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Influencers impact on influencer marketing and B2B marketing


Influencer marketing and B2B: why you should start now – and how

Published 27 February 2023 in Strategy • 7 min read

Billions of dollars are being spent on influencer marketing, so now is the time for B2B organizations to learn how to incorporate influencers into their strategies.

Influencer marketing spend is set to hit $21.1bn in 2023, up from just $1.7bn in 2016. This is a staggering increase and a clear sign of its importance in the marketing mix.

The growth in influencer marketing spend demonstrates how critical it has become to everyday marketing strategies, as customers increasingly turn to influencers to help solve their purchasing problems.

As the customer decision-making journey continues to shift, buyers are spending more and more time online looking for answers and searching for information. A successful marketing campaign will provide answers for those customers throughout this journey, and influencer marketing is by far one of the most effective ways to do this. Customers are looking for help, and influencers can provide it.

But while B2C is firmly established in the influencer marketing world, B2B influencer marketing is still largely untapped. Organizations that are new to influencer marketing have a lot to learn, and to implement an effective strategy they will have to fully understand its intricacies.

By following the successful B2C model, B2B organizations can give themselves a head start in how they can weave influencer marketing into their broader marketing campaigns and use it to their advantage.

But what is influencer marketing, how does it work, and why is it so important in the marketing plan of today?

What is influencer marketing?

Many of us think of influencer marketing as simply a celebrity endorsing a product. Of course, while celebrities can play a significant role, the more successful strategies go a long way beyond staged endorsements.

There are three different types of influencer an organization can use for an influencer marketing campaign: macro, meso, and micro.

When you start thinking about your influencer strategy, you need to consider what type of influencer you want to incorporate into your marketing.

Macro influencers are celebrities who are no strangers to being part of a broader marketing strategy through endorsements. Their reach is huge, but their followers may be less inclined to engage with the brands they promote: these influencers typically broadcast, rather than engage.

Meso influencers are people who have perhaps built their own YouTube channel or amassed a large following on Instagram – usually because of their expertise, interests or entertainment value. They tend to have anything from 50,000 to one million followers, and their followers are more inclined to engage with their promotions because they feel like a shared interest. Meso influencers usually engage their audience by purchasing a product, unboxing it, explaining how it works and what it can be used for, and, very importantly, comparing it with other, similar products. They are heavily focused on the post-purchase journey for their audience.

Meso influencers are generally the most popular choice for businesses because they combine scale with engagement potential and high levels of trust by their followers. One example of using meso influencers successfully comes from Veet hair removal, which was struggling to develop a presence in China and had to rethink its marketing strategy. The company partnered with various meso influencers, including actress and model Yang Mi, who had five million followers on Sina Weibo – China’s equivalent of Twitter – but was not particularly famous in a broader sense. Mi became a brand ambassador and influencer for Veet, helping Veet sales and brand awareness increase significantly.

Another highly successful example of meso influencers in action is China’s app-based fashion retailer Shein, which has built an army of meso influencers across the globe who post videos and images on TikTok and Instagram of themselves trying on clothes sent to them by the company. Shein has used these influencers so successfully that in the space of three years it has gone from relatively unknown to claiming 28% of the US fast-fashion market.

Finally, there are micro influencers. These are the millions of people who might have smaller followings, but who often have closer, more personal contact with their target audiences. This can have a significant impact on engagement levels.

Micro influencers don’t create information in the same way that meso influencers do. They don’t compare products or offer product demonstrations, and are much more lightweight than meso influencers. However, micro influencers are powerful because they have established relationships with those they are influencing, meaning the endorsement effect they offer is much stronger and more meaningful than meso or macro influencers.

Nike uses micro influencers extremely effectively, sending them shoes and fitness clothes that they wear for runs that they then post about on various social networks, detailing their routes. This is a powerful micro-influencer strategy: it gives influencers the products to play with, but leaves the environment uncontrolled and lets it take its natural form. It empowers existing consumers to show others how they use the product, and they become micro influencers by default. The brand is not controlling the consumer, and it accepts that reviews could be negative. This builds trust among today’s more skeptical consumers.

Done well, influencer marketing unlocks masses of user-created content that shows the product being used by a genuine consumer in their personal environment. These clips can show anything from the product being unboxed, to how the product is used, to how it compares with its competition, to insights into the pre- and post-purchase experience. There is no endorsement or brand oversight or control: it is independent content that shows consumer perspectives on a product’s strengths and weaknesses.

All of this fuels the consumer journey – from Googling information, to passively consuming content on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, to reading blogs. It provides a vast network of new touchpoints where consumers can see products being used in real life.

Any organization that wants to be ahead of the game – or even in the game in the first place – needs to understand this.

So what is in it for B2B?

For B2B firms looking to integrate influencer marketing into their overall marketing strategies, the basic ideas follow the same path, except that the focus falls more heavily on meso and micro influencers.

LinkedIn is an obvious choice for B2B influencer marketing, and meso influencers using LinkedIn are typically specialists in talking about specific topics, and can offer thought leadership alongside their real-life experiences. So a meso influencer reviewing a new technology on LinkedIn would deploy their expertise as well as their experience with the product and its competitors.

When it comes to micro influencers, if we take IMD as an example, micro influencers might attend an executive education course and then post about their experience on LinkedIn – what they learned, what they did, who they mixed with and what they liked about it. They might add a blog post to encourage more audience engagement and bring their experience to life.

Why B2B influencer marketing is different

One important difference between B2B and B2C influencer marketing is a stronger focus on the former on the basics of marketing using the awareness, consideration, decision (ACD) framework. This is because the A and C can span a considerable timeframe – unlike in consumer marketing where A and C tend to be compressed. In B2C, influencers are heavily focused on the end of the funnel (D) because A and C are executed so quickly, but in B2B the journey is much more complex. This means that influencers can be utilized for the A, C, and D touchpoints, offering up the opportunity for a different influencer at each.

Consider someone in an organization who is trying to find insights into why their firm’s digital transformation is not working (the awareness). They are likely to end up on an influencer’s blog, making the influencer the explainer (the consideration). This will then lead to the decision depending on what the searcher learns from the real-life experiences described in the blog. In the consumer world, this journey is very different because it focuses more on the decision. 

To be more precise, take IMD as an example. Three different types of influencer covering the A, C, and D concepts could see the first influencers (A) helping leaders understand why their digital transformation journey isn’t working, which, for example, could be because they don’t have enough transformational leaders. The next set – C – would aim to get executives to believe that more transitional leaders can be found through executive education. And the final set would be at the decision (D) point of the framework, showing that IMD is the best place to do this.

B2B marketing should also focus on inbound marketing concepts: providing a breadcrumb trail for existing and potential customers to consume relevant content as part of making decisions about what they want to do. Influencers are part of the inbound strategy, and it is critical that you never think of influencers as an independent strategy, which applies in both B2B and B2C.

The idea is to think about solving customer problems, and influencer marketing is an excellent way to do this. But make sure you link that work with your company blog strategy, SEO strategy, marketing strategy and distribution strategy, because your influencer strategy should never exist in a vacuum.


Misiek Piskorski

Mikolaj Jan Piskorski

Professor of Digital Strategy, Analytics and Innovation and the Dean of IMD Asia and Oceania

Mikołaj Jan Piskorski, who often goes by the name Misiek, is a Professor of Digital Strategy, Analytics and Innovation and the Dean of IMD Asia and Oceania. Professor Piskorski is an expert on digital strategy, platform strategy, and the process of digital business transformation. He is Program Director of the Digital Strategy Course.


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