Dell's Influencer Marketing Strategy
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The reputation of influencer marketing has been damaged somewhat by a steady stream of viral stories about overly entitled Instagram users (calling themselves "influencers") making ridiculous demands of businesses in exchange for exposure - then reacting badly when the brands refuse. Of course, if you are a genuine influencer, you probably don't need to tell people. They'll already be aware of you.
In fact, it has long been a practice of savvy digital marketers to seek out influential voices in their industry and engage with them for mutually beneficial promotion. Dell is one B2B brand that is on board with the idea of influencer marketing and has found good results doing so.
The last three years have seen a 1,500 percent increase in online searches for "influencer marketing". Of course, a certain portion of these searches will be bloggers and researchers looking for material and statistics for their own endeavors, but a significant quantity is from businesses hoping to learn how to leverage its power to promote their brands.
87 percent of people have admitted they were inspired to purchase a product or service after seeing it promoted by an influencer and 84 percent of digital marketers believe that the practice is effective. With an estimated 61 percent of people interacting with an influencer at least once per day, it's no wonder they can wield such power to guide buying actions.
And the returns to businesses are impressive. For every dollar they spend on influencer marketing, they see up to 18 in returned media value.
The power of influencers isn't all about audience size either - although the size of their followings is something the charlatans mentioned above often use to promote their dubious services. Micro-influencers - those with relatively small audiences - achieve approximately seven times the engagement compared to those with larger followings. And engagement is one of the keys to influencer success, with 48 percent of companies believing audience relationships to be the most valuable factor when considering investing in an influencer.
Investment in influencer marketing is growing as well, with 39 percent of marketers increasing their budgets in 2019. The industry is predicted to reach between five and ten billion dollars by 2022.
When Dell was deciding to get in on influencer marketing, it knew it had to get a good grip on the factors which drive real influence.
As already discussed, Dell knows that it wasn't simply a case of paying off the biggest celebrity or Instagrammer with the largest number of followers, but rather identifying individuals who align with company values, priority topics, and have influence over its audience. In other words, there's no point getting Justin Bieber on board when your target market is mostly male IT professionals in their mid- to late thirties.
"For 360 message pull-through and highest audience impact it is critical to embed influencer marketing into the larger marketing ecosystem and be part of all relevant corporate and business unit plans," said Dell's Director of Influencer Relations and Digital Storytelling, Konstanze Alex. "This includes PR, AR, Brand, Product Marketing, Field Marketing, Global Marketing, Event Marketing, etc. This often requires an additional cross-team and cross-functional leader buy-in and influencer strategy road showing."
Dell was also keen to make sure it had a solid vetting process in place for any influencers it was considering taking on board. From the moment of first contact to official recognition, it takes six to nine months to become a Dell influencer.
Dell also wants to eliminate the idea that influencer marketing is about paying people for opinions. In fact, the brand made it policy that, while it will pay influencers for their time and service, it will never hand over money in exchange for complimentary press.
"[Dell's] No. 1 rule is we don't pay for opinions," said Alex. "And that is a really, really important distinction. We may compensate for time spent, like if somebody speaks at an event, there's prep time, there's time away from their business. There are fees that we are happy to pay if it makes sense. It is never, however, for their opinion."
Dell's influencer strategy boils down to three core and essential elements, as laid out by its Thought Leadership Leader, Janine Wegner:
"Have concrete business objectives that you want to achieve with your influencer program and have the program embedded into your overall marketing plan. Find the right influencers, listen and observe first (what they say, how they say, who they follow, who they amplify, how they engage), and then start building a mutually beneficial relationship. Influencer marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. [Finally] You need to have leadership buy-in and funding for internal resources, agencies, activations, promotion/ amplification and influencer reimbursements/ fees."
You can hear Dell's Director of Product Strategy, Abhishek Shastry speak at B2B Online 2020, being held in April at the Chicago Marriott Downtown.
Please download the agenda today for more information and insights.