One universal truth in marketing is that people trust their peers more than they trust a brand. That’s why influencer marketing has become a necessary strategy for business-to-business (B2B) and direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands alike.
That said, influencer marketing for a B2B brand is much different than for a D2C brand. In this guide, you’ll learn the ins and outs of B2B influencer marketing, find tactics for success, and see examples of other successful B2B influencer campaigns.
What B2B Influencer Marketing Is and How It Differs From D2C Marketing
To get started, it’s vital to understand what B2B influencer marketing actually is and how it is different from D2C marketing. As a whole, influencer marketing is a digital marketing strategy that focuses on partnering with influencers to drive or showcase your product or service to a larger market.
The most commonly understood type of influencer marketing is seen in D2C brands, mainly because they’re everywhere. They can be seen all over social media, in podcasts, webinars, and in blogs. This could include an actress with a large following on Instagram posting a promotion for a new vitamin brand, or a chef highlighting a new and improved blender in several of their cooking blogs.
On the flip side, B2B influencer marketing requires a deeper, more targeted approach that includes catering to your industry and ensuring the influencer you’re partnering with has strong industry knowledge. In B2B influencer marketing, you’ve got to partner with influencers who have the ability to influence corporate buyers and tap into relevant business conversations.
Let’s dive deeper into the major differences between B2B and D2C influencer campaigns below.
B2B Influencer Strategies Require More Time
As you begin to create an influencer marketing strategy for your B2B brand, keep in mind that it’s not something that will show immediate results. You may not see results until several months into the program, where D2C influencer campaigns often last a few days or weeks at a time and can yield results quickly.
The main reason for this difference is because B2B purchases often require long sales cycles where there are typically more decision-makers in the mix. For example, a D2C brand could have an influencer post a positive review of a $50 skincare item on YouTube and see an increase in sales that same day.
But when a B2B influencer starts sharing information online about a tech product with a monthly subscription, for instance, there’s more to consider on the customer’s side of things. How does it stack up compared to competitor products? Can they win buy-in from their team and leaders?
If you’re starting a B2B influencer program, we suggest working with an influencer on a longer term campaign, such as a year-long engagement, so there’s ample time to test your efforts.
B2B Influencers Are Often Associated With a Specific Company
Another difference is that B2B influencers are often employed by or representing one specific company. D2C influencers, by contrast, often have partnerships and sponsorships with several companies at once.
So, as you think about your brand’s B2B influencing efforts, you’ll need to spend some time targeting and connecting with potential influencers, rather than counting on influencers finding you.
In many cases, B2B influencers are not full-time influencers. They usually work for a company already, hence why they’ve gained notoriety within a specific industry.
B2B Influencers Are on Select Social Networks (or None at All)
According to TopRank Marketing’s 2020 State of B2B Influencer, 90% of B2B marketers integrate influencer marketing with social media marketing. Some of the most popular social media networks for B2B influencer content include LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Here’s a quick overview:
- LinkedIn is a mainstay for B2B considering its most basic function is connecting business professionals. Additionally, there are a myriad of tools to use within the platform to search for and target highly specific audiences.
- Twitter can be especially helpful when B2B businesses are seeking collaboration with tech influencers, but other types of B2B influencers are active and searchable on Twitter.
- Facebook as a whole is not used by many B2B influencers, however, Facebook groups often are. Similar to LinkedIn, Facebook groups can connect brands with highly specific groups of people with niche interests.
- YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google and has 1.86 billion active monthly users. Because of its long-video format, as well as promotional video capabilities, YouTube can be an attractive social media platform to B2B influencers.
Unlike D2C or B2C influencers, B2B influencers aren’t usually as active on Instagram, TikTok, or Snapchat. You may find some outliers, but generally, it’ll be harder to find relevant influencers on those platforms.
Something else to consider: Many B2B influencers aren’t on social media in a regular capacity, or at all. These folks can be a little more difficult to find at first, but with a little extra research you’ll be able to find them. They may have built their following as book authors, bloggers, or podcasters.
B2B Influencers Expect More Education and Onboarding
Influencers in the B2B space are much more interested in partnering with a brand they truly believe in than in the D2C space. This is mainly because B2B influencers already have status and followers in their industries, and they don’t want to tarnish their reputation by endorsing a product they don’t know much about or find useful.
This means that when your brand starts reaching out to B2B influencers, you’ll need to fully educate them and ensure they are excited about your brand. It’s a good idea to supply them with some educational materials, have them demo the product, and more. It’s all about selling them on your product’s value.
Business Benefits of Using Influencers in B2B Marketing Campaigns
Now that we’ve established what B2B influencer marketing is, let’s discuss how your brand can benefit from it.
KOLs and Industry Influencers Create Trust in Your Brand
It’s hard to overstate the immense impact of key opinion leaders (KOLs) and influencers. They bring trust and authority to your business, helping you achieve a great return on interest (ROI) across channels.
As we mentioned earlier, people trust their peers over a brand without any person behind it. This is why KOLs can be invaluable to a brand’s marketing success.
Marketers themselves believe so too. Over 75% of marketers say their prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts, according to TopRank’s 2020 Influencer Marketing Report. What’s more, 64% of B2B marketers increased the credibility of their brand content by working with influencers, or KOLs.
Even though B2B influencer marketing campaigns tend to have a longer run time than D2C campaigns, KOLs can drive greater awareness than traditional marketing tactics and can also help strengthen your brand’s image — especially if your KOL is highly trusted in your industry.
When KOLs provide recommendations and opinions from a professional perspective, they supply the personal element that many people look for when it comes to making decisions about whether or not to buy a product.
Successful Partnerships Meaningfully Grow Your Network
As shown by the stats above, successful partnerships with trusted KOLs can help your brand grow in a meaningful way. You’ll likely find that interacting with prominent, relevant influencers will attract more influential people to conversations around your brand, growing your network with people that are typically harder to access, thus increasing your brand awareness.
This can yield more business partnerships and opportunities and give you an in with more valuable businesses and better known B2B influencers.
B2B Influencer Campaigns Associate Your Brand With Thought Leadership
Consumption of thought leadership pieces increased from 50% to 58% in 2019, according to the Edelman 2019 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study. And 55% of decision-makers in the B2B world admit they always use thought leadership as a way to vet a brand before they buy.
So, there’s no doubt that thought leadership should play a role in your B2B marketing strategy. That being said, creating and maintaining a thought leadership strategy can be difficult unless you have a team dedicated to just that. One solution to this issue is creating a B2B influencer strategy.
B2B influencers are often seen as visionaries and thought leaders, so utilizing them to position your service or product within the broader conversation shows your brand is on the pulse and focused on the future of the industry — in essence, future-proofing your company.
Finding B2B Influencers for Your Next Marketing Campaign
At this point you’re most likely thinking that your brand could benefit from working with a B2B influencer, but how do you find the right one? Below, we’ll walk through strategies to discover and evaluate influencers in the B2B space.
Build a Comprehensive B2B Buyer Persona
Before launching an influencer campaign, it’s important to understand the customers you’ll be targeting. Not only does this help you find the right influencer partner, but it equips them to take the right approach with their audience. Here are some important components of a B2B buyer persona:
- Buyer demographics: You’ll want to start with the basics of who your buyers are, such as industry/vertical, company size, job titles, location, social media channels they use, keywords and phrases they use, and what their communication preferences are.
- Decision drivers: Next, you’ll want to identify your buyers’ top priorities when they’re deciding between products. Think about what their goals are as an organization, as well as their budget, most important features, and other considerations.
- Challenges and fears: Identifying your target audience’s challenges and fears includes looking at obstacles they may face when reaching their business goals and what they may be uncertain about. In other words, consider the internal and external factors that make your buyers hesitant to purchase.
- Role in the purchase decision: Finally, take note of whether the persona represents a customer who has the final say in the purchase (the decision-maker), will use the product often, or will interact with the product sparingly. Humanize your persona by thinking about what their work day looks like, as well as potential organizational barriers they may face that would slow or stop them from taking the next step in each buying phase.
Ask Your Network and Co-Workers Who They’re Watching and Reading
After completing your B2B buyer persona, you’ll want to tap into your professional network for leads on top-notch influencers.
Your network and co-workers are likely paying attention to a wide array of voices within your industry, so ask or survey them to get a sense of who and why they’re following certain B2B influencers. This could even be done in a way to promote team-building and professional development between departments and employees.
Ask Your B2B Customers Who They Trust for Guidance
Similar to talking to your network and co-workers, you’ll want to go directly to the source. We all have some particularly knowledgeable customers who stand out in our minds, so ask them who they look to for guidance.
Search Social Media Channels
You can also conduct your search via social media. This can be done in a few different ways:
- Research individuals you’ve already identified to confirm that they align with your brand and goals. As we mentioned earlier, the best social platforms to look at are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
- Look at the social media channels of brands like yours and look into who they’re utilizing as influencers.
- Analyze your own brand’s social media channels to discover highly engaged and connected individuals or companies (that don’t pose a conflict of interest).
Use B2B Influencer Search Tools
Another way to identify the right influencers for your brand is to utilize B2B influencer search tools. Some tools to consider include:
Popular Pays is an online software that makes it easy for brands to work with influencers and content creators at any scale. Our platform connects B2B businesses with influencers and content creators, allowing them to scale up their influencer campaigns, reach a wider audience, aand track performance.
BuzzSumo is an online platform that allows B2B marketers to collaborate with influencers. The platform can help brands identify influencers and authors with engaged audiences and genuine authority on Twitter, Facebook, and more.
Followerwonk is a tool specifically built for Twitter. It helps B2B marketers easily find, analyze, and compare influencers on Twitter. Unique functions include searching Twitter bios, breaking out followers by location, bio, and who they follow, and mapping out relationships with competitors and friends.
Examples of B2B Influencer Marketing To Inspire You
As you’re getting ready to craft your B2B influencer marketing strategy, we wanted to share some examples of what other B2B companies are doing in the influencer space to inspire your efforts.
American Express took advantage of influencer marketing on Instagram. They used the hashtag #AmexAmbassadors, to promote their Platinum card to target high-spenders. The brand has worked with both mega-celebrities with millions of followers, like Shaquille O’Neal, and micro-influencers with close to 100k followers.
They all have one thing in common though: Showing off a life of luxury. The campaign earned 5 million impressions on social media and resulted in the printing and distribution of over 400,000 decals.
IBM is known for starting up an always-on influencer marketing campaign that leverages its own workforce, relying on employee advocacy. Because IBM serves a variety of industries, it was difficult for them to find just one type of influencer to represent their audience. So, instead of looking outside, they turned inward.
One employee-turned-influencer, Ryan Bares, shared in a recent interview with TopRank Marketing that over the last few years they realized that IBM employees could also be great advocates for the brand because they understand the products and offerings at a deep level. Amber Armstrong, Director of Digital, Social and Influencers at IBM Commerce, also spoke about the success of custom tweets from employees at a SXSW event.
As mentioned earlier in this guide, blogging can be especially powerful, beyond its most well-known benefit of helping with your Search Engine Optimizations(SEO) efforts. Video Fruit is a great example of how B2B guest blogging can influence potential customers in a positive way.
Founder of Video Fruit, Bryan Harris, wrote a guest post for OkDork. He followed up by writing another post for his own website. Upon comparing the number of visitors who came to his website on these two days, he was stunned.
On an average day, his blog would see 285 visitors. The day his guest post was published, he saw 1,086 visitors. Of those 1,086 visitors, 73% were from new users. Additionally, in those two days, he saw 215 new subscribers to his blog — a conversion rate of 12%. This clearly shows the power of guest blogging as part of a B2B influencer marketing campaign.
Running a Successful B2B Influencer Marketing Campaign Starts With Popular Pays
If you’re feeling inspired by these case studies, why not jump right in and start making progress on your B2B influencer marketing program? To find the perfect B2B marketers for your brand, check out Popular Pays.
Our platform lets you discover and vet influencers, manage your relationships with them, collaborate on campaigns, and report and analyze each campaign all in one place. Request a demo to see it in action.