Your marketing dollars? Limited. The set of possible targets for those dollars? Huge. All the more reason to stick with the channels you know, right? They might not deliver game-changing results, but at least they’re familiar, predictable, and good enough. The problem is, “good enough” doesn’t always cut it. In competitive consumer-facing niches, it pays to go big and bold. Sometimes, it’s the only play. The need to go big and bold naturally leads marketers and the brands they represent to a practice that many are not yet sold on: influencer marketing. Many marketers who are comfortable with their craft are skeptical of influencer marketing, to say the least. They see it as a fad or passing trend that might be useful in some special situations but isn’t the sort of thing that can support a multichannel marketing campaign. That’s fair — but wrong. Influencer marketing continued to grow through (and beyond) the pandemic, giving rise to hundreds of new influencer shops during what was otherwise a very challenging time for marketers. It’s also more professional and data-driven than ever. And it’s not too late for skeptics to give influencer marketing another look. If you’re one of them, here’s why you should. Influencer Marketing Is Relatively Hands-Off and Easy to Scale Compared with marketing tactics that require marketers to handle creative themselves or outsource it to highly paid professionals, influencer marketing is relatively hands-off and easy to scale on a modest budget. Why? Because the best influencer marketing relationships give influencers free rein to do what they do best: handle their own creative. Hawke Media’s influencer marketing guide advises marketers and brands not to “hold brand guidelines or preliminary concepts too dear” and to avoid taking too heavy a hand in creative direction. “Reasonable, small requests” are fine, but you don’t need to tell influencers how to do their jobs. Once you let go of your impulse to control the creative side of your influencer relationships, you’ll find that influencer marketing is very plug-and-play, with more opportunities to scale than you’ll know what to do with. Influencer Marketing Is Far More Professional Than People Realize (And So Are Influencers Themselves) Most influencers work very hard at their jobs. They are professionals, just like the marketers they work with. That actually makes marketers’ jobs easier. Not only because professional influencers are reliable and accountable but because the professionalization of influencer marketing as a craft has created a set of expectations and requirements on both sides of these arrangements. The most obvious example of this is the Federal Trade Commission’s decision back in 2017 to establish formal regulatory guidelines for influencer marketing relationships (and certain other types of digital marketing relationships as well. The FTC’s influencer marketing disclosure requirements are easy enough to follow, and they also help weed out influencers who don’t want to play by the rules. It’s an easy rule of thumb: When an influencer says they’d prefer not to abide by the rules, don’t work with them. Influencer Marketing Spend Is Huge (And Growing) Despite the space’s recent professionalization, influencer marketing spend is difficult to track. Many arrangements are small in dollar terms and very temporary, sometimes involving just one or two pieces of content. But we can confidently say that the market size for influencer outreach is in the billions, possibly the tens of billions. That number is only likely to grow as more brands jump headfirst into the influencer marketing game or double down on the investments they’ve already made. Brands Are Doubling Down on Influencer Marketing Brands and marketers clearly see the potential in influencer marketing, and they’re doubling down on the space this decade. Less than 40% of brands with influencer marketing accounts reported increasing their spending in 2018; in 2020, about two-thirds did. That’s an eyebrow-raising increase in just two years, especially in light of what else was going on in the world in 2020. Because marketers look two to four years out when they make investments like this, they clearly see long-term potential in working with social media savants. A Small But Significant Portion of Marketers Invest Primarily in Influencer Marketing While they’re mostly concentrated in industries like food and fashion, it’s worth noting that nearly one-fifth of all brands that invest in influencer marketing devote the majority of their marketing budgets to the channel. That’s a big vote of confidence in the practice and a sign for skeptical marketers that influencer marketing can pay off handsomely. Influencer Marketing ROI Is Off the Charts How handsomely, you ask? According to a case study of White Wave Foods’ influencer marketing campaign, the parent company of Silk non dairy milk and other highly recognizable grocery brands saw an astounding 11x return on investment compared with traditional banner advertising. Dig into the numbers and the story gets even more compelling. Consumers exposed to Silk’s influencer marketing campaign spent nearly $300 more on Silk products (per 1,000 audience members) than the control group. Individual households exposed to the campaign purchased 10% more Silk products too. So, yeah — influencer marketing works. And it’s not going anywhere. Influencer Marketing Is Here to Stay. Why Not Use It? Let’s say it again for the skeptics: Influencer marketing is here to stay. Love it or hate it, it’s a part of the digital fabric. Taking advantage of influencer marketing’s power doesn’t mean dropping everything else and amassing tens of thousands of loyal followers. Heck, you don’t even have to have an Instagram account yourself, as long as you hire marketing managers who understand how the game is played and find (or have them find) influencers whose audiences line up with your own. In fact, as we’ve seen, the beauty of influencer marketing is that it’s pretty hands-off. Finding the right influencers takes work, sure, but those influencers do a lot of the work that other tactics require to be done in-house. Time to roll up your sleeves. You’ve got audiences to influence.