Why Working With Local Influencers Can Drive Business Growth



Drawn upon 100+ interviews, Managing Director of Frontier Strategy Group, Joel Backaler, talks about the steps you can take to do influencer marketing effectively at home and abroad.


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Many have talked about influencers, but few have tried to scale influencer marketing from a global perspective.

Joel Backaler, Managing Director of Frontier Strategy Group and Author of a new book, “Global Influence: How to Capitalize on the Rise of Influencer Marketing Around the World,” shared key takeaways from his book at Social Media Week London 2018. For this book, Backaler interviewed more than 100 brand executives, agencies, marketing technology vendors as well as influencers to shed light on what’s working and what’s not.

According to Backaler, when executed properly, brands partner with relevant influencers can drive true business outcomes across wide-ranging areas, such as product launches, product development, and corporate reputation management.

In this session, he summed up the steps to grow business both at home and overseas by effectively implementing influencer marketing into business strategy.

Who are influencers?

Influencer means different things for different businesses. For B2B tech companies, influencers are bloggers and tech analysts; for the fashion world, they are Instagram models and celebrities; for the toy industry, they can be YouTube unboxers.

“To sum up, influencers are known for something within a target community, and can influence the actions of the target community members.”

It also means that what works for a certain community doesn’t necessarily work for another one. For example, beauty influencers can probably sell a beauty product by doing a YouTube makeup tutorial, but they aren’t able to sell a game by uploading a game video, according to Backaler.

Does influence travel across borders?

Backaler started analyzing from a global perspective with an example of Kim Kardashian trying to sell beauty products in China. Kim Kardashian is for sure big in America, but when her team advertised on a China beauty app, Red (also known as Xiao Hong Shu, or Little Red Book,) which has more than 100 million users, products won’t sell, because the Chinese audience don’t know about her and don’t understand her language.

“In China, it’s all about local influencers,” said Backaler.

In comparison, China’s local influencers like Zhang Dayi and “Mr. Bag”, though unknown to consumers outside of China, are selling great. Mr. Bag’s campaign sold 3.24 million RMB worth of bags in just six minutes — which is why Backaler emphasized that it’s time for companies to work with local influencers to expand their businesses internationally.

“Influencer marketing is a young practice and still doesn’t account for the biggest spend in a company — 10 percent to 20 percent is usually how much they spend,” said Backaler, citing stats. “However, Companies that are investing tend to spend more and more.”

What choices do companies need to make to structure their global influencer marketing management?

According to Backaler, there are usually three approaches. The first one is “local-local,” where brands establish local set-up and have minimal instruction and monitoring from the corporate level. The second one is “global-global,” where headquarters sets a framework which has to be applied by local branches consistently.

He thinks neither of this would work, then introduced the approach of “global-local.”

“‘Global-local’ is when headquarters sets a global framework but the local team provides insights, because they know how to tailor it to the local market,” said Backaler.

What are the ways to collaborate with influencers?

For step-by-step approaches, Backaler summed it up in five:

  • Increase brand awareness in a new foreign country
  • Drive product sales in an existing target foreign country
  • Affiliate sales distributor model to test market demand
  • Manage global corporate reputation
  • Conduct “voice of influencer” local customer research

To wrap up, Backaler chose to stay hopeful for the future of influencer marketing.

“Fundamentally, we all want to learn from trust appears than faceless companies, so while influencer marketing is going to evolve and change quite a bit, I firmly believe it’s here to stay,” said Backaler.

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