As the digital age advances, businesses face new challenges. For sure, the internet’s surge into our daily lives has provided marketers with vast potential audience pools to tap into. And yes, social media, brought into our pockets with smartphones and iPhones, accelerate this process.
Finally, audiences are now much more engaged than before, actively seeking brands – a far cry from traditional, outbound marketing contexts. But, that’s precisely where the challenge stems from; tech-savvy audiences engage with marketing copy cautiously.
They’ve dismissed salesy language and professional tones and now trust their peers as they look for authenticity. For Business-to-Business (B2B) businesses, that’s even more prevalent; old tactics don’t work on today’s inquisitive decision-makers. Thus, among other choices to tackle this new digital landscape comes influencer marketing. But what exactly is it, and how can B2B businesses benefit from influencer marketing? Let us find out.
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What is influencer marketing?
First and foremost, let us briefly define what influencer marketing is. A well-established form of marketing for Business-to-Consumer (B2C) businesses, influencer marketing relies on collaborating with influencers in one’s field. But “influencers” are not simply people with large social media followings; they are those who can actually influence audiences. They may be experts, pioneers, spokespeople, brand advocates. Anyone your audiences trust – and, of course, follow – is an influencer.
B2B vs B2C influencers
However, while influencer marketing certainly doesn’t only apply to B2C, there’s a vital distinction to be made. As B2B marketing specifically targets decision-makers, it can’t possibly resort to the same tactics – or influencers – as B2C does. B2C marketing typically hinges on nudging broad audiences toward impulsive purchases.
Conversely, B2B marketing relies on presenting data-driven, expert-backed value to inquisitive decision-makers. B2B audiences would be convinced by Neil Patel, or Tomshardware’s Thomas Pabst, or Backlinko’s Brian Dean; knowledgeable, heavyweight experts.
They won’t take customer reviews alone at face value; their choices affect their business, so only the best will do. That’s why it’s arguably so difficult, especially for newer businesses, to pinpoint and court B2B influencers into collaborations.
Is influencer marketing effective for B2B businesses?
However, that challenge aside, B2B businesses benefit from influencer marketing – and the statistics show it. Among others, consider some of TopRankMarketing’s statistics on B2B influencer marketing:
- “96% of B2B marketers that engage influencers to consider their program to be successful.”
- “60% of B2B marketers who use Always-On Influencer Marketing programs are very successful vs. 5% who only use periodic campaigns.”
- “50% of B2B marketers integrate Influencer Marketing with SEO.”
- “50% of the most successful influencer marketers use software to identify influencers.”
- “79% of B2B marketers believe influencer marketing will grow in importance over the next 12 months.”
Of course, there are challenges, by all means. A less clear Return on Investment (ROI) and an arguably more substantial need for quality content are but two. Identifying valuable influencers is another, as we highlighted above, and it’s why many successful marketers use software to do so. But still, evidently, B2B businesses benefit from influencer marketing – so why shouldn’t yours?
How your B2B business can benefit from influencer marketing
Having covered all of the above, we may now more easily contextualize just what influencer marketing offers. Some benefits are, of course, universal, but here we’ll specifically focus on B2B influencer marketing – as the title promised.
1. Expanded brand awareness
The very first benefit is, of course, brand awareness. It’s almost self-evident; what does any marketing campaign intend to do most urgently, if not raise awareness?
Indeed, the research cited above found that “84% of B2B marketers work with influencers to create brand awareness”. Moreover, “69% of B2B marketers work with influencers to help generate new leads”, with 53% succeeding in doing so. That’s before considering that 78% of them achieved increased social reach.
In brief, that’s the first inherent benefit of influencer marketing. It raises brand awareness, increasing outreach and, in turn, lead generation and, finally, conversions. For B2B specifically, it raises awareness with the exact audiences you value most through expert influencers’ trusted testimonials.
2. Increased trust
On the subject of trust, we started this article by mentioning general audience distrust. Now, B2B decision-makers will scrutinize any business proposition more, as their choice impacts their whole business. But is broader trust really an issue with marketing? Yes, it is.
Among other similar research, data from the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer showcases this brilliantly:
- 12 of 26 markets are distrusters, and another 6 are neutral.
- Among NGOs, media, governments, and businesses, only business is seen as competent – but also unethical.
- Finally, perceived ethics are 3 times as likely (76%) as perceived competence (24%) to inspire trust.
These findings alone should best prove what many marketers dub a “trust crisis”. Engaged audiences, be they B2C or B2B, are increasingly aware of ethics, often valuing them more than business competence itself. All is not lost, however, as influencer marketing can serve to alleviate this concern.
It does so by allowing you to more actively control the narrative around your brand. Consider how such promotions can strengthen the proof points that your customers value, such as your values and mission. Put differently, how much credibility you may accumulate through testimonials by established experts your audiences know, follow, and trust.
3. Humanization and authenticity
Trust is, of course, earned. As we highlighted initially, audiences have indeed moved away from cold, salesy, professional marketing copy. They seek authentic social credit from people they can see – as the boom of social media marketing can attest. Of course, while B2B marketing will likely reside in LinkedIn more so than, say, TikTok, the point still stands. Audiences seek humanized, authentic brands, and that’s a perk influencer marketing can provide.
Where a slogan and a logo can tell a story, an influencer can personalize it. Humanizing a brand to instill authenticity is nothing new. For example, does the Zapier logo convince you to choose it for your business by itself? Probably not. What about their written endorsements by BusinessInsider, however? Or their YouTube videos, promoted on social media by people who genuinely seem to be using it? In short, that’s what influencer marketing provides; a face to capture the essence of a brand and promote it authentically.
4. Enhanced SEO
Finally, since we’ve touched on digital visibility many times over, let us not forget Search Engine Optimization (SEO). From Pinterest and Instagram SEO to Google’s coveted Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), influencer marketing can help. In fact, it touches on all three key phases; discovery, engagement, and conversion. Here is how.
Initially, influencers will typically produce high-quality content, as it’s often their job to do so. SEO rightfully holds that “quality is king”, as valuable, relevant content finds itself favored by search engines. At the same time, inbound links will also generate referral traffic. Should your content indeed offer value, especially after being informed by your influencers’ audience insights, it will incite engagement.
Combined, these metrics will, in turn, offer undeniable SEO enhancements, as they send search engines all the right signals. Finally, the aforementioned social credit, be it product reviews, testimonials, or other promotional material, will enhance credibility, SEO-wise and otherwise. And, as we highlighted above, distrust is indeed a purchase inhibitor – for B2C and B2B alike.
To summarize, B2B businesses can benefit from influencer marketing in multiple ways. By definition, influencer marketing raises brand awareness with the audiences you value most, driven by your influencers’ expertise and authoritativeness. In turn, it is this credibility that helps bolster trust in an era of increasing marketing distrust.
By humanizing your brand and presenting it authentically, influencers offer social credit, which builds connections the times call for. Finally, all this renewed traffic, content quality, and engagement subtly but surely enhance your SEO in the process. It is by no means an easy pursuit, but it is a long-term goal that deserves your time.