I doubt there’s a marketing plan in the world nowadays without some form of influencer marketing focus. Reaching influencers is part of every agency pitch. With mainstream media becoming less effective over time and widespread recognition that influencers play a big role in buying decisions, the influencer hunt is on.
The challenge is how to do it right. How do you identify who is really an influencer? How do you reach them? And with everyone else targeting influencers, how do you break through the clutter?
Many brands apply the same heavy-handed approach to influencer marketing that they do with mainstream marketing. They shout.
Somehow I ended up on agency influencer lists this last year, and I now receive dozens of emails a week, asking me to write about some piece of news or another. Aside from the fact that these emails are unsolicited, they are usually badly targeted, often lacking any news that is even moderately relevant to what I cover. The other problem is that they usually arrive in an impersonal press release format with “for immediate release” marked at the top. One recent note was addressed to “Dear <first name> <last name>” because their email mail merge didn’t work.
It’s a common pitfall to assume that influencer marketing is just the same old marketing, only targeted more finely. If whatever you’re trying to share is mediocre from the start, it’s simply not going to spread, no matter how loudly you shout it or how many people you put on your shouting list. It doesn’t matter if they’re influential or not.
One of my favorite (albeit 5-year old) examples of a bootstrapped influencer marketing program is the Stormhoek winery 100 Blogging Dinners in 100 Days, developed by Hugh MacLeod. The winery credits this event for doubling their sales in 12 months. They sent out a free pre-release bottle of wine to any blogger who was interested (with no obligation to write about it), along with a great manifesto about wine and blogging. It didn’t shout. It started an intriguing conversation and talked to bloggers as people, not as press contacts or direct marketing targets.
I like this quote from Hugh after the event: “Blogging as a marketing tool is easier when you think of it as a chemical catalyst, not as a hammer and nail.” I think that “chemical catalyst” is a good description of influencer marketing in general too.