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Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs): How to Leverage Experts

Key opinion leaders can improve your marketing results by boosting credibility, reach, and engagement. Here’s how to jump‑start your KOL marketing program.

Think back to the last time you bought something based on a recommendation. Maybe it was that new restaurant your friend couldn’t stop talking about or the latest gaming laptop that got terrific reviews. These word-of-mouth recommendations greatly influence buying decisions, nudging you toward one product over another.

Now, what if you could amplify those rave reviews and take them to a whole new level? That’s precisely the power of key opinion leaders (KOLs) in modern marketing. These experts turbocharge word-of-mouth recommendations to elevate your brand presence, expand your reach, and boost sales.

If you’d like to see how that might work, this guide shows how using KOLs can increase the effectiveness of your advertising campaigns.

What is a key opinion leader?

A well-respected key opinion leader has deep knowledge and expertise in a specific field. Their professional achievements and years of experience make them the authority on various matters within their niche. People, including others in their industry, trust and highly value their advice.

Sometimes, key opinion leaders are called influencers, but their impact goes far beyond social media popularity. Unlike influencers, these thought leaders are not just looking to increase their follower count. The key difference is that they do important work in their field and then share their research and expert opinions.  

Successful businesses often leverage the expertise, trustworthiness, and audience of KOLs for their advertising campaigns. The collaboration helps companies stand out, enhance their brand image, and reach a broader customer base. It’s also a great way for brands to create more meaningful connections with potential customers and influence purchasing decisions.

The role of key opinion leaders in marketing

Partnering with key opinion leaders can elevate your marketing strategy. This is particularly true if you’re in an industry where expert endorsements carry significant weight.

For example, if you own a pharmaceutical company, a respected doctor’s recommendation can instill a high level of trust in your products. Similarly, software developer endorsements can drive considerable interest in your tech gadgets.

An effective KOL marketing partnership is built on co-produced, quality content, including blog posts and videos. You could also co-host webinars, Q&A sessions, and other industry events for a more interactive customer experience. The types of content you’ll create depend on your customers’ needs and preferences.

Every step of the way, you both share and promote these content pieces to your respective audiences. This ensures a mutually rewarding arrangement where both parties benefit from the expanded reach and engagement.   

Key opinion leader vs. influencer marketing  

Key opinion leader marketing and influencer marketing differ in several aspects:

Expertise versus popularity: KOLs add value to your marketing campaigns by backing your product claims with their expertise and opinions. In contrast, influencers use their popularity to promote your products and ensure your brand messaging reaches a large audience.  

Trust and credibility: The professionalism and knowledge of KOLs make them a trustworthy source of information for promoting your business. Influencers build trust by gaining a large following and creating personal connections with their loyal followers.  

Content focus: Most KOLs produce content rich in extensive insights that come from their expertise. Conversely, influencers create diverse content around their preferred topics, personal experiences, and the latest trends.

Audience size: Many influencers strive to gain the largest following possible, often far surpassing the 10,000 follower count needed to become macro influencers. KOLs usually have smaller, highly targeted audiences of 10,000 people or fewer, making them micro influencers instead.  

Benefits of working with key opinion leaders  

With their niche area of influence, KOLs give your advertising approach a certain edge. Their expertise transforms standard campaigns into well-informed strategies, giving your company a leg up on the competition. Here are some ways you can benefit from a KOL collaboration.

Amplify the power of word-of-mouth marketing

There’s no doubt about it: Word-of-mouth marketing is powerful. It’s the primary factor in up to 50% of buying decisions, especially for first-time or high-value purchases. Recommendations from trusted sources like KOLs amplify this effect, making consumers 50 times more likely to buy the product or service.

Boost credibility with your target audience

The profound knowledge and expertise of KOLs can bring consumers closer to your brand. Their expert opinions demonstrate your commitment to reliable, accurate information. This helps you gain influence and build credibility. It also sways consumers to choose your products over others. 

Improve brand awareness and engagement

Collaborating with a respected KOL can boost your brand awareness by helping you gain access to a wider audience. During a campaign, KOLs share your collaborative content with their niche community, delivering it to those most likely to value and engage with your brand. This often translates to increased interactions, feedback, and product sales.  

How to leverage key opinion leaders for your marketing strategy

Ready to level up your marketing game? It’s time to incorporate KOLs into your marketing strategy. Although that might sound like a tall order, you’re only 5 steps away from partnering with the right KOLs. Here’s how.  

Step 1: Find the right key opinion leader for your marketing campaign

Before you can get an industry expert to represent your brand, you need to find the right KOL. You need someone with immense knowledge about your specific niche to ensure their audience aligns with your business.

Ideally, the right KOL will also:

  • Have a vision for the collaboration that matches your own
  • Share the same values to maintain brand alignment and authenticity
  • Use their social media account to engage with their loyal follower base
  • Be willing to spend time learning about your brand and products
  • Want to build a long-term partnership with your company  

Find KOLs with the right qualifications by looking around online. Start your search on the social media channels your customers prefer most, followed by a general web search. Use hashtags and keywords related to your products, services, and customer interests to find the leading voices in your industry. Once you have some good candidates, research their background and reputation to verify that they align with your brand’s values and goals.

Before contacting anyone, set up a customer relationship management (CRM) system to manage outreach and foster KOL relationships. Begin the conversation with each thought leader through email. Introduce yourself and offer a brief explanation of why you’re messaging them. Then, track your correspondence in the CRM to build a lasting relationship with the right person.  

Step 2: Share your vision, expectations, and goals

Next, you’ll need to talk about your vision, expectations, and goals with the KOLs who are interested in creating a partnership. If you haven’t done so yet, write these things down to clearly communicate your goals.

This might look like:


  • Position our brand as a trusted source of accurate industry information
  • Create authentic and engaging content that aligns with our audience’s interests
  • Build a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership with the KOL


  • Expect the KOL to share your brand with the target audience on social media platforms
  • Expect timely communication and collaboration on content creation and campaign strategies
  • Expect transparency in reporting key performance indicators (KPIs) and results


  • Increase brand awareness and reach by 25% in 3 months
  • Achieve a 15% boost in website traffic by the end of the first quarter
  • Generate at least 50,000 social media impressions during the campaign

Your vision, expectations, and goals will undoubtedly differ from this list. Just reflect on why you’re creating the partnership and what you hope to achieve to establish a clear roadmap to success.

Step 3: Let key opinion leaders try your products and services  

Authentic endorsements are everything in a successful advertising campaign. So, kick off your collaboration by allowing the KOL to experience your offerings firsthand.

Give the KOL time to try each item or experience before checking to see how it went. Collect any feedback to use when refining your product. Then, verify that they’re still interested in endorsing your products and services.

Step 4: Collaborate on creating content the niche audience will appreciate

Once you reach this step, the fun begins. You get to work together to dream up content the niche audience will appreciate and even seek out during the buyer’s journey. You’re ahead of the game if you already understand this audience’s pain points, interests, and preferences. Otherwise, you’ll need to complete some customer research to figure it out.

Once that’s done, move on to making whatever content potential customers want, like:

  • In-depth blogs that explore different aspects of a specific topic while offering expert insights
  • Valuable videos sharing product demos, tutorials, reviews, and other content people may enjoy
  • Exclusive interviews with the KOL to provide unique perspectives on industry changes
  • Interesting podcasts filled with topical stories, facts, stats, and trends related to your industry
  • Interactive social media campaigns featuring Q&A sessions, surveys, polls, and challenges

There’s no set way to go about this. Try out different types of content to find what people prefer and then keep rolling out what they like to see.

Step 5: Measure the success of your KOL marketing programs

KPIs give you the inside scoop on what resonates most during your campaigns. When measuring KOL marketing performance, there are 2 types of metrics to track: brand awareness and direct response.

Brand awareness metrics let you know how many people see and interact with your content. Likes, comments, and shares are the most commonly tracked KPIs. But brand mentions and website traffic are also helpful in gauging the effectiveness of your KOL campaigns.

Direct response metrics provide a deeper understanding of the impact of your KOL marketing efforts. They go beyond brand awareness and focus on actions taken by your audience, including clicks, leads, and conversions.

Don’t forget to track your overall return on investment (ROI). This figure represents how much you get back from every dollar spent hiring a KOL to represent your brand. For example, influencer marketing has an average ROI of $6.50 for every $1 spent. Since KOLs can impact audiences much like traditional influencers, you can reasonably expect a similar ROI from your campaigns.

Elevate your marketing success with respected key opinion leaders

Establishing brand credibility is challenging in today’s busy marketing world. However, collaborating with KOLs can help. Their trusted voices cut through the chatter to augment the power of word-of-mouth marketing, which builds further brand awareness and makes your products stand out from the crowd. So, if you’re ready to catapult your business to unparalleled success, harnessing the power of KOLs is your ticket to the top.

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