Why Building Relationships with Influencers Matters for B2B Companies
[By Alex Hoag, Senior Product Manager, Marketwired]
I sat down to write this blog post thinking about all the conversations I have been having recently around client needs and what has changed even in the past three years. For starters, the sales process really has changed. “Buyers are two-thirds to 90% through the sales funnel before they contact sales” (Forrester) and “72% of B2B buyers use social media to research solutions to purchase” (DGR 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey).
Being in B2B sales for the better half of my career, I believe it’s vital to have the answers to a few key questions before you pick up the phone: How is your company perceived by your online audience? Who is your competition and what goes into their online marketing strategy? Why should people do business with you as opposed to one of your competitors? These are the exactly the same challenges B2B marketers face when they are creating content for their companies.
Let’s dig deeper into these vital questions businesses must ask themselves:
How is your company perceived by your online audience? Your company has a website with, most likely, tons of content – a blog, news, white papers, videos, success stories, your products, your people, and so forth. Then you have your social presence, and potentially, tools to help monitor and engage in conversations around your brand and industry. But how do you know your target audience is actually seeing all of this, consuming it, and taking action?
That’s the challenge! In the 2014 B2B Content Marketing Trends report, the top challenges that B2B content marketers face include: not being able to produce enough content, not being able to create the kind of content that engages, and lack of content variety. All topics that come up on every client discussion I have been a part of this year.
How do you solve this? As a sales rep I was always looking for influential content I could share with prospects and clients about our industry. It’s amazing when you can combine that influential content with an article your company was just featured in or a webinar you just hosted with some industry leaders. The power of having influential people with a large and engaged audience on your side, speaking highly of your company, is a great tool to have in your back pocket when discussing your company with potential prospects.
Even simply involving yourself with influencers’ content and their social conversations can improve your online presence. When you work with a few key influencers who value your brand, your entire company benefits from the relationships.
Who is your competition and what goes into their online marketing strategy? It’s the question that almost every sales rep faces during the selling process – how do you differ from your competitors? If you are familiar with your competition and how they are being spoken about online, you tend to start to see how you differ. I’m not talking about one feature you offer that they don’t; I’m talking about brand perception with your target markets, and this is led by a few key influencers.
As a marketer for a B2B company, ideally you want to understand who, carrying clout, is talking about your company and your competition and focus on building relationships with them. Out of those relationships can stem value for both parties with new communication and content-creation opportunities.
Which leads into that overarching question: “What sets you apart and why should people do business with your company?” Do your top industry influencers know who you are? If not, why not? Companies need to understand that relationships help them personify their brand and demonstrate thought leadership. These factors – along with the fear of not being able to create enough engaging, targeted content – are the most viable reasons to build relationships with influencers.
Influencers share content at different times and have engaged audiences across different channels, so they offer up insight into new content ideas that their audiences are looking to consume. They are the cornerstone to improved brand awareness, website traffic, and ultimately, new sales.
So if you find yourself asking “Do I really need to engage with influencers in my B2B market?” – the answer is yes. If you need a little support, ask your sales reps who their top influencers are, why they value their opinion, and how they found them. It’s the same path your customers take when determining who your company is through the face of your online brand and community.