The power of influencer marketing

May 31, 2022

In last week’s column, I applied some tough love on the idea of using influencer marketing. I wasn’t in any way suggesting that brands avoid using the power of influencer marketing. But I sounded some warning signals around how not understanding the nuances and legalities of the practice can get a brand into some serious trouble.

I promised I would follow that column with a look at the bright side of micro influencer marketing.

Just a refresher from last week: An influencer is someone who has built an audience and community around a specific niche. Influencers are people who have the power to affect buying decisions of others because of their position of authority, knowledge, celebrity or status.

While many micro influencers are famous within their own circle of influence, they’re not on the radar screen of the general public. We’re not talking celebrity endorsements here. We’re talking about ordinary people who have established themselves as experts in their area of genius. They might be a doctor, a professor, a consultant or a chef. They also might be a 16-year-old tech head who knows how to talk tech to teens.

But if they have garnered the attention and trust of your potential customer, they can be magic for your brand.

There are several advantages of working with a micro influencer. Here are some worth taking into consideration as you explore whether this tactic is right for your business.

Access: Macro influencers like the Rock or Jill Michaels are out of the reach and budgets of most brands. But micro influencers are much more accessible and affordable. They’re also more likely to be willing to bend their own rules or make concessions as part of a partnership.

The depth of connection: Unlike the audience of macro influencers, many followers of a micro influencer have actually met or communicated with them in some way. They’re not as guarded or protected, which means their audience does not adore them from afar, they actually feel like they know them.

The real factor: When you see a macro influencer in action, it occurs to you that they’re being compensated for whatever product or service they’re sharing. But with a micro influencer, their endorsements are typically much more genuine. Because they typically have a day job along with their side hustle (the influencer partnerships), they often endorse products or services they like, whether they are being paid or not.

Of course, if they’re being paid, they must disclose that. But they’re also less likely to accept a contract for something they aren’t genuinely proud to endorse. This is something their audience understands and counts on.

Engagement: When you have 3 or 4 four million followers, it’s pretty difficult to create any sort of real engagement. Sure, someone might get retweeted once in a blue moon or have a comment liked, but there’s not a lot of actual connection or conversation.

That’s very different if the influencer has tens of thousands of followers in comparison. Their engagement level is much deeper and more frequent. Their audience feels seen and important. The engagement among the community is greater as well. The influencer acts like a host of sorts, helping people make connections through their common interest.

For many brands, partnering with a micro influencer who has the ear and the buying interest of their niche audience is a very worthwhile investment.

While there’s no doubt you need to proceed with some caution, a good legal contract, and an understanding of the nuances of influencer marketing, the benefits can be quite impressive and cost-effective. Well worth the experiment!


This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Keep it simple, stupid

April 19, 2022

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been settling into the reality that 2022 is going to bring a sea change for us as business leaders. Out of every crisis in history, moments of great reinvention and change were born.

Over the next several weeks, we’re going to examine some of the overarching themes of the emerging patterns and think through how we can anticipate and leverage these trends to our advantage as we work to continue to serve our clients and employees, grow our businesses, and set the stage for future opportunities.

Last week we dug into the need for urgency, but even more important, understanding what our consumer’s ultimate outcome was before we rushed to the wrong finish line. This week we’re going to focus on the hunger for simplification.

Just a reminder, the six shifts are:

  • No time to wait.
  • Simplification.
  • Creating the blend.
  • The inevitable cycle.
  • Hunger for experience and connection.
  • It’s all about me.

Of all six trends, this is the least startling, in my opinion. After the last two years of complexity, we crave simplicity. Fewer choices. Less noise. More definitive answers. We want direction and clarity. Our clients want us to help them curate their options, reduce the numbers of layers, hoops, and additional fluff, and – harking back to last week’s focus (no time to wait) – get it to us yesterday.

Building comparative charts or interactive tools on your site that help prospects narrow down to the perfect solution for their unique set of challenges will be welcomed. Training your salespeople to shift away from presenting all of the possibilities and instead asking better curating questions, so they can quickly reduce the options down to the best-fit choices would also be a wise move.

As consumers, we’ve had to get used to getting by with fewer and simpler choices. For many people, they discovered that this made life easier, they didn’t really miss out on anything, and they’re not ready to go back to having an overwhelming array of options.

Another way to look at the simplification need is that this is about hyper-specialization. Show me that you’re the right choice for me because you only serve other people who are a lot like me.

The subscription box phenomenon, which in fairness started before the pandemic, hit an all-time zenith during and after the lockdown. Prepackaged and pre-measured meals? Sign me up. Curated treats and toys for my heavy-chewing, “can rip through anything” dog? Sign me up. Three new outfits that show up every month in my exact size and curated based on my sense of style? Yes, please.

Wondering how this sentiment is being experienced by your own customers? This would be an excellent area to probe in a client survey or discussions with the top 20% of your customers. Learning what aspects of your business are the elements that they really care about will give you some clues as to where you could really double down on what you offer and where you should focus your simplification efforts.

This trend goes deeper than the need for fewer choices or ease of access, like the subscription model. At the heart of this shift is the fundamental acknowledgement that we’d rather pay a little more for something that is tailor-made for us and reduce the waste and churn of “not quite right” products and services.

This bodes well for specialists of all kinds. Find your tribe, learn as much as you can about exactly what they need and want, and help them create an affinity for both your brand and what your brand can do for them.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Roadblocks show us what matters

August 31, 2021

This column is the fourth installment as we explore the seven principles that I’ve identified as vital to Walt Disney’s success as he built one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands.

Here’s are the seven beliefs/habits that I believe led to Disney’s success:

  • Your vision must be so clear and so well-articulated that someone else can complete it perfectly, even if you’re not there anymore.
  • No detail is too small, and in fact, the smallest details have the biggest impact.
  • Obstacles are road maps to innovation.
  • If the team is happy, the customer is happy.
  • Ask the best questions because you have to keep learning.
  • You’re never done.
  • Never forget who you serve and why you matter to them.

One of the most often told stories about Walt Disney is how many banks rejected his request for the initial funding of Disneyland. Over 300 banks said no. And yet he and his brother Roy just kept finding yet another banker and asking again. Walt was so convinced that the world needed Disneyland that he refused to accept that it could not be done.

He ended up cutting deals with ABC (agreeing to produce TV shows for them, which ultimately were both entertaining and commercials for Disneyland) and a few other banks and venture capitalists to get the theme park off the ground. Ironically, ABC owned almost 35% of Disneyland in the ’50s, sold its interest back to Disney in 1960, and Disney bought ABC for $19 billion in 1995.

It was a very unconventional financing arrangement for the time, and it’s a reminder that where there’s a will, there’s away. Walt was so passionate about the concept for his theme park that he was willing to take huge risks and do things a little differently.

The truth is that Walt was often carving new paths. Sometimes that meant figuring out how to work around a detractor or barrier. And in other cases it meant inventing something because what he wanted to do had never been done before. Since 1952, when Disney founded the Imagineering department within his company, it’s been granted over 115 patents in special effects, interactive technology and fiber optics, among other things.

One of his greatest strengths was to see an obstacle as a test. Just how good is this idea? How strongly do we feel about it? Are we willing to push the boulder uphill to make it happen?

Obstacles in business force us to get creative. We’ve seen a lot of that over the last year. I’m guessing very few organizations did not have to overcome a challenge or two in 2020. There were some incredible outcomes for those companies that did.

Obstacles forced/allowed us to:

  • Create new service offerings.
  • Find new ways to deliver our products and services.
  • Connect with our clients on a deeper level.
  • Rethink our internal and external policies.
  • Invent new pathways for potential customers to find us.

How do obstacles inspire us to better marketing? There are many ways, but I believe the most powerful is that they force us to get out of our comfort zone or the “we’ve always done it that way” mode. We really have to focus on our clients and stretch ourselves to serve them in new or more appropriate ways.

Now the question is which of those pandemic-inspired additions or changes should stick around, and how do you involve your customer in those decisions? Doing some analysis on the adoption levels of your new offerings and even surveying your customer base might be some smart first steps.

The obstacles of the last year forced us to innovate. For many, that’s been one of the silver linings. How do we capitalize on those innovations moving forward? That’s a question Walt would ask!

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.