In the B2B world, influence isn’t determined by how you look in a bathing suit or how many exotic locales you can Instagram from. B2B influencers are subject matter experts, practitioners with a proven track record, and consultants with their finger on the pulse of a specific industry.
It’s also trickier to find and engage influencers in the B2B world. It’s not about finding someone with a high follower count and cutting them a check—B2B influencer marketing is based on building relationships with these truly influential titans of business.
In short, B2B influencer marketing is a specialized discipline that requires knowledge and experience that may be outside of your team’s area of expertise. As B2B influencer marketing gets more popular and influencers more choosy about whom they work with, it makes sense to secure some outside help.
In our 2022 B2B Influencer Marketing Report, over half of the enterprise-level respondents said working with an agency to source influencers was effective, versus just 27% who found success with software tools alone.
Here’s how your team can prepare to work effectively with a B2B influencer marketing agency (like, say, TopRank Marketing!).
How to Do Your Best Work with a B2B Influencer Marketing Agency
Getting ‘ready’ to work with an agency is about both mindset and process. Some of the homework here will be about realigning your ideas about influencer marketing. Some of it is gathering information and making preliminary decisions that will speed up your onboarding process.
Expand your definition of influence:
I’ve mentioned a few times on the blog that B2B influencer marketing isn’t about follower count alone. And I plan to keep saying it as long as marketing teams still run in terror from anyone with a four-digit follower count.
The most influential person to your niche audience might be someone with a small but hyper-specialized audience. For example, if you’re marketing to software developers, their thought leaders won’t have massive followings on Instagram or Facebook. Instead, they will be posting code to Github, participating in developer forums, and speaking at events like DrupalCon.
When your agency partner delivers a list of influencers, be mentally prepared to see beyond network size, and instead look at relevance and resonance. Does this person speak to your specific audience? Does that audience take action based on what they say? Then that’s your most valuable influencer.
Identify your internal experts:
Your employees, executives, and subject matter experts can serve as valuable brand advocates and influencers themselves. These people will be essential for co-creating content with external influencers, as well as promoting the content to their own networks.
An agency will want to put these internal experts to good use throughout the content creation and amplification process, so it helps to start with a few in mind. Look for the people in your organization who:
- Are already building a relevant business following
- Are comfortable representing the brand in public
- Are creative, passionate and quotable
- Are in senior positions and willing to lend their network to the cause
Your agency can help these internal experts to refine their content and firmly establish their thought leadership credibility.
Dial in your target audience:
Clearly defining your target audience is a fundamental step in any marketing endeavor, and it’s especially important for B2B influencer marketing. Software developers have different pain points, needs and desires than software analysts. Demand gen marketers need different messages than social media marketers. The more you can identify your specific niche, the more relevant your influencer content can be.
Don’t be afraid to get granular with your target audience. Put together a wish list of all the details in your most valuable customer profile. Your agency might help narrow down that list to the most critical components—but you need to give them something to start from.
Set a realistic budget:
Five or six years ago, most of our agency’s influencer marketing was unpaid. We made it easy for influencers to collaborate with us, we worked together on cool content, and the mutual benefit was payment enough. But as influencer marketing matures as a tactic, most influencers will expect financial compensation. In our survey, over half of respondents had made direct payments to influencers.
It’s important to start your agency partnership with an influencer budget range in mind (in addition to the agency’s fees for service). With that starting-off point, your agency can help you navigate the complexities of pricing structures, negotiate fair deals, and make sure you get the most you can for your budget.
Compile your wish list (and dealbreaker list):
Before you go to your kickoff meeting with your agency, put together a list of influencers you admire and believe would be a good fit. But don’t stop at those names: Consider the specific attributes that make these folks attractive.
This list will give your agency a good idea of what type of influencer you’re looking for, and they can target the people on your list while also expanding it with their own tools and expertise.
In the same vein, put together a list of attributes or individuals that you don’t want associated with your brand. For example, you might not want an influencer who has worked with a competitor in the past—so it’s important to list your competitors for your agency. Or there may be taboo topics you don’t want to associate with your brand.
If you can arm your agency with this positive and negative information, they will be better equipped to find the perfect set of influencers for your project.
Who influences the influencers?
B2B influencer marketing has matured from a casual series of one-off collaborations into a specialized discipline that requires strategy and experience to execute successfully.
As the popularity of B2B influencer marketing grows, influencers have become more selective about what brands they work with, and how they would like to be compensated. So it makes sense to work with an agency that has a proven track record and an established network of sought-after influencers.
If you can approach your first agency meeting with an open mind, a clear picture of your target audience, and a good list of dos and don’ts, you’ll be well equipped for a fruitful collaboration.
Speaking of which, if you’re looking for an agency with over a decade of experience in B2B influencer marketing, with some of the biggest brands in the world… TopRank Marketing is here to help.