Influencer marketing can be a very effective component of any B2B or B2C marketing strategy. They key is to get influencers to tell compelling stories about your product or company.
I asked Valerie Nifora, a master storyteller and marketing & communications leader for a Global 500 company, how she successfully mastered the art of storytelling. Following are insights she shared:
- What is the top question you’re likely to ask to get an interesting story from a subject?
My favorite question is WHY? I’m always fascinated by why people do what they do. What motivated the action? Why was there a need? Often, people focus too much on HOW and the details take center stage. The WHY usually gets one sentence.
- What tips do you have for creating a great story?
Figure out what you want people to feel when they’re done reading the piece. Emotional pieces resonate most.
- What makes storytelling so effective for marketing?
People love stories. We’re all natural-born storytellers. And we’re also emotionally driven. A great emotional story associated with a great brand that inspires action is always a winning combination. It’s been said before: people remember how they feel much longer than what was said.
- How do you recommend utilizing industry influencers to tell their story?
You have to be careful with industry influencers because they may not embody everything you want your brand to reflect. So if they’re used, make sure they’re associated with a specific aspect of your brand and use them judiciously.
- Why should a CMO incorporate storytelling in his/her marketing strategy?
Storytelling should be part of the marketing mix. It starts with the overarching brand statement and then should flow throughout everything that brand does. It’s more than just the story of your brand. It’s about how your brand has impacted the lives of your end users. It’s about their stories.
Get Your Influencers to Tell a Story
It is often difficult to motivate both ‘owned’ and external industry writers to create interesting and engaging blog content. When I managed IBM’s midmarket influencer program, I would recommend to our contributors that they first start by jotting down their initial thoughts on a particular topic, beginning with writing an outline which often helped to stimulate fresh thinking and new ideas. Since the role of the writers is to inform the audience, I would suggest that they begin with identifying and stating the problem rather than with the product or solution. By reverse engineering the writing process, the story then begins to unfold.
Encourage your influencers to share what the audience can learn from them that they never knew before; in essence, the ‘gift’ they’re going to share. Storytelling, even in a B2B environment and delivered through industry influencers, revolves around human connection. You must reach those emotional triggers and portray the meaning behind the product, behind the pitch, and behind the company.
It should not be viewed as a ‘one-off’ approach. Instead, you’ll need to think of it as a long-term strategy that encompasses relationship building with the types of people who can spread the word about your brand.
Finally, here are some tips if you’re looking to build a best-in-class influencer program:
1. Determine your success metrics.
What do you want to achieve? How will you measure success? Are they in line with your CMO’s expectations? How do you intend to tie your results to business outcomes?
2. Select an agency partner with lots of experience to help you develop an effective program.
Speak with multiple client references for the agency and ask the potential partner to provide you with ‘live’ customer examples of what they’re proposing. Does the agency demonstrate excellence in creative, analytical and technological capabilities? Ask for proof.
3. Determine how you will pay or compensate your influencers.
Give to get? Paid? Or a combination of both? Are you going to pay your influencers to be involved with your program or just provide advance notice of newsworthy announcements and the like? Will you invite them to participate in exclusive panel discussions or events? Who will pay their transportation and admission fees? Will you provide them a platform to promote their books or to speak? The sky’s the limit as to how to design the compensation piece.
4. Define and gain agreement on the management process.
From deadlines to the type of article/blog/social posts you’re expecting, it needs to be very clear and agreed to up front. Are you expecting them to deliver specific ROI? If so, that needs to be explained and agreed to – especially, how you’ll measure it. Will you have an editorial review prior to publishing? That may be something to consider in order to drive higher quality of writing and thought leadership.
5. Define how you want to utilize your influencers.
Are they merely content contributors or will they have a more strategic role in your program? Can you leverage them with clients and at events? Are their writings/videos tied to a messaging plan and content calendar? These are important items to consider.
6. Relationships are long-term.
It’s important to look at an influencer program as a long-term relationship-building program. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The key to success in any influencer program is allowing sufficient time to build and run. With a focus on the long game, you’ll be able to create authentic advocates to strengthen your brand.
By following the suggested tips outlined in this article, you’ll be on your way to identifying the best influencers and creating a successful program – one that builds a mutually beneficial relationship between these expert content contributors and your brand.