Under the influence


By its very nature, marketing is a beast that can never sit still. Advancing technologies and new ways of thinking mean there will always be new ways to promote your brand and to connect with your customers. One of the most talked-about methods to have entered our world in the last decade or so is that of social media and more recently social media influencers. Many reading this will already be working heavily in these fields, and many will not. One thing that is certain is that you need a clear strategy, plan and foundation to get the best results – which is exactly what Spanish rifle brand Bergara has. A few years ago, ex-military man and passionate hunter Al Louangketh joined its team as a marketing coordinator and has since been busy working on both an effective pro team programme and also a social media engagement programme. 

“I can honestly say that we have one of the most thorough programs out there compared to some of the people in various companies that I have talked to,” explains Al.

“Sure, there are a lot of companies that do have pro staff and ambassadorship programs, but for it to be highly effective and achieve your company’s strategies and goals, there must be a strong foundation for it in the first place, and it takes a lot of time, energy and effort to build a program as thorough as ours. Not a lot of companies can afford the time and energy for that. But unfortunately, when a company has pro staff but no foundation, you have influencers with no guidance or sense of responsibilities trying to promote things out their ineffectively, that can adversely affect brand image.”

So how does Bergara do it and make it a successful team effort? It starts with a pro staff programme that has three distinct tiers. The entry level tier is Pro Staff. “These are new team members with little or no knowledge of our brands, but have a good following on social media and a basic social media marketing understanding,” says Al. “They are in their first year and learning everything about Bergara – it’s pretty much a trial period, but those that do make the cut and display, cohesion and teamwork with great interest and are passionate about our brand are given a new contract as brand ambassador.”

Brand ambassadors are the second tier and are people who want to be in the programme for the long term. They help to coach new pro staff and also have great knowledge of the brand and the industry. The final and third level is elite members – there are only two in this category at present, but their influence, knowledge and authenticity is such that they are pretty much left to their own devices to engage honestly with their audiences. 

“We’re very proud of all our pro team members, everyone that’s in our team now deserves to be here, but it is all up to them to prove to us that they want to be here once they are in,” says Al. 

All people in the pro staff programme adhere to a coordinated foundation of what Bergara wants to achieve, but have some autonomy to implement their own ideas and specific knowledge from their individual markets. Al explains: “Our key task for our pro team members is quite simple. That is to maintain a positive brand personality, so that our brand image and intent doesn’t change. This strategy enables us to generate a closer connection with the end-user in different regions through a team of highly motivated and knowledgeable influencers that end-users can relate to and trust.”

It's a tough job but putting in the effort pays off. Al spends a lot of time monitoring and working with his team, as well as assessing new potential candidates, and it’s here where size doesn’t always matter.

Al says: “Personally, I look for potential candidates with high engagement and not just the numbers of followers they have. Take for example on Instagram, one versus the other. If an account has 10K+ plus followers, but their post like is averaging 200-300 likes with an average of 2-5 comments per post versus an account with 5K followers with an average of 1000K post likes and averaging 15-20+ comments on their post. I’ll likely be looking at the account with 5K followers more seriously. 

“But for us, it’s just not about numbers, sure they are great to have and can be important, but we also want to choose the right candidate to join our team that fit our mindset and are passionate about what they do and understand that being in this position, isn’t just about self-promotion or free gear, it’s wanting to be a part of a family-oriented team.”

Influencers are an extension of your team and social media is a marketing channel that should be treated as any other if you want to have clear, concise, and consistent messaging about your brand. Bergara is showing how it’s done in this complicated field.

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