If you're a startup, it can be hard to acquire an audience - involving them is even more difficult.
And you are not the only one that’s after them - there are competitors too.
So as a startup, how can you penetrate massive audience with minimal effort in highly competitive landscape?
You work with Influencers.
Influencers are people who have an established credibility and audience and can persuade others by virtue of their trustworthiness and authenticity. Influencers are proven industry leaders and experts that are actively involved in communicating best practices, tips and strategies.
They generally have substantial social media following, website subscribers and blogs with tons of useful content. Influencers can promote your brand by introducing your content or product to their readers and followers. Your brand will directly be exposed to large group of highly targeted audience.
For example, Rand Fishkin is a globally renowned SEO influencer. His followers and subscribers read his content on strategies, tactics, advices, analysis and best practices on SEO.
If your startup has something to do with SEO and Rand Fishkin writes some nice words about it– you can foresee a bunch of his audience testing your product just on his words. That’s the power of influence!
So as you already know that marketing your product via Influencer has benefits, how do you go on implementing it?
This guide will provide a step by step guided way to unlock all the secrets, strategies and tactics power marketers use for influencer marketing.
Step 1 – Define your Strategy
Just as you need a strategy for your any marketing program, you also need one for your influencer marketing. Before embarking on influencer marketing, you need to clearly define that how it will help you achieve your business goals.
Typical goals and objectives for startups include;
Branding – Use influencer to increase and boost brand awareness.
Engagement - : Influencer to help increase engagement on your content
Lead Generation & Sales – How can influencer help in generating leads, nurturing them and in converting them to customers?
Step 2 – Identify Influencer Personas
Before you tap into the audience of your Influencers, you need to find them. However, even before finding influencers, you need to identify and categorize influencers.
Influencers come in different forms. They can be humans, organizations or blogging websites.
Such as Forbes is renowned media group (website) with number of writers on their platform. Similarly, Jeff Bullas is a popular social media marketing figure more known as individual bogging and social media expert.
By identifying and categorizing your influencers, you will have a better idea of what type of influencers will give the best outreach.
So as an example, if your startup is designed for SEO practitioners, your group of influencers that create content on SEO practices can include;
- Internet Marketers
- SEO Copywriters / Content Marketers
- Inbound Marketers
- Blog Owners
All of these people are likely to fall in your desired influencer type.
However, not all of them weigh equal.
For a SEO startup, Internet Marketers that write about SEO Tips are likely to have a better audience than those that write about Search Marketing.
Identify and group user personas that are highly likely to have a following of people matching your desired audience.
So how would you identify different influencer personas?
- Use Twitter, Facebook Hash Tag research tools such as #tagboard to see different type of people posting, retweeting, liking important hash tags over multiple platforms.
- Attend events related to your business and analyze the background of speakers that talk about topics related to your business.
- Use Klear to understand and research different influencers from 200 million+ profiles.
Step 3 – Find Influencers
Now as you have indentified the group of people that matches the type of influencer its time to search them out.
So where will you find such people?
Do a Google Search
The old school method - find blogs or people that write about topics of your interest or that lie in that category
Setup Google Alerts
Setup Google Alerts on your top keyword and immediately get notified about latest content published.
Use BuzzSumo to find Influencers
Tap in your keywords in BuzzSumo and it will open up a list of prominent influencers for you.
Use Right Relevance or Followerwonk to find influencers from Twitter
Use the same set of queries on Right Relevance to find top influencers on your topics across Twitter
Find Influence from Klout or Kred
Klout provides a simple way to find influencers that have gained influence on your niche across all popular social media channels.
Find blogger using AllTop
Alltop features content from top blogs on number of different niches. You can quickly find top blogs in your niche
Use Infuencer Marketplace
Find influencers on Influencers Marketplace such as Influicity, Hypr and Influencer Plus. One advantage of using such platform is that the infuencer has already shown intent in working with brands / products.
Step 4 – Prioritize Influencers
Using the activity above you will have handful of influencers to outreach.
But rather than doing the hard work and reaching everyone randomly or with no strategy in place, be smart and prioritize your influencers.
Ferrari and Prius are both cars that a person can travel in. But when it comes to reaching quickly, Ferrari is the obvious choice, isn’t it?
So there will be just influencers and there will be VIP Influencers too in your list.
So how will you prioritize influencers?
- As the obvious thumb of rule prioritize influencers that have the most influential presence across social media and their website ( Twitter Followers, Facebook Page Likes, Blog Subscribers etc)
- Prioritize influencers that frequently write around your niche.
- Influencers that you have complete contact details of – email is the primary contact.
- Use buzzsumo / Ahrefs to see how many shares their content gets – the more the shares the more the audience you can possibly reach.
- Focus on influencer that routinely covers third party content or reviews apps or startups. Such as if Rand Fishkin writes about SEO using third party infographics – you might send him your infographic.
- Don’t forget smaller bloggers and influencers. They might have small numbers but their audience is generally more loyal and more willing to trust their recommendations.
Use influencer management tools such as BuzzStream or Nimble to easily sort, tag and prioritize your influencers.
Step 5 – Build relationships with influencers
Once you have identified, shortlisted and prioritized your influencers, it’s time to start building relationship with them.So take a quick moment of pause to consider the following;
- How will you reach out to this person, organization or media website?
- What can you offer that is valuable for them? Remember, each influencer has different needs. Keep their needs primary and your wants secondary.
- What is your goal from this relationship? Is it brand awareness, lead generation or sales.
You have already spent a large chunk of your time finding and reviewing your influencers – don’t blow it off by sending generic and impersonal requests.
Influencers can be selective and they expect to be respected for the talent and audience they bring to your startup or business.
So how do you start reaching them?
Here are some tips;
Follow them on Twitter - Follow them on Twitter and If they follow you back, send them a direct message (no auto DM). Such as if you are connecting with Rand Fishkin, just send him a message that he is doing a great work in SEO and why you loved his last article on SEO Plateau.
Subscribe to their blog – This will not only have you in their lists but you will also be notified of new content posted by them – opportunity for you to engage.
Leave comments on their blog posts – Leave insightful comment on their blog posts. Rather than saying your work is nice, try to engage them in a conversation.
Share their Content - Share, like, retweet their content on social networks or email. Tag them whenever you can such as when tweeting add via or RT from @randfish – so they know you are talking about them.Be creative – Find unique ideas to gain Influencers attention.
Write a blog post around their blog post – Such as what you learned or how Rand Fishkin’s SEO Plateau post helped you.
Create Twitter Lists – Add and categorize them in Twitter Lists. Such as for all SEO pros’, you can create a list of “Top SEO Influencers”. When you add them in a list they will get notified. So choose a list name that will make them feel special.
Monitor their important personal events – Such as when they reach 100k twitter followers or when they were awarded with some recognition.
Step 6- Plan Influencer Engagement
After you’ve successfully started building relationships with your influencers, you may feel more comfortable asking to work together in different ways.
However, don’t mistake “working together” by any activity that result in leads & sales or only or largely benefit you. As said earlier, your needs must be secondary.
Rather than business development or monetary objectives, you must find ways to work with these influencers.
Here are some ideas to engage your influencers.
Ask for a quote or insight for an article – Come up with some content article ideas for which you can source quotes and feedback from them.
Request Information on a Survey / Case Study / Blog Post - Gather their responses on a specific topic, research based survey, case study or for a crowd sourced blog post.
Joint Webinar / Podcast – Do a joint webinar, Google Hangout or podcast with them.
Quote in an eBook – Similar to article, ask for their quote in an eBook.
Guest Blogging – Ask them to write a guest post on your blog.
Speaking Engagements- Request to speak at a conference or an industry event.
Twitter Chat - Ask them to join you for a Twitter chat on topics of “their” interest.
Co-create content – Jointly work on a blog post, eBook or whitepaper.
Share your content – Ask them to share your content on their social network or integrate with within their content.
Step 7 – Start Pitching
Now you have done all the hard work in building relationship with your influencers and find out ways to engage them – it’s time to start pitching them your requests.
As a good practice, start with the smaller influencers
- Smaller influencers are more likely to respond to you as they are less likely to be flooded with similar requests.
- If you start small you can test out different outreaching techniques, pitching messages and joint collaboration tactics without losing your shot on VIP Influencers.
- Once you have some voice (blog posts, reviews. mentions etc) from these influencers, it will be rather easy to convince and work with bigger influencers.
So how would you reach them out?
Email is the possibly the best platform when it comes to directly communicating with your influencers. It enables in creating a direct and personal connection with your influencers.
Create several email templates that you will use to outreach. Test each one of them on a small group of people to see which one gives the best result- stick to those which do.
For those which you can’t connect via email, reach them via social networks. If they follow you on twitter send them a direct message. If they are in your social network on Facebook or LinkedIn, send them a message or in-mail.
However, whichever social platform you try, keep your message short and concise.
Another way to directly reach them is via sending message directly through contact forms on their websites. Most influencers maintain their personal blog so there is likely chance that there are means to directly contact them, if not via an email.
Influencers are either speaking at the events or most likely to be part of it. Attend some events that your influencers are most likely to be part of. If you already have successfully built even a little bit of relationship with them, you can gel in with them with at the event and politely ask for what you want.
However, be prepared and don’t just jump in their casually- remember you are here to pitch them not just to say “Hello, I’m a huge fan”. So have your app, content or webinar idea with you there in a portable form that you can quickly show them (Power Point Presentation, CD / DVD, USB Stick or even Printed Handouts
One thing more you can try in this regard is to email or tweet them before the events to see they are attending it or not. Some might reply you back that they will be there or not. And for those attending, seeing you there might not be surprising for them.
If you can get a hold of their telephone number, call them up and introduce your startup or product. But again, keep your pitch ready and be prepared for rebuttals too. 2 minutes must be more than enough to make an impression and communicate what you want.
Send them a Postal Mail
The old school method- send them a postal mail with a nice letter, a CD / USB stick with details of your app or joint project.
There are few things you need to remember before pitching them;
- What’s in it for them? Why should they promote, write or tweet about your product.
- Give them an offer they can’t refuse. Such as a year off your product, or free 5 licenses. If your startup is a B2C product, offer it free for their friends and family too.
- Follow up is essential. Second email works better than the first.
- Give them commission on affiliate sales generated via their efforts or compensate them financially for work they have done.
- Smaller Influencer might willingly accept advertising to monetize their blog. Compensate them where you can.
- 90% of bloggers want to do contests and giveaways with their readers.
- You must have a clear understanding about the influencer, the type of content they produce and their audience before pitching them.
Step 8 – Measure Performance
A marketing strategy is incomplete if it’s not monitored and measured – influencer marketing is no exception.
Your influencer marketing program, no matter how planned and robust, will not be successful if not measured and assessed.
Now is the time to review the objectives you wanted to achieve in the first place.
As a start measure and analyze;
- What is the positive impact of engaging with influencers on your community, social networks or the brand?
- Has it helped increase website traffic, social followers, social engagement, leads, conversion rates and sales?
- What actions your influencers have taken to promote your content? Were they enough?
You can use social monitoring tools such as Social Mention or Mention to see conversations around your brand.
Step 9 – Strengthen your Relationship
Although it will take time and effort you will reach at stage where you will have a strong relationship in place and it will be easy to work with your influencers.
Now is time to extend and solidify this relationship and increase loyalty. Even though you might engage with your influencer just for once – don’t forget about them. Stamp on your loyalty with them.
If you care about them, beyond business objectives, they will feel more valued and you won‘t have to push hard to start your next campaign with them.
So, how can you make your influencers love you more?
- Invite them to exclusive events, such as corporate dinners, conferences or even casual parties.
- Ask them to co-author a book with you.
- Include them in expert panel list for an event or for an award ceremony.
- Send them greeting cards on their birthday, New Year or Christmas.
- Congratulate them on important life events and awards.
Step 10- Rinse and Repeat
Using the steps above in this guide, you have a clear action plan to find, reach and engage with your influencers.
One size doesn’t fit all so you must keep on trying and testing different techniques. Even though you might onboard dozens of influencers but you will not benefit much if you don’t know how to work with them effectively.
Repeat influencer outreach and marketing strategies that gives you results, optimize those which are under performing and leave out those which aren’t returning anything.
So once you know what is working for you, either it’s for on boarding new influencers or working with them, stick to those. Repeat the process for new influencers and find ways to optimize your strategies and tactics further.
Influencer marketing is fast growing online marketing channels. Organizations are pouring more budgets in influencer marketing programs than ever and marketers are also seeing great results.
Big brands are making $20 or more for each $1 invested, thus making the case even stronger for influencer marketing practices in future.It’s a cost effective way of reaching a large targeted audience and it will continue to evolve in the future.
So read, understand, plan and implement methods described in this guide and you will be on your way to a successful Influencer Marketing program.