Over the years, social media has become a domineering force in the marketing of brands, products, or services and for good reason. For one, it’s extremely cost-effective (practically free), and it provides a level playing field for startups to play the game on the same level as major corporations. All this because the success in social media isn’t dependent on dollar spent, but content value and relationship building with audience.
However, for the very reason why there is such a low barrier to entry, it also works against us as marketers and business owners. This is because the process of signing up and creating a presence is so easy and free, pretty much everyone is on social media. Your competitors, your customers, and their friends and family are on social media. This means there is a lot of ‘noise’, and everyone on earth who now has a voice and a presence wants the attention of your customers/clients. It’s no longer just your competitors fighting for their attention, but it’s their friends sharing posts on their latest trip to Europe. It’s their family sharing family photos of the holiday happenings. It’s the latest news on the fact that Donald Trump won the election.
Luckily for businesses, especially startups, there are other ways that are just as cost-effective and impactful in helping to get your name out there to the world.
Influencer marketing is leveraging on the influence, clout, and network of someone else who has already developed a presence and trust with the target audience you want to market to. This is not necessarily new, in the sense that major brands have been doing it for decades in the form of celebrity endorsements. Now the influence has shifted from famous celebrities, to online superstars. The greater benefit with this approach, however, is that it’s more targeted, and people are more willing to buy into your offer because they trust the person who is recommending it, and not thinking they are doing it for a payday.
This form of marketing is also great for startups with no audience. This is because:
- It saves you time on having to build an audience from scratch. One of the greatest challenges you will face as a startup in marketing your brand is trying to get others to pay attention to what you offer, create interest and desire in what you offer and, of course, trust you enough to purchase your offer. This can take several months to accomplish this. However, with Influencer marketing you can drastically reduce the time it takes to make this happen, by skipping the first few steps and getting right to Trust. Instead of building trust with an unknown audience, leverage the trust already established by someone else with their audience. They will automatically trust you because they trust the person (the influencer) who is recommending your product/service
- It saves major marketing dollars. Instead of spending more money paying for a lot of ads with the hopes that it will generate leads with no guarantee on ROI, Influencer Marketing can allow you to partner with someone with greater sway. By doing that you get customers without having to your marketing money.
- It is more targeted. It allows you to be more targeted in your marketing. If you have a persona (a description of your ideal customer/client), you can research on who already has the audience you are looking to promote to. In this way it guarantees that your message is directed specifically to the people who you believe will purchase your product/service, and gets the highest quality leads for you that are more likely to buy.
How to Use Influencer Marketing
Now that I’ve outlined the benefits of this marketing approach let me break down a step by step approach that will help you create your own Influencer Marketing approach:
- Identify who your audience is. This first step is a priority, because if you don’t know who you are marketing your product/service to, then you won’t know which Influencer to reach out to.
- Identify your Influencer. Now that you know your audience, it’s time to find who they are listening to. There are a few ways you can do this: 1). Researching Google to see who is already purchasing your product/service, and following their buying process back to the Influencer, and 2). Doing SEO keyword searches to see who are the top websites/names of Influencers in your industry that come up in your search results.
- Research your Influencer and THEIR audience. Before approaching the Influencer you must first get to know the Influencer. Get to know them, what makes them tick, but not only them but also their audience. Pay attention to their blog posts, their social platforms, follow them, obsess about them a little even. Learn why their audience trusts them and follows them. This is important as it will help in positioning your offer once it’s time to approach.
- Know what’s in it for them and their audience. Once you’ve done your research now figure out how to pitch your offer. When doing this you want to focus on two things: 1). Show them how partnering with you (or at the least promoting your product/service to their audience) will benefit them; they’re not going to do it otherwise. 2). Secondly, show how it will benefit their audience; most people who have spent countless time and sleepless nights building their reputation and trust with their audience won’t allow anything to affect that, so you have to also show the value it will give their audience. This is also good because if they can offer something of value to their audience it makes them look good.
- Build a relationship with your Influencer. This step is somewhat optional because it’s not an absolute must for this strategy to work, however, it will significantly increase your chances for success. What I have found is that it’s much easier to get in the door with your pitch if there is already a pre-existing relationship established, because now you don’t come across as someone trying to take advantage of them. When I say build a relationship it doesn’t have to be that you are emailing them, texting, and calling them to have casual social chats. It could be something as simple as commenting and liking their content when they put it out on social media, or sharing their content on your social media profiles (ensure you tag them in the share so they know you did it). The purpose of this is so your name/brand becomes familiar to them, so when you are ready to pitch they can say “Oh! I remember you”.
Key note when pitching: it’s good to let them know what you like or enjoy about their content, style, personality, or whatever. This way it shows them you actually took time to appreciate what they have created.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, and very familiar to everyone, even if you’re not doing it. Blogging Marketing (or just Blogging) is simply sharing your content on a blog or website in a way that engages your audience. It offers information that they will perceive as being valuable and helpful to them, while being educational and for some entertaining. This is also a very cost-effective way to market your product/service. However, unlike Influencer Marketing it will take time to create content, build up that audience, and establish trust in a way that they see that you genuinely want to help them and will lead to them purchasing from you. Though it takes time the payoff will be more than worth it, as it will help to create loyal customers/clients and brand enthusiasts for life.
Benefits of Blogging:
- If done right, it will help you to establish yourself as an authority in your industry. If your content strategy is solid, then you will not only get leads and sales from your existing audience, but they will even share and recommend your content and product/services to others they know. In other words, your brand will be the first they think of when they need that particular product/service.
- It gives you exclusive access to your audience without the noise. This can be extremely beneficial, because once they come to your site, and your content is engaging to them, then you won’t have to worry about them being interrupted or distracted by the ‘social noise’. If they are on your site it means they came there specifically for you, to hear what you have to say, and to see what you have to offer.
- It lets your target audience know more about your product/service. A blog is an excellent way to consistently let your audience know of the benefit and features of what you offer. Each week or month you can highlight a different aspect or benefit of your product/service, and even give your audience an inside look on your services.
- It can provide a space to have their questions answered. I doubt if people pay attention to FAQ pages because they tend to be very generic, vague, and never really answer the question you’re asking. However, with a blog you can take specific questions you know for a fact your audience is interested in having answered based on their feedback and turn it into a blog post. If they have those questions more than likely there are others who want the answer to similar questions. In doing this, it lets them know you are paying attention to their needs, which further builds brand loyalty.
The final strategy in helping to boost your marketing ROI and gain competitive advantage is Email Marketing. Though this concept is really nothing new, most people are still not using it. Email Marketing is a great marketing tool because it gives you greater control in how and when your audience sees and engages with your content or offers. If you are a startup then you definitely should pay more attention to this approach for your marketing strategy. Why:
- As mentioned it gives you greater control over when you can publish and highlight your offers to your audience and, unfortunately, social media doesn’t provide that. This is even more evident on Facebook; it’s bad enough that you have to fight everyone else for the attention of your audience, but you also have to fight with Facebook as the majority of your posts won’t be seen by your audience, unless they select the option to make your page appear at the top of their news feed.
- It’s more targeted; again the last thing you want is to waste your marketing money. You want to ensure what you are spending is getting the greatest return.
- Your marketing can be segmented. You will attract a specific target audience to purchase your offering. However, even in that audience, there will be different preferences. Email Marketing allows you to create segments or groups to tailor your marketing approach to each group based on their preference
One thing you definitely want to start off with in your Email Marketing efforts is building a list. Now, I intentionally left this strategy for last because you can do this by a combination of the first two. First, create a blog and post content that you know your audience will be interested in. Then connect with an Influencer and drive traffic to that blog and find a way to collect their emails.
The highlight of this article is to understand that there other ways you can be focusing on your marketing efforts and not just social media. The best marketing strategy has a combination of all 3 (plus Social Media).