The hardest part is getting started.
Has there ever been a more relatable expression? I know we can all think of a task or obligation that we put off endlessly out of some perceived dread, only to find that once we actually buckled down and got to it, the act was rather quick and painless.
The spectre of starting from scratch can also stall a lot of decisions in the business world. Take B2B influencer marketing as an example. You might’ve seen the stats showing how effective it is, or how it drives shocking ROI. Maybe you’ve even seen TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden out on the speaking circuit, articulating the approach and sharing some of our success stories.
But if you have no semblance of an influencer marketing strategy or infrastructure in place at the moment, hesitance is understandable. So to ease the friction and uncertainty, here’s a simple five-step plan to get a pilot program up and running.
Launching a Pilot B2B Influencer Marketing Program in 5 Steps
By no means will this simplified blueprint bring you to a point of sophistication, but it will help you get a feel for B2B influencer marketing, how it works, and why it’s powerful for growing your business.
1: Get Buy-In Throughout the Organization
Even for a pilot program, it’s critical to get stakeholders on board and involved. Before getting started, create visibility around the initiative. Clarify why it’s happening, and who can play a role.
There are a number of different functions and specialists that play a role in executing influencer strategies — social media managers, strategists, SEOs, designers — but engaging the content team will be most vital for any co-creation efforts, since the planning process changes significantly.
2: Compile a List of Influencers who Align with Your Brand
You likely already have a solid understanding of the “who’s who” in your industry. Who are the authoritative voices and thought leaders? Which individuals do your customers listen to and respect? Where are fresh ideas and innovation coming from?
This knowledge provides a good starting point. But the exercise of building an influencer list will help you and your team grasp some of the nuances involved with B2B influencer selection, such as:
- Prioritizing relevance over reach
- Assessing topical alignment
- Discovering micro-influencers
- Analyzing channels and platforms
- Developing focused audience research
Here’s a visualization of the type of topical alignment chart we like to generate at TopRank (themed in this case around Stranger Things, via a recent Ashley Zeckman presentation):
3: Start Priming Influencer Relationships
As we’ve written in the past: “Strong relationships are at the root of influencer marketing success — and relationships aren’t built in a day.” This is a long-term process and the initial steps should be entirely focused on building familiarity and connection to the influencer. It’s all about getting your brand on their radar, creating credibility, and letting them know they’re someone your company holds in high regard.
A few do’s and don’ts when it comes to priming influencer relationships in this initial stage:
DO: Post a link to their latest article on your social media channels and add a message about why you liked it.
DON’T: Message them and ask out of nowhere for them to share your latest content piece.
DO: Quote one of their insights in a blog post, and tag them in the social promotions for visibility.
DON’T: Solicit them to write a guest post on your blog.
DO: Approach influencers as partners.
DON’T: Approach influencers as assets.
“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.” @LeeOdden #InfluencerMarketing Click To Tweet
4: Integrate B2B Influencer Marketing into Your Strategy
Now that you’ve laid some initial groundwork, it’s time to start thinking about how B2B influencer marketing will fit into your holistic integrated strategy. Chart out the goals of the program, tactics and channels you’ll use, metrics you’ll measure against, and various departments and functions that will be involved.
This helps you gain a practical sense of what the influencer program will look like in action, and what steps are necessarily to operationalize it.
During this stage, we recommend asking and answering these five essential questions.
5: Co-Create a Piece of Content with One or More Influencers
Assuming you’ve developed at least one influencer relationship to a point where it makes sense, partner with them in the creation of a piece of content — blog post, infographic, ebook, etc.
These types of projects should always offer mutual benefits, and the influencer’s lift should correspond to the value they figure to get out of it. If it’s simply a piece of marketing content for your brand, with the expertise and thought leadership being highlighted in front of new audiences, you might just ask for a few insights to include here and there. If the content can serve as more of a marketing tool for both parties, they might be more inclined to co-author or contribute in other significant ways.
Going through the process of co-creating with influencers will give your team a feel for how it works, and publishing your content into the wild will give you a glimpse of the impact. To be clear, without a more comprehensive strategy and long-term infrastructure built out, you likely won’t come close to the potential of what these programs can achieve results-wise, but we’ll bet the level of reach and number of new eyeballs compares favorably to a standard piece of non-influencer content.
Get Your Influencer Marketing Pilot Up in the Air
Yeah, some say the hardest part is getting started. But the late, great Tom Petty offers another point of view: waiting is the hardest part. So why not stop waiting, and get your B2B influencer marketing pilot program in motion?
If you have any questions along the way, we’re happy to offer guidance. Get in touch and we can discuss your influencer marketing goals, and how to get there.