Since the mid-2010s, business-to-consumer companies have relied on social influencers, or those with large followings on social platforms, to market and sell products. Influencer marketing has grown rapidly since its inception and is now regarded as an essential component of B2C marketing strategies. Many marketers may be unaware that influencer marketing predates the advent of social media; in fact, B2B communications has relied on influencers, or subject matter experts, since the beginning of corporate communications.
Having an “influencer” at your B2B company is essential to selling your brand and products to potential customers. Audiences are more likely to believe your message when they know that educated executives with years or decades of experience are making high-level decisions at companies they are considering investing in. If you’re having trouble finding and promoting a subject matter expert at your company, consider the following four suggestions:
- Finding the perfect match
The first step to establishing a subject matter expert is finding one. Examine your company and evaluate people based on their previous experience, length of time in the industry, and areas of specialization. If you want someone to speak about a specific aspect of your company, such as sustainability, look for people who not only focus on it in their current role but also have previous experience or are involved with outside organizations that do.
Finding the ideal match includes considering the person’s ability to communicate with their target audience. This individual must be willing and able to attend and present at public speaking events.
- Speaking to the subject
Trade shows and conferences are undoubtedly an important part of any B2B company’s marketing strategy. Speaking engagements at industry events provide an excellent opportunity for your influencer to address current issues and trends while also encouraging the audience to act in some way.
For example, our client Monadnock Paper Mills (MPM) has done a great job leveraging the expertise of its team. Julie Brannen, the Director of Sustainability Solutions at MPM, is one leader that consistently speaks to the importance of sustainability in the printing industry. She holds particular expertise in specialty paper products and sustainable specialty paper solutions and has worked as a consultant to help draft Chain of Custody policies to achieve FSC certification and SFI certification in plants. Julie has been utilized as an expert source for speaking events several times.
Articulating the company’s stances and opportunities is just as important as the written word, too. Trade publications can function as a hub for industry influencers.
- Let columns provide support
Take advantage of trade publications; your partners, competitors, and industry leaders are most likely reading (and writing) for the same ones you are. Get ahead of the competition by having your influencer write for publications on a regular basis. Whether part of a blog or monthly column, getting in the habit of producing regular content is important for building credibility and brand awareness. In addition, this consistency enables your audience to start to recognize the name and face of your internal influencers. It may also pique journalists’ interest in hearing their take on current industry events.
Consider our client, SUN Automation. Greg Jones, their Executive Vice President, regularly writes about corrugated business trends for AICC’s BoxScore, one of the industry’s largest trade magazines. His column reinforces his thought leadership abilities while also giving SUN a larger and more well-rounded presence.
- An influencer’s platform is the company’s platform
When your influencer has begun to speak, write, and act as a spokesperson for the brand and its products, it’s time for – you guessed it – more promotion. Make sure that videos from speaking events and monthly columns get as much exposure as possible by sharing them on social media platforms like LinkedIn. The impact of social media in the B2B space is growing, and LinkedIn is the best place for your influencer to be.
People interested in your business or influencer can see how much experience the influencer has, where they’ve worked, and what associations they’re a part of because LinkedIn profiles function similarly to resumes. Using your influencer’s existing network to share company news can help your brand cut through the social media clutter and reach your target audience directly.
Establishing an influencer for your company takes time and effort, but the social and market reach is priceless. B2B companies should heavily invest in someone who serves as a spokesperson, industry encyclopedia, and internal powerhouse.
If you need help figuring out the best way to promote your subject matter expert – Don’t wait, Contact Us! The A-Team is here to help.