How to Find, Cultivate and Retain Influencers for Your Online Store with Danny Brown
WP eCommerce Show

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In today’s podcast we are looking at the power of influencers for your online store. Finding the right influencer can help increase you goals whether they are sales or brand awareness. But are you looking in the right places and at the right people?

The idea of an influencer can plant all kinds of expectations and, to help us learn more about not only who these influencers might be, but also how you can cultivate them, I have brought on Danny Brown, Marketer and Strategist. He is also the co-author of of book, Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing.

We chatted about:

  • How to define an influencer for your online retail products
  • If finding a celebrity is essential when choosing an influencer
  • How to approach the right influencer for your products
  • What guidelines and expectations should be set with your influencers
  • What determines an influencer’s length of time with your product and/or brand

Thanks to your Sponsor, Bluehost


Bob Dunn: Hey, everyone, and welcome back to the WP eCommerce show. Bob Dunn, here, BobWP on the web. Today we are stepping into the world of influence marketing. You’ve probably heard this term a lot. For many, it’s a big part of their marketing strategy, but it’s also a gray area to a lot of store owners who may not understand exactly what it includes, or is, or how it would benefit their online sales.

To help us clarify this, and dive into it deeper, I’m bringing in my longtime friend Danny Brown, who is a co-author of the book Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage, and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing.

Hey, Danny. Welcome to the show.

Danny Brown: Hey, Bob, and thanks for having me. That’s quite the mouthful, when you say the book title that way, when you add the subtitle. It’s quite the odd mouthful there.

Bob: I know. I was just thinking, “Okay. I guess I could have said Influence Marketing, period, and left it at that.”

Danny: No, it’s true. Thinking back, when we did the book, it was more from an SEO point of view, for search terms and that. One of the things that Sam, my co-author, and I didn’t want was to be tied to social media influence, because that was the time of the whole Klout and Kred carryon. The publisher made a great point about when people search for books online, they’re searching for these X, Y, Z terms. It fits in the ballpark somewhere, so that’s how the long subtitle evolved.

Bob: Yeah. That makes total sense. It’s one of those things. At least that isn’t your job title, somewhere.

Danny: I tell you, if it was, I think I’d go work at Costco, filling a warehouse, or something, because I could not live with that title.

Bob: All right. Well, II know you’ve worn many hats over the years. You recently have a new position. You’re doing a lot of stuff. We blogged together. Long history between you and I, but what are you up to these days? Let our listeners know, besides this book you wrote some time ago, what are you doing. What keeps you busy these days?

Meet Danny Brown, Director of Brand Strategy at Kayak Online Marketing

Danny: Yeah, also I’ve got two young kids, so they keep me busy regardless of what I do professionally. I just recently started as Director of Brand Strategy at Kayak Online Marketing. We’re an inbound marketing agency that relies heavily on optimizing clients’ websites, making sure that the journey from the customer’s first touchpoint all the way through to the sale, and after-sale retention, is all met with the business goals. That might include how does your SEO tie into it, how does social tie into it, how do your lead generation funnels tie into your business goals. It all starts with tracking, once they arrive on your website, and then how we track them through various parts of the journey, which ties, partially, to what we spoke about in the book, the influence marketing book.

That’s what we do. We work with everybody from tech startups and entrepreneurs, right up to large organizations and franchise chains across North America. On a personal level, I just recently started the Craft Beer Diaries. It was through my love of craft beer. I’ve got a bunch of bloggers on, and, essentially, we review beers and brewers, and try to educate people, and introduce more people to why craft beer is a better solution, and a better taste, and a better beer than your corporate Budweisers, Miller Lights, etc.

Bob: Very cool. That keeps you busy in your personal life. It has its own benefits, blogging about craft beer, for sure.

Danny: Oh, yeah. We’ve had a few invites to some events recently, and we’ve got a couple more coming up. Yeah. Apart from the fact that you’re enjoying great beer, there’s definitely some other benefits there, for sure.

How do you define influencer and how has the concept of influencers changed over time?

Bob: All right. Let’s go ahead and dive into this influencer thing. I want to clarify what an influencer is, when it comes to your online store, so I’ll do this one first. Can you tell us how the concept of influencers has changed over time, maybe even especially since you wrote the book, and how you would define an influencer when it comes to helping a business with their online retail products?

Danny: Yeah. It’s funny. In the book, we spoke about how the influence life cycle, if you like, had gone through three phases. If you think of the first phase as going back to, say, David Ogilvy, he first came up on the idea of using movie stars to sell products, like cigarettes and wine, etc. He was the first main advertising guy who thought of the idea of bringing movie stars of the time, of the 50s and 60s, onto the likes of the, well, maybe not the Letterman show, but the talk show hosts who were around at that time, and raising brand awareness through the power of TV, from a well-known movie star.

You may have gotten, for example, Alan Ladd, for example. Let’s use him as an example. He may have been coming on, promoting the movie Shane, and talking about Marlboro cigarettes, because that was the Western vision, right? You think of Marlboro’s advertising, and it’s all about the old, wild West, the movie stars, that kind of stuff. That’s the first phase of influence, where you had celebrities. That carried through to the 70s, and the 80s, and 90s. You look at the likes of Michael Jackson doing the Pepsi ads, you look at the likes Madonna doing a whole bunch of ads, that’s very much celebrity influence.

Then, you look at stage two, the social media influence. I mentioned Klout, and Kred. Around 2010, 2011 it was real heated. You had social scoring platforms, essentially, that ranked you based on your online popularity, and how busy you were online, how loud you were online. Klout,  a social scoring platform, would mark you out of 100, and the higher your score, allegedly, the more influential you would be.

The problem of social influence, at that time, is it was just a mandatory score. There was no science behind it. Essentially, it looked at your follower count, how many times you tweeted, how many likes you got and they were kind of empty metrics that we all sort of know that it’s something that has to be there, from a social proof point of view, but it doesn’t really mean a lot in the grand scale of things, especially when it comes to business success and business goals.

The third phase, which is what Sam and I talked about in the book, and where we see influence going, especially now, as we look at how influence sits today, is where the influencer actually moves the influence to the customer. Instead of the social influencer, which there is still very much value to social influence, now you look at the customer, and use them as a starting point, and where they are in the purchase lifecycle when it comes to your online store and your online eCommerce. Now you can start to identify where they are in the purchase lifecycle, who or what influences them, from an intent, awareness, etc, and how do I connect the dots to these people to influence my customers to take an action on site.

Are celebrities still the big influencers?

Bob: Yeah. That kind of goes into my second question, where you were talking about celebrities. At one point in the cycle, celebrities were the big influencers, and now we’re looking at influencers in a broader way. When people see on Instagram, and all these things, they still see the celebrities, and they’re thinking of them as the core of influencers, just because of their reach, and who actually may listen to them, or trust them because of who they are. Is that really as important, or it’s not, when you’re starting to think about influencers? You shouldn’t just think about celebrities anymore, because they aren’t the big influencers, or are they still, in a way, if you can get them, they’re really probably the best, or the optimal, if that makes sense?

Danny: Yeah. It does. I think it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. I think, definitely, to your point, because of the reach of the social influencer, especially some of these YouTubers or Instagrammers who have crazy numbers on their subscriber list, or their follower list, and you see the interactions that they have with their followers. It does make sense, from a brand awareness point of view, as opposed to maybe a lead generation point of view, or a conversion point of view.

They definitely can work. They can offer value. I don’t know if you recall, it was only a couple of months ago, this whole Fyre Fest event. The Fyre Fest event, in case your listeners weren’t aware, it was that big luxury where you go to the islands, you pay anything up to $250,000 for a ticket, you get to hang with celebrities, get personalized valet service, VIP service. It was very much sold as a high end influencer campaign for rich people. The problem was, there was a whole bunch of back end stuff that wasn’t getting paid. The food was nothing like the food that was advertised. The accommodations were, essentially, just tents. It was almost like … God, the pictures that came out of that event were almost like a Red Cross war zone where Doctors Without Borders had gone in, pitched some tents, and set up a medical center. It was really badly done.

That whole thing blew up in the faces of the celebs who were promoting it. I think it was either Khloe Kardashian, or—I think it was the youngest Kardashian, I can’t remember what her name is. She was advertising on her Instagram feed. There was a whole bunch of other so-called influencers advertising it, and they started deleting the posts once this Fyre Fest started going to crap, essentially. They were getting so much blow back from their followers. Some of them were actually getting class action lawsuits launched against them.

I think the danger is when social influencers are just in it for the money, which, clearly, the Fyre Fest guys were. There’s no relevance to the brand, so there’s no connection. That can really blow up. If a social influencer does have a fit with the brand, then they can definitely be useful. Obviously, you’re not going connect with a mom blogger to sell your retirement home product. That just doesn’t make sense. If you’re a mom blogger, and your brand makes kiddie tricycles, or Tyco toys, or the fidget spinners, the new craze today, that all makes sense. By all means, if there’s a social influencer who makes sense, use them, and work with them to really grow awareness around your product or brand, but if the influencer doesn’t fit, or if the medium doesn’t fit, it’s no good going to a very visually rich medium like Instagram influencers, when you’re not such a visual brand. Doesn’t make sense.

What factors play in the decision to use an influencer?

Bob: Any tips you can give there, because I think some people are thinking, “Well, how the heck do I even find them, or how do I get them?”

Danny: Exactly. You know what? It comes down to, again, what the goal is for your business and your store. Is it mainly awareness? Is it about intention to buy? Is it really tracking it all the way through to conversion? You need to start, obviously, with your goals, and what you want to achieve with this partnership, and that will certainly dictate, okay, where I can find them, what publications should I be partnered with, that kind of stuff.

Keeping that in mind, there are a few simple ways that you can actually start to identify who your existing influencers are based on your site activity. Obviously Google Analytics, I’m hoping every one of your listeners who have an online business or an eCommerce store, I’m hoping they have Google Analytics or some form of analytics installed. It’s the end if they don’t.

With Google Analytics, you can set up event tracking, which is a really easy way to really track dedicated behavior on your site, and that could track what actions come after they open an email and they click through to your site, after they click an ad on social or display, and they come through to your site. Even previous cookie data. You have your tracking in place, you have the cookie switched on, and obviously you can have a conversion cookie, you can have awareness cookie, you can have retargeting cookies set up. Anything like that, you’re starting to build a picture of what behaviors are happening on-site.

A great thing with universal analytics now, especially when you have the eCommerce stuff set up, is you can get granular and identify visitors based on where they came from. You can identify visitors by their email addresses, so now you know if that email is somewhere in whatever CRM you use, if it’s just an Excel spreadsheet, or it’s an actual dedicated CRM tool, you can now start to identify John in Arkansas as a very regular visitor. He might not buy all the time, but I see him in the comments. I see him in the community forums. I see him online, or whatever. He’s always there or thereabouts talking about us. You now start to understand John looks like an influencer. He’s invested in the brand. We could partner with John to help promote our new products or our new sales line.

Once you start to see a trend, using analytics,  it could be referrals, it could be sales, it could be something as simple as sharing all the time. Whenever you post a new podcast, a new blog post, a new product launch, people are always sharing it. They might not buy, but they’re taking an action.

That’s a quick way, using Google Analytics, to start to identify your on-site influencers. You can start to then build a database, and reach out to them by email, and just ask, “Hey. We love the fact you’re so supportive. Would you like to partner with us on our upcoming product launch, and we’ll give you early access and a free trial,” that kind of thing.

Bob: Yeah.

Danny: That’s one way. Anybody who’s not using analytics, please start using it, because the data that’s available is unbelievable. You’ve got something as simple as, going back to the social proof we spoke about earlier, even comments on your blog, or shares and recommendations, can speak to people who are invested in your content. We always get granular, and think, “Okay. People can only be an influencer if they’re helping us make a sale.” That is true. That’s the true business sense of an influencer, but without awareness, you’re not going to make that sale anyway. So a social share, a blog comment, anybody who’s actually promoting your content, can become a content influencer, which then leads to the brand influencer of Google tracking, etc.

All of that can tie into a social CRM, like Nimble, which you can drop people’s email addresses into, and Nimble then starts to connect the dots of where that person lives online. If they use the same email to create Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn accounts, etc, it’ll pull all that data, and it starts to help you find what this person looks like, and what their interest groups are. You can start to put people into segmented interest groups that are relevant to your store or your products.

It also allows you to track their life events. If they talk about they just had a new baby, that’s a new follow up that you say, “Hey. We’re launching a new baby highchair. We’d love for you to test it out.” You’re now starting to identify people where they are in their life, where they are in the purchase lifecycle, and where they are with relation to your business, and that’s starting to build up a solid influencer/advocate/database.

Once you find your influencer, what should your expectations be?

Bob: You start to identify them, and I know this depends on who they are. It’s going to depend on the products you sell, all these different variables, but what should be your expectations, once you’ve found them? Let’s say this guy’s great. You’ve identified him. You’re thinking, in your mind, “Okay. My expectations is this guy’s going to go like gangbusters. He’s going to be out there cheering and screaming my name and wearing my t-shirt.” How do you set those expectations to yourself, to say, “I know that this person will do this, or I’m hoping the person will do this.” It’s a weird, gray area, and I’ve always wondered about that particular piece of it.

Danny: It all comes down to your goals. As you say, there’s very much a gray area. What looks like success for one business is very much different for another business. Generally, you start with the goal that you wished up, and that’ll help you identify the influencers.

The one thing you want to start with right away is this:  is it a social influencer or is it going to be the customer as the influencer, and working that way. If it’s a social influencer, what you’re looking for, like I mentioned earlier, is brand affinity. That’s core. No BS. You allow them to say what they want. You’re not in it to promote your product as the greatest product since sliced bread. You’re in it for an influencer, or anybody who’s reviewing your product, to share their honest opinion. That helps you become a better business and a better product provider, anyway.  They’re not just in it for the money. You can soon find out who’s in it for the money, and who’s actually interested in helping you meet your campaign goals and sharing your product or service.

You also want the influencer to get directly involved with a campaign. Allow them to make suggestions about direction, what metrics they’re going to look for, versus what metrics you’re looking for. Recommendations of what kind of creative should be used. Should it be video, should it be rich media, should it be a podcast? Anything like that. Open-ended feedback. Because it’s no good bringing on a great influencer if they’re just set in their ways, and they’re going to do it their way, which doesn’t necessarily talk to your brand or your business goals.

Offer them practical feedback during the campaign, because, like anything, if you’re testing a campaign as it goes on, and it’s not just an influencer campaign, it could be your email marketing campaign, it could be your paid social ads, whatever you’re doing to promote your business, you have to check in on it, and see what the health of the campaign is. You want the influencer to do that as well, and give you feedback, say, “Hey. I don’t feel this approach, this language is working. I don’t think this creative is working. Is there something else you can provide, or I’ve got an idea, do you want me to run with it?” That kind of stuff where you’re getting proactive feedback.

Then, from the business metric point of view, again, you’re going to look at it. Is it someone who’s going to provide awareness for you, or lead generation and conversion? If it’s awareness, for example, you’re looking for someone who’s got a lot of audience, who’s engaged, with high visibility, and, obviously, gets a lot of social proof: shares, re-shares, comments.

The goal with an influencer, from an awareness point of view, is to open a conversation about the business or service product. If you set yourself out as, if I’m currently getting ten shares on blog posts, or one retweet, or two comments, or anything like that where you can see a tangible social metric, then you can say over the next three months, using this campaign and these ten influencers, these are the awareness goals. I want to see the share of voice improve by 20%. I’d love to see my comparison to competitors increase, from an awareness point of view, by 15%. You can start to put out these different little KPIs that you class as a success goal, from an awareness point of view.

Lead generation? That’s a whole different kettle of fish. Now you’re looking for people who don’t just have social reach, but they’re also skilled at actually convincing people to take an action. It may be driving traffic to your landing page, or taking an action once they’ve reached the landing page. It might be an ebook download, it could be an email sign up, it could be booking a consultation. They also have to be very comfortable with the product or the service that your business is selling. It may even be their existing customers that you’ve identified as hey, these guys take a lot of action on my site. I’m going to work with them, because they buy my products, or they’re very knowledgeable in the communities. I’m going to work with them on a social campaign.

These folks, they’re essentially brand ambassadors now who play the role of an influencer, and that comes from the lead generation one. Then, just to close the circle, if you’re looking at the customers as an influencer, you have to identify where they are in the purchase lifecycle, based on social conversations, keywords, etc, and then what influences them at different parts. If it’s awareness, it might be to check publications for reviews, check their network. Their interests dictate how aware they are of a product, or a new brand, or a new business. If it’s an intent to buy, they may take referrals from colleagues, or friends, or professional reviews. If they’re actually ready to buy, who’s the decision maker? Is it the person, or is it the wife, husband? Do life events dictate that, so maybe they get a pay raise every summer, or maybe they get a big bonus every year end, and that’s when they actually go out and buy stuff. Now you know that this interest group only makes purchases in December or January. That’s what all your marketing is geared towards.

The influencer comes back to what’s my business goal, and then deciding what my success metric’s going to look like, and how do I make that happen with that particular influencer.

What are some ways to retain an influencer?

Bob: Right. Now, the last question, I’m going to actually, not going to throw you for a loop, but I’m thinking about it, and just a specific part of it. The last question is a little bit more, I’m curious about you’ve got all this in place, you’ve got this going, actually getting an influencer to get involved. Is that like having a campaign, and you think of it as X amount of time? Are there other ways to retain that influencer, or does it just happen organically, where they become your influencer, they’re doing stuff, the actual hardcore influencing, or whatever they’re doing, may be initially up front for a while, but then they continue their influence because they’re already ingrained in your brand, using it? Is there that whole thing of retaining the influencer? How does that work?

Danny: Yeah. I’m glad you brought that up, about the campaign mindset. We found that out when we wrote the book. Too many companies were going into an influence marketing campaign with the campaign mindset of being a short-term fix or a short-term goal. That’s fine. Like I say, a lot of it comes down to what your business goals are, and how you want to use an influencer and partner with them. Maybe, for an awareness project, it would be a more short-term relationship, where you want high visibility on a product launch, or a new tech startup, for example. Like any company, like any business, you don’t generally take people on, unless you’re in the old school, PR agencies or marketing agencies, where you pull on a team based on the client, and once that client’s project’s over, you let go of the team. That’s very stop/start, stop/start methodology, and it doesn’t make for great business sense.

You want to try to build a longer term relationship, and move away from the campaign mindset. Think of the influencer as an extension of your business, but also a direct conduit to your customer. Not a lot of businesses will look for customers that they’re only going to sell one product to, and never sell to them again. It’s obviously more cost-effective, and more beneficial, long term, to retain existing customers who can become loyal advocates, as opposed to always paying marketing costs, or advertising costs, and product development costs for new customers only. Think of the same mindset with the influencer. At the end of the day, you’re partnering with an influencer to grow your business.

Any business worth its salt, when it comes to growing it properly, takes time and trust. We know that. You know that, Bob. You spoke about how long we’ve known each other, and the trust we’ve built up in blogging together. It doesn’t happen overnight. You want to move in, and work with influencers, and embed them in your brand. It goes back to the previous point, where you want people that are proactive, giving you feedback, helping you direct a campaign, helping you direct your marketing, helping you tailor the message to the audience that they represent. If you start to switch out influencers for every campaign, that’s going to confuse that message, and it’s going to lose any ground you’ve built up from previous campaigns.

If you think, again, going back to the whole purchase path, an influencer that’s already got an affinity with your brand, or your business, and your products, and your service is someone that uses them, and wants to promote you because he believes in your business, or she believes in your business. That’s where you identify them, and you partner with them as an influencer.  The short-term campaign ones, that’s usually the ones that are just in it for the money, or what they can get from the campaign, versus how they can help the business meet its customer goals.

A great influencer will follow you along your customer lifecycle. Remember, we always speak about ROIs being the conversion. You’ve put down your marketing dollars, you’ve got a great campaign, great ads, great promotions. The customer comes in, whether it’s a brick-and-mortar store or an online store, buys your product, and that’s your ROI. You know how much you spent on the presell and the marketing. You know how much the product costs. You know how much the profit is. That’s not really an ROI. That’s a metric. That’s a success metric. The ROI comes afterwards. Did we keep the customer? Are they loyal? Have they repeat bought, year in, year out? Have they brought new people on? Are we looking after them, from a customer service point of view? Are they really advocates?

If you really want to think of it from a business point of view, you’re going past the sale to that ongoing relationship with the customer. That needs to be replicated with an ongoing relationship with the influencer. Keep the ones who bought into your message, bought into your products, and now they’re part of your marketing team. They’re part of your customer service. They’re part of your improvement costs, etc. So you need to build with the long term in mind, and continue to learn from each other. That will help you retain influencers, and not get stuck in a short-term campaign mindset.

Bob: Excellent. This has cleared it up a lot for me around the concept of influencers. Some people might think of influencers as, “Boy. How am I going to get so-and-so to influence me, because they’re a movie star.” They don’t know about you, they don’t care about you.” Start thinking through who are really the ones who will work with you. This has been excellent stuff, Danny.

Danny: Awesome. I’m glad it’s helped. Just to finish off on your point there, internally, in your online business, your employees are influencers. If, say, the first point of contact is your customer service team, if one of them’s is having a bad day, and impacts that customer, that’s influenced the customer to go shop elsewhere. Yeah. It’s not just celebrities. Influencers are everywhere.

Bob: That’s great. Very cool.

So, how can we connect with Danny Brown on the web?

If people want to connect with you on the web, do let us know that craft beer URL, so people can get there. And where else can they find you and your websites?

Danny: Yeah. Obviously there’s the two websites. I’m on Twitter, @DannyBrown. That’s pretty straightforward. Instagram is Danny Brown, and then, obviously, Kayak Online Marketing now. That’s

Bob: All right. I appreciate you taking the time. I know you’re a busy guy. We’re all busy, but with your new job, I’m sure you’re buckling down and getting things going there. Again, thanks for taking the time today, Danny.

Danny: Oh, no worry. I appreciate it, Bob. Cheers.

So, till we meet again, take care and we appreciate you listening to today’s WP eCommerce Show.

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