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Why Always-On Is Always Better for Driving B2B Influencer Marketing Success

Show of hands: How many of us brush our teeth at least twice a day? All of us? Great. Now, a follow up question: Why? The reasons are numerous, right? We care about maintaining our hygiene on a daily basis. We want to keep our smiles bright. We need to defend against offensive bad breath. We want to ensure the long-term health of our teeth, gums, and mouths. And, mostly, we want to successfully avoid pricey and painful dental work now and in the future. via GIPHY The moral here? With consistency and commitment we reap both short- and long-term benefits—and avoid a whole lot of pain. And the same is true when it comes to B2B influencer marketing. As we like to say of consistency and commitment in marketing: “Always-on is always better.” However, most B2B marketers aren’t brushing as often as they should when it comes to influencer marketing. In fact, roughly 11% of B2B influencer marketing programs are ongoing. To put this into perspective, 48% of B2C influencer marketing programs are ongoing. From building lasting relationships to enabling marketing scalability, an always-on approach to working with influencers is always, always, always better in our experience for several reasons. Today, we explore three of those reasons with the help of seasoned influencer marketing leaders at B2B brands.

#1 – Strong relationships are at the root of influencer marketing success—and relationships aren’t built in a day.

At its core, influencer marketing is all about brands engaging and developing relationships with individuals—individuals who have relevant topical expertise, reach, and resonance that aligns with the goals of the brand. “It’s really about building a relationship that brings value to both parties,” Amisha Gandhi, Vice President of Influencer Marketing for SAP Ariba*, told us not long ago. “Companies should approach influencers as partners, not just as people that they can use for their marketing efforts and launches.” [bctt tweet=”Companies should approach influencers as partners, not just as people that they can use for their marketing efforts and launches. – @AmishaGandhi #B2BInfluencerMarketing” username=”toprank”] However, strong, long-lasting relationships aren’t built overnight, rather they’re sewed over time. Success with influencer content is so much more than including a few famous people in a listicle post or quote roundup,” our own CEO Lee Odden says. “Competition for influencers is growing fast and there are only so many top influencers in each industry. It’s essential to create relationships now, long before you need to activate them.” [bctt tweet=”It’s essential to create influencer relationships now, long before you need to activate them. – @leeodden #B2BInfluencerMarketing” username=”toprank”] And as that demand for working with influencers increases, it will become more and more difficult to capture and hold their attention. By committing now to always-on relationship building and collaboration, every party can “come out ahead,” as Rani Mani, Head of Influencer Social Enablement at Adobe*, told us in a recent interview. “We at Adobe pride ourselves on cultivating and nurturing long-term relationships with our influencers,” she shares. “We look at it as dating with an eye towards long-term commitment, which means we are always looking to establish a ‘give-to-get’ exchange where all parties come out ahead.” [bctt tweet=”We look at influencer relationships as dating with an eye towards long-term commitment, which means we are always looking to establish a ‘give-to-get’ exchange where all parties come out ahead. – @ranimani0707 #B2BInfluencerMarketing” username=”toprank”] And before your start to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of ongoing influencer nurturing and relationship building, don’t worry. Yes. It takes work. But by making it part of your integrated marketing strategy, you’ll have an opportunity to hone in on the specific characteristics and people who are the best matches for your brand. “We used to think quantity was the key to everything,” Angela Lipscomb, Influencer Relations Manager for SAS, told us. “Now it is much more about quality over quantity. So, we’ve scaled back the scope of our engagement activities to focus on developing collaborative relationships with fewer individuals. That means that sometimes we focus on influencers who may not have the largest reach, but have greater engagement and subject-matter authority and the ability to inspire.” [bctt tweet=”We used to think quantity was the key to everything. Now it is much more about quality over quantity. – @AngelaLipscomb #B2BInfluencerMarketing” username=”toprank”]

#2 – Influencers can be an extension of your content marketing team.

Content is the strategic foundation of marketing. Period. But marketers frequently cite that consistently creating strategic, quality, engaging content is a top marketing challenge. However, with an army of influential voices—an army that you’ve carefully cultivated and nurtured over time—you have a band of partners who can be an extension of your in-house content marketing team. In addition, by co-creating content with influencers on a regular basis, you give influential experts with a steady medium to share valuable expertise and perspectives, as well as provide your audience a drumbeat of influential, insightful, on-brand content. “Partnering with an influencer allows you to highlight your brand’s own existing narrative in a new way, so that you can reinforce the proof points you really want your customers to know,” Whitney Magnuson, Global Head of Social Media and Influencer Programs for IBM, told us not long ago. [bctt tweet=”Partnering with an influencer allows you to highlight your brand’s own existing narrative in a new way. – @whitneymagnuson #B2BInfluencerMarketing” username=”toprank”] Oh, and you can fill your editorial calendar, add flavor to your content campaigns, extend your audience reach—and the list goes on. And as Lee has said: “For any kind of content a business creates and publishes to the world, there is an opportunity for collaboration with credible voices that have active networks interested in what those voices have to say.”

#3 – An always-on commitment to influencer marketing helps you refine, evolve, and scale your marketing efforts.

Marketers are in the business of driving results, which means we’re constantly reviewing our tactical mix and strategic priorities. This constant vigilance helps us grow in marketing sophistication so we can drive success at scale. Simply put, we don’t set and forget—we optimize and evolve our approach to achieve success. But with just one-tenth of B2B influencer programs falling in the “ongoing” bucket … there’s immense opportunity for improvement and alignment. As Dr. Konnie Alex, Head of Corporate Influencer Relations for Dell*, shared with us: “A sophisticated influencer program doesn’t rely on a single identification method or one-time vetting process to start and maintain a relationship with an influencer, but rather develops a scorecard that gets constantly reviewed and, most importantly, evolves as this emerging field matures. At this point, we review strategy, methods, tactics, and measurement on an ongoing basis.” Konnie also said: “We have a number of strategic partners who never stop evolving or expanding their expertise. We value them highly and feel that they represent a reflection of our brand’s values and long-term vision.” [bctt tweet=”A sophisticated influencer program doesn’t rely on a single identification method or one-time vetting process to start and maintain a relationship with an influencer. It develops and evolves. – @konstanze #B2BInfluencerMarketing” username=”toprank”] Speaking of long-term, an always-on approach to influencer marketing can help you strengthen all your other marketing efforts. How? For one, you can keep a pulse on your evolving audience. “Strategic partnerships with influencers provide for an outside-in view when creating content for our customers,” Konnie said. “We need to constantly ensure that, as a brand, we don’t start talking to ourselves, but keep a keen focus on the evolving challenges our customers have and on the language they use to express these challenges.” And secondly, you can create better experiences that lead to real results. With influencer marketing, you’re looking to offer a better experience to your customers and deliver knowledge-based educational content with a third-party voice,” Amisha shared. “These experiences can be achieved through content, influencers speaking directly to customers, nurturing them through digital and high value assets. This approach with influencers will help you to drive sales journey and demonstrate pipeline touch.”

Smile for Always-On B2B Influencer Marketing

While many B2B brands are still cutting their teeth on influencer marketing, success and sophistication are rooted in giving the practice constant attention and care. This commitment will not only help you grow lasting relationships with influential leaders in your industry, but also enable consistent, quality content creation and make a scalable impact on your overall marketing strategy. Looking for more inspiration? Check out these five examples of B2B influencer marketing in action. *Disclaimer: SAP, Adobe, and Dell are TopRank Marketing clients.

The post Why Always-On Is Always Better for Driving B2B Influencer Marketing Success appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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About Daniel Rodgers

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The Community Imperative: Engaging in Conversations Rather Than Disseminating Information

Building Online Communities in B2B

Building Online Communities in B2B

What does effective marketing engagement look like?

In the common model we see today, it’s something like this: Brands push out relevant messaging, hoping to compel a response or interaction that leads to a conversation (and maybe ultimately a conversion). This can be anything from a comment on a social media post to a chat window initiation.

Nothing wrong with that. These back-and-forths between brands and individuals are important ingredients toward building trust and loyalty. The problem is that, as a sole method for driving engagement, the cast-and-wait approach is too dependent on explicit triggers to spark these interactions.  

Devising and creating content that drives targeted engagement is hard work. It’s worthwhile, but hard, and sometimes even well conceived plans miss the mark. What if you were able to develop a self-driven engagement engine, which fostered strategic conversations built awareness among your most valuable customers and prospects?

Enter: Communities.

Why Communities Matter to Digital Marketers

In his seminal book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin writes about turning scattered groups of followers into a unified “tribe,” which he defines as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”

Human beings have long gravitated toward these communal experiences, elevating the collective power of their interests, beliefs, or passions. According to Godin, a group needs two things to become a tribe:

  1. A shared idea
  2. A way to communicate

The internet has taken care of No. 2, making it easy for strangers around the globe to come together via message boards, social media, subreddits, etc. So really it’s about identifying that mutual idea, or focal point, and taking the lead in rallying people around it.

Coordinating Communities for B2B Marketing

It’s not uncommon for tribes to form around a B2C product or service. For example, my fiancée follows several social media groups dedicated to Oreo cookies. People in these communities share updates about new flavors, and where they can be found. Other examples of strong brand communities include Sephora, LEGO, and Starbucks.

In the B2B space, this is more challenging. People aren’t generally drawn to, say, cybersecurity software in the same way they are to their favorite coffee or cosmetics brand. But that’s not to say there isn’t a deep level of passion for cybersecurity — it’s a prevalent issue throughout our society, and one that many professionals spend their entire days thinking about. The key lies in hitting the right resonant note and facilitating connections.

In the case of cybersecurity specialists, we have to ask: What questions burn in their minds? Which elements of the subject excite or agitate them? Where do discussions among hardcore followers tend to center? This type of empathetic mindset should be at the core of our DNA as modern marketers.

Building B2B communities doesn’t always mean trying to create a “brand community” where your company and its offerings are the primary focus; this can be tough to accomplish, and even when you do, you’re unlikely to pull in many members outside of your existing customer base. The more effective approach, from my view, is building communities around interests and commonalities that align directly with what you do.

Pinpointing the ideal focal point for your community requires an acute understanding of the people you serve, derived through copious research. We can apply many of the same tactics for identifying best answer opportunities to arrive at data-driven conclusions about the most avid areas of curiosity for our audiences. If your customers are repeatedly asking the same questions to Google, they probably want to discuss them amongst one another as well.

Where Can You Build Online Communities?

Let’s say you’re interested in starting a community around a certain topic relevant to your brand. Where might go about doing so? Here are some popular options:

  • Facebook Groups: It’s the world’s most popular social media platform and a prevalent hub for connecting around common interests. We wrote recently about the value of Facebook groups for B2B brands. And Facebook’s recently announced redesign will put groups at the center of the experience.
  • LinkedIn Groups: Often a better contextual fit than Facebook for B2B social media groups, as LinkedIn is (of course) structured around professional topics. Last year LinkedIn made its Groups feature more accessible by integrating it into the mobile app.
  • Forum/Message Board: The online message board traces its origins back nearly to the dawn of the internet, when it was called a bulletin board system (BBS). Today, these platforms for organized digital discourse remain prevalent and — when well populated — highly active and engaging. This post from HubSpot offers some step-by-step guidance for launching your community in such a fashion.
  • Microsite: A special section of your website dedicated entirely to allowing your customers and audience members to interact with one another. It might be a message board built within your site, or a more customized setup. Whatever the case, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy to navigate and follow conversation threads.

Benefits of B2B Community-Building

“Community is important because it brings people together. Community keeps people loyal, makes them feel like they matter. It also lets the company show how much they appreciate their customers,” according to Mary Green, a community-building specialist who shared her insights with B2B News Network.

Beyond the overarching loyalty imperative, here are a few other practical advantages to creating an online community:

  • Firsthand audience research. Marketers are always endeavoring to understand what matters most to their audiences. In many cases, this requires considerable guesswork. But by monitoring a community, you can watch conversations play out organically, seeing what impassioned followers talk about and how they talk about it. This can serve as a crucial springboard for your content planning. It might even help inspire new product features or service offerings.
  • User-generated content. “Brands and influencers can make great content, but the phenomenal stuff comes from the discussion. User-generated content is gold,” says Green. I’ve written here in the past about the power of UGC for authenticity, and online communities can be an excellent resource for uncovering it.
  • Finding and cultivating influencers. Within these communities, you’ll frequently see particular experts emerging with strong voices or magnetic insights. These might be candidates to incorporate more deeply into your influencer marketing strategy.

B2B Brands Running Strong Communities

Looking for inspiration? Here are a few companies that set the right example with B2B community-building:

Bank of America

They major national bank created a small business online community, which they describe as “a forum for small business ideas, insider tips, and the industry knowledge you need to help your small business grow.”

As you scroll through the links and discussions within, you’ll find that much of it is unrelated to banking or even financial matters, and that’s just fine. The point is that numerous customers and prospects are coming to BoA’s website to talk shop.

Bank of America Online Community


The QuickBooks Community is basically a public knowledge bank where users can help each other solve problems and learn new things. There are product-centric areas for QB troubleshooting, as well as general business discussions. Intuit company reps are also active participants in the community.

QuickBooks Online Community


Jamf Nation describes itself as “the largest Apple IT management community in the world.” It’s a perfect example of owning a niche, and mobilizing a community while keeping product promotion on the backburner. Members are welcomed to “Dialog with your fellow IT professionals, gain insight about Apple device deployments, share best practices and bounce ideas off each other.”

Jamf Nation Online Community

Find Your Tribe

As marketing emphasis shifts more and more toward delivering holistic experiences, community-building should be a key consideration for practitioners everywhere, especially in B2B where the opportunity is especially ripe. Herein lies the next frontier of digital engagement.

Want to learn more about B2B brands that are finding more authentic ways to engage? Check out our post: Flipping the B2B Marketing Script: 7 Brands That Talk to Consumers, Not Companies

The post The Community Imperative: Engaging in Conversations Rather Than Disseminating Information appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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