The concept of influencer marketing is nothing new. The idea of using a well-known third-party to promote a product or service has been used over and over again throughout history. A 2016 study by TapInfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions found that influencer content typically results in an 11X higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing.
These days, there are many software-as-a-service (SaaS) products that help brands of all shapes and sizes improve their operation in terms of customer service, project management, social media, and more. Some even specialize directly in influencer marketing! But how can these solutions leverage influencer marketing themselves?
As many SaaS companies serve a vast array of businesses, executing a strong, comprehensive campaign from start to finish can quickly prove to be a daunting task. Here are a few bits of advice to keep in mind…
Find Common Threads
Regardless of whether it’s B2B or B2C, finding the perfect influencer to represent a brand is the most difficult part of the whole process. In fact, a survey by eMarketer found that 75% of respondents claimed this was the biggest challenge throughout their entire strategy.
SaaS products typically have a much more difficult time with this, as their target audience can be extremely diverse. For this reason, the approach to market research needs to be done VERY carefully. Finding the commonalities between prospective clients requires a great deal of intellect and attention to the small details.
Who are the prominent, relevant figures of whom the majority of the target audience looks up to? Even more, what are the channels they use to promote their messaging?
When looking at B2C businesses, there are typically a handful of pronounced channels that yield the best results. For example, clothing companies make great use of Instagram as a primary platform to reach their audience with influencers.
Unfortunately, SaaS companies cannot always bank on having such a well-defined strategy. Often times, they will need to do some extensive research to find which outlets their audiences are looking at.
Take Buffer for example. Buffer is a social media scheduling program that enables users to craft their updates and load them into a queue for distribution throughout a specified timeframe. Since 90% of marketers claim social media is vital to their business, the service they offer applies to MILLIONS of companies all over the world.
So, as you can imagine, pinpointing specific influencers that appeal to such a vast number of potential clients takes some serious consideration. Instead of looking into actual people for their campaign, Buffer decided to look into subjects that would apply to virtually every business. These including topics like psychology, life hacks, creativity, being relatable, etc. In terms of influencers, they targeted the outlets and writers who are already talking about these concepts and how to apply them to social media.
As blogging is one of their primary marketing channels, Buffer began guest posting across a wide range of niche websites and building relationships with each one’s respective audiences. As a result, they saw their content’s sharing numbers increase by more than 4 times. By using a number of highly-focused websites, they saw themselves grow from a tiny company with next to no funding, to an industry leader with over a million users!
The lesson for SaaS products is to not just look for individuals who apply to your target audience, but look for the widespread common interests, then target the channels or individuals talking about them. Regardless of how broad your service is, there will almost always be subjects relevant to everyone.
The act of approaching and partnering with influencers, in any regard, can be an extremely tricky tactic to master. Every influencer is different and can have a diverse set of interests, expertise, and preferred styles of communication.
Therefore, once you’ve put together a good list of potential influencers to target, it’s vital that you spend a good deal of time observing them and how they interact. The brands who truly excel in influencer marketing know their prospects down to a tee before even reaching out to them.
For example, let’s say you offer an HR software and want to use top shelf influencers in the field to help promote your brand. First off, look into who the big names are. Here are the top 5 in HR influencers listed on Rise Global:
Now, regardless of who you want to target for your campaign, it would be wise to look at their major content outlets. Start with social media. Engage with their posts by adding valuable insight to the conversation.
Next, you should look at the websites they are associated with. If you choose Matt Charney, that would be recruitingdaily.com. Taking a look at some of the published work, try to find ways in which you can promote the platform with resources you have. Ultimately, you want to look for how you can contribute to their brand equity. These types of courteous gestures show you are interested in their messaging and are eager to build a partnership.
Keep in mind, influencers are busy people and most likely get many pitches for partnerships. You want to partner with an expert. Chances are, they do too. Therefore, you need to offer something that demonstrates your superior knowledge in the field and how you can be of significant use to them. Try offering them access to company data, training, or even advice to a pressing concern.
Once you’ve engaged with the influencer and gained their interest, you need to have a clear plan established for the campaign to present.
In terms of SaaS products, how exactly can the influencer help promote your software? What will their role be? This can be something like sharing a link to your product, collaborating on a case study, white paper, or giving you a byline.
The key is knowing the right thing to ask from a given influencer. Start small and take it slow. As both parties begin seeing a good ROI, you can gradually begin taking the partnership to the next level. Influencer marketing, as a whole, should be looked at as a long-term investment.
Incorporate Campaigns into the Sales Funnel
Influencer marketing, especially for B2B companies, has evolved quite a bit in recent years. The harsh truth is brands are becoming more skeptical and discerning of brand messaging. Simply having a big name endorse your product or service doesn’t cut it anymore. For SaaS products, all content must adhere to the sales funnel, in one way or another.
Even more, when you partner with influencers, their sales funnel should be addressed as well. For SaaS products to make the strongest impact, the influencer(s) you choose to pair with should be relevant to each part of the funnel. Then, with your combined messaging, the content should be co-created to benefit all parties.
SAP did a fantastic job in partnering with influencers to promote their Sapphire conference last year. Using Facebook Live Video, they held chats with a number of influencers from different industries. The conversations covered all kinds of subjects related to new developments in technology and how companies can apply them to their business model.
In addition to giving their audience raw, live insight, the influencers were able to promote their own messaging and present themselves as thought leaders in their own right.
Throughout these interviews, each point on sales funnel was meaningfully accounted for. The influencers drew attention to certain developments in the field, demonstrated their expertise, and gave actionable advice for how viewers can implement these concepts into their own ventures.
This campaign not only applied to an incredibly diverse crowd, it demonstrated the importance of how influencer marketing is a two-way road where both parties can reap the rewards.
Always Be Measuring
Like any form of marketing, you need to know exactly which metrics define success. During the planning stage (before you even start looking for influencers), you need to establish KPIs.
As a SaaS product, you most likely promote your service through many different outlets. When you are researching an influencer and their presence on a certain channel, one of the biggest metrics to consider is referral traffic. With a basic tool like Google Analytics, you can easily see where your traffic sources are coming from and attribute it to your influencer campaigns.
Brand awareness is another big one to keep track of. While not absolutely critical in terms of sales, it gives a numerical value for how an influencer is impacting conversations in relation to your business. Using web monitoring tools, you can track your brand mentions across the internet. Set a goal for how much you want them to increase throughout the campaign.
The next one is in regards to engagement. For instance, if the influencer is promoting your SaaS product on their social media page, you’ll want to have a range for how many likes, comments, shares, reactions, etc. that each post should ideally get.
Lastly, and this one is obvious, how has your conversion rate been affected from the influencer campaign? At the end of the day, this is the true metric for success. Once you’ve set your goals, you will need to get more specific and configure your analytics for influencer-specific conversions. This will give you a detailed custom report of the entire customer journey so you can tell whether or not it can be directly attributed to the influencer.
Influencer marketing can be extremely powerful in boosting your presence. But it must be tracked, just like everything else. Otherwise, it will be much harder to tell whether or not the campaign is working, or where it can be improved.
SaaS products will always require a very particular approach to influencer marketing. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is focusing purely on the software, rather than the actual value it provides. Ultimately, your primary objective is to utilize well-known experts who know how to appeal to not just consumers, but to the very idea of progress in a certain field.
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Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of Preceptist, a content marketing agency for SaaS businesses.