There are thousands of articles that picture influencer marketing as a must-have component for brand growth. Content that propagates the lucrative perspectives of influencer collaborations is heavily peddled across media.
Brands are bombarded with promising numbers from social media experts selling the idea of working with influencers. But is influencer marketing the silver bullet some claim it to be?
From influencer advocacy to hesitancy
Before getting to the point, let me share a few facts about myself to provide the background and reasoning for this article’s publication.
It may seem from the article’s title that the goal of this post is to challenge the effectiveness of brand-influencer collaborations. Yet, this is not a debate against influencer marketing, but rather a call-out for brands to evaluate their marketing needs from a rational perspective.
Throughout my career, I’ve always been a big evangelist and advocate of influencer marketing. I preached and practiced influencer collaborations long before it became mainstream. I’ve had hundreds of conversations with business owners and corporate execs where I was always strongly pushing in favor of influencer marketing.
Since co-founding a content marketing agency, many businesses reach out to us looking for help with running influencer campaigns. Being an agency co-owner, one would assume that I am financially motivated to rush to close new deals and offer influencer marketing services to each and every brand.
However, despite the proven benefits influencer marketing can offer, it should be approached with caution and deliberation.
There are a lot of factors to consider before launching an influencer campaign. Let’s break down the most important of them.
Is the product ready to be promoted?
One of the reasons for not running an influencer campaign is having an imperfect product. If you are bringing out a new product to the market, make sure that it is 100% ready to be massively promoted. Otherwise, you might trigger a customer backlash that can ruin the reputation and future sales of the brand.
Do some early user tests, challenge your distribution process, and ensure proper customer support is in place.
If you are going to promote an app, take time to check that the installation process is smooth, the user flow is intuitive and all bugs are fixed.
If it’s a retail product, do you have a polished distribution process in place? Will the order placement and delivery go smoothly if the influencer’s audience decides to make a purchase?
The 4 “P”s of marketing go like this — product, price, place, and promotion — in this exact order. Unless the product offering is not figured out, don’t jump to the promotion step. This rule is equally fair for any type of marketing promotion, including influencer campaigns.
How well is your brand known?
Before considering running an influencer campaign, evaluate the brand awareness you currently have within your designated audience.
You might want to argue here: “But isn’t my influencer campaign aimed at growing the brand recognition?”
True. But the less known your brand is, the less willing the influencers will be to collaborate with you. Yes, even if you offer them monetary compensation for this collaboration.
Let’s look at an example of B2B products for a better understanding of this point.
B2B influencers are normally industry experts who are looked at for their deep knowledge and authority in a certain field. Building a relationship with them for a brand might be difficult for a few reasons.
First, they are extremely busy. These folks usually have a fast-paced career in place. On top of that, they are frequently presented with public speaking and media contribution opportunities so they hop from one convention to another.
The second reason why B2B influencers are so hard-to-get for brand new businesses is that they value their reputation and often hold off from partnering with unknown brands.
So if your brand has no credit in the community yet, influencer marketing should not be first on your list of things to do.
If this sounds like a deadlock, don’t get too discouraged. The solution to this situation can lie in warming up the interest to your brand by putting out impactful brand content.
Continuing the above-mentioned example of a B2B company, you can start with placing publications in top industry media or attending a convention. The latter can turn into a great opportunity of bumping into your desired influencers and starting a face-to-face conversation with them.
Do you have a specific budget for your influencer campaign?
Like any other promotional activity, an influencer campaign requires an expenditure of your marketing budget. Many brands step into influencer marketing with the wrong expectations of the costs involved.
Proper budgeting of your influencer campaign is crucial for defining its scale and strategy. The most essential costs to keep in mind would normally fall into one of the two buckets:
1. Campaign management
Building out an influencer program implies strategizing the campaign, finding the right personalities for your brand to partner with, negotiating with them, and curating the content creation process. The management costs can vary significantly depending on the campaign specifics and scale, e.g. market, location, amount of influencers involved, etc.
You might feel it is better to try to manage a campaign by yourself, however there some pitfalls to it. The learning curve is quite steep, and avoidable mistakes are VERY costly. Another reason to ensure proper campaign management is that influencer marketing is very time-intensive.
However, if you have limited resources for running an influencer campaign, hiring a full-time in-house team might be financially inefficient. Finding someone who can help start your campaign and properly manage it, will ultimately keep costs reasonably lower, mitigating the loss of potential opportunities with key influencers.
2. Influencer fees
Influencer fees are the compensation for the time and effort thought-leaders put into reviewing your product and creating content around it. The influencer rates will be based on a number of conditions and they can vary significantly, ranging from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands.
If you don’t have a designated budget to run an influencer program, your efforts are likely to stay inconsistent and it will be hard to scale up your campaign.
Influencer marketing — to do or not to do?
Influencer marketing is a great way to grow your business as it can drive interest to your offering and generate sales. However, like with any other advertising campaign, it should be approached with consideration.
There are many ways brands can benefit from working with influencers. Yet, before planning out an influencer campaign, think through the factors listed above. Evaluate the readiness of your product, assess your current brand awareness on the market, and allocate a specific budget for your influencer program.
Many brands hasten to step into the influencer marketing game without having an elaborate framework to run it successfully. This often leads to brands being disappointed in influencer relations as an effective marketing tool.
Working with influencers can do immense good for your brand. But like with any other power, it needs to be handled responsibly.