Last week, we outlined why financial services brands should start thinking about influencers; seasoned journalists, industry leaders, finance bloggers, self-directed investors and satisfied customers. We’ve also recognised that influencers play a vital role in fuelling digital word-of-mouth networks.
Indeed, the latest paper by TopRank Marketing and Traackr reveals that an overwhelming 71% of participants regard influencer marketing as strategic or highly strategic.
However, despite the growing recognition of the importance of influencer strategies, it is still clearly underused and – for all but the most advanced marketers – has yet to progress beyond mere “tactical” utilisation.
So how best to tackle influencer strategies?
First of all, strong personal relationship-building is essential in order to nurture a long-term engagement that is mutually beneficial. This in turn means making sure that what you have to offer is of value in order to gain something of value. After all, influencers are by their nature very well-known and established within their specific industries, and what they have to say about your brand can have a profound impact on your business.
Executive Director at Schaefer Marketing Solutions, Mark Scaefer agrees: “The true power of influence marketing is coming from: network connections of the individual; long-term collaboration that results in authentic understanding and advocacy; quality, trusted content that is seen and shared by a relevant audience; and face-to-face and word of mouth advocacy”
We’re used to meeting the demands of maximising ROI in financial services marketing, but now it’s time to think about your Return on Relationship (ROR).
To complicate things, often there is no single “owner” of these relationships with target influencers; such relationships needs to be sought and maintained by all departments through all channels.
While it would be easy to be put off by the complexity of nurturing influencer relationships, there are three key steps that anyone can take to create and implement a successful influencer strategy.
- Revisit your business objectives
Whether it’s increasing brand awareness or launching a new product, service or program, there needs to be a clear alignment between your commercial goals and what you want to achieve by engaging with influencers. Your desired business outcomes will also need to suit the needs and expectations of target influencers and – most importantly – your ideal customer.
As a first step, this requires doing a deep dive into the psyche of your ideal customer and identifying effective and ineffective touchpoints. What are their motivators, pains and triggers? Who or what are their sources of information? And what channels do they use?
Armed with this information, you'll immediately be in a better position to establish meaningful engagement between your business, target influencers and ideal customers.
Take another look at TopRank Marketing and Traackr's top ten goals of influencer marketing; revealing that most aims are (and should be) customer-centric, and focus on raising a brand’s profile to in order to extend their reach to new audiences.
- Understanding your target influencers
Secondly, invest a considerable amount of time in researching your target influencers, including an in-depth study of their past work, published content and communications behaviour – before you reach out to them. Tools such as BuzzSumo are a great starting point for identifying the top few individuals with the greatest authority and reach in your specific industry. To increase the likelihood of forming any brand partnerships, it’s crucial to also understand why and how influencers have earned their communities - from your customers' point of view, what makes these influencers interesting? From here you can begin to consider what a mutually beneficial relationship might look like.
Bear in mind that your customers' influencers may not be who you'd expect. So rather than grouping potential influencers into broad categories such as bloggers, journalists or industry bodies, try taking a more holistic persona-driven approach. Influencers come in many shapes and forms, and it takes time to find one with the right audience and motivation.
- Measure for engagement, impact and growth
As with everything we do, clear KPIs should be established at the outset, so you can measure for engagement, impact and growth.
This can be done by identifying the outcomes that matters most to your business, influencers and – most importantly – your customers. This could be as specific as tying influencer KPIs to each stage of the customer journey (i.e. awareness, sales, support and loyalty), or making sure these KPIs complement existing metrics (i.e. reach, acquisition, conversion and retention). And last but not least, your metrics should also measure influencer engagement, performance and fulfilment.
With these building blocks in place, you should be ready to nurture new contacts and ultimately build a strong lasting relationship – with a partner who is happy, satisfied and brings out the best in you and your brand.