Marketing as a business function seamlessly combines both creative and strategic thinking; creative because to stand out against your competitors, you must strike the right balance between achieving a sense of familiarity to your customers, while remaining differentiated; strategic because it must make sense- you cannot let creativity run free and lose sight of your business objectives or what your competitors are doing.
This desire to remain strategic yet foster creativity in our marketing means that marketers are always trying to remain dynamic and keep up to date with new and exciting marketing opportunities, all while battling the struggle to part with the more traditional marketing activities with a proven track record. Marketing trends are ever-changing as consumers change the way in which they vet brands and approach their decision process. An example of this is PPC (Pay Per Click); this is a marketing activity with bundles of popularity and success stories in the industry, but as of late there has been an increased interest in whether influencer marketing trumps PPC due to consumers’ ever-increasing scepticism towards paid media and traditional advertising, leaving them to favour word of mouth (WOM) and earned media.
Both PPC and influencer marketing are in their own right very powerful marketing tactics; it is important for marketers to understand their brand and industry sector in isolation and not get too wrapped up in where the marketing industry as a whole is headed; each industry and brand is different, with varied offerings, consumers and customer experiences. Therefore, we’ve laid out the pros and cons for both influencer marketing and PPC so that you, as a marketer, can come to an informed conclusion of which tactic is best for you.
INFLUENCER MARKETING: THE PROS
Influencer marketing drives sales
The concept of PPC is to drive clicks; you’re exposing your brand to potential prospects in the hope that they engage with your advert- however, there are no guarantees that the click will convert. Influencer marketing works to increase product interest and conversion rates, by leveraging an individual’s influence amongst their community. It’s all about looking at the sales cycle as a psychological process; the power of influence and persuasion to get potential clients over the line. Influencer marketing drives a better quality customer than PPC to your website, as they are further along in their buying cycle and are more likely to consider and purchase due to the third party influence.
Customers choose to consume influencers’ content
The reason the above works so well is that if a customer is being exposed to an influencer’s content, then they are familiar with them and follow them. So, they have consciously made a decision to consume that content which is half the battle won. PPC ads, while targeted and usually carefully executed, cannot be guaranteed to be relevant or of interest to the readers.
Influencer marketing has better ROI
Influencer marketing has a superior ROI compared to PPC; $6.50 in revenue for every $1 spent. When it comes to a PPC campaign, PowerTraffic states that brands make $3 in revenue on every $1.60 they spend on AdWords. Another study found that influencer campaigns bring in 11 times the ROI of traditional advertising. Ultimately what this means is, with influencer marketing, you can invest sufficiently less to gain a sufficiently higher return- a stat which will resonate with every senior manager.
Earned Media/WOM trumps all
Word of mouth tops every form of marketing, with 92% saying that they trust earned media over paid– this trust has increased by 18% since 2007. With this trend, marketers must adjust their marketing efforts. Viewers also view influencers’ content 7 times longer than digital display ads; 2 minutes 8 seconds average vs 19.2 seconds.
Influencer marketing allows for creativity
PPC campaigns have character limits and are very focused on bidding and targeting rather than the message itself being delivered. Smaller companies often just replicate the norm/industry standard when it comes to PPC as they lack the required budget to get creative- something that influencer marketing not only allows for but holds at its heart.
Influencer marketing is more effective on social media
If you’re looking to target millennials then influencer marketing is the route to take- not only do they have a strong social media presence, but they’re sceptical towards outright advertising. A study here found that 39% of students like internet advertising vs 48% preferring word of mouth suggestions. Not only are millennials ‘the future’, but they’re disloyal to brands- this is a huge opportunity for brands to retain their existing customers, snatch their competitors’ customers and increase market share.
Influencer marketing is an effective way of acquiring customers
Influencer marketing is the fastest growing online customer-acquisition channel leading the way at 22%, with paid search quite a way behind with 14% and display advertising at 9%.
Influencer marketing bypasses the ad blockers
With ad blockers increasing, brands must adjust their efforts and think outside the box to enable them to reach their audience.
Influencers are a catalyst for trust
Influencers are most powerful when used as a catalyst for trust in a brand to increase customer conversion. Evoking trust in a customer could potentially be the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity.
INFLUENCER MARKETING: THE CONS
Engagement rates aren’t guaranteed
While we can take into account an influencer’s reach, resonance and reference, we can only predict the level of engagement. Whereas, on the contrary, what you pay for PPC is relative to the engagement- so in this respect PPC is lower risk. So, if working with an influencer on a transactional basis in which you front the cost prior to a campaign, there is the risk that you may not see a return.
You do not have total control of the demographic you’re reaching
Similarly to engagement, while you can gauge a good idea of who you’re reaching by looking at the demographic stats of an influencer, the breakdown will not be as specific or targeted as in a PPC campaign. While 60% of an influencer’s following may be extremely relevant, the other 40% may not be relevant at all.
Success isn’t as easy to measure
Influencer marketing typically tends to be measured against the softer metrics, such as likes, comments, shares and re-tweets. While conclusions can be drawn if sales increase sufficiently post campaign, or by tracking influencers’ unique links in Google Analytics, this isn’t always as conclusive. The success isn’t perhaps as easy to track compared to PPC.
PAY PER CLICK: THE PROS
You’re paying based on performance
Since you’re paying per click, you’re paying relative to each engagement you receive. Therefore, if the PPC campaign isn’t successful at gaining engagement, you can terminate the campaign and come in at a loss of what you invested.
You are in control of your budget
Once you hit your allocated budget you can assess how successful the campaign has been- whether to continue with investment in this area, or to withdraw. While PPC is known to sometimes get expensive, you will be in full control of how much you spend throughout.
Effective means for achieving optimal SEO
While influencer marketing can aid with SEO organically, this is a longer term process. PPC puts your website at the top of the search results (when your allocated keywords allow, of course), meaning that your brand is exposed.
Efficient direct marketing
Not only are you able to narrow down the types of users you wish to target, you can also filter according to location too. For example, if you’re advertising an event you’re hosting in London, you may achieve better results if you limit your targeting to those in London only- this means that you’re not wasting your money and exposure on those that ultimately will not be interested.
Re-target and re-market warmer prospects
You can specifically target prospects that used to be in your pipeline, or those that have visited your site and payed an interest with a social media PPC campaign in a warm, non-intrusive way.
Easier to measure
Easy to track in a reliable and quantifiable way.
Track your ads in real time
this allows you to assess what you’re doing right and what perhaps needs to change- if not in this campaign, in the next one.
PAY PER CLICK: THE CONS
PPC is being ignored
While PPC has been around and been successful for a long period of time, people are becoming sceptical and turning a blind eye to PPC campaigns. Goo Technologies conducted a survey looking at the types of adverts consumers are likely to ignore the most- They found that 82% ignore online ads; 62% ignore social media ads and 59% ignore search engine ads.
A click does not = sales
While measuring clicks on PPC campaigns is very useful and centric to measuring the success of the campaign, it does not guarantee a sale. If they’re not in the position to buy, then this click will never materialise and convert.
Competitors can outbid you
If you’re in a saturated market with multiple competitors all bidding for the same key words, this can become a very expensive exercise in which you must opt to surrender or bid more.
Success is reliant upon having an extensive understanding of SEO and keywords
PPC is only effective if you fully understand how SEO and keywords work- if you do not then success may be limited, as chances are, your competitors will be clued up.
Consumers are sceptical towards advertising
Millennials in particular are not even humouring traditional adverts or giving them consideration. Even when it comes to influencer marketing, if they believe an influencer is being paid to promote a product, their interest and likelihood to purchase that product decreases. With this said, influencer relations is the superior route. In addition to this, while your brand may be at the top of the search results, the fact that you’ve paid to be there may put off some potential clients. Whereas, a brand that has achieved this organically through the likes of influencer marketing may see a higher click through rate.
To summarise, neither are better or worse; influencer marketing has its pros and cons and trumps PPC in many aspects, as does PPC over influencer marketing. Your marketing strategy should be dependant on your brand and your customers- this could mean that you focus mainly on PPC or influencers marketing, or it could be that you use PPC to activate your influencer marketing campaigns. The below Digital Market Trifecta demonstrates how there are three types of media: earned (influencer marketing), paid (PPC) and owned. With the use of influencers and PPC to drive traffic to your site, you are able to tap into each area to achieve a comprehensive, well rounded strategy.
WHERE DOES THE INDUSTRY STAND ON THIS?
Owain Williams | Freelance Marketing Consultant & Blogger | ojawilliams.com
“I would’t recommend PPC instead of Influencer or vice versa, but would instead use them in tandem to amplify result. There is no denying that PPC draws traffic, but traffic doesn’t equal sales. Influencer Marketing adds an additional touch point to your marketing with a level of trust and endorsement that cannot be achieved by PPC alone.”
Philip Brown | Head of Influencer Marketing & Brand Advocacy | Come Round Marketing Agency
” With the right relationship focused and shared-value approach, influencer marketing has the potential to turn a one-off sale into a life-long brand advocate who will repeatedly purchase your product. They also have the ability to generate content, recommendations, conversations and sales (as well as more brand advocates) for your brand based on their trusted recommendations and great brand experiences. “
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This piece was written with contribution and insights provided by both Owain Williams and Philip Brown- both experts in influencer marketing, but with an appreciation still of the power of PPC.