The term “influencer” is no longer foreign to media professionals and social media users. This is even a marketing strategy that the brand’s communication plans frequently mention. However, perhaps due to the popularity of influencers in the consumer (B2C) segment, the business (B2B) segment receives little attention. In the B2B market alone, there are over 30,000 wholesale and retail units in 42 cities across Vietnam. Vietnam promises to become a potential land for the B2B sector as a result of policies to promote business development following the pandemic, as well as a competitive market with more businesses participating. Still, influencing this target group’s purchasing decisions is a difficult process. The article below will provide specific characteristics of the B2B Influencer management process and appropriate suggested strategies to help define a clearer definition of B2B influencer marketing and how to “win” in this segment.
B2B and B2C Influencers: Similar and Distinct
To begin, we must clearly define what B2B influencer marketing is similar to and how it differs from B2C influencer marketing. The most common feature is the power of influencers’ opinions. Their comments, thoughts, and shares have an effect on a specific audience group, promoting a specific action.
Yet, B2C influencers are thought leaders with the ability to reach a large audience, whereas B2B influencers are subject matter experts. Regarding the source of influence, there is a clear distinction between B2C and B2B. B2C influencers can influence the audience. They want to connect with the influencer, whereas B2B influencers can influence the target audience because they are aware of and knowledgeable about a specific field. This is evidenced by the fact that B2B companies want to sell their products to experts, who will seek expert knowledge from influencers rather than sympathize or connect with them.
We will learn how to deploy and manage B2B Influencers to delve deeper into the characteristics of B2B Influencer marketing. The main stages of influencer marketing management are (1) planning, (2) influencer selection, (3) preparing and coordinating the process, (4) creating and delivering the content, and finally (5) evaluating.
Characteristics of B2B Influencers
Influencer marketing was included in the firm’s marketing communications mix, along with content marketing and social media marketing. B2B influencer marketing is widely recognized as a marketing communications strategy that employs individuals as messengers of company-related content.
Setting objectives and defining the roles of influencer marketing as part of the overall marketing communications strategy are critical issues in planning B2B influencer marketing. The most common goals for influencer marketing among businesses are branding, relationship building, and sales. At the same time, influencer marketing could be used to generate positive customer perceptions early in the purchasing process, resulting in positive long-term effects on sales.
- B2B influencer selection
Internal employees or external experts with credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of the target market can be leveraged as B2B influencers. Influencer profiles typically include experienced business leaders, high-profile employees, and technical experts, as well as entrepreneurs and public figures and third-party experts such as academics and consultants. This means that only a small percentage of B2B influencers consider influencing their primary profession.
B2B influencers will be extremely demanding about which companies they work with, so a brand with common interests between the company and the influencer is critical. To select suitable individuals for the B2B influencer marketing plan, PR practitioners should clearly understand the interests, values, and preferences of influencers, according to EloQ Communications’ forecast of PR trends in 2023. A YouTuber who creates entertainment content, for example, may not be suitable for a white paper promotion campaign or collaborating on a blog post.
Next, in addition to the brand match, the target audience match between the commissioner firm and the influencer is critical, because B2B firms’ target groups are much more specific than those of B2Cs. To elaborate, the commissioner firm does not gain much from an influencer’s large and engaged following unless they represent the firm’s target audience.
As a result, B2B firms are primarily looking for influencers whose opinions are regarded as credible by the target audience and whose followers are found in channels that the target audience consumes.
- Preparation and coordination of B2B influencer
Preparing collaborations with influencers entails many issues on which the commissioner firm and influencer must reach an agreement. First, consider the objectives, schedule, budget, and metrics used to assess the planned activities. Second, to avoid misunderstandings, it is critical to go over legal obligations and clarify the roles of the commissioner firm, influencer, and marketing agency. Third, the commissioner firm must provide the influencer with a detailed briefing so that the influencer has a thorough understanding of the target group and their informational needs, as well as a clear understanding of the themes and key messages that the influencer marketing content should address. Excessive control (on the part of the firm) should be avoided following the briefing so that the influencer has enough creative freedom to design effective content that leverages the influencer’s special expertise.
- Content creation and delivery of B2B influencer
B2B influencers frequently have limited knowledge of content creation and sharing. They are influencers because they have specialized knowledge on specific topics, not necessarily because they are skilled at creating appealing content. As a result, B2B influencers require technical assistance from the commissioner firm or an external agency for photography, video shooting, and copywriting to create high-quality content that reaches and resonates with the target audience. Furthermore, unless the commissioner firm promotes the content through its channels, influencer marketing activities are likely to reach a tiny portion of the target audience.
Digital analytics data and behavioral metrics toward influencer activities are the most popular evaluation methods today. The majority of studies measured behavioral engagement with content by tracking the amount of time spent consuming it (for example, time spent reading a blog post, listening to a podcast, or watching a video). The firms measured content reach and subsequent behavioral reactions, such as likes, comments, and shares, when posting and promoting the content on social media. Few businesses went beyond these easily accessible metrics. Notably, none of the participating firms mentioned brand-related metrics as a way to measure the effectiveness of influencer marketing. Given that the primary goals of B2B influencer marketing were related to branding, this is an intriguing finding.
After learning about the characteristics of B2B influencers through the main stages of influencer marketing, we have gradually grasped what can be exploited from this type of marketing. So, how should B2B influencers be deployed? Let’s take a look at four strategies to optimize its performance.
- Reference-based influencer marketing strategy
A reference-based influencer marketing strategy focuses on leveraging recommendations from external influencers on the firm’s products, services, and customer experiences. When the goal of influencer marketing is to raise brand and product awareness, this strategy is typically used. The main difference between it and traditional marketing communications is that the message is delivered by an external individual who ideally represents an existing customer with authority in the industry, increasing the message’s credibility. This is a strategy that is also widely used in the B2C sector.
- Content-based influencer marketing strategy
A content-based influencer marketing strategy focuses on internal and external influencers co-creating and sharing industry-relevant content. This strategy is typically used when the goal of influencer marketing is to improve the brand image or foster thought leadership positioning in a specific industry. The activities usually are the influencer’s subject matter expertise, which is used to provide informational value to the target audience through content.
This strategy is accompanied by in-depth content that addresses current and business-relevant issues such as digital transformation or energy transition. Content can be delivered in a variety of formats, including podcasts, webinars, white papers, and videos. Inviting external industry experts to co-create content with the firm’s in-house experts was a common approach. It was thought that collaborating with external influencers would improve the objectivity and credibility of the content. Because the content is related to current industry issues, external influencers are usually motivated to participate in content creation because they perceive a mutual interest.
Archild Donet, Director of Sales and Partnership at global supply chain management company Verify, appeared in the launch campaign for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 product line. Mr. Archild, as a member of the board of directors, is an excellent influencer for Samsung to use in communicating the brand’s message to the public. Following in Archild’s workday, the Galaxy Note 8 proves to be a useful tool for businesses to optimize work performance, when it comes to taking notes, storing documents, etc. The campaign was well received in the European market, with sales in the B2B segment increasing 26% over the same period last year when the campaign was launched.
- Interaction-based influencer marketing strategy
Internal influencers’ efforts to interact and form social bonds with target audiences are the focus of an interaction-based influencer marketing strategy. When the goal of influencer marketing is to build relationships with customers and other stakeholders, this strategy is typically used. Interpersonal trust, gained through interaction with the target audience, is the source of influence.
Monitoring industry discussions on social media and participating in them by sharing one’s insights on the topic or commenting on other people’s social media threads are typical activities. The topics of discussion may range from minor business advice to industry-wide issues. However, the interaction is more important than the theme; the influencer must be genuinely willing to spend their valuable time assisting others by sharing insights and participating in discussions.
The interaction-based strategy relies on having knowledgeable individuals who are eager to engage in social media interactions. Firms can also provide their employees with education and training to help them implement the strategy.
- Purpose-based influencer marketing strategy
Purpose-based influencer marketing focuses on leveraging external influencers to communicate the firm’s contribution to society, the environment, or any other purpose other than employing people, paying taxes, and generating profit for shareholders. When the goal of influencer marketing is to elicit positive emotions toward the company, this strategy is used. As a result, it differs markedly from other B2B influencer marketing strategies that are tightly related to the firm’s core business and targeted at potential customers. The best influencer in a purpose-based influencer strategy may not be an industry expert, but rather a credible spokesperson who collectively represents the beneficiaries.
The key target audience in the purpose-based influencer marketing strategy is potential employees and the general public, and content themes might vary from promoting societally important issues to interacting with organizational values that connect with the audience.
To begin, influencer marketing in B2B markets differs from influencer marketing in B2C markets in several ways. This means that managers cannot simply use and translate influencer marketing programs and strategies designed for consumer markets and expect them to produce comparable results in the B2B context.
Second, B2B influencer marketing is typically focused on engaging with strategic industry themes and raising awareness through the use of credible experts in specific industry or application areas. Influencers in B2B markets are not usually celebrities with large social media followings. Instead of looking for people with the most reach and visibility, B2B influencer marketing experts can focus on people with the most credibility in the eyes of the target audience.
Finally, there is no single “best” or “ideal” way to implement influencer marketing in B2B markets, but rather several alternative strategies that cater to different marketing goals and organizational resources, as well as specific opportunities and challenges. The four strategies mentioned above can be combined to form a completely new strategy, so don’t confine your creativity to a single framework.
B2B influencers are a market with enormous potential in Vietnam, but before going any further, we must recognize that this is a distinct segment from B2C influencers. Strategists must identify B2B influencers as people with credibility and expertise in the industry, and a suitable influencer does not necessarily need to have a large social media following. Furthermore, because B2B influencers will have little experience creating and distributing content, they will require technical and professional assistance from the company. Furthermore, businesses must assess B2B influencer effectiveness using brand reputation metrics rather than engagement metrics. The proposed strategies are all based on one aspect – suggestions and suggestions, content, interaction, and purpose – and must all capitalize on the strengths of B2B influencers in creating influence through credibility and expertise in the profession. Furthermore, businesses must assess B2B influencer effectiveness using brand reputation metrics rather than engagement metrics.
That’s all the information you’ll get from this blog post. However, the above fundamental knowledge is insufficient to truly apply B2B influencers to a comprehensive marketing strategy. Do the characteristics of B2B influencers vary by industry, or how can the performance of this activity be accurately measured when it cannot be quantified? That is a question for strategists to consider when planning, and we will wait for the development of B2B influencers in future campaigns to provide a comprehensive answer.