Amplify your Go-to-Market Strategy

By Jason Will, a CEO at Zipkick, a travel search and booking site that considerably reduces booking time. Mentor at Draper University. Top 35 under 35 in 2014.

As a startup founder, building a team is the most critical. It’s your job to successfully gain traction and accelerate user growth. Adding an influencer could be the jet fuel to rocket-launch your product. This article will highlight the reasons that an influencer should be a part of the founding team and how that translates into your go-to-market strategy. Also, by understanding the marketing landscape, one can deploy the most effective campaigns by spending little to no money.

State of the Industry

Brands are beginning to realize that traditional marketing efforts are not leading to the desired level of direct user engagement and instead have re-allocated their funding toward Digital Media. According to Adweek, Digital Media will surpass total TV spending by 2018.

Strategy Analytics recently published their latest advertising spend figures in the U.S., which is estimated at nearly $187 billion and digital accounts for just under 30% ($52.8 billion). That is nearly $30 billion less than TV ad spending. However, growing at a rate of 13% this year, and up 2.5% versus 2014, digital remains the fastest growing of any category. TV is projected to be the biggest share in 2015, which represents 42% of total spend ($79 billion). This number continues to decline annually (down -0.6% versus 2014). Print is substantially less in third place at 15% ($28 billion) of ad spend.

The Shift is Underway

The shift to Digital Media means more opportunity for Social Media Influencers who are able to create real-time engagement at a fraction of the cost. In turn, brands are able to more effectively spend advertising when compared to traditional media channels. Social media ad spending is expected to reach $8.3 billion in 2015, up from $2.1 billion in 2014. With social media usage on the rise, consumers are increasingly voicing brand comments/complaints through this channel and they are having a hard time keeping up. Complaints made publicly are challenging for brands. Only about 20% of consumer comments generate brand responses, and the average response time is over 11 hours.

The biggest issue with most brands that want to deal with influencers is that they confuse 'audience' with 'influence.' In plain English, having a lot of followers doesn't mean you have the power to drive them to action. One Social Media Influencer, Scott Eddy, who has worked with Starwood, Marriott and several other travel brands have successfully turned audiences into highly engaged customers. Scott has built a significant following across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook over the past five years. Furthermore, his ability to create engaging conversations on and offline has lead to speaking roles at the worlds leading industry conferences such as TBEX and Social Media Week.

This new 'go-to-market' style is still quite new for the startup world, where you leverage the existing community of an influencer instead of burning through a huge marketing budget in hopes of achieving similar results. I’ve spoke to several CEO’s, who willing admit that 30% of their funds are spent on user acquisition and they are always looking for better ways to increase retention.

Keys to Success

The three attributes that are most important for marketers to factor are relevance, reach, and resonance.

Relevance: The content the influencers are sharing relevant to your business.

Reach: Determines the number of people you could potentially reach through the influencer’s follower base that would bring value to your business.

Resonance: Defined by engaging with a valuable audience through relevant content.One thing is certain, if it doesn't make sense in the digital world, it'll never make sense in the real world.

Identify and Recruit

Twitter is the recommended platform for recruiting. Pay attention to the tweet constructs (phrasing, hashtags, link and photos/videos). Imagine these same tweets coming from your company’s handle.

Identifying an influencer can be incredibly difficult, but here are the key questions to answer:

  • Does the influencer’s voice align with your brand?

  • Are they already engaging with your customers or potential future customers?

  • Can this person build a community of influencers to join your campaigns?

  • Is this influencer monetarily driven or willing to accept equity?

  • What is the likelihood of a long-term commitment?

Before approaching an influencer, keep several points in mind to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. Most influencers are already receiving tons of offers from major brands with budgets and since early stage companies are typically under financial pressure; transparency is paramount. Never ask an influencer to work for free. It’s disrespectful and this rule applies to all creative types (i.e. photographers, videographers, designers, etc.). Instead, lead with the reasons that your vision and company’s voice aligns well with the influencer’s content. Sell the vision!

Collaboration is Paramount

As with anything in life, relationships are the cornerstone to future success. Always remember to pay it forward and take the time to genuinely engage with people. Please share your thought about incorporating influencers, building communities and other go-to-market strategies.

Leave some comments below and let’s chat.

Jason Will is a CEO at Zipkick, a travel search and booking site that considerably reduces booking time. Mentor at Draper University. Top 35 under 35 in 2014.