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The Rise of B2B Influencer Marketing

By Gordon Plutsky· Apr 18, 2017

Influencer Marketing

One of the most promising and growing areas of B2B marketing is influencer marketing. A good definition of influencer marketing comes from Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Marketing Agency: ‘Influencer Marketing is the practice of engaging internal and industry experts/influencers with active networks to help achieve measurable business goals.’ These influencers can help promote your content with added authority.

The concept has been around for a long time, but with the growth of social media it is becoming a formal marketing discipline. An increasing number of tech companies are building influencer programs into their campaigns; and media companies are forming networks to compliment and extend their audience reach.

The appeal is a simple one, we’ve known for years that opinions and recommendation from respected peers is a major driver of IT purchase decision-making. In the 2017 IDG Enterprise Customer Engagement Research, recommendation from peers is the top purchase influence. In the past this was limited to word of mouth between IT professionals within user groups, at conferences and other informal connections. With the advent of social media and virtual communities this takes on a new dimension. In fact, the digitalization of the buyer’s journey has made it so peer opinions have become even more important during the decision-making process.

Bloggers and social influencers have become a strong presence in the online ecosystem and can be as important as independent media and content created by tech vendors. Digital media has democratized content which gives anyone the ability to have a voice and build a following.

A recent study from Altimeter tells us that while 55% of B2C companies are running ongoing influencers programs, only 15% are doing the same in the B2B space. However, 71% of brand marketers ranked influencer marketing as a highly strategic or strategic marketing category. Given the changes in the media landscape, it is evitable that B2B tech companies will jump into this emerging market. Having respected influencers talk about your brand or share/amplify your content is win/win situation for marketers. Some of the benefits:

  • Influencer marketing adds an authenticity to your content that is appealing to today’s buyers, especially millennials who depend on reviews from peers.
  • Social influencers can help you reach hard to find buyers who may not be reading traditional media (again, millennials) or who don’t fit the typical criteria of IT decision makers. Buyers of all ages are spending more time on social networks, so reach them where they are engaging with content.
  • It extends the reach of your marketing campaign with earned media, and adds more “touches” to prospects in a very cost effective way. The complexity of today’s media means buyers need to be engaged more often and across more platforms before converting to customers.
  • Influencer marketing reduces the need for traditional PR since the goal of PR is often to generate earned media on social channels. Why not go directly to key influencers?

Those are the benefits, and here are some best practices to consider as you embark on an influencer program.

  • Influencers programs are not stand alone tactics and should be integrated into a holistic marketing campaign as a key element for amplification and engagement.
  • Cultivate influencers over time and make sure the relationship is mutually beneficial. You can compensate them in a number of ways: financial, invites to events, social capital and other exclusive perks that bond them to your brand. You can also turn to media companies such as IDG to tap into their influencer network and the relationship they have with key thought leaders.
  • Think about leveraging influencers for content co-creation in the form of sponsored blog posts or working their ideas or quotes into your original content.
  • Measurement considerations are a bit different than a typical online campaign. It is not so much about generating impressions and click throughs, and don’t treat it like lead gen campaign. While it is important to track reach and shares it is more important to look at who shared it. Quality over quantity is the rule. Tools like Klout, Kred and Buzzsumo can show you the online influence of people who shared your content or engaged with your brand.

One of the most important reasons to add an influencer program to your marketing campaigns is because it delivers something different to your media mix. It brings a level of independent authority and authenticity to content amplification that you can’t get with paid media. In a world with a complex buyer’s journey, adding influencer marketing helps cover all bases.

Special Note:
IDG is always looking to expand our roster of experts who have technology domain expertise and are interested in blogging, hosting webcasts, or other content development and social media activities in support of our technology clients.

There is no cost to join the IDG Influencer Network, no minimum commitment for participation, and we will never share your contact information with third parties. If you’d like to be considered for the IDG Influencer Network, please apply here and we’ll get back to you.

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