When it comes to influencer marketing, there are remarkable differences between the B2C and highly technical B2B worlds. Find out why.
Stuart Cording is a reformed electrical engineer turned technical writer who studies and educates about the electronics and semiconductor industry. In short, he is a B2B technical influencer.
When you hear the word influencer, you might conjure a celebrity promoting designer clothes on Twitter or a teenager trying 40 different shades of lipstick on Instagram. While some of the same channels might be leveraged, Stuart explains how being an influencer in a technical B2B industry is a bit unique.
For one, the influencer needs to have enough expertise to understand how a product works and where it might be best used. They may not always get their hands physically on a product, given constraints such as pricing or size. They also don't need the massive reach of a B2C influencer, rather a deep niche focus will produce more traction. These are some of the reasons why there are not as many influencers in the electronics and semiconductor space today.
During the episode, Stuart and I debate the differences between industry trade press editors and influencers, and he covers the types of services that technical B2B influencers provide.
- Stuart Cording on LinkedIn
- The Electronics Influencer
- State of Marketing to Engineers Research Report
Wendy: On today's episode we will tackle what influencer marketing looks like when it comes to highly technical industries in B2B. And of course, it's not the same as your consumer kardashians and sports celebrities, but you already knew that. So what does it look like? Why aren't there more influencers out there? And how might you consider going about adding this to your 2023 marketing mix? By the way, if those of you who are looking at the video are seeing kind of a strange background, I'm recording this episode from an RV because I'm in the middle of a home renovation. So hopefully the audio is good, the background looks a little creative, but what are you going to do? And then one last note TREW Marketing is hiring. So those of you out there looking for a career change, we're seeking a senior inbound Marketing specialist and you can learn more at the TREW Marketing website trewmarketing.com. Let's do this.
Narrator: Welcome to Content Marketing Engineered, your source for building trust and generating demand with technical content. Here is your host, Wendy Covey.
Wendy: Hi and welcome to Content Marketing Engineered. On each episode I'll break down an industry trend challenge or best practice in reaching technical audiences. You'll meet colleagues, friends and clients of mine who will stop by to share their stories and I hope that you leave each episode feeling inspired and ready to take action. Before we jump in, I'd like to give a brief shout out to my agency, TREW Marketing. TREW is a full service agency located in beautiful Austin, Texas serving highly technical companies. For more information, visit trewmarketing.com. And now on with our podcast.
Wendy: Hey everyone and welcome to another episode of Content Marketing Engineered. I'm here today with Stuart Cording. Stuart is a freelance journalist for Elektor and he's also someone that both follows and shares insights about the global electronics and semiconductor industry. Welcome to the show Stuart.
Stuart: Thank you Wendy. It's lovely to be here.
Wendy: I'm so happy to see your smiling face. We've known each other, gosh going on a decade now. I would think so, is that right?
Stuart: Yes, it was ten years ago at Embedded World I think where we sat down and had a coffee and met for the first time which always stays in my memory.
Wendy: How about that? Thank you LinkedIn for bringing people together in the industry and just so happy to see you. I know you're living in Germany but for those listening that saying that doesn't sound like a German accent, they might be right. Right?
Stuart: Yeah. I'm from the UK originally. I was born there and grew up and studied there and as part of my education at university I had an opportunity to come to Germany and work for National Semiconductor which was at the time one of the big American semiconductor businesses and that's where my career started and also my journey to living in a different country. So far for the rest of my life.
Wendy: Well, Germany is a beautiful place, so I don't blame you for staying. Well today, Stuart, we're going to talk about influencer marketing as it relates to the B2B technical world. And earlier when I introduced you, I said that you follow and share insights about this industry. So to me it makes sense that you might be an influencer, huh?
Stuart: Exactly. I think there's obviously a lot of discussion when we attended you've attended a marketing congress or trade show recently. I'm in touch with lots of agencies here in Germany and the rest of Europe and also attending trade shows on the same topics as well. And there's this big discussion at the minute around B2B influencers, trying to understand how we take what we know from the B2C world and translate that to the needs of the B2B marketers out there who are obviously grappling with the changes in marketing, in channels, in media consumption. So I think the first thing to do is maybe take a step back and have a little think about what B2C influencers are. And at the top of the tree, when you look at the beak names, you're talking about someone like, say, the Kardashians. Reportedly they charge like a million dollars per post, which is absolutely incredible. But if you look at how marketing people such as Jill El, the CEO from Hyper Brands, what he's saying is that the problem obviously with that as well, is you get a huge amount of range. But how accurately positioned is that messaging and that post to the audience that you're trying to address? Such people are followed by a diverse range of people across many countries with lots of different backgrounds of people earning potential, ability to buy services and buy products. So yeah, you might reach a million or several million people, but how useful is that for your brand? And so then under that you've got sort of what they've basically classed as different levels of influencer. So someone like the Kardashians, it would be considered a macro influencer, so over a million followers. But then if you look at people like John Huntingley, he's Director of Marketing at Epic Marketing, he breaks it down further and says that those mega influences, the audience very diverse. There's a wide range of demographics. Amongst those below those you got smaller subclasses. So you've got the mega influencers, macro influencers, mini, micro and then nano influences. And I think that in the B2B world, what we have to do is understand that we're not going to have those mega and macro influences in the same way because our industry doesn't work like that. We don't have products which have that broad interest. If I'm trying to sell sportswear, if I'm trying to sell cosmetics, those are things that all of us, probably maybe 80% of the world is in a position to actually engage with, whether they can afford it or not. It's another matter. But people need clothes. People like to dress up or look after themselves. We're talking about very specific products with a very limited range of people who are responsible for choosing, selecting and then have the authorization to buy those products. When we look at the buyer journey and who's involved in, for example, let's say, choosing the next PLC for our Industrial Automation system or the next Microcontroller for our IoT sensor node. So that's the first thing. This idea that range is the be all and end all of an influence. So that has to be put to one side. It's got to be more about the quality and also the channels that those people have, where are they? And is my type of audience there. So I think for me to be what we're looking at is influencers who have a good presence on LinkedIn, have a following on YouTube and are also exploring the other social media channels as well to try and access the next generation of decision makers in B2B markets.
Wendy: So they need to be able to have channels to share information, but also how much of an expert do they need to be? Do they need a point of view or are they simply moving information through their channels?
Stuart: So I think there is room for personality and there is room for a point of view. So when I'm working generally, even as a journalist in that role, when I see a new solution, if it doesn't cut the mustard, if it is just a rehash of something else, I'll say so. That's the point. But we can't just let companies dictate the messaging that goes out there. Even in the B2C space, people get products and they say their personal opinion about it. And that's what the receiving side of those messages actually appreciates. And I think in B2B marketing that's even more important. We want people who have an opinion, who are truthful and honest in my sector, which is electronics and semiconductors but I think it also applies for a lot of B2B businesses. You are interacting and convincing people with engineering degrees, with science degrees, mathematics and physics degrees. These are all science based subjects where a lot of facts are required in order to make intelligence decisions. And those decisions can have a huge impact on the product. If we select the wrong IC, the wrong chip for our sensor that could delay the launch of our product for six months, a year or even more, or even worse, it could have a negative impact on our brand because after putting the product out there, all of a sudden we have lots of field failures. So facts and accuracy are of utmost importance. But yeah, I think there's room there for that. But we also remember that we're in an environment where people don't put out products that don't work. Generally speaking, when a new chip yeah, exactly. But in B2B, you're not going to be buying a service or a product which is only 60% there. The reality of it is when a failure or a mistake is found, it's typically something that is minor and minimal. There's a workaround for it, typically, and it wasn't intentional. No one brings those things to market intentionally trying to deceive people in a large fashion. It just wouldn't work. I mean, engineers and scientists and physicists working on these products, they work out in a few hours whether the product does what you wrote in the product sheet. But that authenticity, that honesty and the expertise, understanding what is important in that market, in that field for that product, and being able to discuss it and share it and compare it with previous products, alternative products, that really is key. So I think that's really the value of the B2B influencer is that ability to bring years and years of experience to the table and ask the right questions when you're in those interviewing type situations as well.
Wendy: No, I agree. I think that if there was someone that was a self proclaimed influencer in a highly technical space, and they weren't technical and didn't know, and they were sort of just being a mouthpiece for a brand or an ad or a product, I think that people would see through that pretty quickly and turn them off and look past recommendations.
Stuart: Yeah, I agree.
Wendy:Yeah. So I feel like the idea of influencer marketing, of brands, hiring an influencer or trying to influence an influencer, let's say we're in our infancy compared to B2C. Why might that be?
Stuart: I think there's a huge difference in the way a B2C influencer emerges from the marketplace. Like the audience that can be an influencer in comparison to the B2B environment. So if we take cosmetics, for example, anybody can go to a shop, they can buy a lipstick, they can apply it, and they can stand in the front of a camera as they do so and share that a lipstick costs maybe a few bucks, a few euros, depending on where you are. And it's a short time between the purchasing and the demonstration of the product. And you could sit there in a weekend and create enough content to keep you going for maybe a couple of weeks, just pushing out short videos, one a day in the B2B space. The products we're talking about are exceptionally complex. So I was at a press conference last week where Rodent Schmidt launched their new Mixed Signal Oscilloscope, and an amazing product, infinitely capable. But in order to be able to prove that the features that they say it has actually do work, I need something like half a million euros worth of equipment to really put it through its paces and show that the speed is there, the accuracy is there, the low noise level is there, et cetera. Et cetera, et cetera. I'm not in a position to just quickly whip up half a million dollars worth of test equipment. And surprisingly, I know it looks like I'm well set here in my little studio, but that's the reality. And then once that money is in place, if it were there to get the equipment, the amount of time involved to actually do all of those tests is immense. And then the question is, what value does that bring up if I just sit down and say, yes, this 50 MHz bandwidth oscilloscope really does have 50 MHz bandwidth checks are accurate. Exactly. It's not really exciting or interesting. I think what's of more value is to make sure that when those new products do come to market, obviously they will fulfill the broad specifications and product capabilities that are given. What we need is people who are able to from a marketing perspective, from your marketing team's perspective, you need people maybe who are available to reach an audience which I can't reach through other means. Maybe new eyeballs, fresh eyes that I haven't got through alternative channels. And in terms of maybe describing and talking about the product, maybe there's also room with an Oscilloscope, for example, it's a piece of test equipment that's on the desk. Things that you won't get out of the product datasheet. Those are the sort of things you can look at. So usability other buttons nice to press, does the unit slide across the bench as I try to plug in the probes? For example, all those niggly little things that you never really understand or know about until you've actually bought those products. So I think if we can focus on the differentiated information that just never gets covered by the data sheets, those are the sort of things and value adds that we can address through those discussions, those opinions and experiences that we can share with our audiences.
Wendy: Got you. So there's an interesting I guess if I think of the spectrum and okay, so I'm launching the new Oscilloscope, we'll stay with your example and I think about, okay, these are the best technical applications for this new product. And then I would maybe go to market and pitch to the editorial community and try to get coverage in front of their audiences, right? So try to influence those editors. And so how is that different? Or is this audience any different or how I approach them any different when I'm going to a freelance influencer that has their own community? Or am I really having very similar discussions?
Stuart: I think the discussions are actually quite different and we also need to look and reflect a little bit upon the media landscape as well. So if we were to go magazines obviously dying out in North America, there are no paper magazines as far as I understand. At least in Europe, paper magazines are still used and in place in most European countries and in Germany especially. So but they are dying out. So the media organizations that I'm aware of here, especially in Germany, what they're doing is they're becoming more marketing experts and offering marketing packages to support their clients. So the magazine is one thing, having an article written by an editor about a product that can be done or you may submit an article. You can obviously have advertising in the print magazine, you can have print advertising online, but they're also looking to add value by providing some targeted media capability. So for example, if you have an Oscilloscope, they have a database and they know who has in the past been interested in test and measurement topics, they can then send that information out in their emails and target it to that audience. But the challenge is of course, it's not that that doesn't work, it does, but we have to understand that the media organizations are also slowly losing their market share. Their audience is getting older, it's retiring and we're not quite sure where the new, fresh, young audience who will be the decision makers and the buyers in the future are actually going to come from. I think what we need to look at in the B2B space for influences is to see how they can mix that up a bit. In my own personal situation, obviously, as a freelance journalist, I do work with Elektor, I write a lot of content for Elector, I research a lot of products and I share my knowledge and experience through that portal, which is Print magazine. It's online supported with email blasts. I have my own livestream every month where I talk to engineers and share their insights with the world and try to encourage engineers to explore and find out new information and new solutions, new chips, new architectures, whatever it might be. So that sort of plays nicely into that. But the influencer specifically, I think what we're going to be looking for in those people is how they can address the markets that the classic magazines and media organizations are going to struggle with unless they change somehow in the years ahead.
Wendy: Wow, that's a very important distinction. I'm glad we had that conversation. So, let's talk about your business specifically. So you've recently launched an influencer service and I think this will be interesting to learn more about it because as technical marketers are sitting here thinking, how do I get started? How do I even find these people? What do they offer? So give us just the basics about what you offer and how you connect with marketers.
Stuart: So I think I need to go a little bit into my background first. So I'm an electronics engineer who's consumed media all of my life in order to understand what goes on in the marketplace and what products are coming, what methodologies are there, what approaches are modern in tackling automotive, industrial, consumer applications. And from there I then move more into marketing and PR. And the biggest challenge that I see in the B2B space beyond anything else, it's just the content creation part I think. You can have the branding, you can have the strategies, you can have your vision and your mission and all of those things. But the biggest challenge that you have is actually getting content out to the public. So that's the thing that everyone finds most difficult and it's not because there's a shortage of ideas, it's often because there's a limited number of people who have the right skills in the organization coupled with the right understanding in order to put pen to paper. For those organizations that do have content out there. I think the challenge is then making that content work for them for longer. If you have gated content, you might run that for eight weeks, twelve weeks in order to try and do a lead generation campaign. But obviously there's only so much you can do through the channels that you have available and people get a little bit tired and bored of that. So bearing those two aspects in mind, the challenges and actually getting content created and then getting every last cent worth out the content you've already got there, I've decided to put together two key sort of packages for B2B marketing teams and PR agencies supporting them. The first is called a content boost. The idea of the content boost is to actually take a look at existing content and you might have gated content, you might have a blog, you might even have a technical article which is on one of the trade magazine websites and you think well this is really good, but we don't think enough people have read it yet. So what I offer is to go and look at that content and I summarize it and create three two minute videos on that particular subject. Those three videos are then spread out over my over twelve week period, fed into my social media channels. And there we're looking to use all available video type channels which are out there. So the first and most key is probably LinkedIn for this business to business type content. Twitter is another key one because lots of people follow trends and journalists in general on Twitter. So there's like newsy type, short info type information on Twitter so it's very good for that. Then we've also got YouTube as well. That's another place. YouTube is still, I think the second largest search engine in the world. So we want to make sure we've got something out there on YouTube where people can find an answer to their question. And beyond that it's also looking at channels like Instagram and TikTok. Now neither of those are particularly well known for B2B content, but I think those are spaces where we find the younger generation. So definitely the generation which is definitely at least one or two under me is on Instagram and what we're seeing through various bits of research that's been going on is that TikTok is starting to be used as a search engine by Generation Z and Millennials. That's where those people are. We need to go out and find them, pick them up, and draw them to appropriate content. So that's the content boost. If you're also struggling to generate the content in the first place, that's something I do on a daily basis. We can actually sit down and go through the standard briefing process where we look at what are the three messages that we want to make sure the reader has read and can share with somebody else. Once they've read it. We develop a structure around the topic that will get signed off as appropriate by the marketing team, and then I can write that content, make it ready for your blog, for a gated campaign, or in preparation to send it's to a magazine website or to have it printed. And once that's done, we just attach the video boosting section onto that.
Wendy: Okay, thank you. I think that detail was very helpful. And Stuart just a plug. In our 2023 state of marketing to Engineers research report. We're going to be looking at TikTok adoption. So we've never asked a question, so we decided to add it on. So we'll see how that turns out. I'll be interested. We added clubhouse last year and it didn't do so well.
Stuart: TikTok will do better, and it's still the best and most important marketing report in the business.
Wendy: Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Well, for those listening that want to learn more about you and what you have to offer, how can they get in touch?
Stuart: So my website is available. It's called electronicsinfluencer.com. There you'll find more about myself. You'll see some of my video material that I've created in the past as an influencer. I can also support people in visual campaigns, so moderating and hosting events, running round tables. You'll see me also at some of the trade shows every year running interviews. And this year we're going to the Electronic Exhibition in November. It's a very big biennial event for the electronics and semiconductor industry, and we're going to be talking about ethics in electronics together with Elektor. And I'll be running some of those events sessions and roundtables with the CEOs there. So, yeah, there's a broad range of things there. If you're interested in the actual content boost and content creation and boost, feel free to contact me over that website and I will be sure to get in touch. Otherwise, just search for Stuart Cording on LinkedIn. Very easy to find.
Wendy: All right, thank you so much for joining me today, Stewart. I appreciate your time.
Stuart: Thanks very much for having me. It's been great.
Wendy: Thanks for joining me today on Content Marketing Engineered. For show notes, including links to resources, visit trewmarketing.com/podcast. While there, you can subscribe to our blog and our newsletter and order a copy of my book Content Marketing, Engineered. Also, I would love your reviews on this podcast, so please, when you get a chance, subscribe and leave me a review on your favorite podcast subscription platform. Thanks and have a great day.
Wendy Covey is a CEO, a technical marketing leader, author of Content Marketing, Engineered, one of The Wall Street Journal’s 10 Most Innovative Entrepreneurs in America, and she holds a Texas fishing record. She resides in a small Hill Country town southwest of Austin, Texas, where she enjoys outdoor adventures with her family.
TREW Marketing is a strategy-first content marketing agency serving B2B companies that target highly technical buyers. With deep experience in the design, embedded, measurement and automation, and software industries, TREW Marketing provides branding, marketing strategy, content development, and digital marketing services to help customers efficiently and effectively achieve business goals.