I’ve been involved on both sides of influencer marketing – plenty as a B2B influencer myself, and also as a leader who relies on influencers for my brands – pretty much since the inception of the practice.
Many of my friends are influencers. We’ve been comparing notes for years: the good, the bad, and the, “You aren’t going to believe this!”
And in the past eight months or so, I’ve been flat-out interviewing brand managers, communications and PR leaders, and CEOs and their teams, on this topic. It’s the lean startup way, and I’m a dyed in the wool acolyte of the method. I ask how these leaders leverage influencers, what successes and pitfalls they’ve encountered, what they’d like to see as the field matures; that kind of thing.How are brands leveraging influencers these days, especially in B2B? Click To Tweet
I’d like to share with you a few of the things I’ve picked up.
Welcome to Dodge City
Influencer marketing is the Wild West right now: no rules, only chaos. Brands and influencers alike suffer in this environment.
- On the brand side, it’s difficult to identify, recruit, activate, and retain high-value influencers.
- On the influencer side, there is growing resentment of brands due to unclear expectations of performance and inconsistent treatment even within the same influencer program.
- All of this leads to under-realization of the potential of B2B influencer marketing.
Some Big Data with those sneakers?
B2C brands are starting to figure their model out, but… B2C models don’t fit B2B. After all, selling tennis shoes to college kids isn’t the same as selling cloud services to enterprise CIOs.
The four main trouble spots
B2B brands have trouble with…
- Identification: discovering which influencers are most relevant – most influential – to the brand’s potential clients. Even within B2B (which accounts for slightly more than half of all business done in an advanced economy), there are so many sub-specialties as to make “B2B influencer” a bit meaningless.
- Recruiting: attracting the highest-impact influencers. Brands often have to settle for third-tier “influencers” instead. And how influential is a third-tier anything, really?
- Performance: activating their influencers to perform on their behalf. Having a person officially “in” a program is one thing. Getting them to do anything beneficial to your brand — or even occasionally mention your brand — is quite another.
- Retention: keeping influencers in their programs. If there’s anything faster than employee turnover, it’s influencer turnover. Which means an awful lot of a brand’s time, effort, and thus money is spent filling vacant spots in the influencer lineup.
Those are the four biggest problems that brands face right now with their influencer marketing programs. So what’s a brand to do?
I’m convinced that the startup that tames the Wild West of influencer marketing by solving these four brand woes will have an immense business on its hand. Maybe this startup is a unicorn in the making. We’ll see.
In the meantime, here’s a little more on the topic, something I put together recently to show investors who are unfamiliar with the field of influencer marketing. I’d love to hear your thoughts.