Blog | Robert Davis 08.03.17

One simple question can supercharge your influencer marketing

Influencer marketing has understandable appeal: there are these people that have sway with your audience – and they’re available! Seems like an easy call – but if you’re considering an influencer strategy, our experience shows that this one question can make a huge difference:

Who shares our beliefs strongly enough to gladly partner with us – for free?

When you look at it that way, most of us will come up with a pretty small pool of names. It’ll probably include your best customer, your most passionately engaged employees, and maybe a few relatives. Often, it’s a list without much built-in potential for scale.

Next step? You might be discouraged, and tempted to turn back to paid influencer programs. But do you really want to keep paying “rent” for access to these influencer’s personas and audiences?

At PJA we think you should expect more for your brand. Here’s how that can work.

Finding a more sustainable path to influence

At PJA, our experience has led us to give less and less consideration to traditional influencer marketing. Instead, we help clients find strategies to engage their crazies – the people with whom you share a powerful common cause, with built-in potential to scale far beyond your employee base, or your most rabid customers.

Following is a quick guide to finding common cause with your crazies –  and activating them.

Crazies persona #1:  Mission Co-Owner

Often brands are a little schizophrenic about their mission – aligning it with hiring and social responsibility commitments, while simultaneously relegating it to background briefing, “About Us”? status on the revenue-driving side of business. Integrating your mission more holistically into your business can open up new possibilities to engage people who share your ideals.

For example, Waze’s traffic maps get better when citizen mapmakers enter information into their database. In 100+ cities around the world, Waze runs the Connected Citizens Program to help cities use their data to improve traffic, or in Boston, to find and fix potholes. Social and business mission are closely linked – and continue to inspire more volunteers to gather and share data – and to evangelize for the brand.

Action step: If your mission is aspirational but also connects to your core business value, ask yourself who else might want to connect to that mission? (However, if your mission and business value don’t rhyme, shoot me a note – you gotta fix that.)

Crazies persona #2: Ecosystem Partner

Rather than finding new people to pay to advocate on your behalf, why not consider the people with whom you already share business interests? Finding new ways to build common cause can charge up your channel partner relationships.

To succeed, American Express needs all kinds of businesses to accept their card. While large businesses don’t really have that much of a choice, independent local businesses do. When American Express created Small Business Saturday, they put a significant marketing investment to work to advance a mission that directly benefited these small businesses.

Action step: Ask your team and your partners for ideas about how your brand might help drive greater success for your partners. Don’t stop until you have at least ten ideas to discuss and prioritize.

Crazies persona #3: Category Cheerleaders

It’s great to have people that are crazy about your brand, but there’s also a lot of potential out there in the people who are wildly enthusiastic about the potential of your category. We call them the cheerleaders, but you could just as easily define them as forward-looking risk takers. The majority of buyers validate a potential purchase by looking for proven solutions – but what if you paid more attention to the 20% or so of your market who want to think through how they can use something new based on the potential of innovative solutions like yours?

Organovo developed an innovative method for 3-D printing human tissue that can live outside the body, an innovation with huge potential for all kinds of biomedical research. There was plenty of interest, often accompanied by the desire for a deeper body of longitudinal data. Organovo marketers organized their efforts around finding the scientists who wanted to dive in and start testing based on their enthusiasm for where the technology was heading. It’s an approach that has a lot in common with Tesla’s pre-order strategy for their first commercially available electric car, in which your deposit was as much an investment in and personal statement of support for the potential for really cool electric cars as it was a down payment for your own Model S.

Action step: Ask peers to introduce you to people excited about the kind of future you see for your category. Get three or four of them together to talk about what they could do to help make that vision come true, without talking about your brand at all. Then map your brand against their ideas. Some of the overlaps will point to opportunities to engage category cheerleaders.

Get crazy for change

In each of the examples I’ve shared, brands and crazies find common cause in growing something bigger than the bottom line, and for a good reason. When brands align their marketing with the kind of mission-driven change that really matters, it gets a lot easier to inspire and engage crazies with passion to spare.

To learn more about crazies and some of the companies mentioned in this post, check out The Crazies: How GE, Waze, and Big Ass Fans Enlist an Army Of Advocates, Episode 2 of Season 6 of The Unconventionals.

Brand for change

Life is too short to build an ordinary brand. Get ongoing perspectives on marketing that creates your highest value opportunities.