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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Many entrepreneurs are still not tapping into the massive growth opportunity of influencer marketing. They may be cautious to partner with influencers due to perceived costs, or may have no clue on how to put together a creative brief or manage an influencer marketing campaign from start to finish.
But, influencers are content creators with a built-in audience. They provide value through their content, engage with their following directly and have built connection and trust with their audience. What makes it a no-brainer partnership is that their audience is your target audience. Instead of running paid advertising to a cold audience that doesn’t know you or trust you yet, you can tap into and get in front of your target audience through an influencer.
Think of it like an endorsement: The influencer is endorsing you and your brand to their audience and making a warm introduction. That has a lot more value than a random sponsored ad that your audience will see on their feed.
Their audience will be more likely to be interested in your brand, sign up to be on your newsletter or buy your product because it was recommended to them by someone they trust. The influencer also has insider knowledge on what your target audience responds to and engages with because they’ve likely been communicating with them for a long time.
Here are the three steps entrepreneurs can take to create, set up and execute a successful influencer marketing campaign that can help grow your business.
1. Define your meaning of success
Before you even reach out to influencers, get clear on the goal of the influencer marketing campaign. Is it to create brand awareness and to get in front of your target audience? Is it to capture leads to grow your email list and invite new potential customers into your community? Or is it to increase sales for a new product that you’re launching or driving traffic to your upcoming promotion?
Though these are all ultimately the goal for any business, for an influencer marketing campaign to be successful, choose just one of these objectives for each campaign. Even though sales is the end goal, keep in mind that you’ll want to start with brand awareness campaigns if your product or business are new and no one knows about you yet. The aim here is to get in front of as many of your target audience as you can and be introduced to them, without them performing the call to action of signing up or purchasing.
Most influencer campaigns are brand awareness campaigns. Influencers can create content to show the product in use and educate their audience on how they personally integrate the product into their life. I prefer to work with brands who understand that marketing is a long game. Don’t expect people to see one post and expect them to buy a product right away. Just like most advertising, people need to see products more than once to consider buying it.
Related: Does Being an Influencer Mean Anything Anymore?
2. Pay influencers for their work
Some influencers will work for free, but most of them are probably just starting out to gain experience or might not have a large audience yet. I would still recommend paying people for their time and effort.
Creating content is more than taking a photo of yourself and the product. As influencers, we are the producer (we think of the storyline, concepts, scout/book locations), the model (we are usually in the creative to add a personal, human element), the stylist (we figure out what to wear and what would work best), hair and makeup artist, photographer (we use a tripod and take multiple shots until we get the right one or some of us ask someone to take photos or hire a photographer), editor (we look through all the content and curate the best ones, if we’re doing video — that takes even more time), copywriter (we create the hook/headline, caption that we know will resonate with our audience), hashtag curator and scheduler/poster. That doesn’t even include the time that it takes us to grow and engage with our built-in audience.
Through my experience in the corporate advertising and entertainment marketing world, I’ve seen brands pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single photo shoot with multiple vendors and service providers involved. In this case, the influencer provides all these services as a package deal, so think about that before you offer a discount code, free product or $30 in payment. Think of the value they’re providing with their creative content and energy, connection with your target audience and content that you can use on your own website and social channels.
The best influencers to work with are the ones that are already a fan or customer of your brand. I recommend doing this on Instagram. There’s a place in your feed that you can find out who tagged your brand on Instagram. You can also search who has used your hashtags or by location if you’re a local business. If you’re a new brand or product, you can also find influencers to work with by searching through keywords such as “beauty influencer” or “travel blogger.”
Most influencers have their email address on their profile and if they don’t, send them a direct message asking for it. Use the subject “Paid Partnership Opportunity with (Company)” and give them the details of your campaign. It could be as simple as, “Hi, we love your travel content and would love to partner with you to promote our upcoming product launch of X. We’re looking for one in-feed post per week for three weeks plus stories starting around (date.) Our budget for this campaign is $500. Let us know if you’re interested and have any questions. Looking forward to partnering with you!” You can attach or include any information about the brand (including story and values — this is very important for me), product description and any other information.
Keep in mind that influencers with a large following get tons of campaign proposals every day, so this subject line will make your stand out from the collaborations that are not offering any payment. Though I still do a few collaborations here and there, my time is valuable and I know the worth of my content creation skills and my audience, so I would pay more attention to paid partnership opportunities.
When the influencer responds, this is where communication and negotiation happens. Keep an open mind and understand that this is a partnership. Make sure to respect creative boundaries and remember that the influencer has the unique insight and connection with your target audience.
Related: Influencer Marketing 101: A Blueprint for Running a Successful Campaign
3. Provide them with a creative brief
Once an influencer accepts the assignment and agreements are signed, you’ll want to send them a creative brief that includes all the details of the campaign. This includes the campaign objectives, content ideas and guidelines, main points for the caption, required hashtags and possibly a mood board. The more you include in the creative brief, the less back and forth there will be during the campaign. This makes all dates and the timeline clear, including the approval process if you need to see things before they post or if you need to clear it with your legal department.
A successful influencer marketing campaign is only possible with an open mind and clear communication. By following these steps, you can grow your business by partnering with influencers who can create engaging, branded content and have a built-in connection with your target audience.
Related: ‘Young’ Influencer Shocks Followers After Revealing His True Face