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Influencer Marketing Ain’t Easy: 5 Client Questions to Answer Before They Ask

The client conversation around influencer marketing is changing. When agencies first began pitching influencers as part of a brand’s social strategy, they spent a lot of time answering “what?” and “why?” But as a recent study by Tomoson Research shows, influencer marketing is now “the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition channel—beating organic search, paid search and email marketing.” Not to mention, nearly 60% of marketers plan to increase their ad budgets to accommodate influencer marketing efforts in the year ahead.

With proof points like these, influencers are no longer a tough sell to clients:

  • 92% of consumers are more likely to trust their peers over advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions.
  • On average, businesses are making $ 6.50 for every $ 1 spent.
  • Influencer marketing has 11 times the ROI of a banner advertising campaign.
  • Marketing-inspired word-of-mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.

While it’s easy to get swept up in the numbers, there’s still much to learn about what makes a successful influencer program. And while agencies may not have to spend as much time answering “why?”—there’s still the very important question of “how do we do it right?”

Here are five of the most common questions about influencers and the answers an agency needs in order to demonstrate expertise in the space and gain buy-in from clients.

1. What Is the Goal of the Program?

Make no mistake, this is the single most important question to consider when developing (and eventually pitching) an influencer program. Before even thinking about who the influencers will be or what they will create, marketers must identify specific, measurable goals. Should the program increase awareness? Generate new followers? Drive sales?

According to a recent survey evaluating the current state of influencer marketing:

  • 89% of marketers used influencers to create authentic content for their brand
  • 77% used them to drive engagement
  • 56% used them to drive traffic to their websites or landing pages

It should go without saying that the goal of the program should also align with the project brief. A successful influencer program is useless if its outcome does not address the ask of the client.

2. How Will We Measure Success?

For 2017, 78% of marketers have cited measuring the ROI of influencer marketing as a top challenge, making it important for agencies to identify which metrics they’ll monitor to measure the program’s success. Meanwhile, 81% of marketers cite engagement as their top metric for measuring influencer marketing success, meaning how many likes, shares and comments the various pieces of content received.

Marketers may also consider tracking traffic and conversions, especially if the program’s goal is an increase in sales. Using trackable links, promo codes and monitoring correlation are just a few ways an agency can propose tracking these markers.

3. Who Are the Right Influencers?

Marketers, repeat after us: fit over followers. One of the biggest mistakes we see marketers make when choosing potential influencers is focusing too much on the number of followers. What good is a million followers if they’re not the right audience for the brand? The personality, values and previous content of potential influencers have to be a good fit for the brand or the program will fail. And it may take a little research to find that information out.

When pitching potential influencers to clients, it’s helpful to include example posts that both demonstrate their fit with the brand and showcase the quality of their content. And even though it’s not the reason they were chosen, it may be smart to include their potential reach as well to strengthen the business case.

4. What Will They Create?

Once an agency has identified the influencer or influencers for the program, it’s time to decide what type of content they’ll create. Knowing the specific ask will help align client, agency and influencer expectations and will make reaching out to the influencer a much smoother process. It’s also easier to quote rates when the influencers have an idea about how much time and effort is expected of them.

Agencies should take into account the program goal, their desired measurement, as well as the influencers’ own content when deciding what to ask for. For example, don’t ask for a blog post if the influencer’s strength is photography.

Marketers also have to consider FTC regulations, which require influencers to disclose when content is part of a paid partnership. There are various ways to do this, but most often we see posts labeled with an #ad or #spon hashtag. It’s imperative that the branded content be just as compelling and entertaining as the rest of the influencer’s content—or else it will stick out like a sore thumb and the influencer’s audience won’t trust it.

5. Should We Pay Them?

To gift, or to pay: that is one of the most common client questions. And in order to answer it correctly, marketers must consider the pros and cons of both gifting and paying an influencer. The biggest pro of gifting is obvious—free marketing. But cons can include no guarantee of quality or positive sentiment, no control over the message and no ownership over the content that’s created. It also may be more difficult to find an influencer with good reach if they believe their value is worth more than just a free sample.

When you offer payment, those influencers with a strong, solid audience are more likely to be on board. Plus it gives marketers more creative, and legal, ownership of the content. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t matter whether an agency gifts or pays an influencer, a paid partnership must be disclosed to abide by FTC regulations.

Influencer rates vary and can depend on his or her follower count. According to a study done by Influence.co on Instagram influencer payment, the overall average cost per Instagram post was $ 271; an influencer with fewer than 1,000 followers (also called a micro-influencer) was $ 83 per post; and the average price for influencers with more than 100,000 followers was $ 763 per post.

When offering compensation to an influencer, agencies need to take into account the type of content they’re requesting, the influencer’s follower count, the project’s budget and FTC regulations.

Influencers aren’t just successful in attracting new business for brands; they also recruit more loyal customers. In fact, Forbes.com found that customers acquired through influencer marketing have a 37% higher retention rate. But without the right strategy in place, poorly planned influencer marketing can backfire—and both brands and influencers can run the risk of damaging their respective reputations, or even running into legal trouble. Agencies who take the time to ask and answer the right questions will not only gain the trust and confidence of their clients, but it will also set their influencer program up for success from the outset.

This post Influencer Marketing Ain’t Easy: 5 Client Questions to Answer Before They Ask originally appeared on Sprout Social.


Sprout Social

I Answer Your Questions About the State of Digital Transformation

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Where are companies at in their digital transformation efforts?

This was the question I set out to answer in, “The 2014 State of Digital Transformation” report.  After two years, it was time to check-in on the digital transformation landscape again to learn how companies are changing, what challenges they’re facing now and what opportunities they’ve uncovered.

Recently, I hosted a webcast on behalf of Altimeter and Prophet to share the findings from the latest “State of Digital Transformation” report. Over the span of one hour, we reviewed the latest facts and figures on the top drivers and challenges, who owns digital transformation and why, what it is and also what it isn’t, and also the best practices of companies undergoing digital transformation.

At the end of the presentation, the number of questions that flew in were too great to address in the live airing. My host for the day, Lindsay Malone, had the great idea to schedule a follow up Q&A to address the remaining questions. I wanted to also share the result here with you.

Who is typically leading digital transformation at organizations?

According to our survey, digital transformation is largely led by the CMO (34%). Not far behind, though, is a digitally savvy generation of CEOs who, at 27%, recognize that it’s time to lead their companies into the 21st century (see page 11). This is a number that we expect to grow in the coming years.

How can I better understand how to measure/assess customers’ satisfaction along the customer journey?

When companies measure satisfaction they often use an array of existing metric systems (NPS to CSAT) or other homegrown KPIs to capture moments or transactions; but, these can’t gauge the overall customer experience.

If we consider CX to be the sum of all parts during a customer’s journey, then someone (a governing body) must be able to assess individual touchpoints and determine how those touchpoints add up collectively to whichever standard we are agreeing to measure. There are new types of metrics that can be introduced, but it starts with deciding what that benchmark standard should be. Shared experience value, happiness, and connectedness are metrics that matter and you’ll need a mechanism to capture how you measure on the standard for which you’re setting out to deliver. It’s a time for innovation on this front.

I find that many companies are still mired in old compensation models based on KPIs that don’t take digital efforts into account. Did you find that successful companies had changed compensation models as well?

There are a variety of interesting experiments in this regard, indeed, most operational elements are dated. This includes everything from process to measurement to reward and everything in between. Companies that are pushing innovation in this area are beginning to experiment with alternative management models which ask employees to work together toward different standards for innovating the processes they manage – this is changing review and reward mechanisms as a result.

For example, management is held accountable for bringing forward and implementing new ideas. Employees are responsible for discovering or considering new opportunities. This goes all the way up to the C-suite as a means of changing what a company values and how people work toward those desired outcomes.

Do you also experience that ‘innovation’ is ambiguous?

Most companies believe they are innovative simply because they are doing things they weren’t doing before or investing in new technology and bringing in new expertise to implement and manage it. But, my research shows that most companies are actually investing in iteration vs. innovation, and the differences between them are huge. I define iteration as doing the same things better. Innovation is doing new things that unlocks new value for your customers. Only one of those can lead to disruption, which is doing new things over time that make the old things obsolete.

What approach would you suggest for companies looking to create a digital customer experience strategy?

If you have a moment, please read a report on this subject I published earlier in 2016, “How Businesses are Taking the OPPOSITE Approach to Digital Transformation.” In this report, I provide eight  best practices that are guiding today’s successful organizations through their digital transformation efforts.

With over 3,000 solutions, the marketing technology landscape is a real nightmare. How do you navigate to find your way to the digital content management and distribution solutions?

Companies need to figure out their key objectives before trying to figure out the tools they need to support them. There are two resources I recommend checking out. My Altimeter colleague, Omar Akhtar published a report this year “Choosing the Tools for a Unified Content Strategy” which will help you navigate the intimidating landscape of content tools by creating clarity around your strategy, identifying gaps and requirements in your content operations, and providing a framework for rating tools that make the final cut.

Also, please read an article I wrote with LinkedIn, “Attention is a Currency.” In the article we reveal that only 20% of companies are aligning content to the customer journey. People don’t want to just see content; they want content that will take them to the next step. This report helps you to see content differently: 63% of consumers that they may deflect brands due to irrelevant content, 41% say they would consider ending the relationship with a brand because of irrelevant content, 22% said they already have.

Can you give an example of a company that has completed a digital transformation and provide an example of how it has tangibly improved its business?

The 2014 State of Digital Transformation report offers many examples of companies who have successfully executed digital transformation to drive business impact.

How is digital transformation realized in big companies (more than 5000 employees)?

The Six Stages of Digital Transformation report is a great resource for you to review for more information about this. This report shares the six phases that serve as a digital maturity blueprint to guide purposeful and advantageous digital transformation.

Have you seen any effective reverse mentoring programs designed to bridge the gap?

I’ve seen many interesting programs on this front, and have witnessed first-hand GE’s reverse mentoring program. There are many articles written about it – I suggest this would be a great place to start.

Please listen to the recording if you have a moment.

Also, if you have more questions about digital transformation, send your questions via Twitter to: Altimeter (@AltimeterGroup) or Lindsay Malone (@LZOMalone). If you’re interested in learning how Altimeter can help you with your digital transformation initiatives, reach out here.

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Please read X, The Experience When Business Meets Design or visit my previous publications

Connect with Brian!

Twitter: @briansolis
Facebook: TheBrianSolis
LinkedIn: BrianSolis
Youtube: BrianSolisTV
Snapchat: BrianSolis

Invite him to speak at your next event or meeting. 

The post I Answer Your Questions About the State of Digital Transformation appeared first on Brian Solis.


Brian Solis

More Trial Users Is Not The Answer For Your Startup’s Growth

As a startup, you’re not just tight on budget.

You have to get users as fast as possible.

Marketers are often under a lot of pressure to get as many trial users as quickly as possible.

The CEO, investors and your teammates are counting on you to generate demand, regardless of product-market fit.

I’m here to explain why you don’t need more trial subscribers.

The 40% Rule

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Rule of thumb for reaching product-market fit is when 40% of surveyed customers would be significantly disappointed if all of a sudden they could no longer access that product.

If you already have several hundred or a thousand users, you don’t need more until your startup has achieved product-market fit. Product-market fit can be defined as the point at which your target market finds your product attractive enough that you can scale up.

“The 40% Rule” suggests you’ve reached product-market fit once at least 40% of surveyed customers confirm that they would feel disappointed if they could no longer use your product.

Product-market fit and engagement go hand-in-hand. People are more likely to pay for your product or service if they’re engaging with it frequently and it’s crucial to their daily workflow.

Customer retention is a function of their satisfaction.

Retention = ƒ(Customer Satisfaction)

If trial users aren’t excited or happy about your product or don’t get enough benefits out of using it, they won’t return. As simple as this sounds, countless startups fail to address this issue.

Instead, many startups do this:

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Image Source

The product development model as presented in Steve Blank’s book, The Four Steps To The Epiphany, shows the backwards push marketing steps after building a product.

I’m sure you can see the pitfalls of this approach.

Eliminate Or Reduce Free Trials

What if one day, your team just decided to shut down your free trial accounts that were past 14 days since their sign up date? Would you suddenly go out of business?

No, you’d save money from server costs and force people to make a decision.

It’s only when your free trials run out that you know whether the end user found your product worth paying for.

You need to figure out how to improve the engagement of your existing trial users to convert them to paid users.

ConvertKit and Edgar, which today generate millions of ARR, never offered free trials.

I often come across startups that give away free trials for 30 to 60 days. I just don’t get it.

Two Exceptions To The Rule

One case where a free trial might make sense is if your startup’s B2B software costs $ 200+/month. In this instance, a 14-day free trial is reasonable. Any longer than that is, more often than not, a fruitless giveaway.

One instance where an extended free trial makes sense is for a startup where personal data storage grows fast as the user engages with the product. Three startups come to mind: Slack, Evernote and Dropbox.

As each user uploads more personal data, the chance that that person will switch providers decreases. Moreover, frequent access to that personal information in the cloud is a necessity for the end user. Users engage frequently with these apps on a daily recurring basis and often need to upgrade to a premium subscription, in order to continue using the service as team headcount or storage needs grow.

Stop Aiming To Be A Unicorn

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The venture capital funnel from CB Insights shows the average failure rates of venture-backed startups by financing round. Less than 2% of venture-backed startups ever reach unicorn status.

Neither exception suggests that your startup needs more trial subscribers. We all have a natural tendency to look at unicorns and glom on to their stories as validation for why we can do that.

According to CBInsights, your startup has a 1.28% chance of becoming a unicorn.

The one thing people forget when they hang their hat on the stories of unicorns is that these companies found product-market fit, had high levels of user engagement and most established clear sales funnels before they went off acquiring more free trial users.

Again, improve the product, the onboarding experience, and the sales funnel to convert more of your existing users.

If your customers love your product and rely on it to improve their daily workflow, they will serve as your fan club. Your engagement will skyrocket. You won’t need to fudge community building or finding loyal users as word of mouth referrals come pouring in.

You can’t force user engagement that doesn’t exist.

Adopt The Customer Development Model

No marketer–no matter how good they are–can fix a broken product, such as one that few customers find valuable to their daily workflow.

Startups build a product or feature for the sake of building it, not on the basis of identifying their audience’s thorny problems.

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A second version of the product development model focuses on building the sales organization without ensuring that the product reaches product-market fit, which can lead to premature scaling.

If you’ve read Steve Blank’s The Four Steps to the Epiphany, then you may remember reading about one of the following:

  • Premature scaling
  • The use of a product development methodology to measure sales and marketing activities
  • The pitfalls of getting the product launch wrong

Startups often go out of business because they rely on the product development methodology to measure all their sales and marketing efforts.

The product development methodology starts with building a product first and later engaging a sales and marketing team to push the product into the hands of the target customer, as opposed to building and iterating a product solution based on your target audience’s needs.

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The customer development model requires iteration through the customer discovery and customer validation stages until product-market fit has been achieved before acquiring more customers and scaling up.

In reality, they should use the customer development model and complement it with the product development model.

The customer development model involves iterating through the first two stages of customer discovery and customer validation until you reach product-market fit. Once you’ve reached product-market fit, then you can scale up, drawing more customers and building company infrastructure.

The customer development model helps ensure you don’t scale up prematurely ahead of reaching product-market fit. As a result, your initial set of customers find your product so valuable that they can’t help but recommend it to other companies.

Even in 2016, many startups still apply the archaic model of build first, validate last, or “build it and they will come.”

Rather than apply the lean startup process, they develop a product no one cares enough to pay for. Worse, it doesn’t even solve their target customer’s pain points.

The Hubstaff Free Plan Mistake

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Hubstaff, a startup for time tracking for remote teams, explained in its post SaaS Pricing: Our Big Free Plan Mistake why startups shouldn’t feel implicit pressure to offer free trials to users and that user acquisition shouldn’t be seen as a “money making arms race.” They gave an insight glimpse into the reasons why free trials hurt most startups and why startups often rationalize them.

From their experience offering a free plan, they found that people take advantage of free accounts and that free users often skirt around the free account limits by signing up for multiple free accounts with different email addresses.

Even IP blocks can’t solve this problem because customers have easy access to VPN software, like ExpressVPN.

Hubstaff also found that if someone values a product, they would pay for it.

If existing users aren’t engaging with your product on a frequent recurring basis, then your product doesn’t solve a hairy enough problem for the end user.

Two other takeaways:

  1. Free users tend to invite more free users
  2. Paid products carry more value in the consumer’s eyes

I came across a blog post from ConversionXL that explains how not requiring credit card info during the free trial signup processes resulted in a lift to paid subscriber conversion rates.

It’s important to take the company’s business model in context relative to yours and assess whether that product is 10x better than a substitute.

If your product is easily replaceable or doesn’t solve a big enough customer pain point, people will be less willing to pay for it.

Avoid acquiring more trial customers until your existing customers love engaging with your product every day and find it invaluable for their use case.

Get The CEO To Acquiesce

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If your startup is struggling to break even, convince the CEO to stop acquiring trial subscribers. Refocus your team’s efforts on optimizing customer happiness with the right product feature set.

What are some factors that drive marketers to seek more trial subscribers?

  • Investors include a subscriber performance milestone with a liquidation preference in the equity agreement.
  • The C-Suite wants hockey stick growth so the company can raise additional capital at a higher valuation.

Even if marketers question the CEO or investor’s judgment about trial user acquisition, it often doesn’t change their minds. I’ve experienced it before. Founder CEOs can be pretty stubborn. Not because they don’t mean well but it’s often difficult for them to admit when their product isn’t great.

As a result, the marketing team is forced to find more trial subscribers. It doesn’t matter whether people actually find the product useful.

The venture-backed company CEO isn’t worried about monetization in the short-run because “more trial subscribers” is the resolve for faster growth. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The truth is, you don’t need more trial users…

… You need a product that solves a big need for your customer, not one that results from C-Suite groupthink.

If you care about your company and team, avoid letting your CEO put the company out of business. Sooner or later, your team will have to face the music and recognize that any underlying product engagement issues must be resolved first, or your team won’t exist.

Customer Acquisition Cost and User Engagement are Inversely Proportional

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The chart illustrates the inversely proportional relationship between Customer Acquisition Cost and user engagement shown as recurring site visits.

Customer acquisition cost, or the price you pay to attract a new customer, increases as user engagement decreases. To keep things simple, let’s define user engagement as the number of recurring visits per unique user.

The cost of acquiring new customers goes down as word of mouth referrals increase.

Word of mouth customers tend to be much stickier than customers from other referral sources. So not only is it more expensive to acquire customers with fewer word of mouth referrals, non-word-of-mouth referral customers exhibit higher churn rates.

To confirm this, professors at three business schools teamed up to research the word-of-mouth effects in estimating customer lifetime value.

In short, they found that word-of-mouth referrals are more valuable than other types of referrals; their lifetime value is higher because customer churn is lower. Furthermore, customer acquisition costs are lower with higher word-of-mouth referrals.

Without high word-of-mouth referrals resulting from high user engagement and customer happiness, it becomes impossible to reach escape velocity, like Slack or Stripe.

On Virality

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Virality can mask poor customer development.

Embedded viral loops are a misguided cure-all for chronically low word of mouth referrals.

Startups attempt to force trial subscriber acquisition with viral loops and other gimmicks. They hide any user engagement problems, providing an excuse for a product that doesn’t solve its target customer’s pain points.

One of my favorite quotes about virality comes from Laura Roeder’s Observer article, Why I Don’t Want My Startup to ‘Go Viral’:

“Word-of-mouth is like the stable, grown-up big brother of virality. Steady job, less impulsive, takes showers.”

Weak User Engagement Is Killing Your Startup

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With a few hundred or thousand existing trial subscribers, acquiring more trial subscribers is not the answer to unlock growth.

Your team’s energy should be spent on customer discovery.

Install Kissmetrics and Hotjar. Collect as much data as possible about your trial users’ in-app engagement. Setup custom reports in Google Analytics. Get serious about visitor and user segmentation.

Figure out why your users are not revisiting your site on a regular basis.

Here are some possible reasons why they aren’t engaging with your application:

  • Is there a missing feature or capability that better addresses their daily workflow needs?
  • Are users getting stuck at a particular stage of the conversion funnel or onboarding process?
  • Do your transactional emails turn off subscribers, leading them to filter them out from their inbox with an email rule?
  • Is your site speed or data reporting causing subscribers to leave and never return?
  • Do users struggle to understand how your application works or what the benefits of using it are? Maybe they need better onboarding education or how-to help tutorials to learn how to use the interface as it applies to their specific use case.
  • Does the user interface cause visitors to flee the second they’re inside the app?

Where To Go From Here

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Diagnose poor user engagement with cohort analyses.

Segment cohorts by demography, geography, traffic source, landing page, exit page, cohort size (day, month, year), date range, device and more.

Make a short list, call up your trial users and ask them what their day-to-day struggles are.

Revisit your customer personas. Email them surveys. Do everything you can to understand what the fundamental challenges are in their daily workflow.

Incorporate this into your “user engagement benchmarking toolkit.”

A couple ways marketers try to get trial users to engage with their platform:

  • Email users asking them to return but if the product doesn’t provide much value, they’ll struggle to convert them.
  • Incentivize customers to leave their trial early or try a myriad of other tactics to get them to convert.

At the end of the day, if they convert to paid customers for the wrong reasons, you will see high churn and refund rates. Conversion rates won’t matter.

Conclusion

Most trial subscribers are tire kickers, never to return to your website.

If your startup has a few 100 or 1,000 unconverted trial subscribers, your team should spend less time finding new ones. Focus on improving user engagement. Develop the right product feature set that solves your users’ biggest workflow challenges.

That’s what Edgar did off the bat. With their queue feature, small businesses and bloggers no longer waste social media updates. Their auto-refilling queue frees up their customers’ time that was otherwise wasted.

Build one invaluable product feature that solves a big problem for your existing customers. Avoid wasting time and capital acquiring trial users to mask weak organic growth.

Address user engagement issues before going on a shopping spree for more trial users.

About the Author: Cody Lister is the founder of MarketDoc, a blog and digital marketing agency that optimizes pay per click advertising campaigns for high return on ad spend from search and social media. Grab his free user engagement checklist and get step-by-step marketing formulas, case studies and insights for explosive startup growth. Follow him on Twitter.


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