Creating a Full-Funnel Influencer Strategy for Luxury Brands
Reading time: 7 min
Luxury brands and influencers have long known that there is a mutual benefit to working together. Luxury brands cultivate more sales when they work with influencers who create content for every stage of the sales process. Content creators can raise brand and product awareness from the start when a consumer realises they want a product or service right through to the very end when the purchase is made.
In this article, we explain our approach to creating and implementing a full-funnel influencer strategy for our luxury clients, including:
- What a full-funnel influencer strategy consists of
- How we shortlist content creators for clients
- The range of creators you can work with
- The different results you get with each type of creator
- How successful creator campaigns are
- Why you need to hand creative power over to your influencer partners
- Using paid media and boosted content to improve campaign performance
- Choosing the right platforms for your content
- The opportunities and challenges of working with influencers
Building a full-funnel influencer strategy for your brand
The purpose of a sales funnel is to guide potential customers through every stage of their buying journey. There are three pre-sale stages to their journey:
- Raising Awareness (top of the funnel): At this stage, use influencers to raise brand awareness and create content for people who are just realising that they might need, want or desire a particular product or service. At this stage, you’re not selling – you’re generating curiosity and interest as well as answering the broad questions consumers have. This might involve grabbing potential customers’ attention with a striking Instagram post showing your influencer using your product or an influencer introducing a YouTube video showcasing lifestyle elements associated with your luxury brand.
- Consideration (middle of the funnel): Your consumer has now decided that they really want to buy a product or service similar to one you offer. Here, the job is to convince them that your products and services they should be choosing and that your brand has the exclusivity and prestige they desire. The type of content you could deploy at this stage includes a detailed review on an influencer’s blog or social media feed and a “day-in-the-life-with” vlog featuring your influencer showing how your product is part of their life. Another option to consider is a behind-the-scenes tour of your production process with your influencer emphasising the quality and craftsmanship of your products at each manufacturing stage.
- Conversion (bottom of the funnel): Many social media services now offer on-platform purchasing. If you have a new product to launch, your influencer could create a preview video to attract pre-orders. To increase conversion rates further, consumers could receive a bonus product as long as they enter the influencer’s name or a promotional code at the point of purchase. On-platform purchasing is easy to track meaning that you can see which influencers and which types of campaigns return the most on your investment.
Working with influencers at every stage of the sale can greatly increase product sales often in a short space of time but how do you choose the influencers you work with?
How we shortlist content creators for clients
When selecting influencers for a client shortlist, we first use social listening tools to find out how often an influencer posts on that brand, its products or topics that are representative of the mission statement of our client.
No matter how many followers an influencer has, the content we want to create with them must be congruent with the content they put out regularly. Underlying all successful creator partnerships is authenticity and believability. When that’s not there, both the luxury brand and creator are diminished.
Next, are the right people following a particular creator? We use various in-house tools to look for influencers whose audience closely matches our client’s target audience with a high overlap of 75% or more in most cases.
There are benefits to working with influencers who have collaborated with brands before, especially around the quality of content and turnaround times. If they have, we check KPIs from those campaigns using metrics like engagement rates to try to quantify the potential value of a partnership to the brand we’re representing.
The different types of content creator
Broadly speaking, there are four types of creators we would partner a client with:
1. Hero/brand ambassador
Sometimes called mega-influencers, hero influencers have follower counts that exceed 1 million. When a mega-influencer, often a celebrity, musician, sportsperson or film star, endorses your product, they’re vouching for it personally on the largest stage.
Often, the collaboration with a mega-influencer goes beyond a few social media posts. They become ambassadors – a long-term face of the company who champions the brand to their wide audience of followers, many of whom are within the brands’ key demographics.
Hero influencers often embody a certain lifestyle and prestige. The public associates many of them with opulence and luxury, qualities that they lend to brands they endorse when partnering with them.
There are other benefits too. They have influence beyond social media – multiple avenues of impact like TV shows, magazine covers, fashion lines and more – which offer multi-platform exposure for the brands they partner with.
Macro-influencers have between 100,000 and 1 million followers. The luxury brands that work with macro-influencers are targeting “grow” audiences – for example, British women over 30 interested in make-up products. These creators have a strong appeal and high visibility to those “grow” audiences but consumers outside that audience will be completely unaware of them.
Much more so than with mega-influencers, you can be far more precise in demographic matching with a macro-influencer. In addition, there’s a much closer bond between a macro-influencer and a mega-influencer.
A 30-year-old UK woman is likely to feel more seen and valued when an influencer represents her lifestyle and concerns. She’s more likely to be engaged with the influencer and her purchasing decisions swayed by her influencer’s opinion. When brands partner with such an influencer, the trust the influencer has in your brand transmits over to many of their followers.
Let’s go deeper and more granular. Micro-influencers occupy a space of more tightly defined groups of subcultures – people united by more niche shared characteristics like specific interests, demographics and geographical locations.
Micro-influencers have between 10,000 and 100,000 followers – so-called “micro-influencers”. Whereas our macro-influencer attracted UK women interested in make-up over 30, macro-influencers are more specific. In the female beauty space, this could be a green beauty blogger who specialises in eco-friendly and cruelty-free makeup, a mature skin blogger who shares advice on how to cover age spots and fine lines, or a career woman makeup blogger who focuses on makeup looks that are office-appropriate but still fashionable.
Micro-creators often have intensely loyal followings, making them ideal for brand partnerships on more specialist products.
Even more niche with up to 10,000 followers are nano-influencers. Think of a creator who specialises in beauty tips for women over 40 with skin conditions like rosacea or eczema or a creator for wearers of glasses sharing tips on how to stop makeup from smudging on lenses or how to make your eyes pop behind frames.
Of all types of creators, nano-creators enjoy the greatest level of affection, trust and loyalty from their followers. Nano-creators offer hyper-targeted advertising partnership opportunities for niche products and services.
How successful are creator partnership campaigns?
You’ll get different results depending on the types of creators you work with. A Later x Fohr report, whose findings mirror our experience, revealed that:
- Mega influencer engagement rates: All posts 0.8%, sponsored posts 1.4% (average cost per post $10,000+)
- Macro influencer engagement rates: All posts 1.3-1.6%, sponsored posts 1.2-1.5% (average cost per post $500-$5,000 (up to 50,000 followers) or $5,000 to $10,000 (50,000 to 100,000 followers))
- Micro influencer engagement rates: All posts 2%, sponsored posts 2% (average cost per post $100-$500)
- Nano influencer engagement rates: All posts 4%, sponsored posts 4% (average cost per post $10-$100)
If brand awareness is your campaign goal, mega and macro influencers are the better choice. But, for meaningful engagement over reach, micro and nano influencers provide a far greater return.
Why you should give your creator partner more control
While influencers may not have a marketing degree or experience in an agency, they have built up their audience on their own with little or no help from outside.
Brands should not underestimate the ability of content creators to tell stories, share insights and express opinions in a way that their audience likes and respects. It’s not just access to an influencer’s audience you’re buying – it’s also their ability to create content that your target buyers appreciate.
A study in the European Journal of Marketing confirmed this. When an influencer speaks in their own voice and style, their followers are more likely to pay attention. Brands should resist the urge to hand over a script and instead let the influencer communicate in a way that has already earned them their following.
Influencer partnership failures go back many years, famous examples of which include:
- BooTea Shake x Scott Disick: BooTea, a health drink manufacturer, worked with reality TV star Scott Disick, most famous for his role in Keeping Up with the Kardashians. He copied and pasted BooTea’s marketers’ message into his Instagram post, forgetting to take out the word “Caption”. Mr Disick showed little to no interest in the product and BooTea’s marketers didn’t vet the post before it went live.
- Snickers x multiple celebs: Snickers took its “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign to the UK adapting the message by using British celebrities like Amir Khan, Cher Lloyd and Katie Price. Price’s post contained political commentary she is not normally associated with leading some to believe her account had been hacked. This led to social media ridicule for the campaign.
- Jemma Lucy vs Skinny Caffe: Jem Lucy, a reality TV star, was reprimanded by the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency for promoting weight loss products while she was pregnant. Regulators banned the ad because its sponsored nature was unrevealed and for promoting a product that was not recommended for pregnant women.
Using paid media and boosted content
Leveraging paid media, or “boosting,” is an effective way to make sure as many people as possible are exposed to your influencer collaborations.
When an influencer publishes a post organically, only their followers see it. You can, however, boost the post by pushing it into the feeds of users who fit your target demographics but who may not follow your influencer partner.
A/B or split testing can further improve campaign performance. You take your influencer’s original post and create a slightly modified second version, perhaps with a different call-to-action or photograph. Run the campaign for a short time and then see which one got greater engagement or led to more leads or conversions. Choose the post that performed closest to your target KPIs and carry on with that one for the rest of the campaign.
Timing is another factor. Experiment with boosting your post at different times of day or days of the week to figure out when your target audience is most active online. Check campaign data to see which days and times it performs best on and boost the post then.
Bear in mind that some posts aren’t immediate hits. More detailed posts, like an influencer explaining the quality of the materials used in your product or the craftsmanship involved in its design and assembly, may take longer to make an impact. These posts can end up being some of your most successful but you have to be patient before deciding whether to keep running with them or not.
Appearing on the right platforms
The platforms you engage with influencers on make a significant difference to the outcome of your campaigns. Although these are not hard-and-fast rules, the advice we generally give to clients is as follows:
- TikTok for young audiences: TikTok is a space primarily for Gen Zers and younger Millennials. Engagement is high on the platform with more likes, shares and comments in general per post than other platforms. Thanks to its search algorithm and intuitive advertising platform, brands can go viral quickly on TikTok. The challenge with TikTok is striking the right balance between entertaining and informative to drive ongoing engagement.
- YouTube for product showcases: In contrast to TikTok’s short-term videos, long-form content on YouTube is very effective at explaining products or services in-depth and sharing deeper brand stories and lifestyle-related content. The appearance of an influencer on your video can significantly increase reach too, especially if different versions of it appear on your YouTube page and your influencer’s YouTube page.
- Instagram for visual storytelling: The stylish presentation of visual content and easy access to it on Instagram make it ideal for presenting luxury products and experiences. The blend of photos, videos, and stories connects strongly with users and boosts brand perception. The ability to purchase on the platform also gives firms the opportunity to directly track revenue back to individual influencer campaigns.
- LinkedIn for high net worth individuals: Although LinkedIn is known for its professional networking, industry insights and thought leadership, it’s a surprisingly personal platform that occasionally resembles Facebook in some of its content. The site counts among its members high-net-worth individuals, executives and professionals whose purchase of personal goods and services can be influenced by niche influencers like collectors, critics or even C-suite executives who have a passion for luxury. Content that works well on LinkedIn includes intelligent story-telling in the form of in-depth interviews, articles or panel discussions that highlight brand heritage, craftsmanship and the experience of luxury.
Working with influencers through Verb Brands
If you wish to build a full-funnel influencer program for your brand, talk to Verb Brands. We can help you select an ambassador for long-term engagement as well as connect you to influencers for short-term projects to generate immediate attention. We can also ensure exclusivity in your relationships so that your partner creators will not discuss competitors’ products, especially important if you intend to use them at product launches or for high-profile special events.
For holiday-season campaigns, we can reach out and find the right influencers for your brand ensuring that all campaign collateral is ready to deploy at all stages of the sales funnel in good time. If you want to work with campaigners in more than one country, we have an international presence and can make separate arrangements with different influencers in important markets.
From influencer shortlisting to terms of engagement and content creation to effective distribution, Verb Brands can manage the entire process for you. We’ve worked with luxury and high-end brands in the UK and around the world for over 10 years. We’d appreciate the chance to hear what ideas you have for working with influencers and, of course, we’ll share our experience and insights with you.
Please get in touch with us. We look forward to hearing from you.