What are some uncommon ways B2B marketers can successfully work with influencers?
One of the many advantages of working with subject matter experts (SMEs) who are influential in their industry is the sheer variety of ways that marketers can collaborate to build a mutually beneficial partnership.
While we’ve explored many of the traditional ways B2B marketers often work with influencers, we wanted to take a look at a few of the unusual ways collaboration is taking place.
Let’s dive right in, with examples from both SMEs and marketers who’ve implemented uncommon takes on the B2B influencer partnership that can help inspire your own influencer programs.
1 — From Influencer to Long-Term Friendship
Christopher Penn, co-founder and chief data scientist at Trust Insights, has found that an influencer partnership can on occasion lead to something bigger than the sum of its parts.
“Uncommon experience? Becoming great friends with one of the folks who was originally just doing outreach,” Christopher shared.
“There’s always a bit of a power imbalance in any kind of influencer situation, especially in cases where someone is asking for help and there isn’t a tangible exchange of value — like payment,” Christopher explained.
“But occasionally you run into someone that’s just a solid, good human being, and the commercial relationship evolves into an actual friendship. Rare, but delightful,” Christopher noted.
Successful B2B influencer marketing programs are often built on long-term professional relationships that find brands and SMEs working together and helping one another over the long haul, giving rise to always-on efforts that gain strength as years of shared experiences and successes accumulate.
Finding friendship is a bonus that can sometimes happen when working with influencer programs, and is certainly one to treasure as Christopher shared.
“Occasionally you run into someone that’s just a solid, good human being, and the commercial relationship evolves into an actual friendship. Rare, but delightful.” — Christopher Penn @cspenn Click To Tweet
2 — Building Trust with Pre-Release Influencer Briefings
For Michaela Underdahl, marketing lead at customer relationship management software firm Nimble, there are a variety of uncommon tactics that can be used when working with industry influencers.
“One of our main goals at Nimble is to turn the influencers that we work with into power users and evangelists,” Michaela said.
“So, every time we are launching a new feature, we brief our influencers prior to the release date and request quotes describing the benefits of the feature to them. Depending on the type of the influencer, we use the quotes in various different ways,” Michaela explained.
“Some of the more common ways are press releases and blog posts, but we also create social graphics and use the quotes to reach out to additional influencers and press. This helps us open new doors as people recognize these influencers and are more likely to start working with us since they know we already work with people they know, like and trust,” Michaela shared.
This trust and the variety of ways it can be nurtured when working with SMEs is another example of the power of influencer marketing to go beyond traditional content or search marketing initiatives, as we explored recently in “Trust and the Search for Answers: How Influence Optimizes SEO Performance.”
Empowering evangelists as Michaela noted can lead to stronger influencer relationships that benefit both brands and industry experts.
3 — Discovering New Influencers In Unusual Social Hangouts
B2B influencer marketing continues to evolve, and SMEs in some industries aren’t always going to be found solely on the traditional social media platforms of LinkedIn*, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Many industries have attracted an infusion of newly-minted marketing professionals, and the SMEs they consider influential may frequent an entirely different set of online communication platforms, which could be any of the following or others:
- Twitter Spaces
- Spotify Greenroom
- Facebook Live Audio Rooms
- Twitter Blue
Today there are more social channels than ever, and we all have our favorites for work, play, research, or other tasks.
B2B marketers are finding untapped audiences on uncommon social platforms — audiences that often become customers — and that feature potential influencers to consider for certain industries.
We’ve explored how B2B marketers can utilize some of these alternative social platforms in the following articles:
Additionally, Penry Price, vice-president of marketing solutions at LinkedIn, recently explored how B2B marketers can tap in to Gen Z, in “Focusing on gen Z: how B2B brands can hook this new generation of customers & candidates.”
“Participating on the Clubhouse app immediately increased my social and professional networks. Clubhouse is amazing for the give-and-take communication and information exchange.” — Stephanie Thum @stephaniethum Click To Tweet
4 — Working Together To Drive Industry Knowledge
Perhaps even more than in B2C marketing, B2B influencers have increasingly formed mostly private groups that serve as communication tools for refining and driving the long-term success of influencer marketing.
Sometimes driving industry knowledge and empowering influencers are also tackled by more public groups, such as the popular Adobe Insiders program.
“Working with a small group of influencers can be a great place to start, but that small group should be backed by a much larger list of researched candidate influencers. As relationships develop through the course of different collaborations, B2B marketers will refine and find the right influencers. A VIP group of influencers might be created as Adobe has with its 60+ Adobe Insiders being activated at individual, small group or large group levels depending on the situation,” our CEO and co-founder Lee Odden noted recently in “B2B Influencer Marketing Strategy: 5 Questions to Ask First.”
The Adobe Insiders program is a diverse group of over 60 influencers that includes leading executives, industry leaders, major media correspondents, contributing journalists, and technology pioneers — including Lee.
Managing the B2B Adobe Insiders program is Rani Mani, head of employee advocacy at Adobe. Rani shared her insight into the program and how it drives industry knowledge and more in her in-depth interview for our Inside B2B Influence show, which is available at “Inside Influence 1: Rani Mani from Adobe on the B2B Influencer Marketing Advantage.”
“I think we’ll see a lot more influencers standing up for their creative freedom and creative license and I think we’ll see less prescriptive micromanagement from brands.” — Rani Mani @ranimani0707 Click To Tweet
5 — Spark Interest by Mentoring New B2B Influencers
By mentoring the next generations of marketing influencers, you’ll not only help new SMEs develop, but also continue your own lifelong learning.
Influencer marketing is a two-way street when it comes to mentoring opportunities.
“I think it’s really important that people seek out a person who is going to be a champion for them if they want to advance and grow their career,” Jen Holtvluwer, chief marketing officer at Spirion shared in our “Inside Influence 5: Jen Holtvluwer from Spiron on Award Winning B2B Influencer Marketing.”
“I’ve had so many that I still keep in touch with today that have been that champion for my cause. So I think it’s really important to not to do it alone and make sure you put in the time and that your time is noticed. And make sure that you’re marketing yourself to the right champion in the business. Then they’ll stay with you and refer you as other opportunities come up,” Jen explained.
We can do a great service to future generations by sharing our insight with aspiring young B2B influencers.
If we can spark an interest by mentoring a younger colleague, client or associate, we’ll contribute to a future of marketing that is more robust with your own personal knowledge passed along to the next generation.
We can do this by inspiring and mentoring young influencer talent by imparting your own passion for B2B marketing, as Peggy Smedley, editorial director and president at Specialty Publishing Media, shared with us in “B2B Influencer Marketing Advice from 9 Top B2B Influencers.”
“As influencers we are here to serve the mission and [know] that our influence on people comes from our ability to be a role model. We need to be very mindful about what we say and how we say it. We are always leaders and mentors and we need to focus on the needs of others first because we have been tasked with leading others. We always need to serve others and by doing that we are doing the best for ourselves,” Peggy shared.
Taming Your Uncharted Influencer Waters
By making the leap from influencer to long-term friendship, building trust by sharing pre-campaign briefings, tapping into unusual social hangouts, using influencer groups to drive industry knowledge, and mentoring future influencers, your own B2B influencer marketing program can benefit substantially from these uncommon tactics.
These five are only the tip of the influencer marketing iceberg, however, as the power of influence is expansive and only expected to increase as we make the push to 2022.
To learn more about the power of influence in B2B marketing, be sure to catch the new season of our Inside B2B Influence show, featuring in-depth video and podcast interviews with the top B2B influencers working with the world’s biggest B2B brands. The season kicked off with Ann Handley of MarketingProfs in “Inside B2B Influence 14: Ann Handley of MarketingProfs on Content Marketing and Influence.”
Creating award-winning B2B marketing with an artful mixture of influence takes considerable time and effort, which is why many firms choose to work with a top digital marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing. Contact us today and let us know how we can help, as we’ve done for businesses ranging from LinkedIn, Dell and 3M to Adobe, Oracle, monday.com and others.
* LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.