On this blog, we don’t want to neglect B2B insight challenges, including finding a B2B influencer. Much of our content focusses on B2C customer insight work. So, in this post we look at one for B2B businesses.

This builds on our past posts, sharing tips for effective B2B Customer Management. One of our familiar guest bloggers, who is also a B2B influencer, shares 7 characteristics to help you spot ideal ones.

There’s more of a focus, on the role of Big Data & Data Science, in spotting key influencers within social networks. Numerous case studies, focussed on B2C mass market, demonstrate how analytics can identify them. However, there is also a key role for market research & judgement.

Why insight leaders need to spot B2B Influencers

Nowhere is this clearer than in the more complex & nuanced world of B2B influencers. Identifying an individual as a relevant influencer for a sector, product or business, is not purely quantitative. Considerations need to go beyond social Klout scores or even social listening tools.

In B2B markets, endorsement by a respected influencer can improve both brand reputation and sales. So, the prize for getting this right, and building an appropriate relationship, can be considerable.

Talking with many different research leaders, the need to identify influencers is raised, as a new challenge. As digital & social marketers want to become more savvy in their campaigns, insight teams are called upon to help.

So, beyond new & shiny data or research tools, what are the factors that research teams should consider? How can you spot B2B influencers, within the sea of content being published today?

I’m delighted to welcome back, multi award-winning B2B influencer, Peter Lavers. A regular guest blogger for us, Peter has also learned the art of becoming a global influencer on CX. So, he is well placed to share with us his 7 characteristics of an ideal B2B Influencer. Over to Peter for his advice…

B2B Influencer Marketing is well established

Influencer Marketing is becoming recognised, as an important component, in the marketing mix. This is particularly so given the rise of digitally-enabled customer empowerment. With the  consequential loss of “brand message control” by marketers.

The (simplified) theory goes like this… If your company’s marketing, and direct messaging, is less trusted, than independent voices. That is, bloggers, vloggers, celebrities, experts, etc. You can recruit some of those voices, to either impartially or overtly, endorse your own message.

This has caused controversy in the B2C world. Where it has been done clumsily, through thinly-disguised paid celebrity endorsement. That can actually damage trust, rather than build it.

In B2B, however, the concept is not new at all. The independent endorsement of “thought leaders” is a well-established. An effective means to enhance product/service credibility and trustworthiness. The key difference, verses B2C, is that the influencer has to have genuine experience and/or academic credentials. That merits their recognition as an “expert”. Some companies choose to hire such thought leaders (or their existing staff attain that status naturally). But, of course, then independence is lost.

B2B Influencer Marketing, within Digital Marketing, is growing

What is new, in B2B, is the opportunity to amplify the reach and impact of independent influencers. This is done through appropriate digital and social media (webcasts, tweet chats, LinkedIn posts, etc.). The content generated can legitimately become the company’s IP. I have noticed, that this is definitely something that could be better utilised, within B2B content management.

The ethics, of the thought leader being paid for their participation/contribution, have been questioned. But, it seems to me, that this is not an issue as long as it’s their time that’s being contracted. The key thing, is that the business is not dictating the message, that is just advertising!

Who should researchers identify, as an ideal B2B Influencer?

As someone who has become recognised as such an influencer, and so rubbed shoulders with many more, I’ve spotted some patterns. Here are seven characteristics, of an ideal independent B2B influencer, that I’ve seen in others and aspire to embody myself.

The type of person to engage should:

  1. Have a reach of genuine followers, who are real people, many of whom are engaged in similar spheres or professions.
  2. Stick to their specialisms (avoiding “expertise creep”). Generating genuinely thought leading, and challenging content, that maintains their independence.
  3. Have practical first-hand experience of best practice. Be constantly learning about new developments. Rather than, just talking about them. Communicating about practical and achievable application, rather than just concepts.
  4. Share good quality relevant content, from other sources, rather than just be a self-promoter.
  5. Guard their independence, without being a maverick (unless that’s specifically what you’re looking for!)
  6. Be low maintenance for the client team and their agency – yes there are a few ‘prima donnas’ out there!
  7. Be commercially realistic and willing to work within budgetary constraints.

Influencer Marketing can be extremely valuable in B2B. I recommend combining it with well run content management. That maximises the value, and longevity, of the messages and thought leadership generated.

How could you benefit from an appropriate B2B Influencer?

I hope these seven characteristics help you choose, the right B2B Influencers, to engage for your business.

Feel free to get in touch with me directly, if I can help you. Here’s two other articles, on influencer marketing, to inspire your plans:

Brands Are Relying on ‘Influencer’ Marketing More Than Ever

The advertising industry is in the middle of a major shift as brands are turning to influencer marketing.

The Ethics of Influencer Marketing; FTC Guidelines

Long gone is the “smile and dial” world of PR professionals reaching out to journalists to pitch their stories. Today, advertising and public relations overlap in more ways than one. Chances are that working with influencers has become part of your PR plan and with that comes a whole new set of rules.

Thanks to Peter for those 7 tips, and wider reading resources. I hope this topic was of interest, especially to B2B research leaders. I  encourage you to find out how, your marketing team, is currently identifying B2B Influencers. Hopefully, this post has convinced you there are is need for insight & qualitative judgement, not just social data.

I wish you well in helping your business identify and partner with the right B2B Influencer for you. If you have success stories to share (or lessons learnt from doing this wrong), please do share in comments below.