“Influence will lead marketing efforts by 2020. It’s the most effective form of “advertising” there is, and when coupled with a solid content strategy, no TV or Facebook ad buy can even compare.” – Ted Coine

All brands have a story to tell. Every organization needs to be able to communicate their story, but often the most effective way to tell your brand’s story is to have someone else tell it.

With more and more customers distrusting and blocking ads, influencer marketing is growing in importance. According to Nielson, almost 92% of consumers say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from family and friends. Influencer marketing, however, leverages the personality of someone of great influence, such as a celebrity or thought leader in a particular industry.

How can your brand leverage influencer marketing and not rely on paid media and advertising? This post will help you develop an influencer outreach strategy and encourage other people to tell your brand’s story.

Determine Your Market and Evaluate Your Brand

First, you’ll need to decide who you want to approach. I suggest creating a list of all of the influential bloggers, editors of industry publications, CEOs or other thought leaders, and brands in your industry. If you’re selling jewellery online, for example, do some research on thought leaders in the e-commerce industry or jewellery business.

But how do you target the right influencers to make sure your messaging lines up, and the future work you collaborate on is worth the time and effort?

“It’s important to establish some context: identify the topic in which you wish to gain influence,” says Dennis Shiao, Director of Content Marketing, DNN Software. “Next, define your objective. Putting the two together, one example might be: ‘To encourage marketing experts to share our definitive guide to A/B testing to their social networks.’

If you’re not sure exactly where to start, try using a tool such as Buzzsumo to discover social media influencers. After you have a list of influencers, you can examine each thoroughly to see how they can align with your own marketing objectives.

Before you reach out to influencers, it’s essential that you take inventory of what you have to offer these influencers. After all, if you ask for something from them, you need to be prepared to offer them something in return.

Ask yourself: What about my product or organization is valuable enough for this influencer to want to hear? Are there thought leaders in my organization that have something worthwhile to contribute to a top-tier publication?

Start to Connect and Build a Relationship with Your Influencers

Begin by learning more about these influencers. Follow them on social media. Read their blog articles or find out which publications they contribute to as well as their specific niche. If they are journalists covering the health industry, for example, find out if they’ve covered recent trends in the field.

Start out slowly when developing a relationship. Trust is critical in building these relationships and gives credibility to your brand.

Tweet messages and ideas from these influencers in line with your brands’ or products’ messaging. If they are familiar with your brand or organization, it will be a lot easier to receive a response when you approach them.

Rolex first started following Roger Federer on Instagram in 2015, well before its full-on interview in the “Every Rolex Tells a Story Campaign” on YouTube.

JCB Kids first approached parenting blogger Laura Summers at a blogging conference. JCB Kids gave her son a toy to take home with him, and their relationship blossomed from there. Now she’s a brand ambassador for the UK toy store.

Now that you’ve determined your market and evaluated your brand, you should know exactly what it is that you want from this influencer. Do you want them to promote your product or services? Do you want to guest post in their blog? Or do you just want them to link to your site or share an article on social media?

For example, maybe your organization is in the sporting goods industry, and you’re looking to market a new product line – one that doesn’t exist in any competitor store. Maybe you even happened to have heard a certain sports influencer mention that he or she had an injury and this product could have helped them. Offer them the product for free, and if it helped them, ask them to endorse your product!

Or maybe start offering complementary products or services. If you’re a web design business, you might consider offering packages with web builders or plugins offer product reviews for that already have an established user base – and website traffic.

Is your product a worthwhile supplement to compliment another with an even stronger brand? Do you have a record of already being quoted or interviewed in top publications? How well-known is your product/brand, or how useful can your product/brand be to them?

Once you’ve answered all these questions and determined what it is you want from your influencer, it’s time to craft an email. But what if you don’t have their email? A tool such as Clearbit can find their emails for you.

Here’s an example outreach email to an influencer:

An Example Influencer Outreach Email

Hi NAME,

I read your article about the importance of building a B2B content marketing strategy. We’re a B2B marketing company in the UK, and we’re creating a lot of content based on a lot of your suggestions.

We’re currently creating a B2B content marketing guide for our customers, and we’d like to include great quotes from influencers. Would you be willing to be included in our book?

Happy to talk more if you’re interested. I can send you our draft if you’d like.

Thanks,

Kate

If you need more ideas for what to ask influencer, here are some more examples of influencer marketing for you to consider:

Oktopost wrote a blog post entitled “Should B2B Marketing Appeal More to Our Emotions?” by surveying close to 50 B2B marketers in a range of different industries. By doing so, it started building relationships with these influencers, who, as a B2B social media tool, are also part of their market. Brilliant!

Cisco leveraged influencer marketing in a much bigger way when it invited Breaking Bad actor Bryan Cranston to close its keynote conference.

Once you’ve succeeded in achieving the results you wanted, be sure to thank the influencer, whether by an email, tweet, a link to their website. Bigger brands often give monetary compensation as well.

Persistence is Virtue

Have you sent the first outreach email and not heard anything from them? Follow up in about a week. Sometimes influencers are so busy they just need a reminder. Also, reach out to them over Twitter to mention that you’ve sent them an email. That reminds them to check it and respond to you!

If your eye is set on a specific influencer, and you aren’t yet able to get his attention, don’t give up. If you are successful with your influencer marketing, the influencer will see the work your brand is doing and be much more receptive to your requests in the future. And, by contacting them and following them on social media, you’ve already started to build a foundation for a future relationship.

Wrapping it Up

Influencer marketing, once known primarily to the consumer, or B2C markets, has now increased its influence to include brands that sell to other businesses. This alone should be a strong indicator of its success. Make sure your organization has an effective content marketing strategy in place before you approach influencers, and you’ll see the power of influencer marketing and its effect on your brand for yourself.

Dev Sharma

Dev is the founder of WPKube, a popular Wordpress resource website. His work has been featured & mentioned in a wide range of publications, including Smart Insights, The Next Web, SpeckyBoy, Creative Bloq, The Huffington Post, SEJ and Smart Blogger.