By Siobhan Chesher

The power of the personal recommendation has been amplified since the dawn of social media influencers – so you should be asking yourself how to use influencers in your B2B marketing strategy.

Real people add authenticity to the messages your brand sends out, whether that comes from an online influencer who is a respected outsider or someone inside your business with expertise and a great reputation.

A study by found that influencer marketing delivers an 11 times higher ROI than traditional digital marketing streams. That underlines the value of a non-marketing voice as part of your B2B marketing strategy.

So where do you start with B2B influencer marketing?

Build a profile

You’re looking for the right online influencer to raise the profile of your business in the right places. So you have to figure out precisely who that will be.

The pool you’ll be looking at is likely to include respected entrepreneurs, business consultants operating in your industry, authors and academics. Some of them you may know personally, some you may not.

This is where your research begins – and the first question to ask is: “Are they relevant to our business?”

Just as you wouldn’t expect social media influencer extraordinaire Kylie Jenner to promote power tools to her beauty-obsessed followers, the people you have fronting your B2B influencer marketing must have expertise in your specialist area.

Influence doesn’t suddenly happen to an individual – it’s a by-product of their expertise in a subject. And it’s that expertise and their reputation that you’re seeking to leverage. Remember that you’re not looking for broad appeal – you’re looking for someone who’s niche but known. Precision is key in getting through to the people who make decisions about buying your product or using your service.

From here, you have to look into their use of social media channels, digging into their following to ensure it’s relevant to your brand and checking out engagement. It’s all very well having 50,000 followers, but if no one is talking back, liking or sharing an influencer’s content, what influence does that person really have? A social media influencer with a smaller, more engaged, more relevant following might suit your brand’s purposes more.

Then you have to dig into their past – what have they posted about previously and how does that sit with your business, what B2B influencer marketing have they been involved in, have they worked with your rivals, are there any conflicts of interest?

Take a look at media coverage of the online influencer in question. What are journalists saying about them? And what kind of reach or appeal do they have away from social media – are they interviewed by newspapers and magazines regularly, do they have a podcast, are they established public speakers?

Don’t forget about the advocates on your own doorstep. There are people already in your business with expertise, a solid reputation and great contacts. These are people who are already driving business your way. Some of them will have hundreds, if not thousands, of followers on social media, with LinkedIn a particularly fertile ground for B2B marketing.

Your colleagues’ success is tied to the company’s success so ask them to invest some time in showing off exactly what the firm can do.

Start a relationship

You’ve found the influencer you reckon suits your B2B marketing strategy to a T. It’s time to make the pitch. Explain what you would like to accomplish and how you aim to do that. Explain why and how you think the influencer can help you.

Remember that B2B influencer marketing does not have the instant effect seen in B2C influencer marketing. Relationships between businesses grow slowly. There can months and many points of contact between a business being introduced to a brand and that business becoming a client of the brand. Processes and procedures mean decisions take longer but influencer marketing can ease that process along by adding value to early interactions with the brand.

With the B2B influencer playing a key part in the sales process they will need a detailed knowledge of your business. Let them in, let them get to know you, let them see what you can do. They’ll be more persuasive if they are better informed.

Content is king

It’s time to put that B2B influencer marketing strategy into action by building content. You can do this together or simply provide the influencer with the assets they’ll need, be that images, video or background detail.

The important thing is that what they deliver is delivered in their voice, not your company’s voice. People buy into the personality of the influencer as much as the advice and insight they provide – so let them do what they’re good at.

Content needn’t be limited to them posting on their blog, vlog, podcast and social channels. Look into guest blogging opportunities, or have them contribute a guest post on your company blog.

Perhaps you could work with multiple influencers, asking each to contribute their thoughts on a subject to create a series of blogs or how-to guides that could later be collated as a free ebook, for example.

And do the opportunities have to be limited to online? Seek out speaking opportunities or invite them to speak at an event or conference your company runs. Stream the event online, or post video footage later.

The key thing is that none of this should be content for content’s sake. It all has to have value that drives prospective clients to interact with your business. People listen to good advice and powerful insights, so give them some. Great content can’t just be advertising. It has to give the people reading, listening or watching more than that – they have to learn or be entertained while you demonstrate your abilities and expertise.

Remember those key employees we were talking about earlier? Use that expertise to set them up as your own in-house B2B influencers – get them blogging or vlogging or ask them to record a podcast. Don’t forget that people have to know about your content so ask workers to share it on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. And get them to like and share whatever your influencers are producing.

While you’re at it, consider the power of micro-influencers – in the form of happy customers. Would they consider filming testimonials you could edit together into a short video? Skilfully done, video gets far better online engagement than still pictures or words alone, halting social media users mid-scroll.

Assess the impact

As I’ve already pointed out, deals in the B2B sector can be slow to come to fruition. But it is possible to get an idea of the success of using influencers in your B2B marketing strategy.

On social, look out for signs of an upturn in engagement – are you getting more mentions, are more people interacting on Twitter and LinkedIn? Is traffic to your website up, and is there any correlation with postings the influencer has made?

Digging into the data about your online presence and spotting trends will help demonstrate the effectiveness of your influencer campaign and inform the ongoing strategy.

We are the B2B marketing experts. Contact us now on 0800 612 9890.