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3 Steps for Finding Your Brand’s Most Influential People

May 10, 2016

Imagine your business without its customers. It may sound a bit dramatic, but that’s the future you’re headed towards, unless you stop thinking of them as customers. They are people, and these people have gotten really good at ignoring your brand. They don’t care anymore.

I recently came across an article on that caught my attention. To paraphrase, it stressed that the environment in which brands now operate is one where thoughts are more important than things, where a brand needs to earn every moment of contact, and where marketing is a conversation, not a broadcast.

So, if marketing is now a conversation, then what happens when the people you are trying to reach can’t hear you? Sounds like a dead-end conversation to me. In order to reconnect with the people who mean the world to your business, you need to find the people who mean the world to them. I’m talking about the people who are recognized as thought leaders or experts on a topic, and as such are trusted by their community. These are the influencers. Have you found yours yet?

By finding and engaging with the right influencers, you can drive more effective awareness for new products or campaigns and cultivate advocates and build a community, among endless use cases for marketing.

To discover the people who your buyers trust the most, there are three key steps you must explore:

Figure out what matters to your buyers and then document the data

Be honest, how would you rate your understanding of your buyers’ needs, goals, and aspirations? In order to find the right influencers for your marketing initiatives, you need to map out who you want to influence, what their needs are, and who they rely on for information. This will help you determine who is truly influential to your buyer.

So how you do establish a more intimate connection with your buyer? Put them front and center and learn from them by conducting interviews, immersing yourself in their online world, and requesting input from peers such as sales or customer success teams. Make sure to be wary of consensus and seek out extreme outliers. These extreme buyers will help you understand unarticulated behaviors, desires, and needs.

Actionable takeaway: Talk is cheap, right? After you have put in some elbow grease to really understand your buyer, make sure you document the information.  Define buyer archetypes that help you focus on what matters to your customers. Using the data points that describe different customers, create a visual overview for at least three buyer archetypes, covering critical details, such as:

  • What do they do?
  • What type of person are they?
  • What are the toughest parts about their job?
  • If they could wave a magic wand, what would they do (aspirations)?
  • What types of tools do they use to get their job done?
  • What do they read? Which types of resources do they like?

Map the buyer journey and pinpoint influencers touchpoints

Once you define your buyer archetypes, indicating you have a confident grasp on what matters to these people, you can start mapping out their journey with you. As a marketer this process shouldn’t be new to you, but in order to find the most relevant influencers, you need to know what questions your customer will be asking and what sources they turn to for information.

When mapping the buyer journey for each archetype, consider your customer’s context. What questions do they ask? What is happening right before they become aware of your brand? How do they go from newbie to informed? What do they want or need to know to make a decision? And then what happens after they buy from you, how do you empower them as a brand advocate?

Actionable takeaway: Here is where you make a real change to the way you have mapped your buyer’s journey in the past...consider the influencer touchpoints. Once you know your customer’s context, you can better understand who they interact with and who truly influences them at each stage of the journey. Questions to consider to identify influencer touchpoints:

  • Who do they rely on for information and guidance?
  • Who triggers them to think about you or your category?
  • Who is answering their questions or teaching them?
  • Who provides stories and research that helps them make a decision?

Glean topics for each touchpoint and find influencers by topic

After you’ve figured out what matters to your buyer and mapped their journey with you, with the influencers’ touch points in mind, you can understand the right topics to engage your buyers via influencers. Remember, marketing is a conversation, not a broadcast. By discovering the right topics, you can have meaningful conversations with influencers and begin to build relationships with them.

So how do you find the right topics for a powerful conversation? Considering your buyer’s journey map, extract a list of topics from each stage and then find the people who are talking about these topics (e.g. producing content).

Actionable takeaway: Once you have a list of topics to have a conversation, what do you do next? You need to generate keywords and social conversation phrases from these topics you’ve selected. This is a bottom-up process; by starting with your buyer, their deepest concerns and ambitions, you’ll discover influencers who are influential to their decision-making at every stage. Your influencers are ones who produce content and have an engaged audience around these specific topics and conversations.

Finding relevant influencers is just the beginning

Once you find the most influential people to your business, you’re ready to kick off a strong, scalable influencer marketing program. But influencer discovery is only the beginning--the real success in influencer marketing comes from creating long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with influencers. These relationships are established using a ‘give, give, get’ mentality, where you put the influencers’ needs above your brand’s and employ outreach tactics using the WIIFT factor (What’s in it for them?).

I challenge you to flip your thinking when it comes to your customers. How can you empower your brand to act like a human, to earn every moment of contact? To elevate your influencer marketing skills, check out the Academy of Influencer Marketing, a first eLearning resource of its kind. This course will help you move beyond the initial phase of finding your influencers, create an influencer marketing strategy aligned with your goals, and measure the impact on business success.