Fast, Cheap, and Good - How Influencers Master the Iron Triangle

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Speed, efficiency and quality (the “Iron Triangle”) are the equal but often countervailing forces that make up a successful business venture. Consumers always want all three, but brands know that their job is one of balance and trade-offs.

This is more true than ever in the influencer-centric era of no-longer-new new media. With followers as consumers, and creators as a proxy for brands, new standards are forming in the increasingly complex economics of the Iron Triangle.

After all, earlier in 2017 the Internet Creators Guild drew a line in the sand with their study supporting the idea that influencers should be charging brands more. More subtle performance indicators are being increasingly eschewed in favor of considering channel size alone.

This goes against the trend within the advertising world more generally: to more diligently scrutinize ROI from media, especially influencers. Not all large channels have matching engagement, and some smaller channels include valuable, if narrow, niches.

When a business unit dips its toes into the influencer market, they almost always do so with tunnel vision from their own department. First come the public relations and communications teams, then come digital marketers and media agencies. They may all be a part of the same organization, but have different agendas.

Even lower-funnel investments like e-content and product positioning on the digital shelf have started making use of influencers. When done properly, any of these departments can benefit from working with an influencer, but not equally and not in all companies.

What we have here is an Iron Triangle scenario. The traditional application of the concept would involve looking at [fast], [cheap], and [good], and picking two of the three. But what brands should be doing with so many moving parts and asymmetrical outcomes is to look at the net outcome and try to optimize for all three.

An Iron Triangle for 2018

Good:
Only a deep, intuitive understanding of your brand based on experience and research can give you the perspective to choose the right influencers to work with. First things first: do you have an up-to-date model of your target customer? Do you have a brand bible on which to base your ideal voice? Only begin the discovery process once you have your ducks in a row.

Don’t go all-in on an influencer who is only recently trending. Look for someone who has already proven their staying power - and low volatility - among their audience.

Influencers that check the “good” box on the triangle will feel like a natural fit once you find them. Not only will they have worked in or near other brands in your category before, but their messaging will intuitively match the tone that your products already convey.

Fast:
Everything you’ve ever produced is forever at the fingertips (or rather, thumbtips) of everyone who might ever consume it. There are fewer middle men and more content streams than ever before in human history, and influencers that fit your brand will also have an understanding of your schedule and logistics.

Meet them half way! Realize that unlike traditional production shops, influencers will be chomping at the bit to create content around a trending event with a fast turnaround. No rush fees, no overtime, but perhaps a requirement that you be available for instant feedback as they do their thing. Being always-on and truly open-minded to collaboration will keep things “fast”, and then some.

Cheap:
Or, to put things in a more tasteful light, efficient. On the surface, this seems to be the basic question of cost-effectiveness: which is the biggest channel with the lowest rate? Not so much. And don’t get us started on the impulse many brands have to treat an influencer like yet another B2B contact and negotiate away their good will.

As always, your first step should be to orient your approach to your objective. An awareness-raising campaign can afford to focus solely on cost-per-view, but if what you need is click-through, then you want influencers with a high-engagement, high-trust audience. If your product is in its early proving and discovery stages, then you should take seriously the prospect of using a high number of micro-influencers to test things out and plant grass roots.

Any part of your offer that can expose the influencer to a new audience or otherwise grow their brand should be leveraged during negotiations. Not to mention that a trail of happy, well-treated influencers from past deals will only build your position up for future collaborations.

Doesn’t the archaic “choose two” system sound a little trite now? The Iron Triangle isn’t so rigid when it comes to the world of influence marketing, and it’s a good (and fast, and cheap) thing.

By Gregor Cooney,
GM of CROWD.