When equestrian business owners think of influencers, they automatically think of riders with a large social media following, particularly on Instagram. They connect with some individually or build ambassador programs, send them product and then hope for social media posts that help increase awareness, brand recognition, sales, and so on. Sometimes, it’s a success and everyone is happy. In other cases, businesses are disappointed. The rider who received their super awesome product for free didn’t post at all (argh!) or what was done didn’t generate the desired outcome.
Scenario A: The influencer didn’t post anything.
Brand: “WHY DIDN’T THE PERSON POST?? AAAAHHHHH!!!! SO FRUSTRATING.”
Truthful answer: It can be because of a.) personal reasons, things they have going on in their lives. Or b.) they don’t give a F about your brand (pardon my language).
I’m going to insert my take on Kotler’s Brand Resonance Pyramid to show how hard it is to get people to actually care.
So that’s step one. If the product itself is not unique, it doesn’t really fill a need in the market, or your marketing is not compelling, you need to work on that first. It’s not an influencer problem, it’s on your end. You need to identify what is wrong (product? branding?) and fix that.
Scenario B: The influencer posts did not lead to the desired outcome.
Brand: “Yeah, we got posts but it didn’t do much for us. I was expecting better photos/engagement/comments/clicks/sales. Why didn’t we see better results?”
Truthful answer: Well, maybe a.) the expectations weren’t clear from both sides, b.) the desired outcome was unrealistic…, or c.) you picked the wrong influencer.
Who can really influence?
An influencer is someone with literal influence to affect a purchasing decision. To be effective, the person needs to be credible, have authority and have people who respect their opinion.
You have to look at 3 key success factors:
AUTHORITY. The person’s credibility and authority in general in the market and particularly for your product category.
PASSION (level of f***s given). How high are they on the pyramid? Do they drink the Kool-Aid and are truly enthusiastic about your brand?
CIRCLE of influence. Who do they influence? A small or large number of people? What kind of people? Someone with influence over a small group of key decision makers might be more valuable than someone with a million random followers.
The holy grail is matching your brand with someone with high authority, high passion/level of f***s given and a large circle directly in your target market. The influencer can be a social media star, but don’t discount other types of people who can influence a purchase.
1. YOU: The first influencer for your business is… yourself. No one is more passionate and cares more about your product, your brand, and your business, You have the passion, you have the authority (or you can build it), now you need to build the circle of influence.
2. Your team: Your staff, colleagues, sales reps, and customer service reps are key influencers. They have a high stake in your success and are your first ambassadors. Make sure they are professional, enthusiastic and when not at work, you give them a reason to speak highly about your brand.
3. Your best clients (top 10%): The people at the very top of the pyramid who love the brand, love the product, and believe in it enough to give you their hard-earned cash over and over with repeat purchases. Make sure they feel valued and special. Give them a reason to share their amazing experience and recommend you to their friends.
4. All your customers (90%): This group is also very important. Peer-to-peer influence is very powerful. Develop an amazing brand, great customer service and talk triggers so that every customer wants to tell others.
5. Top riders: They are experts in their field and successful. Riders look up to them. They have authority, some might have a large following. If they care enough, they could be good influencers.
6. Trainers, vets, grooms: Their circle of influence can be small in number but the authority is very high. If your vet or trainer tells you to buy X, you probably will.
7. Journalists, media: An article in a respected publication has credibility, and a large circle.
As you can see, it’s not as simple as sending product to people with large Instagram accounts. When considering ‘influencers’ for your business, it’s important to think of an overall strategy. Otherwise you’d be left wondering what went wrong.