It’s thought that a whopping 93% of marketers now use influencer marketing.
You don’t need to be a marketing manager with a huge budget or years of experience to slide into someones DM’s either. If you have something to offer – a product or a service – then you’ll almost certainly be able to recruit influencers in your niche.
Today, we’re going to reveal how to approach influencers and to get them excited about working with you, without having to pay mega fees agencies or the influencers themselves. If you get it right, an influencer will put more effort into their content than they ever would for just chucking them a fee (although sometimes that helps too, but we’ll get on to that!).
So it’s not just multi-million follower accounts promoting beauty products?
Nope. When it comes down to it, Influencer marketing is simply the process of using someone else’s influence to market and sell your products.
It’s been happening on television for decades. However, thanks to the meteoric rise of platforms like Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, influencer marketing is now available to pretty much any business, no matter its budget or industry.
What’s more, it can offer a hugely rewarding return on investment. Research suggests that for every $1 spent on influencer marketing, you can expect a return of $18.
Firstly you’ll need to find your influencers, we’ve got an in-depth guide on how to identify influencers that match your goals and business size, so open that in a new tab if you haven’t identified your targets. Once you’ve drawn a shortlist, you’ll need to know how to talk to them, which is what this particular guide is all about.
1. Run a background check
That sounds cooler than ‘research’, but that’s what we mean. Before you approach your shortlist (or maybe even just one influencer you’d love to work with), following them on social and start digging into their feeds.
Write down answers to the following questions:
- What content are they creating? Is it videos, blogs, or something else?
- What do their values appear to be?
- Have they partnered with any other brands before?
You need to treat this potential relationship like that of a close friend. If, for example, you immediately take a dislike to the influencer’s values or approach, they won’t be for you. But if there’s something that draws you in and makes you feel like you’d happily spend time in the same room as that person, you could be onto something.
Although they won’t be representing your brand directly, there will still be a strong link between you and the influencer that your existing audience will take notice of who you work with. Think of who the influencers is likely to reach with their posts, and whether that is your target market? Yes, good. Let’s go!
Take your time during this research stage - it’s the most important part of the whole strategy and will ensure you don’t waste time further down the line or, worse, end up working with someone who could damage your brand.
2. Working out what you want to say
Influencers won’t just work with you for the sake of it. In fact, those that do are probably right at the start of their own journey and unfortunately won’t offer huge reach for your business.
This is why you need to define your value proposition and nail down what you want your opening gambit to be for these influencers.
We asked some influencers (anonymously) for ideas on what they looked for when creating content with brands and venues. Here are some of the main themes that emerged…
- Give them access to a new product or service to review?
- Provide an experience unavailable to the general public?
- Introduce them to other influencers or brands for possible collaborations?
- Provide professional photos of them for their feeds?
You’ll need to think like an influencer, too. When your email drops into their inbox, some of the ways that they decide on whether to reply, or accept the collaboration included things like:
- Will this help me gain more exposure?
- Will this give me the chance to see something before anyone else?
- Will my audience like this?
- How much compensation is involved?
- How much effort will I have to put into this?
Remember, only a very few percent of influencers at the very top are able to work full-time on their content to generate a living. For the vast majority, creating content is a passion, so the better you align with their passion, the more likely they are to listen.
3. The approach (remember: this is a collaboration!)
Keep that word in mind whenever you’re approaching an influencer for the first time. It’s why the abbreviation ‘collab’ is often used in this form of marketing.
It indicates that the partnership you’ll build with an influencer is mutually beneficial. Therefore, both parties have good reason to maximise the opportunities that present themselves. If you waltz straight into the situation and offer a wad of cash for 2 posts, you’ll probably get 2 posts and that’s where the relationship ends. The best way to work with influencers it to create a relationship, much like a PR agency would create a relationship with a journalist.
You don’t have to use the word ‘collaboration’ in your communications if you don’t want to, but you should always be thinking about it. The more invested you are in the content created for your shared audience the better. But remember, you should seed ideas with the influencer and not prescribe them. Let them bring their own ideas and style to the conversation.
Starting with an email
The method by which you first approach an influencer isn’t as important as the way you approach them. An email is probably the best first step, as it gives you a bit more room to express yourself (plus, most influencers will keep a very close eye on their inbox for incoming opportunities). There are five key strategies you’ll need to adopt when approaching influencers for the first time:
- Always address them by name.
- Compliment them on their latest content (make sure you’ve actually seen it - this needs to be genuine).
- Get into the immediate benefit of your campaign - for them.
- Explain what you’d expect from them but reveal that you’ll happily take advice based on their experience.
- Let them know you’re free whenever they want to chat through in more detail.
The most important thing is to be direct but respectful. Most influencers work alone and are time-poor, but they’ll take time out of their schedule if the opportunity seems beneficial enough.
Don’t forget, make sure you treat influencers accounts and websites with as much respect as you would your own business. They may be leagues apart, but there has been massive effort put in to both.
4. How to slide into an influencer’s DMs (the right way)
If you want to approach an influencer via direct message (DM) on a social platform such as Instagram, the approach is identical to that of emailing them, but you do have less room to play with.
It’s therefore best to keep your message short. But unfortunately, that’s where the inadvertent errors can creep in.
Let’s consider two different approaches to direct messaging an influencer.
Hi. We’ve got an amazing new product we think you’ll love. Please let us know what it would cost for a dedicated review of our new product on your Instagram account.
Hey, Kelly! I loved your recent story about that new phone case - what a brilliant product. We’ve been enjoying your work for some time now and finally think we have a product that your audience will love. We’d love it if you could take a look. Let me know if you’d like to chat this through further!
Example A is dreadful. There’s no personalisation, no mention of the influencer’s audience and, most importantly, no indication that the sender has paid any attention whatsoever to the influencer’s content.
Example B is far more likely to garner a response. Everything about it suggests benefits for the influencer, and there’s absolutely no pressure. Crucially, it appears as though the sender really has been taking an interest in their content.
Whatever you do, don’t copy/paste your messages to influencers. Mix it up! Influencers who operate in the same niche or locality will often talk to each other, therefore word will get around if they all seem to be suddenly receiving the same messages from a particular brand.
5. The group approach
If you’ve got a product launch on the horizon, it might be a great idea to invite a bunch of influencers to gain early access.
Influencer-only launch events are great ways to gain a sudden, concentrated result for your brand on social media. For a day or two, a whole bunch of people in your niche with a relatively large combined audience might start talking about your product, and that’ll be nothing but beneficial for your brand.
Better still, once you’ve invited your target shortlist, you can ask them to refer any other influencers that are in the same niche.
Such events are also great ways to identify influencers you’d like to work with long-term - particularly if you’re in a position where you can hold the event in person.
Don’t forget to follow up!
Lastly, don’t forget to be proactive in your approach with the most forthcoming influencers.
They have busy inboxes, hectic diaries and massive to-do lists, therefore even if they show a significant degree of interest from the outset, it might take effort on your part to ensure the conversation continues.
Send gentle reminders if you don’t hear anything, and always include a call-to-action in any communication you send so they know how to get hold of you easily.
One last takeaway for you: remember that influencers are ultimately concerned about their audience. They’ve spent time building their followers or subscribers and don’t want to lose them - and that means they will only put relevant, exciting, great products in front of them.
Makes sure you can honestly offer them all of those things before getting in touch.