So far, B2C brands have been the primary adopters of influencer marketing. A recent survey conducted by Linqia found that in 2016, 86% of B2C marketers had used the tactic, 94% of whom found it effective. Stats on B2B adoption of influencer marketing, however, are harder to come by.
Does this mean that influencer marketing isn’t relevant in the B2B world? Quite the contrary. B2B brands are well poised to benefit from influencer marketing—possibly more than B2C brands.
Furthermore, B2B brands might need the additional boost of influencer marketing more than ever. Here are 3 key reasons for B2B brands to get involved in influencer marketing, whether it’s by working with established independent influencers or developing brand influencers of their own.
1. Similar elements drive online influence and the B2B buyer’s journey
B2B buyers must navigate a vast sea of information throughout the purchase process. They’re also more empowered than ever to select which content they want to consume.
To stand out, marketers need to provide genuine value to create real connections with potential and existing customers.
Influencers build their audiences by doing just that—establishing connections with people by sharing information and insights.
In short, influencers achieve their status by consistently creating and distributing original, high quality content, whether in the form of articles, images, videos, and so on.
The role of content in building online influence mirrors the role of content in the B2B buyer’s journey.
A 2016 B2B buyer’s survey by Demand Gen Report found that, among B2B buyers:
- 80% spend more time researching purchases than in 2015
- 62% rely on peer recommendations
- 34% spend more time using social media to research vendors and solutions than in 2015
B2B buyers are looking for information, filtering to sources they trust. Influencer marketing can provide these elements to create real connections with audiences and, ultimately, buyers.
2. B2B brands need better ways to differentiate
Recent surveys indicate that many B2B brands just aren’t standing out with buyers. A 2016 Gallup poll found that 60% of buyers are indifferent to B2B brands.
A joint survey conducted by Google and CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council found that 86% of B2B buyers either see no difference between suppliers or don’t value the differences enough to pay for them. In fact, this same survey shows that buyers’ perception of business value between B2B brands barely fluctuates—by a few percentage points at most.
This isn’t surprising when you consider the above stats on the role of content in the B2B buyer’s journey. B2B buyers need a way to filter and stay focused.
Case in point: Use of ad blockers has jumped 34.4% since 2016, according to a recent eMarketer report. Today, approximately 1 in 5 (26.3%) internet users block ads.
All of this boils down to a strong need for B2B marketers to establish authentic connections with their audiences—the kind of connections that independent or brand influencers can provide.
3. B2B buyers are seeking a stronger connection with vendors
B2B buyers seem to have a more positive relationship toward vendors than you might assume. A recent LinkedIn survey of B2B buyers reported that 84% describe their relationship with their vendors as “very good” or “good”.
Furthermore, B2B buyers seem to be actively looking for a stronger connection with vendors, but one that is based on substance and trust. The same LinkedIn survey found that two of the most important factors in buyers’ willingness to engage with a vendor included whether the vendor:
- Is a subject matter expert/thought leader (25%)
- Provides valuable consultation, education, or tools (25%)
Because the above two elements are key factors in establishing online influencer, this points to a big opportunity for B2B brands to develop their own influencers to start building the connections that buyers are seeking.
Now is the time to evolve
B2B brands have an opportunity now to establish leadership with influencer marketing before it becomes another “me too” strategy. To learn more about how to get involved with influencer marketing as a B2B brand, download our ebook, “Make Your Mark with B2B Influencer Marketing.”