If you’re a small fish in the massive ocean of online marketers, chances are you probably have a lot of difficulty getting your voice heard.
Sometimes it may seem that despite all the effort and time you put into creating “great content,” it never really seems to make an impact.
How can you make sure that your content marketing doesn’t go unnoticed? How can you place yourself among the top marketing pros, and finally swim with the sharks?
Your best bet is to ride along on the coattails of those influencers.
Before you get frustrated in disbelief and close this tab, hear me out! I’m telling you this because I experienced the results first hand, and it works.
My team and I reached out to hundreds of marketing experts and compiled a list of exclusive tips for creating addictive content.
Every single one of those tips came from direct communication with those experts, and the content we created was seen and shared by some really influential marketers.
I’m actually going to share my process with you in this handy guide so that you can finally get your voice heard and no longer be marked as a small fish in a giant ocean of digital marketers.
What is influencer outreach?
You’ve heard the term influencer outreach thousands of times before.
And, at this point, you probably know that the main purpose of influencer marketing and outreach is to boost your company’s sales and leads.
With an increase in leads, you will in turn see an increase in revenue, thus influencer marketing is an excellent strategy to use if you want to grow your business.
According to a poll on the Tomoson blog, 59% of marketers are planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets over the next 12 months.
The poll also showed that influencer marketing was rated the fastest-growing customer acquisition channel (and it can also be one of the cheapest if you use the right strategies).
But there are other reasons beyond the fact that other marketers are tapping into influencer marketing.
For example, there’s been an explosive use of Adblock in recent years that makes it much harder for businesses to rely on traditional paid media.
With Adblock expected to rise 30% year over year, it’s highly likely that the day will come when online ads are a ghost of our past. Even now, relying on them might not be the most efficient use of your marketing budget.
Brands like TapInfluence have started cashing in on the influencer marketing wave by providing an engine that fosters connections. Their results have been impressive, too.
There are few strategies out there that give such drastic results for a single style of marketing, so it’s clear that we’re onto something.
If you need further proof at this point, take a look at this eye-opening statistic shared by Neil Patel:
For every dollar you spend on influencer marketing, statistics show that you’ll average a $23 ROI. Most ROI shoots for a 5:1 ratio, so you can see just how wild these statistics really are.Click to tweet
The next step is finding the right influencers that will in turn bring you the customers your business wants and needs.
Start with a project worth creating
There’s an overabundance of data that’s going to be competing with your content, which means you need to make sure yours stands out. After all, you won’t get engagement from many influencers if your project is just so-so.
How do you create a great project then?
Start with a dynamite idea, great planning, and make sure your project is moving in the right direction from the beginning. In other words, get creative with your projects.
Start by brainstorming as many “good’ ideas as possible.
Leave nothing off the list, as this is simply the early stages of your planning.
If you’re struggling to find good ideas, it’s okay to go online to find motivation from other brands. There are thousands of online lists of marketing ideas.
Browse as many as you need to and write down the ones that stand out as the best.
Then, when you’ve compiled a list, see if there’s a clear winner, or try to find unique hybrid ideas that can leverage influencer input.
Remember in your planning that using influencers in unique ways always stands out, like in 2014 when Hubspot asked influencers to lend advice about influencer marketing for an infographic. Here’s a snapshot:
Much like our finished influencer project, they took advice from top-level experts and created a visually pleasing infographic. It helped them stand out from the vast amounts of content that were being created and shared alongside this project.
After you’ve determined what your project is, it’s wise to establish goals that are within reach and mapped out over time. I like to use the traditional SMART methodology.
This is a method loved by marketers everywhere, and if you adhere to it, you’ll have a clear path forward for every project you ever attempt.
Here are some examples of goals you could create for your project:
- This influencer marketing campaign should improve conversion rates by x% by y date.
- I plan to spend $x on research, design, and distribution.
- I plan for this campaign to take x long and stay active for y long.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s aligned with your specific project, the needs of your influencers, and your ultimate goals.
Finally, once you’ve picked a project and decided on goals, it’s time to determine the format you’ll be using for your finished piece of content.
When we conceived our expert tips project, we started with numerous different angles and ideas for how to approach our finalized piece of content.
Did we want to ask solely about content? SEO? Or their best general marketing tip?
What format best fit our goals? Did we want to create an infographic? Blog post? Slideshare? Ebook?
Then, throughout the process, we continued to assess whether the influencers we’d chosen accurately expressed the message we were trying to convey to our own audience.
By the end of this process, we’d decided on a two-pronged approach that allowed us to create an infographic and eBook that complemented each other. This was the best way to provide value to both our audience and the audiences of the influencers who responded.
Now you’re ready to start honing in on your influencers.
Finding the right influencers
It can be excruciatingly overwhelming to track down influencers.
If you’re just starting out your outreach strategy, chances are you were told which tools to use to find potential leads, but you’re still working out the details of the process.
The key to finding the right influencers is to remember that the more you know about your target, the better you can create a pitch that will engage and sell them on your idea.
Well, when my team and I were planning our content roundup, we knew we wanted approximately 50 exclusive expert tips to include in our ebook.
If we could get ahold of such insights, we would have a piece of really useful and actionable content that plenty of marketers would love to get their hands on.
We also knew we wanted to target content marketers looking to optimize their content for SEO.
The questions we would be asking each influencer were:
- What is your takeaway tip for making really great content?
- What is your #1 proven SEO tactic?
If we could get 50 different views and responses from these two questions, we could definitely create a guide that would help a lot of people out.
I used two different processes for tracking down influencers.
The first and easiest one is to simply Google the keywords you are targeting.
In our case, those keywords were content marketing experts and SEO experts, and more general variations of those terms like content marketing insights, and SEO tactics.
Stryde had published a list of the top 50 marketing experts, which gave a great starting point.
Another search pointed us to a list on Forbes written by Sujan Patel.
We found quite a bit of crossover between lists.
Meaning that it not only acted as proof that the listed individuals were influential since they were getting mentioned in Forbes, but it also meant they were willing to contribute their insights.
The second process I used was an influencer search on Buzzsumo. I used the amplification tool to track down more influencers in the content marketing and SEO niches.
Here’s an example of what the influencer search can look like:
As you can see, you get a customized list of individuals related to your search terms (I used content marketing here). You can also gain quick access to their social media, website, and other helpful information.
I added all of these influencers into a spreadsheet where I tracked their names, companies and websites, any relevant blog posts and articles, and of course their email addresses.
However, not every project has to rely on high-profile influencers to achieve its goals. In fact, most don’t.
What I’m talking about is the practice of using niche-specific micro-influencers that have more “modest” online followings. I say “modest” because their following is still large by some standards, only they’re smaller than the millions of followers a high-profile influencer would have.
And this is good, too, because according to Markerly a large follower count doesn’t necessarily mean your chosen influencer is the best option.
They put the “sweet spot” of comment activity and following between in the 10k-100k followers window.
This means that you’ll still get a good amount of buzz and conversation with the largest audience possible.
But does this actually help your project?
The evidence says an overwhelming “yes.”
ExpertVoice found that Micro Influencers improve your chances of conversions even more than the normal batch of influencers. In fact, micro-influencers achieved 22.2 times more conversations than average when they recommended products to their audience.
Pretty impressive, right?
What’s more, they also found that 82% of consumers reported that they were highly likely to follow a recommendation made by a micro-influencer.
Are you beginning to see how a micro-influencer can be a powerful addition to your project?
Just look at how brands like Jord tap into micro-influencer content with strategic YouTube features.
This particular channel only has 23,000 subscribers, but Jord’s influencer video got more than 13,000 views. That’s thousands of more eyes and a positive review from a leader of a small online community, which is worth its weight in gold.
These viewers went from ignorant to interested in just five minutes.
And I highly doubt you would find this YouTuber on a list alongside the likes of Rhett and Link. You could miss her by a mile, which means you’d be losing thousands of impressions for your project.
And Jord doesn’t just focus on one group either. There are hundreds of thousands of reviews for this company on YouTube alone.
What other brands do you know of that have thousands of user-generated reviews?
Simply by relying on the goodwill of these micro-influencers, they’ve created quite a bit of stir for their brand. And they don’t stop there.
They also provide influencer giveaway campaigns that have a promo code attached, as you can see from this example.
So not only is Jord hoping for a good review, they’re incentivizing the influencer’s audience to check out their product with a discount.
And the benefit to the influencers? They get a nice watch. All in all, this is a perfect example of how you can use micro-influencers in an extensive campaign.
But how do you find these influencers?
Like I said, you won’t see them on a list of top YouTubers. But that doesn’t mean they’re not on a list somewhere.
To help shortcut your micro-influencer search, I recommend a service like Hypr.
This service lets you search for any potential influencer no matter how big or small their audience is. You can search either by audience or influencer with the option to narrow your search based on a variety of demographics.
For example, if you want to look for influencers who help their following be more productive, then you could enter a search term for “productivity.”
Here are the results.
Now, chances are you probably won’t land any of these influencers for your campaign. As much as all of us would love to have Elon Musk as an influencer, he doesn’t quite fit the “micro” bill here.
So how do you fine-tune your search to find micro-influencers?
Simply refine by followers:
If you go by our sweet spot from earlier, you’ll want to keep the follower limit between 10k and 100k. Here’s what one simple refinement accomplishes:
Looks much better, right?
These individuals might not have the clout of Elon Musk or Xbox, but they can provide a wider audience for your project if they fit the bill. To find out if they really are a good fit for your end goals, all you need to do is click on their individual profile.
This gives you a ready-made look into the specifics of their audience and gives you an idea of how active and engaged their profile is.
By looking at this information, you can decide whether you have a potential micro-influencer or not.
How you choose to use micro-influencers is entirely up to your imagination, but you can see how successful it can be simply by the sheer volume of Jord’s success. You can have them help you influence on YouTube, Snapchat, or even Instagram.
The more you know about your influencer, their niche, engagement, and habits, the better you’ll be able to cater your pitch when the time comes.Click to tweet
Before I move on to how you should pitch your influencer, there’s one final element to consider in your search.
Within your influencer consideration, you should also think about how you handle “compensating” your influencers. Our project worked out where attribution and a little extra exposure were sufficient, but that won’t always be enough.
Nor is it the only way to do it.
The hard truth is that influencers do prefer monetary compensation for their services.
And this makes sense. If someone is saying good things about your brand or is lending their expertise to your efforts, you want to make sure they get something out of it.
Don’t be discouraged though. Just because your influencer might prefer financial compensation, there are still other ways to make your influencer feel that there’s a reward for their input.
Here’s a list of other “compensation” methods:
- Shout out – Obviously, our method of attributing advice to an industry expert is the greatest of shoutouts you could imagine. They received recognition of their expertise and the ability to leverage our content in their own efforts.
- Product discount or giveaway – Offering a discount on your services, especially for a micro-influencer, could be a great way to get further brand exposure in the future.
- Commission – If you have an influencer that keeps coming back into your efforts and leads to bigger sales, setting them up with a commission might not be a bad idea.
If none of these work, never fear. There are plenty of other creative ways to compensate influencers as well. Find what suits your influencers best and create a custom compensation package that they can’t refuse.
In the end, we had a list of nearly 140 different marketing experts, and we were ready for the next step: the pitch.
You can find volumes of advice on creating pitches for influencers. How do you know if their advice is helpful to your needs though?
The truth is, every pitch is different. If you want to look at template examples, that’s fine, but I don’t advise just treating them as a copy-paste effort for your project.
Whatever route you take, modify every pitch to your specific audience. I recommend being specific to each influencer too.
Any other advice I would give up front is a little more general but still in the realm of best practice for approaching an influencer.
Start by personalizing the pitch. Don’t start your pitch letter with “Dear blogger” or “Dear influencer.” That’s just going to be ignored altogether by 99% of your recipients.
It’s also not a good idea to start by talking about you, how great you are, or how important this opportunity is for them. Focus instead on building the relationship with your influencer.
Once you get started, share your thoughts on their content, work, or expertise. It’s usually a good tactic to reference a post or podcast that resonated with you and how that led to your decision to reach out.
From there, just keep your pitch simple. The offer should be clear, and your desired outcome shouldn’t be veiled.
Be upfront about how much work the influencer will need to do, and don’t be vague or beat around the bush. Their time is precious.
The easier you make it for your influencer to help you, the more likely you’ll get a favorable response. Provide instruction, sample content, or images that they can use or refer to.
And overall, just don’t be a burden to them.
Lastly, follow good email etiquette:
- Be short and to the point.
- Don’t mass pitch.
- Pique their interest.
- Don’t suck up.
- Tell them why you want their endorsement.
- Share the benefits of your project to their audience.
Formulating the perfect pitch takes a bit of getting used to.
The first email pitch I ever wrote was terrible, and looking back on it now it was too long, too preachy, and too “pitchy.”
As someone who receives a fair number of content pitches myself, it’s now easy to see what works and what doesn’t.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to keep your email short and direct. Here’s an example of how I reached out to Guy Kawasaki.
- Keep your subject line vague enough to peak interest, but try to address the person by name right off the bat so that it still comes off as personal.
- Greet them to show you are friendly, but keep it short and sweet.
- Introduce yourself at the beginning of your email, or simply sign off at the end with your name and company.
- Research the person you are outreaching to and make your pitch personal. Don’t just copy and paste a generic email template to everyone. These are experts after all and can definitely tell when you’re taking the easy way out.
- Your pitch or ask should only be a couple of sentences at the most. Don’t go on and on about your company’s philosophy, history or any of that extra information. Get to the point and get out!
- Finally, offer this person something you know they want. Chances are any marketer or entrepreneur you outreach to understands the value of being featured in a well-researched and promoted piece of content.
In the end, you will have your tip:
Naturally, not everyone will be as endearing and polite as Guy Kawasaki right off the bat.
It takes some persistence to get people’s attention.
These influencers are very busy, after all, and likely receive a lot of spammy emails in their inboxes. You need to show them how committed you are to getting their attention.
Still not working? Check for spam tendencies
Whether you want to admit it or not, many of your asks will end up in the spam filter of the influencer you’re reaching out to. Even major brands end up in the spam filter. I catch my Twitter alerts in there from time to time.
How do you check for spamming tendencies then?
Well, there are seven major errors that many tapping into an influencer’s audience ends up making.
- Not doing a “1-2 punch.”
- No follow-up or too few emails.
- Too many emails.
- Having an unclear ask (or none at all)
- Using a one-size fits all approach.
- No clear goal
- Failure to quantify the relationship.
These missteps will land you pitch squarely in your influencer’s spam folder or trash bin. Thankfully, there’s still hope.
Quey goes on to share three powerful ways you can change your email’s destiny and reach your targeted influencer.
- Change your frame of mind. Instead of treating this like networking, try to build a relationship.
- Go above and beyond what your influencer likely expects.
- Try to find out why they didn’t respond or denied you. This can help you improve your angle for next time.
If you suspect that you’re in the spam folder or are simply being ignored, it may also require you to go back to square one. While that’s not the most desirable option, it’s better than creating an under-sourced project with limited value.
Preparing for rejection (persistence, persistence, persistence)
You may recall that I mentioned we had compiled a list of almost 140 different marketers, but our final piece of content included only 46 expert tips.
The reason for that is that unfortunately most people just never responded to my emails, despite how charming and to the point they were.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t try to get in touch with the ones who didn’t reply.
In fact, had I given up after the first round of emails, our expert tips ebook would have had substantially fewer expert tips.
The point is, a lot of these people likely get so many emails on a daily basis that my wonderful pitch very possibly got buried somewhere in their inbox.
So what do you do when this happens?
Well, you can send a follow-up email and hope for the best, or you can try to contact them via other channels. I used Twitter.
Twitter is a great way to signal someone or remind them that you sent an email. It indicates that you are still awaiting a response.
Whenever someone tweets me to alert me that they sent an email, I’m impressed.
The reason being that tweeting to someone puts you out in the open and signals to the rest of the world exactly what you are working on.
Many people may find this daunting and a premature unveiling of their content plans.
But, sometimes the more you talk about your upcoming projects, the more anticipation you build for them.
Furthermore, Twitter is a more immediate and direct (there’s that word again) approach to communicating with someone.
For instance, one of the most difficult people to get an answer from was Neil Patel.
I emailed him directly a couple of times and received no response, then I tweeted him, and finally, I send him a message using his contact form on Quicksprout.
At last, I received a response:
After this success, I felt invincible and even tried to get Chelsea Peretti to submit a tip:
She never answered. That’s ok though since I still got my marketing nugget from Neil!
When you face rejection, don’t give up.
Think of the process like a challenging game. If one strategy doesn’t work, you need to try something different and something slightly riskier.
If your email goes ignored, send a follow-up one. If that doesn’t work, try using different channels to get in touch with a person.
For me, every tip I successfully acquired from an influencer was like getting a powerup or a gold coin! Eventually, you will start to succeed, but it takes persistence.
And who knows, in the end, you might actually have a lot of fun with your influencer outreach marketing.
Completing your content
What’s important to note about influencer outreach is that you need to be able to offer the individual you are contacting something that they simply cannot refuse.
How can you ensure that what you are offering them is something they actually want?
Like I mentioned before, for many marketers, a solid backlink and promotion is an ideal prize!
Even more importantly, you need to deliver your promise in a way that is even better than what was expected. If you promised A-level content, deliver A+ content.
The reason for this is not only to impress each expert featured in your roundup but to make anyone who wasn’t featured jealous. Especially the ones who ignored you.
First: Trim the fat
Once we received all of the tips by the deadline we had given ourselves, we needed to pull out some of the juicier pointers.
Some influencers provided us with the requested couple of sentences, but others had provided us with paragraphs upon paragraphs of content.
For those, we wanted to pull out some takeaway points to include in the blog post and the infographic poster on our page.
The ebook would contain the full responses to encourage more people to download (which you can do by clicking here: 46 Expert Tips Ebook).
Second: Design the content
After we had compiled all of the condensed tips, we needed to work on designing the infographic and the ebook.
We have two designers, so luckily one was able to work on the ebook and one focused on the infographic. This process took about a week.
The infographic was made on our own infographic maker tool, and so were parts of the ebook. The remainder was done using Adobe Illustrator.
If you’d rather have total control of the look and feel of your content, a tool like Canva is a great way to quickly and cheaply design infographics or simple imagery for your content.
Let’s say you want to take your information and create an infographic. Canva has templates that you can choose from to help you nail the look and feel of your final product.
As you can see, these templates are typically set up as a “dummy” infographic that is easy to amend for your own purposes. With a little bit of love, you can take a template and turn it into effective content.
Simply click on a template you like, then click on “use this template” in the top right corner.
From there, you’ll be taken to Canva’s online editing tool. Here, you can change colors, imagery, and copy to suit your specific needs.
Once you’ve designed your content, simply save and download your file. Or, just come back to Canva thanks to their autosave feature when you need to revise your project.
Third: Revise, revise, revise
I can’t stress how important it is to read, re-read and get someone else to look over your work.
When you’re compiling content that is very rich and text-heavy, you will likely become eager to get it published and pushed out as soon as possible.
This eagerness can quickly cloud your vision and stop you from noticing what may appear to be obvious errors to outside eyes.
Even after we were ready to publish the “final” version, at the last minute, we would notice major errors that needed to be fixed.
When in doubt, wait a day after you complete the content and look it over again with fresh eyes. You might be surprised by what you find.
If you struggle with revision and editing, I recommend using a tool like Grammarly to help fine-tune your grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and perform a final check on your content.
This platform lets you upload your copy and get instant feedback for revisions. As you can see when I put this post into Grammarly, it had something for me to change almost immediately:
The worst thing you can do is publish something and then have the influencer email you telling you that you misspelled their name, or used an incorrect picture to represent them.
Be thorough to avoid embarrassment, and to impress anyone that comes across your work.
Fourth: Post Strategically
You can’t just create this stellar content with your influencers help and then not leverage it in the best places possible. That’s just a waste of everyone’s time and money.
So where do you post your content? It depends.
Tomoson found blogs and Facebook to be the two greatest places to post influencer content.
But as you can see, there are other platforms that have measurable success with influencer campaigns. My earlier example of Jord comes immediately to mind.
I would add for B2B players to also include LinkedIn high on their list, as it’s an emerging winner in that space. You can also research hashtags that fit your target audience by using a hashtag research tool to identify additional ways to leverage your content.
All in all, I recommend doing a little research for your niche, audience, and influencer audiences to find out where you should be posting. The more you know, the better your results will be.
Outreach round two
So now that your post is completed and it’s published on your blog error free, you can just sit back and wait for the shares and backlinks to skyrocket. Wrong! You’re not done yet.
This is the part where you need to do your second round of outreach. For the ebook, I used Brian Dean’s Skyscraper technique to pre-plan my outreach.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Skyscraper technique, it’s a three-step method of creating and sharing content for best results.
Step 1: Find link-worthy content.
Step 2: Make something even better.
Step 3: Reach out to the right people.
As you can guess by my bolding, this part of your influencer marketing focuses on step three of the technique.
In a nutshell, this means tracking down potential marketers and entrepreneurs who would be interested in your content, and telling them about it before you even publish it.
Build up their anticipation and then contact them again when the content is ready. We performed our outreach in two phases:
1. Contact all the experts who participated
I started out by individually emailing every participating expert (not email merging them all at the same time).
You have a really good chance of getting a lot of traffic to your post if they spread the word, and the majority of them will.
In addition, not only will they share posts from their personal social media accounts, but they will also share from their business accounts.
Within an hour of sending out the first batch of emails, we already had over 200 social shares.
Here’s what I said in my email to the experts:
- Re-email all the participants individually.
- In the email remind them of the study and include a link.
- Explain to them exactly how you helped
- Thank them again for their assistance.
- Ask them specifically to share (and re-post) content with their followers.
- End on a note that offers further opportunity for collaboration.
2. Then email everyone else
The next round of emails to send out is to the list of people who showed interest from the Skyscraper Technique.
Again, you just want to remind them that you are following up with them as per their request. You should do this manually as well, and individually contact each of these people.
Once that’s done, you can email a larger database of contacts (which you can do using a mail merge), including your own user-base of blog subscribers.
Anyone who you have done past collaborations and co-marketing with are perfect examples of who to contact.
Finally, in your outreach to these contacts, include the following sentence in your email:
“Also, if you’re interested in being featured in a future roundup, just shoot me a message and we’ll keep you in mind!”
Not only will this get other influencers excited about being contacted, but many of them will be eager to share your content in order to show their support.
Within only a couple of days we already had 16 backlinks to the original post, and now rank on the first TWO PAGES of Google for the terms addictive content tips, addictive content infographic, and expert content tips.
And of course, every day I receive notifications of more people linking back to the content, and more people sharing it on their social media platforms.
Use successes to build long-term relationships
When all is said and done, building long-term relationships with your influencers will always be better for you, your brand, and possibly even the influencer. The ultimate focus is on relationships after all, not one-off campaigns.
Throughout your project, consider how you can work with your influencers as part of a long-term strategy. As long as these influencers are aligned with your content, audience, and have experience worth sharing, they’re worth building a relationship with.
Find innovative and fresh ways to incentivize influencers to stay with you in the long-term and use them as frequently as you can. If you can prevent burnout and keep your ideas rolling, the mutual growth can be explosive.
If you ever had any doubts about influencer outreach, I hope that now you are at least beginning to understand the benefits behind it.
Influencer marketing will help you to establish newer and stronger relationships with individuals who can help you grow within your niche.
These people can also help point you in the direction of more potential customers that may find value in your products and/or services.
By creating the right project, finding the best influencers, and developing rich and high-value content that deserves to be read and shared, you’ll be successfully tapping into the incredible benefits of influencer marketing.
Reaching out to influencers can help you develop rich and high-value content that your audience actually wants to read. Don’t ignore the obvious signs- influencer marketing works.