When we think of “influencers” our minds automatically go to the Youtube, Instagram and Tiktok stars whose endorsement of a product can generate millions in sales from their enormous follower-base. Online influencers have been a feature of the B2C market for many years, and they are heavily courted by brands, commanding significant fees in return for supporting products and services via their personal channels.
In the B2B world the influencer market is not as mature, but it is growing rapidly as technology commentators, leaders, strategists, advisors and analysts build large audiences through multiple social media channels. It offers B2B businesses an exciting opportunity to communicate their brand personality and the benefits of their product or service in a way that today’s decision-makers are increasingly receptive to.
Why now is the time to explore B2B influencer marketing
Like so much else, COVID-19 has had a huge effect on the way B2B technology companies go to market. Physical events have taken a back seat, with virtual gatherings and digital communications – appropriately given the sector – filling the gap.
With little certainty about when in-person events are likely to be back in the calendar, many organisations are revising budget allocations and exploring how best to use funds that were previously earmarked for stand builds, staff accommodation and transport costs.
In contrast to these big-budget events, B2B influencer marketing is cost-effective, creative and – crucially – a highly measurable way to spend marketing dollars for high impact and audience cut-through.
If you are wondering whether adding B2B influencer campaigns to your broader communications strategy might be a good route for your brand, here are six key benefits of B2B influencer marketing to help inform your research.
1. Engagement, creativity and an “outside in” perspective
Working with a B2B influencer is a rapid route to audience engagement and a great opportunity for B2B technology brands to show their creative side and develop their brand personality and social media presence – something that can be a challenge through traditional channels.
Influencers are keen to take part in campaigns that provide mutual benefit in terms of growing followers and generating engagement. They know what works to interest their audience, and what doesn’t, so can help steer ideas for effective content. This has been termed an “outside in” view, helping B2B brands identify what is actually relevant and interesting to the purchasers they want to connect with.
The most effective B2B influencer campaigns come in the form of win:win collaborations where influencers are offered exclusive access to digital-first assets that they can package in a way that resonates with their audience, building their own profile while benefiting the B2B brand.
2. Integrity and authenticity
B2B influencers are trusted commentators that inspire confidence in their audience. Their qualitative opinion and expertise is highly valued and they typically have a reputation for integrity that implies the brands they associate with are worthy of consideration. This builds brand authenticity and acts like a recommendation from a friend when it comes audience receptiveness.
3. Extended reach and resonance
Working with influencers extends the reach and impact of core PR and marketing activities, providing “social echo” that resonates robustly with audiences. Additionally, stories that might not work with traditional media can work with influencers, if they spark debate and engagement.
Beyond this, influencers are sought after for speaking opportunities and editorials, podcast hosting duties and webinar or LinkedIn Live guest spots. They have strong profiles and – as with any media entity – being on their radar can lead to opportunities to benefit from their network and impact.
4. The chance to work with a diverse group of people and perspectives
Influencers come in many varieties and can be approached in different ways, depending on their style and area of expertise.
They might be commentators from within the technology industry, such as Graham Cluley (who can certainly stake a claim as one of the earliest influencers in the cybersecurity space, having been named “Twitter user of the year” in 2009 and 2010 by Computer Weekly). Alternatively, they could be a respected futurist and leadership guru such as R “Ray” Wang.
They may also come from key customers or user groups, or from within micro-communities that are potential purchasers of your product.
You could even find you have some home-grown talent within your company’s own employee base. For example, IBM’s CTO Andy Stanford-Clark is a highly effective advocate for the company, sharing the innovative projects it is working on alongside his own expertise and interests.
5. Scope for longevity
Influencers don’t always have to have follower-numbers in the hundreds of thousands. If you are targeting a particular micro-community the numbers are likely to be lower, but identifying someone who is in the early stages of their influencer career – in a market you want to be in long term – can be worth its weight in gold.
Establishing and nurturing a relationship at this stage can be considered an investment and that is why it is essential to conduct in-depth research and cast your net both deeper and wider when identifying potential influencers to work with.
6. Measurability and ROI
One of the advantages of influencer marketing campaigns is that they are measurable on a level that eludes some marketing activities. Influencer marketing should be highly targeted towards achieving defined goals in terms of audience reach and impact.
There are several useful tools to help you identify the right influencers for your brand in terms of reach, relevance, resonate and reference (how often they are cited by other influencers). These can subsequently deliver metrics and analytics based on your campaign so you can measure progress towards KPIs and, ultimately determine the ROI you are achieving. The volume and granularity of data available through these tools is impressive, giving a degree of insight into what is working, and what isn’t, that is rarely achievable through other channels.
As such, influencer marketing can be very cost-effective, meaning it is not just the preserve of big-budget brands. Indeed, the novelty and innovative voices of start-up and scale-up brands make them ideal partners for influencers looking to showcase their position and expertise at the leading edge of technology development.
As brands adapt and evolve their approaches to audience engagement in a post-Covid environment, influencer marketing is gathering momentum in the B2B technology sector. Competition to develop productive working relationships with both established influencers and rising stars is only going to grow, making now a good time to start laying the foundations for amplifying brand messages and driving awareness with the help of B2C influencers.
Here at C8 we have been running influencer marketing programmes for a number of our clients and believe that every B2B technology business should be building influencer marketing into their communications strategy. If you would like to explore its potential for your brand, get in touch with our team.