An Open Letter to Influencers

Influencers are people too! Be genuine when communicating with them.

During our beta we made several marketing mistakes. Approaching influencers the wrong way was one of them. We engaged several influencers with a public Twitter invitation to try our free beta and let us know what they thought. The response wasn't great. 

The influencers we approached wanted us to 'pay to play.' Basically, "pay for my time and I'll work with you." At first, we were taken aback. Why would we pay when people are giving us feedback for free? 

What we didn't realize was that in today's marketplace influencers work for companies, and if they tried every tool for free they wouldn't make a living. This made our team re-evaluate our entire influencer marketing approach. 

The Problem: The disconnect between companies and Influencers 

Initially, we wanted to extend an invitation to an expert group of influencers we researched and found to be advocates in the SaaS analytics space. 

Our goal was to engage a select group of influencers to use our free tool and let us know if they love it or hate it. That's where things got a little tricky.

Brands are looking for authentic feedback to add value to their products and paying every influencer to try our free beta and give us rave reviews would have given us little to no credibility. 

Back in the day, think early 2000s back when Destiny's Child was still Jumpin', Jumpin', if Coca-Cola wanted to build a new campaign they'd engage a few different agencies with an RFP (request for proposal). Coca-Cola didn't pay these agencies for the time to meet about the project or proposal, they pay them after selecting the best fit and either bill hours or set a rate for the project. So what makes influencers any different?

Influencer marketing is a very touchy new media tactic right now. It's brand new territory. Influencers want to be treated as respectable media professionals - as they should - yet they are basically asking to be paid for a job interview. If every brand had a budget like Coca-Cola this might work, but most wouldn't have a marketing budget left.

The Solution: Building an authentic respectable role for Influencers

Influencer feedback is critical. Our target customer respects the opinions of influencers and makes business decisions based on their feedback on various tools and products. So, how do we get to know the influencers we want to work with before jumping into bed with them?

Here are a few tips from a well-respected influencer we initially engaged on Twitter: 

  1. "If you're not going to pay us give us some incentive." Essentially, offer something of value. Or Pokemon cards, sometimes. Know your audience. 

  2. Make each invitation personal and exclusive. Whether it's a free 30 day trial or early access to your tool, make sure you aren't offering this to everyone. 

  3. Most importantly, influencers are people too! Be genuine when communicating with them. 

  4. Build a trusted relationship. 

Makes sense right? Influencers are people too, they just want a little respect. Make each relationship with influencers, just that, a relationship. Engage in conversation before pushing your product. The first conversation you have shouldn't be, "Hi nice to meet you, can you give my product that you know nothing about a shoutout to your thousands of trusted followers?" 

And don't put all your eggs in one basket. Use other channels to increase your credibility with customers and build your relationship with influencers, then pay them. 

Unpaid Strategies that Work:

  1. Thought Leadership: Become an industry resource and write unbiased content through your experience that will be relevant in your industry. Medium and LinkedIn Pulse are great places for CEOs and product owners to write about their startup journey.

  2. Tweet Chats: Engage with other professionals and put on your networking hat. Think of Tweet Chat as a 5pm cocktail hour. Find topics that relate to your role and/or product. 

  3. Crowdsourcing: There's power in numbers! Your customers are your best advocates. 60% of millennials ask a friend before making a purchase. Use this to your advantage. 

  4. Guest Blogging: Your customers should be your priority. If this will benefit them, there is no harm in putting ego aside and partnering up with another brand to educate your audience and expand your reach. There are products out there that compliment your product, have the same target audience as your product, and won’t steal your customers. Leverage them to cross promote between your networks. Sprout SocialMoz, and Kissmetrics do a great job of this with branded webinars and whitepapers. 

  5. Content Marketing: Create great, relevant content and market the heck out of it. Odds are, your customers are interested in reading about things that don’t directly relate to you.

Today we're taking what we learned and building valuable relationships with customers and influencers. This may take time, but it’s proven to be worth the trouble after receiving unsolicited, valuable feedback. 

Do you have any strategies that work? Leave a comment below or drop us a line via  email,