1. The Importance of Strategy

“The other advantage of being a little bit more strategic about this stuff is that it extends the range of benefits that you can take from this activity.”

Influencer marketing has been one of the fastest growing areas of marketing over the last five to 10 years. In fact, in many markets it’s now such a prevalent tactic that it doesn’t really offer any competitive advantage. It’s simply one more thing to add to the list of things to do in order to keep up.

It’s therefore really important (just as with content marketing) that it forms part of a broader brand strategy; and that’s how you’re going to ensure that you actually achieve some competitive advantage. So for example, if you’re running a makeup makeup brand, simply putting your product into the hands of YouTubers and Instagrammers is really unlikely to give you any major advantage in itself. Everybody’s doing it. However, if it can be integrated within a broader, really ambitious brand and content strategy with some really bold objectives along the way, that’s where you’re going to start to see some of the benefits of that value manifest itself through that influencer activity. 

The other advantage of being a little bit more strategic about this stuff is that it extends the range of benefits that you can take from this activity. So whilst if you engage with an Instagrammer you’ll most likely to see benefit on Instagram, there’s no reason why you can’t then use that content and use that relationship to your advantage across your website, email, other social media platforms and even offline activity. If you’re going to run an event, there’s no reason why you can’t involve those influencers within that event – it’s about stretching it as far as you possibly can. 

So, if you’re going to try and maximise the value from your influencer engagement, all I’d suggest is that you think a little bit higher, maybe stop focusing quite so much on individual influencers and concentrate instead on the overarching strategy for your brand and your content that’s going to inspire those influencers to become involved in the first place. 

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2. How To Get Started With B2B Influencer Marketing

“Have a strategy, think long-term and ensure that your interests and those of your influencer community are always aligned.”

Influencer marketing can be a really time-intensive and expensive process. So it’s really important that we’re always thinking about how we can be as efficient as possible whilst taking as much value from that activity as we possibly can. Now, the first thing – and this was something that I spoke about in the previous section – is to ensure that activity is integrated into a broader and really compelling vision for the brand, and all of the content activity overall, because without that sitting above it, we’re going to end up having to spend an awful lot of money to attract the interest of any influencers. 

The second thing is to ensure that we have really clear contracts agreed with these individuals, not only from a legal perspective, but we want these people to be viewing us as a really professional outfit. We want that trust to be there from the get-go. It also just helps to clarify expectations on both sides.

Thirdly, we need to ensure that we’re trying to develop a sense of community among these influencers. So using messenger services, like WhatsApp, can be a great way of sparking some of that dialogue between the influencers so they feel that they’re part of something bigger than just themselves, and also injecting a bit of healthy competition as you heap praise (and maybe even some gifts) upon those who are doing a particularly great job. Having that bit of competition is no bad thing. 

The fourth point is to prioritise a small number of really special relationships above hundreds of flimsy ones. You’re going to find that if you really invest in a small number, and really build those relationships, you’re going to get far more out of them and there’s going to be far more loyalty there. It’s also better for the audience, because your customers are going to see the same faces appearing throughout that brand story that you’re telling, which is really important. 

The fifth point is to consider prioritising relationships with micro-influencers, because as tempting as it can be to go after those really big names in your industry, you’re going to spend a lot of money and you’re probably not going to get much in return, and ultimately, the consumer’s probably going to view it as a slightly inauthentic relationship because on any given day that big name influencer is probably promoting five other brands. Whereas that micro-influencer – if you catch them just as they’re on the way up – can give you huge amounts back. They’ll really show you an awful lot of loyalty, they’ll give you tons of content and the consumer is going to view it as a much more believable and authentic relationship. 

The final point, and this was something that I spoke about again in the previous section, is to ensure that you’re capitalising on this relationship across as many channels as possible. So when you get that content, you need to be thinking about what you can do with it on the website, on the blog, on your social media channels, on email. If you’re going to run offline events, are you going to invite those influencers? You could even maybe set a certain micro-influencers up with their own blog so that they can document their story as they build that relationship with your brand.

Ultimately, this is about remembering that you’re dealing with people, and as with any relationship, the more you put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it. So have a strategy, think long-term and ensure that your interests and those of your influencer community are always aligned.

3. Making The Most Of Your Influencer Marketing

“The most important thing is that there’s an overarching vision and strategy for this influencer content that these people can really buy into.”

When we think about influencer marketing, we tend to think about YouTubers and Instagrammers, but consumer markets don’t have a monopoly on influencer marketing. In fact, there isn’t a market in the world that doesn’t have influencers operating within it, and B2B markets and professional service markets are certainly no exception.

In fact, I would argue that because influencer marketing is in its relative infancy within those spaces, there’s actually a much bigger opportunity at the moment. So, what do these influencers look like? They could be senior decision makers within huge corporations, they could be thought leaders within particular fields of expertise. Really, anyone who really holds significant gravitas within that industry in question.

Now, of course, the content you’re going to look to take from these relationships is a little bit different from on the consumer side; so a few less selfies and lots more insight pieces. It’s really important you make the whole process really easy from their perspective. This is why interviews are really, really common within B2B influencer marketing, because these are some of the busiest people on the planet, so you can’t expect them to be too involved in terms of the actual production of that content. So whether you do a video interview or an audio interview, or maybe you ask them questions and create an article, it’s all about making it as simple as possible to encourage them to say yes.

The most important thing of course though, is that there’s an overarching vision and strategy for this influencer content that these people can really buy into. They need to believe that you’re trying to make a positive impact, a positive change within that industry. If they view it as nothing more than a cynical marketing exercise, then forget about it. It’s going to go nowhere. 

Once these relationships are established and you’ve captured this content from them, it’s really important that you’re making as much use of it as you possibly can. So for example, if you do a 10 – 20 minute video, that shouldn’t just be one video, you should be chopping that into half a dozen smaller videos. Not only is that going to create much more content, but it’s also much more engaging for the audience. But then you need to think, right, what else can I do? Can I transcribe that for SEO purposes? Can I send it out via email? Can I turn it into some nice quotes, and sort of social assets for various social media platforms? You can even think about it from an offline perspective. If you were to run an event, could you invite some of these, these thought leaders? 

So if you get the strategy right, this can be really, really transformative stuff and spread across all your channels, but it’s really important that you’re clear on why it is you’re doing what you’re doing and why these influencers, why these thought leaders, should be proud to be associated with it.

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