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CMO Insights: The Role of Agencies in Influencer Marketing

Feb 7, 2017

From our various discussions with marketing leaders, we realise that the role of agencies in influencer marketing is a popular topic among marketers.

Agencies have the expertise and added value, and can provide solutions to many influencer marketing challenges. But working with agencies also generates some considerations: for instance, many of our fellow influencer marketers wonder whether it is reasonable to leave strategic influencer relationships to a third party.

So, should brands keep influencer marketing in-house or outsource the practice to an agency? As you would expect, there isn’t a unique answer.

We decided to take a deeper look into what matters most for agencies and influencer marketing. Based on our client conversations, we have stripped down the most valuable best practices to share with you.

Read on to learn about the value-add for agencies and your influencer strategy, and discover what to look for when choosing an agency as your partner for influencer marketing.

4 Value-Adds of Agency Collaboration for Influencer Marketing

1. Avoiding common influencer program pitfalls with agency expertise

The Associate Director of a large agency reckons:

Many brands don’t have KPIs, they just want to tick the box of ‘the influencer thing’.”

Firstly, agencies have gained strategic expertise. Influencer marketing is a relatively new discipline and brands are sometimes lost when it comes to building new programmes. Agencies can help brands ‘do the influencer thing’ the right way and avoid common pitfalls.

Agencies can help brands to establish measurement frameworks and consistent KPIs, and define outreach and activation strategies. Agencies can also provide legal and administrative advice, specifically pertaining to issues around influencer marketing.

2. Getting access to cutting-edge marketing innovations

Beyond strategic consulting, agencies often are at the cutting-edge of marketing innovations in an ever-changing landscape and have the benefit of hindsight. They bring their creativity to brand marketing strategies that help attract and awe influencers.

Forward-thinking agencies can enable brands to stay one step ahead. One of the agencies we work with pushed its clients to venture into live social channels because they believe it to be the next big thing. Although Periscope or Twitch are difficult to monitor, these platforms make it easier for marketers to build organic relationships because competitors are not active on them yet. Influencers that leverage live-streaming are a rising challenge, as they do not work like YouTubers or Instagrammers. They are unique people with different expectations, who require specific outreach and activation strategies. To address this challenge, agencies can help define a uniquely positioned strategy.

3. Implementing always-on engagement by leveraging agency resources

Influencer marketing requires time, resources, and planning. Agencies have the resources to create activation points and outreach opportunities with influencers on a day-to-day basis. They can handle community management and engagement, events, content creation and curation, as well as social listening.

Agencies are accustomed to delivering personal, one-on-one engagement.  So they can sometimes be the brand’s best representative to activate a group of influencers. When an automotive brand launched a campaign to promote its sponsorship of the Football WorldCup, they called upon a specialist agency to make sure relevant people were engaging with the influencers.

4. Expanding and scaling influencer programmes to new markets and geographies

Furthermore, agencies already have a network of influencers and can help you scale your influencer programme to new horizons. They are an asset when expanding to new types of influencers, to new markets or to new geographies.

Plus, another consideration that could protect your brand: one of our fellow influencer marketers disclosed that there is always the concern of a backlash at any moment if an influencer is unhappy.  Working with an agency as an intermediary can help to save the brand’s image: keep this in mind!

Key Traits for Agencies That Specialise in Influencer Marketing

For influencers, connecting with the brand directly is more meaningful than interacting via an agency, which can be more transactional. Many influencers will request compensation almost immediately after being approached by an agency.

There needs to be a clever mix of engagement between the agency and the brand. Some people in the company may be better suited than others to lead influencer outreach--and this expands beyond the marketing department. For example, a game developer would make a stronger connection with the influential gamer because they speak the same language.

A direct connection is more human, more organic and definitely more authentic. The Senior Press Officer of a large cosmetics brand claims that she would rather not have an agency own 100% of the relationship. She is rightfully worried that if for some reason the Agency Account Manager leaves her position, the relationship would be lost for good.

Since influencer marketing is still new for many, working with agencies on influencer consultation and execution can enable your brand to get it right and see results. Here are a few key traits to look for when partnering with an agency for influencer marketing:

Influencer identification for always-on engagement programmes

Agencies have the ability to understand the conversation around client needs and gain insights into the competitive landscape. That’s why agencies with influencer identification resources will help your brand to target the right influencers for always-on engagement programs. When targeting the right agency, make sure to look for global search capabilities so you can serve all markets and geographies.

Custom segmentation for agency/brand influencer workflow

There is no right way to segment the influencer workflow for always-on engagement. For example, we spoke with an online booking platform’s representative that works with an agency to tier the influencers for each market and manage creative content production--but organic relations are always managed in-house.

Another solution would be to co-own the relationship. While different agencies manage the day-to-day influencer outreach and activation, a large retail firm’s PR Director made a point to meet all of the brand’s influencers for 1-to-1 lunches.

When addressing the risk of managing influencer relationships, make sure to select an agency that will customize influencer workflows in order to preserve brand authenticity.

Deep analysis of cross-brand campaigns to inform future success

Choose an agency with a deep understanding of influence KPIs and analytics. You’ll benefit from the analysis of cross-brand campaigns to prove success and secure ongoing programme investment. When agencies execute influencer programmes, having standardised KPIs at the brand level can be difficult. This becomes a critical challenge when working across multiple products and geographies with multiple agencies.

It is crucial to define consistent measurement as a brand. Each agency tends to report differently with varying KPIs. Our clients all agree that having an influencer relationship management tool to share with their agencies is essential for better visibility, consistent measurement and to scale their influencer efforts.

What’s Next for the Role of Agencies in Influencer Marketing?

The role of agencies in the influencer marketing space is evolving. Keeping influencer relations in-house has its benefits, but also comes with drawbacks. Equally, agencies have a lot to offer: they can guarantee a hands-on approach to influencers and also help take influencer strategies to the next level.

Brands need to consider what they can and wish to outsource: keeping some of the influencer work in-house is critical. The only sure thing is that brands must define clear goals and set expectations for agency involvement. There is no unique solution - it all depends on the brand’s objectives and priorities.

Learn how influence can significantly impact your brand’s objectives and priorities. Download Influence 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing to effectively navigate this ever-changing world.