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Why B2B brands should partner with creators, not influencers

Every B2B organization should develop a dedicated creator program as part of the marketing mix. Don’t ignore this powerful tool.

Why B2B brands should partner with creators, not influencers
[DC Studio/AdobeStock]

The rise of influencer marketing continues to gather steam as brands increasingly shift budgets toward this activity. In 2016, influencer marketing made up less than $2 billion in advertising budgets. By the end of 2022, the industry is projected to be worth over $16 billion! The benefits of influencer marketing for consumer brands are evident. However, for B2B companies, and particularly very technical organizations, there has historically been less acceptance of it as a vital tactic within the marketing arsenal. Yet, with Hubspot identifying it as the key marketing trend for B2B organizations in 2022, no one can afford to ignore the noise.

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So, how should B2B organizations view influencer marketing? First up is the acceptance that it’s a paid activity that can propel brand awareness through social media. SAP was an early adopter and used live video chats with influencers to promote its Sapphire event in 2016. The Cisco Champion program is another example of building an engaged community with IT influencers. This campaign started on Twitter and then spread to other channels with various content assets, including unplugged videos with the champions.

Influencer campaigns are about building trust through authentic long-term relationships versus the transactional nature of digital adverts. And when done well, they can have a far greater ROI than digital ads. With the soaring costs of advertising and the demise of third-party cookies, B2B entities should dive in and explore influencer marketing.

However, there is one caveat: Rather than thinking influencer, think creator. For B2B brands, it’s about renting the trust of a creator to reach your audience and build a genuine connection between brand, creator, and community.

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At Keysight, we have grown our fledgling efforts into a sophisticated creator program with a proven ROI that continues to grow. Along the way, we have learned a few things about what makes creator campaigns successful, as well as key pitfalls to avoid when executing creator campaigns. Here’s how you can maximize the impact:

QUALITY TRUMPS QUANTITY

Consumer brands can transform awareness and engagement and boost sales by finding influencers with extensive communities. However, for B2B brands, micro creators can be far more valuable but much harder to uncover. A micro creator is a person with a very relevant community that correlates directly with your target audience. So, evaluate creators on the quality, not the size, of their community.

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DON’T SKIP OR RUSH THE RESEARCH

For B2B brands, finding relevant contacts can make or break any program. Therefore, it’s vital to research and uncover the right people to work with. One size definitely doesn’t fit all, and you should expect this to be a time-consuming process. There is a slew of tools that can aid efforts, but it still requires sifting through the information to find the creators with the most potential for your brand and industry. Don’t try to rush this, as it’s the key to turbocharging the impact.

CONSTANTLY TRACK AND EVALUATE THE CAMPAIGN

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Like any tactic, you need to continually track and evaluate to understand what channels and content are working. At Keysight, we look at engagement KPIs, including the cost per name, to assess the ROI. Evaluating every campaign gives valuable insights into what the audience views as a compelling offer or content. Through our evaluation process, we have used creators to successfully increase attendance at events by adjusting the combination of content and offer.

IT’S NOT ABOUT TRANSACTIONS

Don’t view creator marketing as transactional. Instead, accept that it’s about building authentic, long-term relationships between the brand, the creator, and the community. A creator is not a paid endorser. Ensure that everyone is clear on the incentive structure. Another aspect of this is to let the creator set the tone. They have built influence with their audience through using their voice. If you want to tap into this authenticity, avoid trying to script the content.

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DON’T SPRAY AND PRAY

Test tactics before rolling out. A customized approach is vital, and what you think is a killer creator campaign may prove otherwise, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket. At Keysight, during the test phase, there have been times when results have surprised us, but we have been able to modify the program to make it resonate before investing significant budget. Having this flexibility is critical.

INVEST IN RESOURCES

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Without enough time, budget, and products, it will be almost impossible to deliver an effective program. Remember, this principle holds for virtually every marketing tactic. For B2B companies at the start of their creator journey, it’s vital that enough budget is invested. If the program is too limited, there will not be enough data generated to measure the impact.

CREATE, CREATE, CREATE

As the marketing landscape continues to evolve, CMOs who aren’t thinking about engaging with creators run the risk of irrelevancy. Influencer (or creator!) marketing is a productive and cost-effective strategy that can deliver a lasting brand impact. Every B2B organization should develop a dedicated creator program as part of the marketing mix. Don’t ignore this powerful tool.

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Marie Hattar is CMO at Keysight Technologies, responsible for brand and global marketing efforts.

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