We all understand the importance of reaching out to influencers to promote our content.The dimension of looking at influencers as a native advertising option is here to stay and the stats would only substantiate the same.
Here is a marketers nightmare turning into a reality, Ad blocking goes from 21 million users in 2010 to 181 million in 2015 leading to a 41% increase year-on-year and on top of this news Apple’s iOS9 features ad block technology. Your marketing efforts will take a hit if your business relies heavily on online ads. So influencer marketing and sponsored content are being preferred as a native advertising option.
Over the last 5 years I have had the honour of working with few of the best influencers in the industry. Below are some of them I continue to enjoy working while we built Zoho SalesIQ.
Through this post I’ll share techniques that I’m using to engage influencers at different stages of the interaction and ensure more than 50% success rate on my reach out. Let’s start with a test.
The ‘bull shit’ test: 4 brutally honest questions to ask yourself before reaching out to influencers
Let’s admit it, influencers are extremely busy people and they just like you would invest their time only on activities that would be exciting and rewarding. Ask these 4 questions to yourself first before reaching out to an influencer:
1) How can I help the influencer increase his brand value and reach a new audience?
2) What is the measurable marketing or sales goal I’m expecting out of this influencer?
3) How will this influencer’s thoughts and content add value to my customers and prospects?
4) What is the common ground? Why should the influencer be excited about working with my product / service?
If your answers don’t pass the ‘bull shit’ test, please don’t reach out in the best interest of your time. If you have a convincing answer for all four questions, read on.
Micro target your influencer reach out list
If you ever ask a recruiter what landed them an awesome candidate they would always credit it back to their access to a very targeted list of candidates. The same principle applies here also or even more.
Let’s take an example here, if you are tech entrepreneur looking to promote your sales enablement SAAS platform to influencers. The sources you can use to build a targeted list are,
1) Blogs that have a huge following by sales and marketing folks in your industry.
2) LinkedIn and Twitter. Build a list of keywords and titles that you would want to target
in the people search section.
3) Publications that feature influencer content from your industry.
4) Your competitors blogs and reviews. Influencers writing about your competitors with a neutral eye are more likely to write about you. A quick word of caution, use this technique with a lot of judgement.
Research. Research. Research!
The attention span of humans is less then 10 seconds. The influencer you are reaching out is writing a blog post, in the middle of a training session or is taking some time off for a much deserved vacation. You have less then 10 seconds to win their attention.
So before you write an email or make a phone call, spend quality time researching about their interests, convictions, topics they are discussing now and similar companies they have been excited about working together previously.
There is a ton of information available on social networks use it to your advantage to engage influencers effectively. Hey, but don’t forget to draw the line between research and stalking.
Get up close and personal without freaking them out.
The chances of an influencer responding to you initial reachout goes up steadily if they can recognize you or your brand. Below are few ways to win their attention,
1) Invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn. Always send them a personalized invite, do not pitch your ideas in the invite rather give them a strong but short reason to connect with you.
2) Follow them on Twitter, Product Hunt and other idea exchange forums.
3) Share their content that is relevent to your audience and don’t forget to tag / mention them.
4) Comment on their blog posts or send a genuine email of appreciation on how you were benefited by the content an influencer has been publishing.
Laser focus on the ‘common ground’ in your pitch
Influencers giving an ‘yes’ to partner with you depends on how articulate you are in answering the questions below in your ‘what is our common ground’ pitch. Be brief and ‘get to the point’ with your answers.
1) How are going to help the influencer reach a wider and targeted new audience?
2) What is the common ground between their content and your product / service?
3) How is your product / service relevant to their audience?
4) What is so unique about your product / service and what problem does it solve?
5) Who are your competitors and what sets you apart from them?
6) Who are the other influencers that have worked with you?
7) How is this partnership going to be mutually beneficial?
Connect and follow up without being too annoying
It’s only human to miss an email or a notification, so don’t give up if you have not heard back from an influencer after your initial outreach. A well spaced out follow up can do the trick for you if you ensure the following:
1) A personalized ‘what’s the common ground pitch’ as discussed above
2) Never send exactly the same message to connect with the influencer on multiple platforms.
3) Space out your follow up touch points through email, phone and social media.
4) Follow up in the same email or message thread.
5) Don’t spread your follow up across multiple platforms and lose context and continuity.
If the influencer still does not respond back, it is a simple indication he is not interested
in the partnership and does not see a fit that justifies his time and energy, so let go.
Help and focus on building a long term relationship
An influencer responds back to your pitch and you get on his schedule for 30 minutes.
Now that? Here’s a flow on how you can structure your pitch:
1) First 5 minutes, introduce you and your business. Ease into the conversation
by discussing about common interests and hobbies.
2) Next 20 minutes, how can partnering with you increase their brand value, help them
reach new audience and gain better insights for their content strategy.
3) Last 5 minutes, what is your expected outcome from this partnership?
Discuss ways to collaborate and reach out to audience on both the sides.
4) Take consensus on actionable next steps.
5) Have a ‘no catch’ approach, don’t attach any strings to their commitments.
Focus on being patient and building the relationship first, once you have won their trust, everything you wanted will fall in place.
Write this note to self, Influencers don’t work for free
“I’ll offer you ‘X’ amount of money and you need to do ‘a’,’b’ and ‘c’ for me” If you ever make this statement to an influencer in your pitch, it’s your kiss of death.
1) Focus on how your partnership can add value to both the side in terms of content, brand equity and reaching a wider audience.
2) Give the influencer free access to most sophisticated version of your platform.
3) Run exclusive offers promoting your platform to their audience.
4) Let influencers break the news to the press about a major release.
Treat the influencer like a mentor but ensure that influencers are incentivized duly for their advice and mentorship.
The above process has worked well for me. What is your secret sauce when it comes to reaching out to influencers? How have you converted them to be your brand’s biggest advocates?