Under the Influence

Brand Ambassador Programs
Influencer Marketing

Your fool-proof guide to getting the right people talking about your brand.

THE POWER OF A CONVERSATION

Enter the rise of the Internet and new media — from social media sites to blogs to online review sites, etc. With all of this came the ability for all of us to easily, freely and publicly broadcast and engage on an unprecedented scale. Marketing became less of a one-way conversation and more of an every-which-way cacophony. Consumers and advocates around the globe are now becoming more visible in their conversations about brands and their products to other consumers. Clearly the definition of influencers has changed.

However, research shows consumers still value first-hand recommendations from their peers more than any form of marketing. That means the conversations in-the-know influencers are having every day make the biggest impact. And great news: Influencers provide a way for brands to measure WOM impact in a digital age. In turn, brands have a huge opportunity to leverage the power of influencers’ conversations to maximize sales impact both on and off the sales floor.

WHAT THE STUDIES REVEAL

Consider the stats. According to the November 2014 Return on WOM study by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA):
WOM has been shown to drive 13% of consumer sales.

That’s about $6 trillion annually. And it bolsters paid media by 15 percent. Some two-thirds of offline sales are accounted for by WOM — the other one-third by online social media.

Also 80% of your WOM comes from the top 20% of your brand’s influencers—and their commitment to your brand deserves special recognition and treatment.

So, what does this mean for your brand?

You can earn significant ROI by engaging with influencers who interact with consumers that place a high value on credible, trusted opinions.

1. FIND OUT WHO YOU SHOULD BE TALKING TO—AND WHO WILL DO THE MOST TALKING FOR YOUR BRAND.

The key is distinguishing between casual fans and influential brand advocates who can make a big impact on moving the ROI needle. Having thousands of followers on Twitter or Likes on Facebook implies potential reach, but what matters most is the impact influencers have on conversations about your brand and, ultimately, sales.

Influencers are the people who, through either firsthand experience, industry experience or at retail, are recognized for their product expertise and know-how. They’re passionate and vocal about their brand loyalties and purchasing behaviors, and motivated to spread the word.

91%

of brand mentions come from people with fewer than 500 followers on their social network.

Now, you just need to connect with the people having those influential conversations wherever they’re taking place—be it on the sales floor, in the field, or at the dinner table.

2. ENGAGE AND EDUCATE THOSE INFLUENCERS.

You’ve found your top influencers. Now what?

of WOM involves personal experience, which is more credible and leads to more sales.

To maximize this impact, you must deliver targeted content and campaigns to dedicated retail associates and top influencers who can both speak knowledgeably about product features and drum up enthusiasm by expressing their personal preference for the brand.

Your top influencers are already hungry to learn more about your products.

Reward that passion with insider knowledge and information that speaks to their goals and priorities. Then reinforce the message by getting your product into their hands to create first-hand experiences that impact recommendations and influence purchase decisions.

3. REWARD THEIR EXPERTISE AND MAKE IT EASY FOR THEM TO TALK ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS.

So, how do you actually go about maximizing the impact of that “talk?”

Help your influencers reach brand ambassador status. Consumers like to feel like they’re engaging with a brand directly — like they’re part of its culture and like the brand values their opinion and expertise. Top influencers are often willing to co-brand themselves with their favorite brands if they feel their connection is real and valued. Articulate why you care, and back up your commitment with perks, exclusive events, and special offers—and your audience will listen and “pay it forward” by sharing what you have to offer with friends and family.

of marketers are scheduled to increase their influencer marketing budgets over the next 12 months.

of marketers reported receiving better quality customers from influencer marketing.

4. MEASURE THE SUCCESS OF YOUR NEW INFLUENCERS.

How do you measure the ROI of the influencers for your brand?

Ultimately, you want to be able to correlate data with sales. Match up your data with marketing and business KPIs that make sense for your organization. These should be metrics related to brand presence and consumer sentiment. You could even create a metric that quantifies the level of influence a campaign had in influencing a marketing decision by tracking increased sell-through or engagement rates following the launch of a campaign.

It’s also important to frame your marketing KPIs within the context of your company’s sales and revenue objectives. Beyond conversion, you want to increase your customer loyalty for repeat purchases to create customer advocates whose WOM recommendations influence others.

SOUNDS GREAT! NOW, SHOW ME AN EXAMPLE.

This all sounds good on paper, but what does an impactful influencer strategy look like in action?

It’s about connecting with the people more directly involved near or at the point of sale—the retail sales associates, industry pros, and everyday passionate users who people turn to for advice on what to buy.

CASE IN POINT

Despite Lululemon’s recent see-through pants mishap, the brand is still a great example of how to create an impactful influencer marketing program. In fact, their success in spite of the PR disaster is proof of their long-term value. Lululemon approaches local athletes, fitness instructors, and enthusiasts who influence active people with an offer to be the “face” of the brand in the community. In return, the company provides these influencers—the same people who were already respected and looked to for credible advice—with free gear to wear while participating in local events. Though they aren’t paid, ambassadors are featured prominently on bulletin boards in the stores, lending the company credibility as a part of the “community.” Even better, these same ambassadors hold classes at the store level, placing the consumer and the advocate together closest to the point of sale.

The strategy has paid off. By eschewing traditional marketing strategies—and their typical hefty costs—Lululemon has created a new community of brand fans who see, want, and ask for recommendations about the gear sported by their respected trainers and instructors. It’s a win-win scenario for both the Lululemon consumer and brand.

Lululemon’s success has not gone unnoticed. In a March 2015 poll by online promotions firm Tomoson, marketers rated influencer marketing as the fastest-growing online customer acquisition tactic—ahead of organic and paid search, email, digital advertising, affiliate marketing, and other efforts. In fact, businesses are earning $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing.

CASE IN POINT

Leading lifestyle camera brand GoPro found a way to turn retail associates into brand advocates online in order to influence purchasing decisions offline. They knew a dedicated program was needed to create rich, in depth content designed specifically to enable better product recommendations at the point of sale. So an online education platform was developed in different languages to deliver the needed resources and support 24/7 to all associates. Resources included custom-designed, video-based product education, quizzes, and progress tracking.

“Retail employees share their impressions with hundreds of customers every year,” said GoPro’s Senior Global Training Manager. “If we can arm one employee with pertinent product knowledge, they’ll pass it along to their customer base. Over time, the value of reaching a sales associate becomes invaluable.”

GoPro created a brand certification that required employees to achieve a minimum score on the quiz at the end of each module to proceed to the next level. After completion, employees earn product discounts and rewards that offer them GoPro items at a fraction of retail cost. This gives those with the biggest influential impact on in-store customer sales the product knowledge and experience they need to become experts.

The results: More than 122,000 individuals have become GoPro advocates, starting by spending an average 5-10 minutes engaged with the brand’s product education. More importantly, these individuals are having 40+ buying conversations a week — which adds up to at least 5 million offline word-of-mouth conversations about what to buy. GoPro’s new online network of category influencers has also allowed the brand to track key performance metrics and feedback that help them constantly improve.

THE TAKEAWAY

It’s all about the numbers. Is there a return on investment? The numbers don’t lie. And the numbers clearly show that influencer marketing really does work.