The demand for influencer marketing is huge. But how it is approached often looks like the wild, wild west, especially in Tech. So it’s no surprise that tool services and the tool market are developing around companies like Fixate. In this market, one area of greatest growth is in a toolset referred to as an influencer CRM. Managing your influencers is a challenge, but do you really need something unique to do it?
The Influencer CRM concept
An influencer CRM is, as you would expect, a tool to manage the contact details for your influencers, and the activity associated with each. The benefits Influencer CRMs bring above and beyond a traditional sales CRM tool are:
- The ability to build outreach campaigns
- A database of contributors
- A ranking of contributors
- The social monitoring of targeted contributors
- Analytics (sometimes)
All of this functionality can be created in a traditional CRM like SalesForce, but there are components unique to an influencer database. You don’t communicate with a contributor the same way you would a prospect. Getting a conversation started is easier, but keeping their attention and maintaining and deepening the relationship are a more collegial process than in a sales relationship.
Influencer CRM value and ROI
The one toolset feature that is the biggest value, but highest risk, is the database of existing contributors. This list could be amazing, or a total flop, and here is why:
If you have ever used data.com for SalesForce, you know that the quality of web-scraped contacts is weak at best. There may be a diamond in the rough there, but on average, it is 1% or less of the list.
Finding one amazing contributor in hundreds, however, is still really good. Especially if you can quickly get to that one person. The problem is that the contributor is ranked based on the reach they have in the market. And the better their reach, the more they are in demand—and that means more people like you are contacting them.
The top contributors are not always the best, and are often a risk. They may already be tagged as product promoters. Once the world at large has labeled them as such, their voices are still heard, but with less of an impact. Greater reach, lower value.
Relationships with influencers that are not already consumers of your product are fragile. If you have an influencer who is already a customer and enthusiastic promoter, that’s great, but you don’t need a CRM for that. This means you can’t substitute the CRM for doing the work of finding and nurturing the contributor. You also still have to have an influencer content marketing strategy. The amount of work involved in creating a successful influencer network and influencer content marketing strategy could call into question the ROI of the influencer CRM platform if your assumptions don’t include the effort on your part.
It comes down to one thing—the nature of your business
This should not be a big surprise, but when approaching modern marketing techniques such as influencer marketing, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the hype of the tools that surround it. Tools are no substitute for strategy and substance.
The more specialized your business, such as B2B marketing of tech tools like DevOps, the more risk and less ROI you get with influencer marketing CRM tools. The more broad and general your business, such as in the case of B2C marketing, the more value and ROI these tools will return.
For example, a blind outreach to contributors who utilize high-performance sunglasses may impact a larger audience, with outreach messages that are easier to consume and share, and that are less relationship-driven. In contrast, a campaign for a medical testing device is going to hit like a thud with a wide-net approach, because finding the right influencers won’t be done on a broad scale, and getting an influencer to take action on an initial outreach is highly unlikely.
This is because the broader and general influencer community is easier to motivate with more transactional relationships, where an influencer database is more likely to provide value. Broad influencers have less to lose by representing a brand they can easily switch from than those influencers who are experts in a niche field.
Here are some notable Influencer CRMs to pay attention to, if you decide they could work for you:
- Cision.com: Cision is all about the database.
- Influitive.com: Influitive puts an emphasis on gamification and scoring. The idea is great because it supports relationship building and competition among influencers. It’s like your favorite most addictive iPad game.
- TapInfluence.com: TapInfluence is strong in metrics and its user interface.
- NinjaOutreach.com: Ninja Outreach excels in recruiting, with its strength on the acquisition side of finding contributors.
These tools do not come cheap. The median price tag is $10K a quarter (per quarter is one of the most common ways they are invoiced). A few, like Cision, are targeted at PR agencies, and not necessarily the vendors the contributors will support.
One aspect of these tools I would watch out for is the analytics. The analytics can provide value, but may be hard to reconcile with your standard website and lead metrics. All the CRM tools offer different types of analytics and metrics, which is an indication that the market has not yet landed on the best way to measure influencers. From the Fixate point of view, the most useful metric combination to assess both influencers and campaign effectiveness is the combination of share of voice and influence ranking.
Influencer CRM tools can be powerful. If their features solve even one of your problems, they could be worth the money. However, tools are not magic. Tools will not suddenly make a network of influencers interested in your company and product. You can produce influencer content with a good influencer network and no CRM tools. But the other way around? Not so much.