Influencer Marketing for B2B Companies

Influencer marketing has become a crucial lead-generation tool for B2C and B2B companies. Enlisting the help of industry experts, dedicated business owners, or employee advocates can get the attention of qualified prospects looking for the goods or services you sell.Tweet This Business owners may be skeptical that there’s a place for influencers in their marketing strategy. Before diving headlong into this arena, consider the insights and recommendations from the experts below.influencers talking

Who are Influencers?

The term “influencers” tends to conjure visions of high-profile bloggers or celebrities who plug the latest fashion or gadgets. When it comes to a B2B company, marketers are interested in people with both unique insights and widespread connections to prospects. These influencers are probably not celebrities; they may be other entrepreneurs, business experts, economists, or your own employees. Once you know who you’re interested in working with, it’s time to start building relationships.

Dustin Luther (@tyr), Dun & Bradstreet’s Director of Engagement, recently joined the Director of Marketing at LittleBird, Julie Zisman (@juliezisman), to discuss the finer points of influencer marketing. Here are some of their insights to guide your efforts when reaching out to influencers. You can hear the complete conversation on H2H Chat, hosted by Bryan Kramer.

1. Influencers are Human

One of the most important things to remember when starting off with influencer marketing is this: influencers are humans, too. Would you enjoy being spammed with constant requests from companies or people you don’t know? Yes, the goal is to get influencers to engage with your brand and share your content, but if you don’t first show support on your end, you may never get anything in return.

Find out what the influencers are working on and see if your brand can help. Support them in their initiatives and it can open doors to working together in the future. You’ll need to start building a relationship prior to asking for favors.

2. Join the Community

Jumping online one day and reaching out to influencers isn’t the most strategic way to get started. Try joining their community, becoming a part of LinkedIn groups they’re in, participating in the Twitter chats they frequent, and following the people they follow. When you start from the bottom you can help establish your brand as trustworthy.

3. Look for Industry Expertise

B2B influencer marketing can be much different from B2C. If you’re envisioning the Kardashians endorsing a product on their Instagram, you’re thinking of B2C influencer marketing. In B2B, influencers are sharing expertise and advice, not products. In other words, you need to connect with influencers who have a solid reputation in the B2B world.

Business Owners as Influencers

As the owner of a B2B company, you probably have years of insights stored away. The moment you decide to make a concerted effort to share this knowledge, you’ve taken the first step to becoming an influencer. As part of our ongoing D&B B2B Podcast series, Dustin Luther sat down with John Hall, co-founder of Influence & Co., to discuss this tactic. Here are two steps to get you started.

Decide Which Insights You Want to Share

In today’s world, many people are on the hunt for nuggets of information that can help give them a leg up in their professional or personal lives. Although you may not realize it or sit around thinking about it, as a business owner you possess information that would benefit others in some way, shape, or form. Sharing your knowledge can increase exposure for your business.

Perhaps you import lots of raw materials or work on government contracts. It takes real experience to speak knowledgeably about complicated subjects. When people see that the information you’re providing is useful, they may begin to trust you and your business. Knowing what information you want to share is an important first step to becoming an influencer.

Know Where You’ll Publish Your Content

Will you start your own blog? Maybe you prefer to test the waters with a guest post on a friend’s blog or a local business site? Each promotional avenue has its pros and cons, and you’ll want to pick the right one before you record your first video or write the inaugural article. Consider factors such as the site’s reach, its relevance to your business, and whether or not readers are likely to be interested in learning more about your company. After all, you want to convert visitors into customers.

Real-Life Examples

We interviewed small business owners as part of Black History Month and Women’s Business Month and published their stories. Their interviews are a great example of how small business owners can become influencers online and in their communities. Steven Burton, for example, is the first business owner in his family, and he hopes to inspire others like him to start their own businesses as well. Craig J. Lewis is on a mission provide 1 million small businesses with free, smart payroll via his company Visage payroll and Cheree Warrick became such an expert at business plans that she made a business creating them for others. These small business owners are not just influential but inspiring – check out their stories and others:

Employee Advocacy

You probably already know that your employees are your biggest business asset. But did you know they’re also your biggest marketing asset? In a wave of new research on the power of employee advocacy, no other group has been shown to be more influential when it comes to positive PR, brand awareness, and customer loyalty. Instead of CEOs, publicists, and other influencers, it’s employees who have the biggest impact on how customers perceive your company.

Employee advocacy isn’t just about getting staff to share your marketing content with potential customers. Instead, it entails leveraging existing social influence, engaging employees in and out of the workplace, and creating a company culture that inspires authentic commitment to your brand and mission.

Employee advocacy involves everyone in the company making an organic, personal investment in the company’s success.

Identifying Your Employee Advocates

An employee advocate is deeply invested in the welfare of the entire organization – not just their place within it. They see the big picture, encourage colleagues and co-workers to engage with the brand, and genuinely believe in the work they do on a macro level.

An ideal employee advocate:

  • Feels comfortable and confident communicating brand benefits to family and friends
  • Is invested in the company’s success while in and out of the office
  • Promotes a sense of ownership at every level of the company – from entry level to C-suite
  • Is passionate about your business’s products, services, and mission

Perhaps even more importantly, employee advocates don’t just feel good about your brand – they feel compelled to share those feelings with prospects and customers. They’re happy to increase brand awareness through word of mouth, traditional media, and digital marketing.

Benefits of Employee Advocacy

When you place your business and marketing strategy in the hands of dedicated employees, you can take advantage of some incredible benefits that will have an exponential impact on the success of your business.

Employee advocates can …

  • Build Trust: Employee advocacy is the easiest way to build trust with customers and prospects. Employee advocates are able to foster genuine, trusting relationships with customers by communicating honestly with them. And if the employee honesty believes in the products and services being sold, a trusting relationship forms naturally – and those products and services seem to sell themselves.
  • Cut Marketing Costs: When you entrust the success of your business to all of your employees, your marketing and sales departments don’t have to do all the heavy lifting. You no longer have to rely on ad buys or massive marketing campaigns to get the return on investment you’re looking for.
  • Instead, you can slash your marketing spend and invest in the engagement and authentic advocacy of each employee. The time they spend building customer relationships, answering questions, and connecting online is both cost-effective and priceless.
  • Enhance Company Culture: Imagine a company culture that’s the opposite of most businesses around the world. A culture where, instead of 87% of employees feeling disengaged, 87% of employees feel beyond engaged as true employee advocates. Just think of what it’d be like to work at a company like that – where everyone truly believed in the company’s mission, worked for the success of all involved, and strove to give their best each and every day. Now that’s the kind of company that attracts top talent, has very little turnover, and is able to further slash expenditures by investing in the right people long-term.
  • Secure Partnerships and Joint Ventures: Creating a culture of employee advocacy frees up your marketing budget, reduces employee turnover, boosts profits, and builds customer loyalty. But it also opens the door to joint ventures with other like-minded, forward-thinking organizations. When you create a place people love to work, you create an environment where others want to work with you.

Employee Advocacy in Action

So what does employee advocacy look like in action, and how can you implement it into your business?

  • Employees must have a personal stake in the company’s success, beyond compensation. If people have no vested interest in the company beyond earning a paycheck, it will be impossible to create true employee advocates. If engagement or loyalty are lacking, find out why. A strong company culture, inspiring products and services, and an exciting mission must all be in place before employees can become advocates.
  • Empower employees to maintain and nurture relationships with customers over time. Even the playing field between entry-level workers, managers, directors, and leadership by giving all staff the tools they need to foster customer relationships at every level of the organization.
  • Leverage your employees’ digital footprints and social influence to promote company initiatives and campaigns. Nearly every one of your employees has a social network with hundreds of connections. Instead of spending precious marketing dollars trying to find new customers, let the customers come to you – through trusted personal connections who happen to work at your company.

3 Examples of Employee Advocacy

Employee advocacy may be a trendy HR buzzword, but for these companies it’s become a way of making business more profitable:

Dun & Bradstreet

D&B recently launched a company-wide app to engage employees in an advocacy initiative via their smartphones. The app gives employees the digital assets they need to get involved with marketing campaigns on a grassroots level, stay excited about the D&B brand, and easily share the company’s message with their social networks.

Dynamic Signal

This software company helps brands like Capital One and Deloitte turns employees into brand advocates. With a few simple clicks, employees can share branded content with their social circles based on their personal interests. They can also create and upload their own content, further solidifying them as industry experts and earning the trust of their followers. This direct sharing method between employees and their social networks has been shown to increase content engagement up to 700x!

Sage

Small business tech company Sage was so passionate about employee advocacy, they launched a 23-country social media integration program in less than 24 hours. Using Sociabble, a leading employee advocacy platform, Sage was able to transform 13,000 employees into employee advocates on social media – literally overnight.

As you’ve no doubt realized, influencer marketing can take many forms. You may find that one works better than the others, or that there’s space for multiple B2B influencer campaigns in your business.

Photo Credit: FJO, Twenty20