Influencer marketing is projected to be a $15B market by 2022 and is becoming a mainstream approach for companies in B2B. Here’s five ways CMOs can innovate their approach to maximize results as we enter the new decade.
While many brands are underway with their B2B influencer marketing programs, one of the challenges is in finding a suitable approach for your organization without simply following the herd.
To help brands maximize the ROI of their campaigns, and avoid a me-too approach which can be fraught with risk, due to a tactical approach or working with the wrong influencers, here’s five ways that CMOs and their teams can innovate their B2B influencer marketing strategy and execution in 2020:
1 – Innovate your Approach by Looking Beyond Social Media Metrics
The first rule in B2B influencer marketing is that there are no rules. While many influencer marketing platforms and pundits may advocate a specific approach, the reality is their approaches are often based on their own strengths and weaknesses. While we’ve been conditioned to look at social media data, influencers are far more complex and diverse in real life. Like looking for a needle in a haystack, searching by follower counts, hashtags and geographical location – or even reach, relevance and resonance – will only get you so far.
To get the most out of B2B influencer marketing, it’s important to innovate your approach. Recognize that influencers often wear many hats as an academic, analyst, author, consultant, entrepreneur, social media influencer, speaker and more.
Look for solutions and services that challenge the industry narrative and go beyond social media alone. Break down the silos within your own organization and encourage your teams to explore how they can collaborate around influence marketing platforms and providers. Since influencers don’t fit into a neat box, they’re likely important to many of your teams across branding, thought leadership, influencer marketing, content marketing and more.
2 – Focus on the 80/20 Rule to Maximize Results
Even if we look purely at social media marketing, the pareto principle (i.e. the 80/20 rule) often applies. That is, you’ll likely get 80% of the value from the top 20% of your influencers. Use this to your advantage by taking a multi-layered approach to influencer marketing. You may wish to find and work with a variety of influencers and thought leaders ranging from a broad base of social media influencers, to help spread the word at a grass roots level, to a more specialized “select few” who will become your key strategic partners and evangelists – these may well be the 20% who deliver 80% of your returns.
This approach is depicted in the Thinkers360 B2B influencer marketing framework which groups influencers into three tiers all with different roles within your influencer marketing plan.
Depending on the size of your organization, the number of influencers you work with across the three tiers may range from 1:10:100 all the way to 10:100:1000 (or higher) and there will typically be an order of magnitude difference between each tier as you go from tactical, light-touch interactions to more strategic, high-touch collaborations.
3 – Know your Influencer’s DNA in terms of Roles and Content
Rather than treating all influencers as equal, it’s important to know your influencer’s DNA. What’s their make-up in terms of the various hats they may wear as an academic, author, advisor, consultant, influencer and speaker? Beyond social media metrics, what are they writing and speaking about (not measured by social media data, but by real articles/blogs, books and keynotes), what are their values and perspectives, and how does this align with your company’s perspectives and narrative?
This approach helps you to get to know your influencers on a more personal level and can help you better select your influencers for specific tasks. For example, you may need an influencer who’s also a well-respected author to help with some custom thought leadership content pieces, or you may need an influencer who’s also an established keynote speaker for your next event.
By looking at your influencer’s DNA, and what they’re writing and talking about from a thought leadership perspective, you can get a far more accurate picture of their background, their interests, as well as the various kinds of content they produce.
4 – Make it Personal with Influencer Introductions
Just as in any business deal, working with influencers is a two-way street. It’s important to understand how value can be exchanged and what each influencer is looking to obtain from the relationship. Some may be simply interested in joining your formal influencer program and attending your events, while others may be interested in a more substantive financial relationship. Either way, you can often trade deliverables with your influencers where they may exchange unpaid social media amplification or attendance at some of your key events for other paid services such as authoring, media interviews or speaking.
To get to know your influencers, work with influencer marketing platforms and providers who can provide personal introductions and who actually know their influencers. An opt-in community of B2B influencers is often superior to a list of millions of Twitter accounts and metrics scraped off the Internet. As you trim your long-list to come up with a short-list of selected influencers for in-depth projects, these platforms and providers can often help you with suggestions as well as teeing up warm introductions.
5 – Set Near-Term Goals to Measure Progress
As part of your strategy, you have a clear idea about where you believe influencers can help you such as brand exposure, awareness around a new product or service launch, written thought leadership content, keynotes at upcoming events, generating leads and so on.
To make it easy to measure progress, determine what you want to accomplish in the first three months of a campaign as well as longer-term. For example, in the first three months, you might want to book three speakers for an upcoming event, find and work with at least five influencers to write regular articles for your web site and so on.
To innovate your B2B influencer marketing approach in 2020, look to change the narrative. Take a targeted approach with strategic influencers in addition to, or even instead of the typical, broad-brush approach hunting for social media influencers using decade-old measures and metrics.
We’re at the dawn of a new decade. It’s time for B2B influencer marketing to change as well!
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