Influencer marketing is exploding in popularity with brand marketers. Why is that? In a world in which consumers no longer trust traditional advertising, digital marketers are turning to social media stars to pitch products at hard-to-convince millennials in an amplified and authentic manner. And it’s working.

But paying digital personalities to trumpet a brand’s virtues on YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat doesn’t exactly translate into a strategy for B2B companies that want to reach and engage baby boomer decision makers.

So what’s the right way for B2B marketers to get in on the influencer action… especially since the C-Suite is also embracing social media?

Start by following these four rules:

1.  Focus on who influences your target audience

Don’t be distracted by who has the most fans and followers on social media. Influence isn’t about popularity. Instead, focus on identifying those people who are influential with your buyers.

Make a list of thought leaders, industry analysts, speakers at conferences, and contributors to relevant publications and blogs. And don’t forget employees of your customers (or even your company’s employees) that have domain expertise and are active on social media.

Just keep in mind, it’s about who sways your prospects and customers in particular. For example, Leadtail has done social research on the people that B2B CMOs retweet and mention the most on Twitter. This is a good influencer list to consider if you sell to other B2B marketers.


B2B CMO Influencers

2.  Understand that influencers are NOT all the same

Influencers, like most people, have different interests, areas of expertise, and approaches to how they work and communicate with others. Simply put, not all influencers are the same.

So identify those folks that influence your target audience AND align with your company’s market positioning and product offerings. The key here is to really understand whom it is you want to engage on your brand’s behalf.

For instance, @MeghanMBiro is all about HR leadership, @BarbaraGiamanco talks social selling, @BryanKramer loves to keep it human, and @dhinchcliffe shares thoughts on digital transformation.

Here’s top CMO influencer @TedRubin’s opinion on this issue:

“The biggest mistake brands make when trying to engage me as an influencer, is not first trying to understand who I am and what I stand for. They think it is all about the money for me, and simply the number and reach for them. I write a lot about looking people in the eye digitally, and they reference that, but clearly have no clue how to do it themselves.”

3.  Engage influencers by helping them first

This may come as a surprise, but the real challenge in influencer marketing isn’t identifying the right influencers, it’s engaging them. So how do you do that?

The first step is to get on their radar. You can do this in lots of ways including: sharing their content, commenting on their blog posts, asking them questions, and getting introduced via your personal network.

The question is what happens once you’ve gotten their undivided attention. The wrong thing is to ask them to do something for you right off the bat. Instead, ask how you can help them.

The reasoning is simple: you want to build a relationship with them… and the best way is to help them first.

Here are four simple ways:

  • Make them look good by congratulating them on their successes, sharing their “earned media”, referencing them as experts, and recommending them to others.
  • Get them more visibility by writing about your top influencers, quoting them in blog posts and bylines, and amplifying their social content on a regular basis.
  • Solve a problem for them by answering their questions, giving free access to your products and services, and helping get the word out about their upcoming webinar, book, or passion project.
  • Bring them business as many influencers are looking for paid speaking engagements, consulting jobs, advertisers, and quality leads for their sales teams.

Remember, top influencers are busy people that are being pitched all the time by folks that just want something from them. If you really want to get their attention, then do something unexpected. Go ahead and ask how you can help them!

4.  Be clear on how you’d like influencers to help you

If you’ve done a good job in helping out an influencer then don’t be surprised when they say the magic words:

“Thank you. Now what can I do for you?” or something similar like this:

Tamara Tweet

Of course there’s lot’s an influencer can help a B2B marketer with such as:

  • Share your brand content
  • Give you a byline or blog quote
  • Be a guest on a webinar or podcast
  • Collaborate on a white paper
  • Attend a customer event
  • Speak at a user conference

They key is to understand what’s the right thing to ask for given a particular influencer and where you are in the relationship building process. Start with simple requests and then move up the curve… and make sure and keep helping them along the way, too.

Putting influencer marketing in practice

From a practical matter, it’s best to start by targeting a handful of influencers at a time. This enables you to really get to know who they are and what topics they’re passionate about. As you start to see some success then add more influencers to your target list.

And remember to focus on the long game… building relationships!