Last week we talked about the first steps needed to lay the foundation for an influencer marketing campaign in a B2B organization. We’ll continue this week with the remaining steps – identifying and connecting with influencers, creating content, and evaluating your efforts.
Identifying and Connecting With Influencers
There is a range of ways to identify the right people with whom your organization could work. Here are a few ideas:
- Internal knowledge is a great starting place. It is highly likely that people within your company can rattle off a list of names of others in the industry whom they follow.
- LinkedIn identifies 500 people whom they label as influencers, and it is worth looking to see if there are any people on their list who might be a good fit for your company. These are people with a wide reach, but they may also be the most difficult with whom to build a relationship. Think about how much effort you want to expend trying to connect with someone from this group. You may find it more fruitful to explore who is engaging with and following these influencers to identify others who don’t make LinkedIn’s list but who are still influential.
- Consultants can also be powerful influencers both for an industry as a whole and certainly for the companies with whom they work. Leaders of large management consulting firms won’t be the easiest or most targeted influencers to get on board, but reaching out to smaller niche players can pay dividends.
- Using tools like GroupHigh can also streamline your discovery process by allowing you to search with keywords that are specific to your industry.
As you build a potential list of influencers, it is important to look at the level of influence they have rather than focusing on their popularity – number of followers does not necessarily equal influence. This is certainly a best practice in B2C influencer marketing, and is especially important in B2B (particularly in niche markets where the total population isn’t very big). Examine with whom the influencers interact and the types of followers they have to get a better understanding of the power they wield. For more on this take a look at the post about reach versus relevance.
Now that you have a list, it is time to connect with those influencers. Be thoughtful about your pitches and approach this as a long-term partnership rather than a campaign-specific relationship. In creating a pitch, determine what’s in it for the influencers. Mutually beneficial is the name of the game here. Understand their motivations, and think about what you can provide for them. In the B2B world, there is often a much smaller set of influencers for any given industry than for a B2C segment, so it behooves you to take your time before contacting a particular influencer.
Just a note here – it is very typical for B2B companies to have rules around how you can interact with current or potential customers, including what you can give or ask of them. It is a good idea to check with whoever is responsible for overseeing these rules (usually your legal team) before you begin contacting influencers.
Creating the Right Content
As you build an influencer marketing program, you will need to continually think about the right content for this channel. A tight connection between your content marketing and influencer marketing strategies is going to be highly beneficial at this stage. Think about what information people in your industry would find useful. Practical information and insights are powerful motivators for buyers – a recent LinkedIn study showed that subject matter expertise and applicable insights are among the top things buyers want from a vendor. Whitepapers and thought leadership pieces from your executives and employees are great pieces of content for your influencers to share.
You will also need to think about the balance between your content and influencer-created content. This is a place where the dynamics of B2B and B2C influencer marketing can vary greatly. The influencers you’ve identified for your industry are less likely to be full-time bloggers than they are to be executives or industry leaders. You need to be thoughtful about how much time your influencers can spend developing their own content so as to make their collaboration with you as easy as possible for them. One way to best leverage your influencers’ time is to invite them to conferences you are hosting or speaking at. This can provide prompts for creating content and also is great for building relationships.
Evaluating Your Efforts
This is the last step, but it is certainly an important one! Measurement of any marketing effort can be more difficult for B2B companies than for those in a B2C market. Audience bases are smaller, and there isn’t as much syndicated tracking. Quantitative data about the impact of your efforts can be difficult to gather. But you can put together a variety of data points to help you obtain an understanding of the impact. Check out the post on gathering data for some ideas.
Between last week’s and this week’s posts we have laid out all of the fundamental steps for building a B2B influencer marketing strategy. Creating this strategy and incorporating it into your overall marketing plan can reap many benefits for your company.