The Dos and Don'ts of B2B Influencer Marketing

Much of the marketing industry is confidently familiar with, if not incredibly well-versed in, influencer marketing. The home-grown celebrity touting praise for trending products is present in the social feeds of countless, and their reach and power to persuade has gone unnoticed by few.

Beyond increasing brand authenticity and building trust with consumers, influencers offer a solution to some of the most notable digital marketing challenges and opportunities today. With tweaks and adjustments to social media algorithms, brands are experiencing a noticeable dip in their organic reach across popular platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. The rising cost of digital advertising and increasing use of ad blockers also have added barriers to the communication flow between brands and their buyers. Influencers create a new path to communicate and connect with consumers despite these digital advertising challenges.

Though many have come to understand influencers through the lens of B2C marketing, in his CMO's Guide to B2B Influencer Marketing, Lee Odden suggests that the B2B marketplace has an opportunity to improve upon the strategy of engaging influencers and to reap the same benefits of their consumer-facing counterparts.

In the Guide, Odden highlights challenges B2C influencer marketing is confronting as pitfalls for B2B marketing professionals to avoid. He urges B2B marketers to stay mindful of cultivating a culture of opportunistic influencers. In the B2C space, concerns surrounding influencer legitimacy and the authenticity of their networks has diminished the perceived value of insights shared by genuine influencers.

To support a better culture in B2B influencer marketing, Odden advises against treating your influencers as a mere advertising distribution channel or approaching your relationships with influencers as transactional engagements. Influencer marketing should be a collaborative endeavor, with companies investing time and energy into helping influencers pursue their personal goals, just as influencers are helping companies achieve theirs.

Clarifying key differences between B2C and B2B influencer marketing, Odden explains that longer sales journeys, larger purchase decisions and decision-making committees that consist of more than one person change the way B2B marketers should collaboratively create content with their influencers. He emphasizes the subject matter expertise of B2B influencers as a key skill set to leverage in influencer marketing. Understanding this unique value B2B influencers bring to the table should also inform how B2B marketers strategize returning value to their influencers. An ideal way to structure relationships between B2B influencers and the brands they support is to position B2B influencer marketing as an opportunity to raise awareness among a brand's and a B2B influencer's mutual audience.

As Odden said in his Guide, “Pay an influencer and they’ll be your friend for the day. Help someone become more influential and they’ll be an advocate and friend for life.” B2B influencer marketing abounds with opportunity if you know the mistakes to avoid and best practices to abide by. Lee Odden's CMO's Guide to B2B Influencer Marketing is a great place to start learning.

What Exactly is Advocate Marketing? - Thoughts from Referential's Ryan Quackenbush

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Dudley Field Malone, someone you don’t need to know anything about, once said that one good analogy is worth three hours of discussion; I think many of us probably had a professor or two in school that could have benefited from this approach.

Along the line of analogies, if you’re like me, you’re always looking for a brief, simple way to explain otherwise complicated topics. I struggled with this in my past, working for highly complicated cloud-native software organizations, when my Grandmother would ask me what my companies did. “We work in computers, Gram,” I’d say.

The conversations would inevitably turn to a topic she was more interested about anyway: me, her loving grandson. She’d ask me something like “what exactly do you do?” My response, of course, is that I worked in advocate and customer-centric marketing. It’s at this point that I’m sure you’re picturing my loving grandmother’s eyes glazing over with confusion. You wouldn’t be wrong. If you tell someone you work in marketing, they generally understand what you do. But if you add the modifier “customer advocacy” to the term, suddenly, it’s like you’re speaking in Greek.

“What exactly is advocate marketing, Ryan?” She’d ask me.

Truth be told, it’s pretty simple.

“Think about it this, way, Gram,” I’d say. “I’ll give you a few different scenarios. Let’s say there’s a brand-new restaurant that opened up across town. You’re reading the Sunday paper, and in the middle of an article you’re reading is an ad that says ‘New Restaurant- best steaks!’ You kind of register that, you might check it out sometime.”

She nods, and I move on.

“Ok, second scenario - you’re watching the hockey game tonight,” (true fact: my gram loves watching hockey, but doesn’t care about teams), “and during a commercial break, an ad comes on for this new restaurant. They take you inside, show you food being put on tables, maybe the owner says ‘Come on down’ or something to that effect, and it’s over, and you sit through a few more minutes of ads before the game comes back on.”

Once again, she nods, patiently waiting for me to get to the point.

“Last scenario - Aunt Phil calls you, or I do, or your old co-worker Gene. Or maybe someone next to you in line sees the paper you’re reading, recognizes the steakhouse in the ad and says to you ‘Oh, I’ve been there - I really enjoyed the food they provide!’ I ask you this - which of those three scenarios is going to make you that much more interested in going to the new steakhouse?”

My grandmother responds that obviously the third, as familiarity with the product and personal experience is much more valuable than simply reading or seeing an ad.

“That, gram, is pretty much what I do!”

Advocacy is about building relationships, establishing trust, and enabling your existing customer base to get out and market – or advocate – for you, on your behalf. Most times, it’s a bit more strategic than a stranger looking over your shoulder in a checkout line.

At Referential Inc., we take our collective experience as a team to build our clients fully fledged reference and advocacy programs from the ground up. My restaurant analogy doesn’t take into account overseeing program goals, providing detailed reports and metrics or implementing launch plans, but at Referential Inc., expertise in these and other core aspects of advocacy program management drive our approach and service delivery.

At the end of my analogy, my grandmother responded by stating that it “sounds like what you do is very important to the company.”

An effective advocacy program truly is.

A Better Way to Ask for References

Strategic customer advocacy professionals approach customer advocacy as an opportunity to build relationships with customers, not simply ask for favors – an invaluable framework for asking for references shared in this SiriusDecisions blog.

The blog’s author, Amy Bills, teaches us that beforeapproaching customers for a reference, advocacy practitioners should take apause to consider the personal and professional motivations of customer advocates.The blog shares a great example of how leveraging customers’ motivations inrequests for references can morph a company-focused ask into a customer-focusedask that inspires action from advocates and nurtures more intimaterelationships with customers.

In the article, Bills also reminds us of the importance of ensuring program participation is simple for advocates. She shares how keeping in mind customer motivations and using them to structure acts of advocacy so that a customer can engage in those actions they are most interested in (and avoid laborious tasks like PowerPoint production) can improve customer interactions with your advocacy program.

Visit the blog for several other readily actionable tips for personalizing and enhancing your asks for references, and if you decide to put any into action, we’d love to hear about what you learn in the process!

Congratulations to Influitive – Named Leading Advocacy Software!

Congratulations to our partner Influitive! Yesterday Influitive announced that they were named to the leader quadrant in the G2 Crowd survey on brand advocacy software. G2Crowd is a leading business software review platform and rates products based on data sourced from product reviews shared by users and data aggregated from online sources and social networks. Over 150 customer reviews of seven different technology vendors determined the rankings. Influitive ranked highest in both customer satisfaction and market presence.  Of the Influitive reviews, 98% of customers rated Influitive with four or five stars on a five-star scale and 99% said they believe Influitive is headed in the right direction.  

You can see details at the G2 Crowd site, here.   Access the free online report (a $599 value) by G2 Crowd here.  Congratulations Influitive!  

Dramatic - and Fast - Increase in Customer Engagement

We recently worked with a client to launch an Influitive AdvocateHub as a new front-end to their existing advocacy program. The decision to do this was made swiftly with the requirement that it went live 3 business days ahead of their inaugural user conference. Being able to unveil a hub at a major customer event is the perfect opportunity to accelerate engagement and build excitement for an advocacy program, however in this case it gave us only 14 business days to design, configure and populate it with activities/challenges! We are not ones to be overcome by what seemed impossible odds. What most hubs take 6 to 8 weeks to deploy, we accomplished in 2.5!

For those of you not familiar, an Influitive AdvocateHub enables the construction of a wider advocate community by inviting customers, partners, prospects and employees into it to complete "challenges" that span fun activities, educational opportunities and taking action such as making referrals, taking reference calls, writing product reviews and more. As advocates complete challenges, they earn points, badges and progress through levels that can be used for a variety of perks and privileges.

For our client, the hub out-stripped all expectations and success metrics that were defined in the planning stage: Nearly 60% of all attendees at the event joined and immediately started engaging in challenges. It exceeded the initial expectations for the number of participants 8 fold! Hub members completed over 1000 challenges in less than a week; nearly half became new social media followers of our client, and tweeting and forwarding of blog posts reached the highest levels our client had seen. Participants gave glowing reviews and volunteered for a variety of advocacy activities from case studies to presenting in webinars and at future events.

Customer References or Advocates? Making the Transition

Customer references vs. advocates. Quite a topic of conversation. There are all sorts of articles about the differences between advocates and references. Simplistically customer reference programs have been a critical part of the sales process. Customers are recruited, requests are fulfilled, and sales increase. Usually ­­­customer reference activities are reactive. References are asked to participate in activities such as a call with a prospect or speaking at an event. Advocates, on the other hand, are proactive in their promotion (and defense) of your brand. An advocate will proactively engage in a community or at an event, amplify your message in social media, or help with new product input. And they will also take that important call with a prospect!

Here is an interesting article on how BMC made the transition from relying on references to a strong advocacy program. A valuable read.