Influencer marketing involves reaching out to people who are extremely well connected to your target market and then having them promote your product for you.
Sounds like a great idea, right?
It turns out the actual implementation of an influencer marketing campaign is a complicated, expensive, and highly time consuming endeavor. It’s a marketing strategy that has big potential payoff but comes with hefty demands on time, efforts, and executive involvement.
The good news is that we’ve done the groundwork for you.
Before jumping on the influencer bandwagon, carefully consider these pros and cons and decide if the high upfront investment influencer marketing demands can be justified by the potential return on your particular marketing goals. (Just want a quick answer? Jump to our “Is Influencer Marketing Right For You?” quiz.)
You can also investigate the pros and cons of paying influencers for their work in this expert webinar led by Kristen Matthews of Group High.
7 Cons of Influencer Marketing That We Discovered
Any marketing strategy that’s as resource-heavy as influencer marketing is a risky undertaking. Here are the seven most significant cons that we’ve seen when evaluating it.
1. Extensive Research and Activity Before Starting
It’s not often that modern marketers are willing to consider a strategy that won’t bear fruit for over 90 days, yet many are embracing influencer marketing.
One guide I read had page-long “quick start” checklists for three different employees.
Anything with dozens of checkboxes does not meet my definition of quick start.
But at the bare minimum you need to do all of this before you can even get started:
- Identify your influencers and create a database of their contact information, pain points, possible intersections with your product, and any other details that might help you market to them.
- Using that database, create personas of your influencers to guide your future marketing endeavors.
- Create unique content driven by those personas. Keep in mind that you can’t reuse pieces for multiple influencers; each influencer needs their own content stream.
- Reach out to all of your influencers in the most appropriate way (social media, email, phone). Wait for them to get back to you.
- Prepare your team to measure and report on the results of your influencer marketing campaign. Identify any holes in your tracking and fix them.
- Follow up with each influencer and negotiate the exact nature of your relationship.
Now you can actually start marketing with and through the influencers, if you’re not already totally burnt out on the process.
2. Influencer Marketing Yields No Results for Months
Again, in the world of agile marketing it’s hard to understand the excitement around a marketing strategy that takes weeks to get started, then months for relationships to develop, and possibly another few months before there are any measurable results.
What if it has no chance of succeeding in your market? You won’t know for months and months, during which time a competitor may have outpaced you in other marketing venues while you pursued influencers.
3. Personnel Demands for Communicating With Influencers
Influencer marketing is a high touch strategy that involves high involvement from at least one regular employee and one manager/executive.
This means somebody on your marketing team needs to become an influencer relations specialist in addition to what they’re already working on, or you have to hire one.
In the first case, influencer marketing will immediately begin poaching time and resources from your existing marketing tactics. In the second, it’s likely to eat up your marketing budget if that’s where the new hire’s salary comes from.
4. Influencers Want Executive Contact
Rare is the marketing department that would not experience a significant delay in their initiatives if they had to wait for executives to send emails, make phone calls, or otherwise engage contacts.
But for influencer marketing that’s exactly what you need.
Good, bad, or indifferent, most CEOs don’t have/won’t make the time to connect with influencers on this one-on-one level. This can create bottlenecks that hold up an already long-term endeavor.
5. Influencer Marketing Requires Advanced Tracking Tools
Unlike typical content or social media marketing, there’s a big, nebulous web involved with influencer marketing.
You’re giving them a product, or an ebook, or something of value to share with their network, and then they go out and do so in whatever way seems best to them. The more you try to fiddle with their process the less likely it is to work; after all, it’s their network and they know best how to work it.
That means you don’t have direct tracking capabilities for their tweets, blog posts, presentations, etc. with which to attribute success or lack thereof for your influencer marketing.
You could setup some kind of custom landing pages for each influencer so you can gauge how much traffic/how many conversions they’re driving, but that doesn’t help if you’re aiming for a hard-to-measure metric like “brand awareness.”
Whatever goal you’re going for, influencer marketing introduces a whole new layer of difficulty in conversion attribution. If you don’t have sophisticated tracking systems in place you’ll never know if it works.
6. No Guarantee That Influencer Marketing Will Succeed
To a certain extent you’re betting months and months of work on the caprice of a few influential people.
Even if you have a written agreement, a particular influencer may adhere to the letter of the contract but never be sufficiently passionate about your product to actually generate buzz or conversions.
Of course you should devote enough time up front to developing relationships with your influencers that turn them into natural, enthusiastic evangelists. But that won’t always happen.
When it doesn’t, you’ve wasted time, money, and resources.
7. Rise of Professional Influencers and Consumer Mistrust
As this tactic increases in popularity, there are many influencers that are becoming highly skilled at exploiting their status.
Many are risking their trusted place with the networks and becoming professional influencers, a brand that can damage the cache they’ve developed and make them ultimately worthless to marketing departments.
Consumers have a keen eye for this slide, and will abandon influencers who seem overly tainted by the scent of third-party advertising and marketing.
If this happens to an influencer you’ve been wooing, you’re basically back to square one.
7 Pros of Influencer Marketing
Now that we’ve covered the downside, it’s time to look at why this strategy has become such a buzzword in marketing. Clearly it’s got some benefits, and these are the ones that seem most tempting to us.
1. Statistics on Influencer Marketing
Here’s where all those discouraging points from the “Cons” section start to look less insurmountable:
Influencer marketing creates twice as many sales as paid ads, and those customers have a 37% higher retention rate.
So even though they take a while to convince, influencers can provide sales and customers that will have a higher lifetime value than the ones you acquire through a paid advertising campaign.
2. Power of Influencers’ Network
Instead of trying to market to hundreds of thousands of individuals, with influencer marketing you can reach a single influencer and get access to thousands upon thousands of people instantly.
This is the basis of influencer marketing’s appeal: it has a exponential growth possibilities that you can tap into quickly if you pick the right influencer, the right content, and the right message to disseminate.
3. Possibility for a Rapid Rise in Brand Awareness
Newcomers to a market can get a huge bump in their brand awareness by tapping into the right influencers. This is particularly attractive to those fighting their way into a hyper competitive space populated with heavy hitters and well-known brands.
One positive blog review or several glowing social media mentions by the right people can catapult unknown products into the national spotlight, seemingly overnight.
4. Influencers Can Reduce Sales Cycle Time
If customers are entering your sales funnel after a contact from an influencer they’re likely to be much closer to being ready to make a purchase than a typical prospect.
Basically, influencer marketing can reduce the time it takes for a customer to get all the way down your sales funnel because potential customers have already heard someone they trust sing your praises.
This kind of long-term success is what will really help to offset the huge amounts of time involved in getting started with this strategy, but as we mentioned in the “Cons” section, it can be pretty hard to accurately attribute a shorter sales cycle to a particular influencer marketing campaign.
5. Thought Leadership Courtesy of Influencers
By anointing you as an authority in the field influencers can propel you to thought leader status very rapidly.
But remember, this doesn’t come without costs; you must still create top-notch content to provide your influencers.
Influencer marketing can shorten the time between starting to create amazing content and having it embraced by your target market, but it doesn’t exempt you from making amazing content.
6. Reach Scattered Customers Through Influencers
Once upon a time consumers could nearly all be reached with television ads. Modern audiences, on the other hand, are fragmented on to dozens of channels.
Influencer marketing can enable you to leverage an influencer’s existing status on those channels without having to establish the same level of trust and involvement yourself.
For example, an influencer who has high authority on YouTube and Instagram can disperse your marketing message far and wide on those networks on your behalf. You might not even need to login, much less invest the time to create a following of your own.
7. Scale Word of Mouth Marketing with Influencers
Because they tend to be highly connected on social media, influencers offer brands a way to rapidly expand their existing word of mouth marketing.
Word of mouth marketing, whether it takes place in person or within social media, relies on relationships and trust to be effective.
Influencers have both these things, so they can be like a huge mouthpiece for word of mouth on your behalf.
Influencer Marketing: Decision Time
It could pay big dividends by improving the scale at which you can reach customers. It could also become a massive drain on your other marketing tactics that never manages to pay for itself.
The important thing is to evaluate the potential positives and pitfalls carefully, and not to just jump in because lots of people are using it as a hashtag.