August 25

How Small Brands Can Get Started With B2B Influencer Marketing

Written by: Patrick Dodge |

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If your company is pouring time and resources into content marketing and feeling like it’s doing absolutely nothing, I have good news and I have great news.

The good news is your problem is shared by about three-quarters of content marketers everywhere. The great news is there is a solution, but it’s going to take brains and a whole lot of elbow grease.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard all about influencer marketing. This is the solution brands are using to amplify their content, gain street cred, and increase sales. If your lead generation strategy is lacking some oomph, chances are good you need an 800 pound gorilla in the room to help move your content. Or maybe just some dude in a cheesy monkey suit. 

Influencer marketing has become ecosystem all its own on Instagram, where paid placement is so hot brands are being fined for failing to provide disclosure about their business arrangements with the cool kids in front of the camera. 

But that’s in more in the B2C vein. Today, we’re going to explore how B2B companies with small social followings can start working with influencers and boost their growth.

Find Micro-Influencers That Are “Just Right.”

 

Searching for a B2B influencer is kind of like moving to a new city and trying to make new friends.

People naturally want to connect with others they identify with. So, the first thing you need to do is assess what you have to work with and adjust your expectations.

Everyone refers to how Kim Kardashian will tweet about your product for the everyday low price of $250,000+. Some B2C companies out there might be rubbing their hands together, dreaming of such an opportunity, but it would make zero sense for most B2B companies. Micro-influencers are the way to go for them.

These are ordinary people who have a passion for a niche and the dedication to build a following around it. This doesn’t necessarily mean a huge social media following either. Some influencers do their best work on blogs and other publishing platforms. 

The key is to find the right influencers for your brand, ones you can actually develop a relationship with.

Even small non-household names can rise to a stature where access can be difficult, especially for brands that are just starting to build an audience. If you don’t have much to offer in terms of reach, you should consider setting your sights lower and engaging influencers that are clearly on the ascent, but still accessible enough to talk to.

Ben Allen of Marketing Insider Group agrees. He says it's best to start with smaller influencers so you can get a better picture of how the campaign performed, taking stock of the number of leads and customers it produced for your business. 

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Be Patient! Build Long Term Relationships With Influencers.

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Working with influencers in the B2B space is a long-term play. 

By comparison with B2C, most B2B transactions involve bigger budgets, multiple decision makers, and plenty of research before money exchanges hands. For this reason, Jay Baer advises brands to integrate influencer marketing with ABM for optimal results.

The average sales cycle is longer and more complex, but make no mistake – B2B decisions are heavily influenced by the opinions of people they trust. At CSM, we research buyer personas at the outset of every campaign and without fail referrals are the first resource people name when we ask where they go when looking for a solution. 

If you can find the people others look to for advice and get them to talk about your products and services, you will be in an enviable competitive position. 

But it’s going to take time.

B2C influencer marketing has a reputation for being transactional in nature. In a short time, you can create a relationship with someone that promotes products like yours, settle on a contract, and you’re off to the races. 

B2B influencers are different. They tend to make money through client acquisition, online training workshops, and speaking engagements. In order to get those things they need to stay at the forefront of best practices while maintaining and growing their legion of followers.

This takes focus and dedication, which limits the time influencers have for networking. For this reason, brands with a small following should think carefully about how they go about starting relationships with them.

Strategies That Help Small Brands Work With Influencers.

 

Here is the harsh unforgiving truth – if your brand has a modest following, you don’t have what influencers want.

Their livelihoods depend on expanding their community and keeping it engaged. They can’t do that by spending a lot of time helping companies that don’t benefit them.

So what it’s a small time shop to do to get some influencer love?

This is where you crack your knuckles and earn your marketing genius stripes. 

  1. Leverage your strengths – If you aren’t a social media behemoth, maybe you’ve got an authoritative blog or highly engaged contact database. Get creative and look at where your strengths are. Any resources for content amplification are good ones as long as you and the influencer share the same audience.

 

  1. Phone a friend – Even if your clout isn’t large enough to help an influencer in the short term, maybe you have a connection that can add muscle to your efforts. Try working with a partner that has a relationship with this person. You can pitch a three-way collaborative piece of content that will help all of you and make for a nice introduction to your influencer.

 

  1. Listen and brainstorm – If you want to make a meaningful connection with an influencer (and you will have to if you want to work with them), you need to know them REALLY well. Read their blogs, share their tweets, comment on their LinkedIn posts.

Michael Brito offers some amazing tips on how much you can learn about individual influencers just by analyzing what topics they are talking and publishing content about online. This enables you to track which topics are important to them, and will help you pitch collaborative story ideas more effectively. 

You should also listen for any opportunity to help them with any task. Are they looking for a referral or a quote on some topic? Help them find it. I’ve heard others refer to this approach as “preciprocation.” Basically, you are making a deposit into the bank of future goodwill by helping someone out without asking for anything in return.

 

  1. Leapfrog your way to success – I read a book once about a history of labor unions in the early twentieth century. In one chapter, the author explained how workers used to paralyze large corporations by striking small companies that were an important part of the supply-chain. This was called “leap frogging.” The same principle applies with influencer marketing. Start by working with smaller influencers who have relationships with bigger ones. Don’t limit yourself to just one person! You really should be working on multiple fronts.

 

Before you begin your journey with influencer marketing, let me to give you a little piece of advice: Be genuine and be interesting.

It takes more than hitting the retweet button over and over again to build a relationship with smart businesspeople. Decide who you are as a company, then project it in every communication with your influencers and the world. Start creating lots of helpful content and share it in ways that won't seem obnoxious to your audience. 

Authenticity is no longer just a good idea. It’s an expectation.

If you want people to help you succeed, give them a reason to notice you, and then believe in you.

 B2B Lead Generation Guide

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