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Brands, agencies, and networks have been talking about effectively incorporating influencers into affiliate programs for some time. Brands naturally want to ensure that their outreach programs drive strong incremental business from these opinion leaders. It stands to reason. Influencer marketing spending will top $4B in 2022, according to eMarketer.
Many affiliate leaders have tried to activate influencers but saw disappointing results. Some brands tried to ride the wave of the prevailing “burst” influencer marketing model, even though successful affiliate programs are about sustained partnerships. Other brands have focused on the most prominent influencers, but these opinion leaders are often resistant to performance-based programs. Still others have attempted to manage all influencers individually, even though their potential sales volume may not warrant that level of individualized attention.
Matterkind has created a process for delivering substantial revenue and profitable sales from the influencer segment. Success with influencers is an important and growing element of our affiliate practice, and below we’ll outline the strategies and tips we employ to “get it right.” Consider it a roadmap to help you make the most of this critical and growing partner class.
If you work for a large brand, chances are your company is already active with influencers. Typically, control of influencer marketing programs went to social or PR teams. Start your strategy development process by finding out the state of your company’s influencer efforts today. Here are some questions to get your evaluation started:
These questions will clarify what works and doesn’t with your current efforts.
View this step as an opportunity to draw closer to the current influencer management team so you can collaborate to get the best results. Explain that your goal is to help the company demonstrate sales impact from its influencer investments. Chances are, you will be welcomed if you can help program leaders prove ROI. Avoid turf battles by focusing on bringing measurability and accountability to influencer marketing. In most organizations, influencer teams face tremendous pressure to make efforts accountable.
I cannot emphasize enough the need to work in partnership with your company’s current influencer management team.
At Matterkind, cross-functional collaboration is the foundation of everything we do. Every day, we prove the value of de-siloed marketing efforts on top and bottom lines. Our model leverages the concept of conscious marketing to deliver purpose, relevance, and authenticity to all client businesses. By putting customer data at the center of our efforts, we help teams come together to formulate a channel strategy that delivers on appropriate objectives. We’ve created a cooperative culture that embraces collaboration and helps everyone succeed.
We also bring an enlightened view of what the affiliate channel should provide to a business. We reject the division of unaccountable brand marketing on one side and direct response advertising on the other. It’s critical to continuously assess programs to ensure that they deliver brand differentiation along with outstanding ROI.
The ideal influencer program changes minds and drives conversions. Some influencers are better at the second task than others, and many of the best recognize that they make more money when compensated based on results instead of activity.
Carefully consider the type of influencers you add to the program. It can be tempting for brands to focus on the super-influencers that reach millions because they believe the audience scale will drive more conversions. But many experts recommend you focus on “micro-influencers” – people with followings in the 10,000 to 100,000-person range. These voices are thought leaders on a particular topic or product category, and their followers often seek their perspective on the right products to buy.
Recommendations from micro-influencers combine reasonable scale with high credibility – they’re seen as reliable and trustworthy. To summarize, a micro-influencer who has earned her title as “PC Woman” can often sell a lot more laptops than a Kardashian.
Once you have your ideal influencer characteristics identified, work with the current program team to evaluate your existing pool. Find out whether these influencers are willing to work on a hybrid or performance basis and how their editorial and followings mesh with your ideal influencer profile. This is an important step that helps ensure perfect alignment between company goals, influencer goals, and audience needs.
Then pair this analysis with the available budget to determine the correct number of influencers for your program. Where budget permits, recruit new influencers to round out your program.
Chances are your company has access to rich data about influencers through your existing influencer marketing program. Some affiliate networks and platforms also provide data on influencer positioning, reach, and even sales effectiveness.
Some influencers are thrilled to work on performance. Others are afraid of the unknown. For maximum ROI, you need to bring along the best of your current influencers and identify new voices that believe in their business value. Find out how much compensation your best current influencers receive, so you can show them how they can make more under the new CPA model.
My team and I have found that one highly effective strategy is to shift your influencer relationships from burst- or promo-driven engagements to an ongoing partnership. With this long-term performance deal, the influencer gets a more predictable revenue stream and a clear path to additional commission.
Finally, ensure you help influencers onboard to your affiliate management network or platform smoothly. Some sign-up processes are better than others, and a little extra attention here helps ensure you hold onto potential top performers during the transition.
Many of your influencers will already be working with brands on performance. Others won’t be. By helping them understand how to deliver results, you help them grow in your program and even evolve to the new reality of the space.
I am a big believer in education and guidance through the transition. My team collaborates with creative resources to ensure we have assets that make driving direct sales easier for these opinion leaders. I constantly remind clients that influencers may be digitally savvy but often are not well-versed in the language and processes of affiliate measurement. Being a great resource will go a long way to ensuring your success.
At this point, you’ve put a great program in place. Now it’s time to ensure that influencers have the support and communications they deserve. Every successful affiliate program spends most time on top partners and relies on tech and automation to stay connected to smaller players. Apply the same approach to your influencers. Focus most resources and attention on leading sales drivers. Use email newsletters and other forms of broad communication for others.
Ensure that your team digs into measurement and reporting so that they can take a data-driven approach. This is a foundation of a modern and progressive affiliate program and is critical for your success with the influencer segment.
Then, act upon what works to reshape program characteristics. Do video assets work better than images for your influencers? Do top revenue drivers prefer percent-off discounts or dollars-off? Identify the characteristics of your best-performing influencers and recruit more individuals that share those attributes.
Finally, keep the lines of communication open. Help partners by sharing information on what works in the channel. Consider developing resources like a periodic newsletter to share ideas that will help them make more money and sell more products.
Making influencer marketing a real revenue driver requires holistic thinking. You need to place affiliate strategies and accountability in the context of the larger brand go-to-market strategy. By partnering with other marketing teams and putting an integrated set of customer data at the center of efforts, you unlock the channel’s full potential and foster a collaborative work style that helps with all initiatives.
Matterkind applies this model to engagements in a variety of categories. We’ve shown that there is no need to settle for modest results here. To take just one client’s success story as an example, my team has grown one apparel brand’s affiliate program sales by 35% by adding influencers to the mix.
If you’d like to speak with someone about making your influencer and affiliate programs work better, get in touch with Matterkind today.