B2B Articles - November 01, 2023

B2B Influencer Marketing Takes Center Stage

The term "influencer marketing" conjures up images of highly followed TikTok or Instagram accounts pawning new products for brands that give them a commission. However, the spotlight is shifting toward the somewhat overlooked realm of B2B influencer marketing, revealing a distinct landscape with its own rules and strategies.

B2C influencer marketing capitalizes on lifestyle and sentimental activators, while B2B influencer marketing uses industry experts and thought leaders to convey value, insights, and knowledge. The dynamics of the influencer-brand relationship differ significantly. B2C brands can hire an influencer for a one-time engagement and see results. The influencer may promote a brand once and never think of it again. B2B companies must think differently if they want to capitalize on influencer marketing and focus on long-term relationships.

This tactic has gone under the radar for many B2B brands, but it's gaining steam: Top Rank Marketing found that 85% of B2B brands believe interest in working with influencers in the coming 12 months will increase. And for good reason. Marketer and author Jay Baer found that depending on the type of B2B company, between 50-91% of all sales were influenced by word-of-mouth marketing. 

B2B companies encountering the rising costs of digital advertising and increasingly saturated markets seek more substantial methods to reach their B2B buyers. Influencer marketing offers an innovative and transparent way to enhance a brand's visibility and connect with audiences exactly where they prefer to engage.

Learn about additional demand generation strategies to help your B2B business build meaningful relationships with your buyers.

From Transactional to Purposeful Relationships

In B2B influencer marketing, relationships transcend mere transactions. These influencers are revered experts in their respective domains, and their recommendations hold significant sway. B2B buyers look to them not just for advice but for invaluable insights, best practices, and the guidance needed to make informed decisions that impact their bottom line.

What sets B2B influencers apart is their trustworthiness and genuineness. Their endorsements are perceived as impartial and reliable, transforming them into highly effective messengers who convey a brand's core value proposition.

When brands collaborate with these esteemed B2B influencers, they gain more than just promotional partners; they become active contributors who shape industry discourse and trends. This dynamic positions them as genuine thought leaders, garnering recognition and respect within their sector. Moreover, when a brand associates with reputable B2B influencers, it elevates their image and reputation. This positive alignment bolsters the brand's standing in the industry, favorably reflecting on its products, services, and overall presence.

It’s worth noting that not all B2B influencers are inherently good. Influencers can gain steam for inaccurate or outlandish beliefs. Due diligence is critical for any brand investing in influencer marketing.

The Human Element in B2B Transactions

The B2B buyer discovery and purchase processes are evolving, with a significant shift towards social media as a primary source for discovering new products. HubSpot found that 44% of B2B buyers use social as their primary source for discovering new products. B2B influencer marketing leverages this change by heavily relying on social platforms to relay valuable information and connect buyers with industry experts.

This shift towards influencer-driven discovery benefits B2B buyers in several ways. First, they gain access to experts with deep knowledge and insights who provide valuable information that helps them make informed decisions. These influencers – often trusted figures within their industries – lend credibility and trust to the products or services they endorse, reassuring buyers that their choices are reliable.

Influencers also play a pivotal role in addressing industry pain points and challenges through their content, offering practical solutions, best practices, and advice that directly address buyer problems. Their content, including webinars, whitepapers, and how-to guides, serves as educational resources, empowering buyers to expand their knowledge and skills.

Moreover, influencer-generated content often includes unbiased product or service comparisons, reviews, and evaluations, aiding buyers in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of available options and ultimately guiding them toward the best-fit solutions for their specific requirements.

B2B influencers serve as peer validators, which can relieve concerns from stakeholder groups. Witnessing peers or industry experts endorse a particular solution instills confidence in buyers' choices, which is helpful since B2B purchases come at a very high price point. In essence, B2B influencer marketing streamlines the research process for buyers, allowing them to rely on trusted influencers to curate relevant information, thus saving time compared to conducting extensive research independently.

This relationship transforms the B2B buyer's journey with access to expert insights, trustworthy recommendations, relevant information, and valuable educational resources. It simplifies decision-making, nurtures trust, and empowers buyers to make well-informed choices within the intricate B2B landscape.

Building the B2B Influencer Relationship

Building a meaningful relationship with a B2B influencer is a strategic process that requires careful planning and a genuine approach. It's not about temporarily ticking off a checklist or "renting" a person's Instagram account. Instead, it centers on fostering a connection based on mutual respect and shared goals.

Research: B2B brands ready to kickstart influencer marketing campaigns can begin by identifying influencers who resonate with their industry and target audience. It's not a popularity contest; it's about searching for individuals with deep expertise in their field. These influencers should have a dedicated following of professionals, large or small, who value their insights.

Connection Development: B2B companies must remember this is a long game, not a transactional relationship. Engage authentically to build a foundation for the relationship. The personal approach built on offering value will go a long way. Share resources, insights, or information that could benefit the influencer's audience. B2B brands seeking a long-term relationship with an influencer should also consider who reaches out – perhaps this is a chance for a C-suite to build the connection rather than the marketing or sales team.

Trust Over Time: Trust is a cornerstone of any meaningful relationship—transparency and reliability are critical. Remember, this is not a one-and-done relationship. Brands that co-host a webinar must continue to engage and ensure the influencer respects the brand and its mission. 

Legal and Financial Considerations: Consider legal agreements or financial compensation for the influencer depending on the nature of your collaboration. Ensure that both parties know expectations, deliverables, and any payment involved.
The Challenges of B2B Influencer Marketing
While the potential benefits of B2B influencer marketing are substantial, it's not without its challenges. Many businesses are still in the early stages of adopting this strategy. 

Lack of a Documented Strategy: One common hurdle in influencer marketing is the need for a well-documented strategy. Many organizations approach influencer marketing as a tactical rather than a strategic initiative. This approach often results in disjointed and ineffective campaigns. A documented strategy helps coordinate all elements of influencer marketing. It should clearly outline the roles of influencers, the type of content to produce, the platforms to use, and the metrics to track success. This strategy ensures that influencer activities complement other marketing initiatives and contribute to broader business goals.

Qualifying and Activating Influencers: In an increasingly crowded influencer landscape, qualifying personalities based on relevance, authenticity, and alignment with brand values is crucial for campaign success. Activating influencers and ensuring they are genuinely interested and committed to the collaboration can be challenging, as effective influencer partnerships require a mutual understanding of objectives and expectations.

Manual Processes: Manual influencer outreach, content approval, and performance tracking can be time-consuming and error-prone. Automation tools, such as CRMs, can significantly streamline these processes.

How Will B2B Influencer Marketing Change the Role of Marketing and Sales Teams?

In a world where up to 91% of B2B transactions are influenced by word of mouth, the importance of influencer marketing cannot be overstated. With creativity, authenticity, and transparency as its cornerstones, B2B influencer marketing will continue to redefine how brands reach and engage their audiences.

This collaborative approach begins with the marketing team taking the lead in identifying relevant B2B influencers by analyzing the industry landscape and aligning potential influencers with the brand's objectives. They collaborate with influencers to create educational and engaging content that resonates with the target audience. This content is then strategically distributed across various channels to ensure it reaches a wide B2B audience. Marketing teams track campaign performance and leverage influencer partnerships to boost brand awareness, positioning the brand as a thought leader.

The sales team nurtures leads generated through influencer marketing into qualified prospects. They utilize the educational content created in collaboration with influencers to address buyer questions and objections effectively. Sales teams leverage influencer relationships as an additional touchpoint in their outreach, establishing credibility and trust with potential customers. Additionally, influencer-generated content may serve as valuable sales collateral, showcasing the value of the products or services offered. The sales team provides critical feedback to the marketing team, sharing insights from customer interactions that inform future influencer collaborations.

Effective collaboration between marketing and sales teams is paramount in this context. Regular communication and feedback loops ensure that the influencer marketing strategy aligns seamlessly with the sales process, contributing to the company's overall success in the B2B market. As B2B influencer marketing continues to evolve and gain prominence, these shifts in marketing and sales will be pivotal in driving brand growth and engagement within the B2B landscape.

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