If you’re like most brands, you’re constantly looking for effective ways to market yourself to consumers seeking an authentic experience. This desire, along with the ubiquity of social media, has lead to Influencer Marketing gaining increased popularity in many industries.
Brands are rushing to jump on the influencer bandwagon for fear of missing out or losing relevance, often spending large sums of money in doing so. Sometimes this effort and money are well-spent and the campaign is a success, sometimes it’s not. And it’s often hard to tell.
Influencer Marketing on social media, for all of its hype, is not a marketing silver bullet.
For example, up-and-coming influencers’ feeds can often be a confusing and contradictory mess that can dilute your brand. And, by definition, influencers are simply selling their clout, not their ability to work one-on-one with your customers. In this way, they are akin to advertising during a popular sitcom. A lot of people - maybe even the right people - will see it, but it will always be a one way conversation.
Specialty Retail Has Built-In Authenticity
All of which is not to say that Influencer Marketing should be avoided. It definitely should be considered as part of a broader marketing strategy. But also consider that your brand may already be benefiting from influencers that are far more authentic and effective than those on social: Specialty Retail employees.
Think about it. They are already providing demos and hands-on clinic experiences for your customers at various specialty retail locations. And their authenticity comes from them living in the community they serve while using the products season after season. They don’t just have knowledge about them, they have passion as well. In addition to all this, they can provide valuable R&D for brand reps while providing unparalleled customer support.
From The Experts
Matt DeWitte, founder of argot agency, a marketing firm that helps brands find connections with consumers specifically by working with specialty retailers, has this to say about Specialty Retailers:
Specialty retailers still are, in our opinion, the original influencers. They can talk to a customer about the brand, what it stands for, how its’ products should be used and where. They can often show pictures of themselves using the products that they are selling on the floor in use on their last adventure. This creates much different levels of engagement than what can be curated and fabricated on social media. And at the end of an exchange with a sales associate, they can literally help the customer purchase your product.
In our mind, that’s what influencers are meant to do, to help narrate the brand story in an authentic way that also provides knowledge and insight from a real user.
So before you go out and partner with a social influencer, consider putting some of those resources into supporting your original influencers: Provide them with hands-on sales tools and innovative employee clinics - you’ll be transferring incredible value directly to your community of outdoor enthusiasts that literally speak to your customers, face-to-face, on a daily basis.
In my time working in specialty retail and strategically partnering with brands, I was able to see the concepts laid out above prove out time and time again. Remember: If you give them the tools and listen to them, your brand’s original influencers can provide unmatched customer education and useful customer insights. Social has its place, but there is no shortcut to the long term success and strong brand recognition that comes from your original influencers.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published July 2019 and has been updated.