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Last year, AdAge reported that “the B2B influencer marketing vertical has the potential to generate $11.7 billion in revenue, with more than 38% of B2B companies currently exploring influencer marketing as a new lead-generation avenue.” Why? Because people buy from brands they trust. And according to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, 63% of us trust influencer opinions more than the organization itself.
In today’s digital world, influencer marketing is one of the most powerful tools marketers can have in their strategy toolbelt,
— Justin Levy, Sr. Director, Influencer Marketing & Head of Community at Demandbase.
The long-time expert on B2B marketing and influencers — and one of the Top Influencer Marketing Voices on LinkedIn — Levy took to the stage at CMI’s Content Marketing World to share his hard-earned insights. Read on to get a taste of his most important takeaways and actionable advice straight from the source.
Focus on Micro-Influencers
If you think the only way to win is to go big, think again. Macro-influencers (with 500,000 to 1 million followers) may be ideal for building awareness and harnessing a broader audience across the greater B2B marketing community. But when it comes to truly penetrating niche audiences, it’s micro-influencers (or those with 10,000 to 100,000 followers) that have the most influence.
On Instagram, for instance, which is the most popular platform for influencer marketing, micro-influencers have a reported 6% engagement rate, while their mega-influencer counterparts (accounts with over 1 million followers) get less than 2%.
That means customers want to hear about your brand from real people who believe what they’re saying — not just reading from a script. So when you need to get specific and hone in on your area of expertise to drive conversations, these smaller-scale accounts can have a huge impact on your business.
But how can you identify and connect with the right B2B influencers for your brand?
Actionable Advice: Develop No-Cost Influencer Campaigns With Top Lists
“Share content like ‘Top 25 Revenue Marketing Leaders to Watch’ or ‘50 Must-Follow Sales Leaders,’” Levy advises. “This no-cost method allows you to establish and strengthen influencer relationships…[and] not only benefits the brand by driving additional brand awareness and engagement, but also highlights the influencers that you’ve named to these lists.”
While this technique is free, Levy warns that “it is labor intensive and shouldn’t simply be naming those with the most followers.” Here’s what he recommends to get the best results — and the best influencers for your unique B2B brand:
- Ask your professional and private communities for influencer nominations based on your topic and the persona you’re looking for.
- Utilize an influencer marketing tool like Onalytica or manually research relevant influencers on LinkedIn based on their job titles and your mutual contacts. “Take the time to research and understand who influences conversations within that space.”
- Take a closer look at the folks who are actively engaging with your current list of potential influencers.
Seek Out New Conversations — Or, Better Yet, Start Them Yourself
When starting conversations with potential influencers, in a perfect world, you’ve been in touch in the past or at least have some mutual connections. But that might not always be the case. That’s why “best of” lists and the like can help sweeten the deal and give you something organic to start talking about, even when sending out cold messages — and not just on the more B2B-skewing channels you might expect, like LinkedIn or X.
🗑️ Related Reading: 3 Ways to Break Through Digital Clutter to Increase Customer Retention
According to Hubspot, “B2B marketers actually see higher engagement and better ROI on TikTok than marketers for B2C brands.
And 58% of B2B marketers plan[ned] on increasing their investment in TikTok in 2022 vs. 49% of B2C brands.
So when thinking about B2B influencer marketing, it pays to think outside the box and beyond the same one or two platforms. But wherever you do happen to connect, make sure you know exactly who you’re talking to and that you’re coming at them with a genuine message that’s personalized to them and them alone.
Actionable Advice: Drive Influencer UGC With Direct Mail
“In the midst of digital clutter, direct mail campaigns spark joy and surprise, creating a memorable experience for influencers,” Levy says. It’s also a great way to “drive unique influencer user-generated content.”
“Take the time to personalize social cards. Every person who is being recognized [on a top list] should have their own personalized card, whether that’s thanks to your creative team or using a tool like Canva.”
“After you have the personalized creative, conduct one-to-one outreach for every person being recognized. If it’s a list of 100 people, then send 100 individual emails. Use a catchy headline, congratulate them, and provide suggested sharing info. Monitor those influencers and when they share the card and post, ensure that you and the brand channels engage with them. This is another way of reinforcing that new relationship.”
Think Long-Term When It Comes to Influencer Relationships
Levy maintains that the most important thing is building relationships with thought leaders in your space who also happen to be influencers. And while it’s likely that you’re working with them on short-term campaigns, your goal should be to develop long-term relationships with the ones that really matter. That’s where random acts of kindness — like sending a hand-written thank-you card after a campaign is complete — can go a very long way.
But why stop there? “Commemorate their birthday, promotion, book launch; little reinforcements help cement that bond,” Levy says. “Too many brands see influencer marketing as a one-way street, instead of thinking about how the brand and that individual can help each other.” Instead, try asking yourself: “How can that influencer use your brand’s reach as well?”
💻 Related Reading: 3 Reasons Influencer Marketing Is Still a Thing
Actionable Advice: Maintain Connections With Ongoing Content Series, Launches, and Rebrands
To further your relationship with the influencers you’ve worked with, Levy recommends interacting with their content regularly and coming up with ways to get (and keep!) them involved. “Develop an ebook and ask for their contribution,” he suggests, or go for “co-created content such as blog posts and podcasts.”
Launching an ongoing content series is another “effective way to sustain an influencer relationship and consistently deliver value to your community,” Levy says. “This can be tied to a specific campaign or outlet… or even be a component of a broader strategy, like a rebrand.”
So have a think: what are you working on right now? And how can the right B2B influencer make it all the better — for both sides?