Despite all the buzz, B2B influencer marketing is still a new frontier. True, the concept has been batted around a lot, but the rules and boundaries of this frontier are still being defined — especially in the B2B space!

A just-released study reports that 55% of B2C companies surveyed are running ongoing influencer programs. That compares to only 15% of B2B firms. Clearly, the use of influencer marketing in the B2B space is still evolving.

Yet, 71% of brand marketers surveyed ranked influencer marketing as a highly strategic or strategic marketing category. That augers well for B2B companies’ future use of influencer marketing.

The following chart shows how influencer marketing is an effective means of reaching many marketing goals.

Screen Shot 2017-02-10 at 10.14.55 AM.png

So what’s the holdup?

The Challenges Facing B2B Influencer Marketing

One major challenge can be likened to the chicken and the egg conundrum. It lies in proof. Executives want to see results and progress before they invest more money into influencer marketing. Marketers, however, need more budget and resources before they have tangible results. So which comes first — investment of money or proof of concept?

Another such challenge is oversaturation. People are inundated every day with advertisements and companies vying for their attention. When a trusted influencer that they follow begins to endorse a particular company or product, they begin to question whether it’s an authentic endorsement, or just a sellout for a big payday.


How can influencer marketing overcome these challenges? Read on as we discuss what you need to do to keep up with influencer marketing.

How to Embrace the Future of Influencer Marketing

  • Create a Dedicated Team Just For Influencers

Effective influencer marketing starts with long-term relationships. Forget short-term campaigns and blog posts… Think bigger. Think team. Instead of using different teams to nurture and execute influencer marketing, use one dedicated influencer relationship team. This team will cultivate and nurture influencer relationships, executing a plan for their use.

Traditionally, influencers have been owned by marketing departments. Yet limiting influencer marketing to one department weakens the effectiveness of this powerful tool. Consider that it can be used to buttress sales, support, and loyalty programs, to name a few. Expanding its role has an added benefit: It helps make the case for executives to invest resources into an influencer program. Remember that It’s not just a piece of a bigger whole. It is its own entity, with the ability to deliver on ROI, market shares, and brand scores.

  • Become More Empathetic

Marketing can at times be viewed as intrusive and impersonal. Influencer marketing can help to break that mold, and present a more personal touch to the everyday practice of marketing.

We’re not talking about tired celebrity endorsements. We’re talking about human beings who have developed a community of individuals who follow them for a variety of personal or professional reasons — and who have become their loyal audience.

Influencer marketing is not about using an influencer’s audience to broadcast your message — it needs to go deeper. If you want to be effective, you need to provide real value to both influencers and their audience.

This does not start with an influencer — it starts with you. Before you can market to individuals, you must understand what their values are, and prepare something that will meet those values. This takes time, care, and nurturing, when done correctly.

There is no more B2B or B2C. It’s human to human. Social and marketing need to work together to personalize individual conversations, as well as deliver shared global experiences. –Bryan Kramer

  • Keep Up with the Technology

In our technology-driven world, customers have become more informed, empowered, and discerning than ever before. Attention spans have become shorter and more focused. Campaigns of the past have lost their efficacy. And the way people browse and search the internet has evolved. Is your marketing keeping up with these changes?

Embrace these changes. Learn from them. Show that you’re keeping pace with your customers and prospects — if you don’t, you will be left behind. What new platforms are being used to connect with prospects? What new technology is being used to target your marketing approach? Don’t let these changes pass you by.

Use Influencer Relationship Management tools to find influencers, and nurture mutually beneficial relationships with them. These tools can help you see which influencers are right for your industry. Use programs that help you learn more about your customers, their needs and values, and even measure your success throughout the influencer process.

Here are some tools that have proved successful in influencer marketing:

  • Traackr
  • Right Relevance Pro
  • Klout
  • Buzzstream
  • Onalytics
  • GroupHigh

Research and find other tools that will help to advance your efforts in influencer marketing. The technology is there — you just have to use it.

  • Align Your Content with Your Influencer Goals

Influencer marketing is not about retaining the person with the most Twitter followers and then sitting back. You need to do your part if this influencer relationship is going to work. It starts with your content. You must craft content that meets your customers’ needs, and make it easily sharable. The key elements for influencers are engaging content and community engagement. Give them eye-catching content that they can present to their followers.

Potential customers look for more than a simple endorsement from an influencer when they make a purchase decision. They want credible content that fills their current needs, and will lead them to make the right decision. Your role in this equation is to create killer content that will fuel your influencer marketing and meet your goals.


Influencer Marketing in Action

This may all sound rosy in theory — but what about in practice? A recently released study on influencer marketing analyzed how one company successfully used influencer marketing to spark a digital transformation in its company, and reach new customers.

Screen Shot 2017-02-10 at 12.05.20 PM.png

SAP, a global leader in business applications, had created a rich collection of compelling content, but needed something more. Enter influencer marketing. SAP was able to find 11 influencers that fit its industry and needs, and invited them to participate in SAPPHIRE, its annual user conference, which atttacts 20,000 in-person attendees and 100,000 on-line viewers.

At the conference, these influencers streamed live interviews and other content to their audience — thus extending SAP’s reach, and generating evergreen content for SAP’s future use. 17 percent of the buzz about the event was generated by influencers. This content, and the online conversation it created, provided internal proof to SAP of how effective influencer marketing is, and paved the way for continued success in its global marketing.

How Effective Is It?

Influencer marketing has shown some promising results. An impressive 94% of marketers who use this method say that it has proven effective. On average, for every dollar spent on an influencer marketing program, companies get $6.50 back.

How to Create Your Own Influencer Marketing Program

  1. Set Goals — What are the specific goals for your influencer marketing program? Would you like to increase brand awareness? Improve brand advocacy? Manage reputation? Increase sales?
  2. Identify Your Key Audience — Whom do you want to reach? What audience will help you reach your goals?
  3. Find the Best Influencers — Who is your key audience following on social media? How many followers do these people have?
  4. Watch the Influencers — Observe first. What topics do they write about? What do they share? How much do they engage with their audience?
  5. Engage with Influencers — Once the observation stage is over, start to build a relationship with these influencers. Share their content. Start conversations with them. Learn more about their interests and goals.
  6. Measure Your Results — What metrics would you like to see from your relationship with an influencer? Define these, and keep track of the results.

Key Points to Remember

  • Create a dedicated team to manage and nurture influencer relations.
  • Empathy for the customer’s journey is key to effective influencer marketing
  • Leverage available digital tools to enhance your influencer marketing experience and results.
  • Create killer content that your influencers can share, and that their audiences will want to read.

Influencer marketing is far from a stagnant field. It is growing and evolving in ways that we couldn’t have foreseen just a few years ago. It’s essential to stay abreast of these changes if only to reap the many benefits they can bring.