Influencers' Guide to Marketing Directors

Influencers' Guide to Marketing Directors

I remember one of my meetings with an influencer. The lady had called saying she wanted to talk, I agreed, and I was expecting her at the office. She arrived half an hour late but brought her manager with her. Let’s call her Natalie.

We sat down to talk. She had her reasons for being confident - 400,000 followers on Instagram and her own TV show.

I, on the other hand, was following my plans and needs. Our company needed to promote the brand, and I was interested in reaching a specific audience through influencers whose identity matched our brand. So, I started asking my questions.

I asked Natalie to tell me more about her audience. She couldn’t identify and present specific personas.

I asked for data on her Instagram account’s performance. She couldn’t provide detailed information. She said she would send it later. A day later, when she sent us a presentation with screenshots from Instagram Insights, it turned out that most of her followers were not in the country and were not of interest to us.

Then I asked how she usually works with brands. She replied that she was flexible. Sometimes she took $2,000 per post/story, sometimes $6,000. She was indeed quite flexible. She couldn’t explain when she charged $2,000 and when $6,000.

I told her we were interested in running campaigns and asked what she could offer. She looked surprised and mostly confused.

I explained that most of our campaigns last between a week and a month, and we needed more than random stories and posts. We wanted coverage - blog posts, unfolding a story over a period, interaction with users... She seemed to have heard of such things but apparently didn’t do them.

Then I suggested we work on a performance basis. Since she was confident in her audience’s activity and her influence (after all, "influencer" comes from the word "influence"), there shouldn’t be a problem. She replied that she didn’t do “such things.” It wasn’t dignified to work on commission. In her influencer circles, no one did that, and her reputation would suffer. I explained that she was already selling access to her audience by charging for posts. She didn’t react positively.

It had long been clear that the meeting wasn’t going well and that there were no common points between my expectations and what she could offer. Still, I decided to finish my questions.

I asked if she had other channels besides Instagram where she was strong and could promote our brand. She didn’t. Blog? No. Facebook? No. Community, group? No. Email newsletter? No.

We parted politely with the clear understanding (on my side) that we wouldn’t see each other again. But the story wasn’t over yet.

In the following days, while I was wondering how to decline her without my blunt thoughts showing in the email, we received a request from Natalie. To start working together, she wanted us to give her a sofa.

Without hesitation, I said “no.” She, however, was ready with a counteroffer: then give her an iPhone 13 Pro Max, she liked it from our website (it had just been released).

For understandable reasons, we didn’t start working with her. Nevertheless, she continued her (un)victorious march towards me. A few days later, she sent me a message filled with disappointment, saying how she was giving her all, but our unprofessionalism - mine and my entire team’s - had ruined the deal.

To my greatest regret, Natalie wasn’t the only influencer who approached me (in my role as Chief Marketing Officer or Marketing Director) as if I was obliged to immediately shower them with money just because they showed me how many followers they had.

I don’t want to be misunderstood. I know many influencers with a professional approach to their own activities and their clients. This article is not about them. It’s not about those convinced of their own greatness and the necessity for brands to chase after them either.

This article is for those individuals, leaders, influencers who have a loyal and active audience (regardless of whether it’s small or large), treat their business seriously, and want to secure more deals by helping brands while also adding value for their audience.

Now that we’ve clarified who should continue reading and who should close the browser tab, let’s continue with…

What do brands expect (from influencers)?

Most companies or, let’s say, brands have relatively clear expectations from influencers:

  1. Quality of the Audience: The audience profile should match the one we want to reach; it should be active (engagement rate above 3-4% and enough comments and likes).
  2. Influencer Profile: The culture, behavior, and posts should align with the brand’s values; they should also be focused and show integrity. If you promote everything from yogurt to truck tires, I won’t include you in my communication plan, I promise.
  3. Results: Brands want to see results, and usually, these aren’t sales but reach, engagement, comments, user activity, and a visible increase in referral, direct, and organic search traffic.
  4. Reliability: Brands want to rely on influencers as a stable communication channel for promoting and engaging the brand. If they sense that you just want to take the money, post “something,” and disappear, they won’t hire you.

Now let’s think about marketing directors/managers as representatives of the brand and the people who meet and negotiate with influencers. In other words, let’s talk about me and what I expect to greenlight a partnership...

What do marketing directors expect from influencers?

  1. Approach: It’s important to me that you understand the nature of our relationship. You are offering me something I need (access to the right audience) and expect something in return (gifts, payment, commission). In this context, before hitting me with the price, you should show and prove to me that I can indeed get what I need.
  2. Professionalism: It’s important to me that you know your audience, your tools, your business. If you’re just someone who, due to a reality show appearance or another reason, has suddenly gained tens of thousands of followers and now wants to monetize them, I wish you luck. But if you don’t show me that you can be a quality and long-term partner, I personally don’t care about the number of your fans.
  3. Preparation: When coming to a meeting, be prepared. Bring a presentation, business cards. Open the tabs of your website and social networks on your tablet or laptop in advance, in case you can’t connect to the Internet at the office. Know your audience well (age, interests, location) and how they perform (reach, engagement). Prepare case studies from previous campaigns and the results you achieved with them. Research our brand and products in advance.
  4. Proposals: Be flexible, but not like Natalie. Offer ideas on how we can work together. Propose a creative scheme for long-term work. Propose a payment scheme that is OK for you and will allow me to better plan my budget.

I could write much more on the topic, but these are the key things.

Look, I have a problem: I want to reach my target audience creatively, grab their attention, and “outperform” the competition. If you can offer me a suitable solution to this problem that fits my budget, I won’t even hesitate and will hire you. (Well, I’ll think a little, but the decision will be easy.)