A framework for winning the hearts and minds of trusted influencers.
In my last post I outlined why influencing the influencers matters. In short, trusted influencers- specifically those beyond media- are a powerful lever in reaching customers and building trust in your brand. Ok, so how does one successfully build a relationship with such influential groups?
Think like the Horse Whisperer
If you’ve ever ridden a horse you know, you can’t just tell a horse to do something. That’s upward of a half ton of pure power and will! It has to trust you, there has to be a partnership between horse and rider. The only way to build that kind of trust is through deliberate and consistent interaction, it’s a long game. But, once that partnership is forged, it’s a beautiful thing.
The same is true of building a relationship with an influencer group. It’s not about pushing product first, it’s about taking the time to build a partnership. Here’s the framework I developed for working with influencers of all stripes.
Step One: Listen
If I learned anything in 10 years at Intuit, it was to focus on the customer. In this case it’s your “trusted Influencer.”
- Where are they and who else is talking to them?
- What are they actually asking you for?
- Is what they need something you (or someone you know) can provide?
- What can you offer in terms of help or connections? (Hint: Not just product.)
Remember, how you go about listening and engaging matters. Influence and trust are not transactional. Interactions need to be genuine. Nobody likes a used car salesman! If you’re interested in some good additional reading, Geoffrey Colon posted a great update on authenticity in marketing that is well worth a read.
Step Two: Partner
Show up s as a partner, a true advocate, and make the influencer you’re working with the hero. Simply put, enable them to better serve the customers you have in common. Remember those old Vidal Sassoon ads from the 80’s?
Step Three: Measure & Market
Thought leadership is lovely, but it has to be in service to generating an activity or outcome to truly matter. That said, the ability to measure outcomes and movement are critical. How else will you be able to mark progress? A bit of hard learned wisdom, don’t expect your influencer partner to want or to be able to capture the data that’s important to you. Minimizing the burden on your influencer partner should be top of mind.
Do yourself a favor build a clear path to “action” and a mechanism for measurement into your influencer activities at the outset. Read: don’t just hand your influencers valuable content and hope they use it for social media. Plant the seed of the idea and suggest they use the content for a social campaign, even include some sample Tweets: “We’d love for you to use this on your social channels…” This also gives you a chance to pay it forward and elevate what your influencers are sharing.
Which brings me to Market. This is the first real test of the partnership with the influencer. If all is going well, you’ve established a two way street where it is both easy to talk about the benefits of working with you and at the same time, an opportunity for you to elevate the work your influencer partner is doing.
Remember, a rising tide carries all ships!