[Estimated reading time: 7 minutes]
B2B marketing strategies are traditionally oriented towards direct sales according to a well established cycle: lead collection, direct approach with commercial proposal, etc..
However, a recent study suggests that these strategies don’t actually drive the buying decision. Although outbound sales may introduce a potential client to an organization or help close a deal, it is not the determining factor when choosing who to do business with.
So then, who is the big winner? What activity is responsible for the purchasing decision?
Trust. The #1 way to increase sales is to have current customers and industry influencers recommend the business to their peers.
“Nearly every B2B professional surveyed in March 2015 by the International Data Corporation (IDC) trusted peers and colleagues, and trust in independent content wasn’t far behind.”
B2B is an emotional business – where the key to success is in developing well-established relationships with key stakeholders.This article discusses how a company can maximize the impact of their influencer marketing strategy.
THE BUYER ISN’T ALWAYS THE ONE WHO MAKES THE DECISION
The decision-maker is often the client himself – but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the real influencer in the purchasing decision is the final consumer – the individual ultimately using the product.
For instance, in the healthcare industry – and more precisely in aesthetic surgery – the patient is an advisor in the purchasing process. The patient is influenced by what he reads through a variety of sources and develops preferences for particular products. Although the doctor holds a substantial amount of influence, if the patient demands one brand over another, the doctor will often heed to the requests of the patient. Therefore, the websites and bloggers that the patient follows can significantly influence the doctor’s buying behavior.
This is even more significant when dealing with large, corporate clients. Although the primary contact may be the IT purchaser, the team using the software (marketing, data analytics, sales, etc.) will have the final say in what product is used. Therefore, the bloggers and thought leaders who the end user follows can help determine which product the company purchases.
To maximize sales, it is essential to study the decision-maker environment and identify advisors involved in the buying process. The best way to do this is to develop a buyer persona, and include details around who the buyer is and what external factors or individuals play a role in his buying decision.
IDENTIFY THE KEY INFLUENCERS IN THE BUYER’S INDUSTRY
For a business to portray itself as a market leader to a potential client, it is essential to develop credibility within the buyer’s environment. One of the most effective way to do this is for the business to be where the customer is.
Influencers are those who the potential customer goes to for advice on how to succeed in that element of business. Thus, when these thought leaders endorse a product or service, their followers embrace that brand and are far more inclined to use their products.
How do you find these key influencers? By searching for related content on search engines and social media channels.
The primary influencers are people who create great content. These thought leaders can be found in two places:
1. TOP-RANKED WEBSITES
When seeking out influencers, try doing several Google searches on industry-specific topics. Almost anyone on the first page of the search results has established themselves as a thought leader in the market.
These top results may include a variety of websites. Depending on the industry, these influencers may be professional associations, DIY blogs, beginner blogs, the personal blogs of industry celebrities, or comparison websites.
2. SOCIAL MEDIA GURUS
Another excellent way to find thought leaders is through evaluating social media accounts. Market influencers generally have a large following across social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest, or Tumblr.
To determine how much impact these social media influencers have, look at their metrics – the number of followers, shares, likes, retweets, and comments found on their accounts. If someone has 100,000 actively engaged Twitter followers, they will be far more influential than a small association website with 1,000 monthly page views.
DON’T NEGLECT THE “POWER-MIDDLE” BLOGGERS
While the most popular blogs and social media influencers are obvious industry leaders, it is important not to neglect less famous bloggers who may have audiences more specifically aligned with the company’s offerings.
These bloggers may have only a fraction of the followers that other sites do. However, if their audience is more specific to that of the business’ market, they can be a useful source of potential leads.
Ultimately, while the size of the influencers following is important, what matters just as much is the follower engagement and their closeness to the business’s market. It’s better to reach out to 1,000 interested candidates than an audience of 100,000 viewers with no interest in buying.
BUILD A STRONG RELATIONSHIP WITH THE INFLUENCERS
It’s not easy to connect with industry experts. Influencers are solicited on a daily basis and do not have the time to respond to every request. Fortunately, there are several steps a business can take to help foster relationships with these market leaders.
1. START WITH INFLUENCERS ALREADY FAMILIAR WITH THE BRAND
Which influencers are already talking about the business or product? What influencers pride themselves on covering recent news in the company’s industry?
These are exceptional thought leaders to reach out to first. By interacting with these individuals online, inviting them to try the business’ product for free, or connecting with these experts at conferences, a business can begin to build healthy win-win relationships with these thought leaders.
Most importantly, throughout all interactions with these influencers, it is important to demonstrate that they are valued by the brand. Through this process, influencers can very quickly become brand advocates.
2. INVEST IN PAID ADVERTISING AND MEDIA PLANS
Many blogs and websites offer paid advertising opportunities. Reach out to the “power-middle” bloggers and several top bloggers to discuss advertising opportunities. While this isn’t usually as beneficial as voluntary promotion, it provides an opportunity to connect with these influencers when it otherwise may be difficult.
It’s important to remember that the best use of the company’s money is to invest in content, rather than buy digital advertising. A banner ad will only be visible for the time period purchased. Meanwhile, a blog post will remain up indefinitely and can continue to drive visitors to the company’s website.
3. SUPPORT THE CONTENT STRATEGY AND AMPLIFY IT
Creating and publishing valuable content is only the beginning. Once the article is online, the real work begins. As influencers begin to discuss and mention the company’s product, it is essential to amplify that content for three reasons:
- To maximize the influencer’s endorsement. As prospects discover top influencers discussing the product, they will be more inclined to consider the company for their business needs.
- To create momentum. Bloggers and writers want to discuss the next hot item. If a blogger keeps seeing the same name over and over, they will recognize that it is a popular topic and may decide to cover it themselves.
- To say “thank you” to the influencer. When an influencer mentions a company, they are putting their reputation on the line. By promoting the influencer’s article, the business is recognizing the value of this endorsement and saying “thank you” by sending additional traffic to the influencer’s website.
There are several ways to amplify content:
- Promote the article on company social media profiles.
- Link to the article in company blog posts or on the About page.
- Encourage other influencers to share the content through their social media channels.
- Use paid advertising to drive traffic to the article.
By taking an active role in the promotion of published content, not only is it possible to increase the brand’s awareness, but the brand is able to further establish its relationships with top influencers.
FIND AND CONNECT WITH INFLUENCERS TO GROW THE BRAND
When it comes to online content, the motto “if you build it, they will come”, is inaccurate. Although a company must have an exceptional product or service to maintain market dominance, without visibility, the brand will never have the opportunity to succeed in the first place.
By developing relationships with market influencers, and working with these thought leaders to effectively launch and broadcast the product, a brand can quickly and effectively establish itself as a market leader.
What thought leaders should you be reaching out to? Feel free to contact us if you would like help finding influencers in your market.
Need to step up your B2B marketing strategy? We can help:
- Send an email to Jérôme Cossavella, our B2B Marketing Expert
- Use our Contact form and we will answer within the next 24 hours.