B2B Decision Makers Are Tired of the Same Old Marketing

Opinion: This is why influencer marketing is so important

Business-to-business decision makers don’t just go to a website, add a data center to their shopping cart and check out. They research, ask questions, ask more questions and spend countless hours online before deciding. The typical sales cycle for technology software is 12 to 18 months.

No one can doubt that purchase behavior has changed over the last few years. Most searches for a technology provider start online, and usually in Google. B2B decision makers get as far as two-thirds through the buyer’s journey before they reach out to a vendor, if the vendor meets the entry-level technical requirements.

Reaching B2B decision makers is difficult, and controlling the narrative they’re exposed to is even more challenging. They are sophisticated, well-educated and extremely skeptical about marketing. They rarely pick up calls from sales, they don’t read press releases or company websites and they often avoid any type of direct interaction with a business until they decide it’s time.

We can’t blame them because they are the most marketed-to segment online today. Every technology company with a marketing budget and a brand message is trying to reach this same audience, every single day and in every possible channel.

This is why influencer marketing is so important.

A recent report revealed that 43 percent of marketers are experimenting with influencer marketing programs. and an even higher percentage claims that their influencer marketing programs are strategic.

But what exactly is influencer marketing? Ask 10 people and you’ll get 10 different answers—and if you add “B2B” to the conversation, you’ll get blank stares.

I have been managing influencer programs since my days working at Intel in 2009, way before influencer marketing was even a thing. We had a program called “Intel Insiders” and invited an elite group of technology influencers to the Intel campus in Santa Clara, Calif., CES and other Intel-sponsored events to meet with executives and customers.

Influencer marketing in the consumer space is straightforward. There are several networks in the market like Clever and InstaBrand that have established relationships with YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat influencers. If you have enough budget, you can turn on and off influencer programs by clicking a few buttons. It’s a plug-and-play type of program.

B2B influencer marketing is a bit more complicated. Identifying the right influencers is the most critical step, and it’s far beyond just looking at follower count. It requires research—a lot of research. You must consider their reach, relevance and resonance:

  • Reach: How large is their community across all channels—blogs, contributed posts, social?
  • Relevance: How often are they talking about the topics that are relevant to your business?
  • Resonance: When they create content, how does it resonate with their broader audience and does it result in engagement?

Once you identify the right influencers, you’ll need to build their profile and research their conversations and online behavior. Here’s a quick example, using a fictional influencer named Michelle.

Profiling and researching B2B influencers

Michelle is an influencer in the enterprise security industry. She can reach up to 260,000 people when she publishes a single piece of content. This number is calculated by taking the sum of her followers on social media, blog readership and RSS subscribers. This number equals her total network size.

Michelle’s top interests include business, politics, consumer technology, film and family. Despite what your predefined marketing persona says, people who work in information technology do have families and interests outside of technology.

The more you know about the influencer, the better equipped you’ll be to understand what they care about so you can craft pitches or content programs that will resonate deeply with what they care about.