“Marketers must reimagine their role as a central driver of organizational change by connecting with customers in more genuine and useful ways and in channels they trust and value,” says Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter.
The report—which features a global survey of 102 enterprise brand strategists and marketers—notes that successful influencer marketing programs should be ongoing and not one-offs, and have robust budgets and sufficient resource allocations.
Seventy-one percent of the brands surveyed rated influencer marketing as a strategic or highly strategic marketing category; 43% are still experimenting with the practice and 28% are only involving influencers at a campaign level. However, 83% of respondents cited a top priority to “identify and build one-on-one relationships with industry key influencers.”
Influencer marketing is obviously not a new concept, but acceptance of the fact that it works best for the long game and not just quick hits is still a struggle for some organizations, said Pierre-Loic Assayag, founder and CEO, Traackr. Indeed, 27% of the brands surveyed said they were still only using influencers at a campaign level.
“Marketers who are more sophisticated are playing the long game and considering the benefits,” says Lee Odden, CEO, Top Rank Marketing. “One of the pains of the industry was the [reliance on] short-term one-off [campaigns rather than taking] the long view for more genuine relationships.”
A lack of financial investment and resource allocation holds some marketers back, notes Odden. Budgetary projections for 2017 do signal a change: 55% of marketers plan to spend more. For those already investing more than $250,000 annually, this percentage jumps up to 67% and up to 77% for those already utilizing influencer marketing technology.
There is a real struggle to make influencer truly strategic, adds Kirk Crenshaw, CMO of Traackr. “You can’t just run a pilot test and hope it will change the world.”
“The more a brand can build up a relationship over time, the more of an impact campaigns will have, because the endorsements will come across as trustworthy.
Momentum is particularly important in a strong influencer marketing strategy, says Odden. Marketers want to avoid a “51 first dates scenario,” where it always feels like they are starting from square one, in favor of an approach that builds. “If you are opportunistically engaging with influencers, you can cumulatively grow the effect over time.”
At the end of the day, brands naturally struggle with projecting brand awareness and image versus looking at things from a customer view. “It’s a huge shift in the way companies perceive the trust people put in brands,” says Crenshaw. “We need to reach consumers with a message they understand and believe in about our products.”
Brands should consider where an influencer fits in with their marketing mix, and whether they and the influencer have shared value, says Odden. “Make data influenced decisions and understand where influencers fit in with the various relationship communication strategies in your organization.”
An audit of your best practices can be extremely helpful, adds Odden. Consider whether endorsements from influencers are really working for your brand, and create standards for measurement and success. “That will free up budgets in the future for what will create the most impact.”