What are Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and why you ne …
Words from mouth is always the most powerful tools in the marketing field:
- 74% of consumers identify verbal recommendation as the key influencer in their purchasing decision
- Millennials are 115% more influenced by verbal recommendation than traditional advertising
- According to Nielson, 92% of consumers say that they are more likely to trust personal recommendations over ads
When your loyal customers tell their friends and family about your business, you will definitely see an increase in sales. But what if you can get the verbal recommendations to reach more potential customers?
Brands collaboration with KOLs gives access to a targeted audience of customers and encourages them to trust the brand.
What are KOLs
A key opinion leader (KOLs) is also referred to as influencers. They are members of a community whose expert advice is respected by others in the field. They act as authorities on a specific topic which they usually will have a specific audience to their niche.
Brands collaborate with KOLs to:
- Gain credibility through verbal marketing from a trusted expert
- Reach more people in a target market
What do KOLs do?
Unlike influencers, KOLs don’t make a living by influencing. They have day jobs in their area of expertise. They are considered the trustworthy experts in their relative field due to their professional achievements and knowledge instead of their follower count.
KOLs can include:
- Professional advisors
- Doctors and dentists
KOL marketing is most common in the following industries, where a brand’s success can depend on expert endorsement:
- Life sciences
- Medical devices
- Clinical trials
Pharmaceutical companies often partner with doctors or dentists as KOLs. These industry experts help conduct clinical trials and market new drugs for pharmaceutical companies.
The key differences between KOLs and influencers
KOLs are experts in their field and careers. That particular professional expertise gives them credibility, authenticity, and influence when they promote products or services. Influencers make a living by influencing others on social media platforms.
- Celebrities (Kardashian-Jenners, Selena Gomez, and Joanna Gaines)
- Bloggers (Aimee Song, Huda Kattan, and Chiara Ferragni)
- Vloggers (Cassey Ho, Bethany Mota, and Cameron Dallas)
- Instagram influencers (Alexa Chung, Chelsea Kauai, and Emily Skye)
People tend to follow and listen to influencers due to:
- Fond of their personalities or aspire to be like them
- Majority of the people follow them
Social media influencers gain popularity by creating captivating visual content. Their focus on the aesthetics makes influencers perfect in marketing with visual brands such as:
This chart from MediaKix illustrates the levels of instagram influencers based on the followers count.
KOLs have the ability to influence influencers as they are looked at as subject matter experts. Brands work with influencers in order to gain access to their immense amount of followers. KOLs are thought to be leaders because they have the credibility to back up their opinions, not just due to the follower counts.
KOLs can have more influence power than influencers. Their credibility comes from experience instead of followers count.
The benefits of KOLs marketing
This marketing strategy allows brands to reach a targeted audience in the relative industry. It also aids with the brand’s credibility through the spread of word of mouth on a larger scale.
Mckinsey divides verbal recommendations into 2 types:
- Low impact recommendations; from someone with less credibility, like a random online review or strangers on the street.
- High impact recommendations; from people we trust, like established experts or close friends.
Research indicates a high-impact recommendation is up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase than a low-impact recommendation. Brands get easier access to high-impact recommendations by building long term relationships with the KOLs. It also provides a human touch to the marketing.
After all, whose advice would consumers trust more? An industry expert with years of experience or an anonymous stranger on the internet?
KOL marketing can be a faster, efficient, and cheaper way to boost sales than traditional advertising:
- A 10% increase in verbal recommendations converted into a 1.5% increase in sales.
- Influencers marketing sees an average ROI of $6.50 for each dollar spent.
- Consumers rely on verbal communications up to 10x more than paid media.
What is KOL management?
It is the way brands organize their marketing initiatives with KOL and their audiences. Good KOL management includes forging real connections between the brand and the KOLs that it collaborates with. Both sides should be genuinely invested in the partnership.
Marketers can use CRM to manage KOL relationships and outreach. Once the brand identifies the KOLs that wish to work with, brands can reach out via social media and email. Then, keep track of any conversations or partnership with the CRM.
Here’s some tips for influencer and KOL outreach:
- Write a solid subject line
- Keep the message short – avoid wasting too much time
- Do not copy and paste a generic email template
- Research the influencer that makes your pitch personal, not salesy.
- Tell KOLs why the brand lines up with their expertise and interests.
- Offering something KOLs want, like a backlink, shoutout or even compensation
- Inform KOLs how the project or campaign will benefit their audience and followers
- Do not trigger the spam filter with spam words
- Do not spam them with constant emails. If they do not reply to the email, try tweeting or sending a LikedIn message.
How to measure the success of KOL programs?
The metrics you track for KOL programs fall into 2 categories:
- Brand awareness metrics. These measure increased audience awareness of the brand’s product or service, which include:
2. Direct response metrics. These metrics are tied to specific actions and purchase intent, which include:
If a brand wishes to have KOL marketing resulting in more recognition and mentioned about, try track with brand awareness metrics. As most influencer marketing takes place on social media, all sorts of likes, mentions and comments are easier to track than conversions.
If a brand wishes to track the direct link between KOL campaign and bottom line, track direct response metrics. It will give you a better sense of the ROI of the brand’s campaign.
How KOL marketing drove million views in China
KOL marketing is more popular across industries in China than other countries. KOLs in China share content on the local popular platforms like TikTok, Weibo, and WeChat.
Tencent is one of the largest chinese conglomerates with companies in gaming, news, social, sports, video, and financial services.
In 2017, Tencent used KOL marketing to launch its “Next Idea” campaign. The campaign which aimed at China’s youth, introduced a contest designed to identify the next big innovation ideas.
The goal of the campaign is to drive immediate awareness. Here’s how Tencent used KOL marketing to reach that goal:
- Tencent partnered with 2 major public figures: Karry Wang, an 18 years old chinese pop singer and Stephen Hawking, the world’s most well known contemporary physicist.
- Over a pre-recorded video, Karry Wang asked Stephen Hawking a question about the future of humanity.
- Karry shared the video on his own weibo account which is a platform popular with the campaign’s target audience.
- Later that day, Stephen Hawking posted a video answering Karry’s question on his weibo account.
The unusual pairing drives wild amounts of interest. Stephen Hawking was one of the world’s top experts in the field of physics (KOL) and Karry Wang’s starpower makes people hang on to his every word (influencer).
The “Next Idea” campaign became the number 1 trending topic on Weibo that day, with:
- 30 million views
- 2 million shares
- 49,000 comments
- Over 500,000 likes
- Tencent’s “Next Idea” went from 20 to over 52,000 followers on Weibo.
The campaign skyrocketed the levels of awareness and interest by costing way less than traditional advertising. Tencent saw results within 24 hours by choosing the right KOL and social media platform, something which traditional advertising may take months to achieve.
How to find KOLs?
Due to the influence KOLs give to the influencer, figure out which influencers in the relative industry to look up to by asking who do the influencers in your industry follow on Twitter or Instagram? Who headlines industry events?
Brands can also:
- Search popular industry hashtags on Instagram
- Search relevant keywords on YouTube
- Read industry news to see who media features as experts in the field
Brands can also use tools designed to help in finding digital influencers and KOLs in the field. For instance, tools like BuzzSumo and Rand Fishkin’s SparkToro let brands reach to their target audience where they already engage online:
- Podcasts and YouTube channels they subscribed to
- Accounts they follow on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram
- Blogs and websites they read regularly
SparkToro lets brands sort influencer accounts by engagement and reach, not just by the followers count or brand image. This helps brands to find people whole posts and articles get clicks and shares, meaning more qualified eyes on the brand.