Three drivers of B2B influencer marketing
In part one of this two-part blog series, The anatomy of B2B influencer marketing, we discussed why this practice can be regarded as an explosive form of word-of-mouth marketing. We also referenced McKinsey’s framework of experiential, consequential and intentional word-of-mouth devices to guide us in our thinking of B2B influencer marketing objectives and suitable approaches.
Now, we will explore three drivers of B2B influencer marketing and how we might want to think about influence differently moving forward.
In discussing with fellow marketers and clients who sit on the CMA’s B2B Council, we have identified three drivers for B2B brands to consider when it comes to adding influencer marketing to their mix of tactics. These include: a desire to humanize the brand, establish authentic connections and enhance amplification, and gain presence in appropriate networks.
Humanizing the brand
A UK-based business applications provider has been establishing trusted relationships with small business owners in Canada and their finance leaders by mobilizing a network of independent, local bookkeepers and accountants. These financial professionals are the equivalent of micro-influencers. Many of them are not active on social media. However, their professional knowledge and relationships with their small business owner clients provide outsized influence in choosing business applications such as accounting, payroll, or inventory management software.
We must balance the reach that social media provides with the fundamental truth that relationships and influence are built on trust. Selecting the right influencers for your business doesn’t just come down to follower counts. The following questions should be asked:
- Are they reaching the target market you want?
- What level of trust do they have with their audiences?
Making authentic connections
A chemical company has a product that targets home builders and renovation companies. In addition to marketing directly to contractors, the company formed a partnership with Mike Holmes, the celebrity host of Holmes on Homes. This is a classic intentional influencer marketing move but with a B2B twist. By having Holmes endorse the efficacy of the product, homeowners are demanding that their contractors either consider or use the product. Holmes’ knowledge and television show lend an authentic connection for consumers that drives product demand.
Building a presence in appropriate networks
The proliferation of online professional networks such as LinkedIn, Forbes Councils, and CNBC Councils is a testament to how B2B companies – from Fortune 500 to sole proprietors – are seeking visibility and connections in appropriate business networks. Often, it is the senior executives or individual subject matter experts of companies that are the most effective influencers. While it is considered inappropriate to overtly market their companies’ products and solutions in these forums, they are lending their experience and expertise to create value and form relationships with their peers in the industry. Check out this list of Canadian marketers to find out how they have been harnessing their own influence as part of their consequential word-of-mouth efforts.
Take LinkedIn as an example. As a platform, LinkedIn has made it easy for people and brands to connect online in the way they want to. Views, likes, comments and shares are measures of the influence that an individual carries. Creator mode is a new feature which allows people to create content to grow their reach and influence on the platform, and LinkedIn is continually adding tools and analytics to optimize influencer marketing programs.
Gaining and assessing influence
Influencer marketing is but one tool in the marketer’s toolbox; it is not separate from a well-rounded marketing campaign. A good influencer tactic ladders into a successful overall campaign that achieves required business results and ROI.
As our media landscape continues to become more decentralized, the use of content marketing and influencer marketing will become even more important as part of the B2B marketing mix. Organizations that have a clear mixture of objectives to define their influencer marketing programs as experiential, consequential or intentional will have a better chance of measuring their results and returns. The messenger, the message, and the context of delivery are equally important. The ability to humanize a B2B brand, make an authentic connection, and build and maintain a presence in the appropriate network will be a powerful winning combination of a B2B influencer marketing strategy.
We would like to thank the following CMA and B2B Council members who contributed their insights to this blog:
- Dave Burnett, AOK Marketing
- Marcello Gortana, Tennis Inc.
- Melissa Jung, Cisco
- Jeff Lancaster, LinkedIn
- Steve Lendt, Motum B2B
- Melissa Nemec, Scotiabank
- Miki Velemirovich, 1919 Strategy Group
Andrew Au, Managing Partner, Intercept Group
Jay Badiani, Chief Marketing Officer, IBM Canada
Kris McGlone, Vice President, Marketing, Axonify
Eric Tang, Executive Vice President, Managing Director, Canada, Porter Novelli
Dhaval Vediya, Director, Product Management, CIBC