One of the biggest marketing challenges brands currently face is finding ways to collaborate with influencers and affiliates, and to develop partnerships that are mutually beneficial. If you want your brand to expand its marketing strategy, you may be considering adding affiliates and influencers to the mix. But how do you know if the timing is right for your brand to introduce this new marketing approach?
The Difference Between an Influencer and an Affiliate
Before you can even consider developing this kind of marketing program, it’s essential that you understand the differences between influencer and affiliate marketing. Although there is a lot of overlap between the two, there are several subtle differences. The primary difference, though, is that affiliates tend to put their role as a marketer above any loyalty to their audience — meaning they may be willing to advertise products they are not particularly passionate about themselves, as long as they are relevant to their own brand and may appeal to their followers. Influencers, on the other hand, enjoy sharing things they authentically love with their audience — and they tend to be reluctant to work with brands unless they are genuinely excited about their products.
Now that we’ve cleared up the basics, look for these eight signs to see if your brand is ready to start building its own influencer or affiliate marketing program.
1. Your Business Can Cope with a Sudden Influx of Customers
If you work with the right affiliates or influencers whose audience is part of your primary target market, you are set up to have great success with your marketing program. Launching a marketing partnership with an influencer or affiliate could bring in a surge of interest into your business almost overnight.
While this interest is fantastic and could signal the beginning of your company becoming a must-have brand, if it comes at the wrong time — when you are not prepared—it could be disastrous. Although there is no guarantee that you will get this kind of sudden increase in orders, you must be prepared to handle them should they come in. Unfortunately, many young companies suffer from generating too much interest too soon, and it can do much more harm than good. Before you collaborate with influencers and affiliates, make sure you have systems in place to fulfill a large volume of orders. If you have grown your business to a point where you can handle a sudden increase in scale, then it could be the right time to start your affiliate and influencer marketing program.
2. Your Products and Customer Service Are Up to Scrutiny
Influencer and affiliate marketing is all about increasing your customer base and building a positive reputation. To that end, you should ensure your products and your customer service are top-notch before exposing yourself to wide-scale scrutiny. Influencers want to recommend quality products, and businesses with fantastic services to their audience because they don’t want to lose their trust. So you may struggle to find an influencer willing to promote your brand if your product and service are not of a high quality.
First impressions count! If you secure a collaboration with an affiliate or influencer before your business is ready, you may leave a negative impression on their audience.
3. Your Brand Relies on Trust in the Product
One of the reasons customers buy from brands endorsed by their favorite influencers is that they trust them. These days, customers are incredibly savvy and are often turned off by traditional marketing tactic. This means they can be dubious about claims brands themselves make about their products or services.
However, those same customers are often extremely trusting of influencers. The personal, interactive nature of social media, and the sheer volume of content, means that fans of a particular influencer feel they know them and what they stand for. This loyalty and respect go both ways: Influencers spend a huge amount of time cultivating their audience. They typically don’t want to sell them something that they don’t genuinely like or believe in, as this will only harm their brand and relationship with their fans long term.
This trust is one of the main reasons brands choose to work with influencers: They can tap into their devoted audience. This is helpful for newer companies which have yet to build up significant brand loyalty among their customers. And it is particularly valuable for companies that offer products or services that people are cautious about purchasing without the backing of a trusted person or store.
Some of the key industries that require this kind of customer confidence include the nutrition, wellness, fitness, pharmaceuticals, parenting, cosmetics, and automotive industries. Customers buying vitamin supplements or a teething ring for their baby, for instance, often don’t want to commit to a purchase until they get a recommendation from someone they trust.
If your brand sells these kinds of products, you should consider investing in influencer marketing in particular. Though, whatever industry your brand fits into, you are sure to benefit from tapping into the loyal audiences that come with high-quality influencers.
4. Image Is Central to Your Brand
Another considerable benefit that influencers and affiliates offer brands is social cachet. Simply put, if audiences think that an influencer or affiliate is cool, this opinion will usually extend to the products they promote. Influencers are the new tastemakers. Just as brands have been using celebrities to promote their products for decades, companies are now taking notice of the power influencers have to make a product a hit.
For brands that sell products or services for which the “cool factor” is crucial, whether that’s sneakers, homeware, jewelry or water bottles, incorporating partnerships with affiliates or influencers whose style suits their own into their marketing strategy is a smart move. Without the help of these trendsetters, building a cool, stylish, or luxury reputation takes much longer.
5. Your Industry Is Competitive
Brands that operate within competitive industries must find ways to stand out from their rivals, and working with the right influencers and affiliates can help boost your brand. When working in a saturated industry, or one where there is little to distinguish one company’s products from another, your marketing strategy should concentrate on cultivating brand equity.
Brand equity is the commercial value of the brand itself — it is the consumer perception of the brand, rather than the value of their products or services themselves. Instead of focussing their marketing efforts entirely on promoting the features and value of their products, brands following this strategy spend a lot of time and money on developing a brand personality and style, which creates an emotional response in the customer.
Psychologists have studied the link between emotions and consumer decision-making for many years and have discovered that tapping into a customer’s emotions is incredibly powerful. For instance, Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI brain scans) demonstrated that when consumers evaluate brands, they primarily use their emotions — specifically, their personal feelings and experiences — over the information provided, such as the product’s features and attributes.
Influencers have become a popular tool for developing brand equity. An influencer’s fans can develop positive feelings toward a specific brand just because the influencer uses their products and mentions them publicly. A consumer’s connection with the influencer can become the deciding factor, making your influencer marketing program the thing that makes your brand stand out from the crowd.
6. You’ve Found the Right Influencer or Affiliate
One of the reasons that customers respond to influencer marketing is that, as much as possible, it is based on authenticity. Many influencers only promote products they have had genuinely good experiences with, so they can review and advertise the product honestly. They typically talk about the products naturally, in their own voice, rather than reading from a script written by the brand.
However, to do this successfully, brands must collaborate with the right influencers for their brand. For example, a skincare brand working with an influencer who never talks about skincare and isn’t known for an interest in beauty products doesn’t ring true. The followers of that influencer are aren’t likely to be interested in those products either. Even if they are, an endorsement from a person who doesn’t have experience using similar products would not carry much weight with them.
This means that while using influencers and marketers as part of your marketing strategy is a great idea, you should not just collaborate with any willing influencer and expect success. Instead, it’s critical to find the person — or people — who makes sense with your brand identity. If you know of influencers who you feel would be a good fit, approach them! Start building a relationship with them now and prepare to take the next steps in your brand’s marketing journey.
7. You Want to Increase the Diversity of Your Brand
The influencer marketing strategy has been criticized for its lack of diversity, with critics blasting companies for only choosing to work with specific types of influencers, most often classically attractive, straight, affluent white women. However, the nature of influencer marketing means that there is ample scope for brands to work with influencers from all kinds of backgrounds and profiles.
One of the reasons that marketing through influencers is so successful is that audiences can relate to the influencer. While the use of celebrities to market products creates an aspirational image, seeing people who look like you using a product is authentic and allows you to easily imagine yourself using it. Therefore, if brands want to diversify their customer base, they may consider collaborating with influencers with various characteristics and profiles.
While improving diversity is a social goal that many brands aim to work toward, it is crucial that they do so in an informed, well-thought-out way. Simply using influencers as a symbol to prove their commitment to diversity is not enough. Brands should do thorough market research, put authenticity first and truly collaborate with their influencers to ensure that a broader range of people use their products and services. If your brand is committed to improving its diversity, developing an influencer and affiliate marketing program is a strong step in the right direction.
8. You Have a Small But Devoted Customer Base
Many companies source their best affiliates from their loyal customer base. They approach repeat customers who have a substantial online presence and have expressed satisfaction with their experiences with the company in the past.
These affiliates do not have to have hundreds of thousands of followers to be able to have an impact on a company’s sales. The fact that they have truly enjoyed the product means that they are well placed to promote it on their websites or on social media. Customers respond well to genuine reviews, and these kinds of links often lead to impressive conversion rates.
You can look to your small but devoted customer base for more than just potential affiliate marketing opportunities. They are also a source of market research. The fact that you have positive feedback from your current customers is a good sign that once you reach a wider audience, you should continue to have success with the help of influencers and affiliates. Consider approaching your current customers for feedback on your products, customer service, and buying experience. They may give you invaluable opinions that help you iron out any kinks in your operation before you launch onto a larger stage with the help of influencers.
Taking the Plunge
In today’s commercial climate, many brands find themselves working with influencers or affiliates at one point or another to promote their products and services. The benefits that this kind of marketing offers are considerable — from giving a company access to a huge captive audience, to helping brands develop trust in their products.
Taking the plunge into this kind of marketing can be nerve-wracking — especially for new or small businesses, as everything spent counts towards profit. Take your time to research and build relationships with the right influencers, then reap the rewards of authentic contemporary marketing.