Pull your marketing budget together, stick it in a big bag and hand it to a marketing celebrity. Bingo! You are topping the charts. But…is it really this easy to create a B2B influencer marketing hit? Barb Mosher Zinck suggests maybe not.
It would be so cool if Ryan Reynolds would come on board as an influencer to help promote your approach to headless content management. Maybe he could create a video similar to this one he did for his Aviation Gin brand.
“You know people come up to me all the time, and they say, what makes headless content management the right way to manage your content? Most times, I run away because non-celebrities frighten me. But here is the answer….” I’d be the first one heading for your brand of CMS. No seriously, I love Ryan Reynolds (and it’s not just because he’s Canadian).
A famous actor or musician is not the answer to your B2B influencer strategy, which is unfortunate because although they would cost you a fortune, they would be much easier to find and get to promote your story or build your narrative than doing the work finding a genuine influencer in your industry. No, finding the right influencers within the B2B world is hard. It takes time to find the right person(s), figure out the right strategy to work with them and keep them engaged for the long haul.
Let’s start with finding the right influencer. The right influencer is in your industry and is somewhat well known for having strong opinions and ideas. They have a large social media following, particularly on LinkedIn or Twitter. The challenge is many of the best thought leaders work for brands or consultancies. In both cases, they aren’t always allowed to work as an influencer because it shows favoritism.
For example, you want to work with an influencer that works for a top systems integrator in your market. Unfortunately, she can’t work with you because her company integrates not only your product but several of your competitors’ products.
What if you find the right influencer and you build a relationship that includes co-creating an ebook that will be the pillar of your content marketing strategy for the next two quarters. During the period you are promoting the ebook and related content assets (like a podcast, webinar, or series of blogs), your influencer takes a job with your competitor. Now you have some great content that you don’t necessarily want to use because it’s connected to someone who works for your competitor.
What if the influencer gets a job with one of those consultancies where they are no longer allowed to work with your company? In either case, you’ve invested time and effort into a relationship that can’t continue, and you have to start over.
..you shouldn’t expect results from a B2B influencer marketing program for at least six months, and you should seek to work with B2B influencers one year at a time.Jay Baer
If you think this can’t happen, think again. If your product has a long sales cycle, which is typically the case with B2B products, you need to keep your influencers engaged and working with you for a long period. According to Jay Baer of Convince and Convert, “you shouldn’t expect results from a B2B influencer marketing program for at least six months, and you should seek to work with B2B influencers one year at a time.”
It’s not as simple as having Busy Phillips promote Nerds candy on Instagram for Halloween. You need to develop an influencer program that involves more than one social post, more than one blog or podcast episode, possibly more than one ebook or whitepaper. And the promotion period of anything they co-create with you lasts months or longer.
Let’s talk about content creation for a minute. The round-up or ‘top experts share their insights’ posts, or ebooks are very popular. And it’s an easy way to start to build a relationship with a potential influencer. A podcast that includes interviews with industry experts is an extension of that approach. I like these things – I’ve learned from many experts by reading this kind of content or listening to a podcast episode or two.
The biggest challenge with this type of content is finding the right influencers to share their insights. Everyone goes after the same influencers to participate. You’ll see a well-known thought leader share his/her insights in a round-up article for two, three, or four different brands. That’s fine. Having them in your piece will help provide some brand awareness for you, but what you really want are influencers who are lesser-known but have some great ideas and insights and a niche following that aligns tightly with your market.
If you are only going after the popular kids, you run the risk of being just like everyone else. Finding those niche thought leaders who will work with you to create and promote highly differentiated content is the goal. Mix in a few of the popular kids but build your strongest relationships with the influencers who want to work only with you because they believe in what you are doing.
B2B influencer marketing is on the rise, with 65% of international marketers planning to increase spending. The key to achieving success with it will be:
- Finding the right mix of influencers
- Creating content that tells the right story or shares the right narrative
- Building relationships that will grow and last over a long time