[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We agree and disagree with Inc’s recent post on Influencer Marketing. We agree 2017 will be THE year influencer marketing grows up and visits the suburbs.

When you pull back and take a look at all these different stats–how people make purchasing decisions, the rise of video and mobile advertising, the rise of social media, the increase in the use of ad blockers, etc.–it starts to paint a very clear picture that today’s influencers are some of the most valuable, and also viable media channels out there.

Where we disagree with Inc. is the shiny celebrity turn their post takes. We’ve seen that seventeen-year-old skateboarder makes millions doing rad commercials for “cool” brands who want his next social share before (and we are underwhelmed). This Curagami post is about how Small to Medium Sized Businesses can use influencer marketing to do the ditch digging of today’s digital marketing creating community, awareness, and revenue by doing five simple steps in 2017.

  • Evaluate – Know your customers based on their influence, interest, and loves
  • Follow – Curate and support content from Influential Customers
  • Create A CAUSE – find something others want to join, support and advocate
  • Curate – discover and share cause-related content from around the web (be agnostic)
  • Ask for Help – Ask influential Customers for “inside baseball” HELP

Know Your Influential Customers

Not all customers are equal. Some want to advocate, share and support your brands in public. And some of your clients may have thousands or even hundreds of thousands of followers. One of the first and most important steps any business can take is truly KNOWING their best customers.

Any business has a small group of customers who matter most – their 80:20 rule. 20% or less of your customers contribute 80% of your sales and profits. Your customers are more than what they pay you. They are people with fast, complicated and important lives. After you’ve identified your best customers, it’s time to get to know them.

Are you aware of their Twitter handle? Facebook? Gplus? Are you following them? Are you curating, commenting on and sharing their content? Don’t worry if your answer to all of these questions is NO. You are not alone. But 2017 is a good year to get to know your best customers. Create profiles. Answer these issues and begin to listen in on their lives.

Listen not to be creepy but because doing so is a sign of respect, a way of saying THANK YOU and an excellent way to understand the role your products, brands and marketing plays in people’s lives and the world. You can’t change the world unless you are listening, willing to change your ideas and processes, and tapping, directing or riding a wave of popular feelings, ideas, and loves. Knowing why your customers love you AND what else they love is knowing your customers and your company, brands and products.

Curate and Follow Influential Customers

Curating and sharing content is one of our favorite ways to say THANK YOU and to show respect. The simple almost no cost option of following customers who follow you back is a perfect place to start your Influencer Marketing campaign. Once you know who your most influential customers support them, listen carefully to their shares, likes, and Tweets with an eye toward curating their content into your marketing.

Following is a conversation, a relationship ballet. You can’t rush in, Retweet a bunch of content from one of your most influential customers and expect respect. Support and knowing what your most influential customers care about takes TIME. And time slips through our fingers daily.

Your VIP Customer Profiles is where you need to capture salient information shared by your most influential customers. When I tweet about curing cancer, riding bicycles or listening to Jazz those characteristics should go into my VIP Customer Profile. If your company plans to ask for my help or money, it is so much easier if the ASK is conditional to the needs of those being asked (me in this example).

Not hard to see how valuable KNOWING your customers are, and it’s never been easier. In the social media, connected times your customers are profiling themselves daily on Facebook, Twitter and a host of other networks. Are you listening? Most brands and companies view social media as a TALK platform.

Don’t make that mistake. Social media is 70% LISTENING and only 30% TALK.

Create A Cause

Inside of every business is a cause trying to get out. The world is a noisy, crowded, and sometimes nasty place. When Tom’s gives a pair of shoes for every pair purchased they improve the world and connect their marketing, brand, and company to an important cause. When Warby Parker gives a pair of eyeglasses to those who otherwise might not be able to see their business becomes a movement, Warby Parker’s brand becomes something bigger than “marketing” or “sales.”

If you want your business, brand or products to change the world find a cause and ask for help. Appending a charity is easy. If you support curing breast cancer in October, you are “attaching a cause.” This kind of cause marketing where your brand declares support for a strong existing charitable brand is easy and somewhat helpful.

Only “somewhat helpful” because attaching your marketing to someone else’s cause identifies other people who also care about the cause you’ve adopted, but doesn’t align your brand with a unique take on that charity, cause or movement. Appending is never as effective a marketing option as developing a Toms like cause for your company, brand, and products. It takes more work to tap into the zeitgeist and trends in your industry, but understanding where the pain points are NOW and then using your company, brand and products to relieve pain in unique ways will always pay more dividends than appending a cause.

Our Music Is A Movement idea for Moon-Audio.com is an example. Music is a universal language, something most people love. The music industry is in turmoil. Even as music lovers have easy access to more music than ever, musicians struggle. Yesterday’s rock star millionaires are gone. Today’s hard-working musicians must tour and play live to make any money at all since it is hard to live on Spotify or Apple iTunes royalties.

Within the “Music is a Movement” Moon-Audio.com may support garage bands, DJs or musicians. Musicians have equipment needs. Helping with a band’s equipment needs is perfectly aligned to Moon-Audio.com’s brand. And therein lies the tricky part of cause marketing – finding a cause that others feel AND is aligned to help your brand.

Helping musicians make music touches the universality of music and Moon-Audio.com’s audio gear manufacturer status. Yes, some explanation to reset expectations is needed. It will be important to make those being asked to support the cause aware of how hard it is to be a working musician today since the millionaire spoiled rockers meme is hard to forget.

The difference between then and now is how easy it is to ASK for and receive HELP. That’s why we encourage our clients to find, support and develop a cause and ASK FOR HELP.

Curate To Walk Your Marketing Talk

It’s hard to SAY one thing and DO another these days. Every business says some of the same things such as we care about our customers, our marketing matters, and now give us your money. But there’s a problem.

Talking and Walking is the problem. If your ASK isn’t matched by commitment, listening and trust your marketing talks to itself about itself. When you say you care about customers and follow back a tiny %, your actions create dissonance, anger, and frustration. When you curate customer content you make the simplest, least expensive “we care and are listening” statement.

Curating customer content says you respect and value your customer’s intelligence, collaboration and presence. Sharing content from your most influential customers sets up a quid pro quo too. As a content creator, I keep a running total in my mind. When someone shares my content or supports Curagami, we make a note and make sure we pay the debt now owed.

Curating customer content sets up repayment in kind. Your customers are more likely to join your cause, advocate your brands, and buy your products.

Ask for Help

Asking for help is easy unless you are a type A entrepreneur. Since most new things are created by Type A entrepreneurs, those obsessed with something like the new taxi or how to create the world’s largest bed and breakfast, asking for help doesn’t come easy. But it should.

I couldn’t have survived cancer alone, and your business can’t thrive in a connected, social and always-on world without help. Asking for help is both art and science. Art because it is easy to offend. Science because you need to know who and what to ask.

The science of knowing who and what to ask is buried in your Google Analytics. Come to think of it all five Influencer Marketing Action Steps are buried in there. Finding your cause requires looking at Google Trends too. 90% of your 2017 Influencer Marketing Action Plan is hidden inside your site and business analytics.

Add these four dimensions, and you’ll know what and who to ask for help:

  • Sales 80:20 – Find the 20% of products contributing 80% of your sales
  • Customer 80:20 – Find the 20% of your customers contributing 80% of your sales
  • Social 80:20 – Find the 20% of your customers with the greatest social media following
  • Personas – Create stories and characters to represent your different customer segments

Now use Google Trends to discover an “ownable idea” for your ASK. When I trend “music,” “Spotify” and “Lady Gaga” a picture of keywords and content begins to emerge.

Google Trends chart example on Curagami image

“Will We Find The Next Lady Gaga” would be a great teaser headline. The story would explain how difficult it is to make music and LIVE these Spotify days. The Call To Action would ask for help in support of garage bands who may not be discovered unless we help NOW. The cause is helping garage bands survive. The hook, based on my preliminary and brief research, helps or we’ll never hear or benefit from an undiscovered talent.