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 significant portion of his 250,000 followers to 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 genuine with each sponsorship they receive, and movies saturated with 55 different brands are less effective than 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, companies should focus more on genuine, trustworthy, and knowledgeable influencers about their products: their 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. Why not use this supportive bond to build a bigger audience? Your customers are your best influencers because:
They Know Your Product
You don’t have to up-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. They have also bought your product or similar items in your brand line, and love them too.
They are Testimonials
Word of mouth is one of the oldest and most effective marketing tools you have. Positive reviews about products are great—and when they are from people you know, they’re even better. Unlike celebrities, you know there’s more incentive for everyday people to promote a product or service than financial gain.
They Can Get to Places You Can’t
Marketers have thousands of channels at their disposal, but it’s highly unlikely that they’re at your family get-together, your friends’ parties, or conference rooms. There’s a whole world 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 Have Helpful Advice
Customers sometimes make suggestions about how to improve it that you and your team didn’t think of before. This advice can either come from them, or from someone they are trying to influence who has a similar problem but needs a slightly altered solution. Not only are you getting feedback from a reliable source, but you’re also getting more opportunities to gain a competitive advantage over similar products.
Identify Your Potential Influencers
Before starting an influencer marketing campaign, you need to determine who your best customers are. You need to identify who your best customers are that fit the mold of your buyer personas. 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 lots of followers on social media that engage with them through comments, shares, and likes are a great example. Owners of high-traffic blogs is another.
Once you can identify your target 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/co-workers 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 to make a personal connection with, but they will also be inspired to promote your brand further.
Offer Channels to Conduct Influence Marketing
Influencers have perceived authority or knowledge that gives them the power to affect the purchase 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 has a different perception of what is fresh or trending, and other value the information they share.
To share this information, they need a platform. Encourage customers to praise your products on social media by sharing their comments and sending personal messages, thanking them for their business. 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 you’re listening to them. When you care about your customers, they’ll be incentivized to care about you.
You have identified your target customers, built relationships with them, and gave them a platform to promote your products. However, just because they can become your influencers doesn’t mean they will.
Your initial bond was built on them paying for a product or service to solve a problem, and you receive money to provide a solution. Incentivizing takes that contract to the next level. To convince other people to pay you for your product or service to solve their problems, your influencer needs to receive something as a reward.
For influencers, loyalty programs are the rule, not the exception. 68% of millennials say they wouldn’t be loyal to a brand if it didn’t have one. Companies have caught on to this, and you’re likely part of many loyalty programs without 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, as if when Uber offers your 40% off of your next ten rides.
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!