Most of us are familiar with the concept of influencer marketing, i.e., marketing to a select group of individuals — such as journalists, bloggers, consultants, or industry analysts — who influence your buyers’ decisions. The idea is that if you take the time to identify and build relationships with those influencers, you can leverage them to build your credibility. That, in turn, can help move your buyers down the path to purchase. Just think of the Oprah Winfrey effect. If you were to market your product to her and get her seal of approval, her endorsement would go a long, long way toward boosting your sales.
Ok, I admit it, Oprah is an extreme and unlikely example. Most influencers that businesses target, especially B2B businesses, probably aren’t world famous media moguls. But just because you don’t have Oprah on your side doesn’t mean that influencer marketing isn’t an incredibly useful tactic, particularly when it comes to turning up the volume on your content strategy. In fact, getting the influencers your target buyers listen to to contribute content to your site, write about you on their site, or simply share your latest eBook, can make your life a lot easier.
Let me use OpenView Venture Partners as an example. We have spent the past few years building a substantial content factory that relies heavily on influencers. Our community site, OpenView Labs, features new content from influencers every week about the topics our target audience cares about, such as sales and marketing. The benefits of doing so are threefold:
- Getting great content for free — We regularly ask influencers to write articles for us, record videos and podcasts, or simply contribute quotes and ideas to our eBooks and reports. It certainly doesn’t get any better (or easier) than posting great content that you’re getting for free.
- Building our brand — By virtue of the fact that these influencers are choosing to publish content on our site, they are effectively signaling their approval of OpenView. Chances are that if industry influencers think we’re worth checking out, our target audience will too.
- Expanding our reach — Because we have content from a wide range of influencers, each of whom shares their content with their diverse groups of followers, we get people coming to the site who probably otherwise wouldn’t. We get a steady stream of new visitors to our site every day.
To be sure, integrating influencer marketing into your content strategy is a great way to accelerate your content marketing efforts. But how do you actually go about doing so? Here are the five points you need to keep in mind:
- Start by figuring out who influences your buyers and which of those influencers you want to target. In addition to talking to your sales teams and your buyers themselves, there is a lot of detective work that you can do online. For example, using a simple list of relevant keywords can help you identify a broad list of influencers. Likewise, you can search on Twitter and LinkedIn as well as use PR tools such as Vocus and Cision to find influencers. If you are looking for bloggers specifically, Google Blog Search and Technorati can also be valuable resources.
- Once you have identified a list of influencers, prioritize them based on who you think will have the most impact, focusing your efforts on just a few at a time. You will then need to figure out how to build a relationship with those influencers. The simplest approach is to initially engage them in some small way and establish periodic touch points with them over time. You might start by commenting on one of their blog posts one week, following them on Twitter the next, and retweeting their content for several weeks after that.
- Eventually, you reach the point where you send them a personalized e-mail that explains that you have been following them for a while and would like to introduce yourself and your business. This is the time to share your best elevator pitch that quickly tells them who you are, what you’re looking for, and what’s in it for them. At OpenView, our pitch goes something like this: OpenView is a Boston-based venture capital firm that produces a lot of content for entrepreneurs. We’d love to collaborate with you on an article on topic X, which we think our audience would really enjoy hearing from you on. In addition, to posting the article to our sites, which get more than 120,000 visitors a month, we will also include it in our newsletter that goes out to our 20 portfolio companies around the country and over 20,000 entrepreneurs. As you can see, it’s a great opportunity to get exposure to a broad audience.
- The key to successfully engaging influencers is making the process of working with you as easy as possible for them. For example, if you’re looking for an influencer to contribute the foreword to your new eBook, rather than ask them to write something for you from scratch, why not write the first draft yourself, giving them the opportunity to simply personalize it as they see fit. Chances are they’d much rather spend 30 minutes editing what you’ve written than hours (they don’t have) coming up with it on their own.
- Lastly, once you have posted a new piece of content that an influencer has contributed to, be sure to e-mail that influencer to thank them for their work and to ask them to share the content with their audience. You might also follow up with them in the days that follow to let them know if their content performed particularly well, if there are comments for them to respond to, or even to tee up another opportunity to contribute content down the road.
Influencer marketing is a great way to help your content marketing efforts take off. Invest the time up front to build good relationships with the right influencers and incorporate those influencers into your strategy. Do so, and the fruits of your labor will start paying off quickly.
To learn more about influencer marketing, check out our eBook, “The Value of Influence: The Ultimate Guide to Influencer Marketing