swimmer diving into the pool
Diving into B2B influencer marketing is easy with these six tips PHOTO: Marco Sartori

The power of influencer marketing is being felt across the business to customer (B2C) space.

Forty percent of respondents to a Twitter survey said they’d purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Vine or YouTube — which is probably why 73 percent of marketers report having budget allocated for influencer marketing.

With statistics like that flying around, brands ignoring influencer marketing are doing so at their own risk.

The business to business space (B2B) was late to pick up on the trend, but is now slowly but surely picking up pace.

The Difference Between B2C and B2B Influencer Marketing

In a B2C environment, influencer marketing is pretty straightforward. You select a familiar face or a well-followed social media star to talk about your brand, product or service. If the influencer you select is relevant to your message, a large chunk of their following will be, too. Thus, you’ll likely see high levels of engagement and hopefully conversions.

B2B companies requires a more refined approach. 

With B2B marketing, you aren’t always trying to grab the attention of the masses. Usually, you just want to catch the eyes of target clients and their respected gatekeepers and decision makers. Therefore, a celebrity’s face next to your logo may not be enough.

What Works in B2B Influencer Marketing

So, how exactly are brands engaging in B2B influencer marketing?

1. High Profile Guests

Many things have changed in the digital age, but the value of having a celebrity associated with your brand still holds weight.

Cisco executed this (albeit very straightforward) strategy by featuring Breaking Bad actor Bryan Cranston in its closing keynote. Sure, there wasn’t a huge overlap in relevance — Cisco is a software developer, while Bryan Cranston played an ex-chemistry teacher turned meth manufacturer — but it was a chance for Cisco to showcase the status of its brand, and a lighthearted way to wind down its four-day event.

2. Brands as Influencers

When it comes to the B2B space, influencer doesn’t have to mean a person — and Microsoft proved that when it joined with National Geographic to leverage its relatively large social media reach.

The goal was to encourage more females to pursue scientifically creative career paths (putting this particular campaign in the grey area between B2C and B2B). Microsoft brought in some renowned photographers to mark International Women’s Day with an Instagram campaign named "Make What’s Next," via the National Geographic Instagram account.

The collection of images attracted more than 3.5 million likes.

3. Client Testimonials

Testimonials have always been valuable, but with the right twist, businesses can amplify each testimonial into a fully fledged B2B influencer marketing campaign.

Going the extra mile to capture those testimonials on camera or through audio will give them an even sharper edge — making them perfect for sharing on social media and at your events.

The sweetest part of a testimonial coming from a company executive is the authenticity that it brings. That’s especially useful considering 48 percent of consumers assume most reviews are fake — an assumption that’s much harder to make when the testimonial comes from a respectable company.

4. Your Employees

Influencers don’t have to live too far from home. In fact, your employees have enough clout to bring in a crowd.

When IBM launched IBM Verse, the company instructed its employees to spread the word on their social media channels. While some might find it a rather basic move for a brand of IBM's size, thanks to a large number of employees being considered thought leaders, the results were impressive: a cool 50,000 signups within the first two weeks.

This strategy demonstrates that in a B2B environment, influencers aren’t necessarily A-list celebrities. On the contrary, they tend to be those who have built a reputation within small corners of their respective industries. Micro-influencers, if you will.

5. Influencer-Backed Assets

In the B2B world, whitepapers, case studies and reports of all kinds can garner attention. So imagine a report filled with quotes and insights from industry thought leaders.

TopRank Online Marketing and Content Marketing Institute took this strategy by the horns for the promotion of the 2014 Content Marketing World conference. They came together to construct an ebook filled with more than 40 influencers from major brands including LinkedIn, MarketingProfs, Kapost, Facebook and Copyblogger.

Each influencer was asked to share their advice to marketers on the subject of content marketing. The resulting document was essentially a goldmine of content marketing wisdom nuggets.

Get Creative

With B2C influencer marketing, you’re aiming to impact a large pool of consumers. With B2B influencer marketing, you need to get creative enough to reach those select few people who can open up doors for your business.

The examples above should give you some ideas to go on — as long as you avoid the pitfalls of influencer marketing, you should be just fine.