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B2B influencers: what should companies learn from personal brands?

Our interview story explores the topic of B2B influencer marketing.
Image: Robman / Unsplash.com

Although influencer marketing is still mainly being used in the B2C sector, more and more B2B companies are also starting to collaborate with influencers. We scoped out the scene and posed some questions to three extremely successful women. We wanted them to tell us how B2B companies can benefit from influencers.

An interview with Céline Flores Willers, Anna-Lena Müller, and Dr. Natalia Wiechowski

What are the greatest difficulties for B2B brands in terms of successfully collaborating with influencers? We talked to Céline Flores Willers, Anna-Lena Müller, and Dr. Natalia Wiechowski to find out.

All three have built huge followings over the years and are highly respected experts when it comes to strategic questions about personal and corporate communication. They let us in on what B2B brands can learn from influencers, why campaigns often fail, and what the key influencer marketing trends are.

What can B2B companies learn from personal brands?

Anna-Lena Müller: People want to communicate with people. That is one of the reasons why personal brands, brand ambassadors, and influencers have become more and more important for companies with regard to their communication mix – whether B2B or B2C. Striking a balance between expertise and approachability is what B2B companies can learn from personal brands. However, for B2B communication to be successful, it can’t be obsessed with details and as dry as a bone, but it can take a good dose of lightheartedness without losing credibility.

Dr. Natalia Wiechowski: That people do business with people – and not with faceless brands. The most successful personal brands, not only financially, but also in terms of being happy and creating positive added value for others, have understood how to build, nurture, and maintain genuine, deep, and authentic relationships with their target group. Some things in business can’t really be automated. Human connections are a good example.

Céline Flores Willers: Personal brands will always have an unfair competitive advantage over corporate brands! That’s because personal brands are simply more authentic and credible. You’d also be more likely to believe a hotel recommendation from a previous guest than an ad from the hotel provider itself, wouldn’t you? It’s exactly the same in a professional setting, particularly LinkedIn! You only have to take a look at the LinkedIn accounts of Tina Müller or Bill Gates: their private accounts have significantly more followers than the corresponding corporate accounts. And it won’t surprise anyone that Bill Gates generates five-figure likes with his LinkedIn posts, whereas the Microsoft corporate account only reaches the three- to four-figure range. Individuals have an entirely different scope of influence on social media than brands do.

We wanted to know what Céline Flores Willers recommends to B2B companies.
© The People Branding Company | Céline Flores Willers says that B2B companies often think with too much complexity.

They can share selfies and describe how they felt in that particular situation. They can share personal stories, opinions, and experiences. However, that’s no reason for B2B companies to bury their heads in the sand, but instead is an opportunity for them to finally leverage this potential and involve their managers more intensively in their communications.

CEOs should regularly post on their LinkedIn profile in a way that is professional – while being careful not to turn their account into a billboard for corporate advertising. It’s the delicate balance between corporate content and personal insights that has become the guarantee of success.

What are the biggest barriers to a good B2B social media campaign?

Céline Flores Willers: In my eyes, many B2B companies simply think with too much complexity. Admittedly, they’re often marketing very complex products, such as semiconductors or filtration solutions. Nevertheless, a company’s ads are ultimately consumed by social beings, i.e. other people. That means that humor and emotions are often what is lacking. Simply ask yourself the following question: What is the best commercial you’ve ever seen? The “WRIGLEY’S EXTRA” chewing gum ad “Get Your Ding Back” comes straight to my mind. Emotional, captivating, and makes you chuckle. That’s exactly how B2B companies should also communicate more effectively! Messages need to be less abstract, typical buzzwords like diversity and sustainability need to be done away with, and instead the focus needs to be on telling unique stories. A little tip for inspiration: it’s always fun to watch Super Bowl clips from previous years, as there are some great ideas in them.

Anna-Lena Müller: In my experience with both B2B and B2C companies, the biggest barriers to a good and successful social media campaign are: Relevance. Campaigns often fail to see things from the target group’s perspective and prepare content in a way that makes it interesting.

B2B influencer Anna-Lena Müller says that B2B campaigns often lack relevance.
© Dominik Bedat | Anna-Lena Müller sees micro-influencers with a smaller following but a high level of credibility as a key trend in 2022.

Dr. Natalia Wiechowski: Too many individuals communicate on the basis of reasoning and forget the importance of feelings. People buy emotionally and justify it afterwards with logic. The expectation of at least “going viral” and being able to understand or prove every trend – on social media, which by its very nature is not controllable – is something I find problematic as well. Strategies, data, and statistics are important. But when they become the be-all and end-all, social media campaigns lose their charm.

Where is influencer marketing heading? What are the trends?

 

Dr. Natalia Wiechowski: Brands that think in the long term and with an eye to the future have understood the importance of honesty, respect, transparency, trust, and win-win-win situations and have integrated all that into their collaborations. Instead of simply sending the influencer a product or service, a short phone call is arranged, they get to know each other, brainstorm ideas, and find a strategy to satisfy all three parties involved – at least in my world.

Dr. Natalia Wiechowski wants to see more feeling in B2B influencer marketing.
© Think Natalia | Dr. Natalia Wiechowski says that data and statistics are important in B2B campaigns, but aren’t everything.

Céline Flores Willers: From a content creator’s perspective, I find it exciting that platforms are finally recognizing the value of their influencers. TikTok is way ahead in this respect! It has implemented entire programs in which it supports its influencers, helps them network, shares the platform’s latest insights, and even agrees on and assists with personal targets in terms of follower numbers. TikTok has understood that good influencers mean more users on its platform! And would you look at that: LinkedIn and others are now following suit. The “creator economy” is booming, and even Meta (formerly Facebook) has announced that it is setting aside 150 million USD “to train the next generation of creators to build immersive learning content”. I’m observing a trend here, too, in terms of content: it will still be emotional and entertaining, but the platforms now also want to increase the amount of educational content and are investing massively in it. What the metaverse still has in store for us when it comes to product marketing, virtual events, and entire influencer worlds will be incredibly exciting!

Anna-Lena Müller: The trend toward micro-influencers will continue in 2022. Particularly for B2B companies, it’s often not the influencers with the biggest following that are the best choice, but rather experts who have a smaller following, yet make up for it with a high level of credibility and effectiveness within their follower network.

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