What they can do is to boost top-of-the-mind awareness with their association.
Select an influencer who is a regular product user. If you can’t find anyone that influential in your customer base, the next best option is to approach influencers to try out your product.
They wouldn’t just promote a product blindly and risk losing their reputation. Be open with the influencer, get them to use the product, give them a demo, answer all of their queries, and ask them for feedback.
Once they start using the product regularly, go for a referral campaign. Give them a specific referral code that they can share with their followers. The followers can use that code and get a discount on the price once they sign up. Similarly, you can upsell to your existing customers by offering them priority support, or access to exclusive features for a time period.
On the other hand, based on the number of referrals, you can arrange for a specific set of rewards for the influencer to keep them hooked.
Request for testimonials from your influencers and add those to your website. You can even take snippets from the testimonials and use them in paid social media and Adroll ads (with their permission).
Create original content with the influencers, but treat those as lead magnets. After the prospects have submitted their contact information, use the opportunity to start a conversation with them, and subtly introduce your product without causing annoyance.
Concluding with an impressive stat to drive my point home – Businesses are making $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing!
B2B Influencer marketing is not about hiring people to sell your product; it’s about making connections, building a network, and getting into a partnership to create something of value. You have to trust their business acumen, give them space and respect their work ethic. In return, you’ll receive help from a mentor who’ll help you achieve sustainable growth.
How do you plan to implement your influencer marketing program? Comment below, and let’s discuss!