Instagram influencer marketing is expected to hit $8 billion in spend by 2020. The best part? The rapid growth trajectory of influencer marketing is not limited to consumer brands. B2B brands far and wide have been considering engaging influencers in their marketing, but are hesitant. They are wary to embark on this journey when they are unclear on exactly how to go about the process – and what the best practices are.

Having worked with a range of both B2C and B2B brands in nearly every business vertical, we’ve had a chance to dig deep into what makes B2B influencer marketing work…and what doesn’t. But first, let’s touch on the value of B2B influencers and what they can bring to your brand marketing efforts.

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The Value of B2B Influencers

To help demonstrate how brands are driving results with influencer marketing, we’ve put together a few examples of B2B companies that represent a unique blend of different approaches and KPI’s to illustrate the overall effectiveness of this growing tactic.

Influencers help you build trust with consumers

Whether it be security scandals and privacy concerns, or consumers’ waning confidence in the core institutions of this world, the fact remains; consumer trust is on the decline. This general distrust coupled with an abundance of historical skepticism of marketing and advertising messages makes it imperative that B2B marketers work to build genuine trust and credibility with buyers and prospects.

“Year over year, we’ve seen consumer trust of brands decreasing, and people turning to seemingly more objective sources when making buying decisions: peers, third-party review sites, analysts, etc,” said Whitney Magnuson, Global Head of Social Media and Influencer Programs at IBM, told a marketing agency months ago. “Partnering with an influencer allows you to highlight your brand’s existing narrative in a new way so that you can reinforce the proof points you really want your customers to know.”

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When you collaborate with influencers on content creation, you not only provide your audience with influential experts who have the platform to share valuable insights, but you also provide them with a multitude of different perspectives—enhancing your brand storytelling capabilities and connecting more effectively with your audience.

Brands That Capitalized On B2B Influencer Marketing

1. SAP

Software corporations like SAP have gotten in on B2B influencer marketing, and with great success. SAP SuccessFactors wanted to highlight the importance of employee wellness from a slightly more organic approach to wellbeing. To raise awareness around their health care management suite, SAP SuccessFactors developed a program that involved using useful, relevant, and actionable insights around wellbeing from trusted experts, peers, and even one business celebrity.

The best wellness solutions are holistic, and SAP mirrored this approach by partnering with a bevy of unique personalities, including industry influencers, SAP partners, internal experts, and even their clients. They created a strong content mix that included an ebook, motion graphics, landing page, and curated content for both the brand and influencers to share on social media.

SAP SuccessFactors

The results? A 272% increase over the goal, a 68% conversion rate on the ebook downloads, and influencer shares represented 86% of all ebook views and 69% of the conversions. Certainly, nothing to scoff at.

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2. 3M

3M, the multinational consumer goods conglomerate, wanted to find a way to make the innovations and complexities of science more accessible to the everyday person.

To pull this off, they conducted the largest ever science study about global attitudes towards science, titled the State of Science Index research report, alongside the launch of 3M’s first-ever podcast: Science Champions Podcast.

The company’s Chief Science Advocate, Jayshree Seth, hosted the first season of the podcast, where they featured twenty-one science experts and influencers on topics ranging from simple introductions to science, to the everyday life of those who have careers in the science field.

Besides creating relationships with top science influencers and showcasing their own internal influencers, the Science Champions podcast far exceeded expectations in terms of downloads and engagement. The response was so great, it resulted in the launch of season 2 back in March of this year. 

3. Dell Technologies

While many companies focus on working with influencers, Dell Technologies wanted to partner with industry influencers to both create useful content for their customers and also increase the influence of their own internal experts.

Dell has developed relationships with a network of influencers, including heavy-hitters like Mark Schaefer and Doug Karr, who host the Dell Luminaries podcast. Discussions center around technology, with visionaries from inside Dell and out. This approach engaging strategy that helps to humanize a topic like technology.

The results were powerful. The Dell Luminaries project effectively created a single platform to bring voices from multiple companies together under the Dell brand, creating a common thread amongst participants while still staying true to their individual expertise and influence.

4. American Express

American Express is a top brand, and they advertise extensively across an incredibly wide range of media. With their influencer marketing efforts on Instagram, they use their branded hashtag, #AmexAmbassadors.

The company used this campaign to promote its American Express Platinum card. It’s a product for high-spending people (like executives), and Amex wanted to emphasize luxury and exclusiveness in the promotion. They worked with celebrities and top Instagrammers to spread the message, intentionally picking influencers who lead powerful and seemingly luxurious lifestyles. The type of people that travel regularly and enjoy the exclusive privileges that come with the American Express Platinum card.

American Express worked with hundreds of influencers from mega-celebrities to micro-influencers, all of whom covered a wide range of niches. The influencers created content around the idea of how much they enjoy the benefits of having the card, posting images depicting their travels and events they attended. The posts emphasized the exclusive places that the influencers gain access to because of their American Express card.

Courtney Colwell, director of OPEN Forum and content marketing at American Express, stated in an interview that, “The beauty of working with the influencers and experts in these topics is that it’s not us answering it. It’s not our voice.”

5. IBM

As you are likely aware, B2B influencer marketing is not as simple as B2C influencer marketing. IBM, a leader in technology, has clients spanning a multitude of sectors including banking, financial services, technology, education, and many more. So finding an influencer who can effectively reach these diverse audiences can be a difficult task.

IBM overcame this challenge by utilizing employee advocacy. But that may be underselling it. Some go as far as to anoint IBM as a pioneer of employee advocacy. Their basic underlying principle is that your employees are the ones who know your products best (what a novel thought!). They are the people who not only have they created these products, but they are also responsible for selling them. This concept lends credence to the idea that you can leverage your brand’s internal experts to effectively influence your potential customers. IBM may be at the forefront of this movement, but they are certainly not the only brand that can utilize this powerful technique.

In Closing

A research report by Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis found that 48% of B2C companies currently run ongoing influencer marketing programs vs. only 11% of B2B brands. But this trend is changing, as more and more B2B brands are realizing that while different than B2C, working with influencers in a B2B context represents an opportunity to produce more powerful and credible content. Content that can be promoted to interested buyers by people with opinions they trust.

Trends may come and go, but the value of trusted sources of information never goes out of style.

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