The idea of marketing to your brand’s influencers is not new. But it’s important to understand who they are and what will influence them. Finding out how you should rev up or change your messaging to meet their particular needs is also key. We’d like to offer some basic considerations on how to do that. But keep in mind that re-evaluating who your influencers are — and changing your approach and researching the affects of your actions — should be an ongoing process.
Identifying your influencer: Who?
There is never just ONE influencer. Identifying your audience(s) is essential. Let’s say you work in marketing at Bacardi. Your influencers can be anyone from the bartender, server, food and drink bloggers to the retail sales person at BevMo — you name it. The best way to identify these groups is to ask the following:
- Who recommends my product/service?
- To whom do I want to recommend my product/service?
- Whose opinion would I trust about my product/service?
- Who would I ask when deciding products/services?
The “I’d Google it” response is simply not sufficient to answer these questions. How do you know what articles or resources to trust?
Engaging your influencer groups: How?
Marketing to your influencer is probably the most difficult part. Often, it will come down to trial and error. Although we have laid out the steps above in a linear fashion, many times the research needs to come before the initiative. We’re all inundated with consumer product marketing in our everyday lives. Influencers are too, so keep the following suggestions in mind:
Be authentic. Why do YOU recommend your brand? If you are Vizio making TV sets for far less than the competition — but you have a killer story and the technology to match — talk about it! Engage your influencer with emotional brand stories — the kind you buy into, like the ones that made YOU drink the company Kool-aid in the first place. Influencers are influencers because they are seen as experts in “this thing,” not because they can spew back marketing speak.
Teach them. Many influencers don’t know anything about your competition. They have their go-to brands and products — and that is what they recommend. This has worked for them in the past, so why stop? When you are not the company being recommended…teach them. Spend dollars educating your influencer on your product. Retail sales associates across the globe have to know about the products they are selling, so training initiatives can be vital. That’s why manufacturers often use existing marketing budgets earmarked for field marketing and other purposes to finance product training.
You’ll need to go through some trial and error to figure out what works and what doesn’t and what may need to be revved up. Maybe you have a killer field group, but you have been trying to educate influencers through digital webinars. Step back and consider the big picture. Then adjust your approach according to your strengths.
This is all about follow through. Over and over again, we hear “what you measure, you improve.” So measure it! Of course, this will involve time and money, but it’s important to track how your initiatives are affecting your sell-thru and impacting your bottom line. Obviously, this action will help champion future influencer programs with your company’s leadership. But it can also show you where your initiatives are working and where you need to try something else.
Recently, we stumbled across a company called MSS (http://www.mssmulti.com/) — Multi-Sponsored Surveys. They primarily focus on point-of-purchase influencers, but what they offer can be invaluable. It can help guide every aspect of your marketing and branding. With multiple competing brands, they survey influencers to find out what they recommend, why they recommend it, what questions they get asked, what the market looks like, etc. Of course, using MSS is not the only way to do this kind of research. The important thing is to just get it done. However you research your influencers and what moves them will change how you market, price and develop future offerings. Essentially, it will help you make your business more successful.