Updated: Oct 29
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:
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!
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. Now you may think "Wow, intense thing to ask someone to do"... but this is a person you are trusting to be the face of your business and investing your hard earned cash into, so doing your due diligence and getting the best out of it is very important, especially to a small business! Personally what I have done and have found effective 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 and they won't all get it perfectly right, but by giving someone a blank tool and seeing what they do with it may give you an indication as to how their mind works... and therefore how they may help you to succeed in the future!
Once you have decided your influencer(s), 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, considers not turning off their audience, feels genuine etc... there's a lot to consider so chat it through over the course of a few weeks, look at competitors across ALL industries, and see what you like or what you feel works 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 etc. 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, possibly get an outsider to sense check it, and make sure it is signed by both parties.
And by a "briefing document of 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 to do so but can reflect poorly on your brand if they don't and create mistrust, having the opposite effect to the point of having an influencer... so by sending this info to your applicant you can be sure you have done your utmost to make sure they comply and minimise the risk to your business... there's some helpful info here.
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 maybe a scheduled monthly check-up (this can just be an email, text, quick chat on the phone... just a "hey, how's this month gone, what we planning for next month? Everyone happy? Yep! Great! Speak soon!). If its longstanding, quarterly check-ups 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 what's working and what isn't, what you're loving etc can really motivate someone to work hard for your brand. Being vague about it or not giving any feedback can really kill someone's motivation. 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...
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 way is by tracking evidence. Its not fool-proof, and can be costly to make it fool proof, but even a few simple things a small business can do can certainly give you a good indication of what's 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 (easy, and free!!!), 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... AND TOTALLY FREE :-)
Affiliate links - this does cost. There are many companies online that you can set this up and monitor it through. It is effectively very similar to UTM tagging, but also allows you to automatically pay influencers some commission on purchases made through their links... an excellent incentive to drive sales from your business! Also, by paying a business to manage this for you, you may get more accurate results than doing UTMs yourself, just because thats what the management company are paid to do.
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 :)