To withstand the corporate world’s competitive nature, small-business owners are pressured to design innovative marketing strategies that will set their brand apart from others. There are websites which can provide endless and affordable opportunities, but the challenge lies on seizing the attention of one’s target market and translating these into actual revenues. With 198 million active Adblock users in the world, more businesses are directing their funds from conventional internet ads to the services of digital influencers instead.

Influencer marketing provides the best of both conventional word-of-mouth promotion and modern internet platforms. With just a blog mention, post, or tweet, influencers like industry experts, journalists, and Internet celebrities are able to convince their followers to make consumer decisions through their testimonies. Suitable for those with a tight budget, this method saves entrepreneurs from the troubles involved with building one’s own set of followers and guarantees maximum customer engagement which can last for years.

Try the World, a service provider which specializes on different countries’ food and culture overcame typical startup marketing budget constraints through partnering with YouTube celebrities Missy and Bryan Lanning who took a blindfolded Taste Test Challenge and provided food reviews. This campaign reached over 300,000 people, increased sales, and continues receiving views and comments even a year after its launch.

Getting started – Initiating your Influencer Marketing Program

For an Influencer Marketing Program to succeed, an entrepreneur must first map out a clear goal. Objectives may include increased brand awareness, boost in sales, and secured customer loyalty. It is also essential to understand characteristics of one’s target market – their interests, shopping habits, and demographics. To make these possible, a strict budget which considers the costs of production, technology, and influencers must be laid down.

Influencer Collage

Entrepreneurs can use readily available tools for identifying and recruiting influencers. Social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn feature built-in searching tools that can display who specializes on what specific niches. There are also influencer networks that link startups with influencers based on the nature of business and preferred platform, such as Reelio which focuses on YouTube celebrities, and Naritiv which specializes on Snapchat users. Meanwhile, the likes of Buzz Sumo and Follower Wonk use a built-in algorithm to display potential influencers through taking into consideration their expertise and location. Another affordable way of engaging influencers, especially those who are already engaged with your business, is through sending them free products, gift certificates, or event invitations related to your business.

Take for example KontrolFreek, a gaming accessories pioneer, who wanted to increase brand awareness through making use of influential gamers who use their products frequently. Their program involved manual review of influencers’ background, online engagement, and product giveaways. However, problems arose in effectively managing their growing influencer network. As a solution, they sought the help of the platform Sideqik which regularly provided them with lists of potential influencers and facilitated interaction between KontrolFreek’s marketing team and identified influencers. This resulted in a combined reach of over 12 million and a continuously growing influencer network.

Getting the ball rolling – Implementing your Influencer Marketing Program

It is important to effectively engage influencers through informing them of one’s business advocacy and the role they can play to realize the marketing plan’s goals. Apart from reaching out through e-mail, startup owners can tap influencers through phone conversations, meet-ups, conferences, and other social engagements. These initiatives must be followed by arrangements that will secure influencers’ loyalty to one’s brand. Appinions, an influencer marketing platform, designed the “Influencer Continuum” which envisions to transform influencers into “super advocates” through four phases: building awareness; building credibility; creating emotional connection; and creating loyalty.

Influencer Marketing

As one’s campaign progresses, trends and opportunities that can further maximize customer engagements may arise. This will require the use of brand assets, including: asking influencers to be content contributors; demonstration of product/service usage; and partnerships in hosting online/offline events.

Moreover, entrepreneurs will need to constantly monitor their influencer network. For influencers to feel empowered, one must readily listen to their feedback which can be used to improve present marketing strategies. Assessing influencers’ enthusiasm and loyalty towards one’s brand is also essential to nurture the steady relationship which serves as the Influencer marketing program’s foundation.

Success stories include that of GNC, retailer of health products both online and offline, which targeted to improve brand perception through Influencer marketing after observing that most of their target market search the Internet for wellness items. The company didn’t automatically send company information and products, but rather they first asked influencers through the Internet as to why they haven’t previously used GNC products and what help can the company provide. GNC then distributed free samples for influencers to write a review on. They also teamed up with bloggers in hosting product giveaways in addition to consistent monitoring schemes over both influencers and their audience. This resulted in increased sales and additional 60,000 Twitter followers and 383,000 Facebook fans for GNC.

Reaping results – Evaluating your Influencer Marketing Program

Among the numerous advantages of Influencer marketing is its quantifiable return on investment. Key performance indicators include follower acquisition, customer engagements with individual posts, frequency of hashtag and promo code usage, and views for videos posted. These figures can be counterchecked against the revenue generated while the program was running.

For instance, online mattress company Leesa sponsored YouTube channels which featured influencers “unboxing” their product in addition to $75 discounts offered for customers who accessed Leesa’s site through the said video sharing platform. The company also partnered with bloggers to collect unbiased reviews. These strategies led to over 100,000 unique clicks on their website and more than 400 sales since the program’s launch in 2014.

Apart from numeric data, securing the opinion of utilized influencers can also help determine the strengths and weaknesses of the program. They are the ones who directly engaged with your target market, thus they may better understand the psyche of your customers. These observations can then be used to improve an entrepreneur’s future marketing strategies.

If you’re one of those startups stuck in the vicious cycle of poor marketing ROI, it’s time to consider engaging influencers in your industry to give you the boost that can potentially be the difference between success and failure.

Please let us know your thoughts, experiences, and ideas on influencer marketing for small businesses and startups in the comments!


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