Odds are that if you’ve ever been involved with a startup you have probably asked yourself the question; how is this ever going to work? So you also know there is close to nothing you wouldn’t do to get your startup up and running. The age-old problem for startups is that each business is different and every market place is always changing, which means there is no clear blueprint to success. But what if I told you there is a sure fire way to getting ahead? And it’s not even going to burn through your money.
The use of industry influencers as an inbound marketing tool is a relatively new concept when it comes to most markets but the theory itself has been in practice for years now. It’s no secret that the sport, fashion and music industries use stars and celebrities to attract consumers to their brands, and the recent emergence of social media has seen “stars” from all walks of life being thrust into the spot light. Most people are surprised when I tell them the software and marketing industries have people that can be used to promote services in much the same way sports stars promote shoes. Just as Usain uses Puma, or Cristiano uses Nike, there are men and women in almost every industry who are held in high regard by their peers.
The dry definition of an influencer is someone who has a large, active following which has been gained through popularity and/or expertise in their given industry. The not so dry definition that I like to use for influencers is, mass exposure. A classic example of an influencer is someone like Jamie Oliver, who is not only an expert at what he does but is also very popular. A product mention from him will spur thousands and thousands of consumers to research and purchase that particular product. Now if we apply that behavior to marketing, you will see the same results. Lets say your startup is a small social media tool that allows people to compare their SEO keywords with their competitors, and Guy Kawasaki endorses it, that endorsement will see your sales and brand exposure go through the roof, just because a star of the industry has promoted it. How big or small your startup is has no impact on the ability to engage with influencers and that is what I consider to be the most exciting thing about influencer marketing; Unlike the sports and fashion industries, you don’t need to be a big company to gain mass exposure.
Now finding influencers is not the easiest thing in the world, but there is plenty of help out there for you. To begin with you have to go through the basics that are synonymous with most business process.
- Define your startups marketing objectives; I’m sure you’ve been told before and yes, I am telling you again, you need to set your objectives. This is essential for so many different processes in business and influencer outreach is no different. What’s your target market? What sales expectations do you have? Although mundane, these kinds of questions are key to finding the right influencers.
- Do your Research; once you know your market its time to do your blog and influencer research. Which blogs do you want to contact? Or which influencers best suit your startup and its objectives? Generally you want to pick influencers that have the largest impact on your target market.
- Build relationships; if you’re going to connect with a blogger you’re going to have to invest some time into the relationship. It’s like a friendship and the relationship is built around social media. As you know by now, what you want from this process is an influencer who will become an advocate for your brand, for them to do that you need to be engaging. No influencer is going to plug your brand without you engaging with them and the best way to engage them is through social media. Ask them questions and comment on their posts, it’s a sure fire way to get the ball rolling.
- Make the pitch; after engaging the influencer you then make your pitch. This isn’t overly difficult to do as you have 2 option; pursue an online pitch or pursue an offline one. When going for the online option, you need to make sure your blog content is consistently of high quality. Generally if you feel as though your influencers are a little bit difficult to reach online, you can always try meeting them in person. Attending lectures, seminars and conferences is incredibly important not only for the purpose of learning, but they give you a great opportunity to meet influential people within your given industry.
Getting an Influencer on board (Engagement)
It’s all about what you can offer a blogger, Why should they plug your product? Once you’ve found your influencers, you have to sell your product to them. These guys are probably the hardest people of all to sell to, as they are market experts. The one thing I would suggest when it comes to contacting influencers is that it pays to take the time understand the influencer and customize your pitch. They will undoubtedly be getting a barrage of products to promote, so try and make yours stand out. Personal touches to an email will resonate with them a lot better than a generic mass-produced email.
What can Influencers do for a Startup?
So what can an influencer do for your startup? Basically every method adds value to your startup through one basic concept; people will think that if your product is good enough for the influencer, then it is good enough for them. There are many different ways in which they can provide value ranging from hosting an article to quite literally telling their audience they use your brand. Obviously some methods will carry greater rewards and it will take a bit of effort to get the attention of the best influencers, but the important thing to remember is that your startup will gain recognition through the engagement of influencers. And that’s certainly something worth working for.