Influencer marketing has been a growing trend in digital marketing over the past few years, and it’s only gaining momentum in 2017. B2C brands have historically been the most eager adopters of influencer marketing, and many B2B brands feel like this channel doesn’t offer as many opportunities for them. While it might seem like influencer marketing works harder for B2C brands that have products that are natural fodder for influencer posts, the opportunities for B2B brands certainly exist — you just need to know where to look.
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The benefits of influencer marketing
Before we get into some examples of B2B influencer marketing, let’s cover the benefits of investing in this channel.
Influencers can add a level of authenticity to your marketing that is otherwise difficult to achieve. Influencers spend years gaining audiences and developing their reputations as trustworthy individuals within their communities. The result is that influencer content and posts carry a certain amount of built-in authenticity that brands can benefit from.
Because influencers spend years establishing themselves in their fields, they’ve usually gained reputations as authoritative sources. Their followers look to them for insight and advice in their industry, which means that by partnering with them, your brand can benefit from a boost in authority.
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3. Content that isn’t “selling”
Many of us are looking for ways to create more content for our brands — but it’s not only about having more content, it’s about having better content. Content generated by your brand, no matter how useful or valuable to your users, is still always associated with your brand and with your ultimate goal of selling. A key benefit of influencer marketing is that it generates fresh content for your brand that comes from a voice that isn’t directly associated with selling.
Influencers come with built-in audiences — audiences who may have never heard of your brand before. When they publish content related to your brand, or partner with you on an initiative, that means they’re helping put you out in front of a new audience. Influencers can help expand the reach of your content and marketing efforts.
B2B influencer marketing examples
LinkedIn has a huge user base of B2B influencers, a user base it drew on for the creation of its “Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn.” The handy 48-page guide helps marketers figure out how to use LinkedIn to its full potential as a marketing tool. The guide makes a strong case for LinkedIn, which would be compelling on its own, but it’s even further bolstered by the inclusion of B2B influencers. Each “chapter” of the guide includes an “Ask the Expert” Q&A with an influencer — in most cases, CEOs and authors who have authority in the fields of digital marketing and social media marketing.
Related: 10 Telling Examples of the Power of B2B Influencer Marketing
The inclusion of influencers in the guide serves two purposes. The first is to enhance the trustworthiness and authority of the content. The second is to encourage further reach — the experts included are likely to promote the guide, and their audiences are likely to engage with it.
American Express is a champion for small businesses. When it wanted to make its storefront decals a bit more aesthetically appealing to encourage store owners to use them, it launched the Love My Store campaign. The company partnered with Grace Bonney from the blog Design*Sponge to design six new storefront decals to appeal to small business owners. It also created a video series with HGTV personality Emily Henderson that focused on teaching small businesses how to use their storefronts and merchandising to attract customers.
Grace Bonney and Emily Henderson were both great choices for influencer partnerships. They’re trusted authorities in the interior design field — people that small businesses would feel comfortable taking design tips from.
One straightforward way to develop influencers and brand advocates is to lean on the reputation and expertise of an influential CEO. Marc Benioff is the founder and CEO of Salesforce, but he’s also a recognizable and revered figure in the tech space. Benioff has roughly 700,000 followers on Twitter, which means he has a big platform for thought leadership. He’s active on social media — promoting causes that matter to him and that are central to the mission of his company. This activity attracts followers and, notably, other influencers.
Related: How to Create a Successful Influencer Marketing Campaign
CEOs are naturally placed to act as the public face of the company. There is some risk of putting a CEO out front so publicly. Recent missteps by the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, for example, have drawn negative attention to the brand. But, CEOs with a positive message and a passion for their industry can act as influencers on behalf of their companies, ensuring that the company’s message and content is spread far and wide.
HubSpot is a master at content marketing. Its blogs are regularly updated and the content it posts is well-researched and developed. It ups its game by investing in partnerships with micro-influencers who have digital marketing and sales backgrounds. These influencers contribute content to HubSpot’s marketing and sales blogs. HubSpot benefits from the addition of new content from fresh voices. What’s more, the micro-influencers it partners with write about topics that come under their area of expertise, which means that HubSpot also benefits from a boost in authority that it might not otherwise have on staff.
It might seem like B2C marketers are having all the fun when it comes to influencer marketing. The truth, though, is that there are many ways B2B brands can use the channel to their benefit. Influencer marketing can help B2B brands create fresh content with built-in authority and a wide audience. Take a cue from the likes of AmEx, Salesforce, HubSpot and LinkedIn to see how influencer marketing can be incorporated into your brand’s digital marketing strategy.