“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.” – Mark Zuckerberg
For many resource conscious small-to-medium sized businesses, growing brand awareness and expanding market share can feel like an insurmountable challenge. Sure, you’ve built a strong customer base with loyal fans who trust the products or services you deliver. But how do you continue to capture an ever-expanding audience after you hit your first, or even second, major plateau?
In the constantly evolving landscape of digital advertising and social media noise, there are few solutions that maximize ROI like influencer marketing. If you are a business that sells directly to consumers, it’s time to clue into this strategic sales phenomenon—creating meaningful, brand partnerships with the right influencers can send positive shockwaves through your business and bring lasting results.
Influencer marketing is defined simply as a cross-promotional strategy that works based on a symbiotic relationship. In other words, you offer free products or services, cash or both in exchange for promotion across an influencer’s channels. When done right, this type of visibility puts your product directly in front of your target audience with a full endorsement from a person they trust and admire. Think about it: instead of the shotgun approach to marketing adopted by most businesses, you can target the exact type of customer you crave and see results almost immediately. ROI is especially visible for businesses with an e-commerce component that allow customers to buy online without ever leaving the social media platform.
Navigating the complicated world of influencers can prove both daunting and overwhelming if you’re just getting started. For a successful outcome, make sure your relationship has the following key ingredients:
- Brand alignment
- Specific goals
- Precise terms
Brand alignment goes deeper than you might think. Start by vetting the influencer you target. Check their follower stats (how many people have opted into following their feed) and their engagement rate (how many people regularly like or comment on their posts). Sometimes you will want to choose an influencer with a smaller following (let’s say 10k followers) over someone with double that, based on their engagement rate alone. Remember, the whole point is to find the right person who can bring in the most bang for your buck.
Next, you need to identify someone whose audience aligns with your target customer profile. If you’re a high-end supplier of interior design products, you’ll want to target someone who captures the attention of designers and decorators—people who have the ability to buy and recommend your products to their clients. If you’re selling a vacation package, ensure that your influencer has a solid footing in the travel world. Research who they’ve partnered with in the past and make strategic choices.
The most successful outcomes of influencer partnerships come when you have a specific, realistic goal. For example, “increase sales” would not be a great goal to have. It’s too general and ambiguous. Instead, think about tying in influencers when you’re ready to launch a new product, open a new location, promote a specific event or take a highly successful product to a new, unexplored potential customer base. A few success metrics include: 1) Number of followers on your business account, 2) Online sales of a specific item, 3) Contact form submissions on your website. Set your baseline, and then track as you go.
Clearly defined expectations play a critical role in the success of any business relationship—influencer partnerships are no different. When engaging with someone for the first time or the hundredth time, be sure to outline exactly what you expect and clarify what they will receive in return. If you want Instagram coverage, specify what type. If you are looking for blog coverage, define that as well. Are you willing to be promoted alongside other brands, or do you want the spotlight? Clarify all of this ahead of time and draw up a service agreement. Setting your terms ensures that every party walks away from the partnership feeling mutually supported and valued.
At Four Columns, we take pride in our ability to work alongside influencers in a number of industries. By continuing to build relationships with influencers, our team leverages their voice and reach to drive results for our clients. To learn more about Four Columns’ influencer marketing services, check out our influencer case study.
To get in touch with a member of our team, reach out here.