Build Your Brand: Engage Influencers for Word of Mouth Marketing
Possibly the most frustrating part of building a recognized brand for your business comes in the early stages, when you slave away at every element of branding, only to see minimal traction or attention. At that point, it can be easy to feel you are spinning your wheels and decide to spend your time on other marketing initiatives. Thankfully, most owners can get over this mental obstacle and focus on the long-term benefits of brand building. It doesn't hurt to have a little boost to get over that hump, however, which is where working with influencers comes in.
The Value of Attracting Influencers To Your BrandAn influencer is anyone who has the attention of an audience to whom your product or service is well suited. When your brand is not yet established or is branching out into a new market, the support of influencers is an important way to get word of mouth going. For starters, it's a quicker way to access an audience and find potential new fans for your own social networks and communities. Finding influencers who are a good fit and will introduce your brand to their audience is a great example of the "drafting technique" discussed by Social Triggers, which focuses on getting coverage for start ups but holds similar value for brand marketers who are just starting out. Studies continue to show that most consumers are looking for a source they can trust for products or services they purchase regularly, while others credit influencers with a significant boost to word of mouth marketing campaigns. However you intend to work influencer marketing into your campaign, there's no doubt that it needs to be a part of your brand building strategy, especially when you're just starting out.
Identifying Relevant InfluencersAlthough it sounds simple on the surface - find someone who has an audience already and offer them a free trial of what you sell - the process of finding relevant and legitimately influential voices in your industry is much more complex than you'd think. From identifying the best bets for your business to connecting, engaging, and (hopefully) receiving a positive endorsement, the process takes a lot of planning and no small amount of patience. Where might you start to research and identify the influencers you need to engage? Here are some ideas:
- Social networks: Look for Linkedin groups and Facebook communities, Twitter chats, Pinterest boards, and hashtags on any network that supports them. Any that are relevant to your industry or the interests of those you sell to are worthwhile spaces to start your search.
- Media reporters: Are there any reporters or writers who regularly cover topics that relate to your product or service? Even if they're not a good fit because of impartiality, they might be quoting potential influencers that you can approach, or even open to using you as a source for their stories, which temporarily lends you their platform of influence.
- Bloggers and content creators: With online media no longer limited to a few established channels, amateur bloggers and interest-based sites can be just as valuable to your brand as the professionals. More so, in fact, because there is an authenticity to unpaid writers that the mainstream media does not always have. Try a trusty Google search on your keywords to find bloggers writing about your area, then read through their work and those they recommend to broaden your search.
- Speakers and panelists: Those on the speaking circuit for trade shows and events related to your industry are always worth looking for, because. Try to find speakers and experts who regularly speak to audiences that match your ideal clients, so that any recommendation they eventually pass on makes more of an impact.
Engaging an InfluencerWhen the time comes to get in touch with the influencers you've selected, one overriding rule applies: all approaches must be individual. Customizing your communication to each different Influencer is the best way to let them know you've done your homework, understand what they're about, and have considered how their audience will benefit from what you offer. Therein lies the second important element of engaging influencers: state early and clearly what's in it for them and those who trust their opinion. They already know why you want the coverage, so keep that to a minimum. Focus on complimenting what they do and communicating how you can help them do it. You've done the hard work in identifying and researching those influential people you would like to weigh in on your product, don't throw it away at the final hurdle with a cookie cutter request! What you want to reach is a point where you have a relationship with the influencer and can make an offer of a trial product or service that they will be receptive too. Some will be open to such an offer from the get-go, for example a blogger whose content is based on reviewing products in your industry, where as others will require a more considered pitch on how what you offer fits into their content schedule and benefits their audience. That final point cannot be overstated: any proposal you make, whether in the initial pitch or a request further down the line, must clearly explain the benefits to the influencer's audience. Recent studies suggest that an overwhelming 81% of bloggers are motivated to provide a giveaway or contest for their readers. Others are motivated by providing unique content, or "breaking a story" in the more traditional sense of news, but value is always at the core of their motivation. To engage influencers, you need to do the work for them and say exactly how you will engage their readers, viewers, or listeners. Most pitches focus on what's great about what they do, rather than why it makes sense for the recipient, so follow this golden rule to do a little more homework and you'll already be ahead of 95% of the pitches most influencers receive!
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