B2B Influencer Marketing Tips + Ideas

How to incorporate B2B influencer marketing into your lead-gen and brand awareness strategies and why the tactic is picking up speed.

B2B Influencer Marketing

Why B2B Influencer Marketing is Now a Must-Do Tactic + How to Get Started

A version of this article was first published by the Association of National Advertisers.

Partnering with people of influence to promote a product or service is nothing new. B2C brands have leveraged social media influencers for over a decade — but now, B2B influencer marketing is picking up speed as brands try to catch up to shifting customer buying habits. 

The new generation of B2B buyers is tired of sales messages flooding their inbox. They want to do their own research, self-educate and gather recommendations from people they trust before ever talking to a sales rep. 

What does that mean for B2B marketers? It’s time to switch up tactics.

The Changing B2B Buyer Journey

Decision makers are turning to LinkedIn, YouTube and podcasts to do business research. They prefer to verify credibility through content consumption and endorsements from B2B thought leaders. Buyers no longer want to exchange their contact info for an eBook or listen to one-sided sales pitches from automated nurture emails.

of marketers now believe that B2B influencer marketing is a successful strategy.

(Top Rank Blog)

Buyers aged 25 to 44 will make up 75 percent of business buying teams in 2024, according to Forrester Research, with millennial buyers rating engagement with experts as the most meaningful sales interaction. Additionally, data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) shows that 84 percent of C-level and VP-level buyers use social media for B2B purchase decisions. Platforms have also become an important source of daily business information as half of U.S. adults now report getting their news from social media. 

What is a B2B Influencer?

Businesses can cater to the modern sales journey by aligning with B2B influencers – or, professionals with a presence on social media who have established credibility and built a following. This includes subject matter experts, academics, business executives, analysts, journalists and even company employees.

Unlike typical social media personalities known for their visuals and entertainment, B2B influencers are respected for their deep industry knowledge and expertise. They offer valuable insights and guidance that help their followers enhance their professional skills and make informed business decisions.

How Do You Choose a B2B Influencer Partner?

When choosing potential partners, ensure shared interests and goals between all parties. Unaligned collaborations will appear inauthentic and ultimately be unsuccessful. When you partner with an influencer, you tie your brand to theirs. What they stand for – or don’t stand for – reflects on your organization. 

Identifying aligned partners who feel comfortable elevating your brand message is essential. Don’t engage someone just for their community size if they aren’t a fit for your goals, topic alignment or target audience.

  • Ask customers who they follow online, trust and look to for advice
  • Use native tools like LinkedIn and Google to do research
  • Look to niche online communities and industry associations

Some influencers can help increase brand awareness, others are excellent partners in attracting leads and driving conversions. Be clear on your goals before entering a partnership and clarify expected results. Your best-fit campaigns and partners will vary depending on which stage of the funnel you target.

How Do You Engage B2B Influencers?

For many, identifying novel ways to build B2B influencer marketing campaigns is the top program challenge. Knowing the most effective ways to pursue personality-led growth continues to feel elusive. 

To spur your creativity, here are a few ways you can incorporate B2B influencer marketing into your lead-gen and brand awareness strategies:

Co-create content

Collaborate with an influencer to co-create branded content. Their participation adds instant validity and audience interest. Working alongside the influencer can help you gain affinity with new prospects and position your brand as a trusted, vetted vendor. Content ideas include: 

  • ​​Co-author a research report
  • Guest blog posts 
  • Share interesting conversations via audio or video
  • Invite them to participate in your webinar or podcast
  • Launch an ongoing content series together
  • Build an educational course
  • Host an event with the influencer as a guest speaker

Paid partnerships on LinkedIn

If co-creation isn’t a fit for your strategy, influencers can still help you reach target audiences by spreading the word. Pursue paid partnerships where an influencer positively mentions/recommends you or shares your new report or a product review with their following. Growing in popularity, LinkedIn now prompts users to add official partnership labels on posts that they’ve received compensation for.

Paid content must still appear natural or have an element of entertainment or added value to be effective. Get creative with prompts and avoid being overly scripted. Encourage contests, challenges, sharing and conversations. 

For example, Zapier worked with the automation and education expert Nat Choprasert to showcase real-world applications of its software.  Nat shares multiple posts about how she uses the tool to accomplish a wide range of tasks. Zapier also worked with B2B influencers like Devin Reed to promote its virtual conference. In both instances, the hashtag #zapierpartner is always included to make the collaboration clear.

B2C channels for B2B

B2B influencer marketing doesn’t have to stray too far from the traditional influencer construct. Your target customers are following B2C accounts. Don’t forget that B2B decision-makers are people, too. Close to 40 percent of professionals in all sectors worldwide said they engaged with social content multiple times a day. As the number of young B2B decision-makers increases, social media’s importance in B2B marketing strategies is exponential.

Instagram and TikTok might be the right platform for your company’s B2B influencer campaign. Don’t skimp on doing consumer research to figure out where they spend time, get their inspiration and who they trust. You might be surprised. Did you know finance topics outperform B2C topics on TikTok?

For example, if you’re an insurance provider looking to promote property coverage to restaurant owners, you have a lot of choices. There are restaurant owners and chefs online who have large and engaged followings. They provide fellow restaurant owners with inspiration, advice and community. Working with these more consumer-facing influencers can help B2B brands get in front of potential customers who may have otherwise been difficult to reach or resistant to a sales pitch. 

Collaborate with clients

To boost authenticity, it benefits brands to leverage client clout. If you have a client who is well-known or seen as influential, their endorsement can help elevate your brand. Involve them as advisors and ambassadors.

Try expanding beyond the classic case study or testimonial and collaborate with clients on social media content. For example, Zapier worked with well-known content marketer Erin Balsa to beta-test new product features. As a true user of the software, she shared a helpful and relatable review of new capabilities on LinkedIn to drum up excitement for the eventual release. 

Additionally, pursue awards, speaking engagements and earned media opportunities in partnership with your clients. This joint visibility in third-party outlets is mutually beneficial and a value-add for clients looking to build thought leadership.

Employees as influencers

Influencers can be hired on by brands as employees or brands can encourage employees to become more influential online. Either way, employees can be your biggest brand advocates. 
For example, Cognism hired Ryan Riesert and then Morgan Ingram, both established experts on cold calling best practices and someone their target audience (sales professionals) had familiarity with and trusted. Once hired, their audiences were instantly made aware of Cognism and their expertise was associated with the brand. They became spokespeople with deep knowledge of the product and brand values. As B2B influencers, they helped the Cognism marketing team to produce video content, develop a YouTube show and run a webinar series for sales professionals.

Employees can become your best ambassadors and marketers. Personal LinkedIn profiles outperform company pages with 2.75 times more impressions and 5 times more engagement. That’s why global brands like Cisco are training employees to use LinkedIn and share their work experiences. By regularly posting educational content and real workplace experiences, employees can stay top-of-mind with their network and elevate company expertise until prospects are ready to buy.

Succeed in the Modern B2B Landscape

B2B influencer marketing isn’t just a trending tactic – it’s part of a larger market shift. Buyers seek authenticity and credibility in their information sources and prefer recommendations over hard sales. Collaborating with influential figures to promote your brand has become indispensable. 

As you embrace the shifting dynamics of the B2B journey, remember that personality-led marketing is a gateway to building trust and expanding your brand’s visibility. So, think bigger, collaborate and reap the rewards.

Abby Papenfus

With extensive experience in B2B and B2C marketing, Abby Papenfus applies her love of analytics, research and creative strategy to connect-the-dots and drive what matters. She has led record-breaking influencer and PR campaigns for industry-leading brands like Nationwide Insurance, Big Lots and Dearfoams.