Today’s empowered customer already understands and has access to the content they need to assess the value of a purchase decision. And increasingly, the content that consumers trust today is content from other consumers. According to Forrester Research’s 2016 Business Technographics Global Marketing Survey, influencers and consumers are second only to agencies as the primary source of content for B2C brands.

But as reliant as marketers have become on influencers and consumers for content creation, most continue to struggle with connecting influencers’ value to business performance. As the adage goes, the marketing campaign that performs best is the one that’s best measured. Engagement with marketing content is all too often a mistaken proxy for ‘engaged customers’ and results, particularly when it comes to quantifying influencer marketing success. Marketers must be able to connect customer engagement with influencer content to business performance, understanding what kinds of content appeals to their customers and how it helps customers discover, explore, and buy products.

Across every stage of the customer decision journey and marketing process, there are metrics against which marketers can assess the business value of influencer activations to unlock influencers’ full potential. Compared with impressions and engagements, it is more difficult to fake or gamify conversions and marketing process efficiencies. Marketing return-on-investment is more than just an input-output calculation of investment vs. sales driven. For instance, one year after Marc Pritchard famously called for digital to ‘clean up its act’ vowing to no longer pay for any digital media, ad tech or agencies who did not comply with his new metrics standards, P&G’s sales are up 2% as Pritchard continues his goal to improve efficiencies in ad spending by $2bn over the next five years.

Marketers’ influencer marketing and relations strategy can also be designed with the same conversion attribution and marketing efficiencies in mind, whether marketers are focusing on increasing return, reducing investment, or some combination of the two. Marketers need to be able to quantify the full value of influencer marketing programs in the context of both incremental return: brand lift, sales lift, or channel lift, as well as, money saved by way of reduced investment: time savings, media savings, content savings and software savings. While each can be implemented in-house, a third-party measurement partner is also recommended.

Here are seven ways marketers can measure influencers’ creativity and return-on-investment:

1. Increase Return via Sales Lift

Online Sales Lift: Online Sales Lift is measured via cookie-powered conversion tags, UTM links, app install links, pixels, or promo codes.

Offline Sales Lift: An Offline Sales Lift study is performed by third-party that has access to shopper data, coupon redemption data or loyalty purchase data and compares results between an exposed cohort and a control group. It requires minimum exposure and the ability to tag the content and it’s best practice is to blackout other marketing activity.

Recommended partners include Amazon Affiliates (online sales lift), comScore, and Nielsen Catalina Solutions (offline sales lift).

2. Increase Return via Brand Lift

Implement a brand lift study by surveying or polling of an exposed cohort and control group with 3-4 questions to collect n=1,000 responses around recall, NPS, sentiment and intent. It typically requires minimum exposure and the ability to tag the content, blackout other marketing activity if possible. You can also work with influencers to poll their audience before and after exposure to your campaign.

Recommended partners include Kantar MillwardBrown

3. Increase Return via Channel Lift:

Repurpose or syndicate high-performing influencer content to improve the performance of existing e-commerce and other paid or owned channels, comparing performance to historical benchmarks. The increased volume of proven content also makes performing A/B or multivariate tests easier to test and quantify incremental lift in performance via a specific channel.

Examples include placing influencer-generated content (IGC) in the form of photos, videos, ratings or reviews on a product page highlighting the usage of the product “in the wild” to other buyers. Recommended partners include Tune, Power Reviews, Bazaarvoice, Olapic, and Curalate.

4. Reduce Investment via Time Savings

As we mentioned, when it comes to output, consider influencers and consumers the 12th man on your marketing team. Influencers enable you to scale or accelerate your existing content generation efforts without increasing headcount.

5. Reduce Investment via Media Savings

On average, Influencer-generated content outperforms brand-generated content by a 6x magnitude. High-engaging IGC can yield better media rates. Spend a portion of your paid media budget more efficiently by leveraging influencers, and re-purpose high performing influencer generated content as ad creative, validating performance through A/B or multivariate testing.

6. Reduce Investment via Content and Production Savings

Most brands are paying for content asset generation, collection and curation via any number of creative, marketing and advertising agencies, whether it’s for posts, images, videos, reviews or surveys. With an integrated influencer marketing strategy, you can generate them all for less cost to create your own library of branded marketing assets to use and repurpose in campaigns.

7. Reduce Investment via Software Savings

Some enterprise software solutions, such as Mavrck, have the ability to power social listening, influencer, ambassador, advocate, referral and social loyalty programs simultaneously, for consumers and employees. Having a suite of core capabilities available enables marketers to save costs by replacing point solutions, as well as a centralized location to manage and unify consumer data, making it easier to make actionable across functions.  Solutions designed for enterprise teams also helps breakdown silos by making collaboration easy and possible.

There are also cross-departmental opportunities to consolidate software and savings for multiple marketing functions. For instance, influencer programs and advocate communities can also take the place of research panels for consumer insights.

As it stands, how traditional marketing is measured was not designed for the digital age. For customer-obsessed marketing leaders, influence is not just a touchpoint on the path-to-purchase – it is the path to purchase. Our 2018 Influencer Marketing Measurement playbook, A Five-Part Framework for Measuring Influencers’ Creativity and ROI, provides a step-by-step guide to using these seven influencer marketing measurement tactics to inform your influencer marketing strategy.