Only Connect: Influencer marketing — the B2B golden bullet
by Bradley Elliott (@BradElliottSA) “Real business isn’t done in board meetings; it happens in the small, personal interactions that allow us to prove to each other who we are and what we believe in, honest moments that promote good feelings and build trust and loyalty.” That’s digital marketing phenomenon, Gary Vaynerchuk, talking about influencer marketing.
The founder of VaynerMedia, who spends most of his life with a camera trained on him, continues: “Now, scaling those interactions is not only possible— provided you use the right tools the right way—it’s necessary. In fact, those companies and brands that refuse to try could jeopardise the potential of their business, and in the long term, even their very existence.”
From art to science
Vaynerchuk’s spot on, of course. Technology and digital transformation have changed the way humans make decisions. McKinsey & Company reports that business-to-business (B2B) sales decision-making has moved from art to science. The global consulting company states that tomorrow’s winners will know how to use technology, data, and digital channels to realise growth. Gone are the days when closing business deals was only about skill. Today, it is now strongly influenced by science (read technology and data).
Three quarters of B2B buyers research online before making an offline purchase, but the important insight here is that “53% of B2B buyers rely on peer recommendations” and that “76% prioritise vendors suggested by their peers.” This research from LinkedIn Business indicates that 84% of B2B purchases begin with a referral.
What this means is that influencer marketing, and the technologies and data that unlock this, is central to B2B marketing. But, despite influencer marketing underpinning B2B sales, over half of of the companies in this sector have yet to unlock this powerful tool in their marketing arsenal. Smart Insights reports that only 49% of B2B technology brands use influencer marketing. The research writers say that while B2B ‘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.”
Here are some two examples of how some of the world’s top B2B brands are using influencer marketing:
- LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network with well over 562m members, uses influential members as an integral part of the brand’s growth marketing. If you look at LinkedIn’s marketing guides, you’ll see that influencers are central to the brand’s core marketing message.
- SAP, the German-based global software giant SAP uses influencer marketing very successfully. Events are core to the enterprise software company’s marketing, and SAP uses influencers to help drive social media velocity. By using influencers, SAP was able to reach close on 100 000 people not able to physically attend a massive engagement in Florida, massively broadening its audience for the event.
But influencer does a lot more than just drive reach. It is central to creating credibility, driving interest in your brand on social media, and to unlocking brand ambassadors who will help you target your market message.
Keep an eye out for next month’s column because I’ll be showing you how to get started with integrating influencer marketing into your brand campaigns.
The founder of Continuon and Platinum Seed, Bradley Elliott (@BradElliottSA) is a serial entrepreneur who’s created a number of businesses in the digital and technology sectors. He believes that marketing needs to be reinvented so that it becomes more useful to humans and brands. He’s also a collector of fine whiskey. Bradley contributes the monthly column, “Only Connect”, which focuses on influencer marketing, to MarkLives.com.
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