Another year has passed, and once again, Love Island is back dominating our tv screens for its eighth series – packed with gossip, scandals, blossoming relationships and more. It’s a well-versed topic in the IBA office and after reading new research from Top Rank Marketing this week, it’s got our PR brains ticking yet again.

So although often deemed to be just a B2C tactic, certainly if the Love Island influencer phenomenon is anything to go by, but the value of influencer marketing in B2B is not to be overlooked. Top Rank Marketing’s research uncovered three key trends for how B2B marketers feel about influencer marketing today:

  1. B2B influencer marketing importance has significantly increased for 71% of marketers since the start of the pandemic
  2. A third of respondents claim that influencer marketing directly contributes to sales and revenue, and over half found brand recognition, awareness and lead gen were enhanced
  3. The power of using executives – over 65% of B2B marketers found internal executives have been very or extremely effective at increasing the influence of the brand.

Remember, 91% of B2B transactions are influenced by word of mouth, so much like the islanders’ budding future careers in social media, prospective brand deals and lives in the public eye, recommendations from a trusted source can have a huge effect on how customers interact.

We’ve decided to throw it back to this time last year when we delved deep into how B2B organizations can learn a thing or two from the islanders themselves.

Is social media where it all began – and the B2B divergence begins?

After plunging headfirst into an immersive COVID-induced digital world in 2020, the importance of social media has only escalated and figures now show that there is around 3.6 billion active social media users worldwide a mass of ‘mini journalists’ – capturing their news hooks, stories, reviews and more –  and all online. When we think of Love Island, we think fashion deals and teeth whitening promotions plastered across Instagram.  

But when selling B2B services, social media won’t always target the correct audience—and this is where B2B and B2C diverge.

A B2B influencer tends to be an industry insider, a prominent user (that’s what we call B2B people, not consumers) , a well-respected specialist or an industry expert within a company.  Influencers are paid not in advertising spend, but in reputation, their credible, expert content on a company product or service is respected.

Yes, think, thought leadership.      

The benefits are in the stats

TopRank Marketing’s 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report found that 74% of marketers agree B2B influencer marketing improves prospect and customer experience with a brand, with another 63% agreeing that marketing results would be bolstered with a B2B influencer marketing programme. Most importantly, an astonishing 96% of B2B marketers consider their program to be more successful when it involves influencers.

I think there are four leading benefits of incorporating B2B influencers into a strategy:

Cost: brand influencers can be a very cost-effective form of marketing and often the most successful collaborations involve a win-win situation. This could be done by offering exclusive access to an event or product before it goes to the B2B market.  

Trust: as the above stats have shown it’s not always just about payment—a quality opinion goes a long way in the B2B world for both increased sales and an improved brand image. Original thought leadership plays a huge role in not only gaining trust and audience confidence but providing answers to the pain points of your target audience.

Look outside and inside for your ambassadors: depending on what works best for your business, influencer recruitment could happen from within or outside the company—and truth be told, both reap their own benefits. Existing employees have extensive knowledge of the business itself – in fact, they might be the genius sat behind the strategy—so their internal expertise may leave you best positioned in the future. On the other end of the spectrum, contracting externally opens the gate for fresh and different perspectives, offering ideas that perhaps haven’t been brought to your board meeting table before.

Extended reach – here comes the social: here the effect of social media takes on a role for B2B influencers – albeit not the mass foghorn effect of the B2C world – by enabling these trusted opinions to be tweeted to followers and put in posts on LinkedIn. The opportunity to use webinars, podcasts, LinkedIn guest posts and editorial pieces amplify influencer messaging further and can extend the reach of an influencer campaign beyond their own audience.

Learn from the Islanders, put passion back into your marketing

Love Islanders might be easily influenced but 83% of B2B buyers consult social media for vendor information before purchasing, with another 93% claiming the information will alter their decision – so be prepared for a gradual process when implementing influencing into your strategy. Research also suggests that results are unlikely to show until at least six months – no good if you’re selling teeth whiteners as the competition will have dramatically changed by that time!

None-the-less passionate and extremely targeted influencers will really drive B2B results.  Aligning your brand influencer with what your company really does, wants to achieve and the products and services on offer is essential. So be sure to pick wisely when you plan your next influencer campaign!

Georgia Harris is PR Account Executive at IBA International.

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