New to influencer marketing? Here’s a step-by-step guide to implementing this strategy, including how to identify the right influencers for your product or brand.
Let’s imagine you have $100 in your marketing budget and two options for spending it:
Option #1 — Run a Facebook ads campaign and generate 500 clicks
Option #2 — Reach out to a blogger who’s influential within your community and invite them to try out your product
The first option might score you 10 new customers, but the second could easily bring in hundreds.
That’s the power of influencer marketing. Also known as influencer relations, this channel focuses on key individuals or segments, rather than the entire target market. The idea is that, by winning over the leader, you’ll also win over their supporters.
Let’s explore how you can engage in influencer marketing for your company.
Step #1: Nail Down Your Goals
Figuring out what you want to achieve through influencer marketing is crucial. After all, your objectives will determine with whom you partner and what form that partnership will take.
Here are several different goals to consider:
- Brand awareness
- Lead generation
- Customer retention
The goal you choose for your influencer marketing campaign will depend on the state of your sales funnel.
If you need people to realize your product exists, you should focus on brand awareness. If, on the other hand, you have a ton of prospects but not as many customers, concentrate on engagement or sales.
Step #2: Identify the (Right) Influencers
After you’ve chosen a goal, find the influencers who can best help you achieve it.
“Influencer” is a pretty broad term, so let’s define who fits into this category:
- Social media users with large followings
- Industry experts
- Well-known executives
And now, check out the multiple strategies for finding them:
Comb social media
This task can be really time-consuming; luckily, there are plenty of tools out there to make the process easier.
Search your current user or customer base
Do any of your customers have sizable social media followings? Do they have well-known blogs? Are they fairly well-connected within your industry?
People who are already familiar with and invested in your product make fantastic brand advocates, so it’s definitely worth investing resources in finding them.
Ask your customers who they go to for advice, guidance, and insights
For example, if you provide a sales CRM platform, then you should go to the salespeople who use your software and ask: “When you’re looking for new sales techniques, where do you go? Which blogs and sites do you read? Are there any influencers you really trust or admire?”
Ask other influencers
Once you’ve connected with a couple of influencers, watch who they reference, link to, discuss, meet up with, and so forth.
You can also ask directly: “We love working with you — can you recommend any other (bloggers/journalists/experts)?”
It’s worth remembering that the best influencer for your needs isn’t always the person with the most followers.
Someone may have 50,000 Twitter followers, but if his followers aren’t engaging with him, it’s probably a better bet to go for the person with 5,000 super-devoted followers.
Note that you also want to target influencers who are fairly picky with their brand partnerships. Someone who’s always schilling the latest products won’t generate much excitement about your product.
Step #3: Cultivate Relationships
The easiest way to sabotage a potential relationship with an influencer? Show up with your hand out.
Cold emailing, cold Tweeting, or cold calling people to ask if they’ll help you rarely works. And it’s even less successful when the people you’re contacting are important in their own right.
Instead, play the long game. Ideally, you’d do 10 favors for each influencer before asking for one of your own.
Here are some techniques for doing that:
Influencers always want to be exposed to new audiences, so tweet their articles, link to their sites in your blog posts or email newsletters, mention them during podcasts, and so forth.
If you want to make this strategy even more effective, send the influencer a quick email or tweet saying, “Hey! We loved [X article or Y video] — mind if we share it on [Z channel]?”
He or she is almost guaranteed to say yes, and you’ll get the opportunity to show your respect and admiration.
Give them unique data or insights
Journalists, industry analysts, and bloggers are always looking for insights or findings that no one else has.
Take a look at your business’s data and find a compelling angle or interesting conclusion that you can offer as an “exclusive” to an influencer.
Be a fan
Showing interest in an influencer’s work will make them more likely to like you on a personal level. Plus, becoming a recognizable name will make your request (when it comes) feel far less random and self-serving.
And as added bonus, following the influencer’s work closely will help you understand specifically how your two brands can align, once the time is right.
Step #4: Create a Campaign
Now that you’ve determined your goals and connected with the right people, it’s time to bring the two together.
I recommend starting small. When it comes to influencer marketing, quality almost always beats quantity. So, it’s better to approach six individuals with carefully conceived pitches than 60 with generic ones.
Let’s look at the common goals again and which campaigns will drive each:
Since you need to get your brand on your target market’s radar, your optimal strategies would be paying for a sponsored post on a widely-read blog or getting press in an industry publication.
You want to address people who are already familiar with your product but need some incentive to buy.
Sending out complimentary versions of your product (to bloggers with mid-size audiences, influential customers, experts/analysts) will generate reviews and word-of-mouth buzz.
You’re trying to encourage current customers to become more involved in your community, so consider asking an influencer to host a webinar or Twitter chat.
To increase loyalty and keep your customers engaged, I recommend asking influencers to guest post on your blog, speak as your brand representative on a panel or at a conference, or even appear at a customer event.
Which influencers on your “short list” can help you with your campaign?
Step #5: Contact the Influencers
Here’s where all your preparation and research pays off: you contact each influencer with a well-written, engaging, and, most importantly, customized pitch.
To see how it all comes together, let’s use a hypothetical scenario.
You have an e-commerce business for monthly subscription kits. Right now, most of your kits are geared toward middle- and upper-class men between the ages of 25 and 32. But you’ve just launched a new kit designed for women.
The problem? Most of your current customers aren’t interested, and the new market you want to tap doesn’t know about you.
So, you decide to run a contest with 10 influencers. Applicants describe the best package they’ve ever received, and one randomly-chosen winner gets a lifetime subscription to your kit.
To find the right influencers, you start with your existing customers. Do they have girlfriends, sisters, or female friends?
Find out: Who are those women following? Which bloggers have discussed products similar to the ones in your kits? Which Youtubers are popular with your demographic? What about Instagrammers?
After identifying 15 influencers, you lay the groundwork by commenting and sharing their content — even profiling some of them on your company blog. In time, you develop strong relationships with eight.
That’s when you send each of them a version of this email:
As you know, we love you here at Every30. (The post last week about the true NYC neighborhood landmarks? Hilarious.:))
We’re launching a giveaway contest for our new Details kit, and we were wondering if you’d be interested in partnering. Your audience would love the kit — it even contains the Moleskine notebook you mentioned in your monthly round-up. This would be a great opportunity to give one reader a treat while exposing your audience to a cool brand.
I’ve attached a PDF with a more in-depth explanation of the contest. Please let me know if you’re up for it!
Step #6: Maintain the Influencer Relationships
Of course, not every influencer will be open to a partnership. But when you find those who are, treat them like valued customers.
In other words, don’t abandon them after you’ve made the sale. Regularly communicate with them, keep promoting their content, monitor what they’re doing, and occasionally extend a well-thought-out offer their way.
In time, you’ll find that focusing your efforts on influencing this small yet powerful segment will reap huge rewards.