Marketing strategies that worked well in the past aren’t converting like they used to. 2018 is all about the influencer. If you sell any product or service, but particularly e-commerce or brick-and-mortar retail products, you need to partner with someone who has the attention of your niche. Understanding the nuances of influencer relations and how to embark on an influencer marketing journey could be more attainable and more essential than you might think.
What is Influencer Marketing?
You sell soap. You think your soap is the best soap in the world. A handful of people have raved about it and those testimonials are on your website. You have a nice following on the various social platforms. You email coupons and reminders to your dedicated subscriber base, and those get some clicks. Still, sales in Q4 of 2017 were not what you hoped they’d be.
Your soapy competitor, however, sends complimentary soaps du jour in an adorable handmade basket to Eve. Eve is a YouTube sensation with 860,000 subscribers and even more followers on Instagram. She includes your competitor’s gifts in her “monthly favorites” videos, unboxes the PR mail on her Instagram story, and sends these soaps to her friends. Now, even the customers who like your soap will buy the competitor’s soap if they like Eve… and everyone likes Eve. That’s influencer marketing.
Is Influencer Marketing Just Another Pay-to-Play Tactic?
How much did your competitor fork over to get their influencer on board? Unfortunately, that’s undisclosed. Many companies who partner with influencers offer some set of free products to review or discuss online in combination with set fees for certain types of posts or sponsored content. Your competitor could have gotten lucky by sending a PR sample to Eve and catching her attention. It’s more likely that the sample came with a mutually beneficial contract and a substantial payment structure.
If you want to score ties with a lucrative influencer, you don’t always have to cough up an insane amount of cash but you will have to earn it. Some influencers are happy with mutual promotion and the sharing of both audiences but most influencers conduct themselves as a business, not a hobby.
That said, you may be able to secure a mid-level, highly targeted influencer for hundreds less than those with millions of views and followers. This may benefit you because customers trust mid-level influencers more than they trust the high-dollar almost-celebrities that YouTube and Instagram have conjured up. The most important consideration when choosing influencers to partner with is the rapport they have with your ideal customer.
How Do I Find Influencers in my Niche?
Returning to the luxurious soap company example: Let’s say you’re targeting 80% women and 20% men, typically aged 25-45. Your ideal customer is environmentally conscious but likes to indulge, has a deep and engaged skincare and hygiene routine, values aesthetic, and favors mission-backed companies. Great! You need an influencer who speaks to these people about these topics and other topics of mutual interest.
Typically, your influencer will fit the description of your target consumer. He or she will be someone who is trusted as a lifestyle specialist, skincare guru, or similar. He or she will boast quality workmanship for videos and photos across all channels and the brand will be news-free with as little attached drama as possible.
Try searching YouTube for “Skincare Routine” “Bathtime Essentials” or reviews of similar products and brands to yours. Using YouTube as your preferred search engine, as opposed to Google, will yield a more targeted result. You’re not looking for magazine articles or e-commerce sites that compete with yours. Refine your search according to videos with the highest view count or highest rating to see who really has control of the niche.
Once you find a handful of names who put out successful, highly-watched videos, investigate their other channels to see what types of sponsored content they’re already putting out. If you can see yourself among those posts, reach out!
What if My Industry Isn’t as Trendy?
No industry is too technical, dry, or dirty to benefit from influencers. Just as there are lifestyle vloggers talking about beauty products, home goods, and baby items, there are bloggers who talk about automotive repairs, gadgets, books, tea, and everything else under the sun. The key is to always determine your ideal audience, then begin searching for the voices who also support that audience.
How do I Approach an Influencer?
This depends. Many influencers share contact information specifically to be used for B2B inquiries. Search for this in the description of their YouTube channel or videos, in their Instagram bio, or somewhere on their website if they have one.
Once you find a method of contact, craft a pitch that includes a bit about your brand, an appreciation for their brand, and an expression of the audience you mutually share. Here’s an example:
We’re XYZ Soap Co. and we LOVE watching your videos every Wednesday. In fact, your recent Sunday BathTime Essentials video inspired us so much, we’d like to send you some complimentary bath products to enjoy and share with friends.
If you like our products, we would be happy to continue sponsorship of your excellent videos. Just like your YouTube channel, our products speak to busy women who barely have time for a break….
You get the idea. You would complete this example with logistics and details and (hopefully) secure a partnership.
Setting Influencer Marketing Expectations
When you recruit an influencer to produce sponsored content, it’s important to develop a mutually-beneficial and reliable contract, set deadlines and quality standards, and be upfront about co-promotion during the campaign.
You must also set expectations within your own team. Influencer marketing will always be a risk. You should set a minimum referral goal or another consumer gain that you hope to meet by working with the influencer yo determine whether the campaign was successful by measuring against those goals.
It’s also important to give an influencer campaign adequate time to ruminate. Once sponsored content is put out, your influencer’s audience needs time to digest, view your products if inspired, and then consider a purchase.
Influencer marketing is merely part of a large, intertwining digital marketing experience. In order to benefit from your influencer partnerships, you must also be active on social media to engage in conversations that take place there. To kickstart your social media presence today, download our social management app here.