Influencer Marketing: Five Strategy Mistakes to Avoid

Many thanks to guest blogger Wendy Marx of Marx Communications for this post on Influencer Marketing — originally published on the Marx Communications B2B PR Sense Blog.

**************************************

In relation to other marketing strategies, influencer marketing is still in its infancy in many ways.  That is why there are still many questions, like what is influencer marketing, why is it so effective, and what influencer marketing strategy mistakes should you avoid in order to get the best results.

Today, we’re going to focus on that last question:  what mistakes should you avoid as you venture into influencer marketing?

But first, let’s make sure that we’re all on the same page, definition-wise.

What Is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is a tactic in which you work with industry leaders who have a strong connection with a large audience.  Your working relationship with the influencer gives you access to their audience, where you can spread your brand message and raise brand awareness.

When people first hear about influencer marketing, the first thing that may come to mind is celebrity endorsements.  But modern influencer marketing encompasses much more than celebrities promoting a product — which is why it is a valuable marketing strategy for B2B brands.

These influencers can endorse certain products in their industry or shine light on a certain brand.  Their opinion has the power to impact purchase decisions and preferences among their audience — a power that you can tap into with influencer marketing.

For many, this is a new tactic, which is why there has been some resistance from time to time.  But the results that B2B brands have seen so far are promising. According to one study, 94% of those who used influencer marketing believed it to be effective, and another 48% in the United States planned to increase their budget for this tactic.

Now that we have a firm grasp on what influencer marketing is and how it has helped others, let’s answer the million dollar question:  What are the biggest influencer marketing myths and mistakes you need to avoid?

The 5 Biggest Influencer Marketing Strategy Mistakes You Need to Avoid

1. Not Setting Goals.  Imagine running a race that didn’t have a finish line — or even mile markers.  After a while, it would get discouraging, even frustrating.  Why?  Because as humans we like to measure our progress and work toward a goal.  The same can be applied to influencer marketing.  It’s important that you set goals.

However, your goals and metrics don’t have to be complicated.

Lay out some basic KPIs that will give you the most insight into your campaign.  Is it website page views?  Comments and likes on social media?  Is it number of downloads?  whatever it is, have your analytics program ready to go before your influencer marketing campaign goes live.

Once your campaign is launched, make adjustments if you notice that it is not performing as well as you had anticipated.

2. Not Doing Your Due Diligence.  Influencers — even if they’re in your industry — are not a one-size-fits-all solution for your brand.  Each influencer brings with him or her a unique point of view, working style, and audience.  If you don’t completely mesh with the influencer’s perspective, then it’s just not going to work.

What should you research before choosing Influencers?  Look into:

  • Their audience — Does it encompass your target audience?  Where are they from?  Are followers highly engaged with the influencer or only passive participants?  More on this later…
  • Their reputation — What is their behavior?  Are they known as a respectable source?
  • Their influencer marketing platforms — Do they have a specific social network?  Is it the same one your audience principally uses?
  • Their media format of choice — Do they blog?  Create videos? Create other forms of media that their audience engages with?  Do these media formats fit into the vision that you have for your brand?

3. Measuring Influence by Audience Size. This may be one of the biggest fallacies I’ve seen regarding influence.  “If they have a large audience, they must have more influence” — not necessarily!

Through the years, we’ve found that some influencers who have large audiences have dwindling numbers in terms of engagement, which equals less influence.

On the other hand, those with smaller audiences (known as micro-influencers), in the range of 15,000 – 20,000, may have engagement numbers that are through the roof.  When you peel back the curtain, these micro-influencers may have a genuine connection to their audience that is often lacking in larger influencers.

Bottom line:  Look at the big picture when choosing influencers!

4. Rejecting Influencer Marketing as a Tactic for B2B.  While B2C brands were the earliest adopters of influencer marketing tactics, it’s foolish to think that B2B brands can’t enjoy similar success.

We just have to change some of the parameters when working with influencers in the B2B space.

For example, B2C brands tend to focus on influencers who are vivacious, sympathetic or authentic.  But most B2B businesses, given the sales process, need influencers with knowledge and expertise.

The truth is that influencer marketing doesn’t fit into any one category.  It is a marketing tactic that can be adapted to fit the needs of many brands.  When brands open themselves up to this new strategy, they often are surprised at the benefits.

5. Choosing Big Names Over Niche Influencers.  Many people chase after big-name recognition when looking for influencers.  They reason that the bigger the name the bigger the influence.

But, sad to say, this line of reasoning is often the fool’s gold of influencer marketing.

Why is this?  Many people have been burned by false advertisements.  As a result, they distrust big names.  Instead, they are more likely to trust “real” people — influencers who appear to be more like them, to whom they can more easily relate.  That’s why niche influencers have taken off in terms of success.

If you want an influencer who will have a genuine connection with your target audience, check out the niche influencers within your industry.

In review…

Don’t be put off by influencer market strategy mistakes.  The truth is that influencer marketing holds great potential for many brands.  If you’re current tactics aren’t performing, it may be time to embrace influencer marketing as a strategy.

Wendy Marx is president of Marx Communications, which is based in Connecticut.

Share

Writing your way to thought leadership: Five Tips

The concept of thought leadership is not new.  In fact, it has been around for years – especially in professional services firms where reputations rest on demonstrating expertise.

It’s still a viable concept, however. As the go-to experts for information, guidance, ideas and inspiration, thought leaders attain national prominence as leaders in their field.

But being recognized as a thought leader does not happen overnight.  It’s a step-by-step process.  If you would like to become a thought leader in your field, one of the best ways is to take some of the ideas and concepts that you have found helpful in your career and turn them into articles to submit to publications that can establish you as a credible industry expert.

Here are some tips to help you on your way to becoming a published thought leader:

  1. Have something to say.  Your article should be relevant to today’s business issues, regardless of the industry you represent.  It should contribute to the current conversation and predict trends for the future.  Finally, it should inspire others to implement your ideas.
  2. Speak to your target audience.  Especially in trade publications, your article should address industry-specific challenges and issues.  And don’t forget that every publication has its editorial requirements; you should be familiar with them before writing your article.
  3. Present your ideas in an engaging way.  Even when you are seeking to be published in a magazine serving your industry, you will need to write your article for readers who, while intelligent, are probably not as steeped in your subject as you are.  Write clearly in a conversational tone and avoid technical jargon.
  4. Do not openly promote yourself or your business in your article.    Recognition is a funny thing.  Sometimes the harder you try to get recognized, the less successful you are.  Demonstrate your expertise through recognizing others’ work in your pieces and jumping off from what they say to talk about your ideas.  You and your company will be identified at the end of the article.
  5. Remember that getting recognized takes time.  Persistence can pay off.  Get published as often as you can – guest opinion pieces in publications or blogs serving your industry can lead to business publications and gradually more mainstream media attention. And by all means, get help from a professional writer if you need it.  You will save time and money in the long run.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Share

Communication is key to a successful relationship with your PR firm

You’ve finally chosen a PR firm to work with.  You’ve done the due diligence, sorted through proposals, interviewed the candidates, and you feel you have found the right fit for your business.

But that’s just the beginning.  The practice of public relations is based on communication, and that’s especially important when you bring in outside counsel.  Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • It’s not “one and done.”  You probably shared a great deal of information with your PR firm before hiring them, and they have a good feeling for what you do and what makes your company special.  You’re off to a good start, but don’t stop there.  Ongoing communication is essential to getting the best results from your PR firm.
  • Give your firm an early heads-up on company news.  When something newsworthy happens at your firm, your PR firm should hear about it as soon as possible. They will need time to strategize its release to the public. And be available for any interviews that result from their efforts.  PR people are at the mercy of journalists’ deadlines, so if you want positive media coverage, they have to be able to reach you quickly.
  • Trust your firm.  Sometimes – especially with entrepreneurial businesses – it’s difficult to give things up and let someone else carry the ball. Trust your PR people with sensitive information about your business so they are well-prepared for anything that may go wrong.
  • Designate an in-house contact.  Standing meetings help, even if they are telephone conferences, but company news and events don’t always occur on a schedule. It’s best to have a regular in-house contact – someone who is responsible for contacting the PR firm with company news or events, for providing the PR firm with any necessary company information, and for streamlining the internal approval process for projects.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Share

Growing your audience with a center of influence PR strategy

The following post is by Hollie Geitner, Vice President for Client Services at WordWrite Communications of Pittsburgh.  WordWrite is a fellow member agency – with Houston’s DoubleDimond Public Relations – of PR Boutiques International.

HubSpot’s 2018 State of Inbound report found that 63% of companies view generating traffic and leads as their biggest marketing challenge.

Many of our clients and those we talk to regularly have expressed similar frustrations, asking:  “How do I connect with my target audience when there is so much noise out there?”

It’s a reasonable question.  Traditional advertising is less effective than it once was, attention spans are shorter than ever, and newsrooms are shrinking by the day.

Perhaps it’s time to consider an alternative – communicating with your center of influence (COI), or those who directly impact the decisions of your end-users/end-buyers.  In many cases, those are people or organizations you’ve been aware of but haven’t really invested the time or resources into just yet.  These folks are actively looking for viable options for their clients (your ideal customers) and the sooner you make those influencers a priority, the sooner you may see results.

Consider builders or contractors who work closely with realtors, financial advisors who market to attorneys and accountants, manufacturers of safety products who communicate with risk management consultants…

In most cases, this narrow COI audience is trusted by those who ultimately purchase or use your product or service.  They are a good referral network, and in ideal scenarios, you might be able to do the same for them, making it a beneficial relationship for all.  In working with these groups, the key is not to sell, but to educate and inform.  Offer something that helps them solve their clients’ unique challenges.

Identifying your COIs is only the first step, however.  Just like your customers, you have to understand how the COIs operate, what they read, how they consume information and how they work with their own clients.  Your outreach strategy might include social, digital and traditional marketing and your messaging will speak directly to them.  You’ll need to tweak your customer messaging a bit, but it is well worth the effort.

The COI strategy is particularly helpful today as social media allows for highly targeted advertising focused on interests, key words, geographic location and industries served.

If you feel you’ve hit a plateau in your marketing efforts, it may be time to rethink your strategy and focus on your own COI network.

Share

The Worst Time to Think of Crisis Communications

Expect the Unexpected – That’s good advice for everyone in business.  No one can predict the future, so being prepared for whatever comes along just makes good sense.  Part of that preparation is having a crisis communications plan in effect.

Many business owners think a crisis could never happen to them.  They don’t work with dangerous materials, nor are they guardians of sensitive information.  Moreover, they are smart and capable people who don’t do stupid things.

Optimism is a great thing, but preparedness is better.  A good reputation is essential to business success, and a reputation can be tarnished in many ways – sometimes irrevocably and often unfairly.

Not all crises are caused by a company’s management or poor safety practices.  Businesses can be interrupted, and customers lost, by natural disasters, a fire, or a computer system failure; suppliers may have a crisis that affects your company’s ability to provide products; one of your products can be recalled; or you could lose key staff, which affects your ability to provide a certain level of service for a period of time.

Once you are in the middle of a crisis, you realize that it may not only damage your reputation, but could cause you to go out of business.  And this is the worst time to think of ways to handle it because you may not be in the best frame of mind to do so.  Customers may be left in the dark as you work your way through solving your problems, leaving an impression that you just don’t care about their concerns or needs.

This is why an increasing number of businesses are taking crisis communications planning seriously.  A major part of business is communicating with your customers and making sure they know what is going on even in the middle of a serious situation.  Many companies have actually improved their reputations simply by having an effective response.

Here are some initial crisis communication tips from a previous post.

Posted by Margot Dimond

 

Share

Search Engine Marketing: SEO vs. PPC

Having a strong online presence is essential in today’s business environment. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) are the two most utilized methods of Search Engine Marketing, but how do they work – and which is best for your business?

First, the definitions: SEO is basically a series of techniques, strategies and tactics used by a webmaster to drive traffic to your website organically from search engines. PPC is an advertising model used to direct online traffic to websites, in which the advertiser pays whenever someone clicks on their ad.   Choosing the right keywords – words and phrases that are part of your web profile – is important to the success of both SEO and PPC.

When deciding which option will provide the best return on investment for your business, you may want to keep the following three things in mind: Cost, Credibility, and Commitment.

  • Cost:  SEO is very labor intensive and usually takes some time to show results, so the costs can be daunting, depending on what you need and who you are competing with. If you are the new kid on the block in a crowded marketplace, it’s going to be an uphill battle to get on that coveted first page. PPC, on the other hand, can give you a much bigger bang for the buck.  With paid search ads, you can set your own budget and adjust it as needed all along the way. In addition, paid search ads usually appear on the first page above the organic search results, so the user will always see them, even if they scroll past them.  Advantage: PPC.
  • Credibility:  PPC and SEO are related to the more traditional marketing tactics of display advertising and earned media coverage (publicity). Paid advertising is easily measured for ROI, and done well can have really positive results. Also, advertising can bring the kind of immediate attention that will influence your organic search results in the long run. On the other hand, SEO is related to earned media coverage, which implies a third-party endorsement by the media outlet that publishes it. Similarly, organic search results indicate that Google or Bing has endorsed your business as worth paying attention to.  Advantage: SEO.
  • Commitment: Both SEO and PPC require a level of commitment to work well. SEO, however, can take a long time and require a great deal of content development to keep it going – new blog posts, new product offers, etc. With PPC, you can tell fairly quickly if your ads or keywords are resulting in increased traffic and what the visitors to your site are doing when they get there by using Google Analytics. You can then make adjustments as required. However, unlike PPC, SEO offers sustainability; it does not cease when you stop paying.  Advantage: A Tossup.
  • Combination: Choosing an online traffic driver doesn’t have to be an either-or decision; it’s really best to use a combination of both SEO and PPC, budget permitting. That way, you get the best of both – as long as you have an overall strategy for implementation, which is essential for both short- and long-term success.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Share

Thank you for your patience

Patiently listening while being thanked for my patience.

“Thank you for your patience.”  When I see it in a letter or hear it from a customer service representative, I often think, “Hmmm…but maybe I’m not being patient.”

As a homeowner and business owner in Houston, Texas, I’ve seen and heard this more than usual in the past months.  That’s because we are living in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, when recovery and other services are in high demand and not always readily available.  As a result, so many affected by Harvey’s flooding are routinely thanked for their patience – or understanding, or cooperation.

Out of curiosity, I conducted some informal research.  I asked a few friends how they feel about being thanked in advance for their patience.  I also searched online.  Both friends and the online community reveal the same thing:  phrases like this can be perceived as presumptuous, even insulting.

In an effort to be polite, the person communicating these platitudes may actually offend the customers they are trying to communicate with.  They are thanking the customer for something over which he or she has no choice.

This is a seemingly minor communication faux pas, but it’s now endemic in our culture.  The internet server is down, the flight is delayed, an urgent service call is put on hold for an inordinate amount of time – these are all cases where you can gain or lose a customer simply by how you communicate.  Thanking someone for their patience when they cannot communicate with clients, reach their destination in time for a meeting, or have sewage leaking into their home can seem insensitive.

Is there a better way to handle these situations?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Indicate that you know how inconvenient the situation is and that you will keep them updated.  (Then follow through.)
  • Apologize for the inconvenience and assure the customer that you are working to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.
  • Give the customer a time estimate when the problem will be resolved – or if they are on hold, what the “wait time” is.

Many companies are already doing this, and customers do appreciate it.  Most people understand that “stuff happens,” but when it affects important aspects of their lives, they just want as much information as possible about what’s going on and when things will be resolved.  That’s how a company shows respect for its customers.

Posted by Lisa Dimond Vasquez

Share

Are you amplifying your earned media success?

Todays’ post is by Hollie Geitner, Vice President of Client Services for WordWrite Communications of Pittsburgh, a fellow member firm of PR Boutiques International.

If you’ve been quoted in a positive news article about your industry, or your byline was recently published by a trade magazine, congratulations! You’re now a thought leader. This is a designation many aspire to, which is why it’s important you take the care and time to leverage that incredible placement as part of your overall marketing strategy.

The blurred lines between news media and digital channels mean that more and more people, including business leaders, utilize information they find on social media to influence their business purchasing decisions. And, despite the publicized erosion of confidence in the news media, the Cision 2017 State of the Media Report indicates that most audiences view a news story as more reputable and trustworthy than a company’s branded marketing materials.

So, if you have a great story, share it! Here are some ideas for leveraging your earned media hit: 

  1. Post it to your personal and company social channels and link to the publication or media outlet. 
  2. Share it with your internal team—including sales representatives. Encourage them to use the story when meeting with clients or prospects or share on their own channels. 
  3. Put some money behind a social post to receive more click-throughs. Facebook ads allow you to target your demographic so your content is seen by those most interested in your industry. 
  4. Publish a post on your LinkedIn page. The publishing platform is very user friendly. Spend a little time writing a post about your expertise and mention the publication that originally included you or your company. This is a good way to get more detailed than perhaps what was in the article. And, once you publish it on LinkedIn you’ll see how many people view, share or engage with your post.
  5. Mention the story in your customer newsletter and in communications to Board members and other stakeholders. 

Just like you would with your marketing efforts, have a plan in place to track the post metrics, such as likes, shares and engagement. Google Analytics, social platform dashboards and even paid services such as Trendkite make it simple to pull it all together so you can easily see the impact one great story can have on your company.

Remember, don’t toss that great media hit aside. Amplify it!

 

Share

Planning to Advertise? Four Things to Keep in Mind

Many potential clients approach a public relations firm seeking earned media coverage (aka “free publicity”) to promote their product or service.  Depending on the client, their target market and goals, a PR firm may recommend including advertising in the marketing mix to achieve maximum effectiveness.

We believe having a professionally planned ad campaign is the best way to proceed, but if you decide to do it on your own, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Who do you want to reach?  Answering this question will help determine where you advertise and your advertising message.  You want to think of where your potential customers get their information and why they may need your product or service.
  • Have a consistent image and message that will appeal to your target market.  You can have ads that address different topics, but the look of your ad and the basic message about your company should remain consistent so that your ad is instantly recognizable as being from your company.
  • Once is not enough.  Repetition is essential to get through the information clutter, so you will have to set aside a decent advertising budget to get the results you want.
  • Monitor your campaign’s effectiveness.  The simplest way to do this is to regularly ask where any new contact heard about you.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Share

Four Common Misconceptions about PR

The year is still young, and you may not have decided what to do to improve your company’s marketing for the coming year. You think PR may be the answer, and no doubt you would benefit from it.  But it’s a good idea to know what you want to accomplish with public relations – one of the most misunderstood of business functions.

Before you call a firm or hire a PR specialist, let’s dispel some common misconceptions about the practice.

  1. PR is about writing and sending news releases.  Think of a news release as the bread and butter that accompanies the meal.  It’s not the whole meal or even the main course.  Every business or nonprofit organization needs to begin any public relations program with a strategic plan – one that incorporates their overall goal, short-term objectives, target audiences, strategy, tactics and how success will be measured.  A news release is one of many tactics that may be used in carrying out the plan.
  2. PR is “free advertising.”  First of all, public relations and advertising messages are entirely different.  You can overtly promote your organization in an ad, while to obtain “earned” media coverage (coverage you don’t have to pay for), you must have a story – one that makes a worthwhile contribution to the editorial content of a media outlet.  Second, public relations work is not free; whether you are using in-house staff or an outside firm, you will pay for the time and talent that it takes to get recognition for your business.
  3. When interviewing a PR specialist, the first thing to ask is how our business would be promoted.   Every business or nonprofit organization is unique in some way, and no one PR plan will be right for each one. Ask that question of a PR firm, and you will probably get a series of questions in return or a request to meet and talk with you in person.  That’s because the answer to your question depends on all of the factors that will go into your company’s strategic PR plan (see #1, above).
  4. We need good PR to quickly counteract recent bad publicity.  Hiring a PR firm to put a positive spin on bad acts by your company is pretty much useless.  The truth has a way of coming out, and in today’s media climate it can be devastating to your business, as online and social media can reach millions of people before you can do anything about it.  The best way – perhaps the only way – to counter negative media coverage is to apologize immediately for any wrongdoing and begin a long-term program to repair the damage to your reputation.  And that PR program has to be based on good acts, or it won’t succeed.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Share