Influencer marketing is making substantial strides in the B2B space. Statistics from The Social Media Hat show that businesses employing this strategy have seen an average ROI of $6.50 per $1 invested, and a remarkable 78% of B2B marketers affirm its effectiveness.
This effectiveness extends to lead generation, with influencer campaigns outperforming traditional marketing by producing three times as many leads. In fact, B2B buyers are more inclined to purchase products endorsed by industry influencers, resulting in an average campaign conversion rate of around 13%.
These influencers not only stimulate conversions but also serve as thought leaders for 50% of B2B buyers looking to keep up with industry trends. Recognizing these impressive results, 59% of B2B marketers plan to increase their influencer marketing budgets in the upcoming year. It’s evident that influencer marketing is on the rise and revolutionizing the future of B2B marketing.
Why B2B Marketing Is Turning to Influencer Marketing
While business buyers have historically been viewed as distinct from their consumer counterparts, this divide is becoming increasingly blurred. Today’s buyers and decision-makers are starting to expect a consumer-like experience – a streamlined, personalized process that aligns with their individual needs and preferences. They desire the convenience, speed and customization that characterize these transactions, while still requiring detailed information, solution-focused content and extensive support that are typical of B2B exchanges.
One key characteristic of the modern buyer is self-directed research. B2B buyers are often well into their buying journey, sometimes up to 70% or more before they’re ready to engage with sales representatives. They prefer to independently gather information, explore options and define their needs before interacting with vendors. This makes them harder to reach through traditional sales-driven methods.
Furthermore, B2B customers are increasingly multi-channel and multi-device in their approach to research. They utilize various digital platforms, from search engines and industry forums to social media and professional networking sites like LinkedIn, to inform their buying decisions. This digital diversification underscores the essential role of a comprehensive, integrated digital marketing strategy.
Moreover, business customers place a high degree of trust in their industry peers and experts. They value recommendations from colleagues, industry thought leaders and professional networks over promotional content directly from businesses. This provides an opening for B2B influencer marketing to fill this trust gap.
B2B influencers, with their industry expertise and peer credibility, can effectively bridge the connection between your business and these hard-to-reach audiences. By leveraging their influence and trust, your business can penetrate the self-directed research phase of your target buyers, delivering valuable insights and information precisely when and where these buyers are seeking it.
In sum, the distinct yet evolving characteristics of B2B audiences necessitate a modernized approach to marketing. Incorporating influencer marketing into your B2B strategy offers an effective way to meet these audiences where they are, delivering the consumer-like experience they desire while addressing their complex, unique business needs.
Differences (and Similarities) Between Business and Consumer Influencer Marketing
Audience Goals, Challenges and Purchase Decisions
B2B audiences typically have goals centered on enhancing operational efficiency, reducing costs, mitigating risks and fostering business growth. Their challenges lie in finding solutions that provide significant ROI, integrate well with existing systems and comply with industry regulations. Their purchase decisions are complex, involving multiple stakeholders and based heavily on logic, return on investment and long-term value. Business purchases can be large, sometimes as much as several million dollars. A poor purchase decision can impact production, profitability and even the company’s reputation and position within the market.
Consumers, on the other hand, are driven by personal needs, preferences and aspirations. They seek products or services that offer the best value, convenience and alignment with their lifestyle. The purchase decisions are more personal, often influenced by emotion and made by individuals rather than committees. For a consumer, the consequence of a poor purchase decision is buyer’s remorse.
The differences between business and consumer audiences impact the ways businesses leverage influencer marketing. For B2B companies, given the complexity of the buying process and the high stakes associated with purchase decisions, influencer marketing often focuses on building credibility, demonstrating expertise and providing value over the long term.
In B2B marketing, influencers are leveraged to establish credibility, provide detailed insights and guide potential customers through the intricate buying process. Their role is not just to raise brand awareness, but to reinforce the brand’s authority and trustworthiness in the industry. They utilize their influence to educate potential buyers, help mitigate perceived risks and convince multiple stakeholders of the offering’s value proposition.
This is a more nuanced and complex approach compared to influencer marketing in the consumer space, where the goal is often to inspire immediate purchases, create brand visibility or enhance customer loyalty through aspirational content and personal stories.
In both cases, the effectiveness of the influencer strategy is dictated by the ability to resonate with the unique needs, preferences and expectations of the target audience – whether that’s a committee of business decision-makers or individual consumers. This understanding allows for the creation of influencer campaigns that are not only aligned with audience characteristics but also tailored to address their specific challenges and goals.
Influencer Types and Selection Criteria
B2B influencers are typically industry experts, thought leaders or key opinion leaders with in-depth knowledge and authority in their respective fields. The selection criteria for business influencers often revolve around their professional reputation, expertise and the respect they command within their industry.
In contrast, influencers that market to the general public are chosen based on their popularity, personal appeal and the size and engagement level of their followers. They’re often celebrities and popular social media personalities.
Influencer Marketing Techniques
Both business-facing and retail influencers share common techniques such as content creation, social media promotion and event participation.
However, B2B influencers often deliver in-depth, informative content, such as webinars, whitepapers or LinkedIn posts. Influencers in the consumer space tend to focus on visual, emotionally resonant content on platforms like Instagram or TikTok.
Challenges and Risks
In B2B influencer marketing, challenges often involve identifying the right influencers who can effectively engage a specialized audience, while also maintaining the legal compliance necessary in regulated industries. The need for authenticity is critical as well; establishing genuine connections with influencers who truly align with the brand’s values and mission helps build trust with the target audience. Further complexity arises in measuring the impact of influencer marketing for businesses, given the often lengthy and multifaceted sales cycles.
In the consumer space, challenges include managing high-profile influencers, dealing with negative publicity and measuring ROI in terms of direct sales or customer acquisition.
In both cases, understanding and mitigating these challenges and risks is crucial to executing an effective influencer marketing strategy. Whether business-facing or customer-facing, authenticity, compliance and the ability to measure campaign success are critical components of any influencer marketing program.
The Rise of Deinfluencers
While we’re discussing the challenges and risks associated with influencer marketing, let’s spotlight an emerging trend: deinfluencer marketing. Deinfluencers initially gained attention for using their social capital and expertise to counter misinformation or challenge popular beliefs. However, as the influencer market has expanded, some individuals have seized the opportunity for financial gains through deinfluencing. Today, deinfluencers may be directly paid to tarnish a rival brand, drive traffic to a competitor, or even earn indirect profits through affiliate sales by casting doubt on an opponent. Beyond financial motives, deinfluencing has also been deployed for more nefarious reasons, such as personal vendettas or intentionally sabotaging a competitor’s reputation.
Contrary to the B2C sector, B2B brands have largely remained unaffected by the rise of deinfluencers. Here’s why: Deinfluencing predominantly occurs in the consumer space, where individual consumers are more susceptible than a team of seasoned business decision-makers. Deinfluencers have an easier time affecting B2C consumer behavior, which is often motivated by emotions, impulses and social factors. Moreover, consumers who make decisions based on little or no research are more vulnerable to misleading or false information. Conversely, B2B brands are shielded from the effects of deinfluencing due to rigorous multi-level decision-making processes, enduring client relationships, and the specialized expertise of decision-makers. The complexity and high stakes involved in business purchases further insulate B2B brands from this trend.
The Need for Brand Caution in Influencer Partnerships
However, B2B brands considering influencer collaborations must proceed with caution, especially when the influencer in question is known for deinfluencing. Given the controversial nature of this practice, partnering with such an individual could jeopardize the brand’s reputation. Additionally, it could raise ethical questions and potentially lead to legal complications. Therefore, thorough due diligence is essential before entering into any influencer partnership, particularly with those who engage in deinfluencing activities.
In both business and retail contexts, building genuine, long-term connections with influencers is critical. However, B2B influencer relationships often hinge on professional trust and shared industry insights, while personal consumer relationships might be more driven by product alignment and personal branding.
Metrics and KPIs Used to Measure Influencer Success
In B2B influencer marketing strategy, measuring campaign success can indeed be more complex due to longer sales cycles and often multi-tiered decision-making processes. While there are many metrics that businesses can track in influencer campaigns, it’s essential to determine which ones align with your unique goals and should therefore be defined as your key performance indicators (KPIs). This alignment ensures you’re not just collecting data, but collecting the right data that will provide meaningful insights into your campaign’s performance.
Several key metrics can potentially be defined as KPIs in B2B influencer marketing. The process of deciding which metrics to focus on depends largely on your specific goals and the nature of your campaign.
- Engagement: This measures the interaction between the influencer’s content and the audience. It includes likes, shares, comments and mentions. High engagement rates can indicate that the content is resonating with the audience.
- Reach and impressions: Reach refers to the total number of unique viewers who saw the influencer’s content, while impressions count the total number of times the content was displayed. These metrics can help gauge the exposure your brand is getting through the influencer campaign.
- Click-through rate (CTR): This shows the percentage of the audience who clicked on the links associated with the influencer’s content. High CTR suggests that the influencer is effectively driving action among the audience.
- Conversion rate: This is the percentage of people who take a desired action after engaging with the influencer’s content, such as signing up for a webinar, downloading a whitepaper or making a purchase.
- ROI: Calculating the return on investment can be challenging in B2B influencer marketing due to the length of sales cycles. However, it is a critical metric to determine the profitability of the campaign.
- Share of voice: This measures how much of the total online conversation around a specific topic or industry is driven by the influencer.
While these metrics also apply influencer marketing to individual customers, the focus might be more on direct sales, customer acquisition and brand sentiment. Consumer-facing campaigns may also prioritize metrics such as follower growth, the volume of user-generated content (UGC) and direct responses to calls-to-action within the influencer’s content.
In contrast, because the focus for B2B influencer marketing tends to be more on building brand credibility, fostering thought leadership and nurturing long-term relationships, business influencer campaigns prioritize lead quality, account engagement, the length of sales cycles and the size of deals. While these may not be as immediate or directly measurable, they are vital indicators of the deeper, more strategic impact that business influencers can have on an organization’s market position and overall success. So, while follower growth and UGC are still relevant, B2B campaigns often prioritize the quality of engagements and the influence on strategic accounts over sheer volume.
By focusing on these KPIs, businesses can evaluate the performance of their influencer campaigns, refine their influencer marketing strategies and ensure they’re effectively leveraging influencers to achieve their marketing and business objectives.
B2B Influencer Marketing Strategies that Borrow from B2C
There are several consumer-centric influencer strategies that can be adapted and effectively used for B2B influencer marketing. These include:
- User-Generated Content: UGC often plays a crucial role in influencing personal consumer purchase decisions. B2B marketers can also leverage UGC by encouraging employees, clients or influencers to share their experiences or insights about their product or service. This can be an effective way to build trust and credibility, as prospects often trust recommendations from peers more than traditional advertisements.
- Influencer Takeovers: Consumer-centric influencers often take over a brand’s social media account for a day or an event. In the business world, this could translate to an industry expert taking over your company’s LinkedIn or Twitter account to share insights, host a Q&A session or provide a behind-the-scenes look at an event.
- Product Reviews: Product reviews by influencers are commonplace in mainstream markets and can also be effective in business markets. Tech influencers, for instance, could review your software or hardware, and their endorsement could significantly impact your brand’s reputation within the industry.
- Affiliate Marketing: While typically more common in the direct-to-consumer space, affiliate marketing can also be used in the business space. You can use this tactic in B2B by creating an affiliate marketing program where industry influencers or other business partners share unique tracking codes when they refer your product or service. This allows you to directly track lead generation or sales resulting from their efforts.
- Influencer Collaborations: Just like in public markets, collaborations between influencers and brands for co-creating content, products, or services can also work in B2B. This could be a joint white paper on industry trends, a co-hosted webinar on a topical issue, or even a product developed in partnership with an influencer. Such collaborations can provide value to your audience and position your brand as a leader in your field.
While these strategies can be used in B2B, they must be implemented in a way that fits the more relationship-driven, long-term and often more complex nature of business buying cycles. Also, given the focus on professionalism and trust in business selling, it’s vital to ensure these tactics align with your overall brand image and messaging.
Partner with B2B Marketing Experts for Influencer Marketing Success
B2B influencer marketing success hinges upon a thorough understanding of B2B sales cycles, audiences, industries and marketing strategies. It’s a nuanced field, and one size does not fit all. In the business-to-business world, where sales cycles are typically longer, purchase decisions more complex and buyer personas vastly different from retail, it’s crucial to align influencer marketing strategies with these unique characteristics.
To achieve your goals, partnering with a B2B marketing agency that is well-versed in the intricacies of your industry is key. A specialized agency brings invaluable insights, strategic expertise and a deep understanding of both your market and the influencers who resonate most powerfully within it.
If you’re ready to elevate your B2B influencer marketing strategy and build strong, fruitful relationships with influencers in your industry, contact Elevation Marketing. We’ll tailor your influencer marketing strategy to your business to get the best return on your influencer marketing investment.