The rise of social media has led to the prominence of a relatively new marketing channel – the influencer. Through their relatability and niche audiences, influencers have become a key pillar of marketing strategies that can develop strong brand relationships founded on trust and authenticity. Influencers have lot of value to offer brands, including brand exposure and sentiment, creator-generated content and highly engaged and loyal followers.
However, traditional influencer campaigns are typically hard to track and measure, so more influencers are starting to gravitate toward the performance-based model within the affiliate channel.
There are several drivers for this change, some of which came out of the impact that COVID had on many brands’ financial budgets. Flat fees were the first to be slashed last year as brands moved toward a stronger emphasis on payment for performance. Influencers have recognized this change and begun to evolve around the concept of performance, so as to be included in the marketing mix.
Influencers might not be going anywhere, but it’s becoming critical for brands to get as much data and value from the performance of their partnerships now more than ever.
What does this mean for influencer marketing? We’re starting to see a convergence between influencer marketing and affiliate marketing. For influencers looking to partner with a wider range of brands, there are a lot of benefits to going through the affiliate channel, including having more cost-efficient and profitable brand engagement campaigns.
Here are four steps to establishing a cohesive influencer and affiliate marketing strategy:
1. Set Up Partnership Lifecycle Automation
The first thing you want to think about is how to set up partnership lifecycle automation. Ideally, having top-notch technology to help your brand automate processes will lead to having a more efficient affiliate and influencer strategy.
When a brand is able to utilize automation in their program, they’re freed up to focus on building partner relationships, analyzing data and other revenue-generating activities, as opposed to administrative ones. A brand can save hours of manual work by having influencer subnetworks integrated on the same platforms and tools they use for their affiliate program.
2. Integrate Teams and Workflow
The key to an effective, holistic strategy involves making sure all of your internal teams are rowing in the same direction. You don’t want two different teams reaching out to the same partner or influencer, giving different directions on a campaign that could be merged—this creates unnecessary confusion and more work.
For example, when a brand decides to onboard an influencer into their affiliate program, they should make sure that someone in Public Relations hasn’t already developed a relationship with that partner—if they have, then it’s important to collaborate with Public Relations on the best approach to working with that partner. Along those same lines, if you’re not integrating your teams and workflow, you could end up with team members doing repetitive work or competing for attention and budget because there is a lack of communication or unified strategy.
3. Put the Customer’s Experience First
The best influencer and affiliate marketing strategies put the customer’s experience first and ask the question; “How can we add value to the influencer’s or partner’s audience?” One of the benefits influencer marketing brings to the table is the ability to provide a less intrusive experience for the consumer—often, they are already seeking out this sort of guided content on their own terms.
Consumers can also tell the difference between an influencer who sells their love for a product, versus one who is only there for the paycheck and has never looked at the product before. When it comes down to it, you’re simply giving the influencer the building blocks to tell their own story. While you might provide them with sample content, images, best practices, etc., the influencer needs to be able to share their own authentic take. This makes it even more vital that brands choose the right influencers to partner with, so as to ensure that authenticity.
4. Collaborate to Add Customer Value
The relationship between you and your influencer partners should be an equal exchange of ideas and information. Influencers have unique audiences and hooks that can fit your brand’s target audience, so you should look to these partners as an extension of your brand.
Part of collaborating means asking your influencer partners about their niche audiences and what has worked well in the past. Be sure to find out what campaigns they have seen good clicks and conversions on—this will help you both to brainstorm on campaigns you can work on together moving forward.
Influencer marketing has become a very valuable channel since it’s come onto the scene, but scalability has remained one of the biggest challenges. By bringing influencers into the fold of affiliate marketing and creating a more cohesive partnership marketing strategy, brands are gaining the benefits from both channels in a way that enhances the performance of their company in a measurable way.