There are always leaders in communities who influence opinion and propel change. Parents share product tips while waiting at their childrens’ sports practices, neighbors recommend nearby stores and services, and colleagues often endorse other professionals they’ve done business with successfully. In theory, modern influencer marketing isn’t any different. According to a recent Google Trends report, “influencer marketing” is a “breakout” keyword, rising 5000% in recent years.
This rise of influencer marketing has opened up new possibilities for businesses to connect organically with those they want to partner with, through not only their own blogs and social media channels, but the channels and platforms of respected peers and media outlets in their industry. The key is to know where the target audience is seeking out information and whom they are listening to.
Determining Your Industry Influencers
Influencer marketing begins with a strategy around how to connect and interact with key influencers. If you’re not already connected with these experts on LinkedIn, Twitter, or another social network, there are various tools you can use to find out how to best reach with those you’re trying to build a relationship with.
Introductions to Influencers
Once you identify your influencer network, begin the process of introducing yourself and your company. Flirt with these influencers, retweeting and sharing their content and commenting on their blog posts, getting your company on their radar.
When you’ve done that for awhile and decide it’s time to make a direct connection, be sure that your pitch is unique; don’t just email them a standard “form letter” type of email. Talk to each of them individually, calling attention to a blog post or tweet they’ve published aligned with your brand. Instead of asking them if you can write a “guest post,” ask if you can “collaborate on content” or “co-create”, presenting the idea that you are a thought leader in the industry and a partner who shares the same audience. Position the dialogue around how the collaboration can also help your influencer and his/her brand, if applicable. HubSpot recently published some great ideas for making these instrumental connections.
If you don’t get a response to your pitch within three days, consider sending a follow-up email, reminding them that you emailed previously and encouraging a conversation. Mention once more that you’d love to collaborate and if you get no response after this follow-up email, continue to share and comment on their online content to nurture the relationship. Attempt to reconnect in the following quarter.
Influencers are the Future of Marketing
Remember that “people expect brands to talk with them rather than at them. They no longer expect brands to sell to them, but to entertain and inform them. In this new paradigm, influencers are a force to be reckoned with. Brands can strategically partner with the right personalities to spark organic conversations and seduce their followers.” (Source)
Sales are undoubtedly driven by word-of mouth endorsements more effectively than any other sophisticated marketing strategy. A recent study by McKinsey uncovered that customer-to-customer word-of-mouth recommendations drove twice the sales as paid advertising platforms, accounted for upwards of 50% of purchasing decisions, as well as resulted in a 27% higher customer retention rate. The question then becomes how to make your customers brand evangelists, and how to leverage the endorsement of industry influencers to the fullest advantage. Endorsements from thought-leaders is a way to harness and scale the power of word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted sources.
As an added bonus, influencer marketing helps SEO. Because inbound links give pages more credibility, and influencer endorsements are often shared socially, an added bonus of influencer marketing is a boost in search engine rankings.
As an inbound marketing agency obsessed with staying on top of industry trends and progressive practices, we've leveraged influencer marketing in a number of ways. Recently charged with the task of creating a influencer marketing campaign for a client in the business buying and selling industry, our efforts resulted in five articles from industry influencers in just two months. As we would expect, the company’s social following increased in concert with these articles and the metrics below illustrate the results of our social interactions and guest posts:
Like all inbound marketing, influencer marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to establish sincere relationships within a key group of influencers. Make an effort to consistently optimize your pitch, interact on social channels, offer reciprocal benefits, and use nurturing strategies to stay top-of-mind for your top, ideal influencers.
Need help with your influencer outreach efforts?
If you are curious about how your company might benefit from an influencer marketing strategy, we’d love to discuss those needs and how our relevant work has supported similar marketing goals.