Think of influencer marketing as an accelerator to your content marketing strategy. Leveraging powerful influencers to get your content in front of larger audiences is an incredibly effective content promotion strategy. The best part is that you do not need a substantial email list or blog readership of your own to do it – so it’s a great way for startups and small companies to grow their reach.
A great product alone is not enough to succeed, and viral success stories are not the norm. For most businesses, marketing is what drives the customer acquisition funnel.
The traditional marketing and promotion options have their benefits and drawbacks:
- Paid Media – Investing in paid media can get expensive quickly and requires ongoing investment. I am a believer in testing acquisition costs across Facebook Ads, Google AdWords, remarketing, LinkedIn, Reddit, etc… as certain channels will ultimately play an important role in your digital marketing strategy. When done right, CAC (customer acquisition cost) will always be lower than CLV (customer lifetime value) and ideally average transaction, which results in a positive ROI.
- Owned Media – Content marketing has demonstrated tremendous ROI, but it takes time and perseverance to build an audience to engage with. I am also a very big believer in the potential for content marketing and believe creating content and becoming a thought leader in your space will pay off in the long run.
- Earned Media (PR) – This often involves working with a PR firm, which is expensive. It can be best leveraged in coordination with fundraising and launch efforts. In order to be successful, earned media strategies have to provide incentive for news outlets to publish (and be compelling to editors with control over the content delivered to specific audiences for the likes of Techcrunch, Bloomberg, Newsweek, etc.). The benefits are tremendous potential reach, which brings me to influencer marketing.
The Case for Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing provides all the benefits of content marketing done right – the content you create is lasting and continues to drive traffic as it is consumed and shared across social channels. The difference is, when you publish content on an influencer’s site, you gain access to an already large and established audience. This has the benefit of providing short-term results and driving immediate traffic and sales.
How should startups get started with influencer marketing? Here’s a five-step process for using influencer marketing strategies to publish and promote your content.
Step 1: Define your overall content strategy and map out a content plan
Define the headlines of the articles you plan to create along with search terms and questions you want to address through your content. Another way to think of this is to answer questions your customers are searching for online that have low competition in search results.
You can start with doing some keyword research in a tool like keyword.io to identify terms and questions with relatively low CPC and low AdWords competition. In the chart below I’ve highlighted a few terms with low CPC, low competition or both:
From a quick scan of the results, there seems to be an opportunity to target specific industry use cases as well as questions customers are asking around how drones work. I will dive into drones used for fishing as an example.
Step 2: Evaluate your topic plan against the current Google SERP
If you want your content to show up in organic search, understand your competition. Search results with minimal paid ads, ranking articles instead of home pages or product pages are the best candidates.
If you were creating content on your own site then it would be critical to make sure you are competing against lower domain authority sites, but the beauty of influencer marketing is that you get to take advantage of the higher domain authority for established sites.
“Drones for fishing” returns the following results (which a new drone company would likely land on with quality content):
Step 3: Research content marketing results from Google for your topics
Start building a spreadsheet. Some important data to capture for each topic: domains, domain authority, page views, author, author contact information, social engagement for each author (or article).
To get started, click into content on the first few pages of Google and enter the URLs of content pages into your spreadsheet. Here’s an example of the article I’d enter from GizMag (above):
Enter the domain into Moz’s OpenSiteExplorer to get domain authority (into the spreadsheet it goes). You’ll notice the Moz metrics for GizMag are fairly impressive, with a DA of 84 and over 100K backlinks (that is going to take a while to build up to as a startup).
Next, use Sharedcount.com to get the social share data for this article (another great data point for engagement):
Step 4: Get influencer contact information
Influencers who have already created quality content for your topics and questions are the best candidates to reach out to, and most of them create content for a living and welcome the outreach. Here’s Ben’s profile from the article above. Notice his Twitter and Google+ information. (A quick google search on the author will often return a LinkedIn profile and many times even an email address.)
Another great tool is the Email Hunter Chrome extension for LinkedIn:
You can save some time and search for content and influencers using Lumanu which offers a free content discovery tool; here are the results for content for this topic:
The paid offering goes one step further down the research path and surfaces influencers and key data needed to get started with influencer marketing:
Once you’ve identified your influencer targets, it’s time to reach out to them with a content pitch.
Step 5: Influencer marketing outreach
Remember, most authors want to write content that drives engagement with their audience and they are constantly thinking of potential new content to create.
At the same time, influencers are generally sensitive to authenticity and maintaining trust with their audience. The bigger the influencer, the more pitches they receive so you need to show you’ve done your research and provide a clear “value proposition” for the influencer – what’s in it for them?
Here are the do’s and don’ts of influencer marketing outreach:
- Follow them on social media, write a comment on the articles you like or their blog. Start the conversation over social media!
- Include a reference to an article or video they have created and let them know you like their content.
- Offer some value. Letting them use a product for free exchange for their help or time is one example.
- Explain why you are reaching out.
- Clearly state a proposed next step or working relationship. This could be as simple as feedback on a product, proposing a co-branded article, or working together on a full blown campaign.
- Keep it short and sweet.
- Send a form letter email or mass mailing. Your email should be personalized beyond name and company and demonstrate you know something about this influencer.
- Ask for something upfront. “Please share this with your followers” is going to get a quick delete.
- Invest time and money on influencer marketing before vetting your list!