Influencer marketing has become an area of strategic importance for marketing departments, according to a white paper Traackr published Thursday.
B2B technology companies are aware of the trend, according to the paper’s coauthor, business consultant Mark Schaefer, but they lag in implementing influencer marketing programs.
Interviews with 10 marketing experts — including some who built influencer marketing programs at Microsoft, IBM and Samsung — suggest that influencer marketing requires a fundamental shift in the marketing department, noted Traackr CMO Kirk Crenshaw.
Companies have to rethink how to go to market, he said. They also must acquire new skills, reconfigure measurement methods, and relinquish at least partial control of the message.
Trust in the subject matter experts is critical.
6 Emerging Trends
Experts interviewed for the paper highlighted six industry trends that currently are shaping B2B influencer marketing:
- emergence of micro-influencers and their role vis-a-vis macro-influencers;
- importance of leading with purpose rather than resorting to promotion;
- relationship between expert voices and the brand voice;
- need to move from campaign-driven activities to always-on engagement;
- demolition of silos in favor of cross-functional collaboration; and
- evolution of measurement from reach to outcomes.
Micro-Influencers and Macro-Influencers
Macro-influencers are celebrity endorsers — actors, retired politicians, YouTube and social media celebrities, for instance.
Micro-influencers, on the other hand, are individuals who work in their category or are truly knowledgeable, passionate and authentic. They are seen as a trusted source for buy recommendations.
Micro-influencers have more than 22 times more conversations each week than average consumers regarding recommendations on what to buy, based on a study Experticity released last year.
Among its findings:
- 74 percent of micro-influencers encourage someone to “buy it or try it” compared to 66 percent of the general population;
- 87 percent of the buying recommendations they make happen face to face; and
- 82 percent of respondents were highly likely to follow a micro-influencer’s recommendation.
“More voices on the same message can better influence than a single voice on the same message because the former is more tightly targeted and the people delivering the message are more trusted,” remarked Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
Ideally, micro-influencers in the B2B tech company world would be peer users, Enderle told the E-Commerce Times.
“Peers have always been the most powerful demand generators,” he pointed out. “We trust them over all else.”
Getting customers to become vocal advocates “is very difficult, and expanding that to scale is almost impossible,” Enderle noted. That’s because business customers often are restricted in terms of what they can talk about.
Creating Influencer Marketing Programs
Companies have to take several steps to create a B2B influencer program, suggested marketer Wendy Marx. Following are some of her recommendations:
- Create a dedicated team to manage and nurture influencer relations;
- Set goals for the program;
- Identify the key audience;
- Find, watch and engage with the best influencers; and
- Measure results.
LinkedIn earlier this year launched an enterprise edition of its Sales Navigator product, with strengthened links to CRM, and it is one product that could advance the impact of micro-influencers in B2B tech marketing, suggested Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research.
The LinkedIn product “is going to target not internal but external micro-influencers,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
By nature, LinkedIn “is a tool that’s almost uniquely designed for micro influence at scale,” Enderle observed.
“If someone can figure out how to [implement micro-influence] in a B2B environment at scale, they would become unstoppable” he said, “particularly if they were a marketing agency that could use this skill for multiple clients.”