Online influence and engagement has never been more important for B2B brands. But there’s a wealth of online competition to contend with as companies invest heavily in content to capture mindshare during this unique time for driving sales.
The shift we’ve seen from “tech and spec” content to more human, emotive, conversational B2B marketing is something we explored in our “Talk Human to Me” research report. Our surveyed B2B decision makers said they expected humanising their brand to lead to higher sales, more engaged customers and increased customer retention. Influencer marketing emerged as an important tactic to do this: 71% said they considered it more important for brand building than five years ago.
Couple this with McKinsey’s findings that UK sales leaders rate digital channels almost three times as important now as they were before. Collaborating with influencers on podcasts, social Q&As and webinars is critical for your business to thrive in 2020.
But industry influence takes time to build. So how do you prioritise the influencer relationships and opportunities that will really help put your brand on the map? And how do you build your internal influencers into consistent online thought leaders?
Here are our top tips on where to invest for long term success:
Understand where you can play
Your influencer strategy won’t reach its full potential unless you’ve put in the time at the strategy stage. Its important to analyse the storylines and viewpoints already out there in the industry conversation, and where your competitors are strong. Collaboration opportunities with influencers really take off when you have something truly interesting to discuss, not a repetition of what’s already been said. work really well to nail down their passion points and opinions, finding their unique viewpoints to offer.
Discover the right influencers to build long term relationships with
The most successful influencer partnerships are those which go beyond a one-off collaboration. Thorough research to find influencers which align with your brand values is the key to creating relationships which will offer up regular, mutually beneficial content opportunities. You likely know some of the podcasters, analysts, industry speakers, bloggers and journalists that you’d like to engage, so this stage is about ensuring they’re the right ones for your long-term strategy. For example, our Influencer Impact scoring methodology goes beyond reach metrics to also analyse influencers on their authenticity and power to find those who will really help you achieve cut-through in the market.
Variety is the spice of life
A recent study found B2B buyers consume an average of 13 pieces of content from multiple sources on their purchasing journey: eight items from the brand and five from third parties. So varied content across multiple channels is key to achieving an always-on presence across all stages of the marketing funnel. Pairing your spokespeople with industry influencers for discussion on online Q+A panels, podcasts and webinars sparks prospects’ interest at the top of the funnel in the awareness stage. Working with your existing customers as influencers on written and video case studies further down the funnel seals the deal with valuable third party endorsement.
Plan ahead for an integrated Launch
Influencer marketing often straddles both PR and marketing teams. It’s important to make sure everyone is aligned to amplify influencer content across all paid, earned, shared and owned channels to achieve maximum engagement. Set aside budget to invest in “hero” collaborative content with influencers such as webinars and podcasts, but also to create assets for your owned social channels and put spend behind the content. As part of your contract negotiations with your influencer, agree whether they are happy to include earned media interviews, and line up PR and comms teams to work on additional bylines and Q+A pieces to extend the reach of your content.
Analyse and optimise
Consider your goals and align success metrics with these at the beginning of the campaign. Then work with your relevant teams to set up tracking links ahead of time to ensure that content engagements evolve into clicks, conversations and conversions. It’s also important to bear in mind the point we made above on prospects engaging with multiple content pieces before purchasing. With an always-on influencer strategy, your leads will build incrementally over time as prospects see your credibility and strength within the market more often.