There are two points in an influence marketing campaign or program when scale is a question. At the beginning and in the middle. But for many brands and businesses, knowing how and when to scale influence marketing programs is a bit of a mystery.
An easy recommendation or pneumonic shortcut isn’t possible. Every influence marketing program is different than the next. You may decide from the onset to build a large-scale program involving thousands of influencers. Kraft Foods Canada has used a program called Sampilicious in past years where they targeted influencers of all sizes and follower counts. The influencers were invited to purchase (yes, pay for product) sample packages of various food products at a steep discount. In one year alone, they sold 12,000 sampler packets and drove sales lift for the products included anywhere from 32 to 3,000 percent!
You may also design a small influence marketing program, decide it’s working well, and decide to scale up from there. Knowing when is the trick.
When to Design Large Scale Influencer Marketing Programs
Let’s start with the decision to build a scalable influence marketing program from the beginning. You want a lot of influencers persuading their audiences to try, buy or think differently about your product, company or issue of interest. What do you need to engage a lot of influencers right out of the gate:
- Product – If you want 1,000 people talking about your thing, be prepared to send 1,000 of those things to your influence partners. If your thing is a $10 nick-knack, that shouldn’t be much of an issue. If you sell $3,000 entertainment systems, well … that’s $3 million in inventory.
- Budget – Depending on what you’re asking, and what level of chance you’re willing to take by sending product without guarantees of the influence targets using it, you may also need a budget to pay for the influence engagement. Most influencers with over 100,000 followers on a given network are going to expect some level of compensation to help promote your thing. It’s not always cash that’s required — many would take that $3,000 entertainment system in lieu of cash — but the bigger the audience they serve, the more likely you’ll need some money outlay.
- Logistics – Getting product in the hand of 1,000 influencers (or even 100 of them) isn’t always simple. If you can’t just send a spreadsheet to shipping and have them take care of it, you’ll need to coordinate shipment or delivery of the product, communication with the influencers and the like. This is where influencer marketing platforms that specialize in product distribution come in handy. ApexDrop is one I know that specializes in distributing product to micro- and nano-influencers. You pay for their service to manage the logistics, but you don’t pay the influencers for the post.
- All the other ducks in a row – Suffice to say you’ll need a good strategy, a compelling offer, assets to provide the influencers, a way to measure and track their contributions and the like. This is often where influencer marketing software and managed services are helpful. But you’ll need to have those items in order, regardless of when or how you decide to scale the influence marketing effort.
When to Scale Influencer Marketing Programs Midstream
For the test-and-see approach to scaling influence marketing efforts, you’ll want to watch for benchmarks or indicators that tell you scaling up is the right move. Most of these are instinctual, but here are the tea leaves I like to look for in order to make a call to add more influence partners to the mix:
- Influencer feedback – If you’ve built something smart, easy and compelling, the initial cohort of influence partners will tell you so. Listen for their feedback and questions. If they’re confused at all, find it difficult to get or use the product or keep seeming to have nagging issues about executing the campaign, you’re not ready. If you don’t hear any feedback from them, that may not necessarily mean you’ve nailed it. Ask them if it’s clear, simple and beneficial for their audience. They’ll tell you.
- Initial content engagement – As you choose the influence partners for the program, you’ll have a good idea of how well their audience engages with their content. Just eye-balling their comments and like counts from previous posts will at least give you an impression of what’s normal. If the posts involving your product or message meet or exceed what they’re used to seeing in engagement, you could be onto something good.
- The lifting isn’t heavy – If you’ve selected, engaged, briefed and supplied your influence partners and either their content is flowing or you’re just waiting for it to go live, and the process has been simple and easy on your end logistically, you can probably scale upward quickly. There’s a balancing act you must perform between how many influence partners you’re using and how much legwork you can muster and still handle your regular duties, so you’ll need to constantly gut-check your human resources to add more. But if the execution is flowing well and without hiccup, you can probably fit more in that belly.
- Results – Certainly, if your goal is to drive sales and the cash register starts ringing once the influencer content gets out there, you know you’ve got something good happening. Scale up as fast and as wide as your budget and time resources allow. You may even not make the call to scale until you start seeing results. That’s okay. Better late than never if it means accomplishing what you set out to do.
What other triggers of scale do you see in your influence marketing programs? These are just the primary ones I look for. I’m sure there are more. As always on the blog, the comments are yours!