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Brand – Influencer Relationships: How to Create Real Connections

A woman standing on top of a cliff exemplifying real connections in brand-influencer relationships.

As the digital marketing landscape evolves, it’s clear that influencer marketing is here to stay. And with good reason – the value of the influencer marketing business is projected to climb to an impressive five to ten billion dollars in 2020. The search term “influencer marketing” gets upwards of 61,000 searches on Google each month. That’s a 1500% increase in searches during the past three years. 

But just because influencer marketing is popular doesn’t mean that it’s easy to run a successful influencer campaign. This unique type of marketing is entirely based on building strong, mutually-beneficial relationships between brands and influencers – and nurturing those connections for their continued success. 

Let’s take a look at why powerful influencer relationship management is the secret to establishing authentic audience connections. 

Why is the brand-influencer relationship so important in 2020? 

Influencer marketing is based on one thing: relationships. 

Successful influencer marketing programs require strong relationships between the brand and the personality. It’s crucial for brands to develop and maintain strong relationships with the right people in their niche to ensure a good ROI. Without creating meaningful connections with the right influencers, the chances that the marketing effort will be effective are very low. Fostering the relationship is a must to keep influencers personally invested in the brand’s ongoing success. 

Connect with the right Influencers 

One of the biggest hurdles brands must overcome is identifying the right influencers, getting their attention and ultimately making real connections. According to experts, finding the right online personalities is often the biggest challenge that brands face. A 2018 survey reported that 39% of marketers do not feel confident about choosing the right influencers to work with. With influencer marketing being more widespread than ever, that’s a huge number of people who need help connecting with the best influencers. 

Like with any relationship, first impressions are key. Botching first contact is a surefire way to get off to a rocky start – and put your ROI at risk. For brands, making a good first impression can make or break the success of a marketing campaign. The goal should always be to make connections that plant the seeds of a long-lasting, fruitful relationship. 

Connecting with an Influencer creates authentic media 

One of the reasons influencer campaigns are so effective is their authenticity. In fact, experts report that authenticity in influencer marketing is becoming more important than ever before. 

A good marketing effort revolves around an influencer who produces authentic content that’s laser-targeted at their loyal followers. Followers must trust their favorite influencers to only recommend things they know their audience will love. 

Because of this, brands should only seek to build relationships with those whose image and platform naturally aligns with the brand. This way, the relationship will yield genuine content that becomes a powerful brand asset. Quality, influencer-generated content may be repurposed in many ways to help businesses fortify their online presence and brand vision. And with influencer marketing software, brand marketers can easily identify and organize high-performing content to make it readily available to convert into paid ads or include it in their email or content marketing. 

Trigger emotional consumer connections through authentic media 

The reason influencers exist is because of their special ability to create real, emotional connections with their fans. People follow and enjoy their favorites because they make their followers care enough to engage with their content on a regular basis. As influencers share themselves with the world, their fans get to know them and become invested in their lives. 

That’s why an Instagram post that shares photos of someone working out, cuddling their pet or embarking on an exciting journey receives reactions and comments from hundreds or even thousands of strangers. And they will get the same reaction if they share themselves using and truly enjoying a product that fits into their everyday life. That’s what makes influencers so incredibly valuable. 

All advertising and marketing seeks to move people emotionally. People with a following have already invested time and energy into connecting with people in a heartfelt way. Those emotional connections are a marketer’s secret weapon. 

Make an influencer fall in love with your brand 

The easiest way to transform an influencer into a great brand ambassador is to make them truly fall in love with your business. They need to fully buy into a brand and love it enough to show a genuine connection. 

It would be easy to think that the only way to an influencer’s heart is through their pocketbook. However, mere payment isn’t enough to make them truly advocate for the brand. Fostering the brand-influencer relationship is absolutely crucial in helping your promoters become passionate about your company. 

People enjoy doing business with people they like. By ensuring that your influencers feel a positive connection with the brand, you can guarantee they will produce content that sells. That’s why relationship building is mission critical when creating a productive marketing effort. 

Find the right influencer for your niche 

You don’t just need an influencer; you need the right one for your brand. Identify individuals that would ordinarily use your product, or would have a real need for your product to solve a problem. Choosing the right people ensures an authentic connection between brand and influencer that will extend out to that person’s audience.

For example, say your brand produces make up in bold colors and glittery finishes. The right influencer will be one who already uses bold, edgy products like yours when creating the makeup looks their audience loves. 

A makeup artist who is known for soft, breezy, natural looks, on the other hand, would not be a good choice–even if she has a ton of followers. 

The beauty of influencer marketing is that brands can search for the “Goldilocks” of influencers to market their products. Taking the time and effort to find personalities who are just right is always worth it.

Nurture your influencer relationships 

Effectively nurturing your relationships helps make your brand partners feel connected to the brand. Don’t treat influencers like they are simply a means to an end. Show them why you value them more than any generic advertising method. 

  • Nurture your relationships with email

One easy way to nurture your relationship is to stay in touch through email. Be sure to check in using communications written by one real employee to a specific influencer. Pinging them with occasional, friendly updates strengthens your connection. 

  • Avoid sending mass emails and generic messages as much as possible.

No one ever wants to feel like they are a cog in a wheel. Just like with consumers, personalization goes a long way with influencers. It doesn’t take much time to personalize, and the results are worth it. 

  • Also be sure to ask for feedback. 

Always ask direct questions about how things are going. What’s working and what isn’t? Do they need something that would make their job easier? Are they really enjoying the product or service your brand provides? Just like a restaurant server or host, check in to make sure each influencer feels like a VIP. 

Give your influencers room to contribute 

Another extremely productive way to leverage influencer relationships is to involve the them in discussions about your business. 

There’s a reason that an influencer is popular; they have their finger on the pulse of what their fans enjoy.. Your ambassadors intimately know how their content is performing. Did they get lots of comments, likes or shares? Did the main members of their tribe weigh in with any feedback? Did the campaign attract new people to the brand’s page? 

Most companies never ask influencers to participate beyond the content they create. But their wealth of insider knowledge makes them prime candidates to contribute fresh new ideas to your business. Consider going the extra mile by featuring then by name on your homepage or using their post in a marketing email.  

How experiential marketing, relationship marketing and influencer marketing can work in harmony

Experiential marketing, relationship-based marketing and influencer marketing are three distinct methods that can be tied together to make powerful relationships as well as solid consumer connections to a brand. 

Experiential marketing uses strategies that help to directly involve customers in branded experiences. This can be done offline in the community where the customer spends time, or in a connective or immersive online setting that users will want to share with their friends and families. Good examples of experiential marketing are:

  • Pop-up stores
  • Participating in holiday events
  • Creating visual, public displays
  • Online virtual summits
  • Livestreams

Relationship marketing operates under the premise that it’s important to retain and delight a company’s existing customers. By building relationships with the customer, brands can gain trust and strengthen loyalty. Many businesses have discovered that it is more profitable to retain happy customers than it is to go out and recruit new ones.

Examples of relationship marketing include:

  • Customer loyalty points programs (think airlines and credit cards)
  • Exclusive discounts
  • VIP shopping access
  • Customer appreciation events

When the power of experiential marketing and relationship marketing are combined with strong influencer campaigns, the results can be explosive. 

Allow your influencers to experience your brand 

There are a lot of opportunities a brand can use to combine influencer marketing and experiential marketing. This can be done by hosting partnered events, participating in events where influencers will already be in attendance, or to connect them with company employees in real life. 

One of the best ways to help influencers with their experience is to create events that are loaded with shareable moments. Invite influencers to a real life experience that will give them tons of content they can post and share with their followers. 

Allow your influencer to build relationships with your consumers 

Relationship marketing can fly to a new level when spearheaded through an established online personality. By allowing someone to become a person of trust between consumers and your brand, they become an integral part of your brand in a positive way. 

The company Darn Good Yarn is a great example of using influencers to successfully interact with customers. A few members of the yarn craft community were already fans and customers of the Darn Good Yarn product. Through their social media platforms, they could speak to others directly about how they used the yarn. In this way, the influencers had direct interaction with the company’s actual customers. The company also uses online experts to create evergreen website content that helps their customers in a very direct way. 

21st century marketing is all about making connections. By combining the power of experiential marketing, relationship marketing and influencer marketing, companies have opportunities to create meaningful, one-of-a-kind marketing campaigns. 

Build Brand-influencer relationships and build those real consumer connections 

As 2020 rolls along, it’s clear that influencer marketing is growing fast with no signs of stopping. For brands, building and nurturing these relationships is vital to make influencer marketing campaigns successful. Remember: your relationships are an invaluable bridge between you and your customers. Influencer relationships=better customer relationships. 

Here are a few critical steps to remember as you consider your influencer marketing plan: 

  1. Relationship building with your influencers is your number one priority.
  2. Finding the right people takes time and effort. Choose people who regularly put out high-quality content that naturally aligns with your brand. 
  3. When you prioritize choosing the right people to represent your brand, the result is authentic content that you can repurpose, making your ROI even better.
  4. Urge your influencers to tap into the emotional connection they have with their followers.
  5. Make sure your influencers fall in love with your brand. Their wholehearted buy-in is invaluable.
  6. Allow your influencers to work with you on creating content concepts or ideas. This will make them feel like an indispensable part of your team. 
  7. Synthesize experiential marketing and relationship marketing with your influencer marketing campaigns.
  8. Encourage your influencers to interact with your customer. The larger number of people invested in the relationship, the more powerful your campaign will be. 

We hope these tips will help you to use influencer marketing strategies to boost your brand to the next level. If you keep these things in mind, you will see amazing results. 

This article originally appeared in the Grin.co blog and has been published here with permission.

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