When you hear the term “influencer marketing” you might think of lifestyle influencers demo’ing or reviewing fitness products for the B2C context. However, influencer marketing is popular and effective in the B2B space as well. 86% of B2B companies have launched successful influencer marketing campaigns.
Influencer marketing is a relatively new branch of marketing in which a company partners with an influential person on a subject to speak about that brand. Influencers are different from a traditional paid spokesperson in that they facilitate a conversation with their audience; the messaging is interactive, not one-way. And the influencer has a lot of control over how they communicate a brand’s message, so they are not a puppet for the brand they partner with.
What is B2B Influencer Marketing?
B2B influencer marketing is the practice of using someone—like a “thought leader”—or something influential—like a well-known event—to market a B2B product or service. The basic concept is essentially the same whether it’s for B2B or B2C. However, B2B influencer marketing is different in several ways, namely in terms of time, money, and medium.
B2B Marketing: A Marathon With Many Runners, Not a Sprint
B2B influencer marketing requires a bigger budget and a longer timeline because of the nature of the B2B buying journey. B2B purchasing involves several decision makers who conduct omnichannel research. This means that the buying team is made up of several members who have different priorities. And they’re consuming content from a variety of sources, be it blogs, video, white papers, or other media. So, while B2C influencer marketing may lead to a quick transaction, influencer marketing is but one of the marketing tools deployed in the B2B buying journey.
Another key difference between B2B and B2C influencer marketing is that the latter is embodied in an influential person with many followers. This person speaks directly to consumers and subtly encourages them to try or buy a product or service. B2B influencer marketing does not necessarily involve an influential person and is actually much more pervasive than we realize. B2B influencer marketing reaches audiences through a number of influential platforms and events that may or may not involve an influential person:
- Sporting events
- Conference and tradeshow sponsorships
- Traditional media, such as TV, radio, or billboards
- Social media communities, especially LinkedIn, 25% of whose members are considered senior-level influencers
- Webinars which are currently the most popular venue for B2B influencer marketing
Read more about how B2B influencer marketing is different and how to do it: B2B Influencer Marketing Campaigns & Outreach
What Does B2B Influencer Marketing Look Like at Each Stage of the Buyer’s Journey?
The B2B buying process is a journey that breaks down into roughly three stages: top, middle, and bottom of the sales funnel.
Top of Funnel
At the top of the sales funnel, a B2B company’s primary goal is to spread awareness of its brand. As with traditional B2B marketing, top-of-funnel B2B influencer marketing does not directly sell, promote, or review the product or service. Rather, at this stage, the point is to simply get a business’s name out there without much context besides perhaps a URL. And the manner in which B2B influencing takes place doesn’t necessarily occur in a professional environment.
B2B influencer marketing works in a subtle, pervasive, and yet persuasive manner to target members of a certain demographic, even in their free time. An example of this is sponsorship at sporting events, such as Formula One racing. Dozens if not hundreds of Amazon Web Services signs are visible along the track to ensure spectators can see the name from any angle. Cognizant and Oracle sponsor the Aston Martin and Redbull teams respectively. Crowdstrike has sponsored the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team in Formula One since 2019. Its name even appears on the Formula One safety car.
AWS, Cognizant, Oracle, and Crowdstrike are not targeting end consumers here. As a cloud-based endpoint protection service provider, Crowdstrike is reaching consumers in their free time, so when those Formula One fans return to their work lives, Crowdstrike is top of mind when their company seeks out cybersecurity services.
Middle of Funnel
B2B influencer marketing at the middle of the funnel provides more context to a company name that is now more established and well known in the industry. This stage is, therefore, more conducive to utilizing a thought leader in the industry. A B2B influencer can name drop in their blog or video in the context of a problem that companies—as potential customers—are trying to solve. This increases the chances of a company landing on the shortlist of its potential customers.
An example of this is Video Fruit’s CEO writing guest blog posts on influential entrepreneurial websites to target small business owners. Guest contributions to an influential blog, podcast, or Youtube channel may name drop, but the content drives the value of the content, not the selling company’s name.
Video Fruit’s CEO uses this influential site as a platform to show he understands small business owners’ challenges with managing email lists and email marketing campaigns. That understanding and speaking to the audience on their terms takes precedence over the company name Video Fruit. Nevertheless, writing good content for the site draws attention to the brand. Video Fruit saw a 500% spike in traffic to their landing page and a 600% increase in unique page views after the CEO posted to the blog. In this scenario, B2B influencer marketing thrives on an influential site rather than through one influential person.
Bottom of Funnel
At the bottom of the funnel, buying intent and readiness is high. Stakeholders in the B2B buying journey want to know even more details about a product or service that will influence their final buying decision. B2B influencer marketing provides a lot of detailed information about a brand’s product or service, covering aspects that B2B buyers are ready to evaluate and compare, such as:
- Technical details, for software solutions
- Differentiating features
American Express, for example, has become a model for influencer marketing success on Instagram over the past decade. Using the hashtag #AmexAmbassadors, the company launched a successful ongoing campaign with Instagram influencers who travel frequently and live a luxurious lifestyle to demonstrate the exclusive perks of the American Express Platinum credit card. The goal of the campaign was to convert managers and business executives to use the card for their own business travel and expenses. However, the campaign has expanded to include small business owners and end consumers as well.
Being a well-known name in the financial industry for both consumers and businesses alike, American Express’s bottom-of-funnel influencer marketing campaign focuses solely on the Platinum credit card and its benefits.
Why B2B Influencer Marketing is Effective
B2B influencer marketing is effective because it:
- Boosts brand awareness and reputation
- Generates new leads
- Can directly increase revenue
But B2C influencer marketing achieves these outcomes as well. What makes B2B influencer marketing especially powerful and unique is that it humanizes the B2B buying journey. It does so by using influential thought leaders in a given industry.
Yet, B2B influencer marketing doesn’t need a person to be successful. It can reach key decision-making stakeholders through events, even those where they least expect to be influenced, like at a sporting event.
The variety of channels available for B2B marketing—events, content, and social media—are conducive to the drawn-out, omnichannel research process that a B2B buying committee undertakes. And these avenues allow companies to reach their business customers at any stage of the sales funnel.
Listen to this B2B Nation podcast episode next: How to Launch Influencer Marketing in B2B