Five Things Brands Need To Know When Working With Influencers

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

I’ve been working for a few years now with multiple brands per year. I have worked with brands in the music industry to emerging technology companies. When I reflect on what has made for a great partnership in the past, there are several themes that crop up over and over again. Conversely, there are other trends that come to mind when I reflect on what has gone terribly wrong in some of these partnerships. I hope to illuminate both sides of the coin equally and vividly.

In my opinion, influencer marketing is still an emerging field. Like anything else, there is going to be a learning curve. There are brands that chose to take the time to get it right. Yet others, clearly rushed to adoption without putting the right infrastructure in place. The intent where influencer marketing is concerned is for brands to be able to identify and partner with people who have a significant social following and voice in their respective niches. This partnership is usually created to raise awareness, drive traffic and/or sales to the brand in question.

Did you know?

According to Huffington Post, 65% of marketers are participating in the influencer marketing space. Many recent statistics also indicate that companies increased budget for influencer marketing campaigns in 2016 and plan to do so going forward. In addition, a few brands who are reaping the rewards of this kind of advertising are making a play for separate budget to fund influencer campaigns apart from all other advertising and marketing efforts.

It is safe to say, that influencer marketing will be sticking around for awhile longer. With some tweaking, planning and synergy between brand and influencer – this kind of marketing becomes a force to be reckoned with.

Here are the five things that brands need to know before getting into the influencer marketing game:

1) Make sure you have the right people handling your influencer outreach and engagement. Influencers are people. In particular, they are people who either hold a 9-5 job elsewhere or have multiple business endeavors. In other instances, it is their only business or if they are like me – it is a part in a larger consulting business. Imagine receiving tons of inquiries for sponsored posts, vlogs, events etc. per week. What will make your inquiry more compelling than the others? The way your inquiry moves to the top is by having competent and knowledgeable people on your frontlines. For example,  I had a brand representative reach out to me for sponsored work. Over 10 plus emails or so she asked me a battery of questions about my influence to determine if I was right for them. The reality is: she should have done her homework and came to the table with less questions than more. She found me and my page which means something stood out in her searches. I run a business that doesn’t afford me the time to go back and forth over email with your representative that is doing this all for the first time. Turned out to be a troublesome partnership for me in the end and it was evident from the first engagement. Pay attention to who you have representing you.

2) Start small and have clear goals for your partnership. There is nothing more frustrating to influencers than you engaging them with great enthusiasm and no plan. Let’s flip it for a second, how likely is an influencer to garner your attention if they reach out to you with an informal email that indicates no real plan for their enthusiastic pursuits of a partnership? I am pretty sure that email will be deleted. The same holds true when you reach out to influencers. Your plan doesn’t need to be perfect, but you should have some plan and/or idea for moving forward with a partnership. Serendipity is fun as you move through fine-tuning the ideas for partnership, but please have some framework or foundation for us to work from.

3) Influencers are not an extension of your internal marketing or pr department. The reason why influencer marketing is all the rage is because it differs from the “buy me because we’re great” sales push that is synonymous with traditional marketing and advertising. Influencer Marketing is like hearing about that hot new product, event or service from your best friend. While not all people have bought into believing influencers – there are many who have followed the climb of their respective influencer or community of choice and therefore respect any recommendations coming out of those camps. To that point, you partner with influencers for our unique voices and perspectives in the market. The moment you decide to control or censor the voice our communities are accustomed to hearing; you have undermined the entire partnership. This isn’t to say that you can’t have a say or editorial influence to ensure the sponsored material meets your standards, but realize the whole point of this is not to be like your traditional marketing copy. If this is a sticking point for you, you may want to reevaluate.

4) Compensation matters. Whether you are a startup or a Fortune 500 should not matter. If you want someone to pitch your business or service to a community/following they have spent countless hours building- you have to pay for that. There are many ways to compensate influencers that don’t always involve dollars leaving your bank account for ours. For instance, I had a pretty well known accounting system vendor reach out to me to do sponsored work. Funny enough, I happen to use them for my own accounting. I simply asked for a year of free service in return for my sponsored content. Their representative returned my email with a “sorry, we don’t do that.” I bid her adieu and never looked back. Besides the poor judgment of not working with a current customer who enthusiastically would have promoted their company- it was clear they wanted my endorsement for free. Testimonials are one thing and sponsored content is something altogether different. You need to be able to compensate influencers. I’m personally tired of feeling like I have to pull it out of the company representative as to whether they intend to compensate or not. Expect to pay and be upfront about your budget. Some budget is better than nothing.

5) Etiquette and Business Protocol are welcomed. As mentioned above, influencers are either intrapreneurs working for someone or entrepreneurs in their own right. We do not exclusively work for you nor do we operate in accordance with your sloppy protocols and corporate practices. If your company is the sort that has a great idea one day and abandons it the next, you had better figure out some streamlined way of communicating in a timely and consistent manner where it concerns influencers. This may be a small line item in your marketing budget, that doesn’t mean that you fail to communicate when a campaign idea has been abandoned or in other cases when you are no longer manning a community of influencers. I surely hope you would not leave other business deals/partners in limbo – why would this seem like a reasonable way to operate with influencers?

These are just a few of the many considerations that should be driving your conversations about influencer programs internally. As I was writing, I realized there is far more to share. I truly enjoy partnering with brands to help illuminate their newest services and projects. The point is for this to be both fun and beneficial to both parties involved.

Brands: Share your best practices with me in the comments. Influencers: Share your tips for partnership improvement in the comments as well.

Big Data Is Not So Big: Dun & Bradstreet Empowers Data-Driven Small Business

Campaign/FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored product review. I will receive compensation for this post. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. Dun & Bradstreet has hired me as an influencer to help them raise awareness about their new Business Solutions Insights Microsoft Office 365 partnership with Ingram Micro Cloud. I am not formally employed by Dun & Bradstreet. All thoughts and viewpoints are created and written by me. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Image courtesy of www.dnb.com.

Big data has long been a debilitating term in the business world.

When it comes to business, we all would prefer to make better, more informed decisions. In order to achieve this, we have to collectively become comfortable with the notion of being data-driven. Making data-driven decisions has little to do with how “big” your data is, but rather how you make the data that you collect every day through transactions, interactions and prospecting work for you.

For many companies – be they Fortune 500 or small businesses – this data and information is often unstructured. This information both lives and dies in different systems, processes, and in some cases, people within organizations.

The key to being able to use this information to the advantage of the business is to aggregate all of your business insights simply in one place for anyone in the organization to use.

I had a unique opportunity to chat with my friends at Dun & Bradstreet® to discuss their recent participation at the Ingram Micro Cloud Summit held last week in Phoenix, Arizona. I also had the opportunity to get an exclusive demo of their new Business Solutions Tool for Office 365 available via the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace®.

Image courtesy of IngramMicro.com.

 Big data is not so big – when you break it down.

One of the recurring questions about big data is: What makes it so complex? In speaking  with Karlos Palmer, VP of Global Alliances and Partnership Strategies and Nakul Kapoor,  Senior Director of Partner Enablement at Dun & Bradstreet, they break down the  complexity of data into what they call the four Vs of big data:

  • Volume – The scale of data. This is how much data you have stored and living across your business.
  • Variety – The many different forms of data. From demographic information to customer profiles, the range of data you collect is both useful and innumerable.
  • Velocity– The analysis of streaming data. With the connectivity of things growing every day, there is a constant flow of data streaming at all times. Dun & Bradstreet® reported at last week’s Ingram Micro Cloud Summit that there are as many as 18.9 billion network connections (2.5 connections per every person on earth).
  • Veracity– The uncertainty of data. Unreliable data is costly to your business. It has been reported that poor data costs the U.S. Economy around $3.1 trillion per year. Somewhere along the data continuum, there has to be a cleansing of your data to be able to use it effectively.

The businesses that have yet to implement an operational call-to-action for data struggle in one of more of these areas.

As a small business owner, I understand the value of making decisions rooted in good data. What prevents me from exploring my options is my concern for how much it will cost me to implement a solution and the ease of use.

After seeing the demo of Dun & Bradstreet’s Business Solutions Add-in for Office 365, I am excited about the possibilities this product holds for small to mid-size businesses to make more insightful, data-inspired decisions.

Less is truly more.

Think about how you have traditionally created reports in Microsoft Excel® and imagine even the smallest sets of data reconciled with Dun & Bradstreet’s insights – only to give you more valuable information than what you started with.

Here’s how the Dun &Bradstreet Business Solutions Tool works:

  • Dun & Bradstreet has accumulated a collection of data around sales, marketing, supply chain and credit risk that spans its 175-year old history.
  • They have created an add-in in the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace that can be used with your Microsoft Office 365.
  • Through your normal reporting in Excel, you can take something as simple as a spreadsheet with name, email, and address – and have Dun & Bradstreet run your information against its over 30,000 sources.
  • What you get depends on which of the nine modules you use across sales, marketing, supply chain and their advanced data tools are insights like:

– Understand Your Customers™ module – this module allows you to bring in a minimal amount of data points and in return gives you insights on your customer’s history, market behavior, etc.

– Get Prospects List™ module- this module allows you to search your customer list and get a targeted view of customers you should be meeting with when you go on the road for meetings and conferences, etc.

  • Your data is now reliable because it is driven by Dun & Bradstreet’s D-U-N-S Number® that connects demographic information with just about everything a single business does over the lifetime of their business (credit standing, sales and marketing, industry, years in business, business hierarchies, etc.).
  • All of the segmentation and data cleansing is done for you. Every record comes back with a rating for Dun & Bradstreet’s success in matching your record with their sources.

How much will it cost you?

This is my favorite part. The Dun & Bradstreet Business Solutions add-in is available to us with a minimum investment of $25.00 per month (note: The price may increase if you have to purchase the Microsoft Office 365 suite as well).  However, if you are already a Microsoft Office 365 customer, you can simply download this free add-in and enable it by depositing increments of $25.00 into your Dun & Bradstreet Business Solutions account.

Every time you run a module, the product will draw from your existing balance. Most queries charge $0.75 per record or per list of 25 records.

How can you get it?

Dun & Bradstreet’s Business Solutions Insights for Office 365 can be purchased in the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace by clicking here. You can also purchase it through any Ingram Micro Cloud reseller.

Enterprise quality solutions are now available for SMBs. This is an exciting step in all of us becoming data-driven inspired business owners.

To read the press release regarding Dun & Bradstreet’s partnership with Microsoft Office 365 and Ingram Micro Cloud click here.

 

 

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