Your Best Post-Pandemic Marketing Plan
2020 was like a tsunami that has permanently changed the business landscape. While a lucky few may have weathered the storm unscathed, many were lost, and most of the survivors have had to learn to adjust. The pause on face-to-face interactions and live events caused a spike in social and digital consumption. This created a new normal where e-commerce replaced the majority of in-person shopping.
The world has become even more virtual, and online marketing has actually helped small businesses by leveling the playing field. Traditional limitations have included those on budgets, manpower, and marketing know-how. As consumers have been driven online to transactions, this is also where they are searching for trusted sources of guidance. The value for small businesses lies in building stronger relationships with their target audiences, those who care the most about what they offer. Influencer marketing presents a unique opportunity for small businesses to reach ideal customers through a low-risk, high-return, and more localized campaign – and at an affordable price.
As we continue to navigate the effects of the pandemic tsunami, your small business may be adrift in a sea of information about how to promote your products and services. Influencer marketing can be a life raft of new marketing options for your post-pandemic marketing plan.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is an established form of social media marketing in which businesses collaborate with online influencers to market products or services. It fuses the concept of celebrity endorsement with a modern content-driven marketing campaign. Influencer marketing thereby leverages the reach, authenticity, and personality of individuals – online influencers – who have already amassed their own following in a specific niche with a specific target audience.
While online influencers can be celebrities, being famous is not a prerequisite. Online influencers are really niched “content creators.” They can market to a business’ ideal audience across different channels, such as social media, blogs, columns, digital and print ads, and television.
The key to understanding influencer marketing is to understand the definition of an influencer. First, an influencer must have the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of his or her authority, expert level of knowledge, position, or strong relationship with his or her audience. They should be genuinely influential. Second, an influencer must have a following in a distinct niche, with whom they actively engage. They need to be the go-to person to provide an answer to a question. Their voice establishes the connection between a business and the influencer’s audience.
Why is influencer marketing beneficial to small businesses?
As traditional advertising becomes less effective in attracting leads and customers, influencer marketing is quickly gaining popularity. It’s all about connections. Influencer marketing works by using proven tactics like word-of-mouth marketing and social proof. It takes these textbook concepts and accelerates them through social media, creating a shortcut so that small businesses no longer need to expend time, money, and effort to market from the ground up.
Customers trust their peers, friends, and the people they admire more than the companies selling the very products and services they buy and use. Confronted with overwhelming options on the market, consumers use social media to lean on favorite and trusted sources (i.e., influencers) for advice on their purchases. By connecting with the right influencer, businesses gain immediate access to, and cachet with, their followers.
Post-pandemic the affordability of influencer marketing over other traditional strategies makes it accessible to businesses of all sizes. And as a bonus, when you partner with an influencer, you’re employing a real person who is, in effect, their own small business. Many influencers are even willing to collaborate in exchange for products, services, coupons/discounts, or cross-promotions. By investing in these relationships and services, you are helping to sustain your local economy.
How can my small business get started with influencer marketing?
1) Compile a list of influencers who would be ideal within your industry
2) Identify those influencers who most align with your business and its values
Influencers carefully curate content that they create for businesses to ensure that their products and services relate to and click with their audiences. The secret is authenticity. It is a genuine sense of excitement about the subject that makes sponsored content authentic. No fancy production values, backdrops, or hair and makeup crew needed – just knowledge and enthusiasm about the subject itself. Standard sponsored posts that stand the test of time allow an influencer to promote a business in their own uniquely informative and entertaining, but above all honest, way.
3) Partner with influencers
Invest in building relationships with small-scale influencers who can create worthy content to share and promote. “Micro” influencers, who are defined as having more than 1,000 followers, are the most common type. “Nano” influencers, with less than 1,000 followers, are the newest type. From a reach perspective, micro and nano influencers generate high engagement rates due to their loyal, super-engaged audiences. Their followers trust their curated and specialized content. At a lower price point, these influencers are attractive to both businesses that can afford to partner with multiple and diverse “content creators” as well as smaller businesses with more limited marketing budgets post-pandemic. It may seem counterintuitive that a business would seek out someone with a few hundred or a few thousand followers to promote it, but that unique micro or nano influencer might just deliver better results. Influencer marketing software platforms, such as REACH-Influencers, will be a helpful tool in making these connections.
4) Create the content along with your influencers
Once your small business has contracted with an influencer, your agreement will determine the extent to which they create content. The content varies depending on what you both agree on, including videos; infographics; typical posts and reviews about products and services; and engaging directly with followers. If the influencer is particular with the style of content that gets shown on their pages, they could offer to create them for you in a form of a direct/paid advertisement/paid amplification. Businesses benefit from local influencers who can work with them on location because this reduces or eliminates shipping and travel costs of goods and services that the influencer will use, and it increases the potential for hosting events together. Influencers’ offerings can also take the form of boosting existing content marketing, driving user-generated content (UGC), and even doing an account takeover on a given platform (like Instagram).
5) Use tools to track your campaign
When you contract with an influencer, you will want to set certain marketing goals for your campaign. Metrics will be used to track the influencer’s ability to deliver to the desired audience. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) ensure your campaign hits target numbers, reaches the right audience, and moves in the right direction. Common KPIs include conversions, audience growth, reach and awareness, engagement. KPIs are really whatever outcome you are hoping to achieve through your campaign.
Now that you “know the ropes,” it is time to “get underway”
Successfully navigating the business landscape with influencer marketing centers around consistently creating high-quality content and actively engaging with your audience. Customers rely on regular people and believe recommendations that are relatable and reliable. Working with influencers is a cost-effective and scalable way to gain reach by “tapping into ultra-authentic, human-centered interactions”. Having a close, personal focus is a current marketing trend that small businesses can effectively leverage. Using influencers to organically connect with their audience is the way to do that.