In the age of inbound marketing, nearly every organization is on the hook for generating original content. The ensuing information overload poses a unique challenge for marketers, as competitors now use the same megaphone to attract the same crowd through the same channel.
In a proverbial sea of information written to educate but ultimately persuade consumers, the key to making your brand stand out lies not only in the writing of meaningful content, but the purposeful and targeted distribution of that content.
Contently editor in chief Joe Lazauskas predicts an increase in ROI accountability regarding the proper dissemination of content. “You published content, didn’t think about how to distribute it to your target audience, and now your CEO is about to come breathing down your neck wondering what you spent all of her money on.”
This is why influencer marketing programs, which necessitate a deep understanding of the avenues through which your content should be shared, need to become the primary focus of B2B marketers.
Influencer marketing programs leverage the clout of industry thought leaders to distribute content — providing the right audiences with relevant and compelling information through a trusted source. But how is it done and how is it successfully measured?
Establishing an Influencer Marketing Program
The first step in establishing an influencer marketing program requires extensive research into your audience. Analysis of your target demographics or buyer personas and the shared attributes of qualified leads will provide data about their information-seeking habits:
- Through which source(s) do they find you?
- What keywords are they searching for when they land on your content?
- Who do they trust to provide them with industry-specific recommendations or information?
These insights will inform your integrated marketing communications strategy, the second step in developing an influencer marketing program. Ultimately, conversions are generated through influencer distribution paths. Distribution paths that are leveraged through modern PR strategies that include earned, paid and social media.
Content distribution through influencer marketing requires research and integrated marketing communication methods. But, initial development of this program is not the hard part. An influencer might share a piece of your company’s branded content on their Facebook page. But what does this do to impact your bottom line?
According to Linqia's "State of Influencer Marketing 2017" survey, measuring the ROI of influencer marketing was cited as the biggest challenge facing marketers in this field this year. So, how can you begin to address this?
Measuring the ROI of Influencer Marketing Programs
Being able to accurately measure the ROI of any influencer program begins with having an established research procedure that lays the foundation for any strategy and tactical efforts that will be implemented. From measuring social influence, to tracking and documenting the mid-tier influencers and media outlets that would be key in campaign targeting efforts, your public relations work should be operating from a well-documented base, not an on-the-fly, spray and pray approach.
In addition, standard operating procedures (SOPs) related to relationship management processes need to be clearly documented for use across the organization. This ensures that messaging is consistent, and communication systems are streamlined. After all, team efficiency is one of the largest factors contributing to optimal margins and positive ROI for any program.
Tracking outreach efforts and communication with influencers through a dedicated CRM is also critical. By keeping a detailed record of your correspondence and relationship history your team cultivates with various journalists, bloggers and social media influencers, you are able to more accurately identify those relationships that result in new earned media instances, high quality inbound links and social media shout-outs. At the same time, it’s easier to pinpoint those influencer efforts and communications that are not yielding a satisfactory ROI.
Similar to affiliate marketing programs, utilizing distinct UTM codes will allow your marketing department to track where leads or site visits are coming from. Assigning individual codes and measuring which influencers are reporting the highest influxes of traffic and conversions can provide justification for your spending decisions and a more thorough understanding of your audience’s preferences.
Of course, before you begin the ROI measuring process, it’s important to reassess your KPIs for the project. Digiday reports findings that a bump in the bottom line might not necessarily indicate success. “When it comes to metrics, more than 70 percent of marketers measure the success of influencer partnerships based on engagement”, favoring comments on social networks over direct sales.
Content Distribution Trends in 2017
The streamlining and tracking of influencer marketing is not the only content distribution trend taking form in 2017.
Salted Stone’s Managing Partner Mike Skeehan thinks this year is all about sales enablement, tool effectiveness and anticipating the buyer’s next move.
“Embracing and investing in sales enablement will be a top focus for executives this year.” Skeehan says that the weapons of choice should be those “tools and processes that save time, increase effectiveness, and better align Sales and Marketing teams.” He posits that the right tools “deployed correctly around your organization's business logic will help to identify buying signals. These help sales personnel understand how best to meet your prospective buyers after they've crossed the MQL threshold around contextual trigger points.”
When content is high quality, user appropriate, helpful and informative, it should not blend into the veritable choir of dull or sales-centric rhetoric flooding the internet. By developing a distribution plan that capitalizes on the benefits of influencer marketing in 2017, standardizing SOPs and measuring the ROI of said programs your content will engage the right readers and yield impressive results.
Download our free Influencer Marketing ebook to learn more about uncovering and communicating cross value to influencers, working with mid-tier influencers and top outlets, and leveraging the new bottom-up media model to your advantage.