As B2B companies look to create more authentic and meaningful experiences for digital first customers, content marketing co-created with industry and internal influencers has enabled many organizations to deliver information that is more empathetic, useful and inspiring.
Growth B2B brands are seeing the influence piece of the puzzle as an opportunity to better attract and engage increasingly distracted and distrustful customers. Many of those ambitious B2B marketers are looking for ways to accelerate their use of influence both internally and externally.
Since our first paid B2B influencer engagement in 2012 with a Fortune 500 brand that is still our client today, we’ve seen an acceleration in B2B marketers seeking expertise, technology and best practices for engaging influencers. In 2022 those solutions come in many forms ranging from independent B2B influencer marketing consultants, to software platforms that also sell services to specialist agencies with teams dedicated to the strategy, tactics, technology, measurement and scale of B2B influencer marketing programs.
For those B2B brands that prefer to have a trusted agency partner capable of delivering a full suite of services, there are questions to be answered. Just use Google to search “b2b influencer marketing” and you’ll see many of them:
- What is a B2B influencer?
- Does B2B influencer marketing work?
- How do you do B2B influencer marketing?
- Is influence a B2B or B2C strategy?
B2B marketers are searching for more than the topic of B2B influencer marketing. They want to find:
- B2B influencer marketing examples
- B2B influencer marketing in 2022
- B2B influencer marketing case studies
- B2B influencer marketing statistics
- B2B influencer marketing on LinkedIn
- The best B2B influencer campaigns
For our part, TopRank Marketing’s B2B Marketing Blog has been publishing answers to these questions for many years. One of the ways we bring those answers together is through our State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report, which you can sign up for advanced access to here.
On the topic of B2B marketers working with agencies for influencer marketing, our most recent research found that only 22% of B2B marketers surveyed are currently using an agency to manage their influencer marketing program.
But not all B2B marketers are equal in their marketing maturity, sophistication or performance. We found that 44% of the most successful B2B marketers work with an agency to manage their program and 67% of the least successful B2B marketers do not work with an agency to manage their influencer marketing program.
One of the top challenges B2B marketers have with influencer marketing is finding the right influencers. So it was no surprise that we found that 56% of the most successful B2B marketers surveyed say working with an agency to source influencers is effective.
As seen by the Google questions above, many B2B marketers are not clear on what a B2B influencer is, so finding one would then understandably be difficult. And if you can find the right influencers, how can an influencer marketing program have any chance of success? Incidentally, we’ve covered what characteristics makes for a great B2B influencer here.
So, what else are the most successful B2B marketers having agencies help them with? The way you engage with industry experts or internal key opinion leaders or both really depends on expected outcomes, topics, content types and which relationships are either in place or in need of being developed. Here are some essential questions to answer about influencer marketing when developing your strategy here.
Overall the most successful B2B marketers are engaging agencies to help in the following areas according to our survey question on the topic:
- 100% to develop strategy
- 50% to identify influencers
- 75% to manage influencer relationships
- 50% to manage influencer marketing technology
- 50% to implement campaigns
- 50% to measure effectiveness
It makes a lot of sense for an experienced agency resource to serve as a guide in helping B2B brands develop their influencer marketing strategy. An agency with experience and a proven track record will not only draw upon data, technology, process and most important of all, relationships to help B2B brands understand what’s possible, but also how to achieve it, what resources are needed, creative content ideation and production, influencer identification and activation, and measurement and scale.
B2B brands come in all sizes, so what about larger companies? Our research found that for companies with 500 to 1000 employees, 55% indicated that working with an agency to source influencers was effective vs. 27% that used software. For B2B companies with over 1,000 employees, 38% found working with an agency to be effective vs. 31% that used software.
Expertise with software alone does not equal success for an influencer program. It takes creativity in developing influencer activations and content collaborations that simultaneously deliver exceptional customer experiences as well as represent the interests of the brand and importantly, advance the objectives of the influencers involved.
Such 360 degrees of win solutions are not easy but can perform exceptionally well as we’ve seen with B2B brands including SAP, LinkedIn and one of the largest telecommunications brands in the world.
Working with an agency on an influencer marketing program can be very satisfying or disappointing depending on expectations, and the capabilities of both parties. Getting the most out of the agency investment means focusing on getting help where it will have the most impact, especially with strategy, influencer identification and creative content activations that inspire influencers and customers alike.
GET CAN GET ADVANCED ACCESS to the 2022 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report by signing up here.