• Mid-sized.companies are spending more than $10 million annually on a.combination of external providers and internal resources
  • Unfortunately, a lot of this content simply isn’t going anywhere
  • Here are six ways content marketing and influencer marketing can get together

It seems like every couple of years a big idea comes along that captivates the B2B marketing crowd to the exclusion of all else. Ten years ago it was demand generation – overall, a very positive thing, but also leading some companies to think that the only way to measure the value of marketing was by counting form fills. Another biggie in recent years has been the headlong rush into social media – sometimes without any connection to strategy or an understanding of whether the targeted buyers were using social media. 

The crush of the moment is undoubtedly content marketing. Lots of sparkly, new content is rolling off the production line in a multitude of forms. Our recent research on the cost of content found that mid-sized companies are spending more than $10 million annually on a combination of external providers and internal resources. Unfortunately, a lot of this content simply isn’t going anywhere. It’s gathering dust in content management systems, cluttering up Web sites and adding little value for the audience it is intended to attract.

How can a well-meaning content marketer avoid this fate? One way is to make friends with the folks over in influencer marketing (or influencer relations or communications, take your pick). An understanding of the influencer landscape can add value at almost every phase of the content development process. Likewise, compelling content is the rocket fuel of influencer engagement.

Here are six ways content marketing and influencer marketing can get together:

Identify influencers as part of persona research. Effective content marketing starts with an understanding of buyers’ needs and challenges as well as their content and tactic preferences. Research should also include questions about influencers – who the audience trusts and where they go for information on specific subjects. Knowing the relevant influencers tells you a lot about the kind of content they prefer and the ideas they’re talking about.

Open your mind to new kinds of influencers. It’s true that industry analysts are important as a source of information and advice for buyers, but don’t obsess about one analyst or one magical report to the exclusion of all other opportunities. When organizations think more broadly about potential influencers and how they can add value, a whole new world of authors, bloggers, academics and social pundits opens up. This broad spectrum of influencers contains potential collaborators and distributors of content.

Test your message and content with influencers first. Influencers represent their audience’s interests – so getting their reaction to your new message or campaign theme can be a great way to gauge market acceptance. Many influencers would jump at the opportunity to collaborate with you and provide feedback to help you fine-tune the message or avoid an embarrassing misstep.

Collaborate on a major thought-leadership initiative. The value of thought leadership is blunted when it is presented in a branded format on owned channels with no third-party validation. When thought leadership is supported or produced by influencers, it yields far greater credibility and often reaches a much larger audience. Rather than rolling your own white papers, look for influencers to contribute data and opinions or promote their work when it supports your thesis.

Create a content strategy for influencer outreach. Influencer engagement is often seen as a long-term, ongoing activity with no beginning or end. A more effective approach is to apply the same type of rigor and structure we apply to the buyer’s journey to the influencer’s journey. Analyze where your targeted influencers stand in relation to your message. Do they require education on the business issue? Do they need a better understanding of how your approach differs from competitors? Do they appreciate the depth of your organization’s commitment to customer success? A structured approach allows you to deliver information that is tailored to influencer needs and more likely to produce positive outcomes.

Set realistic expectations. Influencers are not your employees. They don’t see the world the way we do. They have their own schedules, opinions and businesses. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking of influencers simply as a mouthpiece for your messages. They have earned the trust of their audience through their expertise and independence. You will not always get a glowing product endorsement – but their implied endorsement can actually carry greater value.

Want to learn more about how to build synergy between influencer and content programs? Watch our On-Demand webcast, Gaining Leverage Through Influencers:  The Next Frontier in B2B Marketing and Communications. Or talk to us about becoming a member of the Strategic Communications Management service.