If COVID-19 has taught us one thing, it's that every business needs a digital presence. The pandemic has resulted in an influx of businesses to the digital space, many of them moving online for the first time.
B2B companies say they view digital-enabled sales interactions as two to three times more important now than pre-COVID, according to a study by McKinsey Consulting.
Along with their digital presence, organizations have turned to social media to generate awareness and interest in their products and services.
When businesses across industries undergo a digital transformation, influencers become a reliable and effective channel to connect and engage with audiences. But why should your company pursue influencer partnerships in the middle of a pandemic, and how can doing so help to recession-proof your business?
Here are five reasons to include influencers in your marketing strategy now.
1. Staying in front of your audience is mandatory
When the economy suffers, cutting back on advertising expenses can be tempting; after all, every penny counts when you're trying to stay afloat. However, companies that strategically promote and market their businesses through an economic downturn often fare better and maintain a stronger market position than those that don't.
Your advertisements don't have to be salesy. Many people dealing with financial concerns won't have the appetite for that, and a hard pitch may turn them off from your product or service. That's where influencers can come in to create value.
Maintaining brand relevance amid uncertainty requires the disposition and capability to adapt quickly. Influencers can be strategic partners to help you successfully navigate the digital space, boosting your company's exposure to keep you top-of-mind with customers.
Customers want to get a better understanding of what your business is doing to be safe, how your procedures have changed, and what you're doing to help others. They want to feel confident about doing business with you.
Consider influencer collaborations to focus on your philanthropic efforts or to highlight how your customers feel safe when dealing with you.
2. Social media is where your audience congregates during a socially distanced pandemic
The question about advertising is not whether to do it, but where. And where are people spending more time now? On social media.
The use of social media platforms has spiked dramatically, across the board. Facebook and Instagram had a 40% increase in usage in 2020, and LinkedIn's user base grew: Active sessions went up by 26%. TikTok also rose to prominence and became the most downloaded app of 2020.
Working with influencers can make it easier to position your business directly in front of the right customers at the right time as they're scrolling through their feeds. It can also play a significant role in helping brands that are new to social media carve out a space for themselves.
Influencers help to promote a sense of community. Accordingly, focus on building relationships and planting seeds for future selling. Approach social selling as a lead nurturing strategy.
Depending on where your ideal audience typically hangs out, Facebook and LinkedIn Lives are great options to host virtual chats. Launch a series of industry-related livestreams and integrate influencers as hosts or guests to boost your brand's visibility, widen your event's digital reach, and tap into a new audience.
3. Influencers can guide your messaging adjustment
When a crisis strikes, people often have different needs. Audiences who were previously focused on convenience may become more price-driven. Different demographics face different and new challenges: Because of the pandemic, parents are struggling with the stress of working and caring for children simultaneously, and people of all ages are dealing with loneliness, fear, and isolation.
Do you know how your audience is feeling? Do you know what their needs and preferences are? Ask yourself how your business can contribute and become an ally.
Once you have a better understanding of your customers and their situation, tailor your messaging and offerings around that. You want to be present and attuned to what's happening, demonstrating stability amid uncertainty.
Influencer marketing can be instrumental in helping you to show up authentically. Use their feedback both to craft their campaigns and to adjust your overarching messaging as needed.
4. Every dollar counts—for your potential buyers, too
As the pandemic drags on, your customers are likely paying close attention to their finances and trying to make every dollar count. They're less likely to make impulse buys and more likely to seek social proof before making a purchase decision. Seeing their favorite and most trusted influencers talking up companies they do business with can be an impetus for closing the sale.
Appeals to emotion are just as important as appeals to practicality right now. Working with influencers can help you to humanize your storytelling and put the story-based side of your product in front of your prospective customers; that way, even if they do have a constrained budget and they have to prioritize expenditures, you'll have created a connection to stay at the top of their list.
To keep your customers and potential buyers engaged, maintain a steady flow of influencer content promoting your products and services. You have great opportunities to maximize your effectiveness right now as financial considerations make other brands cede some of their space in the market, and as influencer rates are likely to be more cost-effective.
5. Prioritize the now, but be ready for the after
Surviving the pandemic's economic consequences will require marketers to be agile in transforming their organizations and fueling long-term growth. Halting communication with your target audience will negatively influence the perception of your brand.
Fully 60% of brands that “go dark” during a recession decline on at least one key brand metric related to bonding with consumers, research from Millward Brown (now Kantar) shows. Building sustained brand preference by continuing to meet your target audience at different touchpoints and delivering value where they are is essential.
Those who understand the benefits of influencer marketing and invest their resources now will increase their share of voice, which will have a positive impact on their market share in the long run.