5 Ways B2B Companies Are Using Influencer Marketing to Get Customers

Eric Siu by

You might think that influencer marketing is just for consumer products, but even in a business, decisions are made by people – people who can be influenced by others that they respect and trust.

B2B brands that don’t work with influencers are missing out on a huge opportunity to shape customer behavior, build trust and authority in their industry and, ultimately, make more sales. At the end of the day, customers and clients trust the opinions and tastes of thought leaders, colleagues, and market analysts more than they do a brand’s personal claims about how awesome they are. They want to see content that relates to them, not you.

Think about it. If I told you that my digital marketing agency could offer you the best ROI on the Internet, would you believe me? Maybe. But probably only if you’ve been following my work for a while. But if you didn’t know who I was, you’d be much more likely to trust the word of another business owner who used our services or independent reviews.

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Thousands of business owners and executives are running into problems and challenges every day, and working with influencers can help. But B2B influencer marketing is different from consumer influencer marketing – it’s not as simple as paying someone with 500,000 Instagram followers to wear your product and tag you. It’s about making smart partnerships and providing value in your industry.

Today, I’m going to show you five examples of B2B companies that are working with influencers to attract and convert more customers.

Influencer Campaign #1: IBM

IBM Watson is a pretty cool project. One of the first recognizable names in the AI space, it lets businesses harness the power of artificial intelligence to process large sets of data to make better business decisions. It’s also served as a giant PR boost for IBM, which has helped position them as a company that is pushing the boundaries of business and technology in both consumer and corporate markets.

But the problem? Most people don’t understand the amazing things they can do with it. So IBM partners with influencers to showcase its power. These influencers could be customers or they could be recognizable names in other industries.

Last year, IBM partnered with fashion designer Gaurav Gupta to design a dress using artificial intelligence, which debuted at the Vogue Women of the Year Awards. It used Watson’s “Personality Insights” feature that was connected to LED lights to change the dress’ color depending on the personality of the wearer.

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This showcased a powerful IBM Watson feature to the world (“Personality Insights”) as well as introduced the technology to an entirely new industry (fashion) – one that may not have recognized how they could incorporate artificial intelligence into what they do.

Influencer Campaign #2: VideoFruit

You don’t have to be a massive company to use influencer marketing. Bryan Harris, founder of VideoFruit, helps businesses and entrepreneurs grow their websites and e-mail lists.

He partnered with Noah Kagan, founder of Sumo, simply by writing a guest post on his personal blog, OkDork. It worked brilliantly.

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At the time, his site got about 285 daily visitors. But as soon as he published the guest post, he received 1,086 visitors that day and 686 more the following day. In all, that was about a 500% increase in traffic for those two days.

But what’s even more important is that he also boasted a 12% conversion rate. In other words, 215 of those visitors became subscribers. That’s almost a whole day’s worth of traffic which means, of course, that this partnership made sense.

The readers of OkDork were interested in the topics Bryan was writing about; they just needed to be introduced to him. Note that Noah had to do very little work throughout the process. He just let Bryan post on his site and told his audience about it.

But this is still influencer marketing. By publishing Bryan’s content, Noah was vouching for his value and giving Bryan access to a large audience he had already built.

Influencer Campaign #3: American Express

American Express serves both B2C and B2B markets, which means that it needs a lot of marketing to make sure it keeps generating demand on both sides: if stores don’t accept American Express, consumers won’t get the card, but if consumers aren’t getting the card, then why would stores go through the hassle and higher fees of accepting the card?

AmEx has done a lot of influencer marketing on the consumer side, most recently with their #AmexAmbassadors program to promote the benefits of their platinum card.

But they also use influencers to reach potential business clients as well. One of their most famous campaigns was the “Love My Store” promotion. They partnered with designer Grace Bonny to design decals for store owners to place in their window to advertise “AmEx Cards Welcome.”

Then they partnered with HGTV host Emily Henderson to create a series of videos that provided helpful tips to small business owners. At the end of each video, they showed a clip of the decal and included a link to get your own.

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Did you notice the influencer inception? Not only did American Express use influencers to convince the stores to download and place these decals in their window, but they also turned the stores into influencers by promoting their brand around the country.

The campaign was a huge success with over 5 million impressions and 50,000 social engagements from small business owners. Over 400,000 Love My Store decals were distributed, making it the most-ordered decal available from American Express.

Influencer Campaign #4: Me (Eric Siu) and Neil Patel

If you or your brand has an audience of your own, that can be a great way to convince other influencers to work with you.

In 2016, I partnered with Neil Patel to start hosting a marketing podcast called Marketing School.

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I already had experience from my own podcast, Growth Everywhere, and my marketing background. Neil and I talked about co-hosting a daily 5-minute podcast that delivered quick, actionable marketing tips – like How to Do B2B Marketing on Instagram – to help both our existing readers.

This has been a win-win for both of us because our knowledge and skill sets complement one another so we can cover a wider variety of topics and provide even more value to our listeners.

It also helps us expand our audiences because we cross-promote the podcast on our own channels. Many times listeners of one show will follow the other because they know that if Neil trusts me, then I must have something of value to offer – and vice versa.

Influencer Campaign #5: PricewaterhouseCoopers

It’s important for B2B companies to remember that clients aren’t your only target audience. If you want to attract top talent, it’s also important to pay attention to your employer brand.

PwC wanted to improve their employer brand in the eyes of Millennials but didn’t have a trendy influencer handy. They wanted PwC to be a cool place to work — bragworthy for young people.

So what did they do? They created their own influencer.

You see, the accounting and consulting firm has overseen the counting of the votes for the Academy Awards since the 1930s. It’s a big responsibility, but for the most part has gone unnoticed and unmentioned. So PwC decided to increase awareness of their role in the Oscars in an attempt to connect their brand with a younger audience.

They did this by taking the lowliest of heroes and raising it to stardom – I’m talking about #BallotBriefcase.

This was the briefcase that actually carried the envelopes containing the winners’ names from New York to Los Angeles. They created a Snapchat profile that documented its journey across the country in different cities.

As it became famous, over 2,000 employees from offices in six different cities waited in line for up to 45 minutes just to meet the BallotBriefcase. PwC encouraged employees to share photos on social media and use the hashtag #BallotBriefcase on Twitter.

It might sound a little cheesy, but it worked. In comparison to the rest of PwC’s campaigns around the Oscars, the BallotBriefcase reached 136 times as many people (that’s 136,000%!). More than 12.3 million impressions on Twitter and another 126,000 impressions on Instagram.

The biggest lesson here is that influencers can be anyone. In this case, you could say the influencer was the briefcase. But really, it was also the employees who snapped photos and shared them across social media, generating millions of free impressions and a lot of brand awareness for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Conclusion

This was just a sample of how B2B brands of all sizes are using influencer marketing in different ways to improve their marketing and brand image, and get more customers.

I encourage you to take some time this week to review your target audience and look at who they follow and listen to, both online and off. See how you can work with those influencers to create compelling content that will engage your audience and make them want to know more about your business and its benefits.