Influencer marketing—the practice of partnering with influential individuals to communicate a brand message—is hardly a new concept for B2C companies. In fact, back in the 1760s, the pottery company founder Josiah Wedgwood was using endorsements from painters, architects, and even royalty to promote his products. There’s centuries’ worth of evidence that influencer marketing can be an effective tool for B2C brands, but what about B2B companies?
If you own a B2B company, you might be under the impression that because you’re targeting a narrower audience than your B2C peers, influencer marketing just isn’t worth it. However, B2B influencer marketing can be incredibly effective, as long as you’re working with the niche B2B influencers that your target buyers follow.
How Influencer Marketing Can Benefit B2B Brands
Collaborating with niche influencers—including industry analysts, conference speakers, and other thought leaders—can help you:
Humanize Your Brand
While you may be selling your products or services to businesses, it’s important to remember that it’s still people who are doing the buying. And those people aren’t likely to connect with your brand if you hide behind dry industry jargon and generic lists of product features. B2B influencers give your brand a human face and inject personality into your message, helping you appeal to your target audience and stand out from competitors.
Capture the Attention of Difficult-to-Reach Leads
One of the biggest challenges in B2B marketing is capturing high-quality leads at the right time. Industry influencers who align with your brand can reach a highly-targeted audience at different stages of the buyer’s journey, and with the right message, they can nudge those audience members towards your business.
When you invest in influencer marketing for B2B, you’re making an investment in your brand’s reputation. B2B influencers have dedicated a lot of time and effort to build trust with their audience, and when they make a recommendation, their audience listens. If you find an influencer who believes in your product or services, you’ll earn the trust of their followers.
3 Standout B2B Influencer Marketing Examples
Hopefully, you’re starting to see how powerful B2B influencer marketing can be. If you’re still unconvinced, check out these examples of B2B influencer marketing campaigns that had a major impact:
GE’s Instagram Series Takes Flight
General Electric was ahead of the curb with B2B influencer marketing: way back in 2013, they invited six influential Instagram photographers to tour and document their newest aviation facility. The company also shared an Instagram post inviting six aviation fans to join them on the tour by posting a sentence about why they were the biggest GE #avgeek. In less than 24 hours, the post got over 1,000 likes and over 130 comments.
Since this initial campaign, GE has launched their #GEInstaWalk series on Instagram. They now regularly invite some of Instagram’s best photographers and biggest tech aficionados to tour and take pictures of their cutting-edge facilities.
American Express Shares Design Tips with SMBs
American Express wants to appeal to small business owners, and one way they do this is by teaming up with experts who can address the pain points small business owners often experience. As part of their Love My Store campaign, they partnered with HGTV Design Star winner Emily Henderson to make a series of videos about in-store design. In the videos, Henderson visited different stores and offered the owners advice on using design and signage to attract more customers. American Express also invited small business owners to post photos of their storefront with the hashtag #LoveMyStoreAmexContest for a chance to win a one-on-one consultation with Henderson.
SAP Captures an Online Audience with Influencer Interviews
SAP, an enterprise software company, decided to use B2B influencer marketing to get more mileage out of Sapphire, their annual user conference. The company identified authors, academics, and independent business consultants who could speak on topics that appealed to SAP product users, and then invited those influencers to participate in interviews at the Sapphire conference. SAP used Facebook Live to broadcast these interviews, extending their conference content to over 80,000 people who didn’t attend. In addition to sharing their videos on Facebook, they also leveraged the interviews to create blog content.
Ways Your Company Can Use Influencer Marketing
It’s not just big brands like American Express and GE that can benefit from using B2B influencer marketing. Here are a few ways B2B companies of any size can start working with niche influencers:
- Collaborate on a whitepaper. You could ask an influencer to co-author a whitepaper or eBook, but if the influencer you want to work with doesn’t have the time for such an extensive project, they could simply contribute several “Expert Tips.”
- Write an “expert round-up” blog post. These blog posts often pose one question (e.g. How has social media marketing changed your business?) and collect responses from several industry insiders. If you curate this type of piece, ask the experts who contribute to help extend the post’s reach by sharing it with their social networks.
- Invite an influencer to co-host a webinar. Attract more participants to your next webinar by inviting an influencer your audience respects to co-host. Not only will working with an influencer boost your authority, it will also add an interesting perspective to the webinar that you might not have gotten otherwise.
- Write a guest post for an influencer’s blog (or vice versa). In some cases, an influencer might be willing to write a guest post for your blog in exchange for you contributing a post to theirs.
- Conduct an interview with an industry expert. You could conduct the interview over the phone or email if the expert is remote, but if they’re in the same city, see if you can do a video interview. This will give you visually appealing content to share on your site and social media.
Remember, there are many different ways you can work with B2B influencers, but none of these strategies will be fully effective if the influencer’s message doesn’t align with your brand. Do your research: instead of just chasing the influencers with the most fans or followers, look for micro-influencers who resonate with your target audience.