You can hardly open up a newspaper, magazine or web browser this summer and come away not worrying about our shared future. We’re currently in a bear market, and the leading economic indicators look pretty grim. The ongoing threat of expanded warfare in Europe — and beyond — continues to loom large. Two years of pandemics have kept health-related concerns foremost in everyone’s mind. Anxiety is everywhere, influencing everyone’s decision-making.
Amid all the turmoil and threats of turmoil, it’s getting increasingly difficult to form meaningful, long-lasting partnerships. Increasingly tricky, for sure … but not impossible.
Even amid tightening budgets and widespread wariness, influencer marketing is still growing strong. In fact, influencers have a shot at gaining even more ground when they approach potential partners with sensitivity and heightened awareness.
We all know what an influencer looks like
If you’re a movie lover, you’ve undoubtedly viewed countless scenes where a panicked crowd threatens to get completely out of control. Suddenly, one brave person stands apart before disaster strikes and boldly calls on others to help restore calm. After all, what do we all tend to seek out during periods of uncertainty, turbulence, and confusion? Voices we can trust.
So … how do you become a voice that others go to for consistent, reliable information? Forming partnerships with trusted vendors and sponsors might feel like a cakewalk compared to the amount of attention you’ll need to focus on establishing trustworthiness. Here are seven things to keep in mind as you look to break new ground in the second half of this year.
1. Keep it real, effortlessly.
By now, we all know the invaluable premium that others place on a person’s integrity. People are exhausted by story after story of some well-known person acting contrary to their manufactured, well-honed public image. Worse, perhaps, is the recent trend of marketers and would-be influencers working hard to put up a front that makes it appear that they are “just keeping it real” with us. You have to ask yourself: Why are we working hard to be who we truly are?
If you find yourself laboring to convey authenticity, start over. Go back to what you do best, what you enjoy doing, and how your skills, experience and relationships might benefit others. Rather than 1) target a niche you want to inhabit and then 2) rework yourself to fit, you’ll be better served by reversing the order. Identify your areas of interest and gifting, then look outward to see where it might prove both helpful and profitable in the marketplace.
2. Get to the point quickly.
We probably don’t need any more research studies to confirm what we already know. Attention spans are at historic lows across the board. All of the attention-getting gimmicks have been tried, tested and abandoned. Unless you have something unique and exciting to offer, the average consumer can swipe you away with a thumb flick of their smartphone.
Just as keeping it real and being yourself ought to be effortless, the same dynamic can be applied to coming up with targeted, impactful and consistent messages. Getting straight to the point gives the recipient the power to make their own choices without necessarily spending more time with your content. That’s a good thing.
Get away from a mindset that seeks to capture and keep the attention of people from all walks of life. It’s better to have the concentrated attention of 10 people who might reasonably convert into customers than 1,000 people who couldn’t care less.
3. Demonstrate respect on all fronts.
Invariably, influencers will not influence everyone. That’s both logical and to be expected. However, when influencers encounter resistance — or outright opposition — they can be tempted to adjust their messaging to smooth out perceived rough spots.
If someone calls a legitimate issue to your attention, that’s one thing. However, tailoring your messages to fit a wider audience and capture more eyeballs represents something of a slippery slope. Before long, you can lose your focus and gradually drift from what makes you unique.
Nonetheless, as you interact with others — especially online — seek to be respectful and above reproach at all times. Assume that everyone in your circle is reading, viewing, and assessing everything you commit to your blog, videos, and social media channels. One good rule of thumb is never to allow heightened, negative emotions to find their way into your messaging. Step away for a spell if you are furiously typing characters into your smartphone or keyboard.
4. Practice other-centeredness.
The most natural thing in the world is for every rising influencer to keep asking themself relentlessly, “What’s in this for my brand…and me?” Given that all kinds of internal warning bells will go off before you enter into a partnership or solidify a relationship, you can enter into influencer marketing confident that your interests will rise to the surface as you strike deals.
Instead, it will be more challenging to keep your eyes on the benefit you are providing to others.
When you seek to push back on the self-interested posture we all tend to share, you free yourself up to more accurately perceive how who you are and what you have to offer can provide substantial benefit to others. Your more profound perceptions do not necessarily mean that the person on the other side of the table will share your opinion of value. However, whether they sign with you or not, they will remember that you heard them accurately.
5. Do your homework before you engage.
One powerful way to demonstrate respect for others is not to waste their time. We live in an age where business meetings often conclude only to have some wag mumble the now-popular catchphrase, “This meeting could easily have been an email.” Everyone battles with a crowded weekly planner these days, so it’s in your best, long-term interest to not schedule meetings, video conferences, phone calls and other time-wasters — perceived or otherwise.
Whenever you do find a potential partnership, your first step is to learn all you can about the philosophy and people behind the business. Dig deep into company websites, third-party reviews, previous successful partnerships, and anything else you can get your hands on.
When you show up to your initial meeting well-informed and immediately responsive to actual needs, you automatically “level up” in the eyes of your potential partners. When prospects aren’t obliged to educate you about their business and interests, you free them up to spend more time actually considering what value you are bringing to the table.
6. Don’t leave any of your people behind.
“First come, first served.” As simple as this is to say, it can be challenging to adhere to, significantly when the bottom line is in view. More than one influencer has begun a steady rise in overall impact, only to leave behind the people who contributed significantly to that success. As you secure increasingly lucrative opportunities, make sure your “smaller” clients aren’t getting short-shrift. The sour taste you leave in their mouths will do you no favors in the long run.
True, your influence must evolve. Sometimes, this might mean not renewing contracts that are no longer mutually beneficial. However, ending partnerships on a positive note is an art form in and of itself that many fail to address appropriately. Partnerships will fall off as your market expands, contracts and you conquer new turf. Employees will naturally move on to other challenges. The trick is to make sure you aren’t ending relationships badly.
7. Maybe let some otherwise-lucrative deals fall off the table.
This particular piece of advice seems counterintuitive to most would-be influencers. After all, aren’t we all looking to enter influencer marketing to make money? Yes, of course. However, just as you should seek to bring your authentic self to every encounter with potential partners, you should also strive to maintain your authenticity as you pick and choose who you will work with. Simply put, our vision can become obscured as the dollar signs add up.
Assuming you’ve done your research and only approached potential clients that align well with your authentic brand, it may be more likely that a lucrative offer will seek you out rather than vice versa. In that case, it might be helpful to seek out the counsel of an objective third party who won’t be as swayed by your potential windfall. The trick there, of course, is to actually listen to someone as they casually throw a few red flags your way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making money. There’s everything wrong with doing so at the expense of both your long-term success and peace of mind.
Simple ideas, successful partnerships
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Most of us have heard this particular piece of wisdom before. Though it is often credited as an “African Proverb,” some evidence suggests that this might not be the case.
Whatever its origin, it’s an apt summary of what successful influencers have in common. They intuitively understand that the long-term basis for anyone’s ongoing influence is a commitment to bringing others along for the ride.
Many of us have internalized the concept, but in the race to acquire influencer marketing partnerships, it’s easy enough to lose sight of this mindset. After all, we are largely promoting ourselves and the niche interests of our audience as we do so. Fair enough, but that necessary posture makes it even more vital we perhaps “rebrand our thinking” away from influencer marketing toward relationship building.