Influencer Marketing in B2B - does it work?

We're all familiar with the influencer phenomenon - and how popular lifestyle gurus and bloggers have transformed the fortunes of thousands of businesses through social media advertising.

However, influencer marketing is a bit of an unknown for most companies in the B2B trading space.

Today, Tiga UK looks at whether B2B influencer marketing works, how it's different and some guidance about leveraging the power of influence - to your benefit.

Influencer Marketing in B2B - does it work?

Does Influencer Marketing Work in B2B?

Paid advertising is, let's face it, expensive! 

There are countless tools and opportunities to get your brand name out there without spending your entire marketing budget on PPC campaigns and print media that reach a fraction of your demographic.

We often assume that influencer marketing is reserved for the realm of fashion brands and beauty retailers, but it is hugely important in the B2B world.

That's because:

  • The average sale value in B2B is multiple times that of a standalone B2C purchase.
  • Buyers are highly unlikely to choose suppliers based on brand advertising alone.
  • Referrals and word of mouth recommendations carry weight in procurement decisions.

Brand representation, through somebody with influence in your industry, can directly impact customer trust, awareness, and perception.

We often assume that influencer marketing is reserved for the realm of fashion brands and beauty retailers, but it is hugely important in the B2B world.”

Examples of Great B2B Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Not convinced? 

SAP (the ERP software company) ran a B2B influencer campaign to publicise its Sapphire Now conference, an annual business and tech event. You can read the full story here. 

The organisation invited industry leaders to attend live video chats to discuss relevant topics - attracting 80,000 businesses.

User.com did something similar, inviting well-known SaaS figures to speak at a summit. Each speaker publicised the event to their own audiences, with over 2,000 leads generated.

Comparing Influencer Marketing in B2C vs B2B Sectors

Of course, influencing business purchases is a very different ball game to selling a retail product to a consumer. 

You'll not find reality TV celebrities or vaguely memorable soap actors here, but the principle remains the same. 

An influencer is somebody, or a brand, with a respectable following and an opinion that matters and will be noted by your prospective customers.

Most B2C influencers use slightly different channels than a B2B brand expert, and it's very unlikely to be a job in a business setting and more of a mutually beneficial marketing opportunity.

Let's take a look at some of the variations between B2C and B2B influencer marketing in a bit more detail.

Differences Between B2B and B2C Influencer Marketing Campaigns

The key difference is that B2B influencing strategies aren't an overnight route to success and require a more comprehensive, considered approach.

  • B2B purchasing decisions aren't instantaneous, so a click-now Instagram link will not work. Business influencer marketing naturally takes a little longer to build awareness, demonstrate quality and convert into enquiries (and eventually sales).
  • Several people are involved with procurement decisions, sometimes hundreds, so the focus is on marketing to a wider pool rather than one specific customer persona.

The ideology between both approaches is the same, but selling to business clients is more multi-layered, and the focus must be on the influencer’s knowledge and specialism rather than on them as an individual.

B2C influencers usually rely on large audiences generated through other routes. They then sell advertising space and create posts, reels or videos talking about or showcasing a specific product - which their followers buy simply because the influencer has recommended it.

In B2B, buyers will not solely invest company resources in anything purely because somebody they admire has spoken about the product or service - however, it will definitely help to get a sale over the line and generate initial intested. 

Rather, it's about positioning your brand and using the broad audience of an influential leader in the sector to transport the message you want to deliver and amplify it to as large an audience as possible.

How to Use Influencer Marketing Effectively as a B2B Enterprise

Now we know more about how B2B influencer marketing works, it's important to look at the challenges, such as the need to carefully select the appropriate customer group - not just the influencer with the highest following.

One skilled brand advocate with a small but niche following could result in far higher conversions than an influencer with millions of followers, but most of whom won't be target clients for your business.

Next, we'll discuss three golden rules for effective B2B influencing campaigns.

1. Set Realistic Timelines for Return on Investment

As we mentioned earlier, you won't expect to see an instant spike in sales after one B2B marketing campaign - in B2C; your timescales might be something like 30 days for the average promotion to have a quantifiable effect.

In B2B, you won't see a return for several months (or even years) in most cases because there are so many more decision-makers to reach, and the procurement decision-making process itself is far more complex than a consumer buying an item for personal use.

2. Pay Attention to Your Clients When Selecting a Marketing Partner

B2B marketing campaigns work best when you find an ace in their field with an audience aligned with your specified customer demographic.

Numbers matter far less than engagement, so it's essential to look at who your customers trust, what they follow and which forms of media they use to conduct product or service research.

Micro-influencers are those with a small pool of followers with a fine-tuned content base, and it's considerably better to go down this route than working with someone who posts to such a huge following that most of their campaigns get lost in the noise.

3. Put Effort Into Reaching Out to Potential Influencers

While categorising the role of an influencer as a career may be controversial, it's not something that really exists in the same way in B2B. 

It's doubtful you'll receive any interest from well-known industry professionals, so it'll be up to you to reach out to perfect-fit influencers you'd like to work with.

Some influencers post their specialisms on influencer marketing platforms, but you'll probably do best by researching social media and networking sites in niche sectors.

The best B2B influencer marketing works in ways that encourage viewers to share and engage with your content. Just as you'd spend time and energy crafting campaigns for a B2C strategy, the quality of your content will be as meaningful to your returns as choosing the right influencer to start with.

Natural advocacy and user-generated content is, of course, the absolute dream - and requires pretty much zero effort on your part!

How to Measure Returns on B2B Influencer Marketing

No matter how you craft your campaigns, you'll need to know whether they make any difference to your bottom line or another KPI that matters to your business.

A lot depends on your targets and goals, but some of the objectives could include:

  • Increased awareness of your brand.
  • Reaching new potential customer audiences.
  • Improvements in revenue or margins.
  • An enhanced brand reputation.

As in any marketing endeavour, you can look at metrics such as your conversions, sales, clicks or impressions to try and quantify the returns.

It's also important to consider how you maximise the visibility of influencer marketing across different channels.

Something like 71% of businesses have an Instagram page, for example, but you'll most likely be using Linkedin or Twitter to spread businesses communications. 

Ultimately, you need to know that your investment in B2B influencer marketing is more impactful to business growth than a conventional banner ad, so it may require ongoing tweaks and changes, depending on how campaigns perform in different places.

Building Relationships With B2B Influencers

Most B2B professionals don't offer influencer marketing as a core service. In fact - 'endorsement' is perhaps a more accurate term to use. 

Still, they might enjoy the prospect of being called upon to share their wisdom - accumulating new followers and increased visibility themselves.

One of the best ways to get your preferred influencer on board is to start slowly and allow them to get to know your brand and use your services themselves before you ask them to put material out there, using their name and influence to market your product or service.

A great example is to collate opinions for a publication or blog post, such as:

  • Ten predictions for the 2022 SaaS market.
  • Twenty-three ways to promote good CSR in the Fintech space.
  • Five experts advise on the best investment stocks for the year ahead.

When an influencer is genuinely enthusiastic about what you have to offer, they'll be far more likely to build on that relationship and trust that your company is as good as they think you are.

How to Attract Great B2B Brand Influencers

Influencer recruitment can work in many different ways, but with some time, creativity and commitment, creating unique content and a thriving customer community is more than possible.

Most of the best practices are similar to B2C programmes, but it's grasping the differences that will dictate how successful your marketing endeavours turn out to be.

B2B influencer marketing, done right, can turn your revenue around, drive a significant amount of interest, and place your company up there in customer perception as the best in the business - and their go-to for the company's next requirements.

For more information, get in touch with our B2B marketing specialists to discuss how we can help you drive more B2B leads. 

Related Reading

Find out more about the B2B sales funnel

Segmenting a B2B audience 

What B2B sales prospecting tools? 

Social media platforms for a B2B audience

What is vertical marketing in B2B?