How B2B Influence Marketing Generates Qualified Leads

business-tobusiness-marketing-b2b-980x320v2Ah, another business day and more leads are rolling in.  Best of all, they are business-to-business (B2B) leads of high-quality. Leads generated by purposely partnering with people of influence. People with:

1. followers

2. connections

3. blog and newsletter subscribers

4. contact databases

They have large networks and they are influencers that talk about our brand and distribute our content. That content is subsequently shared; it regularly reaches our target market.

More often than not, business leads generated in this manner are similar to peer recommendations that come with a certain level of trust. Leads like this result in new sales and long-term, profitable client relationships. Good as gold.  

So, what can you do as a B2B marketer to consistently and cost-effectively capture leads like this?

First and foremost, understand the power of B2B influence marketing and the power of people with established networks.

Second, gear your marketing plan toward leveraging those that can reach and influence your target market at different stages of your buyer’s journey. Simple to comprehend but a bit more challenging to implement.

Influence marketing isn’t new for B2B marketers. However, the manner in which it takes place has drastically changed with the advent of social media mavens, influential bloggers, and a herd of digital junkies. They have reach (i.e., followers, connections, subscribers, etc.) and they influence others. Before I get into the details:

Let’s take a quick look at how it worked in the past.

For almost a decade, I was a print magazine publisher and editor. Every day, literally, I would receive a phone call or email from a marketing manager, business owner or writer that wanted me to publish their press release or article (content) in one of our magazines. For good reason, we distributed magazines covering their industry to tens of thousands of business readers. The content we published had influence on their target market and they knew it.

Today, magazine publishers still publish third-party content both in print and online. That hasn’t changed. But what has changed includes:

* the proliferation of digital outlets: websites, blogs, social media feeds, etc..

* growth of networks available for the publication of business content

* ability to reach target markets on mobile devices 24/7

* the number of influencers with large, loyal audiences that now reach your B2B target market

The opportunities for getting your message to your most receptive audience are staggering…

Top industry influencers can do several things for you. In short, they have the potential to significantly increase your exposure to your target market at the right time. In addition, influencers tend to have loyal audiences and, by association, they will foster trust for your content and your company.

The trends are becoming clear in the B2B marketing arena. According to a B2B Buyer Behavior Survey published in a Demand Gen Report:

* An overwhelming majority (82%) of senior executives said that content was a significant driver of their buying decisions;

* 53% of buyers said they relied more on peer recommendations, versus only 19% of buyers surveyed in the past; and

* More than two thirds (68%) of respondents agreed that the number of sources used to research and evaluate a purchase has increased over the past year.

What this means is significant. B2B marketing departments are in the hunt. They seek to identify those that have influence in their industry; those with established networks and sizable audiences. Unfortunately, influencers tend to be scattered throughout the digital world and they come in many forms. Creating, messaging, and massaging a contact database of your business influencers is no easy task, but that’s one of the reasons it works so well for those that take on the task.

Here are a few tips for B2B influence marketing:

1. Identify key influencers who impact decisions at every stage of your target client’s buying journey. For example, you may use one influencer over another during the awareness phase of the buying journey (top of the funnel); general brand awareness content might be most effective here. Whereby another influencer may be chosen when your prospective client is in the decision making stage of the buying journey; more detailed information that answers technical questions or provides specifications and their benefits.
NOTE: if you haven’t considered a customer journey strategy, consider reading the 
Salesforce 2016 State of Marketing Report:

“As marketing evolves, customer satisfaction and customer engagement have jumped to the top of the list of marketers’ main measures for success. According to the new Salesforce 2016 State of Marketing Report, 65% of high-performing marketers said they’ve adopted a customer journey strategy to measure this success, while 88% said it’s critical to their success.”

2. Utilize Your Business Network / Ask around. You likely know business colleagues in your industry that know several influencers. Ask to be introduced to them and/or connect with them on social media. Begin to build relationships with them; share their content and help them build their networks, which they will appreciate.

3. Reach out to your happy clients. Some may be influencers themselves and more than willing to help you distribute content to their audiences, if they are not already doing so. Also, ask your clients who they believe are the top influencers in your industry; get connected to them and/or follow them on social media, etc. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll be able to create a database of people that influence your target market.

4. Discover what resonates with and attracts your target market. Be strategic and evaluate your social media connections and contact databases. Look for those that engage with your company and/or your vendors on a regular basis. Determine if they have significant reach. If so, begin a dialog with them and foster that relationship through open and ongoing communication. Create personalized campaigns aimed at the individual rather than a mass audience.

By Greg Magnus, President of AIM Custom Media located in Glen Allen, Virginia.

 

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