Digital Marketing

Always-On Influence: Why B2B Needs Brand Research & 11 Must-Ask Questions For Marketers

Business people over calendar at desk image.

Business people over calendar at desk image.

What is brand research and why is it an important step in building a successful always-on  B2B influencer marketing program? What are the key facts you need to learn about a brand that will lead to the creation of a strong ongoing influencer program?

Doing brand research right is crucial for always-on B2B influencer marketing success, but where do you start, especially with the increased importance of brand empathy and authenticity?

Don’t worry, as in the third part of our ongoing #AlwaysOnInfluence series — following on the heels of “Always On Influence: Short Term vs. Long Term for Success During a Crisis” — we’ll take the time to show why brand research is key to building a B2B influencer marketing program that features the most relevant influencers.

As a refresher, always-on influencer marketing is the practice of ongoing relationship-building, engagement and activation of a specified group of influencers to build community, content and brand advocacy.

Always-on marketing is a key facet of successful and award-winning campaigns according to new research from Cannes Lions and WARC, which have featured campaign duration as an important element in their new “Effectiveness Code” white paper research examining 5,000 award entrants and winners from 2011 through 2019.

“Even at low budgets, campaigns with longer durations and more media channels are more effective,” the Cannes Lions report notes.

“Overall, tactical campaigns with very short durations and small budgets tend to do poorly when judged on effectiveness. Just 51 percent of those campaigns converted to effectiveness award wins when entered,” the report added.

“As campaigns increase their spend, duration and number of media channels used, they become more effective. An optimum split of marketing investment is 60 percent for long-term brand building and 40 percent for short-term activation,” the report concluded, highlighting the effectiveness of always-on efforts.

Brand Research For Always-On B2B Influencer Marketing

B2B marketers have varying levels of experience with influencer marketing, from initial forays and testing the waters, to much more seasoned and mature approaches developed over many years of refinement.

A sophisticated B2B influencer marketing approach is based on a maturity model that includes conducting preliminary research about a brand to learn its needs, strengths, and weaknesses as it relates to the next steps of finding and connecting with potential influencers.

Let’s take a closer look at why brand research is important to successful always-on B2B influencer marketing programs, and at some of the methods a savvy brand-research strategy should include.

A sophisticated B2B influencer marketing approach is based on a maturity model that includes conducting preliminary research about a brand to learn its needs, strengths, and weaknesses.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis Click To Tweet

Why Brand Research is Key to Successful Always-On B2B Influencer Marketing Programs

Smart brand research adds a needed dose of the insight needed for building an always-on influencer marketing program that will feature the type of well-matched industry expert collaborations that achieve supreme relevance.

By building a robust understanding of a brand’s values, you’ll gain a significant advantage over those who charge straight ahead into beginning the process of gathering a list of potential influencers to work with a brand — another feature that sets continuing marketing programs apart from one-off campaigns.

Learning more about a brand is beneficial to all parties involved. You’ll be able to make more informed decisions when it comes time to seek out influencers, while those industry experts will benefit from the knowledge you’ve already gained about their potential brand client, and the brand itself will also be setting itself up for long-term ongoing B2B influencer marketing success.

Our CEO Lee Odden is a pioneer in the B2B influencer marketing field, and he recently explored the varying influencer maturity models at play in the industry, in “5 Ways To Build A Smarter B2B Influencer Marketing Strategy.”

“When you are more sophisticated and have more experience with this, you can hit the ground running and do certain things to help a business — such as doing a pilot — and you’ll start to see some of those metrics that will get attention from executive sponsorship, and win you more budget to roll out that program in a much more significant way,” Lee explained recently on a topic he has also explored in greater detail in “Trust in Marketing: How to Build Influence with the C-Suite and on the Street with Customers.”

Turning Brand Research Data Into Always-On Influence Success

With smart brand influencer research data in hand, moving on to the process of seeking the most relevant potential influencers packs an especially powerful wallop when you understand a brand’s shared objectives, intrinsic values, and its nuanced peculiarities.

As Lee has often noted, trust is a two-way street of multidimensional elements when it comes to influencer marketing, and as B2B marketers it’s important to recognize this during research and communication with both brands and potential influencers.

“If the brand is empathizing with the influencer, they’re not only finding out if they’re topically relevant for the thing they want to collaborate on, but also they understand the influencer’s motivations, their needs, their wants, their pain points, and the return on investment (ROI) to which a collaboration with a brand will help solve those things,” Lee observed.

Truly legitimate brand-influencer collaboration also ultimately leads to stronger customer and buyer trust, as a mature B2B influencer marketing initiative recognizes the importance of first identifying and defining what marketing problem a brand is trying to solve.

Here are 11 key questions to answer during your brand research, to help solve a brand’s key marketing problem and inform a robust and mature always-on B2B influencer marketing program:

1 — What about a brand is unique with what it stands for?

Learn what makes a brand unique with what it stands for, through outreach to key team-members the the brand, examining mission statements and any history documents the organization has made available, recent press mentions, and through customer sentiment investigations via various social channels.

2 — What about a brand is compelling — why does the brand matter?

What makes a brand compelling and why should people care about it? Finding information that helps answer these important questions will go a long way in defining an always-on B2B influencer marketing program for the brand, especially when it comes time to find industry experts who match the brand’s story, vision, and organizational outlook.

3 — What is the state of the brand’s overall awareness — where does it fit in among its intended audience?

Just as brands have varying levels of influencer marketing maturity, each organization also holds a unique spot in the eyes of its intended audience, and learning as much as you can about the brand’s overall level of audience awareness will help bolster your always-on influencer marketing efforts.

Each brand holds a unique spot in the eyes of its intended audience, and learning as much as you can about the brand’s overall level of audience awareness will help bolster your always-on influencer marketing efforts.” @lanerellis Click To Tweet

4 — How is the brand perceived among its various stakeholders?

Not only the eyes of potential customers need to be taken into consideration when it comes to overall brand perception. Buyers, fans, and a variety of both internal and external stakeholders all have views on the brand that you can learn a great deal from by taking the time to research sentiment from each type of stakeholder.

This brand perception information then becomes useful throughout the influencer marketing strategy timeline.

5 — Where does the brand sit in its competitive landscape compared to those offering similar services or products?

Learning about a brand for an always-on influencer marketing program not only involves researching the organization, but examining its relevant competitive landscape.

A brand sitting atop its industry niche will have both advantages and disadvantages to consider, while a recently-launched startup can count on battling a different set of concerns — and seeing its own array of influencer marketing advantages. Having this data from early on in an always-on influencer marketing program will place your efforts ahead of those of others who take a pass on answering these important questions.

6 — How has the brand been performing both historically and recently?

Is a brand on an upswing, such as online collaboration platforms and their skyrocketing usage increases seen during the ongoing global health crisis, or has the pandemic brought it newfound struggles to overcome?

Examining brand performance trend data can provide helpful insights for shaping a robust always-on influencer marketing program tailored specifically to the needs of the brand.

7 — Who are the brand’s stakeholders?

In addition to knowing how stakeholders perceive a brand, compiling a basic list of who its stakeholders are can fast-track potential influencer outreach and vetting activities when the time arrives.

As with many of these brand-research questions, asking a variety of people throughout an organization — and not only marketers or corporate executives — can provide a more wide-ranging and realistic look at a brand.

8 — What are the brand’s plans and vision for the future?

Wherever possible seek out information related to a brand’s future plans, whether it’s through a short-term or long-term timeline of goals. Understanding a brand’s vision for the future — especially if they involve major planned shifts in focus — can make finding and lining up appropriate industry experts to meet a brand’s changing directions all the more efficient.

9 — What are the primary and secondary topics that represent solutions to a brand’s foremost marketing problem?

It’s important to identify and define what marketing problem a brand is trying to solve, and to then use this information to compile a list of primary and secondary topics that represent solutions.

Such a topic solutions list can then be consulted when researching potential industry experts to collaborate with for a brand’s always-on influencer marketing program.

10 — How is the brand marketing its solutions, and how do buyers and potential customers find the solutions they’re looking for?

If the two aren’t aligned, the information you’ve gathered from following the previous steps we’ve gone over can help harmonize the solutions the brand offers with those that buyers and potential customers are seeking.

A brand’s potential customers and buyers may be primarily looking for answers and solutions on LinkedIn* or another platform, or through search engines, while the brand might be offering its key solutions on its website in white paper or case study form.

Armed with the types of information about a brand we’ve explored, bringing the brand’s solutions to the places its existing and potential customers are actively looking for answers is a much more streamlined proposition, and one where always-on influencer marketing can thrive.

11 — What are the terms, phrases and topics most accurately associated with a brand’s problem and its solutions?

Finally, compiling a list of the keywords, terms, phrases, topics, and questions that are most relevant to a brand’s primary marketing problem and the solutions it offers will help power a smart always-on influencer marketing program.

Once you’ve used brand research to answer these 11 questions and identify a brand’s topics of influence, you’ll have a much clearer signal for finding experts who are influential about those topics, and when it then comes time to facilitate content co-creation between a brand and influencers, your earlier efforts will pay off.

These questions are only a starting point for learning more about a brand, however, and we encourage you to expand on them as needed.

With Smart Brand Influencer Research In Hand, It’s Time To Find The Best Influencers

Brand research for always-on influencer marketing offers B2B brands a great value when done right, in a process that is of an ongoing nature and not a one-and-done single campaign.

As AdWeek recently noted, “Brands leading in influencer marketing are making increasingly longer collaborations a big component of their influencer marketing strategy. It allows the influencer to best understand the brand’s values and marketing needs, enabling the development of a thoughtful strategy to deliver that to their audience over time.”

Always-on influence involves co-creating the kind of authoritative content that earns, grows, and keeps audience trust, and by asking the 11 questions we’ve explored here, B2B marketers will be well-equipped to tackle the next phases of an always-on influencer program.

Stay tuned, as we’ll be exploring each step of the always-on B2B influencer marketing journey in upcoming posts, and explaining why each portion of a continuing program is vital for ongoing success.

In case you missed the previous three guides in our ongoing series of always-on B2B influencer marketing, you’ll find them here as a helpful reference:

* LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.