• Vic

Influencer Marketing... some thoughts from outside the equine world!

It's a wild concept but we are going on a bit of a different strand today... combining the two biggest things in my life, my job in digital marketing and the world of equestrianism!

In the last few years I have seen a huge growth in the equestrian world. One area is in the small business marketing, specifically clothing brands but many others too, and the other world is that of influencers, sponsorship, brand ambassadors and that kind of marketing. As someone who works in digital marketing, specifically social media and multi-platform campaign management, for a very large (non-equestrian) company... its been interesting to watch this grow and how the equestrian market is very different from other areas.

Now, I'm going to caveat this by stating... I am really really NOT trying to look down upon the equestrian community. I love it. I love these fantastic business and the amazing entrepreneurs (many women, yaaaasss!) that run them. However, the equestrian world has always swayed on the side of traditional and so I just wanted to share some knowledge from another industry that may help those businesses that are investing in social media marketing through influencers and therefore help their businesses grow! If you want to stick with how you are doing things then... no problem!

So here's my little list of things to consider when setting up an influencer marketing campaign:

1. Recruiting

When recruiting influencers, it might be tempting to go for biggest accounts, or to run competitions to win the position (and gain followers through it!)... However sadly this means you could lose out on genuine fans of your brand. We all know that being genuine is a very key and so sometimes a smaller following with a genuine brand support and love can be key! There are different types of influencer (basic summary here) and the type that's best for your business could not necessarily be the biggest. Potentially, you could support someone smaller, see the benefits of micro-influencing but also have someone with dedicated time, energy and resource to collaborate with and create great content for your brand!

Personally, I also think sponsorship searches are best done privately. Asking people to write a public post on their page as an entry or commenting their entry under your post can stifle entries. Running a longer campaign (executed well by Toggi in their #ToggiSport campaign and Woofwear in their BA search recently!) or announcing your search on social but asking for applications to be sent privately can give you more genuine responses, rather than it becoming a competition!

2. Applications

Again, this is just based off of personal opinion... but something I have found incredibly effective is utilising the application method to test out your own ideas. For example... looking at expanding your brand into video content? Ask for a video application on one of your products. Looking to move into blogging? Ask for a written blog example on a subject you might include.

The key one I have found, however, is Campaign planning. Much like a job interview (of which this is, of sorts), asking your applicant to complete a project that you may end up tasking them with in the future is a helpful indicator of skill. For example, if I was a newly starting Equine Physio looking to build higher level eventing clients... I might ask my applicants to create me a 6 month campaign plan of how they would promote me throughout the BE season. I would expect to see them utilising multiple platforms, locking in key eventing dates, utilising large events as well as their own competition plans etc etc. Again, personally what I have done is provided the applicants with a blank campaign planning sheet and asked them to fill it in... can't expect everyone to be a marketer!

3. Planning

Once you have decided your influencer, I would personally look at creating a campaign plan for the length of your agreement, a contract of key expectations etc as well as what they will receive, and a briefing document of legal requirements.

For planning, I think this should be a collaborative effort. Make sure its achievable (a vlog a week might be a bit much!), clear, has timescales etc... chat it through over the course of a few weeks, look at competitors etc. Make sure you organise it into campaigns (more on this below), personally I find a Gantt chart very helpful.

For contracts, there are plenty of templates online to utilise. Make sure you outline what the expectations are of each party, any special clauses such as non-competitor clauses, timeline of the sponsorship. If you have a company legal team to review it then this is helpful, but if not then just make sure you read it all the way through and it is signed by both parties.

For legal requirements, I mean the requirements of influencers to disclose ads. Using #ad or #gifted, #spon etc is required by law and it is the influencers responsibility... by sending this info to your applicant you can be sure you have done your utmost to comply... there's some helpful info here.

4. Review

Make sure you schedule regular reviews. I would say that it depends on the length of campaign and length of relationship... you may want to start with an initial meet up, a few planning sessions over the phone/video call and then a scheduled monthly checkup. If its longstanding, quarterly checkups to go over the new campaigns planned might be enough.

Feeding back on the success of campaigns is especially important in these! Letting someone know whats working and what isn't, what you're loving etc can really motivate someone to work hard for your brand. However... its very very difficult to provide that if you are not doing my final point, the most important point, the point of all this...

5. Tracking!!!

So, the term ROI (return on investment) is one you hear very regularly in marketing. How do you know your output (whether it be money, time, gifted items etc) is creating the input of sales that you're looking for?

Many people will use anecdotal evidence or a social media poll but the only real want is tracked evidence. Its not fool-proof, but it can certainly give you a good indication of whats working and what isn't. There's a few ways to do this but here are some of my favourites...

UTM tracking - this is totally free. The use of UTMs requires a small amount of set up and management but is completely free to use. It does require your business to use Google Analytics (also free!) but, if set up correctly, it allows you to see which people, platforms and promotion types are bring the most traffic and conversions into your site. This is my preferred method and, in my experience, quite effective :)

Affiliate links - this does cost. There are many companies online that you can set this up and monitor it through. It allows similar to UTM tagging, but also allows you to pay influencers some commission on purchases made through their links... an excellent incentive to drive sales from your business!

Referral discount - this is also free but is much less accurate than the other two. By giving someone a unique referral code (often offering a discount to those who use it) you can see how many direct sales have come from that person. However, you do miss out on information such as traffic generated, and it can create quite a pushy "omg use my discount code!" type tone in posts... just a personal bug of mine... *eyeroll*

Wow... that was long. Sorry... I get rambley when passionate! However, I hope that helps someone. And equally, because I'm just THAT passionate about it (and THAT bored in lockdown), if anyone see's this and wants some help setting up any of the above for their business... I have templates for it all! Just let me know and I'd be happy to share and chat you through all of it :)