Using Influencers As Part Of An Inbound Marketing Campaign Accelerates Lead Generation
We’ve been doing influencer marketing for years now and it’s great when it works. However, it still takes a lot of energy to get it working right and it doesn’t always produce results. Influencer marketing, as a part of content marketing, should take the next step in 2017 and become a more predictable, scalable tactic in the inbound marketing playbook.
The downside of this trend is that the “influencers” have all the power. Two or three years ago, the content providers had the power. This means influencers get to pick and choose who they work with, and some of them are opting to only pick people who pay them to influence. This has made influencer marketing more complex and more time-consuming.
Here are five ways to get more from your influencer marketing effort.
1) Consider A Budget
No one really wants to pay for influence, but the fact is people are paying for this more and more. It’s a simple supply and demand situation. The top influencers are getting paid, and if you want their attention, you might have to pay them too. It’s not hard to figure out a return on any payments for an influencer’s attention.
The data is available to see how many people they touch each month. Then, you estimate the audience they could drive to your website. Next, your existing conversion rate or the conversion rate on referral visitors is used to calculate lead flow.
Now, set the budget across all your influencers. I suggest targeting eight to 10 influencers. This helps to ensure that at least one or two from that group will be willing to do something with you. If you keep identifying, reaching out and nurturing, you’ll break through and have a viable connection that you should be able to work with over time.
2) Target Tier-Two Influencers
If you target top-tier influencers, you’ll be one of many attempting to get their attention. While you might break through, they might also require larger payments or be less willing to work with you in the way you want. You want to target top-tier influencers, but go into that effort with realistic expectations. These are going to take longer, require more work to break through and might drain your budget more quickly than you expected.
To mitigate this risk, target tier-two influencers just as aggressively. You should have an easier time connecting with these people. They should require less pay to play, if any. They should be more excited to work with you and more willing to follow your playbook.
The secret sauce here is to target tier-one, tier-two and tier-three influencers, and manage a portfolio of influencers to drive up your referral visitor numbers. While tier-two and tier-three influencers will have smaller audiences, less domain authority and lower visitor numbers, they’ll be easier to work with and be less expensive. It’s a little like attempting to hit singles and doubles to drive results, instead of only trying to hit home runs every time and striking out a lot.
3) Create More Remarkable Content
Another way to cut through the clutter associated with targeting top-tier influencers is with highly creative and remarkable content. If you have something they see as valuable or that they can’t get anywhere else, you’ll have a better chance of getting their attention and in turn getting access to their audiences.
One of the best ways to leverage more remarkable content is to offer them something that no one else will get access to — something that's exclusive for their followers, readers and subscribers. If you’re doing this, make sure that the influencer has a lot to contribute to your inbound marketing effort because you’ll be investing time and energy to create that exclusive content for them. But if you can justify the expense, you might be able to get their attention with an exclusive offer.
4) Target Influencers With Old-School PR Tactics
In the old days of PR, you targeted editors and writers at selected magazines, and you pitched them ideas week in and week out. You asked them for their editorial calendars and you crafted story pitches for your clients that fit in perfectly with their editorial direction. As you presented ideas and stories, they got to know you and they grew comfortable with you and your article ideas. Eventually, they found a way to use your content because it was tailored to them.
The same tactics can have similar results today. Get to know your influencers and start your conversation by offering to do something for them, instead of asking them to do something for you. Make sure you know what they like talking about or what they typically write about on their blog or website. If you can feather your content or offer into what they’re already working on, you’ll have a better chance of being included. If you can offer to promote their content or their site on your site, you’ll also have a better chance of getting their attention.
Regardless, be patient, be nice, be helpful and keep plugging along even if you get no response. Top-tier influencers are busy and you might need to keep consistently reaching out until you find an angle that grabs their attention.
5) Make Sure You're Getting Results
We’ve done influencer marketing that appeared to be perfect on paper, only to find a few weeks later that the effort was not returning as many visitors as we expected, returning the wrong types of visitors or returning visitors who didn’t convert into leads. These non-performing metrics are all indications that the referring site should be retired.
Go into each relationship with a set of performance expectations. Even the best-looking sites sometimes produce disappointing results. It’s not a reflection on you; it's simply the audience’s behavior on those sites. By starting with performance expectations, you’ll be able to see more quickly if your efforts are paying off.
As I’ve said many times, there are no shortcuts or easy buttons. Influencer marketing is no different. Since it’s such a hot tactic, you’re going to have to create content that cuts through the clutter, target properly and create strong relationships with these people. Remember, they have the power.
Several software products support the tactics. We’ve trialed and tested most of them, and they do offer some benefits, especially when you’re looking at target selection. However, beyond that I’m not sure these tools are ready for prime time or worth the lofty subscriptions these firms are charging today.
Instead, we’ve found that using smart targeting, thoughtful outreach and compelling content works better than trying to automate outreach, manage payments or monitor for placement. Also, keep in mind that the reason influencer marketing is getting so hot is the propensity for prospects to use the internet to do their purchase research. This isn’t going to change or regress. In fact, it’s only going to increase as more influencers gain traction, authority and followers.
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