Influencer marketing in the B2B world is a viable strategy, and there are real influencers out there who can help you achieve real marketing and business results. But they are not all created equal. Pick the wrong type of influencer and you won’t get the return you’re after.
Both B2B and B2C companies have quickly adopted influencer strategies and, while their approaches are not fundamentally different, the impact influencers can have varies widely. For B2C, where price points are generally lower, volume and speed are the goals. Reaching as many consumers as possible is critical in order to impact the bottom line. With B2B, however, where a single sale can mean thousands if not millions of dollars in revenue, the goal is to reach the right person at the right time with the right message. Influencing the purchase of an enterprise software platform requires more depth of knowledge and precision of connection than, say, the latest cherry-flavored lip gloss.
In my work with B2B influencers, I have noticed powerful nuances and success factors at play. Regardless of your industry, you need to consider four distinct types of influencers and the role each plays to get the most bang for your buck. (Be sure to see the infographic at the end of this article, as well.)
• The Amplifier: Amplifiers are everywhere, all the time. They are active curators and disseminators of information who tend to cover topics broadly, not deeply. You’ll know them by the names they drop.
Amplifiers are a great resource for sharing news and updates or announcing new products or platforms. They have grown their influence sphere and reputation by being in the know. And, like the cool kids at the lunch table, they want to stay there. Giving them the inside track on your news and announcements keeps them relevant and valuable to their audience—which keeps their audiences coming back for more.
One place where amplifiers play an important role is with mergers and acquisitions in the software industry. If the product you own is getting a new home, it is always important to get that information as soon as possible so you can plan next steps.
• The Expert: Experts value depth and know-how. They like to open things up to understand how they tick. They can help you explain how your products or services deliver value, how they’re differentiated or unique, how they compare and contrast with other offerings on the market, and how they fit into a larger trend.
These influencers are built for analysis, not amplification. They have cemented their reputations on LinkedIn and Twitter because they interpret what’s happening and share their insights. Showcasing their knowledge builds their authority.
Expert influencers are especially invaluable in highly complex technical situations. As a prospective buyer of a big-ticket item, who would you rather hear from someone with deep expertise or a salesperson who joined the company last month?
• The Accomplisher: Accomplishers are often found right in your own backyard. They are the happy customers who know your product or service inside and out and have achieved something remarkable because of it. They can help you demonstrate the benefits of your products and services—without the whiff of a “corporate-sponsored” success story or testimonial.
Accomplishers showcase their achievements with pride because they see the intersection between personal and professional gain. By using a product or service to do their jobs better, they elevate their savvy ad leadership.
There is a reason every good buyer conducts back-door reference checks: They want the scoop on other customers’ experiences. Accomplishers serve as public customer references. That’s a win-win for companies and buyers alike.
• The Innovator: Innovators bring big new ideas, topics, and concepts to the table. They awaken their audience’s imagination and spark different ways of thinking.
Innovators can help you share squishy concepts and collaborate with other Innovators to flesh them out. They can help you test whether an idea will resonate and how others might perceive or interpret it. They can also help you back up a point of view with research or academic references. Innovators do what they do because they love to build new things with new people. They are on the lookout for breakthrough or emerging insights that they can use to build tribes of passionate collaborators who will define new worlds.
Cutting-edge B2B buyers don’t want yesterday’s big idea. Chances are they are building or doing something in their company to prepare for the future. Learning about AI breakthroughs, for example, can radically change a product roa dmap—which is why trusted Innovators are priceless to forward-looking corporations.
Who Is Right For Your Campaign?
Go back to your business goals: What are you trying to achieve? If your objective is to share news about a product or service or float a new concept, reaching your audience through Amplifiers and Innovators is the way to go. If you want to instill confidence in your company and deepen knowledge about your products and services, focus on the Experts and Accomplishers.
Whoever you target, be sure to tell the influencer upfront, “This is what we’re hoping to accomplish” and ask that person, “Does this seem genuine, given your brand?” After all, working with influencers is a two-way street. True influence can’t be bought—it’s hard won through mutual respect and mutual benefit.