If you target a niche, should B2B influencers be part of your strategy?
When influencer marketing is mentioned, the mind moves to Instagram, YouTube or TikTok millionaires pumping out content every day that appeals to the masses. Luxury lifestyles, fast fashion, excited gamers in their bedrooms – none of these is akin to the reality of B2B marketing to a niche. Look a little further, particularly on platforms such as LinkedIn, and you’ll find that there are a small number of people who influences others in your sectors. Should you (and could you) be part of their conversation? If so, how?
An influencer is someone who has:
- Recognised professional competence. Think knowledgeable, trustworthy, authentic, experienced, and credible.
- An engaged audience from a defined community who are interested to hear from them. On LinkedIn, this can be followers or connections.
- An awareness of what is going on within the sector and willingness to provide a viewpoint about it.
When you think about the typical buying process, there is usually a stage where an influencer influences those decision-makers making a choice about a purchase. In B2B marketing, it is important to think about influencers as those influencing individual deals, particularly important in ABM campaigns, and those who exert marketing influence.
B2B marketing influencers can be split into two groups:
- The experts and opinion formers who have built status off using their knowledge – both online and offline.
- The advocates who share their interest and views on products, brands and industries, based on honesty and credibility, who are trying to influence behaviour.
Involving such influencers can increase your reach in finding more leads, enhance your credibility and market resonance by adding a layer of colour to your marketing, and reinforce your brand’s positioning as an expert in your niche.
Steps to take to build a B2B influencer strategy for a niche
- Start with defining your customers and mapping their buying process
Why? Because you’ll get sucked into identifying the wrong influencers if you don’t. Who are your ICPs (ideal customer profiles) and what role do they play in the buying unit? What information do they need to play their part?
In this stage, define the subject area, the channel and the purpose. You are likely to find that LinkedIn is the main channel for content, with Twitter and YouTube playing a support role.
Define your aims here too – is it to generate awareness (meaning your metrics are reach-led) or provide insight gathering and lead generation (which will take longer)? Knowing what you want to achieve and over what period of time means you can assess whether the effort you put in will be worth it.This act gives you a prism and a direction to guide your strategy. Without this, it’s easy to fall into hours of misdirected effort.
- Identify a list of influencers
The second (and arguably most important) step is to define your niche and only look for influencers who operate in and talk about your sector. Those that cover broader subjects will be harder to encourage to cover the subject areas you are keen to talk about. Build small lists by:– Asking your customers – speak to them or ask in surveys.
– Asking your colleagues – they’ve made a career choice to work in your niche, too!
– Reviewing who already follows your company pages on LinkedIn.
– Conducting desktop research – analyse hashtags, key words and subject areas using social media listening tools. When researching a niche, most off-the-shelf MarTech does not go to the level you need. There are no shortcuts, unfortunately.Areas to look for in-depth are sector consultants, association contacts, industry trainers, trade media writers/editors, podcast producers and more. We’ve had success using hosts and guests of appropriate podcasts, especially because this demographic has a willingness to create content on the fly in a subject that they’re passionate about.Finally, and possibly the easiest method, is to join appropriate LinkedIn groups. Think about your buyer personas though, and join groups that would appeal to them. It is through them that you will see who already publishes content that influences your audiences.There are also tools, including Onalytica and BuzzSumo, but they tend to favour sources (such as Twitter) and are better suited for larger influencers, such as those who are B2B marketing influencers, not – for example – B2B marketing in manufacturing.A shortcut can often be following competitors and seeing who they seem to favour in their content.And often, for niche businesses, it is possible that there aren’t any influencers in your area. But this provides an opportunity for you to become one, and make your own rules. To learn more about how to achieve this, we’d recommend that you read Julia Atherton’s B2B Social Selling Strategy book.
- Follow influencers and watch what they create
Begin by monitoring their output. Follow them on LinkedIn and monitor the frequency, quality, accuracy and tone of what they produce. This stage is vital and should not be rushed. This is not only useful for an influencer strategy, but for essential market research.
- Interact with their posts
Following good B2B social selling techniques, begin by liking or sharing salient content with your followers, particularly as a company brand. Tag the author and call out their great work.
- Look to feature them in your content
This can take different forms, whether name-dropping on platforms, referring to their research or adding comments that call a particular influencer out as an expert – better still, ask them for a bespoke comment. Watching how your audiences react is important to understanding how well they resonate. Through these small-scale tests, you can be sure that your customers and those you interact with appreciate their opinions.
Many will do this without payment when in a B2B niche. After all, if a larger player in a niche that you are interested in wants to talk to you, it is flattery of the highest level to be approached by a reputable brand in that sector.
- Consider co-creating unique content
Depending on the type of influencer, this stage is about engaging in the right way. Reach out to the influencer via their preferred platform and/or email/website. If they produce their own content, offer to put an expert forward, such as appearing in a podcast (such as our Marketing Director’s appearance on the 414 B2B Marketing podcast to talk about ABM). Alternatives include creating articles to use in your own marketing. Examples of this include our interview with Clare Leighton, a B2B expert in sustainability or acclaimed manufacturing marketer, Rene Power who guided ever-green articles on resources for manufacturing marketers to stay up to date and trends articles for the main challenges expected for industrial companies.
Do you have influencers you’ve worked with to great effect? We’d love to hear from you!