With influencer marketing on the rise, most brands and marketers are integrating it into their marketing mixes. In fact, it has become one of the most preferred forms of marketing, given that traditional advertising no longer creates a substantial impact.
A key factor that can determine the success of your influencer marketing is your relationships with influencers. The goal here is to make your influencers love your brand, and value their partnerships with you. This will motivate them to create great content that can bring in the returns you desire.
Poor relationships can generate half-hearted and unauthentic promotions by influencers. This, in turn, is bound to negatively affect a brand’s image and defeat the purpose of influencer marketing.
Here are 6 ways you can build durable and strong relationships with influencers.
#1. Contact Relevant Influencers
When it comes to influencer marketing, relevance is key. This is because of two main reasons. If you collaborate with influencers in your niche, you can reach their followers who are essentially your target audience.
For example, if you manufacture sports shoes, then collaborating with influencers in fitness is your best bet. Why? Because their followers are likely to be fitness enthusiasts, and your product is therefore relevant to them.
Also, if you contact influencers with collaboration opportunities that are relevant, you can build great relationships with them. In fact, a study by Crowdtap found that 44% of influencers are motivated to work with brands who provide relevant opportunities. Most of them receive five to 15 brand pitches every week and so, relevance is what decides whose offers they pursue.
Remember that a genuine influencer isn’t in it for the money alone. They are known for their authenticity - the entire reason why their followers trust them. So they’re unlikely to jeopardize that trust by getting involved with a brand that’s not relevant to them. Even if some of them do, you can probably imagine that they won’t be deeply invested in it.
So if you want to establish strong influencer relationships, you should always search for relevant influencers. Not only will they be a better fit for your brand, but also help you engage your target audiences. Here’s an example.
Here we see Kendall Jenner promoting the apparel brand, Saks Fifth Avenue. As Kendall is a model in the fashion industry, her collaboration with Saks is a relevant one. This post has garnered more than 2 million likes which shows how collaborating with relevant influencers can make your campaign successful.
With Grin, you can find the most relevant influencers for your campaigns. Our location, reach, and engagement rate filters can help you zero in on the right influencers. You can even see their content and verified contact information which eliminates the need for internet stalking.
#2. Use Warm Introductions
In order to build strong, durable, and long-term relationships with influencers, you should consider warm introductions. A generic cold outreach email may work for you once in a while. However, if you’re looking to establish long-term influencer relationships, a warm outreach is the best option.
So how do you accomplish this? The process of connecting with your potential influencers is a two-part process. The first step is to engage with their content regularly on their social accounts as a fan. Start following them on all of their social media accounts. Like, comment on, and share their posts as much as you can.
This will help you get noticed by influencers. Once you have put yourself on their radar sufficiently, you can approach them with your offer. Make sure that your message is personal and clearly talks about what’s in it for them.
Here’s an example of a warm outreach email that you can use.
I’m [YOUR NAME], and I’m the [JOB TITLE] at [COMPANY NAME]. I’ve been following you on social media for quite some time, and I’m a huge fan of your work. Your recent post on [XYZ] on [PLATFORM] was really insightful and engaging. It gave me a lot of new ideas.
We’re planning to run a new marketing campaign for our brand and would love to partner with you. Since your audiences are mostly [NICHE] enthusiasts, they’re likely to find our products quite relevant and interesting. You can check out some of our past work here [LINK].
If this is something that interests you, please reply to this email so we can set up a time for further discussion.
Looking forward to your response.
#3. Provide Creative Freedom
When it comes to content creation, creative freedom is something that all influencers covet. Creative freedom is certainly the key to driving sustainable partnerships between brands and influencers. In fact, creative freedom is what motivates 77% of influencers the most to work with brands more than once.
Overly restrictive guidelines not only kill creativity, but also negatively affect the relationship between brands and influencers. Brands need to understand that influencers are artsy, creative people. Killing their creativity will not help brands achieve what they want from their campaign. So if you want to build great influencer relationships that make your campaigns truly successful, provide ample creative freedom.
Image via Crowdtap
#4. Provide Fair Compensation
“Money is motivation” is an age-old truth. The same principle applies to your influencer relationships too. That doesn’t necessarily mean that money is all that your influencers care about. Instead, fair compensation speaks volumes about how much you value your influencers and their work.
And of course, given the effort and time they put in to your campaigns, it’s only fair that you compensate them adequately. 68% of influencers are likely to work with brands more than once if they offer fair compensation. Unfortunately though, some brands fail to realize the importance of fair compensation. And this not only affects their marketing campaigns but also overall business negatively.
#5. Offer Them Free Samples
As a business, you have something you can offer the influencers you’re pitching to or collaborating with. Almost everyone appreciates a free gift when it comes without any strings attached to it. Try learning more about your influencers, their likes and, dislikes. Accordingly, offer them free products or services to their liking.
If they like it, they might give you a shout out or acknowledge your business to their audiences. Either way, you don’t want to pressure them into promoting your business. Remember, it’s not an exchange, rather a gift for them to enjoy in the hopes that they post about it. Unless there’s an agreement for exchange, they have no obligation to promote your products.
This is a good strategy for your initial contact with an influencer you’re targeting. It displays goodwill on your part and a willingness to establish a more meaningful brand-influencer relationship. It also allows them to get a better understanding of your business and your offerings.
You could ask them to review your product on their blog, in your outreach email. Although it’s completely up to them whether or not they eventually do end up doing so.
Alex Valley, a lifestyle influencer, often shares content on Instagram. In one of his posts, he collaborated with UNTUCKit, the apparel brand. He promoted the brand while wearing one of the shirts the brand sent over for him to try.
Although, remember to reveal any such brand associations clearly. No longer just a best practice, it’s a mandate by the Federal Trade Commission. It’s important that influencers disclose their partnerships with brands so that consumers have full disclosure.
#6. Invite them for Expert Roundup Posts
Expert roundups are a win-win situation for both you and the influencers you’ve chosen to involve. Essentially, you reach out to a many industry-relevant experts and influencers with a question. Curate their answers into one post and share it with your audience as well as theirs.
This gives you a ton of valuable information from trusted industry figures in an easily consumable and shareable format. What’s more, there aren’t any monetary costs associated with this kind of a collaboration. Influencers, too, gain exposure to new audiences and get a boost to their credibility in their niches.
You could always make this a regular thing and monthly roundup posts like Shane Barker. He curates advice from multiple influencers and experts on topics like CRO tips, influencer marketing, etc. and publishes them on his blog. He encourages the influencers to share the posts with their audiences while giving them a link back in his original post.
You can model your own roundups after his and will find that this is a good way to build strong influencer relationships. These influencer relationships can prove very handy in the long-run. For one, you’ll have built a good database of influencers not only for future roundups but also other collaborations.
Reaching out to influencers to be a part of your expert roundup is also a good way to start conversations with them. Think of it as a way to warm up your leads before you go in for the big ask. Involving them regularly in these roundups will also help you foster these influencer relationships.
The long and short of it is that you can’t build strong and durable influencer relationships if you’re transactional in your approach. Instead of thinking about what you’re getting in return, try to focus on how you can help your influencers. Look out for ways in which you can sweeten the deal further like by sharing their content on your social networks, or promoting them at events.
Essentially, you need to show to your influencers that you care about them. Following the steps mentioned above can help you build strong relationships with your influencers.
Can you think of any other ways in which brands can build strong influencer relationships? Let us know in the comments below.
Brian Mechem is COO and Co-Founder of Grin, a software solution for companies who run influencer marketing programs. Grin's software powers some of the best influencer programs in the world, providing insights on ROI and adding efficiency to the influencer marketing process.