If you’re hoping to grow your startup’s brand either through increased sales or greater brand awareness, influencer marketing can be a great resource. Unlike traditional ad campaigns, influencers can provide a measure of authenticity that will make their audience — and your target demographic — more likely to check out your brand for themselves.
But it’s not as simple as just picking any influencer and waiting for your brand to skyrocket. On top of that, you need to play to their strengths in order to get the most out of the partnership.
Here’s how to use influencer marketing to grow your brand.
Plan your campaign
You may think the first step is to identify the influencer you want to partner with, but there’s actually a step that comes before that: deciding what kind of campaign you want to run. In order to figure out what kind of influencer you need, it’s important that you have a vision for your campaign in mind before you start your search.
So first off, what channel(s) will you utilize? Some of this will depend on your brand and the product or service your startup offers. For example, Instagram is a good option if you’re a fashion startup, and it’ll help you reach a wide audience. But if you need to demonstrate how your product works, YouTube might be a better platform. Once you know which channels work best to show off your brand, you can narrow down the list of potential influencers.
Find the right influencer
Remember: the main benefit an influencer can offer (aside from a large audience) is to make your brand seem more authentic and relatable, but that won’t work if he or she isn’t a good fit for your brand.
There are a few questions you can ask yourself to help narrow down your options. An easy way to figure out a good fit is to look at your target demographic — if your ideal audience is in the 18 to 24 range, for example, you’ll likely want to look for a millennial influencer of a similar demographic.
Once you’ve got a general idea of the kind of influencer and audience you need to target, it’s time to focus on the little things that will make their support come across as authentic. To do that, consider this: does the influencer have any charities or causes in common with your brand? A shared cause or interest with a well-known influencer can not only make their support for your brand seem more organic and authentic, but it can also increase your odds of getting that influencer to agree to work with you.
Know who to contact
When working with influencers, you need to know how to reach out to their representatives. Most have a team that typically includes an agent, a manager and a publicist. Who you contact will depend on what you’re looking for; for example, an official endorsement deal versus some free promotion.
Many partnerships with influencers consist of a paid endorsement deal, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll want to contact the influencer’s agent. Agents are responsible for securing business deals for their clients, so if you’re reaching out to an agent, your approach should be straightforward: you’re offering a potential deal that will make their client (and the agent themselves) money.
Like an agent, a manager’s goal is to ensure that the influencer keeps making money. A manager’s job is also to make sure their client’s public brand is as strong as possible — and that includes the brands their client endorses. If you’re reaching out to a manager, you also need to sell them on the idea that a partnership with your brand will positively benefit both sides.
As a startup, you might not have the money for a full endorsement campaign, but you still want to get more exposure for your brand. In that case, your best bet is to work with the influencer’s publicist — they can help you get you product into the hands of the celebrity influencer. And with a little luck, the celebrity influencer will talk up your brand on social media. Like managers, the key is to convince the publicist that their client’s public profile will benefit from a partnership with your brand.
How will you pay?
Your odds of working with an influencer will improve if they’re getting something out of the arrangement. But, as a cash-strapped startup, you may not have enough money to hire an influencer. Don’t despair: a partnership with an influencer doesn’t necessarily have to mean paying cash for their services.
The most common payment structure is called “pay-per-post.” With these, you pay the influencer for a certain number of posts; the cost per post usually depends on the size of their audience, since you’re paying for access to a certain number of people.
Another option is to pay the influencer on commission. Rather than paying a blanket fee to reach their entire audience, you pay a bit more, but only if their endorsement leads directly to a sale or a new customer. Unfortunately, most celebrity influencers don’t want to be paid on commission — you’re paying them for access, not to sell your product for you.
You can also offer an influencer equity in your brand. Not a lot of brands take advantage of this option, but it might work for you. Equity deals are more of a long-term commitment, which is a good way to spread the cost of the campaign and avoid overextending yourself financially. But, like commission deals, most celebrity influencers would rather take the money on a per-post basis than be locked into a long-term deal to promote your brand.
A partnership with an influencer can massively benefit your brand. Follow these steps and you’ll be in a great position to succeed.