B2B Influencer marketing in the tech sector – is this the future?

Dessie Tuck

Are your clients ignoring your banner ads? Do you invest huge marketing budgets in digital marketing campaigns that do not give you anywhere near your expected ROI? No doubt, you have heard of YouTubers and Instagrammers who have millions of followers and who are regarded by Millennials and Generation Z (the generation after the Millennials) as celebrities and gurus. Yet, did you know that this trend has already spilled into B2B and sectors such as technology?

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is the process of identifying, researching, engaging, supporting and activating the people who influence your customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey. It has become wildly popular in the B2C sector where famous and not so famous brands are collaborating with influencers to create a new type of direct response campaign, raising brand awareness with an ‘always-on approach’ in a fresh, innovative way.

Why use it?

All this is born out of trends that have emerged in the last few years. According to Traackr, one of the largest Influencer marketing platforms, 84% of consumers trust peers above all other advertising and 83% of buyers prefer 3rd party opinions when evaluating vendors. What’s more, people have been proactively installing banner adblockers to block your expensive display ads! Or they have developed the so called ‘banner blindness’ and Gen Z are almost born with it as they are literally growing in front of the screen. Scary, right!? What’s a marketer to do?

Enter Influencer marketing! The Influencer marketing industry is expected to hit $10bn by 2020 and an Influencer Marketing Hub survey found that for every $1 spend on influencer marketing, respondents earned $7.65.

How can it be used in the B2B sector?

So, this hopefully convinced you that Influencer marketing works and is here to stay, but does it work in the B2B tech sector?

The answer comes from Michael Brito, a B2B Tech Influencer and Social Media Expert who has over 17K followers on LinkedIn. Driving high engagement rates to everything he posts; he can be classed as a micro influencer. He posts about AI, Digital Transformation and is a TEDx speaker and an adjunct professor at San Jose State University. In his own words:

B2B decision makers get as far as two-thirds through the journey before they reach out to a vendor, and that’s if the vendor meets the minimum technical requirements. The reality is that reaching B2B decision makers is difficult; they are sophisticated, well-educated and extremely sceptical about marketing. The way to overcome this scepticism and capture attention? Influencing their decisions through trusted third parties - influencers”.

Who are the B2B influencers in the tech sector?

Others like him are:

  • Richard Edelman, President and CEO of Edelman,
  • Dr. Ted Gaubert, CTO of Noodle.ai and a globally recognised technology thought leader, innovator, and disruptor,
  • Dharmesh Shah, founder and CTO at Hubspot,
  • Anne Handley, a Wall street Journal bestselling author and keynote speaker,
  • Bernard Marr, international best-selling author, keynote speaker and futurist,

… and the list goes on.

Influencer marketing can be part of every stage of the customer journey:

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B2B tech influencers can be the ‘traditional’ macro influencers - journalists, celebrities, politicians, the ‘magic middle’ - online community leaders – bloggers, industry insiders and subject matter experts, ‘micro ’influencers - fans, hyper local experts, super active community members that engage with other fans and even ‘nano’ influencers - the everyday citizen with 1,000 to 5,000 followers.

To understand influencers better, we can look at the 1:9:90 model adapted by Brito:

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This model is based on statistics that out of 100 people, one will be the content creator, just nine will be actively promoting his/her content to the remaining 90, who will just view and consume it.

The B2B influencers as opposed to the B2C ones, often have a full time job as well as being recognised as an influencer, they are highly educated and understand industry issues and are expected to be unbiased and payment is not expected.

How to find them?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Where do the online conversations about your market/niche take place? How social are the key participants in the niche?
  • What motivates people to promote relevant content?
  • Is activity concentrated in a particular place, e.g. on Facebook or on a respected blog, or is it more fragmented?
  • Who are the people that most often write or create other content about your topic? What is the background of these people?

Why and how are tech companies working with B2B influencers?

And lastly, you might wonder why a global technology company who is well known, and an influencer and a thought leader would want to use influencers at all?

It might have something to do with the ways that technology is sold today in a world of highly competitive environments. According to Forbes, often this has much more to do with how a brand is perceived and the cultural relationships that this brand has to an imaginary field of power more than how good a brand actually is. Using an influencer to promote technology is like putting a face to a brand in order to identify with it while creating a ‘cultural buzz’ around certain types of tech, specific brands and messages.

Well, all global tech companies have started their external influencer outreach programs already. For example, IBM started theirs in 2014 and has built a 50 strong community of influencers called IBM Futurists.

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Adobe, Dell, SAP are also working for the last few years with B2B influencers, dedicating entire departments with specialised resources to their influencer outreach programs. For all of them influencers are firmly part of their marketing mix now and in the foreseeable future and they are planning to leverage new technologies such as AI for ‘increasingly nuanced influencer identification’.

If you have been wondering for some time how to start working with influencers or have started it, but it’s been too time consuming and you just don’t have the time or internal resources to do it, get in touch with us on Twitter @tbt_marketing, email [email protected], or phone +44 (0)1373 469270.

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