As marketers across functions are being tasked to do more with less. News about the collapsing agency model, consolidation of technology partners, and emerging focus on in-house capabilities are not  sensationalistic – they’re today’s marketing reality. In the past year alone, Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand  Officer at P&G has essentially made it his rallying cry – and other marketing leaders are following suit.  Pritchard is well on his way to slashing the number of agencies P&G is working with from 6,000+ to just  over 1,200; has reduced media spend 50% while gaining market share in key product categories, and has  put all partners on notice (agencies, social networks, technology vendors) who do not comply with its new  standards of transparency.

The reality is that consumers are sharing the reality of their brand experiences more now than ever before. In today’s modern society, brands are now being experienced and recorded in ways marketers never planned for. It’s a big shift. Marketers are being bombarded constantly with photos, videos, and reviews of their products being shared by consumers every day that validate their interests and their expertise. Marketers across all functions have the remarkable opportunity to know and understand their brands, products, and consumers like they never have before. But to access the insights from that data requires technology, algorithms and expertise to comprehend – often requiring the unique combined intelligence of a consumer research and insights team paired with access provided by influencer, CRM and loyalty marketing teams.

But social listening and access to mass consumer panels does not guarantee quality insights. Why settle for direct access to any consumers’ opinion, when marketers can have direct access to and leverage the collective intelligence of not only their own consumers, but those consumers who are influential, knowledgeable experts about relevant products, brands, or topics?  Qualified research panels are no longer a “nice-to-have,” but key to getting or maintaining competitive advantage. This is especially true for legacy consumer brands that lack the foundational consumer communities that customer-centric, digitally native vertical brands have developed with intentional design from the start.

To gain buy-in from the influencer marketing leads, research and consumer insights marketers need to be able to state and communicate cost and time efficiencies that you’ll both gain, and as well, the risks of managing a sub-par consumer panel.

In the end, the insights gained by leveraging your own influencers, consumer advocates and employees will have a waterfall impact of mutual benefits, including increased brand affinity, greater alignment earlier on the in the research and creative process, and more empathetic content that will yield improved performance across channels.

To communicate this, outline the opportunities for improvement that already exist. Start by auditing the quality of your current consumer research panel, using the following assessment:

Consumer Research Panel Quality Assessment

 

Measuring Efficiencies & Opportunities Between Consumer Research & Influencer Marketing

The next step is to gain alignment with your influencer marketing and relations team (or vice-versa, with your consumer insights and research team). From a research perspective, this means aligning your teams to understand the time, process, content, and software fficiencies that can be realized by combining efforts.

As well, just by engaging influencers for the purpose of learning their opinions or hearing their feedback for the purpose of product research may be enough compensation for content activation, which increases efficiencies on the content side of the influencer marketing house. In kind, your research team needs insights and your influencer team could already be paying $300+ for per post — could they include a research question as part of their campaign vetting process or influencer creative brief? Marketers have the opportunity to crowdsource, test, verify, and validate every decision made in the marketing process by leveraging the collective intelligence of those consumers who are influencing the opinions of the masses. By aligning needs, research and influencer marketing professionals have significant opportunities to drive cost and time  efficiencies for both sides:

Benchmark Current Costs: What if your influencer marketing team has allocated their entire incentive budget, but your research team has another $30k  to spend on your next research program – can you introduce efficiencies by collaborating with influencers in a way that achieves both KPIs, for instance, leveraging the research questionnaire as part of the campaign brief?

Benchmark the current state of the costs required to recruit, maintain, engage, incentivize, and retain a  research panel and influencer network on a per project/campaign basis. If you were to leverage influencers only, what would the anticipated cost benefit be?

Benchmark Time Spent: Similarly, if your influencer marketing team could maintain and scale an influencer community, what would the impact be when they went to recruit for their next campaign? As we noted, the time required to  maintain research panels and influencer communities are remarkably similar – both require an always-on flow of content, programming and value.

Benchmark the amount of time required to recruit, maintain, engage, incentivize and retain dual research communities and influencer networks. If you were to introduce an always-on mix of research programming and  influencer campaign activations, what are the expected time savings?

Communicating the Value Exchange to the C-Suite

Any significant change in people, process or product will also require buy-in from your executive or leadership team. Here’s what

Efficiency is the new marketing model – and if you’re among the marketers tasked by your C-Suite or  leadership team to be innovative and find those efficiencies – this is also an opportunity for your teams to be rockstars within your organization and to actually do even more with less.

Align with senior management by demonstrating how combining resources with your influencer marketing  and relations leads will result in increased time efficiencies, cost savings, higher quality insights, and more  continuity from insights to activation.

In turn, as your program evolves into an always-on influencer marketing strategy, be sure to also note any  increases in cost or time management as requirements from that program expansion.

Impact on Working & Non-Working Spend: How do your forecasted cost saving and efficiencies impact working (media distribution) and non-working (people, production) budgets? It is a ratio that is still noted on most investor earnings calls and reports, and even the smallest improvements here can have big  impacts.

Increased Time Efficiencies: Does the proposed new alignment mean you can add in one more  exploratory research project, or two more ‘test & learn’ influencer marketing campaigns? With more time to  spend testing and refining, what else will add to increased market share or competitive advantage? Perhaps  it’s a first-to-market opportunity on an emerging platform or researching a potential new target audience –  these are the opportunities outside the norm that can change brand perception.

Break Down Silo Barriers: Make your cross-departmental collaboration the new model for how  other departments in the organization can align on duplicated efforts to create increased efficiencies,  opportunities, and results. How much more can you do to improve inter-department relations by sharing  insights as they happen? As we mentioned – consumer knowledge and empathy is everyone’s  responsibility. Include plans to create a shared knowledge base where anyone in the company could access  insights and learnings as a result of research programs and influencer campaigns.

In the end, there are a few things that all marketers want: more time, more budget, better insights. More time to be creative, to be strategic, to be innovative; more money to execute new ideas, amplifying high-performing campaigns, to test the next big thing; authentic, actionable consumer insights in real-time. To realize these benefits and more, check out our the latest in our 2018 Influencer Marketing & Relations playbook series, How Leveraging Influencers for Consumer  Research & Insights can Inspire Better  Customer Experiences.