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5 Ways to Leverage Influencers in B2B Marketing


Partnering with people of influence to promote a product or service is nothing new. Social media influencers have been leveraged by B2C brands for over a decade – but now, B2B brands are trying to catch up as buying habits have shifted.

The new generation of B2B buyers is tired of sales messages filling their inboxes. They want to do their own research, self-educate, and gather recommendations from people they trust before ever talking to a sales rep.

Decision makers are turning to LinkedIn, YouTube, and podcasts to do business research. They prefer to verify credibility through content consumption and endorsements from B2B thought leaders. Buyers no longer want to exchange their contact info for an eBook or listen to one-sided sales pitches from automated nurture emails.

Buyers aged 25 to 44 will make up 75 percent of business buying teams in 2024, according to Forrester research, with a report showing millennial buyers rate engaging with experts as the most meaningful sales interaction. B2B brands can't afford to ignore the fact that modern B2B buyers are attracted to brands that collaborate with relevant personalities that deliver education and entertainment.

Data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) shows that 84 percent of C-level and VP-level buyers use social media for B2B purchase decisions. Platforms have also evolved to be an important source of daily business information as half of U.S. adults now report getting their news from social media. It's no surprise that 94 percent of marketers now believe influencer marketing is a successful strategy for B2B.

Businesses can cater to the modern B2B sales journey by aligning with professionals on social media who have established credibility. This includes subject matter experts, academics, business executives, analysts, journalists, and even company employees.

B2B influencer marketing is quickly becoming a must-do tactic across industries as brands work to establish authority and stand out. Yet, for many, identifying, qualifying, and engaging with ideal influencers is their top program challenge. Knowing the most effective ways to pursue personality-led growth continues to feel elusive.

Some influencers may help increase brand awareness, others may be excellent partners in attracting leads and driving conversions. Be clear on your goals before entering a partnership and clarify expected results. Your best-fit campaigns and partners will vary depending on which stage of the funnel you target.

To spur your creativity, here are a few ways you can incorporate B2B influencers into your marketing strategy:

Co-create Content Together

Collaborate with an influencer to create branded content. Their participation adds instant validity and audience interest. Co-author a research report, share interesting conversations via audio or video, launch an ongoing content series together, build an educational course or host an event with the influencer as a guest speaker. Working alongside the influencer can help you gain affinity with new prospects and position your brand as a trusted, vetted vendor.

When choosing potential partners, ensure there are shared interests and goals between all parties. Unaligned collaborations will appear inauthentic and ultimately unsuccessful. This can also be said for B2C influencer partnerships. When you partner with an influencer, you tie your brand to theirs. What they stand for – or don't stand for – reflects on your organization. Identifying aligned partners who feel comfortable elevating your brand message is essential. Don't engage someone just for their community size if they aren't a fit for your goals, topic alignment or target audience.

Paid Partnerships on LinkedIn

If co-creation isn't working for your strategy, influencers can still help you reach target audiences by spreading the word. Pursue paid partnerships where an influencer positively mentions or recommends you to their following. Growing in popularity, LinkedIn now prompts users to add official partnership labels on posts that they've received compensation for.

Paid content must still appear natural or have an element of entertainment or added value to be effective. Get creative with prompts and avoid being overly scripted. Encourage contests, challenges, sharing and conversations.

B2C channels for B2B

B2B influencer marketing doesn't have to stray too far from the traditional influencer construct. Your target customers are following B2C accounts. Don't forget that B2B decision-makers are people, too. Close to 40 percent of professionals in all sectors worldwide said they engaged with social content multiple times a day. As the number of young B2B decision-makers increases, social media's importance in B2B marketing strategies is exponential.

Instagram and TikTok might be the right platform for your company's B2B influencer campaign. Don't skimp on doing consumer research to figure out where they spend time, get their inspiration and who they trust. You might be surprised. Did you know finance topics outperform B2C topics on TikTok?

For example, if you're an insurance provider looking to promote property coverage to restaurant owners, you have a lot of choices. There are restaurant owners and chefs online who have large and engaged followings. They provide fellow restaurant owners with inspiration, advice, and community. Working with these more consumer-facing influencers can help B2B brands get in front of potential customers who may have otherwise been difficult to reach or resistant to a sales pitch.

Collaborate with Clients

To boost authenticity, it benefits brands by leveraging client clout. If you have a client who is well-known or seen as influential, their endorsement can help elevate your brand.

Try expanding beyond that classic case study or testimonial and collaborate with clients to mention you in a social post. For example, Zapier worked with well-known content marketer Erin Balsa to beta-test new product features. As a true user of the software, she shared a helpful and relatable review of new capabilities on LinkedIn to drum up excitement for the eventual release.

Additionally, pursue awards, speaking engagements and earned media opportunities in partnership with your clients. This joint visibility in third-party outlets is mutually beneficial and a value-add for clients who may be looking to build thought leadership.

Employees as Influencers

Influencers can be hired on by brands as employees or brands can encourage employees to become more influential online. Either way, employees can be your biggest brand advocates.

For example, Cognism hired Ryan Riesert and then Morgan Ingram, both established experts on cold calling best practices and someone their target audience, sales professionals, had familiarity with and trusted. Once hired, their audiences were instantly made aware of Cognism and their expertise was associated with the brand. They became spokespeople with deep knowledge of the product and brand values.

Employees can become your best ambassadors and marketers. Personal LinkedIn profiles outperform company pages with 2.75 times more impressions and 5 times more engagement. That's why global brands like Cisco are training employees on how to use LinkedIn and share their work experiences. By regularly posting educational content and real workplace experiences, employees can stay top-of-mind with their network and elevate company expertise until prospects are ready to buy.

Succeed in the Modern B2B Landscape

Working with B2B influencers is part of a larger shift in B2B marketing. Buyers are seeking authenticity and credibility in their information sources and prefer recommendations over hard sales. Collaborating with influential figures to promote your brand has become indispensable.

As you embrace the shifting dynamics of the B2B journey, remember that personality-led marketing is not just a trending tactic; it's a gateway to building trust and expanding your brand's visibility. So, think bigger, collaborate and reap the rewards.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Abby Papenfus is director of growth and strategy at Belle Communication.