What makes a successful influencer marketing programme?

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As one of the pioneers in the influencer marketing space, we have worked with many brands over the years and have seen our fair share of successes and failures of influencer programs. 

Behind the vast majority of influencer marketing fails, are two root causes: one philosophical and one operational. 

The philosophical reason behind the failure of an influencer marketing program is that most brands experimenting with influencer marketing for the first time, think of the practice as being transactional between an influencer and a brand. In other words, 'let’s try to reach out to a few influencers about this product launch we’re doing or this conference we’re sponsoring and see if we get some results'.

Invariably this approach will be met by a resounding failure. Why, you ask? Quite simply because for influencer marketing to work, you have to develop relationships with your influencers and great relationships are like cathedrals, they take time to build.

Invest time

Imagine for a minute that you’d approach dating the same way: I bought this new suit, let me set up a bunch of blind dates and in two weeks I’ll know if dating 'works'. Hmm.

It is only once you’ve accepted that you need to invest time in your influencers that you will be able to cross the chasm of influencer activation ROI. 

Success in influencer marketing doesn’t require unlimited funds but it calls for a balanced approach

Playing the long game with influencer marketing doesn’t mean that taking a measured approach to progressively ramp up your investment in time and money can’t be achieved, quite the opposite.

However, the variable to dial up or down your influencer marketing efforts isn’t time but rather the number of relationships you try to build at once. 

Don't oversimplify

The other root cause for influencer program fail is purely operational. At the on start of an influencer program, you and your team probably have little experience in influencer marketing. Though there’s very little magic or complexity in executing such programs, you may be drawn towards oversimplification. 

We observe that all successful influencer programs are composed of three key components:  

  • Technology (influencer discovery, management, analytics)
  • Resources (whether internal or external, usually a combination, to develop relationships with influencers and manage the program)
  • Influencer spend (commissioning work to your influencers and/or spending money on them, such as travel, free products, etc) 

Too often, brands new to influencer marketing will invest the majority of their budget in one of these three categories while ignoring the other two, leading to the predictable collapse of a program barely born. 

Success in influencer marketing doesn’t require unlimited funds but it calls for a balanced approach involving all three categories of expenses. By starting small, finding initial success and tuning your approach, you will be able to justify greater investments and scale.  

Keep track of budget

Though technology will often be over represented in the early days of an influencer program, it shouldn’t absorb the totality of an IM budget. As the program scales, resources will quickly supersede technology in expenditures.

Influencer costs will be slower to ramp up as money is best spent on influencers once a relationship has been established, but it will then become your dominant expense once your programs has reached maturity.  

Such investments in influencer marketing will vary almost one to 100 depending on the company, its industry and its level of maturity with the practice of influencer marketing.  

There is a process and a discipline to budgeting for such programs. This is the reason why we decided to share our own budgeting framework and hopefully help you develop a budget on solid ground. 

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