In the old days of influence marketing, you watch a YouTube celebrity eat a stink bug on a dare, then open up a can of Coke’s new flavor. After going “mmm,” he would talk about its refreshing taste and other key points as if reading from a script. The YouTuber could then expect a sizable portion of his 250,000 followers to go out and buy Coke’s new flavor and receive money for endorsing it.
This influencer marketing strategy is still effective, but it no longer enjoys the same returns it once had. Actors and Instagram stars feel less and less genuine with each sponsorship they receive; movies saturated with 55 different brands are less effective them those that focus on one (Ray-ban Wayfarer’s in Risky Business, for example).
Influence marketing is still one of the most effective ways to grow your brand. To get high returns, however, you should focus more on influencers that are genuine, trustworthy, and knowledgeable about their products: your customers.
Why customers are great influencers
Customers buy a product or service because they have a need that they want to be fulfilled or a problem that needs resolving. In a sense, customers and companies have a symbiotic relationship with one another. Why not use this supportive bond to build a bigger audience?
They know your product
You don’t have to sell your product to someone who has already purchased it. These customers know what it is, how it works, and how it’s improved their lives. Great potential influencers have bought into your brand, are power users, and have expanded their account or have continued to purchase different products you sell.
They’re walking testimonials
Word of mouth is the oldest and one of the most effective marketing tools you have at your disposal. Positive reviews about products are great—and when they are from people you know, they’re even better. Unlike celebrities, financial gain isn’t the only motivation for leaving a positive review (although offering discounts for successful referrals don’t hurt).
They can go places you can’t
Marketers have thousands of channels at their disposal, but it’s highly unlikely that they’re at your family get-togethers, your friends’ parties, or conference rooms. There’s a whole world out there that pre-dates the internet, your TV, and magazines. When your customer is eager to talk about your product to other people, they are building a bridge for potential new leads to find you.
They can offer helpful advice
When you’re solving a real problem, it’s likely that a) people encounter that problem in different ways, and b) a current customer may see the problem in the same light as a potential customer. Making a connection gives your prospect an opportunity to learn first hand how someone in their shoes are using your product to solve what’s in their mind an identical pain point.
Identify your potential influencers
Before starting an influencer marketing campaign, you need to determine who your best customers are. Identify which of your customers best fit the mold of your buyer personas (if you see a trend among your best customers that don’t align with your target persona, maybe you should be adjusting your persona). Repeat customers are great, but they also have to have influencing power. They have to have clout—preferably online—and regularly interact with other people in their niche. People with a lot of followers on social media that engage with them through comments, shares, and likes are a great example. Owners of high-traffic blogs are another.
Once you can identify your perfectly poised customers, you need to learn about them. Reach out to them through social media, e-mail, or subscriptions and keep questions in mind like:
- How did they find you?
- Why were they looking for you in the first place?
- Do their family/friends/industry peers have similar needs?
- Do they seem enthusiastic enough to talk to others about your business?
The feedback you will get is invaluable. Not only will customers appreciate someone representing a product they love making a personal connection with them, but they will also be inspired to promote your brand further.
Natively engage to encourage influencer marketing
Influencers have perceived authority or knowledge that gives them the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others. They have a following in a particular niche and actively engage with people in that niche. Think of them as the leaders of various high school cliques. Each one has a different perception of what is fresh or trending, while others value the information that they share.
To share this information, they’ll undoubtedly use on of the many social channels available. Encourage engagement by sharing their comments and sending personal messages, thanking them for their business - all on the channel where they have the most influence. With all forms of communication, have a Call to Action that encourages them to answer a question or leave a comment below, and then reply to these to further emphasize that you’re listening to them. When you care about your customers, they’ll be incentivized to care about you as well.
Just because they can become your influencers doesn’t mean that they will.
Your initial bond was built on a customer paying for a product or service to solve a problem, and you receiving money to provide a solution. Incentivizing takes that contract to the next level. In order to convince them to convince other people to pay for you to solve their problems, you needs to offer something as a reward.
For influencers, good loyalty programs are the rule, not the exception. 68% of millennials say that they wouldn’t be loyal to a brand if it didn’t have one. Companies have caught on to this, and you’re most likely part of many loyalty programs without even knowing it. Credit card companies offering your airline miles or 1% or 2% cash back is a loyalty program. Using the Starbucks app to get a free coffee on your birthday is another example; referral marketing is a great B2B approach as well.
Figuring out which incentives are cost-effective but highly impactful is the final aspect of your influencer marketing strategy. Is it through affiliate marketing, a refer a friend program, tiered incentivizing, or something else entirely? The best solution involves finding a bridge between what your influencers want and what you can offer them. When you meet in the middle, you’re on your way to conducting an excellent influencer marketing campaign.
Where did you find your influencers, and what incentives do they enjoy the most? Leave us a comment below!