Identifying the influencer – the first steps to a successful B2B influencer programme

You have a successful ongoing marketing campaign. As a successful B2B marketeer you know how important it is to build long term trust in your product or solution, because it’s not like consumer marketing. In B2B many buyer’s careers depend on ‘getting it right’ – so buyers need to trust your company and respect your technology. Trust comes from the quality of your marketing material, the ability of your sales teams, but to a surprisingly high extent it comes from third party influencers that the sales guys don’t meet.

In B2B sales grabbing the attention and gaining the trust of key influencers is vital due to the authority they command in your industry. A recent report indicated that 96% of B2B buyers want content with more input from industry thought leaders – and we at IBA always recommend that B2B marketeers set up a dedicated influencer programme.

I believe there are three early steps every successful influencer programme must take:

Identify influencer personas

These may take a number of forms – industry figures who speak at conferences, or in web based-peer groups, as well as opinion leading journalists, analysts or reviewers. Ask yourself – what influence do they have over my B2B buyers, and are they likely to be receptive to my messaging? Depending on their industry role, this may vary. Regardless, this initial research will be the first stage in identifying the most relevant targets for your business.

Identify hot topics and industry themes

At this stage, invest time in identifying what ties your business and the influencer together. What are the current industry hot topics they are talking about? How can they be married to your sales themes to give you something interesting to say? What are competitors talking about, and what specifics are your target influencers interested in at any given time? This is the top-down approach to identifying influencers. Determining these allows you to engage with influencers on mutual topics of interest.

Find the right people on the right platforms – build your A list

Finding general industry figures is no challenge, but this list must be vetted down to establish a top-quality influencer ‘A list’. At this stage you should be asking: are these people involved in the relevant market segments for me? Are they the most prominent and influential people in the field? We can determine these through influencer weightings that take into account regularity, reach, relevance and resonance.

The second challenge is platforms. Which platforms are these influencers most likely to be active on, and where can we find them? The simple answer is that it varies. Blogs, LinkedIn groups and social media all contain influential figures with dedicated audiences. Content can be re-purposed and tailored to maintain consistent messaging across these platforms.

These first steps are crucial when it comes to introducing an effective influencer programme, and should span three months to ensure a suitably thorough level of industry research. Next week on the Level Pitcher, I will discuss how to successfully make that all-important first contact with influencers and subsequently cement the relationship.

Simon Woolley, engagement specialist at IBA International

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