Wandia Gichuru is a very successful businesswoman in Kenya today because she was ready to learn some influencer marketing techniques. It wasn’t always like that. In 2013, her business was dying and she went bankrupt.
Being relatively new to Africa’s marketplace, sifting through the online noise to reach her audience using traditional adverting methods almost ruined Wandia’s promising business.
Could an industry influencer give her a shout-out on their social media profiles? Perhaps, mention her in an article? These could be her best routes out of the bankruptcy her business was now plunged into.
But that was also never going to happen unless she had built a rock-solid relationship with an influencer. The beginning of her life’s greatest challenge had commenced.
According to the Huffington Post, influencer marketing is a way of promoting and selling products or services through people (influencers) with a huge online presence. A recent Twitter research shows that people now trust influencers nearly as much as their friends. Perhaps, the reason influencer marketing is very powerful.
The recent McKinsey study highlights that marketing-inspired word-of-mouth generates twice the sales of traditional advertising, with a 37% higher retention rate.
With a growing number of Africa’s consumers starting to distrust branded marketing messages in favor of word-of-mouth recommendations from their influencers, Gichuru’s Vivo Activewear company was doomed.
She was spending a huge amount of her marketing budget on promoting her brand’s products, using the traditional methods of marketing. In a way, this meant throwing money away – money the business didn’t quite have considering it was just a startup.
After working with leading development and corporate firms for almost half her life, Wandia Gichuru ended her career and sought to create her own business.
Together with a partner in 2011, they invested $70.000 and set up Vivo Activewear – a Kenyan brand which produces and sells affordable casual clothing for women in their mid-twenties and late forties, as well as the “young at heart” in Kenya. This was her “aha!” moment.
Everything seemed to be working out just fine.
Later on, everything began to fall apart.
One new yoga brand of clothing from South Africa wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. It was not generating, it was consuming instead. Wandia needed a less expensive way to create awareness for the product.
She had tried everything she could, nothing worked. Then, she tried paid advertising. After all, it was working for everyone, or at least the big brands. She spent $5.000 of her initial capital in a paid advertising campaign for the brand. Then, she realized her sales could not cover advertising cost.
When Gichuru eventually put the new brand on the shelves, customers didn’t buy. Things were beginning to go sour now. She didn’t give up though. Two years later, they still had the product in stock and Wandia Gichuru thought this was her chance to make things right again.
Wandia knew the product was pretty cool and her initial thought was, people had not heard enough of it like the other products in her shop. She pumped in another 25% of her initial stock on one supplier for the brand and launched another disastrous campaign. Things were getting even sourer now.
Her once promising business was now only a shadow of itself.
She knew her business was gone. More than half of her company’s budget had been lost to the yoga brand. The feeling was excruciating. She could see her business crumbling before her very eyes.
What else could she do?
Perhaps she needed to raise investment capital. How could she know? In her line of business, raising money is hard.
Nonetheless, Wandia knew she had to keep fighting. She had to succeed in business. It’s like she was losing her soul. However, she was hopeful that she would find her way, her own little secret to success. She knew that once she discovered her little secret, everything will fall into place.
Wandia continued to try business strategies of successful entrepreneurs in Africa. After trying strategies of over 17 different entrepreneurs, she discovered that industry moguls like Tony Elemelu continuously hack their way to success with Influencer Marketing. She dug deep to see who else was benefiting from Influencer Marketing.
Marketers of famous brands – Resolution Insurance, Guinness Kenya, Safaricom and Africa’s top entrepreneurs – Aliko Dangote, Peter Nduati, N.J Ayuk and Tony Elumelu, have used influencer marketing in many different ways to reach their varied audiences.
Digital Marketing Strategist, Petra Liu, Managing Director of Wetpaint Advertising, used influencer marketing by partnering with celebrities in South Africa to advertise their marketing agency.
After studying these stats, Wandia Gichuru began trying some of the ideas, and a good number of them worked well for her. They reached more people and eventually sold the yoga brand.
Vivo Activewear started using media personalities, fashion bloggers and designers to showcase its collections. One of the influencers it works with is Grace Msalame, a former TV presenter who regularly posts images of herself dressed in Vivo.
She leveraged her solid social media fanbase consisting over 162.000 Instagram followers, 17.000 on Twitter and 46.000 on Facebook.
Vivo also partnered with fashion blogger, Sharon Mundia to showcase their collections to her legions of fans on Instagram.
However, achieving such a breakthrough in Gichuru’s business will never have happened, unless she built a relationship with these influencers. This is how she did it in 5 simple steps.
1. Catch them on social
Most influencers communicate with their audience on at least one social media platform. At least, that’s where most of them spend their 24 hours every day. The first thing you want to do is check which channels your target influencers are active on and engage with them.
Wandia Gichuru’s first interaction with Msalame and Mundia was actually on Instagram. She realized these two influencers had a huge following not only on Instagram, but on other platforms as well. Besides, they were the perfect match for her brand – lovers of fashion and lifestyle.
She began posting some of Vivo’s collections, tagging them in every post. They subsequently found the collections interesting and began reposting and retweeting them on their social media accounts.
The seeds of a relationship were planted. She had just built a relationship with her first breed of influencers.
2. Drop insightful comments on influencer’s blog posts
When Gichuru first discovered Sharon Mundia’s blog, she would consistently comment on her articles. For one thing, she loved fashion, she was a producer of African fashion wears for women.
She won’t just leave any comment, but a dramatic comment that makes the author eager to know who she is. Of what use is it to leave a comment the author won’t even pay attention to?
Bloggers usually appreciate insightful, relevant comments/questions because it shows people are reading and getting value from their articles. One of the keys to blog commenting is leaving a thoughtful question or comment, rather than just a generic answer – “great post” for instance.
3. Purchase influencer’s products
Wandia Gichuru didn’t quite buy any products from her influencers. But she did purchase some fabric following a recommendation from one of her influencers. And she found it really good. She wasn’t just going to buy this fabric because she needed to build a relationship – she was in a recession.
Naturally, a relationship arises when you buy products from your potential influencer.
One naturally cool side effect is that you get to know some of your influencers a lot better after buying their products. They also get to know and remember you.
4. Include influencers in expert posts
Almost every business has a blog. That blog could be a gateway to connecting with the most powerful influencers. Expert roundups happened to be one great way for Wandia to build relationships with her influencers.
She invited a lot of influencers to participate in one of her roundups by answering a question. She eventually compiled the answers into a single blog post. Sure, many of the influencers shared it on social media.
The influencers got a link back to their site and some exposure.
Her audience got a piece of content that spills a lot of advice from trusted voices in Kenya’s fashion industry.
She finally built a solidified relationship with the influencers that participated in her roundup as a result.
5. Focus on growing your own influence
People naturally like connecting with others they have something in common with. When they see you’re also willing to put in the hard work required to succeed, they’ll start to notice you.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”
John C. Maxwell
Instead of trying so hard to connect with other influencers, Wandia Gichuru realized she could focus on growing her own presence instead.
Activities like guest posting on popular blogs, helped her in the early days to get noticed by other influencers and some of them even reached out to her. Showing other people that she was in the game to stay, helped her build relationships a lot easier.
Wandia Gichuru learned Influencer Marketing the hard way. Today, her business is thriving with the help of these influencer marketing tips she has been using and continues to use. Instead of using what doesn’t work, why not try Wandia’s techniques and reach the right audience? Only then, will you be on every influencer’s radar.