In today’s digital marketing landscape, consumers and businesses alike are assigning more and more power to a source they trust: the influencer.
Tomoson found that the majority of influencer marketing campaigns yield $6.50 for every dollar. And this high return on investment is one reason among many that marketers continue to increase their budget for influencer marketing.
While people are familiar with the influencer’s role in B2C marketing, B2B influencer marketing remains uncharted for many businesses. The reality is, influencer marketing is the missing ingredient for many B2B campaigns.
It’s common for consumers to try out different brands and experiment with products. B2B purchases, however, are calculated, planned, and coincide with long-term goals. Consider how a B2C Instagram post is able to prompt purchases almost instantly. This isn’t the case with B2B marketing. The sales cycles in B2B transactions are often extensive, drawn-out processes.
Here is where the influencer becomes especially crucial with business-to-business initiatives: it is standard practice for B2B buyers to make inquiries among peers before ever making direct contact with a potential brand. In fact, the majority of the B2B buyer’s journey happens autonomously, with the buyer researching products online, reading reviews, and discussing products with peers (or influencers they follow), on social media (oftentimes, dark social). These peer inquiries are taken seriously; they are treated like research. And getting strong approval from a well-respected influencer in the industry can become a critical data point in the B2B buyer’s research and cache of peer input.
Because B2B purchases leave no room for trial and error, preliminary research in the form of peer input is frequently guided by B2B influencers.
Interested in orchestrating a B2B influencer campaign for your brand? Read on. In this ultimate guide, we’ll cover:
- What type of influencer do I need?
- What kinds of B2B influencer partnerships are there?
- Things to consider: De-influencers
- How do I set up a B2B influencer marketing contract?
- You’ve found your influencer—what now?
- Bonus: Influencer Marketing Case Studies!
What type of influencer do I need?
Choose expertise over a fame
Sometimes, companies are under the impression that an influencer far outside their organization is the key to innovation. But the best advocates can come in the form of existing customers, business partners, and, in the case of IBM, employees.
IBM’s clients work in banking, the tech industry, education, and more. What better group of influencers to reach this diverse clientele than IBM’s own employees? By being involved in the creation and distribution of products, the IBM employees’ social media presence established a high level of trust.
If you don’t have an influencer in your organization, consider subject-matter experts in your industry. They don’t need to be “famous,” but they should be able to garner engaged followers.
Observe current sources of influence and find the hidden ones
Find out where your customers currently get their information from and who they trust as advisors. By determining which platforms your customers are already on, and who your customers are reading, listening to, following, and watching, you can select a relevant B2B influencer that will align with your customers’ consulted sources. Do your research, create as well as disseminate surveys, and look into new tools that allow you to hone in on your industry’s present conversation.
Related reading: The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Platforms for B2B Influencer Marketing
Identify high-priority requirements
Your B2B influencer needs to be primed for extensive exposure. This means looking at the influencer’s presence across all channels and if followers are further expanding a story’s exposure by sharing.
You also want to look at engagement. Depending on your needs, determine if an influencer with a large following but little engagement is more important to you than an influencer who has a small following but consistently engages.
The frequency of posting is also important to consider. You want your B2B influencer to regularly contribute on social media with relevant and timely content.
While it can be tempting to go with the influencer who has the most followers—often called macro-influencers—the truth is that influencers with fewer followers—often called nano- or micro-influencers—tend to have higher engagement rates.
If you’re in a niche industry or have a highly segmented audience, often a micro-influencer will do a better job targeting your audience and really making an impact on their purchase decisions than a broader but less influential macro-influencer.
Related reading: Too Niche for B2B Influencer Marketing? Think Again (+ a case study!)
What kinds of B2B influencer partnerships are there?
From webinars and interviews to brand ambassadors and event collaborations, the options are nearly limitless. B2Bs can take advantage of several types of influencer partnerships. Some of the most popular B2B influencer strategies include:
- LinkedIn Fireside Chats: Host a virtual chat with an industry influencer to discuss a topic relevant to your audience. Your company can set the topic and someone from your team can act as moderator. You can ask the influencer a set of questions about the topic, or host a more casual conversation between the influencer and one of your business leaders. Whatever format you choose, you can reshare the conversation after the fact to create strong thought leadership content for your brand. This is a great way to position your brand as a leader in the field while also creating a valuable resource for your audience.
- Webinar: Similar to fireside chats, webinars can get your brand in front of an audience by capturing their interest with a relevant topic. Host a webinar and bring in speakers (influencers) who are popular in your field to discuss the topic at hand. Consider topics that are relevant to cultural moments—perhaps a shift in your industry, or how to use an innovation like ChatGPT—and bring in people with unique perspectives.
- Podcast Sponsorships: B2Bs can benefit from sponsored content by having the influencer’s followers engage with more in-depth and thought-provoking content that presents their brand in a more compelling way. Because B2B stakeholders are more likely to engage with industry-specific podcasts, you’ll get a greater impact by sponsoring a smaller podcast about topics relevant to your field than a larger podcast with a broad audience.
- Product Reviews: This type of influencer partnership involves having the influencer test and review a B2B’s product or service. The influencer will then share their honest feedback and experiences with their followers on their personal website or their social media platforms, which can help increase brand awareness and credibility. B2Bs can also utilize this type of partnership to gather valuable insights and feedback from their target audience.
- Panels: Sponsoring a panel or even sending a company representative or influencer to be part of a panel can put your brand in front of customers in a more subtle way, showcasing your team first and your products or services second. If you’re looking to grow your organization or catch the interest of investors,
- Event Collaboration: B2B brands can partner with influencers to host or attend events. The influencer can help with promoting the event to their followers, as well as give a keynote speech or participate in a panel discussion to add credibility and expertise to the event. This type of partnership can benefit both the brand and the influencer, as it allows the brand to reach new audiences and increase brand awareness, while the influencer can add a new dimension to their personal brand by collaborating with a reputable B2B brand.
Each type of influencer partnership has its own strengths and weaknesses, and B2Bs should choose the one that aligns best with their marketing goals and target audience. And, remember, any method by which a brand and an influencer agree to work together is an influencer partnership. So, while these examples are great starting points and some of the most common ways B2Bs choose to leverage their influencer partnerships, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and develop a strategy that is entirely unique.
Things to consider: De-influencers: a response to the inauthentic
There has been a growing trend of consumers becoming more critical of marketing and the impact it has on their purchasing decisions. This trend, known as de-influencing (or anti-influencing), has led to consumers calling out inauthentic influencers and cautioning the public against buying the products they represent.
As consumers become more critical of influencer marketing, they are seeking out authentic and trustworthy influencers who are truly qualified to speak on the products they represent. Our ever-discerning modern buyers want subject-matter experts who are well-versed in their niche and capable of offering their real and authentic opinions and experiences.
Beyond wanting influencers with the right knowledge and background to represent your brand, you need to consider how your brand’s values align with the influencers you work with. De-influencers are quick to call out a lack of alignment in values. And gaps in what you claim to believe and the behaviors your influencers invoke are sure to erode the trust your buyers have in your brand.
Discuss your company’s values and mission with your potential influencer partners and make sure you are in alignment before moving forward. We recommend reviewing their previous posts to see if the image they are portraying to you is consistent with how they behave online.
How do I set up a B2B influencer marketing contract?
As with any business partnership, it’s important to establish clear expectations and protect the brand’s interests. Here are some best practices to help you ensure your influencer marketing contract is up to snuff.
Clearly State Deliverables and Expectations: Brands should make sure the type and amount of deliverables are clearly stated and that the brand’s expectations are communicated in advance. This can include metrics for success, such as increasing brand awareness, driving traffic to a product, or reaching a new audience.
Establish a Timeline: Explain the campaign’s timeline and when your brand expects the influencer to submit their deliverables. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal.
Measure Campaign Success: Provide the influencer with custom UTM links or product codes to help your brand track the campaign’s efforts correctly. Require the influencer to submit analytics over their sponsored content, so your brand can measure campaign success.
Review by the Legal Team: Before sending the contract to the influencer, make sure your legal team has reviewed it to ensure that all legal obligations and considerations are in order.
So those are the best practices, but what exactly does an influencer contract look like? How should your team be writing one?
- Introduce parties: In this section, the parties involved in the agreement should be introduced, including the brand and the influencer. This helps to clearly define who is involved in the partnership and what their roles and responsibilities are.
- Present all legal obligations and considerations: This section should outline all of the legal obligations and considerations for the partnership, such as FTC guidelines for influencer marketing and any other applicable laws. This helps to ensure that the partnership is in compliance with all legal requirements.
- Content ownership and rights: This section should clearly define the ownership and rights to any content produced as part of the partnership. For example, the brand may retain the rights to use the content for future marketing efforts, while the influencer may retain the rights to use the content for personal use.
- Provide reasons for contract termination: This section should outline the reasons why the contract may be terminated, such as non-compliance with legal obligations, failure to meet the agreed-upon deliverables, or any other reasons deemed necessary by the brand.
- Scope of work: This section should clearly define the scope of work for the partnership, including the type and amount of deliverables, the timeline, and any other relevant details.
- Privacy and confidentiality information and clearance: This section should outline any privacy and confidentiality information that needs to be protected, such as trade secrets or confidential information about the brand or its products. This section may also include a confidentiality agreement (NDA) to help ensure that sensitive information remains confidential.
By following these steps and including these key elements in an influencer marketing contract, B2B brands can establish clear expectations and protect their interests in a partnership with an influencer. With clear communication and a well-defined agreement in place, brands can ensure a successful influencer marketing campaign.
You’ve found your influencer—what now?
Congratulations! You’ve taken a step towards a successful influencer marketing campaign. But now what? It’s time to move from hiring an influencer to co-creating a meaningful and impactful partnership.
First, it’s important to remember that influencers are not simply mouthpieces for your brand. They have built a following and a level of trust with their audience because of their unique perspectives and authentic voices. To fully leverage the value that an influencer can bring to your campaign, you should work with them to co-create content that feels genuine to their followers.
Second, building a long-term relationship with an influencer can be a key driver of success. It’s essential to treat influencer marketing as a two-way street—where both parties benefit from the partnership. Investing in a sustained relationship with an influencer can help your brand create a more authentic, personal connection with their followers, and it will also help you build a network of trusted allies within the influencer community.
Finally, educating your influencer on your products or services is critical to success. Give them the tools and resources they need to effectively share your story with their followers. Provide them with information about your brand and its history, your target audience, and your marketing goals. This will not only help the influencer create better content, but it will also give them a better understanding of the impact they can have as a partner.
Overall, once you’ve hired an influencer, it’s important to take a strategic and collaborative approach. By co-creating content, building long-term relationships, and educating your influencer, you’ll be able to maximize the impact of your influencer marketing campaigns and create a mutually beneficial partnership for years to come.
Over half a million impressions: TrueLook
For niche B2B companies such as TrueLook, it is especially important to find the right influencer that resonates with their target audience and effectively promotes their product. Working with Zen, TrueLook’s influencer marketing campaign saw great success and helped amplify its brand and ensure a successful product launch.
TrueLook, a B2B company specializing in job site surveillance, had a specific goal in mind when they approached Zen Media to launch their new commercial camera. Their target audience was a niche group consisting of construction site managers, project managers, and individuals responsible for security and risk issues at construction job sites.
We devised a highly targeted influencer marketing campaign to meet TrueLook’s goals. In our influencer vetting process, we reviewed more than 80 influencers, selecting three for the campaign, focusing on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
Instagram: The client’s main focus was growing their Instagram account, and we contracted with an influencer with 149k engaged followers to do just that.
YouTube: Youtube was also considered a crucial platform, and an influencer with 23.8k followers was selected. This influencer benefited greatly from the partnership, gaining 8.9k more followers over the course of the campaign.
Mutli-platform: Lastly, we choose an influencer with a strong presence across all the main social media platforms to extend the brand’s awareness and reach.
TrueLook’s influencer marketing campaign was a huge success, leading to 548 high-intent leads directly via their product demo request page, half a million impressions, and over 2,446 points of engagement. These results prove that influencer marketing can be a successful strategy, even in niche industries.
The success of TrueLook’s influencer marketing campaign highlights the importance of finding the right influencer and developing a targeted strategy. By collaborating with influencers and creating long-term partnerships, businesses can effectively reach their target audience and achieve their marketing goals.
Balancing micro- and macro-influencers: Beatleap
Beatleap, a user-friendly video editing app that syncs users’ videos to the music of their choice, was ready to take its social media presence to the next level after a successful launch in September 2020.
To reach a wider audience on social media, we knew influencer marketing was the best approach. We conducted research to identify micro- and macro-influencers within Beatleap’s three main audience segments: Lifestyle, Travel/Sports, and Casual Video Editors. After building relationships with these influencers, we secured seven partnerships within just 90 days.
Along with the influencer marketing efforts, we launched an aggressive social media campaign, posting seven times per week on platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Snapchat.
The 90-day campaign resulted in a 49.2% increase in impressions, a total increase of over 80 million, and a 19% growth in followers. The content generated on TikTok alone received over 11.2 million views.
Influencers help put a human face to B2B marketing. By telling real stories, making genuine connections, and educating new audiences, B2B influencer marketing makes business-to-business transactions and interactions more human, and more successful.Interested in learning more about influencer marketing for your brand? Let’s talk.