Dan Wu is a Privacy Counsel & Legal Engineer at Immuta, an automated data governance platform for analytics. He’s advocated for data ethics, inclusive urban innovation, and diversity in TechCrunch, Harvard Business Review, and FastCompany. He’s helped Fortune 500 companies, governments, and startups with ethical & agile data strategies. He holds a Harvard J.D. & Ph.D.
Eugene Kolker, PhD is the Chief Economist and Head of XLAB at Fabuwood Corp., an Adjunct Professor at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, and President of 1Ekaroni, a consulting and services company. He was formerly the Chief Data Officer of IBM Global Services and the Chief Data and Analytics Officer of Seattle Children’s Healthcare System. He has also co-founded three digital technology and healthcare startups.
Leandro DalleMule is the General Manager for North America for Planck. He’s the former Chief Data Officer and Head of Information Management at AIG. Leandro holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, graduating magna cum laude, a graduate certificate in applied mathematics from Columbia University, and a B.Sc. in mechanical engineering from University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Barbara Cohn is the managing member of BLC Strategic Advisors. She previously served as the first Chief Data Officer for the State of New York, having led its successful open data initiative for Governor Andrew Cuomo. Prior to that, she was Executive Counsel/HHS Connect Data Interoperability Initiative under Mayor Bloomberg, as well as served in multiple leadership positions in NYS agencies and Office of the NYS Governor.
Shortly after its use exploded in the post-office world of COVID-19, Zoom was banned by a variety of private and public actors, including SpaceX and the government of Taiwan. Critics allege its data strategy, particularly its privacy and security measures, were insufficiently robust, especially putting vulnerable populations, like children, at risk. NYC’s Department of Education, for instance, mandated teachers switch to alternative platforms like Microsoft Teams.
This isn’t a problem specific to Zoom. Other technology giants, from Alphabet, Apple to Facebook, have struggled with these strategic data issues, despite wielding armies of lawyers and data engineers, and have overcome them.
To remedy this, data leaders cannot stop at identifying how to improve their revenue-generating functions with data, what the former Chief Data Officer of AIG (one of our co-authors) calls “offensive” data strategy. Data leaders also protect, fight for, and empower their key partners, like users and employees, or promote “defensive” data strategy. Data offense and defense are core to trustworthy data-driven products.
While these data issues apply to most organizations, highly-regulated innovators in industries with large social impact (the “third wave”) must pay special attention. As Steve Case and the World Economic Forum articulate, the next phase of innovation will center on industries that merge the digital and the physical worlds, affecting the most intimate aspects of our lives. As a result, companies that balance insight and trust well, Boston Consulting group predicts, will be the new winners.
Drawing from our work across the public, corporate, and startup worlds, we identify a few “insight killers” — then identify the trustworthy alternative. While trustworthy data strategy should involve end users and other groups outside the company as discussed here, the lessons below focus on the complexities of partnering within organizations, which deserve attention in their own right.
Insight-killer #1: “Data strategy adds no value to my life.”
From the beginning of a data project, a trustworthy data leader asks, “Who are our partners and what prevents them from achieving their goals?” In other words: listen. This question can help identify the unmet needs of the 46% of surveyed technology and business teams who found their data groups have little value to offer them.
Putting this to action is the data leader of one highly-regulated AI health startup — Cognoa — who listened to tensions between its defensive and offensive data functions. Cognoa’s Chief AI Officer identified how healthcare data laws, like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, resulted in friction between his key partners: compliance officers and machine learning engineers. Compliance officers needed to protect end users’ privacy while data and machine learning engineers wanted faster access to data.
To meet these multifaceted goals, Cognoa first scoped down its solution by prioritizing its highest-risk databases. It then connected all of those databases using a single access-and-control layer.
This redesign satisfied its compliance officers because Cognoa’s engineers could then only access health data based on strict policy rules informed by healthcare data regulations. Furthermore, since these rules could be configured and transparently explained without code, it bridged communication gaps between its data and compliance roles. Its engineers were also elated because they no longer had to wait as long to receive privacy-protected copies.
Because its data leader started by listening to the struggles of its two key partners, Cognoa met both its defensive and offensive goals.
This unprecedented period in our collective history is trying all of us in innumerable ways. Startups certainly haven’t been spared, and as the founder and CEO of one, I’ve dealt with my share of fear.
Since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve been confronted by a series of panicked questions regarding my business, Thin Air Energy, such as:
Can I still get my designs built?
Will anyone want to buy my products in the midst of such large-scale devastation?
Is the market for my product even viable anymore?
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Each of these concerns led me to the harsh reality that I needed to pivot my business, and fast.
Here are three ways I’ve shifted my startup strategy during the pandemic:
Examine and pivot overall logistics
As news of the pandemic first spread around the world, I realized that I needed to shift the logistics of my business to ensure I was on the most solid footing possible during global upheaval. This meant focusing on raising a round of equity, seeking alternative sources of capital and lessening my dependence on foreign vendors.
The most important trait for a startup in a time like this — and at any time, frankly — is agility.
I no longer like the term “new normal;” businesses need to approach the future as the “new abnormal.”
The harsh reality is that some businesses will need to make extreme pivots to realign with a different vision of themselves in order to survive. Seeking a future “normal” implies a parallel future that looks consistent over long periods of time, which just might not be realistic.
“New abnormal” recognizes that viability depends on continuous agility.
My initial product designs were complex. I knew I needed to simplify them if they were going to work for new vendors in the midst of so much change. I changed my designs so that instead of requiring complex, machined parts, they required 3D-printed, on-demand parts. I knew that no matter what happened as the pandemic progressed, a simpler product would be easier to make and have a better shot at success — period.
It is important to adjust as things are unfolding, and it’s essential to realize that nothing is ever set in stone. If you are glued to where you envisioned your company will go, you will fail. If you possess the ability to be flexible and realize that nearly nothing will go as planned, you will be better suited to accept the necessary adjustments.
Consider shifting product development to help our shared society
One of the earliest questions I asked myself when news of COVID-19 hit was, “What other product areas might be more compelling within a pandemic?” I asked myself, “How can I be of use, while also keeping my business afloat?”
I decided to design a series of new products, which would be a viable, long-term business opportunity that represented the most significant pivot in my business thus far. I worked quickly to lay the groundwork, prepare marketing plans and set up a website with first-round products made with a higher percentage of onshore materials and easy-to-produce designs.
The most important thing startups can do in this unprecedented moment is not give up. Your business is going to look different at the end of this. All of our businesses will. But that doesn’t mean it won’t survive, or that it can’t be successful in a new iteration of itself.
As you traverse the uncertain months ahead, seek advice from everyone you can. Seek capital wherever possible. Brace yourself to hear “no” often, and embrace a willingness to change, pivot and reinvent. Seek refuge in nature if you need to hit the “reset” button. And now, as always, remember to be friendly, to be generous, and to give creatively to others.
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Your vision for the startup lies 3 storeys up, but this time, you won’t use the stairs or the elevator to reach the top, you use a ladder.
Yes, a ladder.
Each rung on the ladder signifies a challenge you have to overcome to move on to the next one.
One wrong step, and you’ll have to start over.
Each rung signifies your growth strategy and the ladder altogether is your path to success.
Only a good idea cannot sustain a business in the long run. Without a growth strategy, without a plan, you’re bound to lose your balance.
Did you know?
Only about 50% of businesses survive their fifth year while a mere 30% make it to the ten-year mark.
So, if your startup does not have a growth strategy yet, it’s time to formulate one and this article is here to guide you.
What is a Growth Strategy?
Growth strategy refers to a method adopted by a company to capture a larger share of the market. This strategy sustains the business in the long run and its formulation goes beyond the current market conditions.
Several factors influence the formulation of a growth strategy, as listed below –
Target audience and potential or untapped audience
Existing competition in the market
When you climb up that ladder, you need to be very cautious about the steps you take. There will be competitors who’d try to pull you down, hoping you fall. The weather might be windy, it might rain. What would you do then? How will you continue climbing?
Thus, it’s not wise to only focus on the vision. Or even worse, have no vision in mind and climb aimlessly.
Don’t confuse Growth Strategy with Growth Hack:
Growth Strategy vs. Growth Hack
Growth hacks yield massive growth in a short period and are often cheap processes. Growth strategy, on the other hand, is a long-term process that requires testing several approaches to foster growth.
You can majorly distinguish them on the following basis –
Results: Upon implementation, results for growth strategy are steady and slow. Whereas, for growth hacks, you can see quick results.
Implementation Speed: Growth strategy is implemented over a long period and through this, small businesses aim to grow their customer base and try different channels.
On the other hand, a growth hack is focussed on growing user base quickly and at a low price by executing a particular technique on a specific channel.
Develop A Growth Strategy For Your Startup
Following are key factors you should be well versed with as you develop a growth strategy for your startup:
Information on the market through market analysis. This includes understanding –
Long Term Growth Strategies each of which will be explained in detail, so you can select which strategy best suits your company.
Growth Milestones form the framework for the execution of selected long-term strategy.
To get a clear picture of the service that you can offer, you need to understand the audience you seek to serve, the market conditions and services offered by your competitors.
Competitor Analysis and understanding the audience’s demographics gives you a clear idea of where you’ll stand if you enter the market.
Often competitors don’t fulfil the consumers’ needs, however, due to lack of alternative the consumer has to stick with that product or service.
You can gain an edge here and offer services that your competition doesn’t.
This is what DuckDuckGo did.
With the value proposition “The search engine that doesn’t track you”, DuckDuckGo was competing against Google Chrome. From its commencement in 2008 to now, it boasts of 30% annual growth.
DuckDuckGo separated itself from the competition early on in terms of privacy that no other search engine had ever offered.
This is an example of how you can serve the repressed demands of the customers.
Apart from this,
Sometimes customers don’t realise that there is a possibility of an alternative. Back in 2009, when Whatsapp was launched, BlackBerry Messenger, SMS, and G-Talk were the few means to exchange virtual messages.
The founders of Whatsapp understood the need of the customers (SMS-like internet messaging to actual phone contacts) and launched an app with the tagline “No Ads! No Games! No Gimmicks!”. Needless to say, they’ve stuck by it ever since.
This is an example of how your startup can become an alternative for people.
So, you see:
It all comes down to your value proposition. How is your startup bettering customer’s lives? What incentive do they have upon consumption of your product or service?
For any startup to succeed, it is important to fully understand the need of the customers and identify areas where your competition lacks.
Competitor analysis can help you ascertain the areas you can better serve and areas you can venture into. That said, your competition can be the cause of your failure if not monitored with caution.
Here’s an example of ShareChat’s Growth Strategy:
When India was already dominated by Whatsapp, Facebook, and Instagram, ShareChat came up with the unique proposition of a social media platform sharing information in vernacular language. ShareChat today, boasts of 60 million monthly active users.
The app appealed to the customers not because they could share messages, but because they could do so in their own language. An idea as simple as this, turned ShareChat into a $ 650 million dollar company. It successfully made the customers realise its value and created a need for the application.
Long Term Growth Strategies
Once you’re through with market analysis and have a clear idea of the product or service you offer, the biggest task is to decide which long-term growth strategy you’ll adopt.
So, let’s look at some realistic strategies for startups along with examples of growth strategies.
The Network Effect simply means that a product or service increases in value as more people use it.
There are six forces that usually contribute to network effect:
Buyer-to-Seller Cross Side
Buyer Same Side
Seller-to-Buyer Cross Side
Seller Same Side
You can understand them with the help of the following examples:
Buyer-to-seller cross side: “You should list your place on Airbnb. I want to rent it”.
Buyer same side: “Don’t list your place on XYZ website, list it on Airbnb, it’s trustworthy”.
Direct-to-buyer: Airbnb advertisement asking people to book their stays through Airbnb.
Seller-to-buyer cross side: “I’ve listed my place on Airbnb, you can make your reservation now”.
Seller same side: “I listed my place on Airbnb, you should too”.
Direct-to-seller: Airbnb advertisement aimed at asking sellers to rent their place at Airbnb and make easy money.
Consider the example of Segment.
Segment has used the network model to increase its users. The company models the aforementioned six growth channels and assigns quantitative metrics to them.
Segment uses this model to make data-informed decisions and identifies which channel to invest in, to maximise profit.
You too, can choose your primary market segment as a specialised market niche and plan for gradual expansion intro the market through building a network.
To convince your users to refer the product/service offered by your company, you should:
Provide good customer service
Define your value proposition
Ensure your system can handle the growth
Network effect evolves positively for a startup if its users derive both inherent value and network value upon consuming and referring the product.
The in-person strategy refers to increasing awareness of the brand and its usage by contacting prospective customers in person.
Tinder’s clever strategy is best to explain this approach.
Tinder targeted specific demographics and successfully took over the online dating scene. Initially, to grow its user base Tinder organised social events, gatherings, and parties for college students where only those people who had installed the application were allowed.
They also took to college campuses and very quickly the application gained popularity. Users understood its value as summarised in the following points –
Free and easy-to-use interface
Hassle-free sign up
Tangible opportunity to meet people in person
There were hardly any players in the field of online dating and Tinder became the online dating solution.
There is a lot to learn from Tinder’s growth strategy. They give users complete control over who they wish to talk to and offer a very realistic experience.
Free Product Strategy
As you might have guessed by the name, you can get all key stakeholders to try your product through this strategy.
Clearbit, a marketing data engine, exploited this strategy so much that it was their single biggest traffic driver.
How they did it?
Clearbit launched a logo API where a company could directly design their logo. They prioritised instant gratification and soon, drove over 60,000-page views in their first week.
It was a valuable tool given away for free which helped generate insane brand awareness.
Matt Sornson, CMO at Clearbit, stated that free giveaway of their service led to a surprising amount of inbound from large enterprise customers.
This method is especially useful for highly technical or SaaS products.
Referral Bonus Strategy
The aim of this strategy is to incentivise the customers for the company’s growth.
The company got its early users to refer them to others and gave them money to do so. The bonus was set at $ 20 for signups.
Naturally, word spread and users grew quickly. And as they grew, signup bonuses were reduced to $ 10 and then $ 5.
This was highly effective for PayPal as the referral program helped them grow to 5 million daily users and the company now has an active user base of 305 million.
We can conclude that, although this strategy requires high capital investment in the beginning, the returns are commendable if executed after proper research.
Once you have selected the growth strategy for your startup, it is time for you to share your vision with your teammates.
Break down the long-term strategy into defined annual and quarterly plans.
Strategic annual and quarterly plans will help you:
Divide tasks amongst team members
Hold each person accountable
Reinforce the vision
Empower each team member
Improve decision making
Strategic plans will force your team to consciously take into account the internal and external factors affecting the business.
Establishing KPIs also support and influence business objectives. They demonstrate how effectively you are working toward the set goals.
Ask yourself what targets you should fulfil to achieve success.
So now that you’re ready with your product:
You can create a network of people including your friends and family and ask them to test it first. Their feedback can help you ascertain areas of improvement and also help you make assumptions about the target audience.
No matter which industry you’re in, the climb to the top will never be easy. It is thus important to not lose sight of your vision and continue climbing, one rung at a time.
Go On, Tell Us What You Think!
Did we miss something? Come on! Tell us what you think of our article on growth strategy for startups in the comments section.
Currently developing a WebApp. I'm a business guy, with a bit of coding experience, mainly Python Flask and VueJS. After quite a while seeing what to me looks like a clear opportunity, I decided to give it a go.
My current game plan is as follows:
1. Organising the vision
The first thing I've done was to start a Confluence page, in which I've wrote as much as I could, trying to take my idea out of my head and into paper. I wrote about what the app should do, user stories, main features, screens, references, organised my contact list and everything I think I need to start.
2. Develop UX/UI (I'm here)
Right after putting everything on paper, I decided to write my first check, and just hired and agency specialised in UX/UI. My theory is that by doing a mock product (Sketch, Figma, stuff like that), I'm going to be able to further validate the idea, put my vision into the screen, with a design and user workflow already set. I'm also hoping this will save me time and money during development.
3. Define technology architecture
As I need something flexible and modular, and want to make the first choices regarding my stack. I'll probably go with an API First approach, probably Python in the back, VueJS front, but still need to understand what will be done with microservices, and how to architecture will be designed. My plan is to hire an experienced software architect maybe for about 5-10hours to make the blueprint of the webapp as a whole.
4. Manage development
Even though I'm already writing a bit of code, I'm going to need help. By having the UX/UI in hand, and the architecture set up, I want to translate my epics and stories (which were setup in step 2) to Jira cards. My idea is to have the product requirements (already written) well set so that it would be easier to manage developers.
Steps5 – Infinite. Go To Market / Learn Iterate
Learn from the operation and the potential clients. I've done as much as could in this step without having a product. Talked to a lot of people, received some "yes, I want to try", and now I need a proper working product. I do have some fairly similar international competitors, and there are starting to appear similar national competitors, receiving investments and showing interesting traction numbers. So yes, 5 is paramount, but I need to have a product as soon as possible.
During the current stage I've been defining which features/screens will be going into the first version, to try to have a working piece of software as soon as possible. I do not (and won't) have a partner at first (yes I know there's a bias in that sense), I have been spending most of my nights and weekends working on the project, and I'm fairly confident I can make this work.
Nevertheless, I wanted to hear some experiences of people who went from idea to product, to try to understand how could I improve the project efficiency.
Is there a usual process you follow when you want to buy something new for yourself? How do you decide what to buy? Do you probably go through different reviews, expert ratings, ask your friends, family, etc.?
Surprisingly it is not just you who makes decisions in this way, it’s all your customers too. Not only do people read online reviews, but 84% trust personal recommendations as much as online reviews. The question here is how do you build good recommendations so that you can influence your customers to buy your products?
Influencers are people who have this exact ability. Influencers are experts within certain product niches, who affect customer decisions positively because of their persuasive power and following base.
71% of marketers agree that traffic from influencer marketing is much higher than other marketing sources. But even though so many marketers are adopting this strategy, is it appropriate for your brand to engage in influence marketing?
Do You Need An Influencer Marketing Strategy?
To begin, let’s understand if an influencer marketing strategy is the right strategy for your business.
To determine this, you must map out your customer’s journey. Only when you understand the process your customer goes through while making decisions, you can understand whether an influencer marketing strategy suits your business or not.
Analyse The Buyer Journey
Buyer journey analysis means analysing the steps that a buyer goes through before purchasing a product.
It requires you to research how your customers behave, what are their likes and dislikes, their background, reactions, responses, and ultimately whether they buy products or leave (and what causes this customer friction). This will, in turn, help understand if this strategy is profitable for you or not.
To map your customer journey let’s start with identifying consumer behaviour at these three main touchpoints using the example of Lmnop, a brand that sells “I love New York City”:
Before The Customer Comes In Contact With The Brand
Research shows that Lmnop’s customers are teenagers and young adults who like to keep up with fashion trends and be popular. They come from a western culture with a well-off financial background. They are active on social media and share their brand experiences very often.
These customer characteristics show that the potential customers of Lmnop have characteristics that can be coupled with an influencer marketing strategy to boost sales and brand awareness.
When The Customer Engages With The Brand
When Lmnop’s customers see “I love NYC” t-shirts and caps, they ask their friends and online forums, questions like:
“Hey is this cool?”
“Hey does this look trendy”
“Does give a cool vibe”
“Is this in fashion today” And if their friends and family reply positively, they will purchase products from lmnop.
This shows that when the customers come in contact with the brand they are dependent and persuaded by social validation and opinion leaders. This means that Lmnop needs a strategy where persuasive, popular, and trendy people can influence purchasing decisions.
After The Customer Has Left
Once Lmnop’s customers have bought the “I love NYC” t-shirts and caps, they share pictures of it with their friends using related captions and hashtags.
This characteristic of Lmnop’s customers’ psychology tells us that they are in constant contact with people and experts from the community.
Similarly, if your customer journey research tells you that customers are dependent on recommendations and reviews by niche experts, then congratulations because creating an appropriate influencer marketing strategy is an appropriate option.
But now that you know influencer marketing is appropriate for you, is it more important for you than other marketing strategies?
Importance Of An Influencer Marketing Strategy
Now that you have determined that your customers are likely to respond to an influencer marketing strategy, let’s understand why do 91% of marketers consider this strategy important?
The internet is filled with hundreds and hundreds of brands that make it difficult for customers to understand who to trust and who to buy from. More often than not decisions of who to trust and who to buy from are made based on known recommendations. 92% of customers trust brands based on recommendations from people over traditional ads. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for your brand to develop an influencer marketing strategy to gain the trust of its target audience.
Improves Online Visibility
Influencer marketing is not only important as a marketing strategy but also positively affects your online visibility.
The reviews, suggestions, reactions of the influencers often come up on the search results whenever someone searches for your brand on Google or social media channels.
One of the components of influencer marketing is generating high amounts of fresh and engaging content. Influencer marketing, therefore, becomes important because more content leads to more visibility, awareness, and engagement.
Since influencers are people who have a popular following and trusted follower base, followers might talk about the brand more and more by way of comments, chats, questions, story mentions, etc. People tend to talk more and stay around seven times longer when an influencer talks about a brand rather than any other advertising medium.
An influencer marketing strategy is immensely important for a newly launched brand as well as a brand with a lower budget. Such businesses may not be able to afford and invest in paid marketing and advertising channels. On average, every $ 1 spent on influencer marketing, creates revenue worth $ 6.50. If you compare this with the pay-per-click system, every $ 1.60 generates $ 3.
Therefore, the return of investment (ROI) of influencer marketing is much higher and beneficial in proportion to the money spent on the strategy.
Engagement has become a huge part of marketing and advertising. If your marketing strategy can make your target audience want to engage with your brand, you would have successfully achieved your value for money. Influencer marketing builds engagement 3.5 times more than engagement from traditional advertisements.
Improves Customer Reach
Influencer marketing is important because it helps your business trickle to reach every corner of your target audience. Conversations about brands are known to increase from three times to ten times when an influencer talks about a brand. The best way to understand this is by taking the brand Lord & Taylor’s example. Lord & Taylor partnered with 50 influencers and had all 50 of them, post a picture on Instagram on the same day wearing their new dress. After this, the dress sold out within less than a week. The main takeaway here is that influencer marketing is important not only for building trust but also reaching out to your customers to convert their trust to sales.
How To Develop An Influencer Marketing Strategy?
Influencer marketing is becoming increasingly important in today’s times, but how do you actually build a strategy for influencer marketing? This section comprehensively outlines the steps to strategise and create an influencer marketing plan.
Step 1 – Define Your Goals
The initial step to developing your influencer marketing strategy is to determine your goals.
Do you intend to focus on increasing engagement or reduce work with a minimal churn rate or achieve a higher conversion rate? Determining your goals at the beginning itself will give your strategy a consistent structure. The two most commonly used goals for an influencer marketing strategy are:
Increasing brand awareness
But instead of setting such broad goals, it would be beneficial to narrow down your goals to what exactly must be achieved from your strategy. Some goals to get you started could be:
Increase your customer base amongst the youngsters in Chicago
Raise sales by 30% over the next year
Manage your online reputation positively
Gain a 40% rise in followers on your social media accounts
Gain authority over a product category in the market
Step 2 – Determine How To Tap Into Your Target Audience
After you have determined your goals, comes the question of how to achieve these goals to tap into your target audience. One of the ways to strategically tap into your customer’s minds to influence them would be to follow the Awareness-Interests-Desire-Action (AIDA) model, also called a purchase funnel.
Awareness is when you want to reach out to more people to recognise and know your brand. At this stage people do not know about your product, so you need to ascertain how your influencer will make more people know about it. Will it be through cues in photos, videos, blog posts, etc.?
For example, Fiji water turned to the influencer Danielle Bernstein to build awareness. They did so by just placing a Fiji water in the background of Danielle doing exercise. In this way, Fiji water made people aware of their brand and its use – to keep you hydrated.
Interest stage is when the customer is aware of the offering (and its competitors) but develops a soft corner for just your brand.
This is often achieved by intriguing the customer, educating them, and making him want more.
For instance, OnePlus often sends gifts to the renowned influencers and ask them to review the brand’s phones and other offerings, unbox them, and generate interest among the target audience before the offering is actually launched.
Your customer may like your product, but not buy it. Therefore, if you want to tap into your target audience, work on what kind of content you want to use to make sure that the interest lingers around to turn into desire.
For instance, Daniel Wellington was able to turn their $ 15,000 business into a $ 220 million business in 4 years only following an influencer marketing strategy that sparked desire. Through catchy visuals, sleek colours, and a subtle vibe in all their picture, influencers made customers want to go to their website and buy watches.
Now that the customer is interested and willing to buy, s/he will move to buy the offering. Your influencer marketing strategy at this stage should focus on how to facilitate this action.
Tapping into your target audience is very important because it determines what kind of content should your influencers make. The tone, feel, and type of content that is created through an influencer marketing strategy needs to be the perfect fit for the audience that you target.
Step 3 – Set A Budget
After you have formulated your goals and target audience, you must create a budgeting structure for your influencer marketing strategy. While setting a budget, you must factor in:
Goals are an important determinant of your budgeting strategy because based on what you want you to plan what you want to spend to achieve those goals.
Imagine that your goals include – doubling your sales from last year. Now doubling sales is an ambitious goal, no doubt. If you aspire for an ambitious goal, you must be spending ambitiously and smartly.
If your goals include – increasing followers by 20% over the next quarter, then you may have a lower budget than someone who wants to double their sales.
Therefore, first, compare the proportion of resources that will be required to achieve your goals. Using that comparison formulate a budget.
Type Of Influencers
The second important aspect while creating a budget plan is what type of influencers do you want to work with. The major 4 types of influencers for you to choose from are:
Mega-Influencers: Micro-influencers include celebrities, online niche experts, or opinion leaders who have over 1 million followers on at least one of their social media platforms.
Macro Influencers: This includes opinion leaders, niche experts, and famous personalities who have followers from the range of 500,000 and 1 million on at least one of their social media platforms.
Mid-Tier Influencers: These are budding niche experts or famous personalities with followers ranging between 50,000 and 500,000.
Micro-Influencers: These are ordinary people who are famous because of their knowledge of a niche or because of some special reason. Micro-influencers have followers ranging between 10,000 – 50,000 on one of their social media accounts.
Nano Influencers: These influencers have less number of followers (1,000 – 10,000) but have very high engagement with them as they are considered experts in their niches.
Deciding what kind of influencer, you want will determine how much budget you should allocate for your influencer marketing strategy. Do you want a mega influencer with thousands of followers and a massive following base? Do you want to start with a mega influencer and then shift focus toward macro and micro ones? Or you want to start with a nano-influencer and work you way up?
The usual price range of influencers based on their followers would look like this, though influencers may charge per post, number of guaranteed views, percentage of assured sales, etc.:
Step 4: How To Find An Influencer
The first three steps set the foundation for your influencer marketing strategy. After this foundation is set, we move to finding an influencer. It’s important to note that you don’t want to just find any influencer – you want to find the appropriate influencer to suit your goals and budget. An appropriate influencer would be one who is aligned with your brand’s identity, mission, and vision.
What Makes A Good Influencer?
To understand if a candidate is the right influencer for you, you must look-out out for the following qualities in the influencer:
Confidence Confidence is like the skin of a successful influencer. An influencer who is confident will make sure that a brand is portrayed as a strong, commanding, and influential one.
High engagement ratio Influencers are not all about followers. Followers can be increased through inorganic methods by anyone. But an organic, and genuine influencer will have likes, shares, and comments, in proportion to the number of followers they have. This proportion is called the engagement ratio.
3 R’s of an influencer – Relevance, resonance, and reach Make sure that the influencer’s social personality is relevant to what you’re looking for your brand. If your influencer truly believes and resonates with your brand’s purpose, s/he can make the followers believe too. Thirdly, the influencer must have a good reach and actually be able to influence people. A huge following doesn’t make everyone an influencer. An influencer should be able to reach the customers, influence their purchasing decisions in a positive way for you. For instance, if you are a brand that makes nutritional snacks for people who practice yoga and meditation. One of the influencers on your list is someone who loves being lazy, taking rest, sleeping off, snacking on junk food, and binge-watching Netflix all day. But she has the highest number of followers compared to others. Would it be a good strategy to work with her? No. Because:
Her social personality is not relevant to what your brand stands for
Her profile doesn’t seem to resonate with your brand’s product
People interested in her will be people who like to relax, take the day off, and spend the day binge-watching. Her reach is not in the direction of your target audience.
Passion A good influencer has to be passionate about this work. Passion means that the influencer is hungry for more engagement, more trust, and more sales. The influencer must keep up with all social media trends and infuse it with his/her strategy. A passionate influencer is reliable because passion strengthens the partnership between a brand the influencer.
Authenticity Authenticity is another key quality to look for. If your influencer is authentic, followers will believe that your brand is something to care about, talk about, and check out. Inauthentic practices include copying profile aspects like photos, captions, posters, the structure of a poster, etc.
Hence, when you’re looking for influencers don’t merely recruit based on the number of followers or their cost. Dig deeper to find such qualities that will help you build a strong standing influencer marketing strategy.
Finding An Influencer
To find an influencer, you can follow two ways:
While conducting a manual search you can use the following tools:
Google or any other search engine – Search for phrases like ‘top shampoo influencers’, ‘top candy influencers’, ‘top beauty influencers’, etc.
Instagram or any other social media app – Search for trending hashtags related to your topic, like – BestShampoo, ClearSkin, TopGame, ComfortableAirline, etc.
After finding people who check off the right qualities and fit into your budget, you can compile a list of their contact details in a spreadsheet. Make sure that this spreadsheet includes:
All social media profile links (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.)
Number of followers
What value they bring to your brand
What value they don’t bring/What needs to be worked on
Costs they charge
Previous brands they have partnered with/Current brands they partner with
Searching through online tools
Search Through Influencer Database Tools
BuzzStream Discovery – A free search engine for finding influencers. Using this you can easily search for any keyword or phrase and the database will compile a list of results with all influencers related to that topic.
BuzzSumo – BuzzSumo is a paid search engine for finding influencers, content, competitors, etc. Using BuzzSumo you can not only find contacts of influencers but also the number of twitter followers they have, the number of average retweets they receive, their reply ratio, etc. Along with this a feature called ‘search content shared’ also shows up all the content that has been shared related to the relevant topic. This helps you understand how many people are creating content relevant to you and how they can be potential influencers for you.
Deep Social – DeepSocial is a freemium, AI driver influencer database. It allows you to not only find influencers but analyze the influencers through filters like age, interests, gender, geographic location, ethnicity, etc.
Upfluence – Upfluence is a free influencer database. Similar to Deep Social you can narrow your searches on Upfluence using categories like location, number of followers, etc. Upfluence also offers a Chrome plug-in, which helps you in analyzing an influencer’s profile from Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and blogs directly from your browser.
Step 5: Create A Management Strategy
Lastly, you must make sure that you manage your strategy to your best advantage. A successful influencer marketing strategy will include the following as part of its management plan:
Setting Key-Performance Metrics
A few basic key-performance metrics for influencer marketing include:
Generating more leads
Clicks on affiliate links
Influencer Content Strategy
After you have set your KPIs, determine what kind of content strategy will your influencer employ. Content that is effective and could win over the trust of your audience includes:
Product placement The key to influencer product placement is not giving a direct impression of advertising, but a natural fit in a scenario. For instance, here Audible – a company that makes audiobooks, partnered with Carole Radziwill and tried to place their product in a natural, comfortable and non-direct setting
Brand integration Brand integration will be more direct, with the product as the focus in a scenario. For instance, TVF developed an entire web series revolving around its sponsor – Tata Tiago.
Influencer Generated Content This is content the influencer creates for marketing. This may include:
Creating blogs and writing reviews For instance, the Amamda Stanton partnered with FabFitFun and created lifestyle blogs for marketing their skincare, makeup, fitness, and other lifestyle products.
Influencer takeovers Influencer takeovers are when you let your influencer handle your brand account for a set time like a few hours or an entire day where they share customised content based on a given brief for your products. For instance the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar turned over their Instagram story to Jamie King for an event, where Jamie showed her styles, outfits, make-up, etc.
Creating A Clear Contract
Influencer marketing greatly affects your brand image. If you set confusing and unclear terms, it could negatively affect your brand’s reputation. While creating a contract with an influencer a few things you ought to consider are:
The duration the influencer will work for
The level of autonomy the influencer has over the brand image
The monetary terms of exchange
If you are providing the influencer with free merchandise, set terms and conditions for it at the beginning itself
Make sure the influencer agrees to never harm or disrespect the brand image, vision, and identity
Clarify whether the influencer can partner with other brands during his/her tenure with your brand
Set average expected engagement rates for a daily, weekly, fortnightly, etc. basis
Ask for a guarantee on the following aspects – authenticity, transparency, honesty, and creativity
Building A Cordial Relationship With The Influencer
Lastly, keep in mind that an influencer is a person too. For the protection of your brand’s marketing, image, and courtesy, you must ensure to be on cordial terms with your influencers. Make sure you do not over-burden them with work. The aim of having a cordial relationship is that the influencer feels connected to the brand because such a connection will positively work for your brand’s image.
Go On, Tell Us What You Think!
Did we miss something? Come on! Tell us what you think of our article on influencer marketing strategy in the comments section.
As the title says I’ve been working for about a month on a SaaS startup project that pretty much originated from a Reddit post that went viral.
A bit of context: A few months ago I started working on a python algorithm that takes people data (linkedin & other sources) and turns them into organizational charts (example). I coded this for an organizational research class, but I though that it could potentially be useful in business too, to understand clients' organization and/or for organizational benchmarking. I shared the project on the r/consulting sub (this post) and it got a great response, with 450+ upvotes and lots of comments. This really positive reaction inspired me to get to work and build out the product.
Now that the product is testable (I have about 100 users on the beta, mostly from Reddit) I’m wondering about distribution next steps. I’ve been thinking about a launching on PH, perhaps share the project on Reddit and maybe also create some youtube videos to demo the product and build some audience over time.
What would you recommend for a launch/ growth strategy at this early stage?
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