Unless you have been on one of those silent yoga retreats with no internet for the last two weeks you have no doubt caught wind that influencer marketing is topping many (I dare say all) trend lists for 2017. This news excites me as I have been focused on influencer marketing for the last few years. I have seen many, many successes and almost as many failures. The concept of influencer marketing is simple. But it has many moving parts and if the influencer criteria is not correctly identified and campaign goals are not clearly defined…influencer marketing will not be the easy win you were hoping for.
To start – what exactly is influencer marketing? Here is my definition:
Influencer marketing is a spin off of marketing that focuses on using business leaders to amplify your brand’s message. Instead of marketing directly to a large group of potential customers you collaborate with influencers who already have rapport with your desired audience to help tell your story.
If you are reading this I truly hope you start an influencer marketing campaign in 2017. It is possible no matter what size business you have. But before you embark on your influencer marketing journey allow me to give you some advice. And if you are still reading this you are surely wondering who I am and why I feel I am in a position to give you influencer marketing advice. Well, I have the unique experience of having created influencer programs for many fortune 50 companies and startups as well as participating in campaigns as an influencer. I know some things.
So, this is my advice. Before kicking off your influencer marketing strategizing first look IN, then UP and OUT, and most definitely to the SIDE. What do I mean by this?
Look inward at your employee’s, current customers, and business partners before seeking industry influencers to campaign on your behalf. Your employees are already passionate about your mission and brand. Your customers carry great influence and often reach a more diverse audience than you do. Your business partners are likely to have great rapport within your industry. Why not empower them to share their love and appreciation of your company on social media and in your content marketing efforts? Encouraging employees, customers, and business partners to share your story fuels their success and most importantly yours.
Look upward at your senior management and executives. No one can tell a brand story better than a founder or CEO. And if they can’t tell your story well I’m afraid you have problems that not even the best influencer campaign can correct. People connect with people not logos and taglines. Encourage key members of your upper management to tell your brand story on social media…their passion and purpose will no doubt be infectious!
Look outside your specific industry. Cross marketing with a complementary business in a different industry will achieve greater results and expose your brand to a new audience faster. If your business network is too narrow you will limit your options for growing brand awareness and staying closed off in a bubble is never wise for innovation.
Collaboration is the future of business and while I am an advocate for collaboration outside your industry I am also a big believer in collaboration within your industry. Creating a united front and a strong knowledge base accessible to all is a win for your business, a win for those you collaborate with, and a huge win for your customers. Focus less on you against them and more on how to increase the overall need for your product or service.
Today’s customer is smarter than ever. You can’t get by with a strategy built on shouting to the world that your product or service is the best. You need those around you telling your story and explaining your how and why. Look to your employees, your business partners, and your peers before influencers.
Influencer marketing is a smart play….but it is not a stand-alone play. A strong marketing plan must be in place before you consider engaging influencers to participate in your marketing efforts. Influencer marketing should complement your existing marketing. Not be your marketing. When you start planning your 2017 marketing campaigns be sure to look IN, then UP and OUT, and then to the SIDE before looking at influencers.