By Samantha Purcell, Senior Marketing Manager EMEA, Partnerize
During its evolution over recent years, Influencer Marketing has, at once, been a bright shiny object for marketers and a rising trend to seriously consider. Even so, as an object of our fascination, it’s often relegated to ad hoc experimentation within the marketing plan.
The encompassing of influencers into partnership programs has historically been approached with caution because of the perceived ROI available for both parties. For influencers, being paid on a performance basis has traditionally limited financial gain as it relies heavily on their contribution to a final purchase decision, which given their typical place higher up in the funnel, is difficult to quantify. For brands, the investment of influencers was once hard to justify as the ROI was largely based on awareness or direct sales. However, as we observe the advancement of partnership moving away from simply a last-click attribution model, the opportunity to incorporate influencers into the channel is becoming far more palatable. Fast forward to 2020/2021.
Forward-thinking marketers focused on performance strategies and methods have noticed an undeniable shift — especially within the partnership and affiliate marketing. They are seeing that influencers themselves have realised the more recent inherent revenue-driving power of partnerships and are, as consequence, leaning into the channel. Therein, is marketers’ opportunity to engage more formally and properly establish influencers at large as their own partner type within partnership marketing programs. The mutual vested interest is now there. On our own watch, we’ve seen that in the second half of H2, of all publisher applications activated, 55% were from content and 40% from social media influencers. From April 2021 to date, 73% of partner sign-ups have been from social media influencers.
But, before embarking on a full-fledged influencer strategy, incurring expenses for technology and in-house staff, a performance marketer is wise to consider a test and learn program within an existing partner/affiliate program first. By creating this entry-level option for potential influencers, i.e. nano or micro-influencers who have a niche, highly engaged audiences already hatched for a given brand, the partnership channel can serve as a perfect proving ground for them that can be scaled over time. The inherent low-risk nature of the channel affords influencers an opportunity to showcase their ability to brands who may be skeptical or hesitant to invest in a campaign on a flat-fee basis. Rather than risking high upfront campaign fees, brands and influencers can engage on a variable basis, test driving the relationship to see what type of value the partnership can drive before investing further. For influencers, this is a way to get their foot in the door with brands, offering an alternative model that alleviates risk for both parties.
From the perspective of the brand or marketer contemplating embarking on this test, learn and ramp journey, the platform choice is one of the first to be made. Given the intersection of affiliate and influencer marketing, marketers should consider their partnership provider first – before committing to a formalised, full-scale influencer program and investment in influencer tech, as these providers are a dime a dozen. At a minimum, marketers will want a platform that provides a suite of capabilities across discovery, management, measurement, optimisation and compensation.
No matter how well-chosen, committing and investing in influencer marketing technology alone won’t ensure overnight success, nor will it come without an investment of time. The operating mindset is equally as important.
Brands and marketers should consider their existing affiliate and partnership programs, as an already available means to testing out influencer campaigns and their ability to drive value. As this channel has matured to one that operates based on paying for outcomes, the marketer has some natural guardrails that limit the risk associated, crucial given that many brands are putting far greater scrutiny on their marketing budgets at present. The pay-for-performance model of the channel means low initial investment with influencers, eliminating barriers to entry for the marketer, too.
With the entry into a test, learn and ramp journey, both the marketer and the influencer communities they seek to enroll — the safety and risk insulation the channel provides means there is no downside to getting started. And you are already on your way to diversifying your partner types, layering in influencer marketing more formally to a more expansive partnership marketing strategy and program.