The 4Cs Of Influencer Marketing Strategy for Brand Building – Patrick Lynch Ep73

“Measurement is the only true change catalyst and attention is the only true value indicator.”– Patrick Lynch [30:51]

“The more relevant an image is for a person to either see themselves or to see something that is vitally important to them is likely going to be attracting more attention.”– Patrick Lynch [10:40]

Allowing influencers to produce creative on their behalf that’s a win-win for your brand and for them; the ROI on that is almost immeasurable and certainly you probably didn’t have the budget to do it the traditional way.”– Patrick Lynch [16:08]

How to Utilize the 4Cs Influencer Marketing Strategy to Create Winning Campaigns for Your Brand with Patrick Lynch

How well are you utilizing influencer marketing to market your brand? Influencer marketing has proved to be very effective in giving results over the last few years and is budget-friendly compared to traditional marketing.

In this episode of the Page One Podcast, Luke Peters speaks with Patrick Lynch, a professor of analytics and leadership for industry 4.0 at the Thunderbird school for global management including how technology and analytics impact customer behavior and brands. He was previously a research fellow in Accenture Think Tank, the institute for strategic change where he pioneered methods for measuring shopper attitudes and behaviors.

Listen in to learn how influencer marketing can help you create very targeted and customized marketing campaigns. You will also learn how shopper behaviors and patterns over the pandemic changed and how small to medium brands are taking advantage of that to get out there. 

Key Takeaways:

  • How to measure campaign results with types of engagement and evidence instead of ROI.
  • How to create co-operative relationships with influencers to do things you can’t do.
  • Why people tend to trust third parties talking about a product more than the brand doing it themselves.
  • The 4Cs to look for when considering influencer marketing for your brand.
  • How the pandemic changed shopper behaviors and patterns plus how brands changed to adjust to consumer needs. 

Episode Timeline:

  • [4:56] The importance of influencer marketing as a part of a business’s promotional mix.
  • [6:50] How to take advantage of human visual-context to use imagery when marketing on a social media platform.
  • [9:51] Creating effective social media campaigns by use of relatable images and attracting the right attention.
  • [13:21] Patrick explains new ways you can measure things and think about metrics.
  • [18:24] How to have evergreen marketing materials that are customizable to your audience to create a winning campaign.
  • [22:19] The advantage of using influencer marketing to create clear, clean, concise, and captivating campaigns as opposed to using traditional marketing agencies.
  • [25:56] He explains the upsides and downsides of using influencer marketing and digital marketing agency.
  • [30:40] How to get started in influencer marketing by utilizing yourself or employees to create authentic marketing materials.
  • [34:28] Patrick talks about the shoppers’ survey results he and his team conducted during COVID.
  • [38:20] How small and medium brands changed what they were doing to match consumer needs during the pandemic.
  • [42:29] The importance of having a comprehensive on-me channel strategy to drive customers off the market place to your curated store.

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Page 1 Podcast, a podcast featuring a variety of guests and thought leaders on topics ranging from digital marketing, sales channel strategies, influencer marketing, best in class product launches, and all the details about how to accelerate sales. Now here’s your host, Luke Peters.

Luke Peters: Thanks for joining us on the Page 1 Podcast. I’m your host, Luke Peters, CEO of NewAir Appliances and Retail Band digital strategy agencies. Business owners, do you wish you had someone to create a custom strategic plan to grow your online sales, someone to show you how to execute it with your team? If that’s what you’re looking for, we can do that for you. To learn more find me on LinkedIn or email me at luke@retailband.com.

Luke Peters: In this episode you’re going to hear from Professor Patrick Lynch on how COVID is changing buyer attitudes and shopping habits in the rise of global micro influencer marketing. Specifically we’re going to talk about his new research on how this is a once in a lifetime chance for small and midsize brands to permanently grab consumer attention.

Luke Peters: Dr. Lynch is a Professor of Analytics and Leadership for Industry 4.0 at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, including how technology and analytics impact customer behavior and brands. Previously he was a research fellow in Accenture’s think tank, the Institute for Strategic Change, where he pioneered methods for measuring shopper attitudes and behaviors. Currently he’s exploring how COVID is changing buyer attitudes and shopping habits and the rise of global micro influencer marketing.

Luke Peters: Dr. Lynch is a finisher of a full Iron Man Triathlon, Boston Marathon, and Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, and he’s only been hospitalized once doing those things. Dr. Lynch, thanks for joining us on the Page 1 Podcast.

Patrick Lynch: Thank you very much for that introduction. That is true. I’m working on being hospitalized more every day though, so I always hold out hope.

Luke Peters: That’s funny. Remind me again where is Leadville? Is that out by Death Valley, right?

Patrick Lynch: Well, that’s actually in Colorado. What’s unique about that race is that it happens all… I think the lowest elevation that you’re at is something like 12,000 feet, and it ascends almost to 14,000 feet. They do that both as a footrace, but I am a finisher of the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, which was one of the more insane experiences that I’ve had.

Luke Peters: Oh, wow. So there’s one… Maybe it’s a run, and it’s out by Death Valley. So this is at high elevation? That’s just equally as hard, but it’s a lot of fun. Just so the audience knows, I was joking with Dr. Lynch that he’s done the trifecta. I’ve done a little bit of each of these, but I just do like a… I’ve done a sprint triathlon, which is… You’re only swimming like half a mile in that thing. I think the bikes are maybe 20 miles. It’s nothing close to the full Iron Man, so congrats on getting those three done.

Patrick Lynch: Anyways, another thing… Just a social thing to do with friends, and I have a great [inaudible 00:03:22] endurance athlete. I really just do it for fun, but it connects you to a great set of people in the community. And, actually relevant to our talk today, it’s great products actually in that whole industry, often from small and medium size businesses, so maybe some of what we’ll talk about today will be relevant to that audience as well.

Luke Peters: Oh, yeah. People are fanatical about those products and that’s what makes those categories fun. Cool. So for the audience, we’re going to… By the way, just as a side note so the audience knows, I heard you speak, Dr. Lynch… I was at a pretty small event affiliated with IHA. I forget what the name of that event was, but it was in San Diego, affiliated with the International Housewares Association, and so the audience knows, Dr. Lynch gave kind of a talk on influencer marketing, micro influencer marketing, and it was an awesome talk.

Luke Peters: We actually do a lot of this already at NewAir, but I don’t hear many people talking about it, at least not at the level that he did. So from that I said I got to get Dr. Lynch on the podcast. And in addition to that, you’ve done this research on consumer behaviors that have changed during COVID.

Luke Peters: So those are the things we’re going to talk about today, and we’ll just jump right into it here with the first question, which is how should brands be approaching influencer marketing? Should they focus on measured ROI, or should they just consider this some sort of unmeasurable branding component of the marketing?

Patrick Lynch: Right. Well that’s a great question. Unfortunately we won’t have a simple answer. Influencer marketing clearly a buzz word, right, for any kind of socia media tactic that’s been active over the past several years, initially starting out where I think brands needed a proof of concept, early adopters sort of testing the waters.

Patrick Lynch: But now I think the evidence is pretty clear. The majority of brands are beginning to working now with influencers. There’s pretty good evidence that they’re able to track some kind of change in their business. Whether it’s going to be specifically ROI or not, we can probably get into that a little bit more.

Patrick Lynch: But I definitely think that we are now seeing influencer marketing as a savvy choice to be among your marketing promotional mix. It’s more than a fad. It’s something that I think fundamentally hits at what makes us human, and that is understanding how others are getting needs met and satisfying or solving problems, and that’s what’s really enriching or beneficial for brands to really consider, some kind of an influencer marketing strategy.

Patrick Lynch: I think we need to talk a little bit more about whether ROI is ready or not, so maybe we can dig in on that a little bit more, on some of the trends there.

Luke Peters: Sure. I guess… Well, why don’t we jump into this next question and then we can probably circle back on some of these things. Let’s talk about platforms. When everybody is thinking of influencer marketing, I’m thinking Instagram and YouTube. I’m guessing those are going to be the main platforms that you have also looked at, but I’d like to hear your opinion on the different platforms and how you see them.

Patrick Lynch: That’s another great sort of focus that I think many brand owners, C-suite executives, sales and marketing managers are wondering about. The fundamental thing that we need to understand is that we are visual processors. The human brain is able to process an image 60,000 times faster than text. 90% of the information that we’re actually processing is coming in visually to our brains.

Patrick Lynch: It’s not just so much of the information that’s hitting us, but when we are able to conceive of that impression or that image we’re by far more persuaded by whatever the message is. Therefore, I don’t have a… I don’t align myself with any particular platform. I’m not paid by any particular platform. But I think any kind of platform that is going to take advantage of this innate ability for us as visual animals, visual human beings, that we are probably going to see better results from that.

Patrick Lynch: Now over time obviously we’ve already seen in really a short amount of time in our professional careers some of these social platforms have come and go. I’ll date myself a little bit. I do remember… You know, I remember MySpace. I remember other kinds of dinosaurs, like Vine for example, that kind of have come and go before anybody really knew how to monetize these things.

Patrick Lynch: So there isn’t one simple answer, but I believe that any of the platforms that enable you as a marketer or a brand owner to take advantage of the visual context for the consumption of that media is going to win out at the end of the day. We’re just really set up for that. Our brains are hardwired to process that imagery better. That’s actually how we get persuasiveness, and that ultimately is what we’re trying to do with marketers, is show that our products are superior in some way of solving a problem.

Patrick Lynch: So without naming any particular one, I think anything with the visual kinds of elements are going to be stronger, and it also offers a lot more opportunities I think for omnichannel or across platform contacts, and that’s really what’s going to win out at the end of the day.

Luke Peters: Yeah. In those… So we can keep going on that line there of visual processes, we’re visual processors. Is it a huge advantage to have a human face in the picture? The reason I ask is like, you know, if we’re working with people and that’s normally how they make their Instagram feed and they do a collaboration with their… Say one of our wine coolers, and the mom or model is in it, or she wants to put her kids in it, I always like those. I think getting that face in there makes it more relatable. It adds scale and things like that, but I think there’s something else to it.

Luke Peters: Is that true, or does just a beautiful picture in the kitchen without a person in it still have that same effect?

Patrick Lynch: Right. Just as an age old kind of element for marketing research, you definitely can find situations where different types of imagery are going to work, but in general the reason why seeing a person and then particular types of people, that would be something like babies or children, even animals for that matter, it actually again is hitting a kind of developmental element. Who is it that you see as you are growing up? Obviously you are immediately drawn to the people around you, your family, your friends, and you learn to trust them. Similarly with animals. As a adult, if you are ultimately having children you’re paying special attention to them.

Patrick Lynch: So we find that the more relevant an image is for a person to either see themselves or see something that is vitally to important to them is likely going to be attracting more attention.

Patrick Lynch: There’s also different types of attention. If it’s relevant here we can go into that, but there is different reasons why those kinds of images really tap a core, a motivating factor for us to pay attention to something that’s important when they’re able to see an image of either themselves or a baby.

Patrick Lynch: This kind of imagery is actually super important also because there’s this notion of what we call compensatory consumption. When we see someone doing something that is important to us, a need or something that is being satisfied, we’re immediately drawn to try to sort of compare on how do we stack up to that need being solved.

Patrick Lynch: Take a kitchen for example, that stain in your own counter doesn’t get cleaned, but you just saw someone cleaning that and they were satisfied. We immediately sort of relate to that in a very primal way, and this draws our attention to that. It’s difficult to just do that with a before and after pristine counter, although I’m not saying that doesn’t work. When you see a person added to that image it immediately grabs attention in a different way.

Patrick Lynch: In fact, those of some of the new things that I think that people should be measuring rather than ROI. It’s going to be other kinds of engagement and types of evidence that the image is working.

Luke Peters: You know what, why don’t we stick on that then, because we started talking about ROIs. You can just finish your thoughts on that. Before you do, I’ll just… You’re a little bit behind the scenes, so I have some friends that run their influencer programs literally 100% on ROI because it literally runs most of the revenue at their business, and then others that just… They’ll track it with codes, but it’s more part of the marketing umbrella.

Luke Peters: Their business maybe doesn’t happen on their website. It could happen on other channels, and so it’s very hard to actually understand where that final conversion is happening. So the ROI conversations can… And for people listening to this podcast, you’re going to find that a lot of them are selling all over the place, right? They can track on their own website, but what if that YouTube viewer buys it off homedepot.com? They’re never going to know, so it would be great to get your thoughts on ROI, and then also as it relates to the images and what else can be measured.

Patrick Lynch: Great. Let’s pick up on ROI. There is absolutely nothing the matter with measuring ROI if you can do it in a way that you’re satisfied with. We all know that the challenge of course is the attribution, so many different ways, so many different pathways through the funnel, going from awareness all the way to a sale. You bring up a good example, if that person did get sensitized to something but buy it over at Home Depot ROI is out the door.

Patrick Lynch: So some of the other new thinking that you may want to consider is really just conversion goal, some percentage of conversions. Conversion could be defined different ways, obviously because we want the money, if you can naturally trace it to ROI. But how about winning new customers, just the percentage of winning new customers? Obviously you would expect that to increase in your sales, but it may just be that you just have new eyeballs and new customers.

Patrick Lynch: Or encouraging more engagement with your existing customers. We’re all going after so much of our marketing spend to go and find new customers, where actually it’s much more efficient for you to get more out of your existing customers and have them spend more.

Patrick Lynch: Or how about actually having a faster pathway to launch a new product or a new service, so speeding up, especially relative to some prior benchmark where you may have had a new product launch or an engagement where you invested a mass marketing campaign? Using some of these new influencer techniques could actually expedite your ability to have awareness, update and full conversion to these new product launches or new services.

Patrick Lynch: I’m just giving you some ideas. We could go on… I mean I don’t think that there’s any right or wrong answer here, but some businesses are stymied to try to measure that ROI and there could be other ways of sort of just understanding brand identity that might be appropriate and really starting to utilize new customers.

Patrick Lynch: When I talk with either executives like yourself or some new clients, I introduce some new ideas, like maybe COI that is cooperative investment. In other words, when you are engaging with an influencer rather than thinking about it the way that we used to with a marketing campaign that’s one and done, how are you actually creating some kind of cooperative relationship with that influencer or set of influencers to actually do things you could not do with your budget?

Patrick Lynch: We all know how expensive it is to actually engage with a formal agency to do ad creative. Well, allowing those influencers to actually produce creative on their behalf that’s a win-win for your brand and for them, the ROI on that is almost immeasurable, and certainly you probably didn’t have the budget to do it the traditional way in the first place or you would have done it.

Patrick Lynch: So there’s lots of strategies to use, influencers with those kind of campaigns. I talk about COI, cooperative investment, in other words how much am I actually investing in that influencer, but it might be much more broad than [inaudible 00:16:39] of sale, because I’m actually bringing in an audience and I’m having much more referrals beyond just the initial contact. So these are some new ways to think about metrics and different ways that you can measure things.

Luke Peters: I think those are perfect actually. I really liked the two things you talked about, which is utilizing influencers to launch SKUs. We’ve done that. That’s part of our DNA, and the thing is you kind of get a bunch of things. Oftentimes, like you mentioned, brands will launch with a bunch of ad spend, but here you’re getting oftentimes permanent assets on the internet on third party sites that are going to rank forever, and you can get… The other thing I liked is getting the digital assets, like you talked about.

Luke Peters: Kind of to that point, what we’ve done is we created a scorecard so… Every company is going to have their needs, Dr. Lynch, but with us, when we’re working with influencers we have a scorecard so we can say these are the five or seven elements that are really important. While we can still measure through analytics some ROI, a lot of it we’re not going to have attribution, as you mentioned.

Luke Peters: But we do know that if we get these right few words in, and we do know that if we get a couple of great images out of it, and we do know that if this is put into the video, on and on and on, that we could score those as an A, because more than likely they’re going to have like great results on whatever platform they’re for.

Luke Peters: That’s how we look at it. It’s more of like over time if we use our recipe and we hit our A scorecard we’re going to have more videos or Instagram collaborations that end up winning for the brand.

Patrick Lynch: I think you’re just spot on. I don’t know if that’s something you do with your clients, or obviously if it’s for yourself, with your business there, but that’s spot on. That is I think the new wisdom that brand owners everywhere really need to take a look at. Nothing the matter with the traditional kind of metrics, but the idea of a scorecard or a handful of key sort of measurements that you want, or almost components actually that you want to validate that are present in your activity is probably a wiser, sage kind of a move.

Patrick Lynch: I can share other… A colleague of mine, Doug Olsen, I’ve done some work with him at Arizona State University… Thunderbird School of Global Management that I’m at is part of also Arizona State University. But he talks a lot about how customer generated content and custom generated content actually leads to higher buyer intent.

Patrick Lynch: Now of course the virtue of these visual spaces and working with influencers, like you mentioned, that asset, the Instagram post or the YouTube video, those are an almost evergreen sort of component that will continue to add value.

Patrick Lynch: One of the challenges with ROI… I mean it makes a lot of sense when you have a traditional campaign that maybe it was a print media campaign or a billboard, it was up for a month, it’s down for a month, I can measure the ROI. But when you have these evergreen sort of assets that are out there effectively marketing for you 24/7/365 and maybe years into the future, what he talks about is the impact of those almost customizable kind of ads, which is effectively what an influencer is doing for you… I’ll explain the customizable part in just a moment.

Patrick Lynch: But you are getting the message sent this company cares about me, this company is one that I want to have a strong relationship with. So really you could talk about a metric of return on caring or return on relationship. What you’re doing there is you’re really communicating with that audience that your brand is one that is trustworthy. Your brand is one that is authentic. Your brand is one that solves a real problem by a real person that I can relate to.

Patrick Lynch: That’s in fact the customizable part. There are some new visual ways that we’re experimenting with customizable ads, but in a way an influence that has an audience that is clearly dedicated to them, when they are explaining how your product or service helped them it is effectively a customizable kind of an ad, and I mean that in a very authentic, direct way. I don’t think there’s any slight-of-hand about that when it’s going legitimately, authentically, which is why it’s so important.

Patrick Lynch: But you’re actually now building on return on caring or return on relationship. That’s a little bit hard for us to quantify, but you want to make sure that it’s present and it’s there, and that’s a winning campaign.

Luke Peters: That’s a great example. I’ll just kind of piggyback on that a little bit just from my own experiences, and especially if people listening in the audience have a lot of old school SEO.

Luke Peters: You’ll all remember that what strong SEO really is about, off site things that are happening, so it could be other people linking to you, talking about you, those types of things. It’s things that you can’t literary control on your own site. It’s what other people are doing, and that can really send a strong signal and help your SEO.

Luke Peters: The way I look at it, that’s what influencers are doing. A brand can sit there and talk all they want, but people trust third parties when they’re talking about the brand more than they’re going to trust the brand themselves. Kind of to your point, you get that benefit of other people talking about you, and often these are people that their audiences really trust them.

Patrick Lynch: Again, I think that is perfectly in line. If I were to summarize it, it is a small acronym that… There’s many different acronyms out there for us to remember as brand owners or marketers, but I’ll offer you my four Cs right here around influencer platforms or influencer kind of campaigns. You want to look for these four Cs.

Patrick Lynch: The first is just clear. You have a clearly defined purpose as to why you want to be on that platform and who it is that you’re working with on that platform, whatever platform they’re on. Many of course are on more than one platform, so you got to think about that very carefully.

Patrick Lynch: The second is clean. Is the creative appropriate for that platform? You know and I know that if we spent all day and you had the appropriate attention and creative to doing it we probably won’t do it as well as the influencer will themselves, because they know the platform, they know the way that the images need to be designed for that, whether it’s an Instagram, a YouTube, or even a Twitter for that matter. But they know that it’s clean and that the creative is appropriate for that platform, so let’s cooperate with them and let them do that.

Patrick Lynch: The third is concise, so that there is some kind of brief but comprehensive message for whatever it is that it’s being utilized for. Hopefully you know that when you’re making some kind of relationship with an influencer the idea of what it is that you’re doing or the needs of the product that you can communicate are one thing, but they’re going to do that for you on their behalf. In other words, it’s a comprehensive solution for whatever it is, the problem, the purpose.

Patrick Lynch: The last is that it’s captivating, that the campaign is attractive, that it’s going to hold the appropriate attention. Again, I could sit with my marketing team all day long and try to figure out do we have a campaign that’s clear, clean, concise and captivating, or I can go find the appropriate influencer that’s actually going to do this in an innate way.

Patrick Lynch: Their campaign is already going to be clear, clean, concise and captivating, because they have a vested interest in doing that in a way that when I was working with a traditional kind of agency… Well, their interest is as far as my budget is to pay them, or as good of an ad person that I can get to work with. But the influencers are right on the four Cs and that’s their bread and butter.

Luke Peters: That makes a ton of sense. I love acronyms, so like you mentioned, clear, clean, concise and captivating, I mean that’s a good recipe. But also, for everybody listening, just rewinding just to understand the intent behind that and why. If the influencer already has that there’s a value in that. When you’re negotiating with them it’s not just about the time that it’s going to take them to throw up an Instagram post.

Luke Peters: Speaking of that, why don’t we kind of get into… I’m sure people that are listening are wondering like how do I find these influencers, and then obviously you could go… Brands can go search on Instagram or YouTube or whatever other platform, but they can also hire agencies. But I’ve often found agencies can be really expensive. Their influencers are maybe not micro influencers. They’re kind of like higher level influencers.

Luke Peters: It would be good to hear from you, Dr. Lynch, on if people want to get their hands dirty and ask their marketing departments to just go out and test this, like how would they actually kind of do it?

Patrick Lynch: Right. This is an excellent kind of question and I won’t have a simple answer. There’s virtues on all sides and I don’t have any professional alignment with any of these platforms or marketplaces that help find influencers, but I have heard and spoken with influencers themselves, brand owners themselves that lament that kind of process.

Patrick Lynch: I do think like anything in life there are some excellent agencies out there. There’s also some excellent platforms out there. So I’ll say just a few words on the virtue of that and we’ll talk about the other side of sort of going organically yourself.

Patrick Lynch: When you are able to work with an agency or a platform, and there are some very good ones out there, oftentimes some of these metrics, some of these dashboards that you would otherwise need to create or be concerned about with some of the notions that we just touched on are already made for you… So the benefit of working with those agencies if you just don’t feel that you’re going to have the time and staff to dedicate to that, and especially if you’re talking about a typical brand maybe working with a dozen influencers, I think I’ve recently read from statistics that some really small and medium size brands working with up to 50 influencers. That can be a lot to manage. The advantage of working with an agency or a platform like that is simplifying that and making sure that you’re getting good metrics where it’s appropriate.

Patrick Lynch: Now the age old problem though is whether you’re working with an agency or you’re going to go try to find some of these influencers on your own is getting that match, so let’s go to the other side, because I think there’s a lot of virtue on that. Simply you know where your audience typically are, hopefully you know something about your channels, you’ve built persona, so it doesn’t… Frankly, from my own research, talking with a lot especially mid-tier brands, it often is one or two people at most in these marketing departments that are actually engaged in the social media. Perhaps they’ve had some experience themselves being an influencer, and you really are going to start in-house trying to identify people that might be attractive to the product.

Patrick Lynch: Nowadays of course it’s working both ways. There’s a lot of influencers that are contacting brands and managers trying to show the engagement of their audience and the different kinds of things that they’ve done. Those folks are actually reaching out directly to the brands. I’ve seen all sides of that.

Patrick Lynch: The challenge there is you still are just signing up for a lot of hands on efforts. So if you’re ready for that, I think you do need to make it dedicated focus to do that, dedicate somebody who is going to be managing that social media and probably the influencers themselves. I think that’s a really viable option, and I think it gives the brand the best sort of control to have the appropriate relationship and actually build trust with the influencers that they’re working for.

Patrick Lynch: But, again, the downside could be tracking this metrics thing. It is a lot of work to manage the kinds of agreements that we have. Did the post actually happen? What kind of engagement were you looking for on that? Did it actually happen? You’re just signing up to manage that, and that’s where specialization sometimes with an agency or a platform could save a lot of time.

Luke Peters: I couldn’t agree more. On one end I’ll be like how come these other companies aren’t doing it? But the thing is if it’s part of your company DNA and you already know how to do these things and you got like a strong marketing and SEO mindset in the team, and you got to be really process driven. Like you said, there could be individual contracts for every one of these engagements.

Luke Peters: Those things, if your team isn’t set up that way then it can definitely be a challenge, maybe just even on the goal setting standpoint. Maybe the team you have can get the job done, but they need someone to kind of write out the plan for them, so there’s a bunch of hurdles there, and I guess if someone is listening and they’re not sure you got a couple things to think about, but working with an agency is going to be a lot quicker, as you mentioned.

Luke Peters: If you do it yourself it can have more longterm benefit. Like you said, the engagement, the relationship is important, because one of the other metrics we track is we want to increase the number of engagements we have with each influencer, which sounds like an obvious thing, but if you don’t make that a goal then it may not happen and you’re just finding new influencers all the time. But having those repeat engagements, there’s a lot of value there.

Patrick Lynch: It really does pay off. One of the things that I share with some of the executives that are coming to our programs or other kinds of performing engagements, measurement is the only true change catalyst and attention is the only true value indicator. In other words, you have to measure something to get it done, the old adage, and then you have to make sure that that engagement is there, the attention is appropriate for what you’re looking for.

Patrick Lynch: A lot of companies… I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, Luke, they do look to their own employees as a potential way to get started. So if you do have some folks in your teams… I know many are feeling that they’re already chief cook and bottle washer, especially for some of these small or medium brands, but you are an excellent advocate for the products or solutions that you’re making. You can be an initial influencer, and that could also be a way for you to sort of experience both sides and sort of learn the business.

Patrick Lynch: I would reasonably encourage that as a start. I’ve talked with a lot of brands that started that way and found out your friends and family even, you know, some of them might have been initial investors in the business because they believe in the product. Getting them now to quote some things on social media and actually find people that it really ticks for is a reasonable strategy.

Patrick Lynch: Now of course I am aware there are other businesses out there that want to turn all your staff into influencers. I think that opens up other challenges. I’m not saying that it can’t happen, but not everybody is really outfitted for that. You do need to prepare the appropriate content in the four Cs that I just went through if you’re really turning that on internally.

Patrick Lynch: But that should be another avenue that people kind of consider. Maybe look in the mirror or maybe look at your staff or team and see if there are one or two people that are willing to do that and maybe start to share some how-tos in a reasonable, authentic way, which is so important for influencers. That could be a great avenue to actually get started. Try it out, and then you might see the virtue of an agency or something like that afterward.

Luke Peters: Yeah. That’s a great way… I know we want to jump over to this other topic really quick, so I think this is a good one to kind of finish up on the influencer topic. That’s a great idea. I haven’t even really thought about that one, but if you have a couple of employees and they know the space… Like I think the point that you made that was important was that they can kind of put the how-to together and they can get deep and involved in the space.

Luke Peters: So I think we’ll leave it off on that idea right there, because I think that gives you, everybody listening, a third idea, right? You could run and create your own program, you can find an agency, or internally you can kind of do this test start with folks in the company.

Luke Peters: Dr. Lynch, why don’t we quickly pivot, because you’ve done some really, really interesting research on how habits have changed during COVID, and just to kind of set the table here I’m sure we’ve all read a lot of articles on this, so there has been a lot of research by a lot of people on how things have changed during COVID, but you were really specific in your research articles about how this is actually kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity for small and midsize companies to gain maybe market share or maybe just head space in the consumer’s mind as the consumer changes where and how they’re doing things.

Luke Peters: Could you kind of… Why don’t we just start out by if you could just summarize your findings. I think that would be a good place.

Patrick Lynch: Well, I appreciate the opportunity to, you know, talk about this. We were, like most of us, caught by surprise in early spring when it was very clear that we were hitting the lockdown, stay at home kind of orders. So this obviously was a terrible situation one would wish on the world.

Patrick Lynch: On the other hand, it was an amazing research opportunity. In general we’re cognitive misers. We have mental shortcuts for the way that we guide our judgment. We’re basically creatures of habit when we find that some kind of routine works for us. That’s the reason why a lot of certainly consumer package good kinds of companies, they would traditionally manage growth based on population, growth within the areas that they operate, and there’s not a lot of science really behind that other than that there’s more people to serve, there’s more people that are going to need to wash maybe their clothes based on who’s being born.

Patrick Lynch: But the pandemic really shook that up, because suddenly now routines were disrupted, products that people would ordinarily buy are not available, or they’re not available in the typical kind of channel. I can’t go to the store, but is it available online?

Patrick Lynch: That’s an unprecedented opportunity to actually look at those kinds of earth shattering events that might change buying habits, but in particular for mid-tier brands. A lot of the bigger brands and such, again they have other avenues to kind of solve that.

Patrick Lynch: We were curious, are people actually experiencing that? So back in March, just two weeks after the stay at home orders had hit nationally here in the US, we did a national survey, a representative valid survey of adult shoppers. We were asking them what are the new things that they’re experiencing. Perhaps again, not too big a surprise, about 58% of those that we surveyed said they visited a store that was new to them. 76% said that they shopped online at new stores or websites, and they were shifting when they were shopping, about 80% of the customers saying that they were actually shopping at new times of day.

Patrick Lynch: That is a perfect formula for changing habits, and that’s exactly what we found. 54% of the respondents reported buying brands that were new to them and 30% of their shopping baskets actually contained new brands. That’s incredible, and absolutely an opportunity we would have, again not wished on the world, but we’re actually starting to see back in March the early signs that maybe something special was happening with buying patterns because of the pandemic.

Luke Peters: Yeah. I guess what people could take from that is hey, we better get online or we better make sure that we’re strong online or advertising more or take… It’s kind of like just kind of a common… It’s just like a word that we’ll use around here, or any business I guess will use it. It’s like if you’re going to advertise in Q4, you know, customers have their wallets out, they’re spending in December and late November versus September, right, just because of the holidays.

Luke Peters: So we’ve just seen higher conversion rates, and maybe that’s happening right now, but is there anything specific that brands can do beyond the obvious, you know, maybe increase advertising or just try to increase awareness or just be online and be their for their customers. But is there anything that your research showed that they could change on their products or be in a certain channel or… I’m just curious if there’s any takeaways there.

Patrick Lynch: Luke, that’s exactly what our research sort of uncovered. Way more than the major market brands, much like you would imagine, it is actually the small, mid-tier brands that are able to pivot. They are more agile because they… First of all, I think they’re closer to the market and they actually can sense and understand what the new need is, but they can actually turn on a dime. We found that over and over across the research and still going on.

Patrick Lynch: I’ll give you one example. There’s a lot of fashion companies now that were… At that time they were maybe producing some kind of hair accessory. Immediately there was a need for masks and people didn’t just want any mask. They wanted high quality masks. They wanted masks that were maybe in some kind of coordination with their outfit. What better to meet that need than a small mid-tier brand that was already producing other kinds of fashion accessories, but now producing fashion accessories like face masks?

Patrick Lynch: Another example would be recognizing that people’s buying habits and location had changed. So way faster, way sooner than maybe some of these bigger market brands, it were the local brands that found ways to solve the last mile for digital distribution, so hopping online with some kind of a delivery service, or even placing their products in places they would not.

Patrick Lynch: We featured one example, this one is actually an international example, but maybe those that have traveled a bit know that other countries utilize vending machines for products that might surprise you, but we don’t see a lot of that in the US.

Patrick Lynch: We saw medium sized brands find ways to get their products into vending machines in public places, so low touch or no touch, but it removed the need to go around other people to actually have products basically on the street corners.

Patrick Lynch: In the end we found actually that there was more evidence by the small and medium market brands that could detect sort of what the needs were and sort of change either the way that they were manufacturing things or what they were doing for actually getting to where the customers need them to be, and it was faster done and by far… Even small farmers markets, Luke, we found a lot of them adopting those kind of digital delivery models.

Patrick Lynch: In needed services, we found a lot of evidence for those kind of dealerships offering no touch or low touch kinds of service for car repairs. So those were things that were not done at a national level, but really the local brands, the kind of scrappy, and be able to pivot.

Luke Peters: Yeah, those are great examples. Even the car one, like that’s a great example. Sometimes you just think about products, but services, companies that have really adapted quickly, advertising that it’s safe, advertising exactly how we’re going to take care of you or your car or whatever it might be, I think they’re winning, so I’m glad you brought up those different examples to kind of tell that story.

Luke Peters: Looking forward, and I guess we can kind of finish up the conversation on this question, because it’s always a big one, but Amazon is taking more and more share, and it seems, at least on my end, that there’s more consolidation happening, right? You have Amazon, but then you have other… You know, the Wayfairs and Walmarts and everybody else. So the smaller brands still have that challenge, that all the eyeballs are now increasingly starting on Amazon their shopping journey.

Luke Peters: We talked about influencer marketing. I think that’s a way that these small brands can stay relevant and win. Do you have any other thoughts? Between our conversation today on influencers and just on the changing consumer habits over the next couple of years where should brands put their focus on so they stay relevant and continue to grow in a world where the big companies are kind of consolidating a lot of those eyeballs?

Patrick Lynch: Right. A lot easier said than done, some professor at Thunderbird is getting to tell these brand owners about what to do.

Luke Peters: That’s funny.

Patrick Lynch: But I don’t think you’re alone actually. I think the evidence was clear that the shot across the bow of even the big marketplaces like Amazon and Wayfair and such, back when Nike announced in January and February that they were going off platform… Immediately probably a lot of brand owners and brand teams are going to say, “We’re not Nike. We’re not a gorilla ourselves, and so how do we actually do that?”

Patrick Lynch: But I think the answer is, just as you were saying, we’re actually already touching on that. I think the first strategy is within those marketplaces you still want to take advantage of everything you can to make sure that you’re producing a collection of products.

Patrick Lynch: Those marketplaces were really built around web engineering people trying to solve how do you display a virtually unlimited supply and do it efficiently. That meant that the experience with the brand is really mitigated by that, and in our opinion somewhat reduced. In other words, seeing just your product among a list of other products, where you’re pretty much competing on price, is a really low competitive place to be.

Patrick Lynch: So to the extent that you can take advantage of those platforms first to make sure that you have a curated store, even a link to your store or your collection of products is the first thing. Use some jujitsu, right? Some marketing jujitsu. They give it to you. Take advantage of that.

Patrick Lynch: The second part of that strategy I do think is related to what you can do after the fact, and it is going to be a strategy like an influencer, but those products, once they are sent, you have a direct line to the consumer, so doing a lot more on the packaging or in the packaging to drive some kind of engagement after the fact and loyalty after the fact.

Patrick Lynch: So really focus on what they’re going to get. I know myself, having to switch to a lot of these, I’ve seen a lot of medium market brands have very clear packaging and very clear direction and offers for me to continue to have a relationship with them, maybe even share a promotion with a friend or gain some kind of accessory with the product if I take the step to go to their direct website off of those marketplaces.

Patrick Lynch: Again, I love the marketplaces. I don’t want the marketplaces to get me wrong. They all serve a purpose here, but we’re just talking about having a comprehensive omnichannel strategy, and that means that take advantage of every touchpoint you have, still be data driven in your decision making about what is appropriate of some kind of an incentive, but anything that you can do to make sure that you’re driving customers to your curated store within that marketplace, or even better a curated store off the marketplace which allows you to have a stronger relationship, and that’s actually I think where the two topics dovetail, because your influencers are definitely going to be one of those avenues that can continue to drive not only actually to the marketplace, but maybe to your own branded site or some kind of promotion or some kind of co-creation is what I would recommend with those customers.

Patrick Lynch: Have them post a selfie with the product. Have them have some way to actually share a success story of whatever the product has done or is doing in their lives. Those strategies are far more in the hands of the medium market brands than they are the marketplaces.

Luke Peters: Wow, that’s a great answer and a great place to finish up on. Listen, I talk to a lot of brands that aren’t focused on digital, they don’t even sell on their own website, and they don’t even brand on their own website. It’s just like a placeholder. So rewind that. This is the time to really double down and create that beautiful experience and figure out how to create that multi-channel experience, or omni channel that we just talked about.

Luke Peters: Listen, I enjoyed the conversation Dr. Lynch. I really appreciate it. I know you’re a busy guy and I just want to thank you for coming on. How can listeners find more about you and what you’re doing?

Patrick Lynch: Well, I’m available in all the regular social media places as well. I’m on LinkedIn. There’s a lot of Patrick Lynchs in the world, so I am Patrick Lynch, PhD. If you want to connect with me on LinkedIn, I’d certainly invite that. We have actually pretty active conversations sometimes with executives there, so please look me up on LinkedIn. But I am the one Patrick Lynch with the PhD. That’s the only way I can differentiate.

Patrick Lynch: Or if you go to Arizona State University you’re able to look up on the directory and you can hit me at there and contact me through the University. I’m at Thunderbird School of Global Management. I’m instructing in all kinds of courses for credit, but we also do continuing education for executives and a robust set of programs there.

Luke Peters: Awesome. Listen, it’s been a pleasure having you here. I just want to thank all the other listeners for joining us today on the podcast. I truly appreciate your reviews on iTunes, and I hope you join us for the next interview.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to the Page 1 Podcast with Luke Peters. If you enjoyed this episode please help us out by leaving us a rating on iTunes. Want to double your online sales? Check out www.retaildan.com, and don’t forget to join us next week with our next amazing guest.


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