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How To Conduct Influencer Outreach In An “Inbound” World
We all know how the marketplace is changing, and how the inbound philosophy is overhauling communication strategies. Buyers’ expectations are greater than ever before (and still changing quickly). Defunct marketing strategies are dead for a reason, and a new set of tactics can’t replace them without a corresponding mindset shift.
So marketers are developing new content strategies and rethinking how to use keywords and build links. Marketing budgets are shifting, time is being reallocated, and job descriptions are being altered. And statistics tell us it’s working.
But what about the influencers?
Influencers are no less valuable in the new marketplace than they were before, but they are less gullible and much less desperate for attention from brands. Still, too many marketers haven’t yet altered the way they relate to influencers in light of the inbound revolution — and if it hasn’t cost them dearly yet, it’s about to.
Lest we forget, influencers are, by definition, leading the new marketplace.
If marketers need to focus on giving buyers what they want, how much more for influencers? If honesty and transparency are important for consumers, how much more for influencers? If conversations and relationships are driving the marketplace, how much more valuable are the conversations and relationships that marketers can cultivate with influencers?
They hold their positions precisely because they are the most savvy, the most intuitive, and the most dedicated. Working with influencers in the midst of an inbound marketplace means the benefits need to be clear, transparency needs to be at 100%, and marketers need to be all-in.
It’s All About ME
Before launching an influencer outreach program — or, if you have already been working on one, before you contact your influencers again — sit down and outline a plan. There are three levels of benefits that the program needs to provide:
- Business Goals. How is the program or campaign going to benefit your company? What is the ultimate goal?
- Influencer Perks. What’s the benefit for the influencers who will be involved? Healthy relationships are always give and take.
- Audience Benefits. How is your partnership with influencers going to benefit their audiences? What are you providing that influencers can’t accomplish on their own?
You need a clear understanding and a concise description of all three levels of benefits, because influencers will expect to hear it.
Marketers are starting to turn to the inbound philosophy in droves, and the smart ones are already turning their attention to building their own proprietary audiences — a group of raving fans and brand ambassadors.
But for influencers, their audience is more than just a fan base — it’s their bread and butter. Whether they are bloggers, speakers, small business experts, etc., they are completely focused on pleasing their audiences. How are you going to help them grow their audiences, and how are you going to help them provide unique content for that audience?
Step back and make sure your project provides a solid benefit on all three levels, and that those benefits work together. Are you hoping to place a high-quality guest post on an influential blog? Are you recruiting speakers for an online or offline panel? Are you collecting quotes for a new series of content? If your project does not provide a clear benefit to all three groups, you will likely be met with significant roadblocks. Make it a win-win, or walk away.
Pull Back The Curtain
We all know that the digital marketplace is raising the stakes on content — buyers are self-educating further into the funnel, and they expect substance and expertise instead of fluff and sales pitches. Similarly, the digital socialscape is raising the stakes on authenticity — people are looking at brand values and personality, and they expect to be able to pull back the corporate curtain.
This applies to influencers more than anyone. The new marketplace can smell a sales pitch from a mile away, and influencers are driving the marketplace. By the time a savvy buyer cries, “Wolf!” the influencers have already led their flocks to more authentic pastures.
Influencer outreach needs to be 100% clear, transparent, and up-front. Tell them who you are and what you hope to accomplish. Outline all three levels of benefits — even what’s in it for you. They know you’re not setting up this program, project, or event for completely selfless reasons, so lay all your cards on the table.
An introduction from a mutual friend or a personal connection definitely opens doors, but influencers take action when they understand why you’re asking something of them, how it’s going to benefit them, and what it’s going to do for their audiences.
If anything is missing, they’ll assume it’s missing on purpose and that you’re not telling the whole story. That’s when trust goes out the window, along with one more name that won’t be on your list of influencers.
In a crowded, fast-paced marketing world where everyone has access to nearly every piece of information imaginable, schedules are tighter and attention spans are shorter. Influencers are bombarded with thousands of ads every day just like the rest of us, but their inboxes are also full of offers and promotions because of their clout in the new marketplace.
If marketers need to be strategic about cutting through the noise to talk to buyers, we need to be ninjas about cutting through the noise to talk to influencers. Always, always.
- Keep your messages short and to the point
- Give a deadline for a response
- (Allow for a comfortable buffer between your stated deadline and your actual deadline)
- Plan on sending multiple polite, friendly, clear reminders
Between requests, make sure you’re engaging and building those relationships. Connect with them on social networks — share their content (but don’t over-do it, keep it genuine), interact off-topic, have a personality. Keep that emotional bank account full.
Sound like a lot of work? It is. You’re building a network of very busy, hardworking, and valuable people. There are no shortcuts. Keeping your communication channels wide open will help ensure that when you do send an “ask,” it’s well received.
From “Noise” To “Din”
An influencer outreach program is a great asset for any brand, but bear in mind that it’s not an original idea. In addition to the thousands of banners, pop-ups, spam emails, and junk mail fliers that all of us brush off every day, influencers are being bombarded with even more pestering communiqué.
Just as we can’t relate to the new marketplace with the same old strategies, we can’t reach out to influencers with the same old pitches. Outline all the benefits, brace yourself for 100% transparency, and plan to build some strong relationships if you hope to cut through the noise.
A personal note: Our team recently had the pleasure of putting these principles to work for the Inbound Project to celebrate our company re-brand. If you take a look, I’d love to hear your comments, feedback and critiques!
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.