B2B Influencer Marketing: The Rise of Thought Leaders in Business Marketing

JTN Article

B2B Influencer Marketing: The Rise of Thought Leaders in Business Marketing

While influencer marketing has been a driving force in the B2C market for some time now, it is becoming increasingly important in the B2B space as well. This guide will define what influencer marketing looks like for B2B companies, the benefits your organization can expect to gain, and strategies for how to do it effectively.

Understanding Influencer Marketing in a B2B Context

Influencer marketing refers to the practice of brands partnering with influencers (individuals with a strong social media following) to promote products or services on their platforms. Influencer marketing leverages not only the influencer’s extensive audience, but also the trust they have built with that audience through the production of authentic and engaging content. The 2023 Hubspot industry trends report identifies influencer marketing as one of the most impactful strategies marketers can invest in this year. Influencer marketing achieves the sense of trust that is generated through word of mouth and personal referrals, while leveraging the audience and broad appeal of a celebrity spokesperson.

Unlike traditional B2C influencer marketing, where the focus is often on consumer products and lifestyle, B2B influencer marketing focuses on industry-specific expertise, professional insights, and business-related topics. B2B influencers may include industry experts, consultants, authors, speakers, executives, or recognized professionals who have established themselves as thought leaders in their respective fields.

The primary objective of B2B influencer marketing is to tap into the influencer's credibility and authority to drive brand recognition, establish trust, and generate leads within the B2B market. Influencers are seen as trusted sources of information, and their endorsements and recommendations can carry significant weight in the decision-making process for B2B buyers.

Exploring the Benefits of B2B Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing works. Search Engine Journal reports that the vast majority - 86% - of B2B marketers who use influencer marketing find it to be effective. The same report indicates that 70% of B2B marketers say influencer marketing improved brand awareness; 56% say it helped generate new leads; and 33% say it directly generated revenue.

Consider these benefits of B2B influencer marketing:

  • Increased Brand Awareness: Collaborating with influencers in your industry helps boost brand awareness among your target audience. Influencers have established credibility and a dedicated following, which can expose your brand to a wider audience and increase its visibility in the B2B market.
  • Thought Leadership and Industry Authority: Partnering with relevant influencers can position your brand as a thought leader in your industry. When influencers endorse your brand, it enhances your credibility, expertise, and authority in the eyes of your target audience. This association can significantly impact your brand's reputation and help you stand out in a competitive B2B landscape.
  • Enhanced Content Reach and Engagement: Influencers have their own engaged communities and social media following. When they share content related to your brand or collaborate on content creation, it can significantly extend your content reach and generate higher engagement. This exposure to a relevant and engaged audience can drive website traffic, increase social media followers, and attract potential B2B customers.
  • Trust and Credibility: Influencers are trusted sources of information and recommendations. When they endorse your products or services, it helps build trust with your target audience. B2B buyers often rely on recommendations and reviews from industry experts, and influencer marketing provides a way to tap into that trust and leverage it for your brand's benefit.
  • Access to Targeted Audiences: Influencers have expertise in niche industries or specific B2B sectors. By partnering with influencers who cater to your target audience, you can gain access to their followers who are already interested in your industry. This targeted approach ensures that your marketing efforts are reaching the right people who are more likely to be interested in your offerings.
  • Amplified Content Distribution: Influencers can help amplify your content distribution efforts. They can share your blog posts, case studies, webinars, and other valuable content with their audience, increasing its reach and generating additional exposure. This expanded content distribution can lead to increased website traffic, lead generation, and conversions.
  • Authentic and Genuine Recommendations: Influencer marketing allows for authentic and genuine recommendations from trusted industry voices. Unlike traditional advertising, influencer recommendations come across as more authentic and can have a greater impact on the buying decisions of B2B customers. This genuine advocacy helps establish your brand's credibility and builds positive associations with your products or services.
  • Networking and Partnership Opportunities: Collaborating with influencers can also open doors for networking and partnership opportunities within your industry. Influencers often have established relationships with other industry professionals and brands. These connections can lead to potential collaborations, joint ventures, or strategic partnerships that can benefit your B2B business.

The Influencer Landscape: From Industry Experts to Thought Leaders

So, who qualifies as a B2B influencer in your industry? It’s not enough that your influencer be merely well-known; they must be a credible voice in the space you occupy. Consumer-based marketing has long relied on tactics like celebrity endorsements and, more recently, social media stars to promote their products and services. Modern B2B influencer marketing looks to industry experts and thought leaders.

A thought leader is an individual or organization that is recognized as an authority and expert in a particular field or industry. Thought leaders possess deep knowledge, insights, and innovative ideas within their area of expertise. They are often sought after for their expertise and are influential figures within their respective industries.

Thought leaders are distinguished by their ability to provide unique perspectives, forward-thinking ideas, and valuable insights that shape the industry and influence others. They are known for their vision, thought-provoking content, and the ability to anticipate trends and changes in their field. These are the people your influencer marketing strategy should include.

The Art of Collaboration: Building Relationships with B2B Influencers

Identifying and engaging potential influencer partners requires a strategic approach to ensure alignment with your brand, target audience, and marketing goals. Here are some strategies to help you identify and engage potential influencer partners effectively:

  • Define Your Influencer Criteria: Start by defining the criteria for your ideal influencer partner. Consider factors such as industry expertise, audience demographics, engagement rates, content quality, and alignment with your brand values. Who is your ideal customer following? This will help you identify influencers who are most relevant and valuable to your target audience.
  • Assess Influence and Credibility: Evaluate the influence and credibility of potential influencers by analyzing their content, engagement rates, follower growth, and the quality of their connections and partnerships. Consider their reputation, industry recognition, and the trust they have built among their audience. Note that while the size of an influencer’s following is relevant, it is not the only factor you should consider. In fact, so-called micro-influencers with a smaller but highly engaged following can be just as powerful.
  • Audience Relevance: Ensure that the influencer's audience aligns with your target audience. Analyze the demographics, interests, and engagement patterns of their followers. Look for influencers who have an engaged and active audience that matches the profile of your ideal customers.
  • Content Quality and Alignment: Review the influencer's content to assess its quality, relevance, and alignment with your brand values. Look for influencers who produce high-quality, informative, and engaging content that resonates with your target audience.
  • Engagement and Responsiveness: Evaluate the influencer's level of engagement with their audience. Do they actively respond to comments and messages? Are they open to collaborations and partnerships? Look for influencers who demonstrate a genuine interest in engaging with their followers and are responsive to partnership opportunities.

Once you have identified influencers who are a good fit for your organization, you can begin to foster a relationship with them. Start by engaging with their content - commenting on their posts and sharing their content. Share valuable insights, ask questions, and initiate conversations to establish a rapport and demonstrate your interest in their work. Craft personalized and genuine outreach messages when approaching potential influencers. Clearly explain why you are interested in collaborating with them and how their expertise aligns with your brand. Highlight mutual benefits and value propositions to grab their attention. Invest in building this relationship, and take the time to determine whether you are a good fit for one another before launching an extensive campaign.

Mutually beneficial collaboration provides value to both your brand and the influencer. Examples include guest blog posts, co-creating content, interviews, or hosting webinars together. Tailor the collaboration to showcase their expertise while aligning with your marketing goals.

Examples of Successful B2B Influencer Partnerships

The exact format and content of your campaign will be unique to your industry and your organization's value proposition. However, impactful influencer marketing campaigns will be authentic, address diverse audiences, and invest in video. Some examples of successful B2B influencer campaigns include...

Salesforce and Tiffani Bova

Salesforce, a leading customer relationship management (CRM) platform, collaborated with Tiffani Bova, a respected industry analyst and influencer. Tiffani Bova created content, participated in interviews, and spoke at Salesforce events, emphasizing the importance of customer-centric strategies and the role of technology in driving business growth. The collaboration amplified Salesforce's thought leadership and positioned the brand as a trusted advisor for B2B companies seeking CRM solutions.

IBM and Neil Patel

IBM, a multinational technology company, collaborated with Neil Patel, a well-known marketing expert and influencer. Neil Patel created content and hosted webinars in partnership with IBM, focusing on digital marketing strategies, analytics, and customer experience. The collaboration showcased IBM's expertise in the field and attracted B2B professionals seeking insights and solutions in the marketing space.

Measuring the Success of B2B Influencer Marketing

To measure the effectiveness of your influencer marketing campaigns, define what success looks like for you.  Identify key performance indicators for evaluating influencer marketing success . These might include signals of increased brand awareness like clicks, impressions, and website visits, or drivers of new business like conversions, leads, and sales. Use analytics to continually improve and refine your B2B influencer marketing strategy. To better track the effectiveness of specific marketing campaigns or content, use designated landing pages or tracking codes.

Ethical Considerations and Best Practices in B2B Influencer Marketing

There are some legal and ethical guidelines to consider when running an influencer campaign. Ensure transparency by clearly disclosing influencer partnerships and sponsored content. Follow the guidelines set by regulatory bodies, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States. Require influencers to disclose their relationship with your brand in their content, such as using hashtags like #ad or #sponsored. Vet potential influencers thoroughly before partnering with them. Consider factors such as their credibility, authenticity, and past collaborations. Ensure they have a genuine and engaged audience, and review their content to verify that it aligns with your brand's values. Clearly communicate your objectives, campaign goals, and expectations to influencers. Align on the content, messaging, and timeline to ensure that the influencer's work meets your brand's standards and serves the intended purpose of the campaign. And, of course, provide fair and reasonable compensation to influencers for their work.

Conclusion: Embracing the Power of Influencer Marketing in B2B

Partnering with influential experts and thought leaders in your industry expands your brand's reach and exposes it to a wider audience. Collaborating with respected influencers helps build credibility and trust for your brand. Their endorsements and recommendations carry weight with their audience, and their association with your brand enhances its reputation and authority within the industry. Influencer collaborations provide an opportunity for authentic advocacy. Influencers who genuinely believe in your brand become ambassadors and advocates, showcasing your products or services in an authentic and relatable manner. This authentic advocacy resonates with their audience, leading to increased trust and consideration. More organizations are expected to invest in B2B influencer marketing in the coming months as this impactful form of marketing proves profitable.

B2B Influencer Marketing: The Rise of Thought Leaders in Business Marketing
Kaitlyn Myers

Kaitlyn is a member of the training team at JTN Group in New York. She's a master facilitator with experience leading workshops & training programs for SMBs through to Enterprise organizations. Learn about JTN Group here.


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