Marketing in B2B technology used to be easy and dare I say--almost always predictable. But there are major changes happening in the B2B marketing landscape, disrupting our once reliable marketing strategies.
As B2B marketers, we’re up against:
- Customer communication channels that have exploded into thousands of pieces;
- A tangled mess of a buyer’s journey requiring new technologies and methodologies; and
- New sales and marketing rules, set by a generation of digital natives who block ads and trust peer recommendations above all.
In the words of Mark Schaefer, author of KNOWN and renowned marketing strategist,
While our “go-to” channels are in turmoil--or in permanent decline--there is one bright spot that is growing in importance at light speed: Influencer Marketing.”
According to recent research, the act of sharing influential content impacts purchase decisions. In fact, The New York Times reported that 70% of adults say their purchasing decisions are affected by content they see shared on the web. Furthermore, Hotwire PR found that 83% of technology buyers prefer 3rd party opinions when evaluating a vendor, which they are open to discovering on social media.
Faced with such challenges and opportunities, I teamed up with Mark to learn from 10 of the most advanced influencer marketing experts at the world’s largest technology organizations, including Microsoft, SAP, HPE and more.
While it's apparent that influencer marketing works for consumer-facing brands, we wanted to shed light on how influencer marketing works in B2B and go deep into the specific challenges and solutions for technology brands.
What we learned is that sophisticated influencer strategies are taking root throughout leading B2B technology organizations and growing rapidly as the impact on the business become clear.
Even more so, the experts we interviewed revealed that influencer marketing not only works, but is seen as a strategic lever for their business success. Their insight revealed six emerging trends in the practice:
1. Emergence of micro-influencers and their role vis-a-vis macro-influencers
2. Necessity to lead with purpose over promotion
3. Importance of expert voices and their relationship with brand voice
4. Transition from campaign-driven activities to “always on” engagement
5. Demolition of silos in favor of cross-functional collaboration
6. Evolution of measurement from reach to outcomes
Collectively, these six trends have indicated a major shift, but focusing on the transition from campaign-driven activities to “always-on” engagement will be especially acute for marketers. For decades, marketers have been in a rhythm of campaign-based activities. But every one of the experts emphasized the need to break that cycle and acknowledge that influencer marketing is about long-term relationships that don’t go up and down with budget levels.
In fact, to go even deeper, we reached out to Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group and a top CMO Influencer by Forbes, for commentary on these six trends. Michael noted, “I wish you could put double emphasis on the long term “always on” trend. I have had probably a dozen requests from B2B tech brands this year for one-off engagements. I turn them down every time.”
The key is to bring influencer relationship management in-house to create closer bonds between employees and influencers. Michael included his take on what he would add as the seventh trend:
Influencer marketing is going to join up with employer branding and social activation programs when companies begin to realize that paid outreach no longer works. Influencers can start to ignite the conversation and provide internal experts and employees the guidance and the confidence they need to start sharing their own points of view. When influencer content gets shared by employee networks and employee content is shared by influencer networks, the combined engagement and business outcomes will be unstoppable.”
On October 10th, Mark and I will co-host a live webinar to present the findings from our research and discuss how to apply the trends in practice to enable B2B influencer marketing success.
This infographic summarizes our key findings and provides guidance to B2B marketing organizations who are looking to establish, scale or optimize their influencer marketing programs.