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Disrupt’s Guide to B2B Influencer Marketing

Discover what B2B influencer marketing is, why it's a growing part of the industry and the benefits it can have as part of your overall marketing strategy.

Since the beginning of influencer marketing, brands have leveraged the creativity and reach of influencers and celebrities to endorse their products and services directly to creator audiences. It’s no wonder then that, up until now, the industry has mainly been thought of as a B2C practice (business-to-consumer)… but things are changing.

Often overlooked in the discussion of the creator economy, B2B influencers are carving out a niche as powerful as powerful players in driving scroll-stopping attention for brands. As we step further into the age of B2B influence, brands are realising the value they can have in helping to shout about their products and services. So let’s take a closer look at B2B influencer marketing, and why you really shouldn’t ignore it.

What is B2B Influencer Marketing?

B2B influencer marketing is a collaboration between businesses and subject specialist creators to promote the brand’s product or service through the creator’s expertise.

The shift in the creator economy to favour smaller-scale creators has made a huge impact on the influencer marketing landscape, resulting in a sharp rise in B2B influencer marketing. Unlike their B2C counterparts, B2B creators are not just social media personalities; they are industry experts, thought leaders, and trusted voices within their respective industries, allowing their content to come across incredibly authentically and very credible. 

Employee advocacy has emerged as an effective form of B2B influencer marketing, being utilised by some of the biggest brand names on the planet. When employees advocate for their brand’s products or services, they leverage their expertise and credibility to reach and influence other brands within their network. This can be a super valuable and outside-of-the-box approach to B2B influencer marketing, effectively enhancing brand visibility and trust when done right.

So, B2B influencers are on the up. But why? As we’ve mentioned brands are starting to value the impact smaller creators and their genuine and dedicated audiences can have. But something we think is worth noting is Gen-Z. Often thought of as being the young generation, they’re growing up. They are now a big part of the workforce meaning the way B2B brands promote themselves has had to adapt to appeal to a younger generation of professionals. Gen-Z are a demographic who live on TikTok, and whose purchasing decisions are influenced by authentic creator content, and B2B influencers align perfectly with this.

On a podcast with The Drum last year, our Managing Director, Stevie Johnson, was asked “What has sparked the boom of B2B influencers?” He said:

“Ultimately, we’re entering into the age of reputation. There’s no real hiding place for businesses anymore, especially with the growth of social media and the conversations and communities that are out there. So, businesses need to understand whether their products offer good customer service, and now’s the time to find out. Reputation, trust, all of these things are vital and can be built through the use of influencers. Any research over the last ten years, even before B2B was a thing, confirms that influencer credibility, measured by expertise, trustworthiness, and attractiveness, has a positive impact on purchase intention. B2B businesses are now recognising the importance of this and are trying to catch up with the B2C space.”

Stevie Johnson ‘B2B influencer marketing: Who’s leading the pack?’ (The Drum Network)

Listen to the full podcast here.

The Benefits of B2B Influencer Marketing

While B2B influencer marketing doesn’t quite provoke the sexiness of your traditional influencer marketing campaign, the benefits for B2B brands are undeniable. Through a strategic approach that allows brands to speak directly to their target audience, through the voices of entertaining, highly-trusted and relatable influencers, the results can be truly impressive.

Here are the benefits you can expect from a well-executed B2B influencer marketing campaign:

  • Enhanced Brand Awareness: The beauty of working with B2B social media influencers is that they’ve already built a loyal audience who trust and enjoy their content. By aligning with these influencers, brands tap into wider audiences, expanding their reach organically, and earning brand loyalty and trust with potential new customers.
  • Precise Industry Targeting: The diversity of B2B industries allows for a tailored approach. Whether it’s trade, healthcare, finance, or automotive, there’s guaranteed to be an influencer out there somewhere, creating content and catering to the niche. Leveraging B2B influencers allows us to operate on a granular scale, ensuring that your brand message resonates with the exact demographic you’re aiming for. By focusing on specific industries, we’ve witnessed firsthand that, despite brand speculation, the results from a targeted campaign can be fantastic.
  • Boosted Lead Generation and Sales: Forgive us for the cliché, but people buy from people, even in B2B. Partnering with influencers creates a human element in your marketing strategy, creating an authentic connection with a potential client or customer. B2B influencers have built their audience through a genuine passion and knowledge of their industry making their endorsements highly credible AND influential. This authenticity significantly enhances lead generation and drives sales, as prospects are more inclined to engage with brands endorsed by influencers they trust.
  • Original thought leadership – Creators have audiences for a reason, they know how to make content that resonates. This can be hugely beneficial if a brand is trying to crack a new market but isn’t sure how to speak to a particular niche or demographic. Partnering with B2B influencers allows brands to tap into their thought leadership, simplifying the process of connecting with and engaging your target audience

How are brands using B2B Influencers?

The tech vertical remains a significant focus for B2B influencer marketing, as these creators effectively communicate the benefits of new technologies, educate businesses on their applications, and even conduct hands-on demonstrations, but this is rapidly expanding. 

The role of a B2B influencer can extend beyond traditional online social media creators. B2B creators are able to offer ‘in-person’ influencing, which can be in the form of company introductions, talks and webinars, and even participation in product development processes. These personalised interactions enhance engagement and build deeper connections.

B2B Influencer Marketing Examples:

Toolstation

Last year, we partnered with Toolstation, to increase awareness of their ‘Click and Collect’ service within the trade industry by leveraging influencers. Despite initial concerns about whether this strategy would align with brand image, our knowledge of the B2B niche enabled us to identify influencers who were authentic tradesmen, precisely targeting Toolstation’s desired demographic. By using influencers across IG reels and TikTok, and by staggering the content over a few weeks, we successfully built interest in the brand’s service. Toolstation was incredibly happy with the results delivered, achieving 1.2m organic impressions, amplified to 4.9m through a combined organic and paid social media approach. With over 1.3k+ purchases resulting in a remarkable 13:1 ROI and a huge increase in traffic to their website, the client was extremely happy with the B2B influencer marketing strategy.

Elsewhere, some of the most well-known brands on the planet have utilised the power of B2B influencer marketing to drive awareness and performance:

Microsoft:

Microsoft harnessed the influence of B2B partnerships to address the gender gap of women in STEM careers. Partnering with National Geographic, the #MakeWhatsNext campaign showcased female role models and promoted access to computer science education. By partnering with B2B influencers, Microsoft spoke directly to the next generation of female leaders, supporting inventors, and advocates for diversity. Microsoft aimed for change within its workforce and the tech industry. Through these efforts, Microsoft aimed to inspire and create a more inclusive future in STEM with the help of influential voices.

IBM

Something we’ve already mentioned is that a brand’s employees can be considered B2B influencers through well-executed and strategic advocacy. IBM is a great example of how this can be an effective way of marketing the brand through people. Being a titan that covers a wide set of industries, they knew that finding a particular influencer to cover the brand as a whole would be challenging, so instead they looked to their employees for promotion. Paula Glynn, Business Coach, and Director of Search Marketing & Digital Strategy for Pixel Storm says “The tech giant believes, and truly so, that there’s no one who knows your products better than the people who manufacture and sell them. So the company encouraged employees to tweet about their products on their social media to attract customers”.

The best platforms for B2B Influencer Marketing

So is there a particular B2B influencer marketing platform that is the standout best performer?

  • Linkedin – LinkedIn presents itself as the obvious choice for B2B platforms, given its B2B focus. There is an ever-growing presence of B2B influencers becoming more vocal on the platform alongside a significant rise in personal branding. Amelia Sordell, a personal branding expert and founder of Klowt, highlighted on the Status Update podcast that individual LinkedIn posts outperform brand posts by a staggering 561% in terms of reach. Make it an obvious choice for brands to utilise individual voices such as B2B influencers.
  • X (Twitter) – Offering real-time conversations, X (Twitter) is an effective platform for B2B influencer marketing. Widely used by leading active voices within industries, it’s a go-to platform for instant insights and discussions. Those with established followings on the platform can be a great resource for B2B brands looking to market themselves directly to a targeted audience.
  • YouTube – YouTube provides a lot of benefits to a B2B influencer marketing campaign, especially for those brands relying on visual content such as product walkthroughs, tutorials, teachings etc. For industries like tech, this platform is key if a creator is required to deliver a brand narrative within informative and thought leadership content that relies on long-form.
  • TikTok – While it may primarily be considered a B2C platform, TikTok is being utilised in B2B influencer marketing strategies thanks to its short-format content that can reach wide audiences. As a platform, it’s particularly effective at reaching younger demographics who may be early on in their careers – even other social media platforms are utilising this platform to leverage B2B influencer marketing for their own brands, as you can see in the tiktok from LinkedIn below:
@linkedin

the best knowledge comes from community! link in bio to explore collaborative articles. #community

♬ original sound – LinkedIn
  • Meta – Other social platforms like Instagram and Facebook are seeing increased B2B influencer marketing activity as the trend grows, particularly with creators with established communities of followers in their particular niche. These platforms allow creators to showcase products and similarly humanise brands to B2C.
  • Podcasting – Podcasting has emerged as an effective medium across platforms like Apple, Spotify, and YouTube offering B2B influencers a powerful avenue to share expert opinions through interviews, discussions, and industry insights. Brands can leverage collaborations with influencers, either as hosts or guests, on popular podcasts to access niche audiences effectively.

Measuring B2B Influencer Marketing Performance

Like B2C, there are certain steps that need to be put in place before running your campaign in order to measure success at the end. That begins with establishing clear and concise goals and following up with a strategy that can allow you to achieve them.

The primary focus of a B2B platform is sales. Businesses want other businesses to buy from them (sorry for stating the obvious). Naturally, this doesn’t always happen overnight. Especially for an emerging product or service, so initially, the view of a B2B influencer marketing campaign is to build brand awareness and consideration among potential buyers. 

Tracking awareness metrics is pretty simple, you can find our full breakdown of the numbers behind influencer marketing here.

But as we’ve mentioned, a B2B influencer marketing campaign is all about revenue which means driving lower-funnel performance activity and increasing sales is a must. Unlike B2C however, the purchasing journey for a B2B campaign can take a little longer. Consider the situations:

  • A B2C campaign does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s directly to the consumer. It may take one or two ads to appear in a buyer’s feed before they make a purchase, but ultimately they can make an instant purchasing decision and buy within minutes if not seconds. Allowing you to know fairly quickly whether or not your campaign has been successful.
  • A B2B campaign on the other hand has certain hoops it needs to jump through before a purchase can be made. Firstly, if a business is looking for a service or product, they’re doing their market research, and while you may be a contender – they’re exploring other options too. Secondly, purchases will have to be signed off internally – not by the first person who sees the ad. An in-feed ad today may take months to convert into revenue. So it could give the appearance that your campaign hasn’t been successful due to no immediate sales, even though it was the primary factor in a later purchase.

Ultimately, both awareness and performance metrics are vital to measuring success in your B2B influencer marketing campaign.

Our Thoughts on B2B Influencer Marketing

Where once there was a stigma attached to the term ‘influencer’ – that is the case no longer. As we enter the creator-led future, influencers and creators have a seat at the digital marketing table. And this evolution goes beyond B2C, making significant inroads into the B2B space.

As we continue to step forward into the age of influence, its vital brands are aware of the importance of reputation and trust. Building and maintaining a positive reputation hinges on authenticity and credibility and as personal branding continues to grow, and niche creators continue to build genuine audiences within their industries, tastemakers will play an increasingly pivotal role in shaping the way B2B businesses connect with their target audiences, driving innovation and growth.

We have established that B2B isn’t confined by social media. We think employee advocacy presents a unique opportunity for B2B brands and will present itself as a core part of the B2B influencer marketing sphere. Authenticity is paramount, and employee advocacy has the potential to bypass the challenges of brand control, offering a more genuine and effective approach.

While the execution may differ between B2C and B2B influencer marketing, the underlying principles are the same. Regardless of industry or audience, campaigns need to be underpinned by transparency and a genuine connection between creator and brand. Which needs to be supported by a well-executed strategy.

Looking ahead, we think the future of B2B is bright. The age of B2B influence holds a lot of potential for brands – With tangible results and measurable outcomes now increasingly attainable, they have the opportunity to drive sales, generate leads, and enhance brand sentiment in ways that were previously unimaginable.

At Disrupt, we’ve already built a proven track record of running effective B2B campaigns that garner attention and lead to big sales. So if you’re considering branching out into the influencer space, get in touch.

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