Why Mutual Benefit Is the Key to Influencer Marketing
Today’s consumers are practically immune to online ads, brash mailers, slick commercials, and flashing billboards. They will, however, listen to what a popular personality they admire and trust has to say.
Influencers are marketing gold. They’re today’s hottest bloggers, YouTube stars, Vine celebrities, Snapchat legends, influential Instagrammers, and up-and-coming podcasters. If you create a relationship with the right influencers, they can send waves of rabidly loyal fans to your door.
And the best influencer relationships are those that mutually benefit both parties.
Influencers work extremely hard to develop trust and integrity with their fan base, and they understand the value of their reputation. They won’t hawk your product just to be nice. When you begin to target potential influencers, you’ll need to make a strong case for how the relationship can help the influencer as well as yourself.
Here are five partnership perks that may help you engage with compelling and effective influencers:
1. Increased relevancy: An influencer lives and dies by his reputation for integrity. If fans feel like their role model is pasting his name on any old product just for the money, they’ll stop listening. Your product or service should relate to the influencer’s area of expertise and be something the influencer believes in and would actually use.
Michelle Phan, one of the hottest influencers at the moment, was living on food stamps before she started uploading makeup tutorials to YouTube. Seven years later, her channel is home to more than 7 million subscribers, and her 300+ videos have earned almost 1 billion unique views. She is the perfect target influencer for cosmetic, skin care, and beauty product companies. It would be a big stretch for her followers, though, if she started endorsing toothpaste, potato chips, or a fast food franchise.
2. Free products: A great way to attract and reward influencers is with free products. Freebies create goodwill and give an influencer the perfect incentive to try the product and post a review of it online. Again, relevancy is key. For example, Phan probably wouldn’t mind receiving free cases of laundry detergent, but that doesn’t mean she’d be willing to gush about it during her next makeup tutorial.
Also, be wary of handing over free products unless you’re sure the influencer is a true admirer. The only thing worse than no coverage at all is a terrible review from someone who received your product for free! A good way to find influencers who also happen to be fans is to see whether any followers of your brand on social media also happen to be major influencers within your industry. Once you know you’re talking to a real supporter, you can even provide guidance in the form of bullet points to let him know what you’re hoping to accomplish.
3. Special access: Another way to delight your top influencers and make them feel special is to give them first looks, special updates, or breaking news about your products before the general public. Ask them to test out your newest product, give them an exclusive interview, or invite them to a special event just for uber-fans. They won’t be able to stop talking up your company.
Recently, a representative of Elon Musk cold-called popular Wait But Why blogger Tim Urban and invited him out to California where he was able to tour the Tesla and SpaceX factories and interview Musk himself. The result? An extensive blog post series about the factories with an initial post titled, “Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man.”
4. Mutual exposure: Your influencers are putting their substantial might behind your product. Shouldn’t you reciprocate? Show your appreciation for an influencer’s endorsement by acknowledging it and sharing it with your audience. Like the post or video, write a quick thank-you note in the comments, share it with your followers, retweet it, and post the link on all of your social media platforms.
Influencers are always looking to build their audiences. If they see a correlation between talking about your product and an increase in page views, likes, shares, or other audience interactions, the result will be more coverage of your brand.
5. Financial incentives: Let’s be clear — you don’t need to pay influencers for their attention or endorsements. Simply providing influencers with product samples, charming them with special access, and helping them grow their audience is often more than enough to build solid and mutually beneficial relationships. In fact, some fans may question an influencer’s integrity if they found out money was exchanged for a testimonial; an influencer never wants to be perceived as a paid spokesperson.
Personally, I believe it’s completely ethical to compensate an influencer— as long as the influencer clearly discloses this information to his audience. However, the influencer must still be a genuinely passionate advocate for the product.
Another option is to offer influencers a commission for each sale that can clearly be tracked from their activities. This type of arrangement works best with influencers who actively insert themselves into conversations about your brand and play a strong role in converting their followers into your clients.
Many popular bloggers have developed strong affiliate relationships with their favorite products or brands, including mega-popular blogger and marketing personality Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion, who is an ardent advocate for HubSpot’s inbound marketing and online tracking products.
There are lots of ways to develop deep, meaningful, and productive relationships with top influencers in your market when you take their needs and expectations into consideration. If you reward an influencer who is already a huge fan of your product with a mutually beneficial relationship, his legions of fans could soon become your own.
Erik Huberman is founder and CEO of Hawke Media, a leading outsourced digital CMO agency for companies including Evite, Bally Total Fitness, Verizon Wireless, Eddie Bauer, and Red Bull. Hawke Media provides a full sales, marketing, and e-commerce team without the overhead. Erik has been a serial entrepreneur and brand and marketing consultant for eight years. He previously founded, grew, and sold Swag of the Month and grew Ellie.com’s sales to 1 million in just four months.