As influencer marketing continues to grow and mature, so does its ability to deliver a significant return on investment (ROI) for brands, with some reports finding that influencer marketing ROI has grown to more than 10 times that of traditional marketing strategies. Brands have never had more of a reason to invest heavily in influencer engagement than they do today – and this trend looks set to continue well into 2020.
So, if we business-to-business (B2B) marketers cannot afford to exclude influencers, what exactly should we be doing to ensure our strategies succeed? For B2B brands, influencer value is multidimensional and goes beyond pure numbers.
Here are my tips on how to select the right influencers for your campaign and deliver meaningful results.
Unlike most business-to-consumer (B2C) influencers, B2B influencers may not have a large fanbase or an active social media presence; the majority of them have in-depth knowledge, authority, or insight into a specific subject or sway over a niche target audience.
In B2B technology marketing, for example, technology companies can reach a target audience by engaging with influencers in industries not directly related to tech via vertical media platforms. In addition to general technology experts, influencers in a field like cloud computing solutions could be subject matter experts from industries where cloud tech has been utilised, such as eCommerce, finance, government, education, and manufacturing.
What many agree upon is that the opinion of a well-known computer scientist commenting on an industry trend holds far more value than endorsements from 10 social media influencers on the same topic.
Similar B2B influencers could be leaders of prestigious and recognised organisations, top-tier journalists or published authors. To evaluate the potential for future partnerships, we must consider factors such as subject matter expertise, bias and their interest in products or topics. These insights can be gathered from screening relevant industry conference keynotes and on-air contributions.
B2B influencers do not communicate with the general public, but rather with potential customers familiar with the industry who are less likely to make a purchase based on social media content. The core objective of B2B influencer marketing is to establish thought leadership, provide informative and credible content, and build trust through relevance and authority.
That said, we cannot overlook the value brands can, in turn, bring to influencers. There are endless opportunities for brands to foster relationships that build influencer credibility, and for influencers to gain access to senior executives, events or previews that enable them to deliver valuable content to their audiences.
According to a recent report by the Influencer Marketing Hub, 78% of interviewees considered earned media to be a good measure of influencer campaign ROI. Inﬂuence may exist beyond social platforms and this is a phenomenon amplified in the B2B influencer marketing context. If influencers with a low social media presence are included in the campaign, more robust technologies are required to bring disparate data sources together and conduct thorough quantitative and qualitative analysis.
Artiﬁcial intelligence and machine learning will also play an increasingly important role in inﬂuencer marketing. With those technologies, marketers can get more accurate qualitative measurements based on accumulative data. Not only can the obvious numbers be reviewed more extensively, but the less obvious value examined rationally. There is technology available in the market that can carry out influencer audience validation by making sure targets are real and fit within the desired audience. Influencer vetting tools are also on hand to check if their current or past activity would pose a moral or ethical risk to the brand.
At my own agency, we took matters into our own hands and developed our own branded methodology. It allows us to justify the selection of influencers based on their online footprint, to develop the description of their brand personality, and to craft an engagement strategy based on their strengths in reaching the desired audience. We also use a number of technological tools to measure the value of an influencer’s content for B2B industries and evaluate the real impact of their campaign through a dashboard that aggregates various data sources and perspectives to deliver a comprehensive view of the resulting ROI.
B2B influencer marketing is not about using an influencer’s audience to broadcast your brand messages, it should (and must) go deeper. Real value needs to be delivered to both influencers and their audiences beyond just numbers. Relationships with diversified B2B influencer targets should be maintained to bring long-term benefits to brands. In addition to quantitative measurements, it is critical that the qualitative success and multi-dimensional value of B2B influencer marketing be further examined and optimised, alongside on-going monitoring and value measurement.
Joe Peng is the managing director and head of BCW Asia Pacific’s Digital Innovation Group and an agency member of PRHK, Hong Kong’s association for PR and communications professionals