Hiding in Plain Sight

Purple Squirrels and the Rise of Omni-Channel Influence

There’s an elusive “other” in the room with your customers, whispering in their ear.  Buy, don’t buy. But just who is this phantom influencer?

I’m fond of calling these influencers purple squirrels– borrowing a bit from talent recruiters who coined the term to describe the “perfect candidate.” Theoretically they exist, but they can be hard to track and even more difficult to tame.

All joking aside, savvy marketers and communicators know that these purple squirrel influencers hold sway over customer purchase decisions. This is as true for consumer focused companies as it is for those serving small business and enterprise. But I’d argue, purple squirrels are a lot less elusive than one might think. The real challenge isn’t limited to identifying these influencers are, but more so working with them at scale.

Finding the Purple Squirrels

The old adage “Be where your customers are or beware” needs an update. “Be where your customers, send an ally or beware” is the new normal. Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer has some very crisp evidence to support this both from a consumer and small business perspective as well as a more enterprise view. This is also the first clue in where to discover purple squirrel influencers.

Be where your customers are, send an ally or beware.

For example, the most trusted groups for consumers are: Friends, Family and “Other Experts” as seen in this slide from the 2015 Trust Barometer.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 1.37.00 PM

And with respect to the enterprise, “Experts and a Person Like Yourself” top the list as being more credible than a CEO.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 1.36.04 PM

Three questions to help identify and your Purple Squirrels:

  • Where do my customers go for information, if not to my website or marketing content?
  • Which (non-marketing) associations, groups or gurus share a customer similar to mine?
  • How can I contribute to the success of the above groups, associations or gurus?

Welcome to the world of Omni-Channel influence

Remember, influencer programs are a component of a complete MarComm program and not necessarily a substitute for content marketing, PR or email marketing. This is a more “omni-channel” approach in which all of the content and tools traditionally play in concert with an influencer program.

So, who are your purple squirrels?

Next Up, tips for scaling your influencer program.


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