Refining your marketing strategy means identifying nuance. In other words, your influencer program goals will vary based on your marketing goals and the strengths of your influencers.
Marketing experts teach that a mature marketing program follows a funnel pattern. Numerous marketing brands have created their own versions of the marketing funnel. No matter “how you slice it,” the underlying principle remains the same – patiently guiding your audience through an awareness-consideration-buying process is the most sustainable way to produce loyal, empowered customers.
Image via Single Grain
For this article, we’ve divided our influencer marketing funnel into three stages:
- Top of the Funnel (TOFU): Brand Awareness
- Middle of the Funnel (MOFU): Engagement
- Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU): Conversions
If your funnel looks slightly different, that’s okay. The main goal of this blog is to help you understand how different influencers and campaigns can help you achieve success by reaching different objectives according to your marketing funnel. Let’s begin by discussing your influencer program goals as they fit within your entire marketing mix.
Influencer Marketing for Your Entire Marketing Mix
Maintaining a healthy marketing funnel is not solely the job of any one marketing approach. In addition to your marketing funnel, your organization creates a marketing mix that brings together the best of your marketing mediums.
As you develop your marketing mix, you should coordinate each of your efforts within your marketing funnel. For example, a great influencer post might do wonders to generate brand awareness and also lend itself to repurposing for a pay-per-click ad campaign to drive sales.
One of the best things you can do for your influencer program is to state your marketing objectives specifically and use those objectives to create influencer KPIs. There is no “one-size-fits-all” influencer program. As such, customizing your goals and KPIs will help you know that your marketing is working.
Influencer Marketing is Not Just for Brand Awareness or Conversions
Brands that expect a direct cause and effect relationship between an influencer campaign and sales are missing out on some money-making metrics. These lucrative indirect cause and effect relationships not only generate long-term growth, but they can also exponentially increase your revenues over time.
Gaining your audience’s attention leads to sales now, soon, and farther in the future – if you can nurture them through your marketing funnel. For example, a billboard for a pizza brand will make many people hungry for pizza, but it will not guarantee that those hungry people spend money with the brand that invested in the billboard ad campaign.
Other “one-and-done” ad campaigns create the same effect. Despite the initial influx in sales from a single ad, many future sales can be lost when the brand embraces a short-term view of marketing ROI.
In today’s omnichannel environment, social media can generate brand awareness and follow-up on that awareness with meaningful engagement until a consumer is ready to buy. Influencer marketing can be effective at every level of your marketing funnel.
“Influencer marketing works because it engages customers in more organic ways than does traditional advertising. Furthermore, each influencer type can meet specific objectives within each stage of the buyer’s journey.” – How to Work with Nano, Micro, Macro, and Mega Influencers
Nurturing Influencer Relationships
Influencers are social media power users that command an online community of engaged followers. These followers pay attention to the influencer’s posts, experiences, and recommendations.
Brands that build relationships with their influencers can extract the most value from their influencer marketing budget. That’s because intimate knowledge of an influencer’s strengths helps the marketing team know where that influencer falls within their marketing funnel.
“Success is when I qualify [an influencer] to meet a specific objective: whether it’s brand awareness – they’re tagging us; conversions – they’re going to drive direct revenue; or content we can repurpose. When I categorize the influencer in one of those three ‘buckets,’ and the influencer meets that expectation, that’s a win in my book.” – Audrey Van Vark at LumeCube
Engagement is the Critical Metric
If impressions and conversions are not the only reliable metric for measuring influencer marketing success, what other metric is there?
The answer is engagement.
Engagement can take many forms and always tells you that someone in your target audience noticed your brand. These engagement metrics can include vanity metrics, such as post and page likes. But the most meaningful engagement metrics exist as post comments, shares, and ongoing user-generated content.
If you’re using an influencer marketing software tool like GRIN, the platform will locate these engagements and calculate your engagement rates for you. Engagement rates at every stage of your influencer marketing funnel show you that your campaign is a success.
Note: To manually calculate engagement, use the following formula on paper or in your IRM spreadsheet:
Engagement Rate = Post Engagements / Number of Followers
Using engagement metrics on top of impressions and conversions will give you a better view of how to effectively use your influencers at every stage of your marketing funnel.
Identify Your Influencer Marketing Strategy Goals
Any number of factors motivate your customers to purchase your products. The better you understand your target audience, the more effective your influencer marketing program will be.
The best influencers will achieve audience alignment with your brand. Additionally, they can achieve deeper connections with your audience than can your business. Recruiting the right influencers for your brand comes down to how well those influencers’ posts resonate with your target audience.
“With any influencer campaign, the bottom line is authenticity. Do the influencers that you’ve selected have the ability – regardless of their follower size – to achieve authentic connections with members of their online community?” – How to Work with Nano, Micro, Macro, and Mega Influencers
Achieving this level of authenticity gives you enormous insight into how you want your audience to respond to your marketing efforts. These ideal audience responses become your influencer marketing objectives. Among the most common influencer program objectives are:
- Increased sales
- Increased brand awareness
- Increased web traffic
- Free tool downloads
- Ongoing user-generated content
- Improved brand sentiment
Influencers at the Top of Your Funnel (TOFU)
The top of your funnel represents the first introduction between your brand and a consumer. Just as it would be unrealistic to demand a sale from every cold call, treating your TOFU audience as buyers or non-buyers forces you to lose out on future sales and brand loyalty.
In any ad or marketing campaign, you will usually find a small percentage of consumers ready to buy. This occurs because some consumers make impulsive purchase decisions, or because those consumers know what they want and resonate with your message just enough to make the purchase.
But the rest of those individuals who meet your brand initially need more time and information. Some of the best consumers are those that carefully research their problems/desires and available solutions. Rather than force the sale at every opportunity, you can note every kind of positive response and nurture an audience to buy when they are ready to do so.
Treating prospects in the top of your influencer marketing funnel in this way will accomplish two things:
- You won’t scare future buyers away.
- You will make members of your audience feel empowered (and empowered buyers are the most loyal).
Goal: Brand Awareness
Within the TOFU, brand awareness is your chief objective. In terms of earned media value, you can measure brand awareness by the number of impressions. Influencers know how to help you target new audiences with effective messaging.
In this stage, your key performance indicators (KPIs) should accurately reflect how many consumers noticed your (or the influencer’s) message and had a positive response. To achieve brand awareness, members of your audience don’t need to commit. All you want is for them to become curious about your brand.
Achieving brand awareness is easier than objectives further down in your marketing funnel. In your influencer campaign brief, tell your influencer specifically what your brand awareness objectives are. Provide branded hashtags, relevant links, and specify how and when you want the influencer to mention your brand.
In a TOFU influencer marketing campaign, you want audiences to take notice and get to know your owned media channels (i.e., visit your website, social media company page, etc.). By respecting the newness of the relationship between your brand and members of a new audience, you won’t scare away consumers.
Lastly, your TOFU strategy will be more effective if you give away something of value. That “something of value” could be a contest, information, or product sample. Giving away something will also build trust with these new audience members.
Technically, any influencer type – nano, micro, macro, or mega – will help you achieve brand awareness. That said, influencers with the largest audience generally do a better job of helping you achieve your brand awareness goals.
Macro and mega influencers nurture online communities of 100,000 to 1 million (or more) followers. These influencers are best qualified to help you reach new target audiences.
However, macro and mega influencers tend to be more expensive. If your budget is small, you can target new audiences by examining the niche markets of nano and micro influencers. Collaborate closely with these influencers to achieve the highest possible number of impressions.
Influencers at the Middle of Your Funnel (MOFU)
Once a consumer knows who your brand is, they fall into the middle of your funnel (MOFU). Maintaining audience interest in the MOFU stage means nurturing ongoing engagement.
But you don’t just want any kind of engagement. Certain consumer responses are more valuable than others. For example, asking an influencer specific questions about a product they’re promoting on behalf of your brand is more notable than a post like.
To measure MOFU success, you need to identify the most important ways consumers can engage an influencer’s post. These engagement types help you create MOFU objectives.
Engagement ensures that a target audience won’t soon forget your brand and what you do. To nurture that engagement, you and your influencer should discuss customer pain points and desired end states with more depth and intentionality.
Engagement with your target audience should make them smarter about your industry and endear them to your brand. You’re not just trying to build trust with consumers to keep from scaring them away; you’re trying to empower them toward making a smart purchase decision.
Some of the finest MOFU tactics are product reviews, how-to videos, forum-style discussions, and more. In your influencer campaign brief, tell your influencer exactly the kind of engagements you hope to achieve. Brainstorm with your influencers the best possible ways to generate that engagement and how to make it worthwhile.
Remember, your MOFU objectives should be to inform your target audience. In addition to earning authority by providing quality information, you want deeper connections with your audience. Thankfully, influencers know just what to do to facilitate both industry knowledge and that emotional connection.
Any influencer with strong engagement metrics can help you achieve your MOFU goals. That said, you should choose your influencers carefully to ensure audience alignment. Because your target audience can never be every consumer, recruit those influencers whose online community lifestyle is a great match for your products/services.
As you slide further down on your influencer marketing funnel, smaller audiences generally perform better. The smaller the online community, the greater your chances of achieving meaningful engagement.
That said, some macro influencers maintain surprisingly strong engagement metrics. If you can afford these top-performing influencers, you will most certainly get your money’s worth.
However, micro influencers remain (arguably) the strongest influencer type for MOFU campaign objectives. Because every brand is different, you should experiment with different influencer types to find the best match for your brand and marketing objectives.
Influencer at the Bottom of Your Funnel (BOFU)
Most bottom-of-the-funnel campaigns focus on driving sales. At this stage, most of your target audience know who your brand is, how valuable your products/services are, and simply need to make a decision.
It is now time to make a call-to-action and watch your sales rise. Because prospects at the BOFU level know your brand pretty well, you are less concerned about scaring them away and more concerned with empowering them to buy now.
Depending upon your product or service, conversions could include outright purchases, trial sign-ups, and/or subscriptions. In fact, you could employ multiple conversion techniques, so that audience members have more than one way to commit to your brand.
When planning your BOFU influencer marketing campaign, you’ll need to consider the user experience and make it as easy as possible for consumers to convert. Thankfully, social media channels like Instagram offer “swipe-ups” that entice consumers to act.
To measure accurate conversion metrics, you should also create affiliate links, tags, and trackable landing pages. If you’re a GRIN customer, the software will generate these links automatically and properly attribute sales to the appropriate influencer and campaign.
Additional BOFU tactics include promo codes or limited-time offers. These discounts encourage “on the fence” consumers to act now rather than later.
Micro and nano influencers are especially gifted at driving sales. Their audiences are small, heavily engaged, and put enormous stock into their influencers’ product recommendations.
Once again, all influencer types can drive sales. By nurturing long-term relationships with your influencers, you will gain a better understanding of which influencers perform better at your BOFU stage, regardless of the number of followers they have.
Conclusion: Use the Power of Influencers Throughout Your Entire Marketing Funnel
One thing to keep in mind as you grow your influencer program is that influencers are also trusted consumers. Your influencer relationship management skills will improve as you learn how to explicitly state your marketing objectives without micromanaging your influencers.
That’s why it’s essential that you pay attention to your marketing funnel, and how each of your influencers fits within your funnel and marketing mix. Accurately identifying your influencers’ strengths will help you meet each of your marketing goals more efficiently, thus improving your influencer marketing ROI.
This article originally appeared in the Grin.co blog and has been published here with permission.