When was the last time you made a purchase without reading multiple reviews, asking your friends for recommendations or relying on an endorsement from someone that you know and trust? The likely response is: “I can’t even remember that far back.”

While trusting the insights of others to inform our purchasing decisions has become second-nature for both personal and business purchases, influencer marketing for B2B organizations is still fairly new. In fact, only 24% of marketers are currently partnering with influencers to expand their reach (CMI & MarketingProfs). 

Last week at MarketingProfs B2B Forum, seasoned influencer marketing leaders Konstanze Alex and Janine Wegner from Dell* and Amisha Gandhi from SAP* teamed up to share tales from the trenches of influencer marketing at their respective organizations. Below is just a sampling of the insights they shared that can help guide your approach for your brand. 

#1 – Understanding Influence

Influencer marketing is often pegged as a tactic rooted in paying celebrities or brandividuals with large social followings to push your product or service. But influence isn’t defined by popularity or number of followers. As our own CEO Lee Odden has shared time and again: “Influencer marketing is the practice of engaging internal and industry experts with active networks to help achieve measurable business goals.”

For Konstanze, Janine and Amisha, putting this definition into practice and creating effective partnerships means identifying individuals who align with your company values, priority topics and already have influence with your target audience. Additionally, successful influencer marketing serves the community on a larger scale to bring new ideas that help advance the knowledge of everyone involved. 

Successful influencer marketing is really about the community. @AmishaGandhi Click To Tweet

#2 – Setting Your Business Objectives

A critical step toward creating a successful and scalable influencer marketing program is to clearly define your business goals. From awareness to purchase, there are a multitude of different goals and KPIs that organizations can track to show program success, our veteran panel stated. 

If you don’t tie your influencer marketing to business objectives, you can quickly lose track of what you’re trying to accomplish. @Konstanze Click To Tweet

When it comes KPIs, here are a few that the TopRank Marketing team tracks to show influencer marketing success: 

  • Estimated Reach via Influencers
  • Estimated Impressions via Influencers
  • Influencer Referrals (Total & New)
  • Influencer Editorial Mentions
  • Influencer Share Clicks
  • Brand Mentions by Influencers (SOV)
  • Conversions via Influencers

An effective program will also serve multiple departments or business units within your organization. An example Amisha provided was that of an integrated campaign that not only supported her direct team, but was translated into multiple languages and even broke down into more snackable content to support sales enablement. 

We want to partner with influencers to create an experience that takes people on an engaging journey that encourages them to want to work with your brand. @AmishaGandhi Click To Tweet

#3 – Building for the Long-Term

The issue with many influencer marketing programs is that they aren’t built to last. Often, brands will implement one-off programs that lead to one-off interactions with target influencers. 

Instead, brands should identify how their influencer relations efforts integrate with larger marketing efforts to effectively support the aforementioned business objectives. 

According to Konstanze, Janine and Amisha, one of the most important but often overlooked pieces to a successful influencer program is nurturing influencer relationships. And we couldn’t agree more. Once you’ve identified influencers that align with your brand, the next step is to begin growing the relationship. That relationship development can include connecting via social media or in real-life, honoring them in content and getting to the core of what they care about most. 

To be successful at influencer marketing, you can’t engage an influencer one day and then drop them the next. It requires a multi-year effort. @Konstanze Click To Tweet

#4 – Creating Value for All

For a partnership with influencers to work, there has to be value for all; value for the audience, value for the influencer and value your brand. But keep in mind that not every partnership will be the same.

Some thought leaders want to bolster or grow their influence, while others simply want to create something their proud of (or their bosses can take pride in). For example, for certain programs influencers will see value in the exposure they’ll get from partnering with large brands (like SAP and Dell).

However, it’s also important to note that when you’re asking something substantial of an influencer (e.g. attending an event, hosting a podcast, etc.), it’s appropriate to compensate them for their efforts.

Partnering with influencers can help humanize your brand. @JanineWegner Click To Tweet

#5 – Gaining Leadership Buy-In

Many influencer programs don’t get off the ground because proper attention wasn’t paid to both educating and influencing leadership to understand the value of influencer partnerships.

And as these leaders revealed during their session, leadership buy-in will directly impact the budget and manpower needed to effectively resource your program (with either internal staff or influencer partnerships), as well as the tools needed to identify and manage influencer relationships. 

Leadership buy-in is a key foundational pillar to influencer marketing success. @JanineWegner Click To Tweet

So, take the time to educate early and often, as well as regularly share progress and results to keep leadership engaged.

Bonus: Q&A with Konstanze Alex & Janine Wegner of Dell

Prior to their session at MPB2B, Konstanze and Janine were able to spend a few minutes with our team to share some additional insights for influencer marketing success:  

When you talk about integrated influencer marketing, what are some of the different elements/functions that must be included?

For 360 message pull-through and highest audience impact it is critical to embed influencer marketing into the larger marketing ecosystem and be part of all relevant corporate and business unit plans. This includes PR, AR, Brand, Product Marketing, Field Marketing, Global Marketing, Event Marketing, etc. This often requires an additional cross-team and cross-functional leader buy-in and influencer strategy road showing.

– Konstanze Alex

What do you think are 2-3 essential elements for successfully scaling a B2B influencer marketing program? 

  1. Have concrete business objectives that you want to achieve with your influencer program and have the program embedded into your overall marketing plan.
  2. Based on objectives, find the right influencers, listen and observe first (what they say, how they say, who they follow, who they amplify, how they engage), and then start building a mutually beneficial relationship.
  3. Leadership buy-in: influencer marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to have leadership buy-in and funding for internal resources, agencies, activations, promotion/ amplification and influencer reimbursements/ fees.

– Janine Wegner

*Disclosure: Dell and SAP are TopRank Marketing clients.

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