By Steve Coleman – Perivan Solutions (Dotapprove)

‘Influencer marketing’ or ‘influence marketing’ is a term you may well have come across recently. It’s increasingly being touted as a new way of marketing in B2B. But what does it mean, and how can financial services marketers make use of it in a regulated industry

What is influencer marketing or influence marketing?

Influencer marketing is a form of marketing that focuses not on a wide target audience, but on specific individuals – or types of individual – who have an influence over your target market.

Who are the influencers?

You influencers will obviously vary depending on your industry, but fall into a couple of main categories. They might be potential buyers themselves, or third parties who can influence your buyers.  (In some cases, they may be both – think of influential bloggers or journalists who might both buy and endorse your product).

If they are third parties, they may be part of your supply chain (retailers, or manufacturers, etc). They could also be what are called ‘value-added influencers’. These are groups of people such as journalists, academics, industry analysts or professional advisers, whose views can shape buying decisions.

If you design clothes, for example, you might focus your influencer marketing efforts on prominent fashion bloggers, or celebrities with a reputation for being stylish. You might also want to target retailers that are important in your sphere and leading fashion journalists.

What might influencer marketing look like in financial services?

For financial services or professional services firms, your approach will obviously be slightly different. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t influencers out there that you can target. Examples of groups you could focus your influencer marketing efforts on include:

  • Industry journalists
  • Professional advisers
  • Third party introducers – law firms, financiers; individuals who might recommend you to clients
  • Third party evaluators, who are brought into help firms choose advisers or suppliers. They may help to shape your potential clients’ buying decisions
  • Financial bloggers, particularly if you work in a consumer-facing business

 What are the key steps in influencer marketing?

Four main stages are usually identified as critical to successful influencer marketing

  1. Identify your influencers and prioritise them in order of importance.Work out who you are going to target, and how. What criteria will you use to assess their influence? What are the best channels to reach them? Are they social media influencers, or is their main influence offline?
  1. Start marketing to your influencersThis will increase your firm’s brand awareness within the influencer community. Make sure your content is focused and above all, valuable. Make it something your influencers need to know or see, and it is more likely to be well-received and shared.
  1. Market through your influencersThis is the next step, when influencers can be used to increase market awareness of your firm amongst target markets. This relies on influencers being advocates of your business – hence the need for relevant content.
  1. Marketing alongside your influencersBy turning influencers into advocates of your firm, they can actively help to market your business to their contacts. Effectively, they can become an extension of your marketing team, promoting you to the people they are in contact with daily.

What channels should I use for influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is often associated with social media – and while this is a valuable way to reach influencers, it isn’t the only channel you should consider.

Mailing or emailing material to influencers can also be valuable. Targeting them with relevant press releases, if they are journalists, as well as online content, will also be a part of your strategy.

Face-to-face contact is also invaluable.

While buyers often identify and research potential suppliers on the internet, most word of mouth recommendations still tend to happen in person, particularly for large corporate buying decisions.

Don’t assume, therefore, that online is the only place to do influencer marketing. Social media influencers are not the only people you should be targeting, and social media should not be the focus of all your efforts.

Does influencer marketing work in a regulated industry?

In a regulated sector like financial services, influencer marketing definitely has a role to play. But as with all your marketing activity, you need to make sure you comply with the Financial Conduct Authority’s regulations. Making sure your influencer marketing is compliant is essential if you are going to keep on the right side of the regulator.

Hopefully this has given you a quick introduction to what influencer marketing is and how you might start to use it.

The rise of influencer marketing is just one of the many changes financial services marketing managers need to keep pace with. Marketing priorities, strategies and tactics are constantly evolving.

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