Word experts agree—the term “influencer” has arrived, earning a shiny new entry in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and undoubtedly sporting a fresh tan and wearing a stylish (#sponsored) hoodie. Influencer marketing has sprouted up in every corner of social media on both the most subtle and blatant levels, and now the idea of using influencers in experiential marketing is gathering steam. When we’re looking at bright-cheeked people living too-perfect lives on Instagram, the products they use and promote can become a subconscious need.
Or at least that’s how the story goes. The reality isn’t always so #blessed. When influencers fight with each other, it makes national headlines. When every self-declared influencer decides to crush California wildflowers en masse, it makes national headlines. An influencer can even inspire vigilante justice taken against them, which makes national headlines. While the chances of ending up needing an expensive PR firms to clean up an influencer-induced mess are low, the real-world influence of most influencers remains a question of considerable debate, and finding the right fit for your brand can seem like a roll of the dice.
But when the stars align, that star power can shine a bright spotlight on your brand.
Influencer Marketing Goes B2B
We recently spoke with Ashley Welling, Marketing Manager at Group Delphi, to get the latest advice on how to best leverage influential people to sell your brand, without making the wrong kind of headlines.
Foremost, remember that not all trends lend themselves well to your business.
“Influencers have been less commonly used in business to business marketing,” says Welling. “You’re much more likely to see them in the business to consumer arena, where, say, H&M hires an influencer to attend pop-up events.” It’s not that B2B ignores the carefully-curated life—it just doesn’t often make logistical sense.
However, as any experienced event marketer can tell you, you’re not talking to companies at a trade show: you’re talking to people. As brands embrace more consumer-focused approaches in their experiential marketing, the potential for using influencers both at live events and to reach new audiences online increasingly makes sense.
Influencers in Experiential Marketing
That’s not to say that B2B buyers haven’t always been swayed by influential people. Relying on industry-leading experts with deep knowledge of a product is especially popular in healthcare and other industries where experience and accomplishments are highly valued.
“For some audiences, you want someone with industry respect who can provide experiences,” says Welling. “If someone well-known has used and liked a new technology, that can go a long way with the people coming to hear about it.”
The Power of Fame
But it’s not just about expertise. You also want someone with a big megaphone. For this, sometimes you just want someone really famous to show up at your event.
At our Virgin Galactic (literal) launch, we invited 800 VIPs to the event, including celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Sometimes, the best way to leverage influential people is to build buzz,” says Welling. “It’s a big way to get the word out.”
Even reach can be of little use if the influencer doesn’t generate excitement — in other words, fame isn’t everything. Think of someone who can inspire your attendees, clients, or employees to do great work, or simply get excited about a new product. “A co-investor or a board member can step up to fill this role,” says Welling.
Word-of-mouth is the oldest form of marketing, and there’s no arguing with the fact that influential people can have a strong effect on your brand. But true influence varies by your industry, by your audience, and by your medium. At the end of the day, one brand’s influencer might just be a photogenic wildflower squasher to yours.
It’s not just influencers who can pull in an audience to your trade show booth: How live performers can put your brand in the spotlight.