When you think of influencer marketing, your first thought is likely of B2C celebrity endorsements where a famous person is paid to promote something. Those types of traditional commercial deals exist, sure, but they’re only a small portion of the real, everyday impact of influencer marketing. Think about supply chain: are you more likely to check out a product if it’s been recommended by an industry expert like Sarah Barnes-Humphrey?
According to the recent State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report, 63% of marketers agree that their marketing would have better results if it included a B2B influencer marketing program. The question then becomes: how do I develop this sort of program and make it work for my business?
There are five steps to setting up a successful influencer marketing strategy, and I’ll be detailing all of them for you below. These steps will work for any industry, but we’ll be paying special attention to their impact on the supply chain industry in this post. I’ve affectionately labeled this strategy the SMASH strategy thanks to its ability to smash through stagnancy and help businesses push forward.
First is set-up. The foundation of any successful marketing strategy is information. This portion of the process is about gathering that information and organizing it in a way that is understandable and actionable. What questions do you need to answer about your business before you can move forward to the next step? Let’s review:
- Who is my target audience?
- What are my main pain points?
- What are my current solutions for those pain points?
- Which topics are most relevant to my unique industry?
- Who are my main competitors?
- What are my business goals?
- Which key performance indicators (KPIs) are most important to my business?
- Which social media channels are we currently using?
The answers to these questions will give you a solid foundation to build your influencer marketing strategy around. It’s far easier to get where you want to go if you know exactly where you are when you start your journey. It decreases your likelihood of getting lost along the way.
This set-up data is going to help you determine two of the most important parts of this SMASHing process: the supply chain influencers that are most in line with your business’ niche and the creative direction you take to reach out to them.
The next step is to manage the information you gained through the set-up part of the process. Now that you have your foundational business data, what’s next? What’s next is making sure you can use that data to your benefit. You’ve determined where you’ve been, and now you need to know where you’re going next.
If the set-up portion of the SMASH process was gathering seeds, the manage portion is about planting them. Before you plant anything, you have to make sure the soil is fertile. Is your soil fertile? You can figure that out by asking yourself these questions:
- Are there any social media channels you’re not on that you should be using? If so, it’s time to set up accounts. If you’re going to want to develop a successful influencer marketing strategy, you’re going to need the social presence required to reach out and build those key relationships.
- What resources do you have at your disposal? In the introduction, I mentioned the two kinds of influencers are earned and paid ones. An earned influencer is one that promotes your product just because they like it. These require a lot of effort and nurturing, but come at less up front cost. Earned influencers can be volatile because you have no control over the narrative, but they’re still a possibility for any business that doesn’t have as much up front monetary budget. Otherwise, you have paid influencers, which are individuals you have offered compensation to in order to promote your product or service.
- What are your volume requirements? If you’re interested in developing a SMASHing influencer marketing strategy, you’ll want to figure out how many influencers you’re interested in working with before moving forward. If you set a number too high, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, so start with a smaller, scalable number that can work and grow with you.
Once you have these answers, it’ll become easier to create a plan for reaching out to and nurturing your influencers of choice. You have your analytical data and you’ve set up your social accounts and expectations, so the next step of your influencer marketing plan will be outreach. I’ve labeled this as the answer portion of the SMASH process because it answers the question of, “What do I need to do now to capture the interest of an influencer I want to work with?”
Here’s the part of the SMASH process that starts talking more directly about reaching out to influencers. There’s no influencer marketing without influencers, after all, and now we want to answer questions and develop a plan that accomplishes just that. The effort you’ve made in the last two steps should leave you feeling more than prepared for this part.
To continue our gardening metaphor, if set-up was gathering seeds and manage was planting them, this portion of the process is laying down the fertilizer to make sure those seeds grow.
You’re going to start reaching out now, but before you do there are a couple more things to take care of first:
- Do you have analytics set-up for the social media channels you’re currently using? If not, you’ll want that to be set up now so that the data can be utilized in the final step of this process.
- What are your brand standards and are they documented? Influencer outreach is going to involve developing a successful online brand presence, and that will include having a modern and well developed look, tone, and general feel.
This is the step where you can start brainstorming and developing fun, creative content. Things like:
- A content plan for your website’s blog and social channels that focuses on the topics covered in set-up
- A plan for influencer outreach and a vetted list of the first influencers you want to reach out to
- Steps you can take to capture influencer vision and make yourself a brand that your preferred influencers are going to want to work with
The development of these types of detailed plans is almost always best left to a professional B2B marketing company. That doesn’t mean you can’t start on your own to gather ideas that fit with your already determined priorities and goals.
One more important tip: when you’re looking for a B2B marketing company to partner with to develop strategies like those listed in this part of the SMASH process, look for ones that self-label as influencer marketing experts. If they prioritize influencer marketing enough to make it a part of their main service offering, they’ll have the sort of specialized expertise you’re going to want.
Once you’re at the share portion of the SMASH process, stop to give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve already gone a long way toward significantly differentiating your supply chain business and should feel proud.
Of all the steps, this one is the most active. Unlike some of the others, the sharing portion will go on indefinitely because you’ll always be creating new content in need of promotion. During this part, you’re going to be focusing on getting the content you’ve started to create in front of the influencers you want to impress. You’ll be using the social media profiles that have been set up and gathering data about what’s working and what isn’t for analysis in the final part of the process.
Remember our gardening metaphor? Set-up is gathering seeds, manage is planting them, answer is fertilization, and share is making sure everything that has begun to sprout is properly watered.
It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to working with B2B influencers, especially in the supply chain industry. There will be unique factors to consider for each unique influencer company. That being said, here are a couple good rules of thumb to consider when attempting to engage influencers:
- Make them aware of you before you ask them for anything. You want to give influencers a chance to be familiar with your brand before you reach out. This will make developing your partnership easier, because they’ll already have passive trust in your brand. This is also why it’s so important to have a content plan before this point so that you’ve already laid the groundwork for better connections later on.
- Know what your goal is before reaching out. Influencers are busy people and aren’t going to want their time wasted. Don’t send out pitches or other contacts willy nilly. Instead, make sure you know your goal before initiating any sort of contact because that goal will influence the way you reach out. What do you want from this influencer? Are you interested in them sharing your content or attending an event? Providing a testimonial or creating a multi-part video series extolling the virtues of your product? Always plan before you preach.
You’re always going to partially be in the share stage as you work on your influencer marketing strategy. This is the part of the plan which focuses on connection and outreach, which is the cornerstone of influencer connections. The information you get from what works and what doesn’t work in this stage will help you in the next, final, one.
You’ve done most of the work and now you get to hypothesize about what comes next. This step is influenced by all the information and experience that has been gained from the four previous. You’ve planted and tended your garden and now you can see which crops are thriving and which need more help before a successful harvest.
Remember when I told you it was important to set up analytics for all of your company social profiles? When you get to the hypothesize portion of the SMASH process, it’s time to look at that data and see what insight can be gleaned from it. Based on those insights, you can make tweaks and updates to your existing influencer marketing strategy to improve it’s overall success rate.
Ask yourself: would I be more likely to invest in a product or service when it’s been recommended by someone I trust or admire? If your answer was yes, you’re not alone. That’s why influencer marketing has become a larger and more significant part of modern B2B marketing over time, and why the SMASH process was developed in the first place.
If you’re interested in learning more about influencer marketing, you can find more information by clicking here and tuning into my appearance on the Let’s Talk Supply Chain podcast.
To everyone in the supply chain industry and beyond: I hope this process helps you find the same success it’s helped dozens of businesses before you achieve. Happy SMASHing!
About The Author:
As a proud founder and president of TopRank Marketing, Susan Misukanis helps B2B Technology companies achieve their full-funnel marketing goals. She is relentlessly dedicated to helping brands move from chest-pounding self promotion to honest and meaningful conversations with their communities in a way that ultimately guides their buyer’s journeys. On a daily basis, Susan works with her team to ceaselessly demonstrate TopRank values of truth, high-impact results and never ending learning!