If KOLs Aren't Part of Your Marketing Strategy, You Need To Read This

Although it's not really a new concept, Key Opinion Leader (KOL) marketing is gaining importance in today's information-saturated digital world, where more and more consumers rely on endorsements to help filter through the endless avalanche of content before making buying decisions. If you aren't targeting key opinion leaders with your marketing campaign, here's why you should.

Why They Matter

In recent years, forward-thinking marketers have recognized the need for developing KOL strategies to spark and sustain growth. The reasons are compelling:

  • KOLs can drive faster awareness, when compared to traditional marketing tactics.
  • When properly leveraged, KOLs can deliver huge results, at only a fraction of the cost.
  • Brands gain prestige when they receive endorsements from prominent KOLs.
  • Depending on the KOL, just one recommendation can lead to countless sales.

As companies focus on blending immediate awareness campaigns with sustained, long-term marketing strategies, KOLs are becoming an important focal point. But, who are they, and how do you reach them?

What Exactly Is a KOL?

When most people think about key opinion leaders, they picture celebrities with millions of Twitter followers. This makes sense when you consider how famous people have driven sales by simply alerting fans that they like certain products. When Oprah Winfrey features a novel in her famous book club, it usually means millions of sales for the author. Similar things happen when talk show hosts, movie stars and industry thought leaders prop up certain brands.

Recently, celebrity Kylie Jenner shed significant light on the power of opinion leaders when she announced to her 24 million Twitter followers that she no longer uses Snapchat, resulting in billions of dollars in losses, as investors began selling off the company's stock.

While extreme, this example does highlight just how influential opinion leaders can be. In the vast majority of cases, however, when marketers talk about KOLs, they are not really talking about movie stars, talk show hosts or television personalities.

What Are Some Examples of KOLs?

You can really trace the origin of key opinion leaders (KOLs) or online influencers back to when people browsed homemade blog posts on blogger.com, Xanga.com, and other personal content-sharing platforms. As people posted for leisure, marketers began to notice that some bloggers stood out from the rest. As social media gained prominence, it spawned a new breed of digital content creators, who began writing about food, beauty, travel, and more.

Businesses enjoy major benefits when they effectively engage these types of opinion leaders. That said, because these people wield significant power, it takes a measured, tactical approach to win them over. Just as they can prop up your product or service, KOLs can also tear it down. This is why it's so important to make sure you target the right KOL; engage him or her in a tactful way; and commit to a long-term strategy that focuses on nurturing the relationship.

Before you develop content or reach out to key opinion leaders, you must identify the right candidates. Not only should they have influence over large audiences; KOLs - and their audiences - should fit your messages, content and brand. With influencer marketing, it's important to understand a KOL's needs, dislikes, drivers and individual audiences, or you will never be able to create a sustainable relationship that offers long-term value. You could also inadvertently alienate the KOL and his or her audience.

A Powerful Part of a Comprehensive Plan

When executed well, KOL marketing can have a huge impact on a company's brand. That said, as with all channels, it should be viewed as a long-term activity that contributes to the entire strategic framework of your marketing plan. When companies make a concerted effort to build networks of KOLs, more tend to reveal themselves, and it gets easier to monitor and assess which relationships work best - so they can allocate resources accordingly. To get any benefits however, you have to start sometime, and that sometime should be now.

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