One of the most enjoyable parts of shifting from practitioner (GM/CMO roles) to professor has been the opportunity to connect with a variety of people I would not have otherwise met. Once such person is Tamara McCleary, CEO of Thulium and a leading influencer of CMOs (see here). As somebody who works with firms around the world and has amassed a very strong social following (@TamaraMcCleary – 307,000 twitter followers), she is an expert with deep insight. I have had a series of discussions with McCleary regarding her perspective on influencers and “influence” more generally. Below, McCleary provides advice to CMOs on how to develop an influencer marketing program for their brand. To read Part 1, which identifies the six different types of influencers and how to spot a “real” from a fake influencer, see here.
Kimberly Whitler: What tips can you provide a CMO who wants to develop a best-in-class influencer program?
1. Have an outcome for success defined before starting the program. What do you want to achieve? How will you measure success? When I consult with brands, I reverse engineer success by clearly identifying desired outcomes, understanding executive-level expectations, and evaluating KPI’s the program will ultimately be measured against.
2. Do your due diligence when seeking out an agency to help you organize a successful program. Obtain multiple bids (get a second or third opinion, you may be surprised). Look at various companies and don’t just settle on the first one that comes to you. In order to not only make your initiative successful, but secure a bigger budget for your next round, engage with companies that have demonstrated success. Don’t go for the least expensive (or the most expensive), but rather, go with the one which can prove and has demonstrated success and which you are most comfortable with.
3. Think through the compensation structure. Paid, unpaid or hybrid? Are you going to pay your influencers to be involved with your program or just provide inside knowledge, invite them to special events, etc.? Will you go with a hybrid approach where many of your influencers are unpaid but a limited number are paid for their participation? There are a variety of different ways to go when it comes to working with influencers.
4. Understand the process. Make sure the company you decide to work with explains their process thoroughly, and get your results in writing. If the company you are considering is not utilizing analytics in the selection of influencers beyond vanity metrics, you’re not working with pros and abort mission. At my organization, Thulium, we employ a heavy emphasis on engagement metrics to weed-out the false appearance of influence. Remember the purpose of an influencer program: you deserve substance for your spend, so don’t settle for empty fluff.
5. Have a plan for your influencers. Do you know what you want your influencers to do? Do you have a clear strategy for utilizing them? One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when bringing in influencers is a lack of focus and specificity. You run the risk of not getting the most bang for your buck if you leave it up to the influencer to know what you expect of them. Clarity of vision, and focus, paired with a well-defined strategy and most importantly solid execution and continued follow-up are mission-critical to the success of any influencer program.
6. Think long-term. It’s important to look at an influencer program as a long-term relationship-building program. A long-term program will allow your brand to create true brand advocates, powerful brand evangelists, and raving fans.
In prior articles I’ve written about why U.S. marketers are losing the influencer battle, what marketers can learn from top CMO influencers, and mistakes marketers make when working with influencers, there is a common theme—relationship development. The more marketers approach influencers with a partnership mentality versus a transactional/legal mentality, the more likely they are to generate authentic influence. And this is one place where the east is beating the west (see Harvard Business Review article here and HBR podcast here).
Join the Discussion: @KimWhitler and @TamaraMcCleary
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