Trends come and go. Forward-looking marketers want to identify the tactics and approaches that are here to stay.
Strategist and consultant Shane Barker is convinced that influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere — not because he’s bought into the hype, but because he has experienced the power of influence first-hand, time and again.
“Even if the influencer marketing approaches we see today eventually become obsolete, the concept of marketing through an influential figure will essentially remain the same,” Barker says. “That’s because it’s human nature to look up to an authority figure and take their advice when making decisions.”
When we chatted with him for our Insight Track series, the CEO of Shane Barker Consulting shared the stories that shaped his career and led him to fully embrace influencer marketing. The running aficionado also explained why marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, and how up-and-coming brands can position themselves for the long run.
Read on to learn more, and find out if you can beat Barker’s fastest mile time.
You’re an authority in the realm of influencer marketing. What’s one of the biggest misconceptions you tend to encounter about the subject today?
Like a lot of non-traditional marketing approaches, influencer marketing has encountered a fair share of skepticism, typically resulting from misconceptions.
One of the biggest misconceptions about influencer marketing is that it’s just a temporary hype and that it’s not sustainable. I don’t agree with this because influencer marketing, I have found, is highly versatile. You can choose from a bunch of approaches and adapt them based on what works for you, your campaign, and your industry.
Another misconception is that influencer marketing isn’t measurable, and that’s absolutely untrue. As long as you set clear goals and define specific performance metrics, you can measure the impact of your influencer marketing campaign.
Plus, we now have comprehensive influencer marketing platforms like Grin, NeoReach, and TapInfluence that offer accurate performance-tracking tools for your campaigns. These have made it even easier for brands and marketers to measure how well their influencer marketing programs are performing.
What made you realize that influencer marketing is such a critical cornerstone of modern marketing, and something you wanted to build expertise and specialization around?
Working with my client Zoe Rodriguez changed everything for me and made me realize the true impact of influencer marketing. Zoe is a health and fitness blogger. She is also the CEO of ZBody Fitness, Inc. She came to me because she wanted to drive more sales for her products and increase her brand’s online presence at the same time.
Around this time, influencer marketing was still at its nascent stage. There were influencers, but brands weren’t really making use of their influence like they are today. So it was extremely difficult to find and filter influencers—because there weren’t any influencer discovery tools available.
But we eventually managed to launch a campaign with a few niche Instagram influencers who featured Zoe in their posts. They tried out her fitness programs and posted before and after pictures of their transformation. We also did a bunch of design improvements on her site and launched email drip campaigns to align with this campaign. The results were impressive.
With a $300,000 investment, Zoe managed to generate a $1.6 million increase in sales. Through the influencer marketing initiatives alone, we saw a 5x lift in ROI.
Seeing firsthand how people trust and look up to these influential figures made me realize how much of an impact influencers can have in modern marketing. That was the turning point for me, and when I decided to start focusing on influencer marketing.
Given your involvement with the startup scene, are there marketing methods and approaches that strike you as being particularly effective for smaller, up-and-coming businesses?
For startups, the biggest challenge is to reach a relevant audience and convince them to spend money on their products. This means they need to get the word out as much as possible through trustworthy sources. That’s why I believe influencer marketing is one of the most effective approaches that smaller, up-and-coming businesses should try out.
Look at Daniel Wellington, for example. No one had heard of them, until influencers started posting photos of their watches on Instagram. Now the founder has a net worth of more than $1 billion and it hasn’t even been a decade since they started out.
Find a way to have influencers review your product and vouch for it—whether it’s through blog posts, video reviews, or even social media posts. The influencers don’t necessarily have to be individuals. You can also consider reputable review sites as influencers.
Content marketing is another approach that I would recommend for startups. Produce quality content that people will like, trust, and share. It doesn’t necessarily have to promote your product. At such an early stage, it’s better if you start building your authority as an expert in the niche before you can start promoting your products and services.
As an avid runner, can you draw any parallels between your passions for running and marketing?
So, running may seem easy. You just run, right? But there’s a lot more to it than just running. It requires taking a calculated approach because I have to ensure that my energy can last me the whole journey. When I run, I don’t focus on how fast I can go—but rather, how far I can go. I have to set my mind on maintaining a pace that’s fast enough, but won’t tire me out after just a few miles.
A lot of this concept can be applied to marketing as well. I’ve seen campaigns that start out at a super fast pace and shortly run out of fuel—or funds, rather. So, the campaigns can never really have the desired impact the company had anticipated.
I like to take a calculated approach and consider all the available funds and resources, as well every aspect of the client’s goals and industry landscapes. With all this in mind, I help create campaigns that yield results for sustainable growth and long-term impact. What matters is how far I can help them go.
What’s your best mile time?
In high school, I ran a 5:17 mile and almost died from an asthma attack.
As you look back, what would you point to as the most transformative experience in your marketing career?
My experience working with Zoe, which I mentioned earlier, was easily the most transformative. Not only did I help her achieve a 7-figure sales increase, I also discovered a new marketing niche for myself.
Focusing on influencer marketing has yielded a lot of growth for my consultancy. But most importantly, it has helped me build valuable relationships with great people.
From your view, which effective marketing tactic is most overlooked or underutilized today?
I think employee advocacy is highly overlooked and underutilized in marketing today, both in the B2B and B2C landscapes. Businesses focus too much on sales and profits, that they sometimes lose sight of the people who make it all happen behind the scenes: their employees.
Yet, if the people working for you are vouching for your products or services within their circles, or even in front of your target audience, it could make all the difference in building trust. Consumers trust employee voices, because who else knows your company better than your employees?
Employee advocacy also shows the human side of your brand. And in a society that values empathy and the humane treatment of workers, a company that values its employees is bound to win people’s hearts. Plus, it’s cheap. You won’t have to invest a lot of funds in employee advocacy as long as you put in a genuine effort to connect with your employees.
What do you like best about living in Sacramento? How would you describe its culture and community?
I love Sacramento. It’s a great hub city. We’re an hour and a half from San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and the Pacific Ocean. The culture and community have both grown tremendously over the last eight years due to the rich craft beer scene and the farm-to-fork movement.
Who’s an up-and-coming marketer to watch, and why?
The first person who comes to mind is Adam Enfroy. I wouldn’t really say he’s up-and-coming, because he’s been around the block for more than a decade, and he’s the Manager of Affiliate Partnerships with BigCommerce. But, he’s recently launched his journey as a solopreneur and specializes in writing, content marketing, and affiliate marketing.
He uses his extensive knowledge in content and affiliate marketing to write super intriguing blog posts and guest posts. Although he only launched his blog in late December, he has managed to grow his domain authority to 44 and increase his organic traffic by 700%. So, I really think he’s off to a great start and we can expect to see him make a name as a marketing entrepreneur within the year.
What is a recent marketing campaign that’s caught your attention?
The first one I can think of is from the UK, and was launched in November of last year. KFC UK got a tweet from someone telling them that no one liked their fries. This was in early 2018. Instead of taking offense or ignoring the Twitter user, they turned the situation into a new marketing opportunity.
KFC UK took the time to come up with a solution, and by the end of the year they’d developed a new fry recipe. They launched an ad campaign in November showcasing the negative tweet and added one simple phrase: New fries coming soon. This turned out to be a lesson in creative marketing and an excellent example of social listening in action.
Cross the Finish Line with B2B Influencer Marketing
Throughout his career, Barker has helped countless individuals and organizations strengthen their brands through influencer marketing. By tapping into the trust and credibility inherent to respected and relevant experts, Barker has seen for himself the increased ROI and brand awareness this approach can bring.