The future of influencer marketing: B2B influencer engagement

2 Comments 02.25.17

carvermoneyWhen you hear the phrase “influencer marketing” – a consumer product example comes to mind, doesn’t it? It’s a kid on Instagram, being paid to post a photo of a pair of shoes, or some such thing.

Well…that’s not the only game in town. In fact, it may not be the best game in town, over the long term. Many people say influencer marketing is more effective than advertising because the world demands authenticity now, more than ever. Honestly, though, paying someone to advocate for a consumer brand isn’t that far from advertising and so the advantage that model enjoys seems unlikely to last. (That said, my thoughts on paid influencer marketing are shifting away from outright rejection, lately.  That’s another matter.)

Influencer marketing: Building relationships with the people your customers are listening to.

Today, as part of a 3 part series of posts on The Future of Influencer Marketing, I want to share some thoughts about one big trend I see emerging: B2B influencer engagement. These thoughts are based on my years of serving customers in the influencer marketing market, many of the most successful ones being B2B companies, what I see from other vendors in this space, and frankly my hopes and desires. I secretly hope more influencer marketing shifts to B2B because I think B2B is smarter and more interesting, less aimed at serving the lowest common denominator and pointless material consumption. Whatever, though, I totally work with B2C companies too, of course.

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From the top right, clockwise. Click to enlarge.

B2B influencer marketing is going to challenge assumptions, both for the marketer and for the thought leaders, or influencers.  Marketers will need to take a more strategic view of influencer engagement.  Look at this incredible webinar that Aileen McGraw of Microsoft did with us on her influencer engagement for a #A1 example.  Remarkable.

Influential people in B2B will need to navigate what it means to work with brands in the future.  Is it a peer-based, unpaid collaboration? Is it a sponsored arrangement?  I’m sure we’ll see both and more.  It won’t be like the stereotypical sponsored Instagram post, though, at least not all the time.

Technology needs will be different too.  I’ll refer you to my previous post about building long term relationships, because there’s a lot of overlap here.

Finally, B2B influencer marketing is going to require a different kind of people, staffing.  It’s going to require people who have or who can build credibility in an industry context, with leading practitioners.  I’ve done this in data-related parts of the Internet, and it takes time.  Junior staff, told to jump in and engage B2B thought leaders, are going to struggle until they have invested time, learned, and contributed.

Finally, B2B influencer engagement, because it requires credibility, and is best served by long term relationships, is going to require that people really take responsibility for their work and reputation.  B2C “influencers” may, to too many brands, feel like expendable, interchangeable resources – but B2B influencers are not.  They’ve invested years working, taking risks, succeeding in business or technical matters.  Engaging them is a serious business responsibility.

Last week was about building long term relationships in the future of influencer marketing.  Next week I’ll write about the 3rd of 3 trends I see: gathering market intelligence from your influencer engagement.


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  • It’s an excellent point about the different staff requirements for working with B2B influencers. Seems like for the right influencer, the ideal employee for interfacing might be the product team. As you say, they’re going to need to know their stuff.

    I’m curious if brand loyalty is greater or less in B2B than with B2C. I could see it either way, as while B2B is often a more expensive purchase decisions (investments, really), there are lifelong Coke drinkers who could never be moved over to Pepsi, as one example.

    B2B influencers and their related companies could be split into various segments, based on factors like purchase amount, product lifespan, product complexity, and even frequency of job changes for the influencers. How those vary between the two parties could drive how the relationship is structured.

    Interesting stuff, Marshall. Thx.

  • Marshall Kirkpatrick

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Doug. I liked it all, but my favorite part was: “Seems like for the right influencer, the ideal employee for interfacing might be the product team.” I *so* agree!