In the old days, it was referred to as ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing. That’s when a customer who was impressed with your product or service would tell others about your business. Before the arrival of the Internet, word-of-mouth was how businesses — and ideas — became popular. And, ironically enough, that exchange is still viable. It’s just the vehicle that’s changed.

When a customer trusts your business, your product, or your service, they can’t wait to tell others they know that they’ve found a resource worth talking about. With the addition of Internet tools — forums, email, instant messaging, etc. — influencers can share their opinions faster and farther than ever before.

Today, some of the most valuable opinions come from a new breed of influencers.  They include such personalities as bloggers, forum moderators, and product reviewers. Their expressed opinions and shared experiences often have a significant impact — both positively and negatively — on home and construction product brands that are the source of their motivations. If you know how to influence the influencers, your business can enjoy a surge in popularity and sales as a result. Here’s how to apply best practices.

What influencer marketing strategy actually is — and what it isn’t

So, we all understand that there are people talking about your brand right now to members of their ‘inner circle’. These customers or prospects most likely have had some type of previous engagement with your building products or services and have formulated an opinion. Due to the social nature of human beings, these individuals are predisposed to sharing these opinions.

Influencer marketing strategy seeks to establish formal relationships with your influencers in an attempt to use their good will towards your business and to your advantage. These formal relationships can come in a variety of forms — in fact, the goal for your building products and materials business is to establish levels of diversity in your influencer portfolio.

The next question on your mind most likely is: “Does influencer marketing really work?”

The following statistics[1] evidence the success of influencer marketing strategies since the inception of the concept:

  • Businesses generate an average of $6.50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing
  • 71% of consumers are more likely to buy based on a social media reference
  • 86% of the most-viewed videos on YouTube were made by influencers
  • 57% of companies use influencers as part of their marketing strategies
  • An additional 21% are also planning to add this strategy to their campaigns

These are just examples of top-layer statistics that give you an idea of how influencer marketing can energize your marketing strategy. However, deciding that you need it for your brand is only the first step.

The real trick comes in identifying the various types of influencers in the marketplace, vetting their various personalities and potential, and then partnering with the right ones for your critical business mission and goals.

How to identify and select the worthwhile influencers in your market

The type of influencer targeted to drum up a buzz for your building materials product or service will have a definite impact on the results of your campaign. In order to choose properly, we’ll first need to identify the various types of influencers available — as each has its own unique set of elements that define its value.

There are three primary types of influencers that you should be aware of as well as how they might impact your building products brand:

  1. Celebrities. These influencers have huge audiences and, typically, a broad appeal. Backing from a celebrity in the form of product placement puts your brand in front of a large crowd fast. However, they often cost the kind of sponsorships that small- to mid-sized brands may not have budgeted. And because they’re almost always paid, the authenticity of their support is sometimes called into question. How to get your product in front of millions of potential customers. It doesn’t take a Hollywood budget to get a product placement deal.
  2. Niche influencers. Bloggers also appeal to a large, albeit more targeted, audience. They also can have millions of followers that are usually interested in a certain niche — such as home and garden, decor or building products. They typically will offer sponsored posts, but at much more attractive costs than their celebrity counterparts… which makes them an attractive, highly relevant alternative. How we launched the K&A blogger marketing network “Cracking the Blogger Code”.
  3. Organic advocates and digital creators. Organic influencers often fall within the realm of the general public. However, they are still powerful because of their perceived authenticity. Plus, you typically don’t have to pay for their support because they are already telling people how much they love what you do. Yet importantly, if they are not impressed with your product or service… they don’t mind revealing that, as well.

When you sit down to create a campaign using influencers, there are several elements of the formula to consider. The first is resources. You must determine how much budget allocation you have to invest in comparison to the impact the various influencer messages will have on sales.

Also, consider the intangibles, such as trust, authenticity, and reputation. These elements will have a definite impact on the effect of your message. Typically, whenever you introduce money into the mix — in the form of a paid endorsement — the authenticity may be weakened.

Why micro-influencers can be so powerful — and where to find them

The building products and construction materials markets are driven by niches… with a distinctive tendency towards brand loyalty and recognition. The market’s practice of compartmentalizing products and services makes our industry particularly friendly to the use of micro-influencers in a comprehensive marketing strategy.

How does the concept of the micro-influencer work? The key portion of the term — micro, as opposed to macro — explains the concept. Micro-influencers work on a smaller scale than other influencers. We’re talking about customers or prospects with a smaller number of followers.

But don’t make the mistake in assuming that smaller is weaker. The micro-influencer is still niche-driven, with loyal followers that respond to their opinions, advice, and suggestions. Consider the various regional and national home-fix-it shows on television, radio, and Web podcasts that are viewed all across America.

Here are some of the elements of a micro-influencer that you can use to gauge their potential effectiveness for your brand:

Niche coverage. Micro-influencers typically focus on a particular portion of building products — such as specific finishing materials or renovation techniques.

Engagement versus followers. You can gauge the engagement of their crowd by watching the number of comments posted on their blogs or attendance at local live events.

Audience characteristics. Ask yourself if the typical audience member of your potential micro-influencer meets the customer persona that your building products business targets in the channel.

Content produced. View their blog posts, videos, podcasts, and any other content this influencer produces for their audience… to rate their effectiveness in communicating.

Authenticity and trustworthiness. Bottom line: Does the micro-influencer you’re considering make an effort to be transparent and upright in the way they do business?

How done-right influence marketing can dominate in the sales cycle

As with any marketing strategy or advertising technique, the goal is to make sales. You should be able to calculate a projected return-on-investment for the marketing dollars that you invest. And despite the ‘intangible’ feel of influencer marketing, the truth is that this technique is no different.

Sales matter…

That having been said, you can connect influencer marketing strategies to every stage of your sales cycle and help give your bottom line a boost. Influencer marketing should enhance the total customer experience — resulting in more sales.

Let’s examine the various stages of the sales cycle to see how we can interject influencer marketing principles for success:

Consumer research for pre-selling. There’s nothing more critical to the your profit margin than product or service awareness. Consumers count on trusted peers and niche experts to voice their concerns, opinions, and recommendations — and these elements have a direct impact on buying decisions.

Establishing brand credibility. As you tell the story of your brand, influencer marketing dictates that weaving testimonials throughout your messaging helps build trust and brand credibility. Also, repurposing retweets, posts, quotes, likes, and photos will add fortification to your brand story.

Inventory and selection. Influencers and micro-influencers can serve as early indicators to reduce buyer’s remorse, discover new product lines that your customers might be interested in, and vary the options available for your current products and services.

Customer experience. Also called CX — the way a customer feels at all stages of the browsing, shopping, and buying process — can give you insights into changes that might improve the experience. Influencers can help to elicit this information in unobtrusive ways

Retaining customers. Influencer-generated content can go a long way in leveraging retention programs for current customers — much cheaper than costs for acquiring new ones. Influencer videos and posts can keep customers “in the know” about product and service upgrades.

The lesson to learn here is that influencer marketing in the building products and materials markets has multiple applications — particularly with respect to the sales cycle. Your marketing team should always be on the lookout for opportunities to use influence in maximizing ROI.

3 ways to measure the ROI of your influencer marketing efforts

Many top-tier marketers contend that if you can’t measure it, then it’s not worth the time or effort to implement it. Take the big box retailers, for example. They have their ordering, rotation, and display techniques down to a science — everything done is designed to maximize profit — using data as their guide.

Again, influencer marketing is no different. The results of these tactics are entirely tangible, and can be measured, collected, and used to drive your building products marketing efforts over time.

Here are three ways to measure the ROI of the influencer marketing strategies that you employ… based on common activities that you might engage in over the course of a campaign:

1. Product or service visibility. If you are launching a new product or service in a growth-oriented campaign, you might measure the number of impressions a particular landing page earns that features an influencer. A quick look into Google Analytics — or other traffic measuring application — will provide page impressions and click-through-rates.

Elements that influence product/service visibility include:

  • Quantifying social leads. Determining which social networking channels are sending you the most and/or best leads
  • Analyzing origin of sales. Generating and monitoring affiliate links, promo codes, and UTM parameters

2. Traffic engagement. For social media campaigns like Facebook, their business analytics features will also provide cost-per-engagement (CPE) on various campaigns. You can track actual sales and other engagement activities that are also a predictive element of loyalty after the sale.

Critical measurements with respect to traffic include:

  • Followers: The number of fans or followers in the network of an influencer
  • Impressions: The number of times your target audience views your brand message
  • Traffic data: The volume of traffic an influencer drives to your site from various sources

3. Content tracking. Measuring the reach of your content — particularly through email campaigns and information downloads — is an easy way to determine customer interest in your products or services. Incorporating influencer tactics within an autoresponder email series provides highly-trackable data on downloads and absorption including:

  • Clicks to measure your target audience’s level of interest in your post
  • More likes — on Facebook, for example — will generate more buzz and boost your ranking
  • Facebook’s newest algorithm gives more weight to the reactions of your audience
  • Greater shares indicate higher quality — and a greater likelihood of a purchase
  • Comments on influencer posts indicates that your audience likes the post content
  • Brand mentions indicate that your content is being discussed and your brand amplified

Keep in mind that data is not every business’ forte. There are professionals and companies that are dedicated to the collecting, processing, and translation of data — as it applies to profitability. If your company lacks the resources or know-how to manage your customer data to the degree that you desire, there’s no shame in outsourcing those activities to a full-time marketing agency.

Team Kleber can help you to make influencer and micro-influencers an integral part of your marketing mix. We save you time and money at every stage — identification, outreach, strategy, and measurement — while your brand enjoys the benefits of this high-ROI marketing tactic.

[1] Influencer Orchestration Network (ION)