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How to Keep It Real: Being Genuine in Affiliate Marketing

  • July 31st, 2018

One of the challenges of any sort of marketing is keeping your image trustworthy and authentic in a world of banner ads and self-testimonials. Consumers are savvier than ever with brand-produced marketing, and affiliate marketing is no different. After all, it’s likely clear that the affiliate will be getting a commission, so why should the reader trust them? Turns out there a few ways you can make the consumer feel a little more comfortable clicking that link, let’s check out a few strategies:

Social Proof

Nothing gets people feeling good about your product than seeing what others think, and there’s a lot of ways to do that. Testimonials and links to reviews are ideal ways to give readers a good sense of who has had experience with this brand and what their experience has been like. Even if it’s a different product than they’re considering buying, if you can highlight the brand, it’s a good thing. Having engagement with reviewers is also a plus; responses to comments, either positive or negative, demonstrates quality control and customer experience is at the top of your list. Even a small counter showing how many people have bought this product can be beneficial, and, can be easy to install.

Long Form Content

There’s a ton of ways long form content can help your affiliate program. SEO is a great example; nothing pushes you up the algorithm better than extensive blog posts full of rich keywords. Do your research, and there’s a lot of free tools out there to use to make your content SEO friendly. Next, big blog posts show dedication and utility…you can pack a lot of information in there, including past successes and examples of different consumers that have happily used the products in the past. If the affiliate isn’t able or willing to write their own post, send them a link to an existing post, or write one yourself for them to feature. You don’t want one highlighted link sitting lonely on a crowded page…give it some context and content, and watch it go!

Actually Use It

Unfortunately, in the realm of monetization, there are lots of times where the person advocating for the product never actually tries it. Now, certainly there are instances when this can pass unnoticed, but the chances aren’t good. As a brand, you need to make certain that the affiliate has full access to assets; not just the website copy and generic descriptions, but actual hands-on usage. This will not only prevent inaccurate descriptions, mistakes and embarrassing claims that are just plain wrong, but it can further legitimize the affiliate as a true believer in your brand. Images of the affiliate with product in hand go a long way, too. Also, do your due diligence and quality check all of your links and landing pages. Nothing turns off an excited customer like a faulty link.

What do you look for when you’re looking for a trustworthy affiliate relationship? Let us know in the comments below.

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Making Your Brand Approachable with Influencer Marketing

  • July 18th, 2018

Ever had a friend that got rich and famous? You used to hang out all the time, lots of text conversations and funny email chains. Sure, people get busy and life happens, but now your texts and invitations to go out seem to get fewer and fewer responses. True, you’re happy for their success, but you miss the good old days when they were always around.

Like friendships, relationships with brands can become distant and somewhat sterile. Typically, the bigger they get, the less likely you are to connect, and you can start wondering if believing in this brand is worth it. Large corporations and international brands tend to be viewed as impersonal and unapproachable, and that’s just bad for business. How do stay away from this situation? There’s a few ways, and influencer marketing is a great option to help personalize your brand.

Friend of a Friend

Influencer marketing, at least on smaller scales, is all about authenticity. These professional content creators have worked long and hard to establish trusted relationships and have thousands of loyal followers, and they have done that with consistent messaging, great content, and engagement with their audience. Point is, they can do that for you, also. Once you’ve vetted and identified influencers who fit your niche and tone, give them all the assets they’ll need to showcase the best part of your brand. This includes high-quality images, positive messaging, and enough stories about your business to make the content they create feel personal—especially if they are geographically distant. Make them feel like a part of the company, and they’ll write and post like they are.

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

Working off what we said above, your influencers need authentic connections to your brand. If there’s  product, software, or any other aspect of your brand that one would need to be able to give a detailed endorsement or review, make certain that they have all the time and instruction they need. If any of the influencers you are working with happen to be local, invite them out to your store, office or factory and give them the inside scoop on how your operation works. Let them make appetizers with the chef, stitch up some vests, or debug some code with one of your developers. Not only will they get a good idea of your quality and attention to detail, they can also get great content through interviews and pictures that no one else can get. Giving readers a glimpse of how things really work and the people who make it happen is a great way to remind readers that your employees (like the readers) are the heart of your company.

Turn Over the Reins

You probably have some sort of social media presence…maybe you post daily, or perhaps you only get to it once in a while. Great influencers are professionals at making their social media posts engaging, interesting, and entertaining; it’s their stock in trade, and they work hard to keep them active. While most influencers will link back to their blog post about your brand to get higher reach, you might be able to additionally use individuals or crowdsourcing to give these experts a day representing your brand on a social channel. With some guidance, extra access, and a few suggestions on what to focus on, a talented influencer can give your brand a whole new look, all while humanizing and telling the stories you’d want everyone to hear. This is a wonderful opportunity to show off your workplace, highlight your ideals, and, most importantly, give some inside looks on how your customers use your product or service. American Express let a few of their cardholders take over, and brilliant content ensued:

It’s slick, entertaining, and, most of all, real. Think creatively and talk to a few influencers about how they’d do it. It exposes your social media audience to theirs, and vice versa, so both parties can benefit if done well. You can also crowdsource content…not only with influencers, but any numbers of active social media personalities. Surveys, challenges, or trivia questions are all fun ways to gamify your social posts, all resulting in valuable information about your consumers and getting that brand awareness out there as well.

Step Up and Own It

Now, there’s opportunity around every corner, and missteps and mistakes are no exception. If you send out a defective product or goof up on an order, come out and own it. Send the influencer double the goods, for example…but make it self-deprecating, self-aware, and even humorous if you can. Obviously, people appreciate a brand that admits mistakes, so be sure to make it public so everyone sees how you handle adversity. On a bigger scale, brands who face accusations of poor behavior or practices should get in front of it before hazy reports go viral.

Recently, Airbnb was facing reports of discriminatory practices from its members. And while this wasn’t directly Airbnb’s practices that were in question, they took the opportunity to launch a new campaign and hashtag: #weaccept . This affirmed their commitment to equality among its members, struck on a hot-button topic, and earned themselves well-deserved praise for doing the right thing.

There are lots of ways to make your brand approachable and friendly…did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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Affiliate KPI’s You Need to Know To Power Your Strategy

  • July 12th, 2018

So, you’ve set up your affiliate marketing program for success. You’ve vetted your partners, checked all the links, and have a great network in place. Now you just sit back and relax, right? Nope, not even close. If you want all this to work (and keep working) smoothly, you have to crunch some numbers. Key Performance Indicators (or KPI’s) are the certain sets of data that keep you in the know about how your program is succeeding…or coming up short. Here’s a few affiliate-specific indicators to measure how your campaign is doing.

What’s Going Out?

Before you start drooling over your tasty sales numbers, you should take a hard look at what you’re paying out. Typical numbers on any marketing campaign include return on ad spend (ROAS) and the old favorite, return on investment (ROI). These numbers can be a bit nebulous when you have a wide variety of strategies in place, so try to keep the data specific to each campaign. The best KPI to keep straight are the commissions you’re paying out. Smaller commissions might be dragging down the affiliate’s motivation and cramping sales, and giant commissions are likely taking a bite out of your profit margin. Try to find a mean average, and stick to it. Then, take a peek at your cost per acquisition (CPA) and, depending on your end goal (either sales, clicks, or opt-in/sign up form), you should be able to pin down your best (and worst) affiliate performers. Simply divide the total cost spent on this specific campaign by any particular affiliate’s conversion rate, and you’ve got it. Note your best and worst performers.

Who’s On First?

Now, you’ve got some numbers to look over and some decisions to make, because now we’ll check how our individual affiliate partners are doing. Using the above metrics, you can establish a top ten list. Where this really becomes useful is when you track them month-to-month or year-to-year. Have you rewarded your consistently great performers with bigger percentages and praise? Have you tried to coach up your lower half with advice and incentives? And lastly, you may need to make a decisive move if you have a few bottom draggers…give them some time to improve, but don’t let them drag down your bottom line.

Making Adjustments

Once you’ve optimized your team, try to take a bigger picture look at your strategy. Should you trim down to the absolute best team and run lean? Or is it time to expand and multiply that affiliate power? More links could mean more sales…and could also mean more supervision, and a greater chance that someone new could make some errors in judgement. Steady conversion rates and increased click traffic are good indicators that your program is maturing nicely, and watch the timing for each affiliate. Some put a lot of effort in at first, and then tail off; constant gentle pressure, as Danny Meyer says, is the best way to guide and lead. Don’t let up, but don’t be harsh. When you see steady growth across the board, it may be time to recruit a few more partners.

Now, The Good Stuff

Here we get into the best part: conversions and sales. Now, these numbers are what everyone’s looking for, but don’t neglect some other crucial indicators that should factor into your measurement of success. If your affiliate partners are talented and advocating for your brand, you should be seeing increased clicks, web traffic, and brand awareness…all positives for the campaign. Harder to quantify, but don’t ignore them; even if a consumer clicks on a link, becomes familiar with who you are and what you offer without buying, that’s a good thing. Data in all these forms may be beyond your reach to get hard numbers for, so you may want to enlist the help of an expert affiliate marketing company to help you mine this valuable information. Once you’re on to the conversion rates, there’s lots to check out. Are there lots of new customers, or are people coming back for more? Is the average order value (AOV) low? If it is, you might want to consider adding incentives or deals for customers to put more in their cart. And then, of course, the straight up conversion rate. Look carefully at various landing sites and promotions to see if there’s a way you could tweak it to give the customer a little boost to click the “buy” button. Social proof is always good; by listing how many other people have bought the product or some good reviews; it might give the buyer that added confidence to make the purchase.

What KPI are you looking at? Any important ones we missed? Let us know what you think, and let’s start a conversation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How Influencers Can Power The Food Industry

  • July 6th, 2018

Marketing the food industry, from massive franchise chains to Mom and Pop businesses, can be a tricky thing. Like many other markets, brand-produced advertisements and marketing can be a bit of a turn-off…we are all aware that you believe your burgers or energy bars are the best in town. And in the current climate of Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Amazon reviews, everyone’s a professional food critic, like it or not. Competition is as stiff as ever, and the margin of error is slim. So how can you stand out in the crowd, get your potential customers to trust that they’ll purchase quality eats, and keep your integrity and sense of humor intact? You should consider going the influencer marketing route…and here’s why.

Delicious Relationships

Here’s the thing: we all gotta eat. Not only that, but we derive an enormous amount of pleasure from the ritual. Celebratory dinner with family and friends, Happy Hour with work buddies, or a quiet energy bar at the summit of a mountain…the act of going to a store or restaurant and carefully selecting your next meal borders on the sacred for many of us. It’s social, and we love to share our experience with others. Sound familiar? It mirrors our obsession with social media and being connected. Our feeds are filled with, well, food; from an Instagram shot of your morning smoothie to a YouTube clip of your late night munchies, we see it everywhere. So, it follows that a true influencer, who has thousands of loyal and trusted followers, would be someone you’d want representing your brand. Whether it’s a true reviewer or just a funny, interesting personality, a well-done post with clever hashtags can bring a lot of eyes on your goods.

A Feast for the Eyes

Looking at beautiful food is almost as pleasurable as eating it. From an elegant Michelin-starred amuse bouche, the sloppiest mega-burger ever, or the time-lapsed video of your recipe coming to life, images of meals are a constant; at the time this post is being written, there are almost 280 million #food entries on Instagram. It’s widely known that content with images is far more absorbed and shared than plain text alone. Many enterprises will hire professional photographers, and that’s great (if you can afford them) for your website. But tapping into the wide world of social media food images has endless possibilities, and, with a little encouragement, you can get a virtual army posting your brand on every social channel. Having a popular influencer start the trend in their local restaurant is a great way to kickstart a trend, especially if there’s a signature dish you’re looking to promote. If they challenge their audience to drop in and post their pictures as well, the range and breadth of those posts will spread far and wide. Also, timely use of geofilters can bring throngs of followers to the spot that will best feature your brand…think idyllic picnic spots, fun run finish lines, or farmer’s markets to promote your products.

For example, the above geofilter was used 346 times in a weekend in a college town, and that led to over 22,000 views and shares. That’s a lot of brand exposure for a simple geofilter.

How It’s Made

The big appeal regarding influencer marketing is always the storytelling. These professional writers earn their living explaining the details, ups and downs, and humor of their subjects. And you probably won’t find more entertaining and enlightening stories anywhere else like you will in a restaurant or a production facility. It’s a place where people of all different backgrounds and personalities all ply their craft under busy, high-pressure conditions daily. Telling their story is a great way to humanize your place and staff, and to let the readers know why your spot is as special as you know it is, as shown here. Don’t only invite your influencers to eat a meal or meet the founder; bring them back behind the grill to make an appetizer with the chef or down to the factory floor to mix up ingredients. The organic content that results, both in word and image, will not only make that first post great, but is content you can use in multiple ways for a long time to come.

That Pairs Nicely

As with all other influencer marketing campaigns, finding the right fit between influencer and brand is absolutely essential. If you have a high-end fine dining establishment, you’ll want to ask someone with experience and a history of fine dining reviews to try your fare. In contrast, if you’re offering the city’s hottest wings or a “bet you can’t finish it” mega-steak, look for a content creator with humor and a lowbrow sensibility that would appreciate an off-color joke from the server. Be absolutely clear on what sort of exposure you want, and have a conversation to make sure you’re both on the same page. Check out this interview about how working with a student who truly loved the restaurant was a win, even with a limited social reach. This establishment has also taken storytelling a step further by having fun and creative influencers take over their official Instagram account during their time there, lending authenticity and a fresh perspective to your channel. Looking back through various popular feeds and case studies to get a feel for great ideas and themes is a must, and conversations with your potential influencers can go a long way.

The Final Course

If all this sounds appetizing, here’s a menu of next steps to choose from (see what I did there?):

  • First, take stock of the assets you have in place: the décor, the staff and their personalities, the story of how you started, and, of course, the food. Do you also source from local farmers/ranchers/brewers? If you do, their stories contribute to yours also.
  • A talented influencer can showcase these people with interviews and images to show all their readers how special what you do really is. Locating this type of influencer can be tricky, so consider talking to an experienced agency for help.
  • Engage your customers to follow your social channels, and ask for their input on everything…sometimes, the perfect influencer will come straight to you. Keep an eye on what’s happening in your neighborhood and industry on social media, and take note of what’s working.
  • Last, make it fun. Your food is a reason for celebration, conversation, and the simple human act of enjoying a meal. Everyone should share that with you.

Does your brand fall in the food industry? Let us know if you have any questions or comments about working with influencers!

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Can’t We All Get Along?: Affiliate Marketing and the FTC

  • July 2nd, 2018

There’s been a lot of fuss around the recent Federal Trade Commission guidelines requiring all online personalities who promote or endorse a brand or product to disclose their relationship clearly and explicitly. Granted, there’s a lot to pay attention to, and the consequences are quite dire if you don’t comply. However, once you’re educated and clear about the law, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t follow the rules. In fact, we can make the case that it’s a good thing. Don’t believe it? Well, read on and decide for yourself.

What Are The Rules?

Let’s take a peek at the official rules before we get too far into how we need to interpret and comply. Read this link before anything; there’s a lot there, but it’s all more or less saying the same thing. Basically, you must be clear about your promotion or endorsement of any brand if you are at all compensated, be it payment, free product, family or friend relationships, or any other kind of favorable treatment related to the post.

Do some affiliates post links solely out of the kindness of their heart and a purely personal affinity for the product? It could happen, but it’s not likely.

Wading through all the guidelines, there’s a small, 3-character disclosure that covers all your bases: #ad. This must be clear (no light fonts, miniscule sizes or any other attempts to make it less noticeable), and also at or near the beginning of your earned social media posts.

When content partners produce blog posts, they need a disclosure statement at the beginning of their post. It usually says something to the effect of “I was compensated for this post, but all opinions are my own.”

These compliancy messages are super important…there’s been more than a few crackdowns on posts that don’t have clear announcements at the top. Gotta scroll down or hit “more…” to see the #ad disclaimer? No good…it has to be right at the top. Trust us on this. Here’s a summary on a lawsuit that the FTC filed on endorsement of a brand without proper disclosure, and who was ultimately responsible. If you don’t click, here’s the summary: the merchant (read: brand who is marketing the product…that’s you!) is wholly responsible for adhering to these rules, and any hired agency or individual affiliates that screw it up are your responsibility. Yeah, that’s a lot of responsibility. But, we’re going to show you how all of this is a good thing, and can actually be a plus. Read on.

Fair Play

Here’s the truth. It used to be a slightly unsavory thing to plug a brand for pay, but things have come a long way. The everyday consumer wants the truth, and the more you give them, the better. Check out this article regarding the way consumers want to be informed…over two-thirds of those surveyed said they want to know the arrangement that their affiliate has with the brand. It’s a much better situation when the reader knows what’s going on.

In this survey, many claimed not to know that the writer was compensated…and a similar number said they didn’t care. Consider that for a minute; wouldn’t you, as a consumer, want to know if your expert was advocating because of true belief or money? Given that this affiliate has likely built their reputation based on their innate knowledge of the products they review, it’s equally as likely that you’d trust their expertise, paid or not. Trust and honesty is their stock in trade; without authentic and trustworthy advice, they’ve got nothing. Recommending a bad product could ruin everything they’ve worked so hard for, and if they’re paying their bills by teaming up with a quality brand, that shouldn’t change their whole ideal.

Summing Up

We all do our due diligence when considering a purchase. There are so many resources available to double- and triple-check reviews on any given thing, and consumers are doing more of this than ever. Knowing this, you should feel confident about using your trusted affiliate partners to get your product and messaging out. If there’s any doubt, enlisting an expert agency to vet and oversee these affiliate partners might be the best choice for you. Remember, these affiliates got to their marketable status for good reason…and, if they’re at that point, following the FTC guidelines shouldn’t be of any worry to them. They need to be trusted across the board, and full disclosure ultimately adds to that. Be clear and honest with what you need and expect from them, and the rest will fall into place.

Do you have any experience working with affiliates and ensuring they comply? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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4 Influencer Marketing Case Studies that Made a Splash

  • June 22nd, 2018

Nothing highlights the versatility, reach, and all-around efficacy of influencer marketing like reviewing a few recent and successful case studies. We can get new ideas, see how specific strategies fare, and try to match up with like-minded brands. Let’s examine why these clever campaigns did so well, and how you might be able to use a similar path to success.

Flipping the Script

Every brand can benefit from influencer marketing…it just takes some creative strategy to make it work for you. Whole Foods has a great reputation for all-natural quality ingredients, and one might expect they would go after food bloggers that create tasty recipes and a lavish spread. Yet, for their recent Easter campaign, they opted to target overwhelmed hosts by offering their order and pick-up service. They used a variety of lifestyle bloggers, including several mid-level influencers, to show off their table-ready and Instagram-worthy spreads that emphasized amazing food, saving time, and spending more time with family and friends. The smaller reach sparked higher engagement rates, which is always a plus, and sharing identifiable problems with easy (and tasty) solutions led to huge brand awareness and web traffic swings for a relatively unknown service that Whole Foods offered.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

When you’ve established your brand as a quirky and funny advertising presence, your social feeds and influencer programs need to follow suit. Old Spice has set the bar with their off-the-wall commercials, so you’d expect nothing less from their strategy. They designed an app where runners can map their routes, and try to track a design that resembles a gift they desire. They employed a few celebrity influencers to kickstart the action, and gave the average fun-loving runner the ability to be creative and crack a few jokes…all in the name of the brand. It produced some hilarious entries and interpretations, like an inflatable shark and a turkey helmet, and subtly promoted its new deodorant amid all the giggles. Crowd-sourced content that can be used in a variety of ways while generating brand awareness all along…cue the laugh track!

Old Spice: Dream Runner from MediaMonks on Vimeo.

No Showroom? No Problem!

One of the best parts of using influencers is the ability to address specific marketing issues and limitations in an organic and natural way. Leesa, a direct sale online mattress brand, wanted the world to know how incredible its luxury mattresses were…all without any showrooms for potential customers to try them out. Mattress buying is difficult; you, of course, want to lie on and test out the product you’ll be spending all of your sleeping hours on, but showrooms can be awkward and salesmen can be pushy. The challenge was to get trustworthy reviews out to readers who are ready to buy, which is challenging indeed. They went after smaller market bloggers with high engagement, big conversion rates, SEO-savvy content, and a history of genuine brand affinity. Tall order, but with expert agency assistance, a few YouTube sponsorships and unboxing videos, and a limited customer email campaign, Leesa found the right influencers for the job. Plus, they pledged to donate one mattress to a shelter for every ten sold, providing the company with some social proof. Over 100,000 clicks on website links and 400 mattress purchases shows the power of the campaign, and there’s no limit on how long this content will continue to convert.

A Good Cause

We’ve talked before here about how effective and powerful cause marketing can be. Here’s a case study that combines it with influencers, and it’s easier than you think. Boxed Water is a simple concept: pure water in an environmentally conscious package. To promote themselves and to give back to the causes they believe in, they offered to plant two trees in national forests for every Instagram post that promoted them and shared their hashtag. This offers a simple and free way for everyday users to help out and feel good about their actions. It also appeals to a younger, more socially conscious generation that also happens to spend a lot more time on Instagram. As for the influencers, they did enlist a few celebrities to start the movement…but, as with many social causes, many will elect to promote for free if it aligns with their own personal beliefs. There’s a lot of attention on the global effect of discarded plastic, so this brand stepped in at a time where awareness is at an all-time high. To date, they report well over 75,000 trees planted. Good news, and better marketing; reporting progress and hitting various goals gives everyone who participated a good feeling, and, due to their three month campaign, gives others a chance to get on board as well. It’s a win-win all around.

Did one of these case studies make sense for your brand? Got any others you’d like to share? Leave a comment, and let’s chat!

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4 Goals Brands are Hitting with Influencer Marketing

  • June 8th, 2018

Every department in your company starts the year by mapping out crucial goals to hit, and marketing is no exception. Lots of research and discussion goes into setting these benchmarks; after all, you have a set budget to allocate and multiple marketing tactics to use over the next 12 months. Make sure to add influencer marketing to the discussion, as it can reach many different kinds of consumers that can be tough to find with older techniques. Let’s go through a few of these and see how you can get your message out.

Appealing to Niches

We’ll tackle the tricky one first. When you produce a very particular product or service, both big and little brands have issues. The big guys likely have a catalog of wide, diversified products, and are trying to feature their new product among the variety of everyday items they’ve been selling for years. In contrast, the small independent brand is just trying to get its quality niche product noticed in a giant sea of competition. Either way, both situations can benefit from the versatility of influencer marketing. From knitting to kayaking, from high-tech gadgets to handmade cutlery, there’s a way to get your message out. Content creators are story tellers, and, given the proper assets, they can craft an experiential message that gets you noticed. Evaluate your target audience, and find those influencers who cater to them. If you can’t find them, you’re not looking hard enough. Get your product in their hands, let them relate their experience with it, and have them link back to your web page or retail site with a discount code. Your SEO-savvy creators will help your customers find you in a search, their review will reinforce buying confidence, and web traffic and brand awareness will grow exponentially. Suddenly, that custom knitting needle or chef’s knife is not just noticed, but sought after.

All About the Millenials

Millenials (and the subsequent Generations Z and Alpha) are the darlings of the market these days. Buying power, digital savvy, and well-researched purchases makes them both sought after and tricky to connect with. The days of catchy radio spots and magazine print ads are fading away, at least for the younger consumers, so it’s wise to try to grab them where they are most often: the Internet. Check out this graph from a Nielsen survey:

Now, this is an older graph, so you’d probably want to guess that it would skew even farther towards online presences. The real grab here is the overwhelming majority that trust opinions or endorsements from “people I (they) know” and “consumer opinions posted online”. Sure, that can be friends and family, and often is. But great influencers establish and nurture relationships with their audience to such an extent that they end up “knowing” them, and that’s important. Consistent engagement and messaging leads to loyalty and faith that they’ll never mislead their readers, and that extends to the “consumer opinions” section also. Most everyone checks out Amazon ratings and reviews before finally buying something, so consulting an expert or fan online is a natural step.

B2B Coming On Strong

Influencer marketing isn’t just a review service of products by everyday moms and travelers. Selling business services and products to other businesses is, well, big business. Anyone in the sales and purchasing departments better be very certain of the services or products they are vouching for, so they do the same thing we all do: research. Opinions from industry experts used to only consist of water cooler banter, phone calls, or an article in a trade magazine. Now, experts in every field (including yours!) recommend all manner of B2B and SaaS items, and you can get a rundown on exactly what you’re looking for in a variety of articles and videos; they are legitimate influencers, and they not only help your buyers choose wisely, but they can also represent your brand with the same enthusiasm and expertise they give to other brands they endorse.

Standing Out in the Crowd

Face it…sales and conversions are the bottom line, and it’s what every marketing and sales department wants most of all. But, getting to the point where you’re even getting noticed can be a challenge. You can have a slick website, amazing customer support, and a great story to tell. If they don’t get to your website or blog, though, it’s all for naught. This is why many large brands hire celebrities to hawk their wares to their millions of followers…the resulting brand awareness can be game-changing, albeit at a steep price. If you can afford that, great…but you might want to consider finding a mid-level influencer, defined as a content creator with a 10,000 to 100,000 social reach. They are more engaged and in touch with their audience, have easily identifiable and targetable demographics following them, and cost a lot less than Rihanna. Be sure to use a tracking tool to see which influencers are getting the shares and likes, as well as how your web traffic is picking up. Want that information up front? Consider hiring an agency, who can locate and engage these influencers, as well as give you loads of data before and after the campaign to see what (and who) works the best for your brand.

What goals have you achieved with influencer marketing? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Meet the Swiss Army Knife of Marketing: The Travel Influencer

  • June 4th, 2018

Picture this: You’ve got an influencer representing your brand. Descriptive writer, incredible photographer, even makes gorgeous videos. They shoot from breathtaking locales around the world, engage with thousands of followers, and more seem to join every week. And the best part? Versatility. Activewear? Sure. New tech gadget? Love to. Vitamin supplement? Gotta keep the immune system up. Laptop case? Use one every day, no problem. Meet the travel influencer…or become reacquainted quickly, because they’re arguably the most valuable voices in the influencer marketing world.

Everyday People in Extraordinary Places

There’s a broad appeal to travel writing, and it’s been around for decades. Exotic places, foreign food and cultures…it’s all very exciting and informative. And watching actresses and professional athletes posing on a yacht in the south of France can be enjoyable. But, for most of us, it’s the relatable nature of watching someone a lot like you navigate language barriers, airport crises, and unrecognizable meals, and this is where the marketing magic begins. In truth, you may or may not drink the bubbly water that said celebrity is toasting with at sunset; but, if your travel influencer gets a rash in the jungle, photographs it, and then tells you how a product helped get rid of it, that’s a personality you can relate to. Trust is the gold of the marketing world, and being honest, self-deprecating and conversational about your experiences is the best way to get that. If you can see yourself in another’s shoes, you can see yourself using what they use. Mission accomplished.

What Don’t They Use?

As we talked about above, these travel influencers can represent a wide variety of brands. Obviously, hotels, cruise ships, and other travel and hospitality brands would be a natural fit, and they have seen great success using influencer marketing. Other things like translation and mapping apps, various luggage options, and comfortable socks might fall under the same umbrella. Consider, though, all the everyday items you use at home and in your daily life. Chances are, they’d be useful while travelling. Tweezers, shampoo, air fresheners, restaurant review sites…these are all applicable for showcasing on a traveler blog. Even home-based items like lawn fertilizer or artificial plants might seem strange, but several savvy travel influencers even talk about the things they are happy to come home to, and a healthy lawn might fall on that list.

Content Is King

One of the truly powerful aspects of influencer marketing is the content they produce. It can be repurposed and featured in lots of different ways for years after the initial post. Influencers are content creators…professional writers and photographers who not only excel at their craft, but absorb and incorporate your specific messaging into their work. That means you get a big spark after the post goes live, and a slow but steady burn on your brand awareness. Additionally, hiring freelance content creators and photographers can cost a fortune. Do your research, and find these professionals who do all that plus have thousands of loyal followers who read them everyday. That’s a whole lot of value for one marketing campaign.

Here’s a few tips for identifying and engaging with travel influencers:

  • Messaging: Before you start searching, get a good idea of the basics of your campaign. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but general concepts like tone, mood, and the way you’d like to see your brand represented are good starts. Try to get a good feel for what you’re looking for before you start your search.
  • Research: Find a few sites where the images and writing fit your brand. Make sure to check out their blog and all the linked social channels while you’re at it, and check on other brands they’ve represented before.
  • Outreach: If you’re able to find a good contact, construct a short, concise email. Remember, these folks get lots of emails every day, so get right to the point. Remember to inquire about a fee, also; most influencers do this for a living, and you may not get much of a response rate if you don’t offer compensation. And always use their name, and maybe even reference a specific post that you really liked…it should be a personal relationship.
  • Be Realistic: Once you’ve found a great match, be sure to be clear about what you expect and when. Many travelers end up “off the grid” for weeks and have a fairly rigid editorial calendar, so last-minute changes or requests for extensions can’t always be possible.
  • Hire a Pro: Yes, this type of marketing can be done yourself, but be prepared to spend a lot of time on it. It can feel uncertain at times, and a lot of trial and error is normal. You might want to consider an agency; they have the experience, contacts and relationships in place to get you going in the right direction.

Have questions about how to find the best and brightest travel influencers who would fit perfectly with your brand? Ask us in the comments below, we’re a friendly bunch!

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3 Next Level Tips to Market to Generation Alpha

  • May 29th, 2018

Are you wondering where the next giant vertical lies? One that will have billions in spending power for years to come and can direct and influence others to do their bidding pretty much at will? Want to know where to find them? Your best bet is to catch them between the end of kindergarten and before their afternoon nap.

Yes, the newest and potentially strongest market to emerge on the scene is Generation Alpha…kids that are born from 2010 and after. Sounds crazy, but consider it. A digitally savvy, on-demand, diverse and socially conscious group that is already inured to traditional advertising. Three year old children that can swipe and touch their way through the iPhone that you had to watch a tutorial for. Second graders who can tell you the merits and pitfalls of a certain toy brand gleaned from several YouTube reviews. Gone are the days of picking out your Christmas list based on Saturday morning cartoon commercials and the Sears and Roebuck Wish List catalog. They still want toys and games, of course…but the landscape on how to find and choose them has changed dramatically.

Let’s look at some facts that can show how unique this situation is. First, the average family size is shrinking. Well-educated women are having fewer children at a later age than ever before, and that’s important. First, we’re talking about Gen X’ers and Millennials, who are well-known to be very attentive, or even slightly obsessive, about their children’s needs and wants, and check reviews and influencers’ opinions before making any purchases. We’re also talking about largely dual-income families with confident buying power, from everything from cars to strollers, and that’s likely going to focused on less children, probably one or two. And with thousands of this generation born daily, that adds up quick.

Next, consider the kids. They have been fluent in all things digital since birth. They’ve never been without the Internet or cell phones. Even before they can read, they can visually command a tablet by touch, and can use their voice to change the music or the TV channel. They are used to the same ad blockers that we are, and have little patience for traditional advertising. So, there’s a few things to consider when trying to connect with them:

  1. Most kids in this younger generation use YouTube regularly, in numbers up to 87%, and increasingly prefer it to regular television as they get older. They also own tablets and phones younger and younger. Bottom line? If you want to connect to this generation, get your video production up to speed.
  2. There are lots of influencers who speak to this age group, but they typically have a common theme that makes them popular and successful: tell a story, make it entertaining, keep it consistent. Ryan from RyanToysReview unboxes, plays with, and reviews toys to millions of subscribers…his latest post has had 5 million views and counting. He (and his parents) have been doing it the same way for a few years, and toy companies are lined up to have him review their next product.
  3. Google as a verb is something these kids have always known. So, countless sources can answer questions instantly, give directions and even give advice. They are also smart enough to know when a banner ad or in-app purchase is bothering them. Many kids use this wealth of content to teach themselves how to play music or code a video game, and if your brand is involved in this process, they’ll know it. Just keep it subtle!

The takeaway here is that there’s plenty of ways to connect to these kids (and their parents), and brand-produced content that barrels head-on through traditional advertising is not one of them. Entertaining content presented through trusted influencers to an increasingly mobile and discerning audience seems to be one of the best ways to do this…have you evaluated your influencer program yet?

 

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5 Tips to Strengthen Your Next Affiliate Marketing Campaign

  • May 18th, 2018

Affiliate marketing traditionally consists of a business model inwhich brands pay online content creators a commission for the direct sales they bring in via their blog and/or social channels. Content partners are identified based on a contextual fit with a brand and the brand sets up a link or code that content creators share with their audience. When the audience makes a purchase, the content creator gets paid. Pretty straightforward.

Brands sometimes like this approach over the influencer marketing model because with affiliate marketing, content creators or influencers are paid based on performance as opposed to an upfront payment for a post like influencer marketing.

In order to make your affiliate program worthwhile, here are 5 tips to strengthen your strategy:

Make it Worthwhile

Tip: Content creators will start dropping from your campaign like flies if you ask for too much of their time than balances out their reward. Make sure that your “ask” is fair and that reword for said ask is tangible. You may need to adjust the percentage rate you give your influencers and make sure they are stocked with free product from your brand.

Example: Say a fashion brand wants to partner with content creators to show off the durability of a pair of hiking pants. The brands has the great idea of challenging the influencers to wear the pants to different places and photograph the variety of places the pants are worn. This brand would need to realize how much time and effort goes into going different places, taking photos and writing content. They could compensate by offering a set financial compensation rate up front in addition to commission.

Identify the Right Affiliate Partner

Tip: While some marketing strategies are best owned in-house, affiliate marketing can be technical with creating and monitoring links. And let’s not forget that there are FTC guidelines to follow. Having the right agency not only ensures that your legal and technical needs are taken care of, but, they also bring strong relationships to the table as well.

Example: A beauty brand may be ready to hop on the affiliate marketing bandwagon but everyone on their team is spread a little too thin. This brand may want to contact Versa Marketing or do some research to identify an affiliate marketing agency who can develop the creative and maintain the relationships for a strong affiliate marketing strategy with beauty influencers.

Seed Content Creators with the Right Assets

Tip: When your content creators succeed, your brand makes sales. So, make sure that you’re helping them succeed with the right brand information and assets. Here are few examples of assets brands should equip their content creation partners with:

  • Engaging content about the brands
  • New and fresh information about the brand or upcoming releases
  • Easy to trace links so both your brand and the influencer can see how they’re performing
  • High quality images
  • Downloadable resources
  • Give a creative campaign theme or challenge

Example: A software brand may want to consider paying per lead and generate leads with a downloadable piece of content that their brand produced such as an ebook or white paper on a topic that shows thought leadership.

Keep a Pulse

Tip: It’s key to keep a pulse on your relationships with all of your content creators. This will allow your brand to adapt a strategy based on what is working and converting. You need to be able to know who is succeeding and who needs new content and approaches.

Many brands make the mistake of sending out links and implementing a “hands-off” approach to their affiliate marketing. It’s important to remember that these relationships need to be nurtured in order to keep your brand on the brains of content creators so that they’re mentioning your brand multiple times.

Example: A craft brand may keep a spreadsheet of all of their content partners and include a column for their birthdays. On their birthday, the brand could send them a special gift—something simple but highly effective.

Design a Strategy Across Many Platforms

Tip: Of course, blogs are great for their longform content and their potential to convert sales for years to come. But, social media mentions can reach different audiences and create a quick spark for your brand. When you’re giving your content creators a theme and a direction, make sure that this encompasses social media as well.

Example: To elicit visually appealing posts on social, a fitness brand could add a layer to their social strategy by offering influencers a reward such as a gift card for the most creative Instagram post. This incentivizes the influencers to add an extra creative layer to the photos they put out for your brand.

Do you have any affiliate marketing tips? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!

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