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View From the Boardroom - Why Influencer Marketing is the Only Marketing Start-Ups Can Afford

May 18, 2016

In an earlier post I talked about how Traackr was a startup that helped to create the Influencer Marketing Category.

The post focused on the challenges that go with defining a new category. However I did not discuss our strategies and tactics with regard to how we established ourselves as the leading player in this category, especially as a start-up.

Start-ups face the harsh reality that things won’t turn out as planned, as 90% of them fail. And the top two reasons cited point to a lack of market need and poor cash management.

In retrospect, as a start-up at the height of the biggest economic downturn, how did we not only survive, but pave the way for a new category?

The answer is, we ‘drank our own champagne.’ We used Influencer Marketing (IM) to dominate the discussions in the category of Influencer Marketing (pretty meta, huh?) And it's the underlying foundation of our company philosophy, not only do we sell IM as a key tactic that every company should employ, but it is the primary component of our marketing strategy.

Leveraging Influencer Marketing as our Primary Lead Source

To share some statistics, I had the marketing team pull data around our pipeline creation by lead source over the last few years.

Pipeline creation by lead source: Sales, Referrals, Influencer Marketing

This chart displays our pipeline creation channels: sales, referrals, and IM. As you can see, the only kind of marketing we do at Traackr is Influencer Marketing. While we used this approach to help refine our concepts of IM, it was actually the only marketing resource available to us: why? Operating on a less-than-lean budget (remember, most start-ups fail because they run out of cash), we had to think pragmatically. Here are three reasons Influencer Marketing was the only way to stake our claim as the new, leading market player way back when:

Influencer Marketing helped us to drive early-stage adoption by building relationships with the people trusted by our customers

Even if you have the money, in order to drive adoption when you are in the early days of a market category, the best model you can adopt is to have the support of key players (influencers) that customers turn to for their opinion on what works and what doesn’t, what’s cool and what isn’t. Ideally this helps you drive organic engagement, leveraging your ‘fans’ in the best way possible.

As Malcolm Gladwell illustrated this concept in great detail with his book, The Tipping Point; In chapter one he discusses the reemergence of the Hush Puppy brand and how Fashion Influencers drove the resurgence of the brand. The book is a great primer on the concepts associated with Influencer Marketing.

Insights gleaned from influencers helped us to vet our go-to-market strategy and content strategy

As a start-up, you need to manage all risks to your product, finances, customers, and the market. It sounds simple, but can you explain what your product is, the problem it solves, and why it’s worth an investment? By building relationships with influential people--and learning from them-- you can gain valuable insights to shape your go-to-market messaging and content strategy. For example, here’s how one of our customers, Orange France, launched a new product in a brand new sector, leveraging the power of IM.

Without a comfortable marketing budget, we had to forgo traditional forms of marketing

You don’t have the resources to do any kind of digital marketing unless someone has given you lots of money, right?

Start-ups must run lean, and as such, you don’t have the ability to buy keywords, pursue retargeting strategies, rely on paid endorsements, or confidently bet on targeted ad campaigns. You can’t rely on "traditional" marketing, expecting to prove your ROI a few quarters later. If you can’t conserve your dollars as a start-up, your company won’t survive very long, let alone actually lead your category.

So what specifically did Traackr do, in order to ‘drink our own champagne’?

Using Traackr we determined who the key influencers in the world of marketing were, who were participating in the dialog around Influencer Marketing. We engaged with both supporters of our ideas and product. However, unlike some companies who make the mistake of only interacting with supporters, we engaged with those who either supported other Influencer models (the opt in crowd) or other competitive products and attempted to bring them over to our side (or least neutralize their voice).

Influencer Marketing done right includes a strategy focused on relationships

At Traackr, our IM strategy is focused on building authentic relationships. Traackr has done this with relatively small amounts of capital, i.e. we have been highly capital efficient which has translated into significant retained ownership by the founding team and therefore control over our own destiny.

To scale our efforts, we followed many of the same tactics that Tesla has employed as I recently explained in my last blog post. We created a personal connection to the brand - we don’t have Elon Musk, but we have an enthusiastic team who are well respected in the market who drive dialog via posts/tweets/presentations at various events. And in order to make this happen on a large scale, we integrate team members outside of the marketing team to make a bigger impact. By leveraging our internal team of advocates, we are able to engage, interact, and scale our relationships with influencers at a much quicker rate.

And I’m not saying you need a piece of software to kick start Influencer Marketing (though you will to scale your program). You just need the skill set to do it right. All you need to do is find the most influential people, connect with them to create mutually beneficial relationships, and measure the impact on your brand. And do it at scale. To start making an impact now, learn how to do Influencer Marketing the right way...check out the Academy of Influencer Marketing.

In summary, Traackr helped establish the category known as Influencer Marketing, by using processes and our own platform to generate interest, engagement and subsequently advocacy for our product in the market which translated into strong sales and growth. Learn more about Traackr on Crunchbase


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