The tools of the trade for retailers have irrevocably changed. Today, it’s not good enough to sell great products and have great staff. Today, social commentary is word of mouth, and influencers can provide a route to gaining more traction in a world where the union of technology and social media is king.
Let’s start with the basics and work our way up to a more complex understanding of how influence marketing can work for your business.
Influence marketing is a form of marketing whereby the focus is placed on key individuals chosen to spread the word of a business or a product, rather than a business attempting to target an entire market.
An influencer is a person who can affect the purchase decisions of the public due to their knowledge, position or relationships with others. Whether it’s Kim Kardashian advising her followers to wear a particular fashion designer’s clothes via Instagram, or a local, trusted vet recommending their favorite pet shampoo on Facebook or TV, that’s all influencing. In some senses, it’s nothing new—celebrities have been advocates of products since retailing began—it’s essentially good word of mouth from the right people. However, now it has a new look and feel being online, and it’s not necessarily celebrities spreading the word. The bottom line is, you need to understand influencing in order to make this powerful new approach work for you, because what other people think and say, especially online, matters more than ever.
Melissa Maker, who is a business owner and an influencer, is an ideal person to offer some tips regarding this new way improving your businesses’ status, and ultimately, the tides of your trade.
“As a retailer, you need to start paying attention to influencers who are speaking about your brand on various social platforms,” Melissa says. “And you want to work with someone who already knows and loves your brand, so that they speak about it authentically. If the product is new to market, do some research and find out who is talking about something similar or complimentary, and then put those influencers on a short list to contact.”
There are many ways in which to collaborate with influencers, and Melissa explains that it’s a matter of working out what is the best approach for your brand.
“Some brands offer affiliate codes; the more traffic driven to their site from an influencer’s post, the more that influencer gets paid (i.e. $2 per sale), and so the influencer is incentivized to do a more compelling piece and share the brand message to rev up their own earnings,” she explains. “Brands may also choose to sponsor a post created by an influencer and pay them a flat fee for that work. It’s not likely that you would see an influencer on payroll—they’re more like a supplier, invoicing the brand for the work that they’ve done.”
Melissa goes on to explain that other companies may decide they want to be the official product (car, shoes, knives, etc.) of the influencer, similar to what Nike would do with a star athlete. “In this case, the brand and influencer would work out an arrangement with a non-compete clause and any other terms they both deem reasonable, generally with legal counsel,” she says.
Things move so quickly in our technology-driven world, so how long should a retailer stick with an influencer to achieve maximum impact? This depends on the objectives of the campaign and the success of the relationship/collaboration formed.
“It may make sense to do a one-time engagement, but if an influencer really likes a brand, they will likely want to remain working with that brand for as long as they can, as it generates revenue for them,” Melissa says. “If the brand gets a good ROI on their investment with the influencer, then they’d likely want to continue on that path as well. It’s good idea to try things out for a short period—for example one engagement—or for a probationary period, and if all goes well, then both parties can choose to extend the deal.”
Melissa recommends mixing things up and testing a variety of influencers, as that will give you different exposure to different influencers’ audiences. “You don’t want to overwhelm one influencer’s audience over and over again with the same message,” she warns. That’s the equivalent of junk mail.
As a retailer, when you’re negotiating a potential collaboration with an influencer, be specific, she advises, and have a list of common objectives. “What does each party want out of the arrangement? How many mentions per campaign or per month or week should there be? What are the aims of the influencer and the retailer? Should the latest products be sent to the influencer every month? Should there be more exposure for each participants’ brand?”
All of these things need to be worked out before a contract is signed and a relationship is forged, and as with any new venture, it’s also good to get a grasp on some “do’s and don’ts” from someone who is already successful in playing the game.
“Have billing and payment terms arranged well in advance to ensure that both parties are happy,” says Melissa. “And definitely involve legal counsel; although no one likes to incur the expense, when everything is spelt out clearly, everyone is so much happier. Also, understand that when a brand gets too involved in the influencer’s work, the content loses authenticity and the content sounds too much like an overt advertisement, which upsets the audience, makes the influencer feel like their hands are tied, and the brand doesn’t get the ROI they’re looking for.”
A relatively new way of approaching an influencer/retailer collaboration has been dubbed a “capsule collection” and that’s where an influencer pairs up with a brand to collaborate on a product line. A recent example is The Pioneer Woman embarking on a collaboration with Gibson and now that line is sold at large retailers across the country.
“Typically, the influencer will select a limited number of items, prints, colors or whatever is best, and the company develops a line around that, and calls it the ‘Melissa Maker’ line, or something like that,” Melissa explains. “The brand loves it because the influencer already has a built-in audience who loves the influencer, and so they are willing to support them by buying up the collection.”
The final piece of advice she has for retailers is to work out which platforms resonate with their brand’s demographic. “All platforms have different influencers, and thus they attract different demographics. If you are inexperienced in working with this type of new media, it may be worthwhile investing in a company that specializes in it, or perhaps you should consider hiring someone who understands how to make this type of relation work well to ensure its success. You need to really understand influencing to get the most from it.”
For more information on Melissa and Clean My Space, visit http://cleanmyspace.com.