It’s Not Apples and Oranges: Tackling Influencer Marketing in B2B Organizations (Part 1)

There is often a very sharp line drawn in the sand between B2B and B2C marketing. While there are some notable differences, the fundamentals are the same for the two disciplines; the building blocks of good strategic marketing remain the same. Remember, even in the B2B world you are still selling to people. Increasing amounts of research are showing that the B2B buying journey is evolving to look more and more like that of the consumer purchase process. With this shift in mind, it makes sense to consider how to leverage influencer marketing in a B2B environment.

If you need some convincing that influencer marketing should be important to you, here’s some data that might help…

  • 75% of B2B buyers are influenced in their decision making by information found on social media (American University Study)
  • 57% of decision makers strategically look at what others are already saying about a company on social media as part of their purchase research (Carnegie Mellon)
  • B2B buyers look for approximately three pieces of content about a vendor for every one they receive from the vendor’s sales & marketing team (Forrester Research)
  • Those involved in the B2B buying process are typically more than half way through their purchase decision path before they actually contact a vendor (CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council)
  • 61% of buyers consult 3rd party sources before talking to a company’s salesforce (Avande)

Hopefully at this point, you are onboard and beginning to think about how to start or expand your influencer marketing program. The key steps are the same as the ones you would use in planning a B2C influencer marketing strategy, but we’ll zero in on the thought process and execution in the B2B world. For this week we will focus on defining both your objectives and your audience.

Determine Your Objectives

Before you jump into the “who” or “where” or “how,” stop and take a moment to consider the “what” and “why?” What is it that you want to achieve? Why (aside from the compelling statistics above) are you putting together an influencer marketing program? Think about your overall marketing goals and what elements of your strategy you might be able to impact through influencer marketing. It could be building familiarity with a new service offering, shortening your sales cycle or improving perceptions. It helps to be focused when setting your objectives versus casting a wide net and seeing what sticks. I’m not saying you won’t need to adjust and change along the way. Particularly when you are starting to build an influencer marketing program, you may need to tweak your objectives and tactics as you see what is working. I am always in favor of a ‘test and learn’ approach – but the test needs to be targeted in order to yield meaningful and useful learnings.

Define Your Audience

Kicking off an influencer marketing initiative may be a good time to take a step back and be clear about whom you are trying to reach. I have seen numerous B2B companies gravitate toward targeting the C-suite decision maker as their only target. That is, unfortunately, a shortsighted view of the way the purchase process currently works in most organizations.   Purchase decisions are becoming increasingly more collaborative involving more people at a variety of levels in the organization. Research completed by LinkedIn showed that, on average, three to four different departments are now involved in any purchase decision. According to a study published by Google & Millward Brown, 81% of non C-suiters have a say in purchase decisions. And 24% of non C-suiters actually have final sign off on purchases. If you are focusing only on the highest levels of an organization not only are you focusing on the hardest people to reach, but you are also overlooking massively influential groups of people at lower levels. Influencer marketing can be a great way to broaden your reach across an organization.

After these first two steps you will think about building relationships with influencers and creating appropriate content. We will dive into those two topics later this week!

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