How you can use influencers to succeed in a B2B market

How you can use influencers to succeed in a B2B market

In the realm of B2B marketing, leveraging influencers may not be the first marketing strategy that comes to mind. But the landscape is evolving. Influencers, who are traditionally siloed off into the B2C market, are proving to be a potent force in B2B as well. Curious how your B2B brand can start using influencers? Welcome to the tree’s B2B Influencer Guide.

Understanding B2B influencer marketing

The role of influencers in B2B

B2B transactions are seen as strictly rational decisions based on factors like product features, pricing, reputation, ROI, whether the chairman’s daughter has heard of the business and how easy it is to integrate the product into pre-existing systems. All of this obviously forgets that there’s a human sitting on either end of the transaction. Decision-makers in B2B are people, believe it or not, and people are influenced by relationships, trust and expertise.

Influencers in the B2B space are individuals who wield influence in specific industries or niches. Think industry analysts, thought leaders, consultants with something to say or professionals with a substantial following. Examples of B2B influencers are tough to pin down – because they’re industry-specific. If you’re entrenched in your industry (or have access to an agency with excellent data and research facilities), you’ll know some of your sectors’ B2B influencers without realising it. Leveraging them could be the key to B2B success.

Business influencers in popular culture

Of course, mainstream consumer content has had an influx of B2B-style business influencers in the last few years. From The Apprentice and Alan Sugar, not to mention the dozens of stars the show has created among its contestants, to Dragon’s Den featuring the likes of Will.I.Am, Steven Bartlett and Gary Neville as judges, business-based influencers are a common sight for the modern purchaser. Indeed, we’ve collaborated several times with one of The Apprentice’s most famous sons, Tom Skinner, on Boost Energy Drinks, which played on his everyman-to-businessman personality.

At the tree, we’ve also developed brand content for inspirational speaker and business leader Simon Sinek, leaning into his persona to push his courses through paid advertising campaigns. Our work with Vertical Aerospace at the Farnborough Airshow also leaned into turning Vertical employees into B2B influencer-style ambassadors. We know from experience – influencer content works when it comes to B2B.

Identifying the right B2B influencers

The first step is identifying influencers relevant to your industry. As we mentioned, you might already know them: they'll have a deep understanding of your sector, a substantial following within your target audience, and the credibility to shape opinions. Team up with a social media agency (like the tree) and lean into their tools: social media monitoring platforms like Emplifi or Meltwater, audience analytics software like Demographics Pro and expert directories, such as the LinkedIn Top Voices feature. You’ll be fighting off influencers with a stick in no time.

"When you consider that recommendations from industry experts have more purchasing sway than trade shows, demos or even colleague opinion, it's clear that influencer marketing is something that all brands should be thinking about. Unlike in B2C, we find that niche expertise gives better outcomes and, therefore, the challenge is to strike a balance between reach and reputation when selecting influencers for campaigns." Tom Rabin, Head of Strategy, the tree

Strategies for effective B2B influencer marketing

Content collaboration and co-creation

Your B2B influencer of choice has a wealth of knowledge – so use it. When you position your brand next to them, you’ll take on a portion of that same legitimacy, especially if the influencer genuinely seems to use your brand. Create joint whitepapers (they can just pen a foreword), webinars with a special guest spot, podcasts if your business has one or a limited podcast series if you don’t or guest blog posts on your website (why not a guest series?). The shared expertise enhances your brand's authority and expands your reach through the influencer's network.

Thought leadership amplification

Positioning your brand as a thought leader in your industry is a key goal in B2B influencer marketing. Without an official relationship to a B2B influencer, you can share and amplify the thought leadership content created by them, and bring it back to your brand messaging. This showcases your brand's commitment to industry advancement, associates your brand with influential thought leaders and should prove that you know what you’re talking about – boosting legitimacy. Easy wins in this department include sharing influencer-authored articles on your company's social media platforms and quoting influencers in your blog posts – but simply commenting on a LinkedIn post with a well-constructed thought can have the same effect. Can’t write for LinkedIn? Hire an agency that can.

Influencer takeovers and employee advocacy

Allow influencers to take over your social media accounts for a day or for a specific campaign. Put trust in them that they know how to make sector-specific content that converts and hand them the reins armed with some brand knowledge and key points to hit. This approach injects a fresh perspective into your brand's communication and exposes your audience to the influencer's followers. Of course, you’ll need your social team to be on hand to manage the process, probably posting on the influencers behalf – and enlisting an agency with skills in handling influencer takeovers is probably your best bet.

Strategic event participation

In-person or virtual industry events create great opportunities for influencer collaborations. Invite them to speak at your events, participate in panel discussions, or contribute to networking sessions. Their presence not only adds credibility to your event but also attracts a wider audience. Of course, you’ll probably have to pay them for their time, but warming them up with the Thought Leadership Amplification methods above can soften any costs through goodwill – and longer-term partnerships will do more to incentivise influencers.

Testimonials and case studies

Pretty sure a B2B influencer is using (or could use) your product? Tap them up for a testimonial or, better yet, collaborate on a case study. Influencers' positive experiences with your products or services can serve as powerful endorsements, building trust with your audience. 40% of business decision makers say recommendations from industry experts are very influential. GWI

Measuring success

There are tonnes of ways you're able to track the ROI of your influencer partnerships. From measuring simple social engagements like likes and shares to tracking link clicks from paid ads and checking share of voice – you'll be able to see a real time return. But without access to the social tools that make this tracking possible, you might only be able to see the face value vanity metrics of your influencer campaign.

Teaming up with the right socially led agency can take the strain off of tracking and measuring not just your B2B influencer work, but all of your social comms. You’ll be able to work with them to define what worked and what didn't and to craft new strategies based on the numbers you get back. Good job you’re currently on the website of an agency that offers those services.

Summing it all up

In the rapidly evolving landscape of B2B marketing, influencers have become catalysts for success, providing unique access, credibility, and reach for the brands they work with. By strategically integrating influencers into your marketing initiatives, businesses can elevate their brand, connect with decision-makers, and drive tangible business outcomes. The journey involves careful planning, relationship building and a commitment to creating thought-provoking work which comes from a place of expertise, made all the easier by working with a social agency. As B2B influencer marketing continues to gain momentum, those who master this art will not only navigate the complexities of modern marketing but also emerge as leaders in their respective industries.