Four Important Things to Consider Before Launching an Influencer Program

How to critically navigate one of the biggest and sometimes confusing platform in social marketing.

There’s a love/hate relationship with influencer marketing. I’ve had a few meetings in the past few weeks with some brands who know they should be doing it but aren’t, some that are doing it and seeing tremendous success and results and some that absolutely refuse to do it. I recently had this discussion with a friend who owns a startup e-commerce brand that hasn’t launched a program yet and provided them with these four key takeaways and considerations before launching an influencer program.

Well here’s a simple question right? In my opinion there’s a direct correlation between two main factors: the cost of your product and if your goal is to build your brand or obtain direct sales. Where does your brand fall on this spectrum?

There are four brands here: Away, Coach, Veuve Clicquot and Daniel Wellington. All of these brands are very active in influencer marketing but, in my opinion, they have different goals for influencer.

Higher Cost / Brand Building Strategy: The way that AWAY works with influencers is very hands off as most of their influencer posts don’t talk about how great the product is or have direct marketing aspects to it. They also only currently have one main product (the luggage). AWAY is building a brand and building a sense of desire and attainable luxury. Their strategy is to be discovered through influencers with a secondary goal that you may follow their brand account and then have high intent to purchase, eventually, one day. Their own posts are fed mostly by a combination of influencer posts and user generated content (UGC) from actual customers.

Takeaway: brand building influencer strategies are a marathon — not a sprint.

Lower Cost / Brand Building Strategy: It would be impossible to not see the dozens of posts every year during the Veuve Clicquot Polo Match. Influencers are literally paid and flown in from around the country to attend and post non-stop. But for what reason? Champagne isn’t something you order on a whim or that you keep stock of (at least not me) so what V.C. is doing is basically supplanting them as THE premiere champagne brand. What they do is called a barrage strategy which is literally to barrage you with posts to keep their brand top-of-mind.

Takeaway: their strategy is borderline obnoxious but they’re the only champagne brand I can think of off the top of my head.

Higher Cost / Direct Sales Strategy: In the past three years, Coach literally revived itself with an updated product design along with an aggressive influencer marketing strategy. They went after the cool kid influencers and convinced them that Coach was cool again (and it is). Because Coach started offering more affordable apparel, they were able to tease the social community with $900 jackets and bags while offering $85 t-shirts for quick sales.

Takeaway: influencers can literally help convince people that your brand is cool.

Lower Cost / Direct Sales Strategy: There should be a case study about Daniel Wellington one day because I have never seen anyone more aggressively use a barrage strategy than DW. It works because they have a low cost but because of influencers, they have a higher perceived value product. They also give out 15% off coupons more often than Bed Bath & Beyond but it works. I’ve seen DW watches on everyone from fashion week attendees to tourists wearing crocs.

Takeaway: traditional barrage strategies (like the Bed Bath & Beyond mailer coupon) can often work in digital strategies.

Even though ROI is difficult, if you are small/medium size brand, you should attempt to have some sort of measurable means to observe campaign effectiveness. Brands that spend millions on influencer programs may do some observations but, for the most part — and based on experience working on these campaigns — measurable ROI isn’t that important to them.

So that begs the question: “How can I clearly and acutely measure ROI on an influencer campaign?” Here’s a few ways:

  1. Provide a discount code unique to that influencer that they promote to their followers. As I stated above, Daniel Wellington has become the pro at this. By observing code usage on your site, you can directly equate a conversion to the campaign.
  2. If the influencer has Instagram “Swipe Up” capability, be sure to negotiate that as part of your promotion agreement. I would then recommend creating a bit.ly pro account so you can provide a unique-to-them bit.ly URL to every influencer that you can actually track how many people are visiting your website via the URL. This is a great way to track effectiveness across different types of influencers as well.
  3. Try to only work with influencers who have a “business” account on Instagram. This way, you can request screen grabs of their Insights on each post which can show how many impressions of their post they’ve received as well as the engagement metrics. Additionally, request them to take a screenshot 23 hours after they’ve posted a story of how many views they’ve received.

I always tell brands that breaking even on your investment is a huge win. Why? Because the added value of Influencer Marketing is that you have received impressions on your brand and likely a nice bump in followers on your brand account.

Influencer marketing, for the most part, has a higher cost than SEM, Media Buys or Retargeting but it has much higher benefits. A REALLY good CPM (cost per 1,000 views) in banner ads is around $10.00 — roughly $0.01 per impression on a banner. Say you’re paying an influencer with 50,000 followers, $1,000 for a tile post (a post on their feed) and two story inclusions. Average impressions on tile is around 40% right now so they stand to get about 20,000 views. Impressions on stories is around 10% so you’ll see an extra 10,000 views. Your total impressions are 30,000 which means your CPM is $33.33. Yes. That’s higher. However, this is critical about influencer marketing:

People who follow influencers have literally “opted in” to receive advice on fashion, lifestyle, food, travel etc. Followers of influencers WANT to know what brands they like and care about.

Whereas banner ads are mostly annoying, influencer channels offer a unique marketing channel where their audience actually WANTS (in some weird and twisted way) to be marketed to.

If I can leave you with one key takeaway it’s this:

Influencer Marketing is about building relationships, not transactions.

There are so many small agencies that are offering efficient influencer marketing solutions at what you would consider to be beyond-belief costs. In my experience in this field, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The way these agencies work is to sell you on how simple it is: just give us money and then watch the sales and follows come in. What they don’t tell you is that they will literally send your product to ANYONE who is willing to promote it and they don’t give you any control over who they work with and what kind of post you’ll get.

You want to curate relationships with influencers. You’ll actually find a majority of them to be really nice and professional and most of them feel fortunate that their way-of-life is this field but you have to treat them with the same mutual respect.

Thoughts? Questions? Email me: nate@natepoekert.com.

Also…

After 3.5 years at my previous agency, I’m taking some time off to focus on what’s next for me. In the interim, if you’re looking for a brand and content marketing specialist, a multi-media creative director or just need some great photography and social content you can check out my background here or email me to work together on something!