Your fool-proof guide to getting the right people talking about your brand.
THE POWER OF A CONVERSATION
Enter the rise of the Internet and new media — from blogs to product review sites to social media — these new channels provided consumers with the ability to easily, freely and publicly broadcast and engage on an unprecedented scale. Marketing became less of a one-way conversation and more of an every-which-way cacophony.
It sounds chaotic, but maybe all this communication is a good thing. After all, research shows people value firsthand recommendations from their peers more than any form of marketing. And when these consumer conversations include in-the-know influencers, they’re even more impactful. And even better news: word-of-mouth marketing can be measured. So in this digital era, brands have the opportunity to leverage the power of influencers’ conversations to measure and maximize sales.
WHAT THE STUDIES REVEAL
Consider the stats. According to the November 2014 Return on WOM study by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA):
WOM marketing has been shown to drive 13% of consumer sales.
That’s about $6 trillion annually. And it bolsters paid media by 15 percent. Some two-thirds of offline sales are accounted for by WOM marketing — the other one-third by online social media.
So, what does this mean for your brand?
You can earn significant ROI by engaging the right influencers in the right way.
1. FIND OUT WHO YOU SHOULD BE TALKING TO — AND WHO WILL DO THE MOST TALKING FOR YOUR BRAND.
The key is distinguishing between casual fans and influential brand advocates who can make a big impact on moving the ROI needle. Having thousands of followers on Twitter or likes on Facebook demonstrates reach, but what matters more is the ability for your influencers to have credible conversations about your brand, conversations that will lead to sales.
Fans are fun, but influencers are the people who are recognized for their expertise and knowledge. They’re passionate and vocal about their brand loyalties and are motivated to spread the word. And most importantly, they’re the ones people ask for advice on what to buy.
91% of brand mentions come from people with fewer than 500 followers on their social network.
Now, you just need to connect with the people having those influential conversations wherever they’re taking place — be it on the sales floor, in the field or at the dinner table.
2. ENGAGE AND EDUCATE THOSE INFLUENCERS.
You’ve found your top influencers. Now what?
of WOM marketing involves personal experience, which is more credible and leads to more sales.
To maximize impact, you must deliver targeted content and campaigns to dedicated retail associates and industry experts who can both speak knowledgeably about product features and drum up enthusiasm by expressing their personal preference for the brand.
Your top influencers are hungry to learn more about your products. Reward that passion with insider information that speaks to their goals and priorities. Then reinforce the message by giving them the opportunity to try your product firsthand, bolstering their recommendations with the power of personal experience — which leads to more trusted recommendations, and more sales.
3. REWARD THEIR EXPERTISE AND MAKE IT EASY FOR THEM TO TALK ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS.
So, how do you actually go about maximizing the impact of buying conversations?
Influential experts are often willing to co-brand themselves with their favorite brands if they feel the connection is real and that that the brand values their opinion and expertise.
So articulate why you care, and back up your commitment with perks, exclusive events and special offers. By providing your experts with the rewards they deserve, you can turn your influencers into brand advocates — and they will “pay it forward” by sharing their affinity for your brand with friends, family and consumers.
of marketers are scheduled to increase their influencer marketing budgets over the next 12 months.
of marketers reported receiving better quality customers from influencer marketing.
4. MEASURE THE SUCCESS OF YOUR NEW ADVOCATES.
How do you measure the ROI of the influencers-turned-advocates for your brand?
Ultimately, you want to be able to correlate your brand advocates with your bottom line. Here’s how:
• Align your data with marketing and business KPIs related to brand presence and consumer sentiment.
• Create a metric that quantifies a campaign’s influence by tracking increased sell-through or engagement rates following the launch of the campaign.
• Frame your KPIs within the context of your company’s sales and revenue objectives.
Beyond just conversion, you want to increase customer loyalty for repeat purchases and to create more brand advocates whose WOM recommendations will influence others.
SOUNDS GREAT! NOW, SHOW ME AN EXAMPLE.
This all sounds good on paper, but what does an impactful advocacy marketing strategy look like in action?
It’s about connecting with the people directly involved near or at the point of sale — the retail sales associates, industry pros and everyday passionate users who people turn to for advice on what to buy.
CASE IN POINT
Lululemon is a great example of a brand that’s created an impactful influencer marketing program. They approach local athletes, fitness instructors and influential enthusiasts with the opportunity to be the “face” of the brand in the community. In return, the company provides these influencers — people who are respected and looked to for fitness advice and recommendations — with free gear. Though they aren’t paid, these ambassadors are often featured prominently on bulletin boards in the stores, lending the company credibility as a part of the “community.”
The strategy has paid off. By eschewing traditional marketing strategies — and their typical hefty costs — Lululemon has created a new community of brand fans who see, want, and ask for recommendations about the gear sported by their respected trainers and instructors. It’s a win-win scenario for both the consumer and brand.
Lululemon’s success has not gone unnoticed. In a March 2015 poll by online promotions firm Tomoson, marketers rated influencer marketing as the fastest-growing online customer acquisition tactic ahead of organic and paid search, email, digital advertising, affiliate marketing and other efforts. In fact, businesses are earning $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing — wow.
CASE IN POINT
Lifestyle camera brand GoPro found a way to turn retail sales associates into brand advocates online — in order to influence purchasing decisions offline. They created an online education platform featuring rich, in-depth content designed specifically to enable better product recommendations at the point of sale. This program was developed in different languages and provided 24/7 support to all associates, including custom-designed, video-based product education, quizzes, and progress tracking.
“Retail employees share their impressions with hundreds of customers every year,” said GoPro’s Senior Global Training Manager. “If we can arm one employee with pertinent product knowledge, they’ll pass it along to their customer base. Over time, the value of reaching a sales associate becomes invaluable.”
In order to proceed to the next level — and earn exciting product discounts and rewards —employees to achieve a minimum score on the quiz at the end of each module. This brand certification program provided the people who have the biggest impact on in-store sales with the product knowledge and experience they needed to become GoPro experts.
The results: More than 122,000 individuals have become GoPro advocates. And since these individuals are having 40+ buying conversations a week, which adds up to at least 5 million offline word-of-mouth conversations about what to buy. And GoPro’s online network of category influencers allowed the brand to track key performance metrics and feedback that help them constantly improve.
Is there a return on investment? Absolutely. The data clearly shows that firsthand recommendations are more powerful than any other form of marketing, and that by turning influencers into brand advocates, brands will see a significant, measurable impact on their bottom line. In other words: it pays to engage the right people in the right way.