Influencer marketing involves a business working with someone important to their target audience. It evolved out of communications and PR and includes things like analyst relations, blogger relations, and influencer relations. While it can be an effective marketing tactic, 61% of businesses find it difficult to find relevant influencers for a campaign.
In B2B, influencer marketing rarely sits under marketing because that’s all about demand generation. If marketing’s budget isn’t going on something that’s earning leads and demand, it isn’t being spent in the right place.
But communications people can’t talk the language of revenue. Sales and marketing can.
When it comes to justifying communications to the board, the closest you often get is informing them of how much an advertorial in a newspaper costs and how much coverage is garnered through which PR activity.
However, in the days of analytics and data, that kind of ROI just isn’t enough. Communications people are looking for ways to justify their investments. This allows them to speak in a language that the board will understand.
Influencer marketing can lead to businesses making $5.20 for every $1 spent. When the influencer is an employee and not an outsider, the ROI can be even greater because it costs them less to engage with the influencer.
And it’s well worth activating employee influencers. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 68% of people trust company technical experts, 61% trust someone like them, and 54% trust regular employees. That’s far higher than the 47% of people that trust CEOs. People want to do business with other people, and tapping into employee influencers is the perfect way for them to do this.
To track the impact of influencer marketing, it’s imperative to have the right marketing stack. This allows businesses to see how people find the content and what they do once they get there. Are they converting the first time they land on the page? Do they revisit a particular blog again and again? What’s their time on page? Is it a popular post in search engines or on social media? Who’s sharing it on social media and where? Does it have lots of conversions?
It can take a while for leads to become qualified, so being able to track their path is key to finding new ways to nurture them.
Employee influencers can have a positive effect on every stage of a buyer’s journey, from awareness right through to closing. Let’s take a closer look at how and why.
People are becoming more and more blind to traditional advertising. 70-80% of people ignore sponsored search results, while there’s a clear decline in print advertising as influencer marketing has increased. 615 million people used ad blockers in 2019. All of this means that to stand out, brands need to find more organic ways to build brand awareness.
Credible influencers are a far more effective way to catch the attention of new prospects. It taps into people’s trust in company technical experts and regular employees. Every employee has a skill and/or background that can be nurtured to build their audience and the company’s.
If someone first hears about a business from an employee influencer, it immediately builds the brand’s reputation in their mind. For example, an influencer who’s been invited to speak at an event on the company’s behalf might do a talk on employee wellness. If someone finds the talk helpful, they’ll want to know more about the person and the business behind it. This will lead to them engaging with more content and moving further down the pipeline.
Encouraging engagement is important too – B2B customers with higher engagement get 50% more revenue and 34% higher profitability.
Using the data provided by the right marketing stack, businesses can look into the impact awareness content has. Do people convert the first time they view a post or the third? Do they go on to read other content that then convinces them to convert? This will help to inform the rest of a company’s awareness content going forwards.
Once someone has discovered the brand, it’s time to get them to engage with it. The more content they have to engage with, the longer they’ll stick around. And the more the company will keep showing up in their feeds.
One way to do this is by optimising content for SEO. If a brand repeatedly comes up for topics in the same niche – for instance, Hubspot regularly ranks for content marketing-related terms – it builds a sense of trust that only comes from visibility.
Prospects have multiple pain points that brands can tap into, leading to an almost endless source of content ideas. This is important, as 82% of buyers view 5-8 pieces of content before buying. The more content a brand has, the more likely they are to have content that features prospects’ pain points.
When it comes to searches, 90% of people haven’t made their mind up about a brand before searching. Brands therefore want to ensure they’re providing as much value as possible. Providing extra value boosts their brand and guides prospects further down the pipeline.
Other ways to activate leads include engaging with them on social media, sending email campaigns, and filming live videos. Putting employee influencers at the forefront of these – such as sending emails from them or featuring them in live videos – makes the audience feel more connected with them. It humanizes the brand, leading to them feeling more connected to it than if they were dealing with a faceless logo.
According to DemandGen, the two main sources of advice for buyers are peers and industry experts. 92% of buyers trust products and services from people they know. Making prospects feel like they know the employee influencer can go a long way to building the trust that’s needed to help with conversions.
At the acceleration stage, trusted content from an influencer guides the audience through their journey. The better the content, the faster they move through the funnel.
61% of people say they want relevant information when it comes to the sales process. It’s therefore important that brands tap into what they know about their target audience and use this to provide the right information at the right time.
This will enhance the brand’s position in their mind as the go-to company to solve their problem. For people already in the pipeline, a blog from an expert could further endorse their decision-making process. This could take the form of benchmarks, reports, or even influencer opinions on Gartner reports.
Here, it’s important to emphasize the knowledge and skills that are unique to the influencer. Why are they the one to listen to?
This is where influencer marketing can make or break someone’s decision to purchase. Prospects are trying to decide which vendor to go with. If a vendor has helped them through the process with their thought leadership content – even if they’ve never spoken in person – it can go a long way to converting that lead.
The employee influencer has digitally guided them the whole way. Meeting in person at this stage could close the deal, since 86% of buyers want to ask questions in-person before purchasing. An in-person meeting turns an influencer from a face on a screen into a living, breathing person that can answer tailored questions that are unique to the prospect’s business.
Which influencer meets them can make big difference too. If it’s one particular person’s content that’s helped them, it should be that person that goes to visit the prospect, not the person that lives in closest proximity.
69% of buyers want their needs to be listened to. If someone they see as an authority talks to them about their goals and pain points, they’re more likely to convert.
It’s the employee whose content they’ve connected with the most that’s the go-to person in their mind. To them, this employee influencer is the expert. They’re the one who understands the prospect’s needs and is best positioned to help them. It’s therefore crucial that they’re the one to guide the prospect through the final stage. Sending an employee influencer to meet with a prospect can be a real deal-winner when up against brands that don’t have them.
Employee influencers can nurture prospects at all stages of the pipeline. The more brands activate their employee influencers, the stronger their audience’s brand loyalty will be and the more benefits there’ll be for the business.
It can also help with employee engagement – activated employees are more enthusiastic about working for the company. This means they’ll create more informative and enthusiastic content, which will come across to prospects and lead to more conversions.
At the end of the day, people want to work with other people. And there’s no better person to work with than someone who’s happy to do what they do.