Whether working with celebrities, ambassadors, social influencers, or media partnerships - influencer marketing strategies are harder to navigate. Should you be spending all your marketing budget on celebrity endorsements? Should you hire an influencer marketing agency or go about it independently? While there is no all-in-one solution, this blog should be able to give you a good starting point and an idea about how you can craft a plan for your brand without the pricey influencer marketing course.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer advertising is a type of marketing that focuses on targeting specific "influencers" with a large-enough and engaged following who can provide information or content about a product or service to their followers in exchange for product, payment, or commission.
Influencer marketing is used to create brand awareness and trust, provide product information, facilitate conversions, and increase customer engagement.
There are four different levels of influencers: nano-influencers, micro-influencers, macro-influencers, and super-influencers (or mega-influencers). Depending on your budget and your goals, you will work with influencers who are in 1-2 of these categories. Influencers at the highest level may offer more sophisticated partnerships that include professional photographers, photo editing, and all-in-one packages but that doesn't mean they're the better option for your campaign.
There are a number of different ways to use influencer marketing, but the most common approach is to work with influencers to create sponsored content. This content can take many different forms, such as blog posts, social media posts, videos, podcasts, and more.
The key to success with influencer marketing is finding the right influencers to work with. You need to find influencers who are a good fit for your brand, and you need to make sure their audience is the right target market for your product or service. This is probably the most important factor that many companies overlook - they choose influencers based on who they think will do will or who has a large audience, or even who they just like the content of. However there are a lot of tools that will help you choose influencers who are more likely to be successful for your brand so it's a true collaboration where the audiences are more likely to be interested in your products.
The ROI of Influencer Marketing
There is no doubt that influencer marketing is an incredibly effective way to reach your target market. But what is the return on investment (ROI) of influencer marketing? In 2019, it was all over the headlines for digital media and ecommerce strategies that influencer marketing was "dead," yet here we are three years later and it is as strong as ever.
The truth is that without a data-driven strategy and goals, the ROI of Influencer Marketing statistics can be too difficult to track for a lot of brands, especially those who do not have the right tools or people in place.
As with any marketing strategy, the ROI of influencer marketing will vary depending on your business and your goals. At Baotris, we worked with our client Espin Bikes on their influencer campaign where there was a 4.5X ROI as well as 200% growth across their social channels - this is of course not inclusive of the earned media value of post shared or inclusions.
There's also the intangible influential relationship metrics that cannot be measured as easily. Influencer marketing works because of the high amount of trust that social influencers have built up over time with their followers and subscribers. Recommendations can serve as social proof that your brand's consumer goods are of good quality and one they would choose organically. It could take months or years to build up that kind of trust with the same audience without the help of influencers.
How to Craft a Winning Influencer Marketing Strategy
1. Finding Influencers and Helpful Influencer and Affiliate Tools
At Baotris, everything we do is data-driven because in this economy, no one has the resources to just throw a bunch of money into a project and hope that it works.
Our system is built on finding the right strategic partnerships so that we can build mutually beneficial relationships with out influencers, ambassadors, and even celebrities that we choose to partner with.
To do this, we start with research and talk to current and past customers as well as customers of competitors to develop a few different personas. We use GRIN as an influencer and affiliate platform for our clients. GRIN has audience reports that allow us to find influencers who have social followings that are as close to our found buyer persona as possible. This allows us to test out different influencers in one campaign quickly and iterate so that we can build several strong campaigns in just a few months.
Thanks to this system, we have been able to grow audiences for our brands by discovering niche pockets of buyers to target that would not have been obvious otherwise.
2. Setting a Budget and Campaign Strategy
Knowing your brand's financial health is important. Any campaign can return a specific number of dollars but if you're throwing way more into it than you're getting out, your campaign will be a failure in the long-run.
When working with influencers, you have three levers to pull - consumer goods or product, payment, and affiliate commissions from sales. Once you know how much much you have to spend on influencer marketing as a whole, think about how many campaigns you want to run so you know approximately how much budget you have to work with for each campaign and how many influencers you can work with in each campaign as well - this should be done in conjunction with setting your campaign goals which we will discuss in the next section.
As part of your campaign strategy, you will need to build out a timeline that includes planning/ research, communicating with potential influencers + negotiation, shipping product, and time for the influencers to create their content. Depending on the type of content, this can vary - in example, photos and photo editing take much less time than making a Youtube video.
Because you're also dealing with real people, things can come up, product can get lost or not fit right, you may even get scammed so you'll need time and budget buffer to deal with these instances as well.
3. Decide on Influencer Campaign Goals and Your Brand Message
There are usually two areas that influencer marketing goals fall into - top of the funnel (such as brand awareness) or bottom of the funnel (such as sales). There are instances of using influencer collaborations to nurture the middle of the funnel as well, this is just not as common. This is where content aligns with the prospective buyer's problems and needs. Persona-based is a great way to provide MiFu content since the audience is niched and you can answer specific needs-based queries or concerns.
However just aiming for reach isn't a great goal - anyone can get followers but what you want is to reach an audience who is more likely to benefit from your product. This is another area where research comes into play. If you know who your audience currently is, then you'll be aiming to find more people like them whether that means the same demographics, interests, location, or something else.
Further, because you will be using specific influencers with specific audiences, you will want to make sure there's specific messaging. Now I definitely don't mean trying to give your influencers a script to use, but talking points may be beneficial since there will be unique value propositions for your product that will speak to this audience better than others.
4. Influencer Outreach: How to Contact Influencers
For a smaller campaign, you can do research on your own and reach out to influencers directly on the platform. Channels like Tiktok have a Creator Platform that can help you build campaigns and reach influencers directly. However, for an effective campaign, as mentioned above, we like to use GRIN. GRIN has a complete audience research tool that allows you to search influencers not only on on the influencer's demographics and interests but you can also search based on their audience which makes it easy to find potential influencers who have a following that match your brand's past purchasers.
For initial reach out, you can build templates if you plan to send a standard reach out message but we recommend researching the influencers individually - their reports, their past posts and past post performance, as well as their style to make sure they're a fit or your brand and your brand's values before reaching out. With this info you can craft a more compelling first email outreach. To build proper partnerships, you'll want to introduce yourself and your brand to the influencer and in one or two sentences, pitch a compelling reason why they should be interested in your brand.
With these initial conversations, you can get a feel for the influencer and their style. Just like you would not want to work with someone who did not fit your brand, you would also not want to work with someone who will work with ANY brand for the money. Their posts will seem less authentic and will not help you reach your goals, no matter how many followers they have.
Once you have a good feel for each other, you can detail your campaign and ask if they have a rate sheet or media kit. Everything is negotiable so remember that even if they pitch a higher rate than what you have a budget for, you can ask if you can offer a lower rate but include more product, or package together a few posts for a monthly deal.
If there's no rate sheet, you can let them know what you would like from them and what you have to offer as a deal, then take up negotiations from there. Once you have a deal in place you can send a contract. Contracts normally include notes on payment, posting details, as well as content rights.
Some companies like a "spray and pray" approach where they send out a lot of product to a lot of different people in hopes that they will like it and post. While this is certainly an approach, it's not one that we would really recommend since it would be hard to replicate.
5. Tracking and Monitoring Your Results and Next Steps
There are a few different ways to track influencer marketing campaigns.
1. Use a Tracking URL
A tracking URL is a unique URL that is used to track the success of a marketing campaign. When someone clicks on the tracking URL, it will automatically track the number of clicks and how much traffic it generates. This can help you to track the success of your influencer marketing campaign.
2. Use a Tracking Code
A tracking code is a unique code that is used to track the success of a marketing campaign. When someone enters the tracking code, it will automatically track the number of clicks and how much traffic it generates. This can help you to track the success of your influencer marketing campaign.
3. Use a Tracking Pixel
A tracking pixel is a small piece of code that is used to track the success of a marketing campaign. When someone visits the website, the tracking pixel will automatically track the number of clicks and how much traffic it generates.
4. Top of Funnel
Using links and codes are a great way to track clicks and sales for bottom of the funnel metrics, but at the top of the funnel it can be more tricky. You may see your social channels grow organically, an increase in website traffic by social referral and also organically, and engagement on the posts themselves.
If your influencers are posting about specific products and consumer goods, you may see interests on those specific product pages spike as well. Monitoring is important to ensure you know your performance for your campaign so you can evaluate which categories of influencers are performing best and which strategies you should be doubling down on.
Once you know which influencers are performing best, you can use tools to find lookalike influencers, who post similar content and have similar audiences. Double down anywhere that is working and kick out anything that is not. Experimenting is an important part of the process when drilling down on which collaborations make the most sense.
Beyond your original goals, there are a few residual benefits you will get from any campaign such as UGC (user-generated content) and if you write your content ownership clauses to your advantage, you can use the UGC for your brand's social pages, advertisements, website and email content, and more. UGC helps develop trust with potential buyers, the more they see people like them using your products, the more they can see themselves using it as well.
Influencers can also provide testimonials for your product pages and website, especially if they are able to use a product before the general public in a preview or launch.
Ecommerce brands can definitely benefit from working with influencers by following these steps, no matter what the goal is. Be sure to use research and data to drive your campaigns to success.