There's no doubt that trusted advisers and influencers have a vital role to play throughout the B2B buying process, but they have a particularly role to play during two key phases in the buyer's journey: firstly when the prospect organisation decides that they need to do something, and again when they decide what to do.
The balance of power has shifted over the years: it's becoming increasingly common for the prospect to initiate the sales conversation with the vendor, rather than the other way around. Vendors cannot rely on finding buyers once they are "in the market"; they have to ensure that they get found by them - or are already connected, directly or through the prospect's trusted network.
We've conducted a number of buyer's journey studies for clients in which we help them understand how and why their prospects choose to buy. We pay particular attention to the trigger events that catalyse the buying process, and how prospects search for potential solutions.
Clients are almost always surprised to find out who their prospects had turned to for advice before chosing to engage with the vendor. They are often unaware of the intermediate connections - so they are unable to do anything to amplify their influence.
Your prospect's network of influencers needs to be aware of and predisposed to recommend your solutions before your prospect has their epiphany. So here's the challenge: most "conventional" marketing approaches are really poor at building the right sort of connections with the influencers who really matter.
Conventional PR and advertising activities do little or nothing to help in the B2B world - a world in which reputation is far more important than brand. Fortunately, new techniques are emerging and proving to be highly effective.
We've been working closely with one organisation in particular that is pioneering active influencer marketing: www.influencer50.com. I recommend that anyone with an interest in the subject - and I desire to build better connections with their prospects - to check them out.