5 Tips for Building an Influencer Marketing Career from Elena Suarez

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Elena Suarez, Associate Director of PR & Influencer Marketing at Pierre Fabre USA, has 12 years of experience in scaling international influencer marketing strategies for beauty and fashion brands like Pierre Fabre USA, Neiman Marcus, and Moroccanoil. 

We had the honor of sitting down with Elena to learn more about her journey in influencer marketing and the lessons she learned along the way. In this article, Elena shares her top tips for building a career in influencer marketing.

Listen to Elena’s full podcast episode on how to build an influencer program from ground zero here! 

5 Tips for Building an Influencer Marketing Career 

Influencer Marketing Career Tip #1: Trust your creativity 

“I love the light bulb moments where a random idea that I was thinking about on my couch comes to life and then works. You have to think outside the box and trust your instincts when you have a creative idea.”  – Elena Suarez, Associate Director of PR & Influencer Marketing at Pierre Fabre USA

Influencer marketing is unique in that what works for one brand won’t necessarily work for another. The one common thread between each brand’s success is the creativity marketers bring to a campaign.

Over the years, Elena has learned to trust her creative instincts. Creativity can be as simple as personalizing an outreach message, or it can be as in-depth as building a 12-week Instagram Live series for professional Derms to talk about different skin issues for your skincare brand. 

Instead of always relying on the traditional ‘playbook’ of influencer marketing, try something outside the box. 

Or you can just add onto a tried and true influencer marketing strategy. When Elena ran a product seeding campaign for a hair care line that focused on thinning hair, she thought to ask her influencer partners who she should gift product to. This was genius because the influencers were so excited to “gift” their friends product and Elena got more intel on who would actually benefit from the product. This was especially poignant since thinning hair is not something most people want to talk about. To this day, it’s still one of the highest-performing product seeding campaigns in terms of engagement. 

However, not every creative idea is going to be a smashing success. It’s just as important to learn to be okay when your creative idea doesn’t work out as planned.  

Influencer Marketing Career Tip #2: Focus on building influencer relationships

“The power of relationships within influencer marketing can be underestimated. Relationships will go with you throughout your entire career. When you’re speaking to an influencer, you have no idea what their successes are going to be or where they’ll grow. Be genuine in your outreach, and take the time upfront to look at their content. It’ll pay off in the end.” – Elena Suarez, Associate Director of PR & Influencer Marketing at Pierre Fabre USA

Influencer marketing is a combination of art and science. Quantitative skills like measurement, goal setting, and budgeting are important, but social skills like communication and relationship building are critical for success. 

Each interaction with an influencer is an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with them. A few simple ways to make an impact can look like, 

  • Personalizing your outreach message: This is especially important if you are reaching out to an influencer for the first time. Make sure to mention one of the posts you enjoyed in your email or DM. 
  • Check-in during transitional periods: Sending a quick message when an influencer moves or gets engaged is a great way to maintain relationships with previous influencer partners. Bonus points if you can send them product that is related to the special event (i.e a beauty brand could send makeup for an influencer’s wedding day!). 

Elena also thinks about the different touchpoints she has with her influencer partners. Is the influencer a part of their bi-monthly newsletter where influencers can opt-in to receive products? Or is there an affiliate program they could join to entice them to continue speaking about the brand? Figuring out other moments in time when you can continue partnering with influencers will lead to better creator retention or the number of creators who mention your brand again and again. 

Pro tip: If you’re looking to get more skilled in the science aspect of your job? Check out this article on how to set goals and KPIs for your influencer marketing program and campaigns. 

Influencer Marketing Career Tip #3: Learn how to set goals 

“Don’t get distracted by competitor noise, and find the ownable moments for your brand. If you find an ownable conversation during an unpopular time, you’ll likely get a larger share of voice because you’re not competing for your audience’s attention.” – Elena Suarez, Associate Director of PR & Influencer Marketing at Pierre Fabre USA

A successful influencer marketing strategy starts with a clear goal and influencer marketing KPIs for each campaign. When Elena kicked off Pierre Fabre USA’s influencer program, she knew it was important to set key performance indicators (KPIs) so they could easily measure success and identify areas of improvement. 

The key here is specific KPIs. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to accomplish everything from a campaign. A better approach is to pick one single overarching goal, and then break down the steps to that goal into smaller, micro goals. 

Influencer marketing KPIs that are good for measuring performance include: 

  • Performance Metrics: # of activated influencers, # of posts, reach, impressions, # of views, # of engagements, & engagement rate. 
  • Spend Efficiency Metrics: cost per post, cost per thousand impressions, cost per view, cost per engagement, & cost per click. 
  • Cost equivalency Metrics: Brand Vitality Score (VIT) and Earned Media Value (EMV)

When setting influencer marketing goals, it’s also important to consider,

  • Time period. Will you be competing with a lot of other brands for your audience’s attention (i.e Holiday season)? It might be worth waiting a month or two to ensure your product shines!
  • Trends. What trends are happening on social platforms and could one of them be relevant for your brand? 
  • Competitors. What recent campaigns have your competitors been running and how does your brand track against that? Traackr’s benchmark tool can help see how you stack up against your competitors.  
  • Historic campaigns (if you have them). How did your previous campaigns perform? Where are the opportunities for improvement? 

Influencer Marketing Career Tip #4: Speak your CFO’s language

“I tend to have my CFO’s voice in the back of my head when I look at analytics because I know I’m going to be challenged with, ‘Why did we pay this influencer this amount and why did it work?’ To prepare, I look at the KPIs set at the beginning of the campaign and make sure to relate my KPIs to cross-functional teams’ KPIs. Executives are not going to be convinced without the language or the analytics that they’re used to seeing.” – Elena Suarez, Associate Director of PR & Influencer Marketing at Pierre Fabre USA

Justifying your investment is a major battle you’ll always need to fight in your influencer marketing career. 

There are three major steps to showing the impact of your influencer marketing strategy. 

Step 1: Capture the data related to the specific KPIs you set at the beginning of the campaign.  Trackable links are great to provide to influencers when the objective of your campaign is to drive traffic to a retailer. Discount codes are another tool to provide influencers who have an engaged following and whose audiences are purchasing.

Step 2: Add relevant data outside your campaigns like sales and social following. Did sales spike during the campaign timeframe? Did you see a spike in following when an influencer went live with a post? 

Step 3: Understand how you stack up against your competitors and where your areas of growth are. Frame the conversation to convey that in order to compete with X, Y & Z brands you’ll need more investment because these are the numbers we’re up against. 

While it’s critical to take a holistic approach to show the impact of your influencer programs, remember that it can take time for a person to finally be convinced to purchase a product. Influencer marketing is an awareness tool, and influencers are just one of the many marketing touchpoints a consumer needs to make the final purchase. 

Influencer Marketing Career Tip #5: Never stop learning 

“My biggest learning from being in influencer marketing for over 12 years is that you truly never stop learning. I like to think that I am now forever a student of social media tools and influencer marketing because every day is so different.” – Elena Suarez, Associate Director of PR & Influencer Marketing at Pierre Fabre USA

Social media moves quick, but you move quicker! Whether you’re jumping on a new trend for an upcoming campaign or building a strategy for a new social platform, it’s easy to say that each day in influencer marketing is different. 

Having the ability to shift plans, learning from your mistakes will get you far in your influencer marketing career. 

So keep pushing the boundaries and never stop learning! 

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