I'm bullish on the idea that the smartest companies will develop internal creator programs and acquire niche micro-influencers in their space.
They’ll provide influencers with the creative runway, autonomy, and in-house resources (budget, copywriting support, video editing, tools) to support content creation and distribution as scale.
All of the budget that is being wasted on ineffective marketing will instead be redirected to positioning their company as the thought leader in their category.
High-growth startups are specially positioned to leverage this model.
- The ROI is greater: Startups largely have no brand recognition and could quickly catapult to the top of their category (or near it).
- No baggage, no ego: Startups aren’t stuck in their ways. They’re more willing to accept that market behavior has changed and they have the flexibility and speed to change with it.
- Senior-level support: Forward-thinking founders, fewer layers of bureaucracy, and seeing real short-term and long-term value in content makes this possible.
This approach has direct implications on both the revenue and recruiting sides of the business:
- Buyers today make self-guided decisions and look for solutions and resources from experts they trust.
- High-demand talent wants to work with smart people who think differently about their industry.
The built-in audience, trust, and literal influence that an SME has in their industry are multiples more impactful for the business than anything their marketing teams can manufacture.
This is Content Marketing 3.0.
And if you're paying attention to market behavior, it's easy to see where this is going.
An SME is: Someone who expresses their domain expertise in order to educate their market and inspire new ways of thinking about their industry.
An SME isn’t: Someone who just knows how to hack engagement.
This is not an engagement play. You aren’t looking for virality. You’re optimizing for trust.
P.S. I do view this as an acquisition, not a hire. Companies are acquiring and investing in growing tangible and intangible assets: audience, trust, influence, and relationships.