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The Three Rs of Influencer Outreach

Jul 8, 2016

Influencer marketing—in today’s crowded and noisy marketing space, it’s the thing people are talking about. So maybe you’re all, “I should start doing some influencer marketing!” Great, but before you get started, let’s make sure you don’t end up being “that guy.” You know, the one influencers joke and complain about in their private Facebook groups and Slack channels. I don’t want that to be you. So I’m going to introduce you to a little thing I call the three Rs of influencer outreach.

Let’s get Realistic

A good influencer marketing campaign is going to require a plan. Not just a content marketing plan for what you’re going to do once you work with influencers, but a plan on what to ask for, how to ask for it, and what to expect. When making this plan, you need to be realistic.

Influencers are busy, and chances are, you’re not the only one asking to work with them. You’ll want to make sure that you’re not asking them to participate in a huge undertaking that will require a ton of their time, because few things are more precious to them than their time. Ask too much, and you may be turned down flat. What is completely reasonable is to provide a definitive timeline (and for the love of marketing don’t approach them with a last minute ask), and give some leeway past that timeline in case they need to extend it a bit. Lay out exactly what you’d like them to do, when you would like it by, and what they can expect in return (we’ll get to that in a minute).

Make it easy on them. Hana Abaza, VP of Marketing at Uberflip, gave a fantastic example of this on the Flip the Switch podcast. She mentioned an outreach that told her she could record herself answering the questions asked of her (which was easier for her to do on the go), and they’d turn that audio into text for the project. This took that writing task off her plate, making her more likely to participate.

Finally, set clear and reasonable expectations for follow-up or sharing you’d like from them once the project is complete. Prewritten tweets and posts with ready-made images will definitely help here.

Do your Research

I have seen so many examples from marketing professionals of outreach emails like this:

“Dear [influential marketing person.] We love your content, and would like to work with you. Could you create a piece of content on [topic completely unrelated to what the influencer does]?”

Don’t be this guy. Don’t go straight for a cold pitch.

This was in 2013, before the influencer explosion. Imagine how many Mark gets now.

Do your research and find influencers versed in the topic you want to cover. There are solutions for doing this, Traackr being a great one for managing, organizing, and reaching out. Bryan Kramer, author of H2H: Human to Human and Shareology stresses, “Give give give give give give give give get.” I think there might even have been a few more ‘gives’ in there. But you get the point. The ‘gives’ don’t have to be huge, either: retweet them, comment on their blog, share an article they wrote, solve a problem/answer a question for them. Heck, just say hello. Mostly, be helpful.

Topic aside, make sure your ask falls in line with the kind of content they prefer to create, and the platforms they prefer to use. If the influencer seems to prefer writing long form blog articles on LinkedIn, maybe don’t ask them to make a video. If they are a tweeting machine, maybe don’t ask them to write a 1,000-word article.

Cater your ask to their strengths and comfort zones, and you’re more likely to get a yes. Operating within their wheelhouse will not only likely get you better content, but will be a much more natural entry into reaching their audience.

Make it Reciprocal

This one is so important, I almost made it first on the list, but I think it’s a great way to bring this all home. The focus of your outreach should not just be a means to a content end. You should be creating a relationship with an influencer, and relationships go both ways.

Relentlessly think about their WIIFM (what’s in it for me), and you will be much more likely to get them on board. This could come in many different forms, and again, the more you cater this specifically to them, the higher possibility of success you have.

This reciprocity actually begins in the research portion. Read their content, watch their tweets, take notes on what they need. Do they seem to be in search of new audiences? Maybe providing them with access to yours will help. Do they seem to be in search of new business opportunities? Perhaps you can help connect them with someone you know. Are they in need of a tech solution to a problem? How about free access to your platform that can help. And there’s always straight up cash money. Whatever it is, make sure they are getting something out of this scenario too, rather than just being part of your content initiative.

I’m going to assume that you’re an awesome human being, so some of these points may just serve as a reminder to continue being an awesome human being when reaching out to influencers. Treat them well enough, and they may even become part of your squad—an advocate for your brand, helping you get seen without you even asking. For more on how to get started building a squad around your brand, MarketingProfs has this nifty little ebook here.

Now go, make friends, connections, and win some influence.

Rob Zaleski is marketing manager and resident social nerd at MarketingProfs.