Influencer marketing. It’s one of those parts of marketing you either embrace OR turn up your nose at because you think it’s a big scam.
Love it or hate it, however, plenty of brands have used it successfully.
No matter how many Insta-celebrities waving lip gloss and Gucci bags in your Instagram feed this term conjures, you can’t dismiss it entirely.
In health tech often (with one notable exception), if I mention the word influencer I’m met with silence, a snide laugh, or a smart remark.
Full disclosure: I’m not always a fan of influencer marketing. I’ve seen it done poorly in too many instances where it does feel fake. In fact, not so long ago, it wasn’t something I encouraged health tech startups I work with to pursue.
Now, however, I believe that while influencer marketing is not the ONLY form of marketing you should pursue (and trust me, plenty of brands do that and reap the consequences), it should be part of a robust omni-channel strategy.
By their very nature startups are new. They haven’t been around long enough to grow a huge audience, build awareness, develop trust, or establish authority. All of those things take time, effort, and, often, money…resources that startups often struggle to find.
When done right, influencer marketing can work for them because it involves partnering with a person, brand, community, or foundation to leverage that other party’s audience, awareness, trust, and authority.
It’s not about pushing product through another person’s social media feed with #ad thrown in. It’s about asking them to tell your story and paint a picture of the promised land you guide your customers to for their audience.
The reality is that the amount of content online today is only going to keep making it harder for health tech companies to be heard, even though they’re the ones changing and saving lives.
If you can work with someone or a group of someones who can help you drive your message through the noise, that’s a good thing.
So you don’t turn your influencers into product pushing robots, however, here are the fundamental questions you need to answer before you pursue any influencer opportunity:
1. Is their audience my audience or does it include my audience?
Just because they have a huge following or create awesome content doesn’t mean you should work with them.
If your perfect customer isn’t included in their audience, stop. Don’t pass go. Don’t collect $200.
To know if their audience includes your customer, that means you have to be really clear on who your customer is. Understand their problem, what they need to fix that problem, and what success looks like to them.
2. Does my company’s “why” align with their “why”?
If you are truly a mission-driven organization, you can’t afford to work with a person or organization whose values don’t align with yours. To do so would pull you away from your why and muddy it with a completely different purpose.
Getting clear on your way is part of creating clear, compelling marketing messages. If you haven’t done that, you shouldn’t be considering influencers yet anyway. Once again, stop. Figure out your why and your message so you can communicate your message effectively on your own before you partner with someone else.
3. Do I want my brand associated with theirs?
This questions dovetails nicely with the previous one. Think long and hard about any potential associations the other party may bring to your partnership. Talk to a few neutral people to get their take. If you are creating content with a person, community, or organization, that content will live on for a long time after your partnership has ended. Are you okay with that?
4. How will this partnership help me achieve my vision?
Don’t consider partnering with someone who can’t help you achieve your end goal. A personal for instance here – my vision is to help every single life-saving, life-changing health tech company reach the people who really need them. Because of that, even if they wanted me to, I wouldn’t ever partner with my favorite clothing brand so they can leverage my audience to reach their customers. Even if there’s a short term gain (free jeans!), they don’t help me help my customers, so there’s no way I would consider it.
You should consider your partnerships just as carefully. However, if they give you access to your perfect customer, help build trust with that customer, or lend you some of their positive brand associations, it’s an opportunity worth considering.
5. Can I help them?
Every partnership needs to give both parties something in return. That’s why those Instagram influencers have piles of lip gloss and closets full of designer fashion. They see that as their “something in return.”
In any health tech influencer relationship – B2C and B2B alike – both parties are going to want something. Can you bring something to the table that the person or group you are partnering with will want? How can you help them help their audience? Before you approach them, come up with something to help them be successful.
One other note…
B2B companies can do influencer marketing (also called partner marketing). There are different strategies involved; however partnering with another brand or a key opinion leader who has built with your customer is a definite possibility.
What’s your take on influencer marketing?
I’m going to share a podcast episode soon of a health tech startup that did influencer marketing right and the benefits they reaped, so stay tuned (and open minded)!
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WHO IS WHITNEY?
Whitney is a consultant, speaker, and writer on a mission to help life-saving, life-changing technology break through the noise and achieve mass user adoption. Learn more about her here.
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