So you're either reading this as a business owner or you're wanting to start a business and might be curious on how to get your product or brand out there, in front of the right people who you want to connect with.
Over the last six years, across a range of different brands, I've experienced the good, the bad (and sometimes the ugly side) of influencer marketing and how the right partnerships can be damn good and super fruitful, with opportunities for both your business and audience at large.
So, is influencer marketing worth it? Is it risky? Is it right for your business and product? Here are eight key lessons I've learned from working with influencers to generate upwards of $50K in revenue across three brands from partnerships alone, and how one key partnership resulted in:
- 1.2K increase in followers in 48 hours from one campaign;
- $14K worth of bookings for a beauty based business in 3 weeks; and
- Six months worth of social content and advertising collateral for our brand.
Influencers are super kind, inspiring and lovely people
Approaching an influencer as a new brand or business can often feel intimidating or risky.
What might they say?
What if I get rejected?
Will I get screwed over?
Will I get a return on my investment?
Will it be a waste of time?
What if they don't like my product?
Working across a range of brands in different markets, I've found many highly engaging and profitable partnerships come into fruition from partnering with passionate, driven and on-purpose creators that simply love what they do.
They've become influential through their genuine likability, passion and talent. Some people I've met through influencer marketing have been the loveliest, kindest humans in the world and treat you like a friend.
They deeply care about their brand, treat their followers with respect and genuine love, and will carefully curate the content that is being put in front of them. Therefore, they will screen a partnership with healthy curiosity and be interested in understanding if it would be something that appeals to their audience.
These relationships feel sincere, authentic, aligned and real. Intuitively, I've known within seconds of meeting someone if a partnership is going to work well or not. Trust your gut and don't be afraid to get a few "no thanks" along the way.
Focus on building long term relationships + provide value
The most successful partnerships I had happened over a long period of time and when we focused on creating a win-win-win situation.
When an influencer built trust with our brand, genuinely loved our products and enjoyed working with us, this would result in product placements being featured more frequently, with more authenticity and create more trust from followers.
We would provide value that wasn't necessarily a monetary exchange and focused on building a positive relationship over a number of months or years instead of a one-off placement.
Microinfluencers X Targeted Locations = Product Awareness & Brand Building
Most of our success with influencer marketing came from strategically approaching 'community-based ambassadors' within close geographical proximity to each other.
These were individuals that didn't consider themselves an influencer or personal brand, but had high engagement, trust and large networks of people within a small geographical location.
Think the local netball captain, the small fitness studio owner, the gal who naturally LOVES social media and being out and about, or those who came from small towns, but had travelled extensively (which meant a mix of local proximity and diversified audience locations).
By approaching 6-20 people with a lot of mutual friends between them, this created virality and strong brand awareness and curiosity.
Be prepared to make an initial loss or some partnerships to not yield a return
It can take a little bit of trial and error to find the right balance of spend vs return with influencer marketing. I would often go in with a mindset of not expecting a return immediately, and looking at a partnership holistically.
Influencer marketing is a fantastic brand building exercise, but may need to be paired with other marketing strategies to provide best bang for buck.
Working with influencers was a great opportunity to develop high quality content, creating some social proof (especially when we were just starting out) and has provided loads of fresh content for social media channels.
If you are approached by someone, ask for evidence of results or former experience with brands
This was one of my BIGGEST learning curves.
99% of the time, when I was approached by someone for free product in exchange for a collaboration or exposure, the return of investment or value exchange was poor.
I'm not saying EVERY person that approaches you for a partnership won't work out, but a high percentage of requests for free product didn't provide overly positive results or outcomes.
It's okay to ask someone to provide evidence of experience working with brands, or ask them how they think the partnership would benefit both parties.
However, after having a few accrued learning experiences under my belt, I started to offer a 'cashback' ambassador program with these offers which helped to vet potential partnerships without risk.
The person who approached us would purchase the product, and if they made X amount of sales through a unique discount code to recoup the costs of that product, we would refund their money and provide them with 50% off ongoing purchases and discount codes for their followers.
Always have something in writing
Have something in writing, especially if there is a financial component.
Have some clearly defined dot points of what you are offering, and manage expectations; the clearer your outline is around what the deliverables are on both sides of the collaboration, the more likely the partnership will be a success.
Some things to cover include who owns any content that's created, permissions to share on your website and any advertising material you create from the collaboration, and clearly what you are expecting in delivery of content (eg. 2x stories and 1x Instagram post).
I found in some cases, it would be challenging to get a formal agreement in place (especially with influencers that had a large audience, but no business foundations or were just starting out with brand partnerships).
To avoid this, make agreements simple, easy to understand and avoid any jargon or legal references, as this can feel threatening or overly formal.
Ask the influencer if there is anything in the agreement they had questions about, or would like to modify, and be clear in your communication that you want to ensure the partnership is as beneficial for them as it would be to you.
Align with influencers that are a good fit with similar core values
Does your product provide legitimate value to their followers? Make sure you’re in front of the right audience.
Don't be tempted to partner with someone only based on their existing engagement rate and follower count.
If their audience won't be interested in your product, or they're misaligned, it will waste your resources, and damage their trust and your brand.
For example, if you are a beauty brand and your cousin's mate has a large and engaged following on his car racing Youtube channel, placing your product on this will not only appear 'placed' or 'sponsored', but dilute the potency of your brand and messaging — as tempting as it may be.
Not all PR and outreach is good PR and engagement. It's okay to be choosy with who you partner with.
You win some, you lose some, but keep persisting without attachment to outcomes
There is no particular method or strategy that creates immediate results when it comes to influencer marketing, but it's important to not give up before you've even started.
Sometimes brands can approach influencers with high expectations about a financial return through just one partnership.
Through consistency and frequency, we learned that one fantastic partnership would make up for those we lost money on, but it took some time and persistence to get there.
It may take five partnerships to land that one unicorn influencer.
I also learned that even if a partnership doesn't result in a direct result, cool new opportunities and exposure to new networks (and new friends!) have resulted.
GROW YOUR SOULFUL BIZ
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