Influencer marketing has evolved and so must your approach. Here’s what you need to do to make this powerful tool work as part of your full-funnel marketing strategy.

Like most nascent marketing channels, influencer marketing began as something of a Wild West. Metrics were thorny, processes were clouded, and many brands got burned working with influencer platforms or individual creators who produced scant measurable results.

The upshot is that even now that influencer marketing has matured into a more structured discipline, some brands remain skeptical of the entire medium.

We are at the point where brands who have struggled to produce and prove value from working with influencers in the past must consider starting from scratch. That doesn’t mean scrapping your influencer program, but effectively taking a beat to re-evaluate your approach and reset it.

Build an influencer marketing strategy from the ground up with the same scrutiny you would apply to any other strategy. That means a rigorous brand analysis and quantitative vetting process should drive discovery of potential influencers, while the process of engaging and partnering with or deploying an influencer should be as automated as possible. Additionally, measurement should focus on influencers’ ability to drive sales. Influencers who can move the bottom line are the ones brands should redeploy to optimize over time.

Gone are the days when influencer marketing was purely a brand awareness play. In the right hands, it is now a full-funnel, full-service discipline, meaning it covers awareness and bottom-of-funnel activations, discovery upfront, and measurement on the back end. Here are three cores to building an influencer marketing strategy from scratch and turning it into a proven revenue generator.

Understand who you are and what you need to accomplish

Brands need to set clear specifications to select the right creators. Brands should ask themselves: What are your values? Which audiences are you trying to reach? What backgrounds would you like your creators to represent? What messages do you need to send to your audience?

Next comes the quantitative decision-making process that has historically eluded the discipline. What are your key performance indicators? What calls to action will you bake into your influencer campaigns? How will you measure success? Beyond numbers of followers (the conventional metric), what engagement rates do you expect influencers to command, and how do those rates line up with sales goals?

Once brands have figured this out, they can select influencers who meet their criteria. Brands should also implement a repeatable process for creating content briefs to set influencers up for success. These, too, can be optimized over time, allowing advertisers to eliminate ambiguities. Now is when cutting-edge influencer practices come in, transforming the discipline into a full-funnel strategy.

Maximize distribution, measure influencer success and optimize

The fatal flaw in most content marketing strategies is that brands focus all their attention on creating great content, and after they have created it, they simply slap it into a blog or repost it to a couple of social channels. The same failure has historically applied to influencer marketing.

But sophisticated practitioners can turn distribution into a source of value. For example, a video created for Instagram might be amplified by paid social, an OTT campaign, digital out-of-home billboards, or programmatic display.

After brands have transformed what could have been a simple influencer Instagram video into an omnichannel campaign, they can leverage cross-channel data to quantify sales driven collaboration. This is a far cry from the old influencer measurement framework in which advertisers would report on the number of eyeballs a campaign reached or how many comments it spurred.

Once brands understand how much revenue individual influencers are driving, they can optimize campaigns, staffing a bench of key collaborators. Over time, by following this model, they can build an “army” of influencers who deeply understand the brand and can convert their audience, ultimately making things more efficient and seamless. This process of distribution, measurement, and optimization should ultimately equip brands with a well-oiled machine of creators proven to be worth the investment—and then some.

Raise the bar for influencer marketing

It is understandable that many advertisers are wary of influencer marketing. But forward-thinking brands should not let past failures dictate future strategy for a channel that has evolved.

Influencer marketing should be part of a full-funnel strategy. It builds awareness and trust through powerful, authentic content that resonates with consumers on an emotional level. It also drives sales and lends itself to granular measurement, which allows for optimization so that influencer marketing becomes not only more lucrative but also more efficient over time.

The only things standing between many brands and a revenue-generating influencer marketing strategy are outdated assumptions about the channel. By challenging past wisdom and applying the same structure that governs other performance marketing channels to influencers, brands can unlock fresh revenue-generating opportunities.

This article was written by Crystal Duncan from The Drum and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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