If there was one thing 2020 showed us in the B2B marketing world, it was the growing importance of influence in all aspects of the customer lifecycle from awareness to advocacy. People want to connect with other people, not some faceless brand.
The good news is that smart B2B marketers are putting a face to their brands through employee advocacy programs and building the visibility and influence of their key executives. But how should B2B brands approach the task of growing their brandfluence? At TopRank Marketing we deal in the business of influence and content in the B2B marketing world every day and here are 3 key trends we’re seeing drive an increase in focus on building executive influence:
Building Credibility of Key B2B Executives. One relatively new SaaS platform wanted to build thought leadership and credibility of the CEO to assist brand awareness. For another large B2B tech brand, key executives engaged with industry analysts on the LinkedIn platform inspiring the analyst to organically invite the tech executive to collaborate on content.
Humanize the B2B Brand. Elevating professional credibility through industry thought leadership is complemented by sharing of personal perspectives to show care, empathy and to develop more personal relationships with the audience. With brand communications less trusted, people to people engagement is more valuable than ever. A large enterprise tech brand executive has been able to attract and warm a new network by sharing a combination of industry thought leadership content mixed with snapshots of personal life.
Accelerate the B2B Sales Pipeline. Many key executives may not work in sales directly, but they do participate in sales conversations from time to time. Social engagement with prospects along with publishing credible thought leadership content warms prospects for conversations that lead to conversion. A basic example of this is, before an important sales meeting, one large B2B brand will often instigate engagement between key executives mapped to important prospect contacts.
Executive Thought Leadership in Action on LinkedIn
B2B Executive Thought Leadership Example
Scrolling through my LinkedIn feed when writing this post, I see Mo Katibeh, Chief Product and Platform Officer at AT&T Business. Mo is a key executive in a position to influence perceptions of AT&T Business solutions amongst key decision makers and decision influencers. He publishes LinkedIn pulse articles driving conversations with people influential in the space. He also shares key messages in the feed including brand social cause issues.
Additionally, he also partners with industry influencers like Tamara McCleary on thought leadership content which gives him more credibility by association and introduces his expertise to Tamara’s substantial and relevant audience.
Build Executive Influence Through Influencer Collaborations
In a digital first B2B world with increased competition, creating influence through thought leadership content alone isn’t enough. B2B brands have an opportunity to optimize their thought leadership and executive influence efforts through thoughtful alignment of key executives with industry influencers who have the attention of customers on the topics of interest to the brand.
topic mapping b2b executive and influencer
The diagram above is an oversimplification, but once thought leadership topics are identified, the corresponding executives for those topics can be assigned and mapped to relevant industry influencers who have authority on those topics. Then a collaboration opportunity can be created to engage the executive focused on a given topic with an industry influencer for that very same topic. The resulting collaboration produces content that is even more valuable to the audience because it is trusted, it has reach, it is authentic and is focused.
Many executives who engage in these influencer thought leadership collaborations develop relationships with the influencers involved. Peer engagement can be difficult for busy executives and connecting with others at the top of their game can be mutually valuable and energizing for all involved.
SAP’s Thought Leadership Platform Featuring Brand Executives and Industry Influencers
B2B executive topic mapping example
Collaborations between executives and industry influencers can take many forms. In this example, SAP created a thought leadership content platform in the form of pre and post event blog posts, a podcast and LinkedIn Live show Colombia Phone Numbers List. This thought leadership content features industry tech influencers like Tamara McCleary along with SAP executives as well as other industry experts, customers, and partners to talk about specific topics at the intersection of what customers need to be thinking about and where SAPs expertise can be a solution.
External influencers like Tamara and internal influencers like Timo bring credibility and expertise to the conversation with SAP executives and