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Influencer Marketing in B2B

Posted June 20, 2024

Vahbiz Cooper, Sr. Executive of Digital Marketing at Demandbase, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Vahbiz shares what to look for in an influencer and how to maximize your collaboration.

Today, I am joined by Vahbiz Cooper. Vahbiz, thank you very much for joining us another day. I am excited to crack into this one because it can be a little complicated. Let’s talk about influencer marketing. What pops into your head first?

“Oh, I think what pops in my head first is that it’s an under prioritized strategy and it is not hard. I know many people struggle with it, but believe me, I promise you, It isn’t hard. Please use this strategy. It can do wonders for your company and brand.”

Let’s talk a little bit about what works and probably what doesn’t work. I see a lot of founders who are trying to double up as marketers, who are trying to get influencers to talk about their products. When we talk about something you’re an expert in and showcase them, that goes better. Have you seen trends where you get a little bit more participation and excitement from that influencer? 

“Oh, yeah. For sure. I think first, no matter what strategy you’re trying to use in terms of influencer marketing, I’ve seen many top companies do this as well. They focus on following the account. Please don’t do that since follower accounts cannot promise you engagement or a good brand image. When it comes to B2B influencers, particularly, there is a manual effort that has to happen because of LinkedIn restrictions. 

“However, it is super important that you go in and identify those influencers that have a decent amount of following, but also have good engagement. If they promote your post people are going to actually look at it, talk about it, and maybe comment on it vs. somebody with 12,000 or 14,000 followers and that person hasn’t posted in, I don’t know six months or a year. Again, this is connecting back to consistency, someone who will be the voice for you. 

“The other thing I’ve noticed, what happens when founders try to bring influencers in, is they don’t let influencers do their job. They get controlling and say, you know what? This is how I think we should do it. Yet, every influencer knows their audience. They know how their audience would react to a particular thing. You’ve got to trust and respect that the influencer knows what he/she is doing and they know how to promote your brand in whatever way that you feel is good. Obviously, you should have certain ground rules or if you want the tone or voice to be a little subtle or colors, follow brand guidelines. However, if you’re going to tell the influencer what to write, what to say, and how they should promote, why would you be paying them? Because that is something you can do on your company page as well.”

That’s such a great point. I think there are many ways you can bring influencers in and one of them can be webinars. Having a script never goes well. It’s inauthentic. To Vahbiz’s point, from yesterday, authenticity is what we’re going for and I hear founders say, I want to interview whoever it is that you’re going to bring in. I want to ensure they agree with all my talking points. My reaction is, isn’t that a little boring? Don’t you want a little bit of a healthy debate? Are you that insecure about coming out on top in an argument?

“I think that’s super important as well since that is also where you’re going to get new ideas. There are so many times when random conversations have actually steered the growth of existing products and also helped generate new products and you can get your market research beta audience right there.”

I think it’s important. I think some companies are hesitant to speak with someone who may have worked for a competitor or has a different stance. If you do it right, I think that’s super interesting. You have to be careful, though.

“Of course, for sure! Unfortunately, some influencers are only your influencers until they’re paid. On occasion, I feel bad about it. Don’t treat your influencer as just an influencer. They are humans too. If you build that trust. This takes time for sure.  

“Nevertheless, once you build that trust, once you convert that ‘influencership’ into partnership, I promise you they’re not going to go to your competitor. Of course, you can have candid chats about compensating them or whatever they are looking for. But if that does get converted into that strong bond, they would not go to your competitor, for sure. That’s guaranteed.”

Let’s talk about tiny, scrappy companies that don’t have the budget to perhaps pay folks, what are some things you can do to engage people within reach, maybe along the lines of what are we doing right now.

“Of course, budget constraints are important and it’s good that it’s out there in the open vs. oh, yeah, we have budget and then cutting the lines when it comes to paying your designer, for example. What I feel is the best strategy is don’t go up to them and say, hey, can you promote us? Instead, use a reverse strategy. Just say, hey, we identified you as a top sales marketing leader or revenue leader, and give them a small design for them to promote, hey, would you be willing to promote this? And this is a caption. If you want to use that, you can write up your own. Then, they promote you. I like that. Or they say, hey, X, Y, or Z has recognized me. Again, they’re human. So everybody likes that feel-good factor about themselves.

“Once they promote it, people are already viewing, okay, you know what? This person is somewhat getting associated with this company X, Y, or Z. Then, you can invite them on a webinar or a talk show. Once you’ve got that decent amount of budget you can say, hey, would you be interested in doing a three-part video for us or coming on this webinar for us, or writing a blog for us? Then you don’t have to spend that huge chunk vs. what you would have otherwise spent when you reach out to them and say, hey, you know what? We would charge you this amount of money to say these things, but you’ve already utilized that time to build that connection with them and they would be more than happy to do what you ask them to do.”

A couple of things that I want to call out again since they were so good. Creating graphics for them and snippets for them so that they don’t have to go to the extra effort. Brilliant! It’s a great idea. Then, using them to do things like webinars, not just using them, but collaborating with them on blog posts and webinars. Have you found this out? If I have a strong writer, what I’ll do a lot is to offer, can they meet with you for twenty minutes, ghostwrite this and then approve it. Their commitment to that twenty minutes. Have you seen other strategies where you’re simplifying things for that influencer?

“Mostly, it’s these that we have used and we saw success with. The most simple thing is asking them. Sometimes, they’re worked up, they have many other things going on. From time to time, they are at the top positions and generally have forgotten to respond to your mail or it has skipped. It isn’t that they do it on purpose. Now and then, gentle reminders or if you tell them, hey, what can I do to make this easy for you? We once saw a post where a person mentioned how difficult sales is. We reached out to them and said if we run an influencer campaign for you and we are going to run it or we are going to give you an idea of who to reach out to and we didn’t charge them or we did not do anything.

“We didn’t even draw graphics or anything for them. But them hearing, hey, there’s somebody that I can fall back on when my sales are hard. That got the conversation started and then slowly we collaborated with them and it turned out to be a good partnership. Sometimes, it is going to be that extra step and saying, you know what? Hey, can I help you? I know you’re struggling here. Is there anything that I can do to make this easy for you? And they ended up being a customer later on of our product. It just started by saying, hey, do you want help?”

I love that. Every now and then, when they’re high up, they’ve got an entire team supporting them. So asking if there’s an easier way to work with them, may get you direct access to their team. Yep. I love it! Let’s shift a little bit and talk about identifying influencers within your company. Have you had that moment where you realize, oh that person would be great?

“100%. Again, I feel people who keep posting on LinkedIn and getting fun content out there is super important. We have external people who do that already. Yet, sometimes, an SDR would post a reel saying, hey, this is a day in the life of an SDR or an AE here. and we immediately know that, okay, you know what? We want this person A, it’s like he’s happy being in front of the camera. They aren’t camera-shy. The person’s already talking so that is good. 

“Of course, from time to time, if they need training, we’re here to provide that. However, it’s like we immediately knew that we wanted to take this individual for some campaign. And we’ve already taken a few folks who have written good sales rap songs. These ideas on occasion, can come from anyone. It wouldn’t even strike a social individual to do it and it would strike somebody in the entire company. Sometimes, you exclaim, wow! Just wow!”

Yeah. I think sometimes as B2B social folks, we get a little hyper-focused on LinkedIn and we have people in our company who are all over the place and see other ideas that they can leverage. That’s smart.

For more content on B2B marketing trends, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.

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