Searching for a way to tap into certain demographics seems nigh-on impossible at times when viewing your potential audience in a vacuum. Thus, the solution to this potential money pit is located further up the chain – sources of influence that impact your audience are key to a successful outreach.
Sources of influence are a culmination of every avenue that influences your desired audience across their buying journey. Publications, events, social media personalities, and web articles – they all coalesce into influential inputs on your audience’s buying and consumption habits.
Making this important information accessible is exactly what Rand Fishkin and his marketing methodology set out to achieve when he founded his online tool, SparkToro. Rand is a friend of MadeFor and a speaker at the MadeFor Talks with a passionate investment in audience research, which he will certainly elaborate upon in our upcoming talk with him. He explains the scenario that spurred SparkToro’s creation in his interview on Rich Brooks’ “The Agents of Change” podcast:
“…the problem that Casey, my co-founder, and I saw with the world of market and audience research was that if you wanted to learn certain facts about your customers or potential customers – things like what podcasts do they listen to, and which YouTube channels they subscribe to, and what sources of influence do they follow on LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter and Reddit and Instagram and Medium and Quora and which websites they visit – that information was very difficult to come by.”
Those sources of influence are inherently elusive to locate, thus these platforms aim to streamline the process of determination:
“Many folks would run market research surveys that took 6+ months and hundreds of thousands of dollars. And Casey and I thought that’s bonkers. We should create a product that is far more accurate and valuable, where you can find that information just by typing in a search.”
The fact that this idea revolves around the determination of sources of influence should surely demonstrate their potential value to those looking to effectively market to the right audience.
At the risk of getting slightly meta, imagine a company with a product that appeals to an audience with an interest in customer experience and a desire to build their own skills in the area. They don’t have direct contact with their desired audience, and it is not a productive strategy to simply build a list of keywords and spend a fortune on paid ads in channels that have never been and never will be fruitful for that industry. Neither is broadcasting swathes of content to empty channels.
This is exactly where the value of sources of influence comes to light. By discovering the platforms and sources which those CX-inclined audience members consume and interact with regularly, the company can then formulate a plan of action to develop informative, engaging and value-driven content on these influential channels.
This is the paramount importance of the ability to understand your audience’s key influence: being able to provide focused nurture and educational content to a potential audience that is problem aware, solution aware, and platform aware leads to you staying front and centre in their minds as the brand that provided value to understanding their challenges.
The sales cycle may be more long-term but so can the rate of success, with better lifetime value, brand advocacy and improved customer relationships. As an example, here is Rand elaborating on SparkToro’s reach:
“If you remove branded search, you can see that we get almost no search traffic whatsoever. And yet [...] a couple of hundred folks are signing up for a free account on SparkToro every day. And why is that? It’s because in the marketing universe of webinars that people attend and YouTube channels that they watch and blogs that they read and social media accounts that they follow and you know, email newsletters that they subscribe to and podcasts that they listen to [...] SparkToro is talked about in all of those places. And because of that, it spreads through. Not quite what I call word of mouth, but sort of word of influential sources.”
Influencer marketing as a concept is still relatively in its infancy, and not without its fair share of controversy and teething problems as the format grows. But when looking at these stats, the knowledge of how to take advantage of these sources of influence to benefit your business has great potential for success, and all that is required is a change of perspective.
Instead of attempting to reach your audiences at the ‘buy phase’ of their buyer’s journey through competitive and expensive channels, take a step back! Look at the bigger picture, as the other 97% of potential customers that need a nudge or a friendly arm around the shoulder are sitting waiting for you.
It’s important to note that there is no silver bullet for successful influencer marketing: it’s vital not to put all your marketing eggs into one influential basket. Whilst these audience research tools make it accessible to use sources of influence to your benefit, it shouldn’t let other marketing formats fall to the wayside. If Nike stopped appearing at the top of Google searches in favour of an exclusively sources of influence strategy, their sales would surely take a hit! The balance depends on the context of the company and its product, but differing strategies should be used to compliment, not replace one another.