Target Influencers for Profitable Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Tasked with generating higher revenues on smaller budgets in more crowded marketplaces, today’s marketers must take advantage of every tool at their disposal. One such resource is the power of word-of-mouth, an approach that uses the innate behavior of a unique group of consumers, known as influencers, to extend the reach of your efforts via “talkability.” A recent whitepaper from ICOM, a division of Epsilon Targeting, examines how to best tap into this rich resource.

Based on the latest findings from ICOM, previous profiles of influencers have to be adjusted. Consider the following:

  • consumers are influencers strictly within product categories, not across them all;
  • few commonalities exist within influencer demographics, as they cross gender, age, income levels and channels; and
  • influencers do their talking in person — at the kitchen table, on the phone, etc. — but opportunities exist to take their messages to new realms, such as social media.

One trait proves universal to influencers, however: They talk more than the average person, and do so in a way that connects people. But that doesn’t mean they’re willing to talk up any product/service. They’re category specific. A young mother, for example, could speak passionately about diapers, but have no interest in tires, the whitepaper notes. Influencers are united by a passion or a particular life stage or lifestyle — a new baby, car, house or affinity for cars — that causes them to be interested in a particular product segment, according to ICOM’s research.

Influencers also have a higher propensity for connecting with friends and family than random consumers, the whitepaper finds. Therefore, their comments carry more credibility, regardless of the size of their networks, because they tend to be more active within social communities. Because they’ve established themselves as authorities, influencers are more likely to be sought after for their opinions, the whitepaper says. That’s why it’s so valuable for an influencer to tout your specific brand or product.

Once you’ve identified influencers, track their behaviors. Influencers’ audiences include not just the assumed demographic, but also unexpected sets of consumers, according to the research. People who are influencers recommend in three categories or fewer, the whitepaper finds. And these recommendations are typically made in personal settings. Regardless of how influencers receive product information — via email, first-hand experience or in-store promotion — about 90 percent of word-of-mouth communication occurs face-to-face or via phone, reports ICOM.

Disregard channel
Influencers simply aren’t committed to specific media, finds the whitepaper. On average, they spend five hours per week on Facebook, compared with 4.5 hours for the standard consumer. But what influencers are consistently doing is sharing information found online via email.

Online resources and social media should be used to ensure influencers are reached in a variety of channels, while not excluding proven techniques such as direct mail, advises the whitepaper. But because influencers talk more frequently at the kitchen table than on their desktops, your message should be familiar and conversational.

Takeaway tips
The whitepaper provides the following strategies marketers can implement into their businesses to locate and engage influencers in ways that’ll benefit their companies:

  • Once targeted based on their behavior, engage influencers with tailored messages across multiple channels to become ambassadors for your brand.
  • Influencers aren’t more prone to social media — industry statistics show most word-of-mouth activity takes place offline. Therefore, leverage social media while maintaining other touchpoints to maximize your ability to connect and motivate these powerful consumers.
  • Coupons and in-store promotions are more likely to capture the interest of influencers; they’re also more likely to sign up for brand websites or e-newsletters.
  • Influencers aren’t interacting in any one media channel in ways that are vastly different from average consumers. Target whom you want to reach, examine the various channels and then integrate the two to assure they’re hitting all touchpoints. For example, since influencers like to talk person-to-person, direct mail may be a highly effective method for getting your physical message from influencers to their networks, while still being able to direct their interaction with your brand in a way that meets your goals — i.e., drive them to your corporate website or Facebook page.

Joe Keenan is the executive editor of Total Retail. Joe has more than 10 years experience covering the retail industry, and enjoys profiling innovative companies and people in the space.