The role of creator marketing and influencers in the B2B world
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We’re used to seeing it in the DTC world.
When you pull up TikTok, Instagram, or Snapchat, you’ll see unique creator-made videos promoting sponsored content.
And, if you’re like other TikTok users contributing to #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt’s 36.7B views, you’ll probably make a fun new purchase.
Creator marketing (especially influencer-generated content) works wonders in the DTC world. Influencer Marketing Hub reports that 60% of marketers said influencer-generated content performs better and drives more engagement than branded posts.
Consumers affirm this finding. 89% of consumers say they trust friend, family, and influencer recommendations shared on social media, and 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations, according to Digital Marketing Institute.
Since creator marketing is so successful in the DTC world, it follows that marketers would wonder if the B2B world also lends itself well to success with creator marketing.
Let’s look at what creator marketing looks like in the B2B world and whether or not it’s working.
What is creator marketing, and what role does it play in the B2B world?
Before diving too deep into the role of creator marketing and its advantages in the B2B world, it’s essential to define creator marketing and look at how B2B brands use creators in their marketing.
In preparation for this article, I tweeted the following question to Marketing Twitter.
The tweet sparked some questions about what creator marketing is. We often hear the terms “influencer marketing” and “creator marketing,” and it’s common to use them interchangeably. I’m guilty of this, even though I’ve been writing about the Creator Economy for three years.
However, there’s a stark difference. A SparkToro article from Rand Fishkin defines the difference brilliantly.
“‘Influencers’” are far from the only kind of creators. Conflating these two is folly,” says Fishkin.
“The entire concept of the creator economy is that it encompasses not only Instagram & TikTok-style influencers, but folks who run industry publications, bloggers, podcasters, corporate content creators, niche media, online magazines, email newsletters (like Kantrowitz’s own Substack) and everything in between.”
It’s essential to distinguish between creator and influencer marketing—especially when looking at how B2B marketers use creators to grow. While we are starting to see B2B brands leverage influencers, that’s not the only type of creator worth investing in.
Yes, B2B brands benefit by investing in the right influencers. But they also benefit by partnering with bloggers, podcasters, and newsletter owners. We’ll look at some of these lucrative relationships later. First, let’s dive into the benefits of adding creating marketing to your B2B marketing strategy.
What are the advantages of creator marketing for B2B businesses?
1. Boosts brand awareness and helps you reach your target audience
You don’t see B2B creators everywhere. Instead, B2B creators live in targeted niches with highly engaged and loyal followings.
For example, Justin Welsh creates content about audience building. If your B2B brand is a tool that helps with growth marketing, partnering with Justin Welsh will give you immediate access to his 350K loyal followers.
B2B creators have already done the hard work of growing their (and your) target audience, making a mutually-beneficial partnership a no-brainer for B2B brands.
“Creator marketing is an essential tool for B2B businesses to reach their target customers. It can help to drive more qualified leads, build relationships with potential customers, and create a more engaged and loyal customer base,” says Sreeram Sharma, head of SEO at QikChat.
“By leveraging the reach of content creators, B2B businesses can create content that resonates and builds trust between their brand and potential customers.”
The secret to success is identifying the right B2B creators. Take the time to scour their content and learn about their audience before entering into a partnership.
2. Creators bring new, creative marketing ideas to the table
There’s a reason why B2B creators have a massive following. Their content is creative, interesting, relevant, and educational.
Moreover, B2B creators have already tested what creative assets work and which fall flat.
“The level of creativity creators bring to your B2B business is what you need to excel in the industry. Creator marketing allows you to partner with people who have a super-engaged community and an in-depth understanding of the market's behavior, says Allan Stolc, founder and CEO of Bankly.
“This exposure enables creators to devise innovative and unique ideas to make your brand more memorable and competitive against your market rivals.”
If your marketing efforts aren’t getting results, bringing on a B2B creator who is highly creative may just be the medicine your brand needs.
While Tommy Clark is a behind-the-scenes B2B creator for Triple Whale, he’s the perfect example of tackling B2B content with audience knowledge and creativity.
Triple Whale’s content stands out among the marketing crowd on Twitter. The content isn’t self-promotional b.s. It’s a fresh take that revolves around humor, memes, and relatable stories. And it’s working for Triple Whale.
3. Speeds up purchasing decisions
The main purpose of B2B marketing is to improve the bottom line of your company.
The faster you can push a business down the purchasing funnel, the less money you waste on marketing, the higher your ROAS is, and the faster your revenue growth.
When you leverage a public creator partnership, you speed up the process. “Creator marketing can help you score some major credibility points by partnering with industry experts, and it can also help you reach a whole new audience and boost your brand's visibility,” says SEO consultant Harry Boxhall.
And when creators extend their credibility to your brand, you access the power of built-in consumer trust.
“Creator marketing enables B2B clients to make a buying decision faster. Relative to B2C, the purchase process is slower for B2B. This is because the vetting procedure for B2B is more thorough. B2B consumers work as a group of decision-makers rather than a single entity. The planning process takes longer the more decision-makers there are,” explains Anton Konopliov, founder of Redline Digital.
“Receiving recommendations from industry thought leaders speeds up the process. Creator marketing comes into play in this situation as B2B purchasers place a high value on recommendations from people with in-depth knowledge and industry experience. A creator's recommendations help enrich the B2B team's decision-making and establish the trust required to reach a unified decision faster.”
4. You position your brand as a thought leader
Another benefit of partnering with an established thought leader in the B2B world is you speed up your status as an industry thought leader.
Thought leadership can be a valuable branding tool. In fact, 65% of buyers say thought leadership significantly changed their perception of an organization, for the better, because of a piece of thought leadership. And 64% say a company’s thought leadership content is more trustworthy than its marketing materials.
The good news is while 68% of people say experts in their field are considered thought leaders, 70% thought brands are as capable of being thought leaders as individuals.
For some brands, creator marketing opens the door to establishing their organization as a thought leader.
“Creator marketing also helps B2B businesses to establish themselves as industry thought-leaders, build trust with potential buyers, and create a sense of community,” says Yasin Arafat, founder & CEO of DOPPCALL Limited.
“By connecting with key influencers, B2B businesses can create content that is both informative and engaging for their target audience. Additionally, brands can use influencer partnerships to create an authentic and credible presence in their respective industry.”
5. You get expert feedback
Not only do content creators bring creativity to your B2B marketing strategy, but they also bring experience.
They’ve tested what works and can give you immediate feedback on campaigns, creative, and targeting.
“Content creators provide valuable feedback and insights on B2B products and services that help inform marketing strategies and product development,” says small business owner, blogger, and digital course creator, Becca Klein.
“Harnessing the power of creator marketing also allows B2B companies to be nimble when responding to the needs of their target market.”
Klein’s team experienced these benefits when they hired a creator to produce original content for their B2B services. The creator published the content on their online channels and social media, and the results were positive.
Klein saw a bump in organic website visits, more inquiries, and higher sales.
“The original content created by the creator gave potential customers more informative and exciting information about our offerings, which likely led them to purchase our products and services,” says Klien.
“We also saw an increase in social media engagement and reach. We now have a broader customer base and have started to build meaningful relationships with our customers. The original content the creator created gave us an advantage over our competition, which relied mostly on traditional methods of marketing and advertising.”
Five examples of B2B creator marketing campaigns
Now that we’ve covered the benefits and role of creator marketing in the B2B world, let’s dive into examples of B2B creator campaigns to see what’s working.
1. Ashley R. Cummings (yours truly) + Waldo
Waldo is a B2C and B2B chrome extension that speeds up the research process on Google. It makes it easy for content marketing teams and freelancers to find data points, contact info, quotes, and insights.
Last year I received a cold email about Waldo. My team and I spend a healthy portion of time conducting research for articles. This tool cut my research time in half, so it was a no-brainer when Waldo reached out to me and asked to do a sponsored campaign.
The goal of the campaign was to target content marketing teams, freelancers, and research assistants—all of whom are my current social audience.
To leverage my audience and teach them about this new tool, Waldo:
- Sponsored two of my newsletters which reach3,500 content marketers
- Participated in a Facebook Live for 70K writers
- Joined me on Twitter Spaces to talk all things research
The results of the campaign were awesome. Halfway through the campaign, Waldo saw 60 signups and 45 activations.
But the real value? After participating in this campaign, several other content marketers and writers started promoting the tool. And based on the success of this campaign, Waldo continues to partner with other content creators.
2. Kaleigh Moore + Particl + AudiencePlus
If you’ve been in the marketing community for a while, you’re already acquainted with Kaleigh Moore. Moore has a robust following and is known for her social posts, retail writing, videos, and podcasts.
Particl and AudiencePlus are two of the brands that partnered with Kaleigh last year to create content.
The Particl campaign involved a sponsored Twitter post where Kaleigh created a tweet explaining what the tool is and how retail brands can use it to capture high-level insights into market trends, product sales volume, SKU levels.
And, AudiencePlus hired Moore to create a video series on content creation and media trends. It makes a lot of sense for AudiencePlus to hire Kaleigh Moore as the face of this video series, instead of hiring an in-house trainer.
The content marketing community knows who she is, likes her, and she has invaluable subject matter expertise.
I asked Moore about the benefits of B2B brand partnerships and the results of her campaign.
“B2B brands partnering with business influencers feels more authentic—especially when there's a real use case involved as part of the partnership. I only partner with brands whose tool/software I've tried and found useful. The brands I worked with hit their goals in partnering with me (success looked a little different for each one, but I only had positive responses!),” said Moore.
“I think as long as there's a real connection between the influencer and the brand they're promoting, this is a great way to infiltrate audiences in a more organic way than paid ads.”
Educational content and subject matter expert endorsement go a long way in the B2B world. If your brand wants a boost in credibility, partner with one of your favorite niche creators.
3. Will Aitken + Vidyard
It’s challenging to talk about creator marketing without acknowledging a new trend in content creation.
The trend? Many B2B companies are branching out and creating their own media branches (I learned more about this from Kaleigh Moore’s AudiensePlus video series).
Eric Doty, content lead at Dock agrees with Moore. “Sponsoring creators is expensive, so we’re about to see a boom in B2B companies building their own ‘proprietary creators’—i.e. build up personal brands on their own media channels.”
“For example, Vidyard, which targets sales and marketing teams, started Sales Feed—a ‘sellertainment’ network across LinkedIn, TikTok, Instagram, etc.,” says Doty.
“It looks and feels like typical creator content, as most of the content features Will Aitken, but its ultimate goal is to build a B2B audience.”
If brands have the budget and the means to build a separate media channel, it makes sense. This is especially true considering how popular content creators are becoming in the B2B world, and how much chaos we’ve seen as of late on Twitter, Instagram, and Meta.
4. Sohonet + Clinton Jones + Sven Pape
In an article from The Drum, the strategy director of The Croc, Jack Trew, spoke to Kendra Clark about the possibilities for B2B companies to benefit from creator marketing.
Like Konopliov states above, Trew concedes that B2B brands have a more complex buying process where you can have up to fifty stakeholders involved in decision-making.
He says because of this complexity, brands must “have both a well-developed and well-executed brand narrative and a clear idea of who they wanted to engage.”
When you know who you are and what your end goal is, it’s easier to identify the right creators. In other words, you’ll know which creators will lend you the credibility needed to make it easier for 50 stakeholders to settle on your product.
Trew gives an example of an effective creator marketing campaign between Sohonet, Clinton Jones, and Sven Page.
Sohonet is a networking software for the film industry, so the agency approached two popular industry creators, Jones and Page. These YouTubers created videos to show how the technology helped the film industry connect with one another,” according to The Drum article.
For B2B brands to experience success with creator campaigns, it’s essential to understand your company narrative and identify which creators will tell that narrative most effectively.
5. Open AI + Social Media Influencers Galore
I’m not sure whether or not Open AI hires influencers to promote its AI tool, ChatGPT. In my research, I didn’t see people disclosing whether or not their content was sponsored. This makes me think that the conversations are happening organically.
I’m including this example because it makes the case for the power of organic reach. Open AI has revolutionized AI content creation. Marketers, students, and influencers—without partner deals—are promoting ChatGPT simply because they love the tool.
Not only are creators talking about ChatGPT organically, but they’re using ChatGPT to grow their social media followings. Many new TikTok creators have amassed huge followings just by giving tips and tricks for how to get the most out of the AI tool.
Just like with DTC creator marketing, B2B marketers can strive to build relationships with creators organically. In this case, the tool does the marketing for itself. In other cases, it may require outreach.
Creator marketing works for B2B brands—here's how to get started
The creator economy isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, it’s proliferating into more industries and spaces—including B2B brands.
While creator marketing can go a long way in bringing you new customers, remember this: You can’t rely solely on creators to do the work for you. Like Trew suggests above, you first need narrative and a strategy.
Once you have those key components, you’ll be able to identify what kind of content your brand needs and which influencers can help you.