The Problem with Niche-Specific Influencers

Jan 18, 2021 | Influencer Marketing 101

Unpopular Opinion: DON’T Use Niche-Specific Influencers to SELL your Niche-Specific Product

It may seem harsh, but this could save your brand a LOT of time, frustration, and money. Let’s chat about this not so hot opinion.


What’s the goal of the campaign?

In the world of marketing in general, it’s common to hear phrases like, “you have to niche down to blow up” and “the riches are in the niches”. While there is definitely some truth to this, influencer marketing shouldn’t be blanketed in a statement that doesn’t take the ever-changing landscape of social media into consideration. In this guide, we want to walk you through the reasons brands should avoid niche-specific influencers for conversion campaigns.
The success of influencer marketing largely depends on two things: 1) the type of influencers utilized for campaign, and 2) the goal of a brand’s campaign to begin with. Let’s start by going over the difference between two common goals brands may have when they consider adding influencers to their marketing mix: exposure campaigns and conversion campaigns.
Exposure campaigns are exactly what they sound like- an effort to get the word out and draw awareness and exposure to a new brand or product. This is a phase that most new brands want to skip past when they’ve just launched, are already in the red and are struggling to make sales. But it’s an important stage to go through because the brands that do this awareness stage well are the ones who become household names. Campaigns with the specific goal of producing conversions (sales) as opposed to brand recognition or exposure are, you guessed it- conversion campaigns. After you’ve worked to get your brand out there, then it’s time to move on to a conversion and sales-centered approach to marketing.
For these two types of campaigns, the expectations of return (ROI) are totally different! It’s important to note the differences when discussing the effectiveness of a niche-specific influencer whose content, followers, and reach are limited to a likely saturated pool of already established brands.

The “Catalogue” Effect

Hiring an influencer to promote your brand or product if you’re primarily looking for exposure is a good way to go, even if it’s in a niche market. It seems intuitive to hire an influencer who’s heavily integrated into the niche that your target customer is already interested in. But don’t be surprised when brand awareness is all you gain from this approach and you haven’t boosted your sales with a niche-specific influencer.
For example, take an influencer with an average sized audience who shares about gluten-free living. She gives tips for eating more gluten-free options and regularly shares all kinds of brands in that niche. You can expect her followers to be engaged and to see/come to know your product and brand better over time. The ol’ “rule of 7” from the Ad Men Marketing days tells us “a prospect needs to ‘hear’ the advertiser’s message at least 7 times before they’ll take action to buy that product or service . But for an influencer like this, there are other brands similar to yours in the gluten-free market that are vying for the remaining 6 f 7 mentions!
She becomes KNOWN for constantly sharing and posting about the gluten-free niche, and her audience comes to expect more and more recommendations, variety, and options. It’s as if her page becomes like a gluten-free catalogue. Like a revolving door of options but no clear go-to’s. Now that’s great for brand recognition and an exposure campaign. But when’s the last time you shopped and actually BOUGHT something from a catalogue? If your brand is mentioned in this scenario, that doesn’t mean your product necessarily fits into the influencer’s routine or authentically comes across as their favorite choice. How could it, if they’re talking about so many?


How about some actual results…

Then that begs the question: if niche-specific influencers won’t drive conversions, then what will? Historically, conversions are best driven by influencers with smaller audiences (micro-influencers or nano-influencers). Influencers who are experts in their field, with smaller audiences, who can create and hold conversations in which the product they feature is the only option, are the ones who will actually move the needle for product sales. Not influencers with larger followings who will leave your brand or product lost in the sauce of an entire slew of similar options.
Look at it this way- think about how much longer it takes you to make a decision when you go to a restaurant with a huge menu, like Cheesecake Factory. You may sit down with the intention to try something new, but end up getting overwhelmed by the endless options, so you give up and pick the same old thing you always get. Think about how much easier and faster your purchase decision is at a place with a smaller menu. For instance, like In-N-Out, who, for those of you who don’t live in the Southern California bubble and don’t know what In-N-Out is, sell only burgers, fries, and shakes. I guarantee you won’t have to flip through that menu 7 times to pick something. Less confusion always leads to clearer and more effective messaging, which then yields higher rates of action and conversion (a.k.a $$$).
Micro-influencers have smaller audiences, yes. But that also means their engagement rates are usually higher. More intimate relationships and meaningful conversations can exist on the platforms of smaller creators. That’s important because the level of know, like, and trust between your product and the person selling it to them (the influencer) needs to be stronger than ever in this digital age of constant advertising inundation. There’s a lot of mistrust, phony opinions, and skepticism out on the internet. There’s not enough honesty, true conversations, and impactful messaging these days for brands to break through the noise. People with smaller audiences are more connected with their followers and can offer a larger space in their circle for conversation about your product or brand. The ticket to conversions is to find someone influential who can mention your product in an organic way but doesn’t have their entire platform dedicated to the niche that product is in.
You want an influencer to be able to answer any questions, objections, or concerns people have when they consider making a purchase decision. That needs to come from someone they can see clearly really uses, loves, and recommends the product as a real friend in their life would. You want someone who is dedicated to really trying out your product long term and who is devoted to using it as the ultimate solution to their problem or an important part of their lifestyle.

How to be 100% Effective

What actually DOES work for conversions and why:
Do you remember that scene in the hit 2005 movie Hitch with Will Smith where he’s teaching Kevin James the art of sealing the deal with a kiss? When going in for a kiss, he says that it’s Albert’s job to initiate 90% of the way and let his lady meet him the other 10% of the way. Same thing with this whole influencer approach when it comes to conversion campaigns! Spoiler alert, you actually do need to have an awesome offer. Seeing is believing and when you have this dedicated creator showing up for their audience and continuously presenting your product as the one and only option, they are taking your brand 90% of the way, so the product itself should be able to deliver that last 10%.
When you hire this type of influencer, you are buying their loyalty first and foremost with the promise of a quality product. After all, if it’s the only solution they’ll present, it better be a good one! That’s precisely why it is so important to spend your marketing dollars with intention and manage your expectations according to where you are in your business. If you’re not sure what kind of campaign to be focusing on for your business, we can help give you more clarity on that with this fun quiz!
So now you know how to make more savvy decisions when it comes to utilizing influencers for your product marketing and how to better navigate the gap in the conversation about niche markets. To recap, if you have an opportunity to take your gluten-free cookies to a super popin’ party with tons of people there, it’s nice to throw your product into the ring and get more eyeballs. People will know more about your brand. But there are so many other kinds of cookies at that party, you can’t be sure anyone is paying enough attention to yours to consider buying. If you want more than eyeballs and you want actual dollars, it makes sense to try a smaller, less noisy party to bring your gluten-free cookies to that doesn’t already have a bunch of other brands for you to compete with.

Are you ready to take it to the next level?

It can be extremely discouraging for brands and marketers to take a swing at influencer marketing on their own without knowing these important distinctions. As a marketer, it can be really intimidating to report back a big fat fail after convincing your company to spend a bunch of money on influencer marketing without a clear goal and without first thinking about the best approach for that goal. It’s like trying to mine for gold with a hammer instead of a pick axe, losing money, and deciding that mining doesn’t work for you. If only you’d used the right tool and mined in the right spot, the gold JUST under the surface could have been reached a lot faster and more easily.
If you need help with everything from deciding what kind of campaign is right for the stage your business is in and what kind of influencers to pitch to, and HOW to even go about that, you’re in the right place. We’d love to invite you to book a strategy session with Kat to get some clarity on how to make the most of your next campaign, whether that be for exposure or conversions. This is your opportunity to get action-packed advice that is specific to your business! Simply follow this link and book a call.
But if you’re all set to hit the ground running with a fresh list of influencers to pitch to for your next campaign, we’ve got you covered there, too. That’s why we’ve made it super simple for you to place an order for a custom list-pull. Yes, it IS possible to get a done-for-you list that’s hyper specific to your brand. For only $100 you can have us pull a customized list of the top-10 perfect influencers for you to enhance the success of your campaign from the get go.
Anytime you’re looking for more guidance on how to further navigate the influencer marketing game, know that you are in very good hands with us at The Influencer Grapevine. We have tons more resources for you on our blog where you can find advice on how to create more successful and profitable collaborations with influencers.