How can your brand build a best-in-class influencer program?

How can your brand build a best-in-class influencer program?

Scott Snow MetrixLab

By Scott Snow,
SVP, Global Knowledge, Innovation Consultant at MetrixLab

Point-of-purchase influencers are possibly the most underutilized tool in your brand building arsenal (check out the first blog of this series for more on who they are and where to find them). As consumers, we rely on these influencers in bars, pharmacies, the garages where we have our oil changed and every other point of purchase where we ourselves are not the expert.

Brands rely on these influencers to reach consumers and deliver their messages in a way they typically can’t, face-to-face. Our research shows that bartenders, for example, make recommendations in 47% of their interactions with customers – and that customers purchase what is recommended in over half of those connections. Brands in any industry can leverage these influencers at the point of purchase through relationship building – or what we call influencer activation.

So, if you’re curious about how to build a top-notch activation program for your brand’s point-of-purchase influencers, read on.

Relationship building 101: Getting your point-of-purchase influencers to know you

Activating point-of-purchase influencers means marketing to them, rather than to consumers. This is important because influencers will market your product to the consumer for you by establishing rapport with them. Consumers see them as a trusted authority for directing or validating a purchase decision.

One of the most effective ways to establish your brand’s stream of communication between point-of-purchase influencers and your customers is to have brand ambassadors out there building relationships with influencers. Every brand has key image, benefit or performance drivers that make it stand out from the competition. An ambassador is a brand’s expert who can communicate these drivers to influencers in a way that builds credibility and affinity for the brand – which translates into increased recommendations to customers.

Building a best-in-class program to activate these influencers at the point-of-purchase relies on stimulating awareness, knowledge and affinity with your brand. Here’s how you can start to address each of these areas:

  1. Strengthen product awareness and familiarity. Put your product in your influencers’ hands. An electronics sales rep is more likely to recommend the smartphone in his or her own pocket, for example, or a DSLR camera they’ve been able to trial themselves. A bartender is more likely to recommend a blended scotch when he or she has sampled it and knows the “taste profile” firsthand.
  2. Educate. Influencers won’t recommend a brand they know nothing about. So invest in programming that teaches your point-of-purchase influencers what they need to know about your unique brand drivers. For a bartender, sharing knowledge about a spirit’s heritage or a unique cocktail can be extremely beneficial. Launching programs and trainings for bartenders to teach the points of differentiation that make your spirit unique – think ingredients, distilling technique or history of the brewery – get influencers excited to share this knowledge with consumers.
  3. Make them like you! You are competing with numerous other brands for an influencer’s recommendation. If your bond with them is tight, you’ll be top of mind when it comes to recommendations. This means putting in the time to learn about your influencers’ needs, impressions around your brand and your competitors as well as the key drivers of building affinity and recommendations. For example, spirits brands like Bacardi, Diageo and Campari saw the need to support bars and bartenders with donations of takeaway cups and packaging throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Man pouring beer in bar

A case study from behind the bar

Now that we know how influencer activation looks in theory, let’s take some inspiration from an example: An import beer brand aiming to get a foothold in the premium beer market.

A review of the data from our Bartender Beer Influencer study revealed that bartenders were more likely to recommend this particular beer when they could serve it in branded glassware. Additional qualitative insights gathered from brand ambassadors “on the ground” determined that the glassware should be unique and stand out from all the other traditional pint glasses.

Together with the brand, we tested branded glassware concpets, determined the optimal glass and developed an activation program. We created opportunities for brand ambassadors to:

  1. Meet bartenders face-to-face to introduce them to the new branded glassware;
  2. Run interactive workshops to detail the unique benefits of the glassware design and how to communicate these benefits to customers;
  3. Demonstrate how best to pour the beer into the glassware and why – the unique story behind the beer.

All added up to establish greater awareness, knowledge and affinity for the brand, and drive recommendations.

The brand achieved several positive results. Through the visits, bartenders got to know the brand better personally – its heritage, values and qualities. This drove bartenders’ knowledge of and affinity with the brand, causing them to reach out more to consumers which resulted in greater sales.  Brand ambassadors also got to know the bartenders better in terms of their needs and motivations.

Stay in touch, stay current

Creating solid relationships with your influencers can be invaluable to the success of your brand, no matter the industry. But, just as consumer preferences change, influencer perceptions and needs are also constantly shifting. Being in touch with those changes is key to the success of any activation program. Building AND maintaining relationships is key to ensuring that you stay close to your point-of-purchase influencers so that your brand can best support them in the most relevant way.

Our powerful point-of-purchase influencer studies provide you the insights and strategy you need to develop optimal activation programs. These will help cultivate the bonds that make your brand the top choice for point-of-purchase influencer recommendations.

Reach out to get started.

Become the top brand recommended to your consumers with a point-of-purchase influencer study. Learn more here!

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