Why McKinsey has nothing to do with the Kardashians: The challenges of Influencer Marketing in B2B

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Why McKinsey has nothing to do with the Kardashians: The challenges of Influencer Marketing in B2B

August 27, 2020

CEO Susanne Mathony von Mathony Brand Strategists zu Influencer Marketing im B2B Marketing

Influencer marketing is on the rise in many industries. Even in consulting, there are now “influencers” with relevant reach.
Could this really be an option?

Would it work to market highly complex and quite pricy consulting services via YouTube videos and LinkedIn posts?
Marketing consultant Susanne Mathony analyses the situation.

Last year I (almost) lost faith in the rationally comprehensible laws of Marketing.

A trivial chicken egg on the Instagram account World Record Egg with 54.6 million likes and 6.1 million followers outstripped all previous influencers worldwide. If this post would have been sponsored at that time, it would have been worth 280.000€.

As a marketer, I have to acknowledge:

This viral hit speaks for the tremendous dynamic and reach that is possible in social media in these days. Influencer – and especially Influencer Marketing – is now a must for every company.

To this extent the question is:

Should Professional Services players also incorporate well-known influencers into their Marketing mix? Or are the MBBs (McKinsey, BCG and Bain) after all a completely different world from that of global celebrities such as the Kardashians, Gigi Hadid, Christiano Ronaldo or Elon Musk?

Influencer Marketing is a strategy where opinion leaders with a high reach are leveraged for Marketing and Communication purposes. Companies use this form of online marketing to establish or further push a brand.

According to the Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report 2020 by Statista, the worldwide market volume last year was 6.6 billion US$. And the trend is rising.

Almost 40% of marketing managers surveyed worldwide stated that they use influencer marketing. In Germany, this is true for 59% of marketers.

Influencer are the new stars of reach

As opinion leaders, influencers have a high reputation and credibility. Phenomena like Kylie Jenner from the Kardashian clan have more than 191 million followers and show:

There are tons of cash to make and they are able to influence buying decisions massively.
According to “Forbes”, the 22-year-old currently is the best-paid celebrity:

She has earned around 520 million euros in the past twelve months.

Net net:
Influencer Marketing is the Native Advertising of advertising with well-known faces.

Are players like Heinrich Ruschke, Moritz Neuhaus or Kristina Choi the future?

The top categories for influencers are “Beauty & Lifestyle”, “Fitness & Sport” and “Fashion & Fashion”. But they also exist in the B2B segment. Here, however, a completely different strategy is required than in the consumer market.

One of the pioneers in the field of consulting influencers in Germany is Heinrich Rusche. He is a former McKinsey consultant where her worked for six years. His Youtube channel ‘Firm Learning‘ with more than 26,000 subscribers* offers almost 50 clips. In these he not only describes the life of a typical consultant, but also gives concrete tips for all those who want to become consultant.

His bestsellers

There is a relevant demand!

Another player is Moritz Neuhau with his channel „In. Up! Out?“ with 3,800 subscribers. He time and again invites exciting guests; among other things, in his bestseller with 47,619 views „Darum solltest du heute nicht mehr zu McKinsey gehen | Interview mit Gerald Hörhan“ (“This is why you shouldn’t joing McKinsey”).

Kristina Choi is an example from the US. Her YouTube Vlog „kchoi“ has more than 105,000 subscribers. Her clip „Eine Woche in meinem Leben als Berater“ (“A week in my life as a consultant”) generated more than 1.1 million views.

If you take a closer look at the content of these three very different players, it becomes clear:
They are influencers for the theme and the industry of consulting as such, but not for a specific corporation.

Their target group is the twenty to mid-twenties. They are either already in the consulting business and want to grow further or students who are about to make a career choice.

Could you imagine them as influencers for one of the consulting brands? Rather no!

Reputation and content relevance beats reach

While in B2C the range is a central criterion for the cooperation with influencers, in B2B it is rather secondary.
If a management consultancy or one of the Big4 would decide on this kind of opinion maker marketing, who would be suitable?

A B2B influencer is different from the typical B2C influencers acting on YouTube, Twitter or Insta. Usually a B2B influencer is an industry insider, a prominent reference customer or a well-known (trade) journalist in order to achieve acceptance among the very senior, highly demanding target groups.
Those influencers need to prove an extremely high level of authority and authenticity PLUS a dedicated expertise.

After all, Professional Services is about high-priced and highly complex consulting services that need to be presented – and not about easily explainable mass products such as lipliners or sneakers.

Corporate influencers such as the company’s employees or the CEO himself are particularly successful.

In the automotive industry, one such #socialceo is Elon Musk with 38 million followers. As a top influencer for Tesla, he is pushing the topic of ‘mass suitability of electric mobility’.

In the consulting industry, Frank Riemensperger, Chairman of Accenture, is a positive example. He not only has around 17,500 followers, but is also one of the LinkedIn Top Voices.

In stark contrast to this the German head of McKinsey, Cornelius Baur. He is not even on LinkedIn.

One showcase of a particularly strong employee influencer is Andreas von der Heydt, Director Talent Acquisition at Amazon. With more than 440,000 followers, no one can get past him that quickly.
To date, there is no equivalent in the Professional Services area.

If one were to look for a top influencer among the industry insiders, there would probably only be one:
Professor Dr. Dietmar Fink from the WGMB and his colleague Bianka Knoblach.

Trust – My key argument why brand building cannot be outsourced

No matter what type of B2B influencer a Professional Services player should choose:
It needs to be a person with a high level of authority and authenticity AND an in-depth expertise in the industry. In the B2B cosmos, it is not so much the level of recognition that counts, but rather the expertise and know-how.

B2B products and services are not like tangible consumer goods. Instead, they are primarily sold on trust. On this challenging battleground, reputation is your most important asset. This is especially true for professional services players like strategy consultants, auditors and executive search. For them, brand – and confidence building is even more critical for generating business value than for product brands.

Unfortunately trust cannot be bought!

This is supported by many studies with strong evidence. In the Harvard Business Review, Paul Zak outlines that high levels of trust in companies increase employee productivity by 50% and lead to 76% more commitment. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2020, employees who trust feel, are much more closely connected to their employer and also publicly advocate for the company.
Faith and trust in the leadership team increases the courage to take bold paths within the company – an aspect that is particularly crucial in a VUCA world.

But unfortunately external influencers cannot achieve all this.

Buying a total wrong lipliner or too tight sneakers could be overcome, but never with consulting services.

view Consulting.de article (in German)