Influencer marketing isn’t just a hot new trend anymore—it’s a legitimate (and highly profitable) marketing tactic being used across industries.
In fact, Statista reports that global influencer marketing value grew from $6.5 billion to $13.8 billion between 2019 and 2021 and is set to continue growing. As the market continues to expand, brands from every niche are incorporating B2B influencer marketing into their marketing strategy to reach audiences.
According to The State of Influencer Marketing 2021: Benchmark Report, which surveyed 5,000 professionals representing a wide range of occupations and sectors: B2C brands are more likely to use influencer marketing tactics than B2B brands.
As a result, implementing influencer marketing is an opportunity for trailblazing B2B marketers and brands to stand out if done right.
Read on to learn how you can leverage influencer marketing in B2B and insightful tips to create a winning B2B influencer marketing strategy.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is, simply, a collaboration between a brand and an online influencer to market a product or service.
The term “influencer” might conjure up images of celebrities posting about detox teas for an easy million. Only personalities with the most followers or the most celebrity become influencers for brands that can drop serious money on a campaign, right?
Wrong! Those days are long gone.
Influencer marketing is flooding social media and giving brands a new, engaging way to attract and convert new customers—and anyone can be an influencer.
An influencer can be anyone, anywhere on social media who has a decent following and engaged audience. They don’t need to be famous or rich, just well-respected in their industry or niche.
While influencer marketing has quickly been adopted by B2C brands, it’s still an untapped resource for many B2B brands. It might surprise you that influencers exist across all industries (even if you don’t realize it).
Those C-level executives you follow on LinkedIn...they’re influencers.
Those thought leaders you follow on Twitter...also influencers.
Those newsletters you subscribe to, webinars you attend, podcasts you listen to, and YouTube tutorials you watch...yes, those people are all influencers!
This means that they are in a unique position to market products and services that matter to their followers.
So, while it might seem unusual to leverage B2B influencers for marketing campaigns, these are the go-to experts in their field for hundreds, and even thousands, of followers.
The bottom line? Revenue teams can win with B2B influencer marketing, and we’re going to tell you how.
Why does influencer marketing matter for B2B revenue teams?
Individuals publishing content and building audiences is a profound shift in the way information is disseminated and one which will never go away.
This trend has crossed over to the B2B world with experts and operators alike sharing their work knowledge publicly and frequently on social media. Hence, becoming influencers in their domain of expertise and garnering a strong following from their (social) peers.
This has in turn impacted the B2B buying process.
Only 17% of the B2B buyers’ journey is spent in interactions with sales representatives, according to Gartner. Generational differences have also increased skepticism of the sales process, with 44% of millennials preferring no interaction with a sales rep at all.
The B2B Buyers Survey Report 2021 notes that when researching new solutions, the factors that most influence B2B buyers are:
- Access to relevant content
- Frictionless access to pricing and competitive comparisons
- Industry-specific content that demonstrates expertise
The typical B2B buying journey involves six to 10 decision-makers, each armed with pieces of information they’ve gathered independently.
By utilizing influencer marketing, you can connect with everyone and anyone who can impact the decision-making process —and hook buyers where they’re already looking.
What makes a high-value B2B influencer?
At this point, you’re probably seeing the light.
B2B influencer marketing does work and you’re ready to get started. The only problem is...who are the influencers and where can you find them?
There are several levels of influencers, and the specifications may vary depending on who you talk to. The most important thing to note is that smaller influencers (such as micro-influencers who have <15,000 followers) get significantly better engagement rates than mega-influencers (1M+ followers), as per Influencer Marketing Hub.
Almost counterintuitively, your highest value influencers will have fewer followers.
Finding B2B influencers for your campaigns isn’t difficult. You can mine these channels to find B2B experts:
- Social media
- Online communities
- Your own customer lists
- Industry news sites
You’ll learn more about getting started on your B2B influencer marketing strategy in the next section.
Three ways to leverage B2B influencer marketing
You’re convinced. You even have a budget for your influencer marketing play. Here are three ways to leverage B2B influencers:
Use B2B influencers to build brand awareness
Influencer marketing is an extremely effective tool for building brand awareness. Audiences may have heard of you before, or they may not have. But by partnering with an influencer who speaks directly to your target audience, you’re showing that you have the endorsement of an authority in your niche.
Get started by:
- Conducting research to identify who your target audience follows and subscribes to.
- Dig deeper to pinpoint which types of content get the most engagement. Is it tutorials? Reviews? Something else? With the input of your influencer, you can make highly valuable content for your target audience.
- Diving into niche communities. There might be some “obvious” influencers with a large audience but remember that micro-influencers typically get better engagement rates. You might have more success tapping influencers with a strong influence in a niche community.
Internal B2B influencers drive demand generation
Many people tend to forget about the most critical influencers in B2B—the internal influencers, such as coworkers and direct reports.
Buying committees that include primary decision-makers, researchers, internal influencers, and end-users are how companies make decisions today. B2B revenue teams aren’t just targeting a single person at a business, they are targeting many.
This means you need to start thinking about holistic messaging that reaches committee members in charge of researching, reviewing, testing, and buying solutions. They might serve distinct roles, but they have the same interests and goals in mind.
These are the people who are moving the needle for purchases, and they don’t need 5,000+ followers to make an impact. If you can reach these internal influencers, you’ll generate demand among audiences with high purchasing intent.
Get started by:
- Identifying where your customers are working now. This can (and should) include former buyers, champions, and end-users. Because they have been your satisfied customers and internal influencers before, they are ripe low-hanging fruit now.
- Creating a process to “follow” your internal influencers as they switch roles. With 65% of people planning to switch jobs this year according to Fortune, staying on top of this is an additional channel for your pipeline.
- Building out accessible, educational content that will reach multiple members of a buying committee.
- Using job changes as an opportunity to target internal influencers with email automation, direct mail, and ads.
- Prioritizing accounts for sales outreach that internal influencers have moved to.
Previous customers create deals and accelerate sales
Similar to demand generation tactics, sales representatives (SDR/BDR) may also choose to reach out directly to their previous customers (a.k.a. internal influencers) to create and accelerate sales opportunities.
It might seem like common sense, but this method of outreach is often under-utilized but easily achieved with the help of CRM data enrichment.
If you’re working off of a target account list, simply identify any previous customer contacts in that target account and reach out. It really is that easy! These people are your warmest leads and will be more likely to take a meeting.
Get started by:
- Keeping an ongoing (and updated) list of previous customer contacts for your revenue team.
- Sending out targeted and timely messages to these contacts when they move roles or take a position at a new company.
- Personalizing your messaging and creating content that’s engaging and human. Remember: people are inundated with messages all day, every day. Yours should stand out (without being creepy, of course).
4 tips for a winning B2B influencer strategy
Adding influencers into your B2B marketing is a great move. But without a solid strategy, you'll fail to get the results you desire.
So we put together a list of the four must-dos to create a winning B2B influencer campaign.
#1. Set yourself up for the long haul
Chances are, your B2B product is complex, expensive, and applies to a very niche market.
That can often mean smaller audiences and high-priced contracts. Influencer marketing has typically been used in B2C campaigns because it’s easier for an influencer to sell a lipstick or protein shake than to sell company-wide payroll services.
That doesn’t mean that B2B influencer marketing can’t work, but it does mean you’ll have to be flexible and willing to improve your campaigns over time.
#2. Show, don’t tell
When a person walks onto a car lot, they don’t want to be told about a car...they want to test drive it. Use influencers in B2B as tools for showing how your product or solution can help solve a problem. Put the “proof” in your social proof!
#3. Work with diverse influencer partners
Don’t fall into the mindset that the B2B influencers who matter all look, talk, and think the same. This is a trap that will negatively affect your campaigns.
Adding diversity to your influencer campaigns will help your business reach a broader audience with more authentic and inclusive content. Remember what we said about the buying committees trend earlier? If your messaging only appeals to a narrow audience, you’re going to exclude a bunch of people who move the needle in purchasing decisions.
#4. Use your customers (past and present) as a resource
Your customers are people. People talk to other people about things they like or services that made their work-life easier.
This is an oversimplification, but it’s also the truth. Your customers are invaluable resources right at your fingertips. They can make referrals, influence decision-making in their companies, and provide your revenue team with a pipeline full of warm leads.
Don’t pigeonhole your B2B influencer marketing efforts to social media personalities with a large following. B2B lead enrichment tools like UserGems enable you to find past and present customers and where they currently work.
It'll even send notifications when an account switches organizations, gets promoted or moves to a sibling company. These are all opportunities to upsell or cross-sell your product or service to their new employer.
Build an influencer B2B marketing strategy that lasts
As digital-first marketing continues to grow, revenue teams will need to keep up with changes, so they don’t get left behind.
Influencer marketing can help B2B brands build awareness, generate demand, and drive sales. To replicate the sort of success B2C brands have had with influencers, you’ll need to:
- Identify the right influencers for your target accounts
- Build relationships with a diverse set of influencers
- And most importantly, learn to use your customers (past and present) as a resource
With UserGems' contact and account tracking features, it's easy to find champions who already know and believe in your brand, so you can turn them into micro-influencers.
UserGems helps companies generate more revenue by combining relationship data with trigger events to surface the most likely buyers for each company. With UserGems, customers get a bigger pipeline and win more often.