Influencer marketing has been big for years, but where it has dominated is with business-to-customer companies. In a study from Altimeter published in 2017, it was found that 55% of B2C companies have ongoing influencer programs.
But business-to-business companies lag behind; the same study found that only 15% of B2B companies have ongoing influencer programs. But that number is steadily increasing.
Influencer marketing is largely associated with celebrities—internet famous and otherwise—who become brand spokespeople because the target audience likes them, admires them, or identifies with them. It is viewed as highly effective marketing, but it is also perceived as a casual approach. While that is fine when businesses are marketing to customers, it is not seen as being ideal when businesses are marketing to other businesses.
But the key element of influencer marketing is trust. The audience trusts the influencer and therefore takes their reviews, recommendations, and endorsements seriously. This trust easily translates into B2B marketing.
Before everything was online, B2B marketing was generally done in person. The buying process was driven by sales teams who crafted presentations to prospective businesses, exercising great control over the information the buyer had access to. Now, the buyer is the one with the control. They are able to seek out information, do their research, and reach out to sellers on their own.
By the time B2B buyers contact a seller, they will already have a shortlist of contenders. And this is where influencer marketing comes into play. During the research phase, the buyer will come across the work the influencer has done for you, and this will greatly factor into whether or not you make their list.
When using influencer marketing for B2B companies, you have to seek out influencers your audience will trust since trust is key to any successful influencer partnership. For businesses, celebrity isn’t going to impress; you need the help of experts.
Another difference between B2C and B2B influencer marketing is that the influencer for a B2B campaign is not meant to explicitly offer an endorsement of your products or services, nor are they meant to promote them directly. They should serve as educators, helping potential buyers learn more about the topics and ideas that are central to your company.
Finding these influencers can be a bit more difficult than locating those for B2C marketing. One option is to see who is trending on topics that relate to your company. However, it is recommended that you work with a service that specializes in B2B influencer marketing.
Ultimately, the driving factor behind the increase in B2B influencer marketing is the changing landscape of advertising as a whole and the results B2B businesses have been when using influencers. As more companies embrace the idea, it becomes more commonplace. Sooner or later, B2B companies will need influencer partnerships in order to succeed.