Big companies may often spend the equivalent of a small nation’s GDP just on market research and have a marketing department bigger than your entire office. But that hardly means that small to medium companies cannot market like a pro. In fact, SMEs have some distinct advantages that, if used well, can truly help them build stronger customer relationships and execute smarter marketing strategies.
Influencer marketing is one such marketing strategy that SMEs can utilize to quickly gain enough visibility to position themselves as formidable competitors to some of the biggest businesses. The secret sauce of successful influencer marketing for SMEs is choosing the right combination of influencers and strategies, and designing a scalable marketing plan. Some strategies will give your brand a viral boost, like the caffeine kick to wake you up, while others will give slow and consistent results over time, like a healthy diet that nourishes your body through the day. So let’s take a look at the influencer marketing strategies best suited to small and medium-sized businesses and how you can use them for your company.
Sponsored Social Media Content
No matter which industry, chances are that large chunks of your target audience are hanging out on social media. Also reigning on social media are influencers who have large followings on channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat. Together, the two are a force to reckon with. Some of the smartest and most successful brands of our time have leveraged this combination to quickly gain more popularity than many big businesses gain after spending huge money on television advertising. After all, today’s young and savvy millennial customers trust influencers more than advertisements.
From American Express to BMW, the biggest names in business have successfully utilized the power of sponsored social media campaigns. Yet, the beauty of this idea lies in the fact that there’s enough place for everyone. Plenty of influencers have niche followings in your specific industry and often building a good relationship with them is enough to begin a campaign. While most influencers expect some payout for supporting your brand, it is possible to find ones who will be happy to associate with your brand for just a sample of your product. You must begin by building a good relationship with them first. And even if you do end up paying, it will definitely be much less than for other forms of paid advertising, and with a much larger impact, because the followers of these influencers are strongly invested and hence, warm leads.
Affiliate Marketing, Discounts and Promotions
If your sales figures have been flat for a while and could use a boost, or you need that extra push to convert leads into paying customers, your influencer marketing needs to go over brand awareness and hit straight at encouraging people to buy from you.
You could do this by roping in a team of influencers and creating special discount codes for each of them. These influencers could promote your product through their channels, organically including it in their own style, while at the same time, encouraging their followers to go buy your product.
To add a little more zing to this program, especially if you have influencers that are real crowd-pullers, you could dabble with affiliate marketing. You could run a campaign where the influencer gets a cut from the profits of all sales that come via their channels. This increases active participation on their end, driving up the effectiveness of the campaign. Also, this way, it becomes a lot easier to track the ROI of your campaign and understand which influencers are driving the highest sales.
Contests and Giveaways
Here’s an influencer marketing strategy that works wonders when it comes to snatching a big chunk of the limelight towards your brand for a short period of time. Come up with an interesting contest that the influencers can engage their followers in. Alternately, you could give the influencers the creative freedom to create their own contests. The crux of this strategy lies in the appeal of your contest. You could tap into a popular trend doing the rounds on social media or tap into a collective psyche, but either way, the contest itself must be as interesting as the reward. The reward, too, should be associated closely with your product and brand mission. Share your campaign plan with your influencers and then give them the creative freedom to make it appealing to their audience.
Long-Term Brand Ambassadors
For brands that managed to find a few (or even one) influencers who they trust and really like doing business with, making them a long-term brand ambassador is a good idea. Making an influencer your brand ambassador is much like the brand ambassadors on TV. They use your products and tell people how much they like them, encouraging them to use your products. Only, they are a lot more believable.
These influencers use your products on an ongoing basis and share posts about them frequently. How often and how much they post about you will need to be discussed, or even written in a contract. Also, since this is a long-time collaboration, it is imperative that they share your brand’s vision and values for a truly authentic campaign that will consistently bring results.
Another influencer marketing strategy that yields heightened engagement for short bursts of time is takeovers. As a part of it, you can let an influencer take over your official handle and post on your behalf, on your pages, infusing their personal style in it. As a result, you have fresh and interesting content on your pages, which we know is hard to create by yourself day in and day out. also, by taking over your social media for a day or a week or as you decide, these influences effectively pull large chunks of their follower base to your page, increasing your readership and creating new leads. One of the first brands to nail this trend were Food Republic who let Sam Horine, a New York City photographer, take over their Instagram account and chronicle his trip in Rome through photos, on Food Republic’s Instagram.
For takeovers, it is crucial that you choose influencers who you have worked with before and trust. Before you begin, set up clear guidelines regarding how long this takeover will last, what it will include and what the influencer can or cannot do on your pages.
Influencer Marketing Best Practices
No matter which of the above strategies you choose, here are a few tips, tricks, and best practices that will help make your influencer marketing program a success:
Always give your influencers the creative freedom they need. They have a style that appeals to their followers and hence makes them popular. That is why, even when marketing your brand, they need to stay true to their authentic style. Only then will their audiences like their content and hence try your product.
Choose your influencers wisely. Make sure their fan following coincide with your target market, and also that they share your brand’s values and ethics. You can use influencer finding tools like influence.co to connect with the best people for your campaign.
Watch your health. Yep, you’ve heard that one right. Collaborating with new people (a lot of them), trying to make both your and their vision work together and managing to stay creative in the face of pressures, can be very stressful. Overworking yourself and stressing out can affect your performance and your life. So take care of yourself, watch your health using apps like MyFitnessPal, understand your sleep through platforms like Somn and get better rest, eat well, rehydrate, and don’t forget to have some fun.
Influencer marketing has quickly overtaken a number of paid advertising avenues such as TV and print ads, as well as brand advertising. Consumers trust influencers and, hence, buy the products they recommend. Moreover, influencers are niche-specific, so there’s always someone who is popular in just the market segments you are trying to get to. They cost much less compared to TV celebrities and yet, the engagement they bring is a lot more targeted, yielding significantly higher ROIs. This is why SMEs can use influencer marketing to increase their brand exposure, drive sales, and fuel engagement with influencer marketing. Now that you know the most popular influencer marketing strategies for small to medium-sized businesses, which one will you try out first?