Are you one of the 69% of marketing and PR pros who rank influencer marketing as an important strategic priority for 2019?
If so, it’s time to take a closer look at an often-rushed part of influencer programs: outreach.
Wearing my fashion influencer hat (which is likely very large right now, as it’s Kentucky Derby season here in Louisville), receiving an ill-crafted pitch is time-consuming and frustrating. Upon removing said hat, and looking at it from the perspective of my life as a former product manager and current digital marketing strategist, the sloppiness of it all is maddening.
Influencer programs don’t have to be as daunting and expensive as some agencies or brands might make it. With 77 percent of marketers preferring to handle influencer marketing in-house, you’re dedicating extensive internal time and resources to the influencer identification process. If you’re outsourcing it, you’re still paying for all that digging.
There are key differences between pitches influencers respond to and those that go in the trash bin upon receipt.
Engage before the ask
Just as a cold call is less effective than a warm lead, engaging with your influencer prospects in advance of outreach is a great way to increase the likelihood of an email open, and to provide relevance to the communication.
This can be as easy as adding them to a Twitter list so you can quickly like, retweet, or comment on their content. On Instagram, you can give them a follow, turn on post notifications and engage with their new content as it goes up. For bloggers, add their RSS feeds to a feed reader, so you can quickly see all new content at-a-glance. If your community management team has the bandwidth, consider giving them a list of targeted influencers for regular engagement.
As an influencer, I notice when brands start to follow me and engage with my content. They’re doing me a solid by helping my engagement, so I in turn pay attention to their outreach.
This engagement works particularly well for nano- and micro-influencers, since celebrity tiers likely turn notifications off and have someone else to manage their interactions. With more companies looking to engage with micro-influencers, the volume of inquiries they get will rise.
Use their name
Basic customization is a low hanging fruit. Using a recipient’s first name in the subject line can increase open rates by 26 percent.
Generic subject lines and salutations are the first red flag when it comes to cutting through the noise. It’s an indicator that a pitch is a form of “spray and pray” outreach.
Such tactics might seem efficient from a time standpoint. However, a lack of quality vetting and personalization can bring a lot of noise to your funnel. Plus, the time savings will get negated after all the communicating back and forth, only to realize an influencer’s not a great fit after all.
Make it personal instead
Here are two easy ways to personalize outreach:
- Use a first name or blog/social channel handle in the subject line.
- Use a name in a salutation. (“Dear blogger” is the worst.)
You don’t have to include my dog’s name in your outreach email (though it has been done), but remember that you’re talking to a busy person, just like yourself. This may seem like common sense, but generic outreach happens more often than you might think.
Whatever you do, please don’t use someone else’s name. It isn’t as bad as calling your spouse the wrong name, but it doesn’t help your cause. Check your copy/paste or anything you’re automating before hitting send.
Demonstrate relevancy and alignment
In the recent ACTIVATE 2019 State of Influencer Marketing study, 44 percent of companies were turned down by influencers, because the influencer did not feel like they were a good fit for the brand. Whether your brand is a household name, or a mom and pop shop, demonstrating brand relevance to an influencer in your initial outreach is always appreciated.
It’s an indicator you’ve done at least some basic homework.
Something like this is not as uncommon as you’d think:
Greetings blogger! We’d love to collaborate. Please respond at first opportunity.
– sent from my iPhone
(From a Gmail account. No company name in sight.)
If you can’t tell an influencer who you are and why you think they should chat (even broadly), don’t count on me to put the puzzle pieces together myself.
There are lots of ways to demonstrate relevancy and alignment:
- Talk about how you discovered them: “I found you on Twitter when I was searching for people who understand sentiment tools.”
- Mention previous work: “We noticed you previously wrote about travel tips to Punta Cana.”
- Call out an attribute that made you reach out: “You have great engagement on Instagram—congrats!”
Indicating you’ve done a little homework is a great way to make an influencer want to take the time to research you in kind, and then respond.
Share specifics, asks and limitations
You don’t need to send a beautifully detailed campaign brief, but you can offer some clarifying nuggets to indicate if, and how quickly, an influencer should respond.
You might lead with, “I want to introduce you to this new product!” However, an influencer won’t don’t know what you want him or her to do next.
Are you looking for:
- Consideration for editorial coverage?
- An address to send a sample?
- Feedback about the product?
- Collaboration on sponsored content?
Similarly, communicating any limitations upfront is extremely helpful:
- Channels: If you know you’re specifically looking for video content, stating this upfront can eliminate those who don’t have that skill set.
- Timing: Have a quick turnaround? Be clear about your timeline.
- Exclusivity: If you require exclusivity, detail the category or companies you’d want to include, and the term.
The disclosure of this information upfront can save both brand and influencer a lot of unnecessary back and forth.
Sending follow up emails is a chore, but given the quantity of information coming through email, it’s often necessary.
Review initial correspondence to see if there was anything that may have been unclear. If you’re able, offer additional clarity around the potential partnership, to create a sense of curiosity or urgency.
More often than not, the follow-up emails I get are:
Did you get my last email? Look forward to connecting!
Upon review of their previous email, I find it’s extraordinarily vague.
If you’ve provided clarity, alignment, and next steps in your initial and follow up communications with no reply, move on. Perhaps the influencer is drowning, and can’t dedicate time to any new projects. Maybe they’re a flake and you don’t want to work with them anyway.
Emily Ho is the owner of Authentically Social, a digital marketing consultancy residing at the intersection of her background as a marketer and personal passion as a blogger/influencer. A version of this article originally appeared on the Spin Sucks blog.