Why B2B Brands Are Stepping Up Influencer Marketing Campaigns in 2017

Why B2B Brands Are Stepping Up Influencer Marketing Campaigns in 2017

Find out why brands are investing heavily in influencer marketing campaigns in 2017.
Article Outline

People have always looked to peers to help them make decisions. Check out this old-school Fabergé shampoo commercial that shows a woman who “told two people” who “told two more people,” … and so on. This may be a bit simplified for current word-of-mouth marketing, but the basic idea remains unchanged.

Today, through social media, a single woman is no longer just telling a few friends, she is telling thousands of potential customers — if not millions. This is why influencer marketing is so effective. In fact, businesses recently rated this type of marketing as their fastest-growing online channel, as it drives four times the brand lift as paid media. But does it make sense for your brand to invest in this marketing activity in 2017? Here are five reasons to consider influencer marketing in the new year.

1. Influencer marketing is powerful.

The most trusted source of advertising is still the word-of-mouth recommendation. As a result, this type of marketing generates up to twice the sales of paid advertising, according to a recent study by McKinsey & Co.

Plus, when capturing new customers through word-of-mouth marketing, brands retain a higher percentage of those customers. In fact, the retention rate is 37 percent higher than that for customers who come to your brand through other methods. So, not only does influencer marketing generate more customers, but those customers are instantly more loyal.

2. This type of marketing is social.

Previous generations made purchasing decisions by asking friends or watching advertisements, and this is still true today, but customers also expect something different. The brand must no longer talk at them — it must talk with them. Social media makes it easier for brands to have such two-way conversations. By using influencer marketing, brands that generate these conversations have a far greater impact.

Those influencers that you select as partners can share co-created content, connect with potential customers, and promote ideas that are consistent with the brand on a massive scale. Because the average B2B company participates in six different social media networks, the chances are great that you’ll reach these consumers more effectively.

3. It connects with customers who are difficult to reach.

Reaching customers through traditional marketing channels is a challenge when trying to sway younger generations, such as millennials. In fact, 84 percent of millennials not only dislike advertising, they also distrust it.

In addition, this group of buyers is large — very large. According to Forbes magazine, the United States has 80 million millennials. These young people represent a fourth of the total population and $200 billion in buying power.

It’s critical to be authentic when launching influencer marketing campaigns, especially when you’re targeting millennials, who are wary of traditional advertising and marketing efforts. A good example is a recent campaign launched by The Hawaiian Tourism Authority. The state’s economy thrives on tourism, so the organization needed to entice more vacationers to the islands.

The agency strategically tapped several top Instagrammers, including photographer Jordan Herschel, and asked them to post beautiful images of the state with the hashtag #LetHawaiiHappen. The strategy generated nearly 100,000 posts using this hashtag, and 65 percent of users who saw the campaign said they planned on visiting Hawaii in the next two years. Lesson: Using influencer marketing to target an audience that is hard to reach or difficult to persuade really does work.

4. The cost won’t kill your marketing budget.

Many marketers think that influencer marketing translates into spending thousands of dollars on a single blog post or excessive time managing relationships. But that isn’t true, and the majority of marketers who undertake this publicity tactic are capturing unprecedented returns on their investments.

On average, $6.50 in revenue is generated for each dollar spent on influencer marketing. In fact, 22 percent of marketers say that type of marketing is their most cost-effective customer acquisition channel.

As a result, many organizations plan to increase influencer marketing budgets over the next 12 months. For example, Swedish watchmaker Daniel Wellington decided to collaborate with influencers through Instagram to grow his business. The influencers would post images of the watches, along with a discount code for 15 percent off. The pictures of the watches weren’t just generic photos, but rather striking and engaging visuals. One artist, for example, drew the company’s watches intertwined with his work.

In less than five years the company evolved from a small $150,000 startup into a brand that’s now worth $220 million. Profits increased by 214 percent over a single year. A large portion of that success was rooted in the influencer marketing campaign.

5. It allows a more authentic focus on your target market.

The majority of marketers who use influencer marketing report attracting higher-quality customers to their businesses. This form of promotion helps you talk about the issues that matter most to your target audience, which forges deeper and more lasting relationships.

For example, when British Airways launched their UnGrounded Innovation Lab, they created an influencer marketing campaign that involved filling a Silicon Valley-based flight with 100 thought leaders, influencers, and prominent thinkers. The goal? To discover what amazing ideas could be generated within that single flight.

The result was the birth of 22 concepts in a little under five hours, all of which were focused on helping individuals involved in STEM (an interdisciplinary curriculum based on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) find opportunities to use their skills.

Here’s why the campaign worked: It wasn’t concentrated on the brand or product; instead, the brand worked in the background. British Airways still got coverage — their name was in the news and they got credit — but all the influencers shared the results authentically, and the whole campaign centered on an issue that mattered to a specific target market.

Tips for Successful Influencer Campaigns

Influencer marketing isn’t simply about a business transaction, like other marketing ventures of the past. You are no longer purchasing a marketing service with an estimated ROI. Influencers are real people, with real audiences — and they often feel protective of these audiences. So what’s the best way to get started? Here are a few tips:

  • Learn to identify an influencer. Marketers often confuse brand advocates with influencers. Influencers are people who have a significant amount of social capital. For example, they may have several thousand Twitter followers, thousands of email subscribers, and are often retweeted, interviewed, and invited to speak at conferences related to your brand’s subject matter. In contrast, advocates have far less online clout.
  • Further the relationship. Think about how a potential partnership is mutually beneficial. How can you form relationships with influencers that help achieve their overall goals? Start building that critical relationship first by sharing their content, answering their questions, and finding out about their specific needs — then figure out how your brand can help them. A collaboration must be a mutually beneficial in order to be successful.
  • Send social signals. The best way to get the attention of powerful influencers is to be authentic and send them “social signals.” As mentioned above, start engaging with their content and learning more. Then when you’re ready to reach out, the groundwork will already be laid.
  • Move forward with transparency. At some point, you must talk about return on investment — and it’s best to discuss this up front. Once you start getting responses from potential influencers, begin to communicate your ROI goals for the campaign. Ask influencers if they think the goals are realistic and what the ROI has been for similar campaigns.
  • Make it easy. Influencers are busy, and it’s best to lay everything out for them and make the partnership process simple. When you make things simple, these tastemakers can more effectively focus on helping you achieve your ROI. Do all the hard work by pulling the content, designing the content marketing, and drafting the emails. Overall, just recognize that their time is valuable and build a relationship based on clarity and respect.

Moving Forward With Success

The needs of customers are constantly changing; they’re a moving target. Marketers strive to keep up with those needs and reach prospects and customers with greater impact. But, at the end of the day, people purchase from those they trust — and influencer marketing helps to build that trust.

By deploying this marketing activity in 2017, you can more effectively and advantageously grow your brand through the voices of influencers and reach customers who otherwise would have been unreachable. As a result, your brand will thrive and achieve greater results in the new year — and who wouldn’t want that?

Have you tested influencer marketing? If so, what is your best tip to share?

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