Can you believe I am even saying that phrase? “Average” influencer. The concept of a social media influencer has been around since 2009 with the influx of bloggers and YouTube. The term “Influencer Phenomenon” was actually coined that year. However, the idea of influencing C2B purchasing has been around since 1760. Google “Josiah Westwood” if you don’t believe me.
You mean B2B influencers were BEFORE B2C?
Essentially, B2B influencer marketing has been around since the beginning of commerce. When the dairyman told all the bakers that he delivered to that they should purchase flour from a certain miller and that miller gave him flour for his household as repayment, B2B influencer marketing was born. At its core, influencer marketing is a field of marketing that focuses on using key leaders to drive or showcase a brand message to the larger market. Rather than selling directly to a big group, instead, you can inspire, hire or even pay market influencers to promote what you have to offer.
In the world of networking, we see B2B influencers guide, direct and even enhance the experience a business has with another business. While we would like to think that slick ad campaigns and ad-spend are directing traffic, it is still the person-to-person influence that guides both people and businesses to each other.
How do I find B2B influencers for my business?
Ask yourself who your current advocates are. Who already speaks highly of you? Who refers business to you? Advocates aren’t always clients or customers. Sometimes, we must look at our vendors and suppliers. Other times, we must look at other professionals connected to our leadership. Advocates will speak highly of our people, products, or services. Who is already talking about you? Who speaks highly of your staff or team? Who speaks highly of your product or product line?
Who do your customers also trust? Are you a product or service that can be referred by another provider? Think about tires. If you are a fleet manager and you are purchasing new tires for several vehicles in the fleet, you may discover you need brakes. You may also mention to your tire dealer that you need to have some new decal work done. Your tire provider suggests a brake shop that specializes in fleet maintenance. They may suggest a painting and decal service that one of their other clients uses.
The know-like-trust factor works B2B. Did the tire provide need the brake guy or decal person? No, most likely the brake shop and the decal creator reached out to create a B2B connection that would benefit the tire dealer (and themselves). If you know other businesses that your clients regularly utilize, your business can build a B2B influencer connection with benefits for all.
Where do your B2B clients connect? Do they connect on social channels? Do they tag referral partners? Do they recommend services and providers to their own clients as a value-add? Where are they also sharing information on non-social channels such as podcasts, speaking events and books?
Think about sponsoring a speaking event where a potential B2B connector is presenting. Build a relationship with them off-stage in order to get the shout out on-stage. Feature potential B2B on your own company podcast. Showcasing your relationship with potential B2B influencers and companies will aid the trust factor for other businesses to connect with you.
Have you checked affiliations and relevance? It is easy to speed forward and engage another B2B as a possible connector or influencer. However, you need to take some time to vet the affiliations and relevance of the connection. While it might seem like a business would be an ideal connection and influence, their affiliations and company culture may not be an ideal fit and could create some reputation, brand and image problems in the long run. Checking affiliations and relevance is as simple as doing a Google search, website review or social media audit in other to notice any connections related to affiliations or relevance.
What is your plan for co-creation? If you are just hoping your B2B influencer is sharing your service/product accurately or is referring potential clients through the right contact at your company, you are not going to receive the impact you are looking for through this influencer. B2B influencing is about co-creation. The relationship you develop with a B2B influencer and the education and resources you provide to help them make the most impact for you will ultimately.
How do you plan to “compensate”? Not all influencer marketing requires you to pay for time. Sometimes, B2B connections are made that are just about giving valuable connections. Could a “paid” influencer provide value? Absolutely. But you should determine the best influencer for your product or service. Then determine if that influencer relationship should be a compensated one or a value/ connection one.
Are you convinced?
Just a few years ago, businesses would have balked at the idea of using Influencer Marketing in their marketing strategy. It was considered “celebrity” and a hack. However, businesses have been using this technique long before it was given a trendy name and celebrity status. The key to using this style well is to know the purpose, audience and tools necessary to make it work effectively. Knowing your audience and the key influencers in your industry, professional network or community can make the biggest difference.
Influencer marketing is all about relationships. Your relationship with an “influencer” and their relationship with your client/customer or prospects. It should definitely be a part of your plan. After all, this was created by businesses for businesses. Don’t let the trendy term fool you!
My guess is that you have already been using this technique or are an influencer yourself. You just didn’t know you were doing it. Now, do it with purpose!
Author: Liz Papagni is the number one, best-selling author of “Your Marketing Roadmap,” founder of MyCMO, and CEO of Marketing Initiative Worx, Inc. Liz is a leading brand and marketing thought leader who has worked with a vast array of clients, from established small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. As a marketing and leadership expert with a passion for helping companies develop strategies that convince and convert customers, she has launched and propelled numerous brands nationwide. You can contact Liz at marketingiw.com