Confidence amongst B2B marketers in the role of influence, both externally and internally, has grown substantially in the past year. Following that growth is the number of B2B influencer marketing success stories inspiring marketers to investigate collaborative content strategies that include influencers.
At the same time, the pandemic has had its effect on marketing budgets and one of the trends over the past year that has stuck is the need for greater accountability and demonstration of ROI for marketing investments. While research shows that 96% of B2B marketers that engage influencers consider their program to be successful, 60% of marketers overall do not feel they have the skills or expertise in-house to execute on influencer programs.
The contrast of confidence and opportunity with the lack of in-house capabilities has drawn more marketers than ever to seek outside help for working with influencers. Agencies with deep expertise in B2B influencer marketing strategy, tactics, software and relationships with top influencers enables B2B brands to hit the ground running with confidence and acceleration that simply isn’t possible working alone.
Our research has found that B2B marketers that seek help from agencies often engage those experts to perform several key functions:
- Identify influencers 79%
- Manage influencer relationships 76%
- Develop influencer marketing strategy 71%
- Measure influencer program effectiveness 66%
- Integrate with other marketing efforts 63%
- Implement influencer marketing campaigns 60%
- Manage influencer marketing technology 44%
While the value agencies can provide B2B brands around working with influencers is clear, there are some things marketers should look for and ask in order to separate those with actual skills and capabilities vs. those agencies opportunistically adding another offering to their services mix. Here is a collection of important questions B2B marketers should ask when evaluating B2B marketing agencies for influencer content marketing programs:
How long have B2B companies engaged your agency to deliver influencer marketing services?
As with all marketing strategies that gain popularity, many agencies with tack them on to their services mix in order to capitalize on the trend without actually having the expertise (yet). Do you want to be a guinea pig for an agency or do you want to be another success story?
Have you provided influencer marketing services in our industry before? Please share an example:
Expertise in your industry matters enough that this question must be asked. While overall influencer marketing is newer to B2B than in consumer industries, there are a growing number of specialists that understand the nuances of the industries they focus on and have existing relationships with influencers in those industries. Influence requires authenticity and to create that kind of trusted credibility with industry influencers, it can be very beneficial if the agency has deep expertise and connections already.
What is the size and nature of your influencer network and how do you ensure we are only working with the most impactful influencers?
Experienced B2B marketing agencies that work with influencers understand the value of relationships. Therefore, they will not simply “use” influencers for campaigns, but work to create, maintain and elevate relationships with those influencers so when a new client project comes along, they are warm to the idea of an invitation to participate. The best influencers are very, very busy and in high demand. An existing relationship with the agency is often the reason a coveted influencer says yes to engage in a B2B brand they have not worked with before.
How do you go about identifying and activating the right influencers for us?
As mentioned above, our research found that the top task B2B brands get help with from agencies is influencer identification. It’s important to understand if the agency takes a transactional approach or a more romantic/persuasive approach. Technology also plays a role and if the agency simply says they would use Twitter and LinkedIn vs. a software platform that uses algorithms and sometimes artificial intelligence to analyze vast amounts of social data to identify individuals most appropriate to your topics of relevance, audience resonance and reach – then there will be disappointment. Influence in B2B is more than social data and requires both technology and industry expertise to identify, qualify and activate.
What is your process for campaigns vs. always-on influencer programs?
Many agencies new to influencer content marketing don’t really understand when campaign is right compared to an always-on program or even what an always-on program entails. It’s important that the agency can describe the use case differences and how an influencer program can evolve over time to deliver substantially greater value.
What compensation or value exchange approach do you recommend when working with influencers?
In B2B, the majority of influencer engagement is organic value exchange where influencers participate in content collaboration in exchange for exposure or participation in a formal brand influencer program. However, there are a growing number of professional B2B influencers and that means more financial compensation. It is important to understand whether the agency defaults to simply paying influencers for every contribution or if they have the ability to recruit influencer organically as well as work with professional influencers for hire.
How do you integrate external influencers with internal executives and SMEs?
Influence is more important than ever for B2B brands to create, maintain and grow connections with their customers. Pairing external influencers with internal executives or subject matter experts creates value for the customer experience multiple levels. Including both internal and external influencers in brand content gives it more credibility as well as building the influence of internal brand staff through association with respected industry experts. Does the agency understand this opportunity and do they have expertise in convincing executives to be more social and influential?
What types of content do you specialize in for influencer collaboration?
A growing number of B2B influencer marketing resources offer both technology and services from an influencer identification and engagement standpoint. It is important to understand what outputs and outcomes are possible as a result of the expertise the agency brings. Content is one of the most valuable products from B2B brand and influencer collaborations and it will be important to understand whether the agency has experience in the formats that influencers favor: live video streaming, recorded video, podcasts, social audio, episodic “show” content, social media content, live events and of course all forms of text content – blog posts, research, reports, etc.
What software or technologies do you use to support influencer identification, management and performance measurement?
There simply is no scaling of impact when it comes to influencer marketing unless technologies are in place to support ongoing influencer identification, management and performance measurement. There are a handful of platforms that promise to do everything but the more likely scenario for a B2B brand is that there will be a combination of platform + specialist tools. It is important to know what the agency has deep experience with and what kinds of specialist tools are used and for what reason.
The evaluation process for engaging a B2B marketing agency to provide influencer content marketing services will vary by the needs of the company, market, resources, timeframe and industry. But these questions should give B2B marketers that are considering engaging outside expertise in any industry the answers to identify the best possible partners. On the surface, partnering with influencers can seem pretty straightforward. But the reality is, the difference between a successful pilot that generates both results and the data to support scaled influencer marketing engagement and a waste of time and resources is whether marketers have invested getting help from those that have proven strategies, processes, relationships and technology savvy.