A recent report on the state of influencer marketing concluded that the market for influencer marketing is set to more than double in 2019 from 2017 levels (from $3.0B to $6.5B). But 69% of companies using influencer marketing are B2C. B2B brands therefore have a valuable opportunity to break new ground in the influencer space. Forward-thinking B2B companies are already diving in.

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One of those taking the plunge is software giant Adobe. I invited Rani Mani, head of social influencer enablement at Adobe, to join me on Marketing Smarts to discuss how the company has incorporated influencers into its marketing.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Influencers deserve insider status (so give it to them) (16:00): "For [influencer marketing] to have that kind of exclusive, secret sauce kind of feel to it, it's got to be something that's different, which is why employee advocacy and external influencers are on the same spectrum. Because, as employees, you're given certain privileges and access that the general public doesn't get. And you've got certain people that you're dubbing 'insiders,' and they should be more in the realm of what employees get versus the masses.

"That's important because...that makes influencers feel special, like Adobe's entrusting you with embargoed information that is mission-critical to our future and our roadmap. Hopefully, being entrusted that way makes you feel like accountable and responsible and motivates you to want to keep earning that right to insider access."

No two influencers are exactly alike, so take the time to understand them as individuals (18:09): "[You figure out an influencer's individual talents and goals] purely by asking them. Really, by understanding what makes their heart sing, what they feel like their calling in life is, what they enjoy doing, what they're good at doing. There are so many ways to skin a cat, and Adobe needs all of it. We don't necessarily set individual influencer goals. Program by program or department by department, there are different goals that each department has, and that each influencer contributes to in a variety of ways. Our main objective is to play to the individual influencer's strengths."

Before you get into influencer marketing, know what you're hoping to accomplish (20:11): "Really understand what it is you're trying to do. [Don't] get so hung up on how you do influencer work, but get super clear on what success looks like to you in whatever sphere that you're working in. Then back it into 'well, if I had this army of passionate, exceptionally gifted people, how could I mobilize them.' Have that be a secondary thing versus leading with that. Get super clear on your goals and objectives, and then work in where influencers could help scale or extend or contribute to that."

To pay or not to pay, that is the question (21:08): "If it's the person's living, if you're an artist and you're a creative influencer and that's how you put food on the table, and you're actually advocating for a brand, that brand absolutely should pay you. If that's your bread and butter, then it should be paid for, much like if you were being asked to write a book for a company. You're not going to write a book for free.

"Or if your day job is to do keynotes, and Adobe's asking you to come and do a keynote for us, I would say absolutely it should be paid for, versus if the influencers already have day jobs and they are using their influence to further their credibility and associate with brands so that they can grow their networks and grow their tool kit. Then there are certain expenses that you should pick up as a brand, but in that instance it doesn't behoove the brand or the influencer for that influencer to be paid because it takes away from the authenticity and the credibility of what they're advocating." 

To learn more, visit Adobe.com. You can also follow Rani on Twitter, at @ranimani0707 and on LinkedIn.

Rani and I talked about much more, including how to keep influencer relationships strong in between events, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.