Social Media Influencers and Your Marketing Plan

2021 Influencer Marketing: Start with Stakes

By Andy Seibert

March 25, 2021
Whether your audience faces a high-stakes or low-stakes decision means everything.

As a marketer, you have many tools in your kit, and using influencers is definitely one of them. First, there’s the question of whether you should use influencers. And if it seems you should, then the focus shifts to how to use them effectively.

How you use them depends on the stakes the buyer faces — if the decision carries high stakes or low, the messaging from the influencer should be very different.

Where to start (even before thinking about using influencers)?

Always begin with the customer-buying journey. That will help prioritize what your target customer needs in order to keep moving, whether they’re at the awareness, consideration or evaluation/buying stage.

What is influencer marketing?

Let’s get a common definition. Essentially, an influencer is a person who can help move that customer through the stages of the journey. (Note: An influencer program can be executed through social channels, but it’s not the same as a social media strategy.)

Should I use influencers?

Whether you need to use influencers depends on where your customers are in their buying process and if a voice from outside your organization would help them move to the next stage of their journey. This could mean using a “macro” influencer to gain awareness at the top of the funnel or using “micro” influencers and experts to give a customer confidence in the evaluation stage.

Is there a difference between B2B and B2C influencer marketing?

While there are some practical differences between the two buying journeys, the use of influencers in B2B and B2C actually doesn’t differ. What they have in common: The importance of understanding whether your product or service represents high stakes or low stakes to the buyer.

Let’s go through what this means:

Low stakes:

  • B2B: There are many examples of low-risk stakes to the B2B buyer (e.g., to your job security, at a financial price point). Think about commodity items like office supplies and catering. If one decision isn’t successful, there’s another choice at the ready. Can influencers sway the buyer? Maybe, if they bring an option top of mind or alert us to something new.

  • B2C: We make low-stake decisions every day. We try a new brand extension of our favorite seltzer water or stream a pay-for movie. If the decision doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. Can influencers sway the buyer? I know I’ve been tempted to try a new protein bar that an influencer talks about on Instagram.


High stakes

When you’re offering a more high-stakes purchase — there’s a financial or reputational impact — you’ll probably want to consider using influencers more heavily in the consideration and evaluation stages. Your customers — both B2B and B2C — are doing research, gathering opinions, references and proof points all before they engage with you. They likely will gather their information from trusted sources: subject-matter experts, like-sized businesses and tight circles (micro influencers).

  • B2B: Let’s take a common experience over the last year: communications during remote working. The decision makers at your companies either were previously prepared or had to scramble to figure out a comprehensive communication system that incorporated phone, email, instant messaging and video. Not every solution is high priced but the cost of getting it wrong can be huge. Can influencers sway the buyer? Sure, they can be tapped for opinions, case studies or references. According to research, more than 70% of B2B buyers fully define their needs before engaging with a company. They’re gathering data and forming opinions without talking to you directly — but they can be listening to influencers.

  • B2C: Is buying or leasing a new car a big deal for you? It is for most people. And like B2B, most people now want to do so without talking to a car salesman. In 1991, Saturn made news by letting customers shop how they wanted and having salespeople stand back. And 30 years later, according to Think Like Google, car shoppers have numerous alternatives to dealerships with at-home test drives, review videos, digital showrooms, online configurators and VR test drives. Can influencers sway the buyer? Yes. There’s a good chance you’ll find them in the videos and digital showrooms providing a more personal, expert opinion.

As a marketer, you need to make sure you’re using influencers for the right reasons and that how you’re using them matches the stakes the buyer faces. An influencer’s opinion can be a powerful voice — at every stage of the journey.

We’d love to hear your thoughts — are you considering deploying an influencer strategy? Have you tried it in the past, but saw poor results? Reach out and let us know.

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