Here’s an interesting statistic: 94% of brand marketers who used influencer marketing believe it’s effective. That’s pretty impressive and shows there’s probably something to this marketing tactic. This data comes from an Adweek article citing a survey of 170 CPG, retail, media, and agency marketers. But here’s the problem: where’s the data about whether or not influencer marketing works for B2B brands?

Well, if my experience is any indication, few B2B marketers have jumped on the influencer marketing bandwagon. Here are key reasons why (and how to change that):

B2B marketers think they’re already doing influencer marketing

It’s why they have fancy-pants PR firms doing media outreach, and why they’re shelling out big bucks to Gartner Research for analyst coverage. For many B2B marketers, that’s checking the box when it comes to influencer marketing. But in the age of social media, there are many people influencing your target buyers beyond traditional media and research analysts.

With this in mind, we built a panel of 1,300 North American CMOs and analyzed 231,495 of their tweets over a 120-day period to discover the people they retweeted and mentioned the most. Here are the results:

B2B Brands Embracing Influencer Marketing: Top CMO Influencers

As you can see, there are a number of folks that aren’t journalists or analysts, and yet they have the attention of CMOs on social media. Which brings me to my next point…

B2B marketers don’t know who the right influencers are

Take a moment and make a list of those people who influence your buyers. Not many names come to mind, right? I’m not surprised, as most B2B marketers don’t know who it is that influences their target audience. So how do you identify the right influencers to reach and engage?

Start by making a list of thought leaders, industry analysts, conference speakers, and contributors to industry publications and blogs. Supplement that list by what you discover from relevant Google searches such as: “CIO influencers” or “CMO Influencers” or “HR influencers”.

It may also be worth investing in influencer-marketing software platforms such as Little Bird (now part of Sprinklr) and Onalytica, as they can help you identify relevant thought leaders with a big-footprint on social media.

Bonus tip: check out the Leadtail reports we have on different decision makers as these also include influencer lists.

B2B marketers aren’t sure how to engage influencers

What happens when you hand a B2B marketer a list of relevant influencers to reach and engage? The senior marketer typically responds with: “Yes, this is a great list. We want to engage these folks… so how do we do that?” The truth is they don’t know how to get on the influencer’s radar, engage them around a specific action, and then build an ongoing relationship. Simply put, they don’t know what to do next.

Once you’ve identified your key influencers, it really then comes down to four things:

  • Do your homework, as not all influencers are alike. Research each person’s unique interests and expertise. Now consider how to align your company’s mission and products with what the influencer cares most about.
  • Make it about them. When you first engage an influencer (via introduction, email, or social media outreach) focus on how you can help them look good, get exposure, and generate new business. Yes, make it about them not you!
  • Be clear about what you want. Collaborating on content is a great way to start a relationship. For example, getting quotes for bylines and blog posts, asking them to be on a webinar, and inviting them to participate in a customer event.
  • Focus on building relationships. Don’t treat influencer marketing as a one-off transaction. Instead, build mutually beneficial relationships that provide ongoing value for everyone. Yes, this takes longer and more investment… but the payoffs will be much greater, too!
Now it’s your turn

Are you doing B2B influencer marketing? How did you identify the right influencers, and how are you working with them? Feel free to share your comments!