What "Powerball" Can Teach You About 10Xing Your Influencer Generated Results
Do you play the lottery?
9 times out of 10 this is the first question I ask a brand executive when meeting for the first time to discuss their influencer marketing strategy.
Occasionally I get a reluctant “yes.” Most of the time I get an adamant “no.” But with either response, I’m met with a decent amount of confusion.
See, in the summer of 2015 I got incredibly (aka unhealthily) obsessed with playing the Powerball. In LA, the Powerball had become 24-7 news and was up to some insane number like $365 Million, so I finally gave into the hype.
And when I say I gave into the hype, I mean I was 100% sure I was going to win.
Seemed like fate. There was even a 7-Eleven two blocks away from my house and so I started a little Wednesday tradition where I’d walk down there around 5PM, grab myself a Big Gulp (and maybe a Twinkie - because what else goes better with a Big Gulp than more sugar?) and place my bet.
What started as a fun summer experiment turned into a not-so-fun expectation.
After weeks of not winning (despite the $23M mansion I was designing on Pinterest) I started to deeply resent all the Big Gulps (and subsequent bloating), I lost faith in my lucky numbers, and I started to give into this dark outlook that nothing really works out - even with a lot of hard work - you know, like walking two blocks to the convenience store once a week. 🙄
I was focused. I was committed. But I wasn’t winning.
And I was over it.
One Wednesday I was walking back to my house, ready to chuck the 30 ounces of high-fructose corn syrup into oncoming traffic, preoccupied thinking about a client who was determined to not have success with an influencer we had just brought onto a campaign.
The solution to this client’s problem was actually quite simple.
Plainly put, my client was not giving the influencer a chance. But it was through my boiling over frustration (and raging sugar high) that I realized this particular client was playing the influencer game the same way I was playing the Powerball.
I bought my ticket. I bought my soda. Now where in the hell was my $365M ROI?
Influencer marketing is neither a lucky break or a raging disappointment. Influencers are an investment in your team just like any other valuable team member, but they are rarely treated as such.
If your organization has not yet had success with influencer marketing, meaning you’ve seen more of an ROI buying scratch offs - you have to ask yourself if you’ve really been setting your influencers up for success? Or have you simply been paying a one-off fee, trading some product, and expecting your $365M payday?
Most of the time when I evaluate bombed campaigns the latter is usually the case.
Success in influencer marketing isn’t a myth. Everyone reading this knows a colleague (or two) who’s the influencer marketing statistics unicorn. Someone who built out a killer influencer marketing program and is seeing $6 bucks for every $1 they’ve invested - or better.
If you also want to see optimal results from your influencer marketing strategy, then you have to stop thinking about influencer marketing as the “Powerball” and start thinking about it like the stock market.
Influencers are a long-term investment.
Just like the stock market. Just like your managers. Just like your sales team.
And not unlike long-term investments you can’t put money in the market, and take it out a week later (or when you get scared) and expect to see a killer ROI.
If you want to start setting your influencers and influencer marketing strategy up for success (and see some actual cold hard cash) here are three areas to tackle that will immediately start improving your influencer marketing results.
1. Onboard influencers
How do you onboard your influencers?
This is another question I’m known for asking new clients, and one that also earns me the classic deer-in-the-headlight look.
Across the board, brands do not have an on-boarding process for new influencers. This is a problem that doesn’t just belong to SMBs with bootstrapped budgets, but enterprise sized companies are also guilty as charged.
Instead of a solid influencer on-boarding process, the focus typically falls to a one-size-fits all “ambassador” program with more influencers being inducted for the “spray and play” effect.
For example, if a brand’s influencer marketing budget is $500K per month, often times those funds are being funneled through an ambassador program with hundreds of influencers, instead of being invested in individual content driven campaigns. The result is that the sales from these programs rarely match the investment required to play.
Think about how you onboard other creative team members in your company. What are the steps your organization takes to make sure they’re fully immersed in your brand? In company culture? In your product? What gets the creatives on your team excited to produce meaningful content that resonates with customers?
This is the kind of support and experience your influencers need. Otherwise, they’re just posters-for-hire— which never increases anyone’s bottom line.
2. Think long-term
One of the reasons influencers are overlooked for any kind of on-boarding process is because most companies are not thinking nearly long-term enough when it comes to influencer marketing. And long-term planning is really the number one ingredient in the influencer sales secret sauce recipe.
Influencers are a long-term investment.
Again, think stock market.
Just like the example of my client who wouldn’t give the influencer a chance (in time, support and funds) if you really want to see an ROI from your influencers, you have to actually invest with them. While this may be more money and time up front - investing in the long-term outcomes with an influencer will cost you less money per post, and you'll spend enough money to collect data (and sales) that will actually move the needle and produce a predictable ROI with time.
Avoid jumping from small campaign to small campaign. Test run to test run. This ping-pong of a strategy won't provide you with enough of an investment to actually see any real results. Even if the influencer's following is on point and the engagement other-worldly.
You have to invest more (not less) time and money to see results. Now of course, you want to make sure you’re selecting the right influencers, but once you have those, the idea is to provide enough resources and time for the influencer and their audience to be seamlessly acquainted with your brand. That doesn’t happen in one or two posts, but the payout is worth the patience.
3. Collaborate on (don’t dominate or abandon) goals
There are two extremes that I’ve consistently witnessed in my 12+ years of picking apart the inner guts of successful (and not so successful) influencer marketing campaigns.
The first is where the brand simply cuts a check, sends the product, and gives absolutely nothing to the influencer. There are no goals. There are no expectations. No benchmarks or preferences. There’s no team. Just influencer island of one. This is what I call influencer abandonment.
The second extreme I witness (and this is usually in the SMB universe) is the complete and total lack of trust. Again, here there’s been no onboarding process, no sales support, no brand immersion — but the company is breathing down the influencer’s neck about unattainable goals because this is the one and only campaign they can afford this quarter - so it better have the ROI of a $365M Powerball win.
As someone who works alongside both brands and influencers during a campaign, I can assure you that the influencers want you to be happy. They want to hit your goals. Heck, they would love for you to have some real ones - instead of completely abandoning them and then writing high-profile articles about why influencer marketing is a sham, or riding them about some unrealistic goal that your company decided on (without consulting them) because you’re down to your last chunk of marketing funds and have to make it count.
Set goals, but set them with your influencers. Collaborate on what’s realistic - the same way your company would set realistic quarterly goals, and then have a plan to back it up. Create a goal-setting process with your influencers.
Playing the “Powerball” way may feel exciting at first, and give you that initial bandwagon “high” but if you’re really looking to play the influencer game to win (aka in real money, that actually does buy the mansion on the Pinterest board) then start investing in your influencers like the valuable assets to your team and brand voice that they are.
Pretty soon, your brand will be the influencer marketing unicorn in your circle. Which means you'll be able to re-create successful, predictable influencer sales year after year, and you won’t ever have to drink a Big Gulp to do it.
Have questions about this article or your brand's influencer marketing strategy? (I'm particularly talented at identifying what bottomed out on the last campaign). Leave me a comment, sends us a message via our contact page, and be sure check out our latest PR and influencer marketing obsessions.
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Jenny Beres is the Co-Founder and President of Pink Shark PR, an innovative Public Relations and Influencer Marketing Agency in LA. As one of the "pioneers" of influencer sales, Jenny's proprietary strategies have helped her clients go from bleeding money on influencer marketing to 10X-ing their current influencer-generated sales (sometimes in 90 days or less).