B2B Influencers and The Partnership Ecosystem | Kuno Creative

How Can B2B Brands Navigate the Creator and Partnership Ecosystem?

By Clare HennigMar 16 /2023

Better together isn’t just a fuzzy feeling or cute tagline in the creator and partnership ecosystem. It’s a powerful way to increase brand awareness, improve credibility and tap into new markets. 

In a world where trust is the most important currency a business can have, B2B influencers and creator partnerships can help fast track nurturing that trust. Co-marketing and co-selling really can be better with two heads than one.

“Influencers and content creators are thought leaders in the industry. They have built an audience that trusts them, so it is key to have these users on your side,” said Brandon Zingale, Paid Media Manager at Kuno Creative. 

In addition to helping clients with social and paid strategies that optimize conversions and increase brand awareness, Zingale also knows the space from the other side: as a social media influencer himself with over a million followers on Instagram and TikTok. 

“A lot of people believe that influencers only make sense for the B2C space, but this isn't the case. B2B influencers have value and can benefit brands greatly if used correctly,” said Zingale.

Particularly during the B2B buying process, which is often much longer and more complex than the B2C sales cycle, credibility and reputation are paramount. In fact, research shows that 90% of business decision-makers start the buying process by researching opinions from industry experts and peers. 

Here’s how B2B brands can navigate the creator and partnership ecosystem to effectively build trust with their target audience and better leverage their marketing investments

A Quick Who’s Who: Influencers vs Creators vs Partners 

Influencers can create content. Content creators can influence. And you could have a partnership with either or both or someone else entirely (like a partnership with another organization). Confusing? Here’s the short of it.

B2B Influencers

B2B influencer marketing is, essentially, a marketing strategy to advance awareness and drive sales by tapping into the power of online personalities. It’s a type of marketing that’s growing increasingly popular and profitable. The global influencer marketing market size has more than doubled since 2019 and, last year, was valued at $16.4 billion, according to Statista

Influencers in the B2B space tend to be thought leader type people, the ones you see posting updates on LinkedIn, for example, about the latest trends and insights in their industry. 

B2B Content Creators 

Content creators, on the other hand, do just what the name suggests: they create content that engages their audience. This could include videos, guides, written content, graphics and much more. This is then syndicated on blogs, YouTube, social media and beyond. 

As with influencers, B2B content creators generally produce thought leadership content that speaks to an industry-specific audience. This could include, for instance, long-form content, podcasts or other in-depth pieces that share new ideas and analysis. 

B2B Partnerships

And, finally, B2B partnerships. In some ways, this falls into its own category of marketing. These collaborations between companies or organizations could include referrals, technology integrations, affiliate programs, resellers or other types of mutually beneficial relationships. The goal is to reach a wider audience together, while providing greater value to the end user. 

Examples of B2B partnerships you might recognize include Amazon Business, a wholesale partner program. Or GoPro and Red Bull’s co-branding campaign. Maybe you use Zoom and Google’s integrations as technology partners. Or HubSpot’s Solutions Partner Program, which brings together customer-centric marketing agencies and clients (And yes, we are an award-winning Diamond-level HubSpot partner, helping companies with full-service digital marketing!) 

Like with creators and influencers, one of the benefits of B2B partnerships is tapping into someone else’s brand recognition and reach while providing more value to the end user – whether that’s through compelling adrenaline-filled visuals, more convenient virtual meeting scheduling or a finding a HubSpot vetted marketing agency that’s the right fit. 

So, to recap: influencers are people who have an audience interested in what they have to say and who can share their voice through content or other ways. Content creators provide value through what they produce. And partnerships are collaborative relationships between two or more businesses. 

That said, there are some similarities. They all leverage content to engage and resonate with audiences in an authentic way. 

5 Steps to Better Navigate the Creator and Partnership Ecosystem

1. Choose What Kind of Relationship Is The Best Fit

The first step to navigating this complex co-branding and co-marketing ecosystem really is to figure out what kind of relationship aligns with your goals. 

  • B2B Influencer: Do you have a clear message that provides value and just need help reaching a specific audience? Working with a trusted voice in the space may be the right solution.

  • B2B Content Creator: Do you have a good idea of what you want to say, but not quite sure how to say it in a way that’s compelling? Consider a content creator who can help elevate your message across various mediums.

  • B2B Partnership: Are your needs more multi-faceted, requiring support with generating leads, boosting sales and improving the overall buyer’s experience? A more strategic and extensive relationship might be required. 

Once you know what kind of relationship you’re looking for you can work on identifying who specifically would be the best fit. If you’re lost at this stage, working with a marketing agency can help you strategize based on your goals, budget and needs to make sure you’re starting out on the right foot. 

“Kuno acts as the middleman to help brands discover the right influencers and content creators for their business,” said Zingale. “We look at the influencer/creator as the missing piece of the brand's puzzle, and it's our job to find it and put it in the right place.” 

For one SaaS client, for example, this meant identifying a list of influencers in their niche and helping set up podcast interviews which were then leveraged in campaigns, blog posts and other marketing initiatives. For another client, a medical device company, it meant filming a snappy video with a prominent surgeon who uses the technology daily and is a strong proponent. 

2. Identify Prominent Voices & Thought Leaders in Your Space

Start by searching for prominent voices in your customer base and industry ecosystem. Who in your sphere is already chiming in and having their voice heard? 

“Brands need to look for influencers or content creators who are knowledgeable and show confidence within the industry. They have already built viewership and trust, and there is a reason these people are known within the industry,” said Zingale.

Chances are, your best influencers are likely already a part of your world. Look for industry experts, thought leaders and others who are trusted voices about the challenges that you address with your product or service. 

These may be names who pop up frequently on LinkedIn, are regular guest speakers at events, or who contribute to the conversation in some other way. They may be super users or champions of your product or service, but they don’t have to be. 

“We dig deep to find the thought leaders with a voice that are well known within a brands industry and work out a partnership that's a win-win for both the brand and creator,” Zingale said.

3. Invest In Your Cheerleaders 

Once you’ve identified the best people to work with to help garner interest in your product or service, it’s important to set them up for success. 

Depending on the scope of your relationship and your goals, this could be as simple as making sure they're familiar with your brand voice and tone. For a more complex co-selling partnership, you may need to offer product demos, training materials or other resources to help them be fully acquainted with who you are as an organization and what you offer. 

4. Formalize Your Relationship

Like with any relationship when you find something great, committing takes it to the next level and opens up a world of possibilities. 

Many B2B partnerships, particularly referral partnerships, start out informally. You likely already have organizations and individuals singing your praises, directing customers towards you. 

To really scale in the creator and partnership world, though, you need to formalize those relationships. That means working together to define goals, expectations, compensation and how you’ll measure success. It also involves coming up with a contract or service level agreement (SLA) that outlines the terms and conditions of your relationship. 

5. Provide Value To Your Joint Audiences 

Sales-focused messages won’t fly with this type of relationship-based marketing. And, anyways, one of the big benefits of working in the creator and partnership ecosystem is the ability to tap into authentic connections with an audience. So, do so!

The thought leaders, or influencer’s, audience is developed based on their personality, creator skills or perspective. Leverage this by collaborating on campaigns from the very start and being open to new ideas. They will have a strong understanding of what resonates with their audience and may be able to suggest topics you otherwise wouldn’t have thought up.

The most important consideration with navigating the B2B creator and partnership ecosystem is to make sure you're providing value to the end-user. The most popular influencer or most sought-after channel partner can help you reach a wider network, but you have to take that last step by providing something that matters to that audience. 

You Don’t Have To Go It Alone 

B2B influencers, creators and partnerships can be powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. 

If you’re struggling to navigate that ecosystem, our team at Kuno Creative can help guide you in creating, executing and optimizing an effective strategy. We work with our clients to identify thought leaders and influencers in their space through in-depth research. 

We also support and streamline getting quotes, conducting interviews, securing podcast guests, working on joint promotion campaigns and other initiatives that create measurable impact for B2B companies. 

If you want to explore more about how we can help you, schedule a time to talk with us.Request a Consultation

Clare Hennig
The Author

Clare Hennig

Clare is a strategic writer and content creator, specializing in digital storytelling. She brings together years of experience in the newsroom with a mission-driven attitude from non-profit marketing. Clare has lived, worked, and studied in 11 countries, and now calls sunny California home.