5 Reasons Why Influencer Marketing Should Be At the Heart of Your Marketing Strategy

How do brands manage their influence outreach and strategy to best provide for their consumers?

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has always been a topic of broad scope. For any given brand, influencers – and there are many different kinds – operate across a range of channels, types of media, and marketing disciplines, engaging consumers and fulfilling sought-after touchpoints all along the user journey. In other words, everything a brand should be doing. However, as opposed to paid media channels such as PPC or advertising, it's not often that we hear talk of influencer marketing strategies or budgets. Perhaps it's time marketers took a different perspective? Those who do could gain a fresh understanding of what, and when, consumers are looking for guidance.

A key characteristic that defines influencer marketing in all its forms is that influencers operate naturally within earned media. Influencers themselves must be earned by brands, as by definition their advocacy originates from a position as a third party. The position influencers reside within is an important point; the fact that they promote media that is not owned by a brand, fulfils a touchpoint that consumers look for by providing a level of impartiality that gives their opinions power, or even better, influence.

Influencer Marketing In Organic Search, Social Media

Influencers have a special relationship with consumers. The value of this relationship has been quantified in various studies:

  • According to Nielsen, 90 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations over just 33 percent trust ads.
  • Studies by McKinsey have indicated that word-of-mouth recommendations may be the primary reason for purchases in as many as 50 percent of buying decisions.
  • Research by Forrester has suggested that for 80 percent of all purchases, there is some form of word-of-mouth recommendation influencing decisions during the purchase cycle.

The findings tally with more recent data. We know for example that an incredible 85 percent of British consumers aged 25-34 won’t buy something without positive reviews, and that blogs have a huge impact on consumer purchase decisions.

On other channels, such as social media, the conversation and diversity of interactions have made it a rich arena for influencer marketing. With powerful influencers (e.g., celebrities and sports stars) engaging fans and consumers on a day to day basis, often activity makes for highly conversational interactions, and ones that can influence consumers very naturally.

And there are many different kinds of influencers, each operating making an impact online in their own unique way:

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5 Reasons Influencer Marketing Should Be At The Heart Of Your Marketing Strategy

1. Influencer Marketing Is More Powerful Than Paid Media

When you consider the sum value of a marketing channel across the entire purchase funnel, influencer marketing stands out as a discipline that adds value across whole consumer journeys. To illustrate this example, as an HBR study revealed, fewer than 10 percent of shoppers actually visit manufacturers’ sites when researching a purchase, something that is clearly at odds with companies who still invest a majority of their digital spend on owned media.

The study further revealed that display ads, typically perceived to be valuable at the consideration stage, were only clicked if they displayed a discount offer. Instead, consumers naturally gravitate to content and reviews produced by influencers when researching and evaluating their purchase decisions.

2. Influencer Reviews Are The First Port Of Call In The Evaluation Stage

When evaluating purchases, click-stream analysis revealed that of all the online retailers, Amazon was probably the most influential touch point for the company’s products during the evaluation stage. The HBR study also confirmed that consumers went directly to Amazon and other retail sites that offered user-generated reviews and product information, rather than brand or other owned media sites.

When consumers are coming to conclusions about whether they are looking at the right products, above all they value the opinions of other consumers and category experts to look for reassurance in their decisions.

3. Influencer Marketing Shouldn’t Just Be A Lead Generation Exercise

There is no doubt that influencer marketing enables valuable moments for brands to build relationships and levels of engagement with consumers. However there is a certain level of misunderstanding among some brands that the value of influencer marketing lies in its ability to change consumers minds; to change or move the opinion of a consumer who is not yet interested, into one that is.

While this is true, it doesn’t portray how influencer marketing has become relevant to the whole consumer journey. More specifically, that influencer marketing can be used to raise awareness, enable consumers to consider, evaluate, and transact, and help to build loyalty and reputation for brands post consumer purchases. Those who limit their influencer marketing activities to a mere exercise in lead generation, are missing out on the opportunity to used the most trusted earned media channel to develop nurture paths and improve user journeys.

4. Influencers Are Already Impacting Your Consumers And Your Brand

Consumers are interacting with hundreds, or even thousands, of powerful online influencers at all the stages of the purchase journey.

The challenge for brands is to work out who to target, and engage amongst those influencers. After all, for any given brand, a specific individual or group of influencers can operate on very different channels, and perform very different functions.

5. Influencer Marketing Helps You Really Understand Your Consumers

It’s a huge challenge for brands to understand the diverse, complex canvas in which their consumers and those they look to are operating. But tackling these challenges is the way to really understand consumers, including what they are looking for from brands, and when.

Who are your consumers looking to for guidance? Where are they spending their time online? To shop, to research, to relax? Who do they trust? Who do they really trust?

And ultimately it gives rise to perhaps the biggest question of all: if you’re a brand, how do you manage that influence?

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Is influencer marketing underrated, and under-budgeted for by brands? Let us know what you think.