InfluencerMarketing_body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.


Small businesses often rely on two kinds of marketing methods: snail mail and email campaigns that are sent directly to the customer, and general advertising, such as print, radio, and TV ads. But there is another kind of marketing tool that is gaining ground, typically called influencer marketing. Essentially, influencer marketing leverages the credibility and contacts of bloggers and other social media luminaries to build awareness of your product or service and drive sales.


Sabrina Fenster, marketing manager for The Shelf, a platform for finding and connecting with relevant influencer marketers in niche segments, offers these tips for setting up an effective influencer marketing campaign:


1. Choose an influencer that matches your audience

It's tempting to want to engage with bloggers that have large followings, but popularity is not always the best gauge. Instead, look for outstanding bloggers with influence in the target market you want to reach. Read through their postings and gauge the rapport they have with their audience to determine if they would be a good partner for you.


2. Go after second tier bloggers

The most influential bloggers in your demographic will most likely have a relationship with large companies and brands. Small businesses should search for bloggers in the second tier that have influence, but not necessarily the reach of the biggest names. Fenster recommends using tools like BuzzSumo, Cision, and The Shelf's own platform to uncover bloggers in this category.


InfluencerMarketing_PQ.jpg3. Customize your contact approach

After you've identified a blogger you'd like to connect with, put together a concise, personal email that explains why your product would be a natural fit for them. Use tools like Sidekick to track and analyze the open rates of this introductory email, then tweak your message and subject line accordingly until you make contact. "When it comes to outreach and relationship-building, personalization is not optional, it's mandatory," Fenster says.


4. Be straightforward and transparent about your goals

Once you've received a receptive reply from the blogger, be candid about the type of response you're aiming for from an influencer campaign—and ask them if they think it is realistic. Ask for the blogger's media kit to get up-to-date information on their demographic.


5. Work out a compensation structure

Bloggers must invest time and effort to your product or service, so compensate them. Some businesses think that "gifting" the blogger with their product is enough, but Fenster disagrees, especially if the blogger is highly influential. Treat influencer marketers like any kind of outside help, such as public relations or advertising agencies. Factors such as the size and make-up of a blogger's following and a projected return on investment will affect what they charge, so do some comparison shopping to help you figure out what you can afford to pay.    


6. Collect and analyze performance metrics

Tell the blogger that you will request performance metrics at the end of the campaign. Pay particular attention to the actual number of hits that converted to sales or to another goal spelled out at the start of the campaign. Seeing the return on investment will help you determine whether to continue working with the blogger and any changes to be made to the campaign. 


Adding influencer marketing to your existing strategy can enlarge your chances for building awareness of your business and driving sales in today's e-commerce environment.


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