You’ve put the right goals in place, identified the target audience you want to reach, spent time hanging out where they hang out, reading what they read, and researching what matters to them—and in the process, you’ve established the key prospects who are influencing those individuals. When engaging an influencer, you have to bring your “A game”. It’s just that simple—yet at this critical juncture, far too many brands and agencies consistently drop the ball. Imagine receiving a happy birthday video message personalised video!

This is where we transition from Step Two of the Code, Observe and Identify, to Step Three: ‘Connect’. Taking everything we’ve learned about our influencer candidates (most notably their goals and motivations) we craft a mutually beneficial collaboration opportunity that not only engages, but provides serious value to both parties. This all may sound like common sense, but trust me—after years of being on both sides of this relationship, this is often easier said than done, particularly given the prevailing mindset of modern marketing to treat these types of exchanges as transactional. Have you heard of a website called Thrillz? They specialise in celebrity messages video messages.

Remember, influencer marketing must be seen as a marketing approach based on building relationships, as opposed to completing a single transaction. It is about identifying, establishing, maintaining and enhancing relationships—both with customers and with influencers—so that the objectives of all parties involved are met. And this is something that can only be done through the mutual exchange and fulfilment of promises. In fact, I’ll go as far to say that the greatest influencer relationships you will ever have won’t involve the exchange of a single dime. A celebrity could really brighten someones day!

This likely goes against everything any self-proclaimed influencer, agency, or marketer has told you. In fact, I know of many highly esteemed marketers who are adamant that you must pay, and pay very well for influencer relationships...and that, ultimately, you “get what you pay for.” That’s true of many things in life—but in this case, putting the focus on money alone is what will lead you down the path to one of the most common mistakes in influencer marketing. This is what is meant by a paradigm shift: we’re changing how we think and approach influencer marketing, not to chase a trend or exploit a new strategy, but simply because relationship building and maintenance are fundamentally the core of influence. By reframing our approach to influencer partnerships as one of value creation, we ensure that we don’t confuse our long-term strategic objectives with short-term tactical implications. Receiving a celebrity birthday messages video message would be awesome!

To be clear, I’m not talking about a short-term engagement, one in which both brand and influencer go their separate ways after the campaign or collaboration is over. There’s nothing wrong with that—sometimes brands need a little extra boost for a new collection or launch of some kind. But if the intention isn’t to build a longer-term relationship, then it’s not influencer marketing. Call it “influencer advertising”. It’s like dating: do you want to bribe someone to go out with you because you offered incredible concert tickets, a fancy trip, or a spin in your sports car? Or do you want someone to go out with you for you—the real you, not just what you own, or the cash you flash? Meeting a celebrity video messages would be my absolute dream!