Using B2B influencers to broaden reach and build trust

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Influencer marketing might feel like a modern phenomenon, but it’s almost as old as marketing itself. 

Josiah Wedgwood used Queen Charlotte’s approval to sell his pottery in Britain in 1765; Coca Cola used Santa to drive sales of its eponymous beverage at the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s; Nike leveraged Michael Jordan to take them from purveyors of niche running shoes, to a global cultural juggernaut in the 80s and 90s. Whether royalty, fictional characters, sportspeople, or celebrities, marketers have used influencers to position brands, build awareness, and establish trust for centuries.

Over the last decade influencer marketing has been revolutionised. The reality TV explosion of the early 21st century created instant celebrities hungry to leverage their newfound notoriety. The birth of the smartphone and the rise of social media has enabled marketers to put these influencers into the pockets and palms of their target audience 24 hours a day.

And yet, while influencer marketing has become a solid marketing pillar in B2C terms, the use of influencers in the B2B space still feels like a brave new world. Indeed, according to a recent study, 94% of marketers believe influencer marketing is a successful strategy for B2B businesses. However, only 24% of B2B businesses are using influencers in their overall business plan.

An extension of thought leadership 

Using thought leadership as a B2B communications tool is nothing new. Businesses across all sectors have used research, whitepapers, summits, and events to help position themselves as experts in their field who should be trusted by their prospective customers and clients. But the growth in popularity of thought leadership as a marketing tactic has created an environment of content overload. This is leading brands to look to influencers to endorse and amplify their thought leadership activity in order to target certain audiences and stand out from the crowd. 

In our latest B2B marketing trends report we have identified that leveraging third party thought leaders and influencers will be a key tactic employed by marketing teams over the next twelve months. But before you engage with an influencer to support your activity, it is crucial you have quality content for them to endorse and promote. 

Content comes first

Recent Edelman research that shows that 50% of business leaders spend an hour a week consuming content, but 71% said less than half of what they consume gives them valuable insight. Your leadership activity, therefore, should take a viewpoint and you should stand by that viewpoint in any supporting or future activity. There is no room for fence sitting in quality thought leadership. Edelman’s research shows that prospects want insight, if you can provide it you will be in the best position to build your reputation and strengthen trust.

Influencers are an extension of your brand

Once you have quality content, you can then find the right influencer to amplify it. Do your research before building any influencer relationships, though. Do they align with your brand values? Does their audience tally with your target client or customer? Are there any reputational risks that might bite you in the future? 

B2B influencers can be from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, from industry analysts and journalists, to entrepreneurs and executives. The key to their influence is their sector knowledge and their own reputation as industry experts. They may not have millions of followers, but in the B2B space it is about quality over quantity. A well known personality with 1m followers across their social channels might seem attractive. But an industry analyst followed by 50,000 decision makers in your target area is likely a better match for your brand.  

Working with a good B2B marketing agency who specialises in your sectors and markets can make this process simpler and help blend the use of influencers into your wider marketing program. 

Using influencers in 2024

In the B2C space, the use of influencer marketing can often be viewed as a silver bullet. B2B marketers should avoid this trap. Balancing activity across a range of tactics and channels and ensuring they all align to your overall strategy is crucial. As we explored in our previous blog on resonance, reach and maximising content, the next twelve months are likely to remain uncertain. Marketers therefore need to leverage the latest B2B marketing trends and balance them within your marketing plans to drive success and ROI in the future.   

Download our latest trends report for more insight into what B2B marketers will be doing to stand out from the crowd in 2024. Alternatively, one of our team would be more than happy to discuss the market, your challenges and what an agency like onebite can do to help launch, refine or amplify your brand in the tech and telco space.      

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