Today, consumers are bombarded with messages from marketers about how those marketers' products or services are better than those of others, and how their offerings will fulfill consumers' needs and expectations better than the offerings of competitors.

As they receive competing marketing messages from different brands, consumers become cynical about which brands to trust and to choose, and which to ignore.

So how can marketers make sure that their message is the one to get heard and absorbed?

Marketers have realized that there is a better chance that their message will be picked up and acted on if it has more credibility than a conventional advertisement's. They have understood that cynicism among customers can be overcome when, for example, family and friends recommend a product for use.

This knowledge, and the might of social media, can be used to market products indirectly to potential consumers. By encouraging influential people to talk about products and recommend them, marketers quickly score a unique advantage over their competitors.

What is influencer marketing?

To understand influencer marketing, you first need to understand who influencers are. They are people who have established credibility and influence over an audience. By virtue of their reliability and authenticity, they can convince their audience about what they endorse.

Influencers can be bloggers, influential customers, thought leaders, journalists, consultants, industry experts, or celebrities. Here are a few ways in which they can help you:

  • Create a blog post/article about your company, including its products and services, and publish it on either their own website or another website they may write for.
  • Let you submit your content to their website, if it's likely to bring in traffic or otherwise benefit them
  • Talk about and share information related to your products and services on their social networks

In influencer marketing, companies form relationships with key influencers within their industry with the hope that those influencers will reference the company or share its content with the influencer's audience.

Here are a few important steps to help you build a successful influencer marketing strategy.

1. Know your influencers

Once you're clear about your company's goals and objectives, you need to have a good understanding about relevant influencers. Do some research online and find them. Ideally, your influencers should have a mix of both popularity and expertise. They may have reach, or credibility, or both.

Of course, such influencers are hard to come by, which means you may have to work extra hard on this one. Digital tools such as SocMetrics and Appinions make it easy for companies to scan through the social media scene for the most influential profiles based on geography, category, or other demographic data.

Once you've come up with a list of influencers, prioritize them on the basis of the impact they create.

2. Form a relationship with them

Once you've identified and prioritized your influencers, don't start bombarding them with emails. Work on forming a relationship first. Read their content. Go through their posts, articles, discussion threads, and other information that you come across. All those sources will give you an insight into what they're all about, what they have to say, why they say it, and how they get it across to their audience.

Focus on your primary influencers; they will be the ones to get you traction. You might have to work on different tactics for contacting different kinds of influencers. Interact with them by leaving comments on their blog posts, like their Facebook status updates, reply to them on Twitter, and so on. Send them an email pitching your products and ideas, and request their opinion. Or meet them in person.

The idea is to develop a trustworthy and mutually beneficial relationship with them.

3. Tell them exactly what you want from them

It is always better to make things clear from the very beginning to ensure a long, fruitful association with your influencer. Honesty will prove to be the best policy. Both parties must clearly mention their terms in the working agreement, which includes your expectations from the influencers and how you will compensate them for their work.

4. Give them a reason to share

The more you interact with your influencers, the more you will realize that an influencer marketing strategy is not merely about amplifying the brand's message. It also entails providing your influencers with a pertinent and memorable experience that gives rise to meaningful and genuine sharing and interactions. The experience should be powerful enough to become a motivator for influencers to produce and share content.

5. Tell them everything they need to know

Arm your influencers with all the ammunition they need if they are to talk about your brand or something more specific, such as an event or offering related to it; make it easier for them by providing them with related articles, white papers, e-books, press releases, interviews, tickets, samples, etc.

Sometimes, influencers unknowingly fail to adhere to compliance-related requirements, such as government regulations. You need to inform them of what they need to include (or exclude) to ensure compliance, including disclosures related to sponsored content.

* * *

Influencer marketing has been creating a lot of buzz lately. Companies that understand how to use this valuable tool in their marketing strategy stand to gain if they plan and execute well. The above tips should help.

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image of Andrew Cravenho

Andrew Cravenho is the CEO of CBAC, which offers invoice factoring for small businesses. A serial entrepreneur, Andrew focuses on helping both small and midsize businesses take control of their cash flow.

LinkedIn: Andrew Cravenho