As B2B companies have recognized how effectively their B2C peers have used influencer marketing to reach and engage their audiences, they've increasingly adopted this approach for themselves. And for good reason. B2B and B2C buyers today have more in common than ever before.

IBM, for example, worked with fashion designer Gaurav Gupta to create the first-ever AI-inspired saree gown, enabled by enterprise AI platform IBM Watson, which changes colors based on the wearer's most dominant personality trait (as deciphered via social chatter.) 

To build awareness around an upcoming conference, the Content Marketing Institute showcased its speakers in a way that tapped their influence by having them share their expertise on content marketing topics for an ebook titled, The Ultimate Guide to Conquering Content Marketing. 

At Zen Media, we create influencer marketing campaigns that pay major dividends with our own B2B clients. When Chase for Business needed to engage with small business owners, we helped launch the Chase BizMobile, a mobile experience that brings industry experts directly to entrepreneurs across the country. And thanks to the local micro-influencers we worked with to help amplify its launch, our kick-off during Detroit Startup Week 2018 was a huge hit.

However, this rise in B2B influencer marketing relies heavily on the high level of trust that brands put in industry experts, as well as an alignment of values. As Forrester relates in their Predictions 2020 report, 52 percent of consumers considered company values when making a purchase decision back in 2017. In 2020, they predict this number will rise to 55 percent. 

This means it's imperative for brands to partner with the right influencer to help them effectively position their product and engage their target audience.  

To ensure your brand partners with the best of the best, here are the five characteristics of an ideal B2B influencer.

Authority

Connected business professionals feel qualified to determine their needs for products and services but still seek in-depth insight from experts in their respective fields. According to a LinkedIn report, "expert opinions" ranks as the second-highest factor for buyers' willingness to engage with a vendor. Additionally, Demand Gen Report found that 46% of B2B buyers consider colleagues and peers to be the most valuable source for researching purchases. 

Because professional buyers value the viewpoints of industry experts so highly, brands should seek to work with B2B influencers who have track records in providing authoritative, proven, thoughtfully-presented content for their audiences.

Take seasoned customer experience and customer service influencer Jay Baer, for example. In addition to being the author of six New York Times best-selling books and a Hall of Fame speaker, Baer is a renowned business strategist and the founder of five multi-million dollar companies. His blog, podcast, and word of mouth show are highly-rated industry resources.

While an influencer of Baer's stature may not be within the reach of every company or right for every audience (there's a lot to be said for micro-influencers), he serves as an ideal example of the kind of authority that B2B brands should seek in influencers.

Alignment

Are you a bustling, hustling startup? Is your team made up of diverse, unique professionals? Does your company have a social mission? Whatever your brand's vibe, the influencers you work with should align with it perfectly.

Wix is a great example of a company that does well when it comes to choosing influencers who fit their purpose of helping businesses of all sizes grow. Personal branding and storytelling expert Goldie Chan is showing people how to use Wix to showcase their portfolios. Tom Bilyeu of Impact Theory, a YouTube series aimed at helping people pursue their purpose and ignite their entrepreneurial spirits, promotes Wix as a way to help anyone get on a path to executing on their dreams, whether it be a blog or a business. This message is also woven into multiple episodes of Impact Theory.

Partnering with an influencer who is aligned with your brand will help ensure it's well represented in a way that can turn their audience into your customers.

Authenticity

In Zen Media's study, Marketing to Gods: The Definitive Guide to Reaching, Engaging and Retaining the Modern, Empowered Consumer, we discovered that honest testimonials were one of the most popular types of content amongst connected business professionals, as they generally offer much more in-depth insight into the typical product experience.

When working with influencers, take note of whether they make it clear to your brand that they intend to provide an honest review. Those who insist on this kind of authenticity are those you should consider working with. Authentic influencers hold their audience in high regard and are willing to share sponsored content only to the degree they genuinely resonate with its message and/or find value in the product or service in question.

As well as helping you build upon your influencer relationships, this level of authenticity will showcase you as a transparent organization that people can trust. And in an age where trust is such a valuable commodity, transparency is a sought-after trait that can help to differentiate your brand.

Relevance

The more specific an influencer's topic of expertise is, the more relevant it will generally be--particularly in the B2B space since purchase decisions are typically driven by precise needs. 

For instance, my own expertise in marketing, technology and entrepreneurship make me an ideal fit for brands looking to champion those categories. I also represent only those brands I love and genuinely believe would benefit my community across the globe. 

Devin Thorpe, an expert in finance, is another example. A champion of social good, Thorpe is passionate about solving "the world's trio of terrible problems--poverty, disease and climate change." For brands seeking expertise in how to crowdfund for social good, Thorpe's expertise is highly relevant.

As professional brands take more of their cues from B2C, influencer marketing will increasingly become the strategy of choice for the B2B market. Partnering with authoritative B2B influencers who are aligned with your company values and organizational culture, authentic in their engagement, and relevant for your target audience can help your brand successfully expand its reach and drive bottom-line results.