Influencer marketing in the consumer space has largely focused on raising brand awareness or helping with other marketing objectives, but recently-published research from TopRank Marketing suggests nearly three quarters of B2B decision-makers see it as a customer experience enhancement.
In its State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, TopRank surveyed more than 300 marketing and communication professionals. Of these, a large majority of 78 per cent said they think prospects rely on influencer advice when making a purchasing decision.
Among those who have adopted an influencer marketing program, 44 per cent reported an increase in brand advocacy, 34 per cent reported increased sales and 55 per cent reported increased mentions of a brand.
“During the customer journey, influence happens in every exchange of information as prospective customers pull themselves through the sales cycle towards a solution,” the report’s authors write. “It creates value for everyone: customers get useful content experiences, the brand gains reach and engagement and the influencers improve their credibility by association with the brand.
360 Magazine Insight:
Led by Lee Odden, TopRank has been working hard over the past few years to show that influencer marketing is not only applicable to B2B brands, but an opportunity they can’t afford to miss. The research validates a lot of the thinking Odden and his team have voiced in many blog posts and presentations at Content Marketing World and other forums.
Despite the overall positive sentiment, TopRank’s report said 60% of marketers believe they lack the knowledge and skillset to implement an influencer marketing campaign. That may be because, in some cases, they’ve been doing it without really thinking of it as “influencer marketing.”
Unlike a B2C brand where influencers are often creating highly stylized content on platforms like Instagram, B2B influencers are often representative of a firm’s customers — CIOs, CFOs and even other CMOs — who have created a profile or personal brand for themselves based on their job performance. They are the people B2B brands would have traditionally limited themselves to inviting to speak at an event or perhaps authoring a guest post on their blog.
The TopRank report shows the potential with these influencers is under-exploited and could become more critical to B2B success in the long run. After all, a B2B brand may be trying to sell a product or service worth thousands or even millions of dollars. The level of risk is much higher than a consumer purchasing an item of clothing.
That’s why a B2B influencer’s value is not on the aesthetics of a photograph but the their authority and expertise they have about a piece of subject matter. Their content can be aspirational but grounded in a deeper level of experience that can help a B2B buyer overcome their doubts or uncertainties before making a purchase.
From a CX standpoint, B2B influencers could make the awareness stage of the marketing funnel better by offering a higher quality of information than a brand could produce on its own. It could make buying process better by giving customers greater confidence and could even aid with post-sale aspects of the experience by continuing to offer tips or advice that leads to retention and loyalty.
B2B companies with CX teams may not initially consider influencers as part of the strategy they develop, focusing instead on areas such as customer success to ensure a good experience in the onboarding process after a sale. It will require a greater partnership with marketing (and the latter’s willingness to include CX teams in discussions with and introductions to influencers) to create kind of positive impact the talks about.
The full 47-page report (which is ungated) is well worth reading in its entirety, filled with case studies, details on choosing an influencer, the technologies you can use and more.