The rise of the B2B influencer in 2017

March 23, 2017

By: Matt Laybourn

Ok, surprise! Influencer marketing isn’t new. It’s an ongoing evolution from word-of-mouth, falling under multiple guises since then. It’s a tactic that’s exploded beyond a face to face recommendation under the catalyst that is digital.

Influencer marketing is all about engaging with trusted individuals or businesses with the capacity to influence our buying audiences. It opens-up an entirely new way for B2B brands to connect with increasingly elusive and discerning buyers in a way that is more natural and relatable.

Tell me something new

So, we all must be including influencer marketing programs in our overall strategy by now, right? Well, no… at present only 15% of B2B marketers are running an ongoing or integrated influencer programme. [Altimeter 2017]

The figures don’t really add up do they? We know it works, yet so many in the B2B Tech space aren’t using it. When discussing with this colleagues, the consensus was that many companies are still looking for proof in action before they dip their toes in the water. Well, it’s there already – it always has been, the water’s warm – take off your arm-bands you wimps!

Let’s consider this from two angles, the marketing side, and the buyer side.

57% of marketers believe influencer marketing will be integrated in all marketing activity in three years. [Altimeter 2017] Sounds like we marketers can see it coming. As for the buyer, research last year shows that content from thought leaders or industry experts is one of the top three most sought after pieces of information when looking to make a purchase decision. [IDGE, 2016] The buyer was always looking for it. Oops!

You could say we’ve been blinded by the lights of digital and forgotten that emotional touch. We still intrinsically buy from people or companies we like and we’re influenced by the experts and industry leaders on a subject. We need proof beyond marketing fluff that we’re getting the right product or service.

Buyer behaviour doesn’t sit still

To further fuel the fire, we also need to consider that buyer behaviour has already undergone a significant shift in recent years because of digital. Intrusive, outbound activities are delivering less ROMI than ever before. Ad-blockers, privacy laws and distrust of advertising will ensure that traditional top-of-funnel marketing techniques will be near-exhaustion in the not-too-distant future. Unless you love spam (seriously, both types who is buying this crap?) this is good news for customers and marketers alike.

Inbound is king and it’s our job to make sure we meet the buyer on a customer journey that suits them. Each journey has multiple touch points and it’s not just the ones we can control at the start of a campaign. We must remember the need to consider all our angles.

Where do we fit influencer marketing into our strategy? Well, running a slap-dash influencer program as part of a quarterly campaign simply won’t cut it – yet 36% of B2B marketing streams are doing just that. [Altimeter 2017] Engaging a group of influencers then turning them off at the end of the campaign does not serve anybody’s best interests.

Make it real

Using influence is the perfect partner for content strategies and can span multiple channels. To make it work, the time is now: start identifying, following, engaging and then work with the right influencers in your market. Build a relationship, maintain it – and collaborate.

In B2B tech marketing, we’re still in the early stages of wider adoption. It’s a tactic that will gain significant uptake in the coming years, and no-ones likes to be the last one to the party. So, arrive on time, get all the best bits from the buffet and be as greedy as you like, while everyone else is still trying to park outside. You earned it, you clever sausage!

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About the author: Matt is a Planner in the planning and strategy team at DirectionGroup. Originally from a B2C background where he created and ran an e-commerce business, Matt specialises in digital marketing and strategy. He’s results driven and passionate about creating intelligent, integrated marketing campaigns and brand strategy. When not at work, he’s best found tinkering with his car or moaning about the ill fortunes of his (awful!) football team.

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