When your business is a startup, you might not think about hiring full-time marketers; and that’s understandable, since you’re just starting out, and don’t have a lot of money to spend on professional marketers that expect to pay for their work. In fact, many startups won’t think twice about not hiring marketing initiatives, because they might not have a small fortune set aside to invest in such services that can help them stand out online.
So, the big questions are: What can startups do to get an edge over brands that DO have the budgets to get shining faces (i.e. celebrities) to promote something? How can startups get their products and services out there, even with little to no budget to start with?
First and foremost, building a solid online network is essential for any zero-budget marketing plan. That’s where influencer marketing comes in!
Influencer marketing has become an increasingly popular practice for smaller businesses since it allows them to connect with and market their products to larger audiences through influencers and their respective social media platforms. In doing so, this type of marketing might even be more effective than traditional marketing methods, since today’s consumers would rather make their purchasing decisions based on recommendations from friends and family members, or from online influencers that they admire and trust.
Unlike hiring brand ambassadors, seeking the help of influencers is easier on the budget. While brand ambassadors provide long-term, solid brand support, influencers can help you attain your short-term branding goals without the pressure of stiff contracts and hefty professional or service fees. So, how do you get the most out of influencer marketing?
Check out these stats on how effective influencer marketing has been in the most recent years:
- Businesses can earn approximately $6.50 for every $1 that they spend on influencer marketing.
- Approximately 81% of marketers that utilize influencer marketing have deemed it effective for marketing campaigns.
- Influencer marketing tends to rake in 11 times higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing.
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Why Micro-Influencers Matter Most
As we delve deeper into influencer marketing, it’s important to understand how powerful micro influencers can be in this case. As you go through social media – Facebook, Twitter, (and more so) Instagram, influencer marketing isn’t just about teaming up with Internet celebrities that have massive followings. In fact, an influencer can be simply defined as someone with a greater than average reach, or one who has a significant impact through word of mouth in a relevant marketplace. In other words, even ordinary people with significant followings and a great hold on their niche can have just as much – if not more – influence than Internet celebrities, because they’re more authentic in what they say and do.
Check out these amazing statistics from HelloSociety:
- Micro-influencers are 6.7 times more effective per engagement than influencers with larger followings.
- Micro-influencers (also known as creators with up to 30,000 followers) drive about 22.2 times more weekly conversations than the average consumer.
In that case, as a startup, focus on partnering up with micro-influencers. Rather than spend tons of money on hiring a celebrity to promote your product – which, in this case, you may not have the budget to do so – micro-influencers are the cheaper option!
With that said, here is a list of 5 tips on how you can use influencer marketing to your advantage, even if you’re a startup with little or no budget:
Find The Right One
“Finding the right influencer to partner with is important, because you want to endorse someone who’s well-known in an industry that you’re also in,” says Lara Macdonald, a business writer at Academized and Write my research paper. “Plus, you must look at the number of followers that influencers have, so that you can ensure that they can help you raise brand awareness and engagement in upcoming social campaigns.”
Just keep in mind that influencer marketing isn’t about partnering with anyone and everyone who has a lot to do with the same niche that you’re in. Having the right influencer can help your brand send out the right message to the right audience.
“When finding the right influencer, it’s important to read through their content, and see if they align with what your brand stands for,” adds Macdonald. “If their content aligns with your brand’s mission statement, then go with them. Plus, look at their comments section to see what kind of audience they’re attracting with their content.”
For example, if you’re a startup like Travelindicator – a destination discovery tool that, according to Startup Buffer, helps people “discover and explore [the] world” – you may want to look for influencers who love to travel, and post about their travels on social media (i.e. travel bloggers, adventure YouTubers, etc.). In this case, a travel influencer can show off the Travelindicator in their next series of posts by logging about their experiences with the tool, along with sharing tutorial videos on how others can use the product during their travels.
Another thing you can try is guest posting for the influencers that you’re interested in. Guest posting can get you more exposure for your startup brand, as well as help you build meaningful relationships with influencers. By guest posting, you’re also establishing yourself as an authority figure within a niche.
Plus, keep in mind that when guest posting, it’s important to use keywords. Most influencers who blog often offer guest posting opportunities to keep their content fresh, and keep their audiences engaged and happy. The secret is keywords – when you enter a keyword in search engines like Google, you’ll find many guest contributing opportunities to choose from.
Just enter these keyword searches on Google to find these opportunities:
- Keyword + “guest blogging”
- Keyword + “become a contributor”
- Keyword + “write for us”
Just like finding the right influencer to help promote your brand, it’s also important to find the right platform to guest post on to raise brand awareness. Once you find the right platform, read up on the guest posting guidelines, and create a pitch that they won’t refuse.
This next tip is, in hindsight, the reverse of the previous one. Instead of guest posting on an influencer’s blog, you invite influencers to be a guest on your platform. In other words, you can take part in a group interview or an expert roundup post on your own site. Not only is this type of content a win-win, it also gives you and your brand credibility, and even exposes the influencer to a wider audience.
But what happens if your blog is still, and you aren’t getting a decent amount of traffic yet? Chances are, influencers might not want to take up the opportunity. But don’t panic! You can try these tips to persuade influencers to appear on your site:
- Say to them that you’re willing to invest heavily in paid ads to promote the post, AND
- Mention a few big names in the industry who have already agreed to participate in your roundup.
Once influencers take you up on your offer, not only will they be more than happy to share your roundup post with their followers, but they’ll also ensure that you’ll get a lot of traffic to your site. Plus, if you’re a contributor at a well-established website, then invite influencers to participate in a roundup for that website before inviting them to do the same thing for your blog. The ultimate goal here is to make influencers feel valued for promoting your products for you.
But remember: you must be active on social media, in order to make this strategy work. Here are the ways to stay active on social media, especially when working with influencers:
- Messaging them via social media (i.e. comments, direct-messaging, etc.)
- Following their social media accounts
- Liking and sharing their content
Little gestures like these can help you win influencers over. You can use a reliable social media sharing platform for these purposes. Show your prospective influencers that you support their advocacies like sports, environment, or health and wellness. Stay updated with their social media activities, such as live streaming and new posts. In this way, you can engage and collaborate and motivate them to reciprocate your loyalty.
People like receiving gifts, and they also like to get free stuff. The same is true for influencers – if they love a product and want to promote it, then it would be a dream come true for them to receive a free product from a brand that they like. Plus, they often expect freebies and discounts from businesses that approach them.
Offering freebies allows them to review and use your products. With product experience, your business has a higher chance of exposure to the influencer’s social media followers. While you can’t expect every influencer to be responsive to this tactic, most of them are appreciative by sending a thank you email or chat message.
Here, you can do one of the following when you approach them:
- Send a sample of your product to an influencer
- Offer them a free trial of your service
- Send them a gift, based on their likes, their hobbies, etc.
By doing some of the above, you can get initial contact with the influencer, and perhaps get the ball rolling with the partnership. Just remember: be polite to the influencer, and don’t pressure them to promote your brand just because you sent them a freebie.
For example, for travel influencers, startups like ODA – a travel bag brand that, according to its mission statement on Startup Buffer, “makes slim, modular and long-lasting bags that adapt to your needs, wherever you go” – can offer incentives for promoting their products. In other words, ODA can send influencers a free travel bag in exchange for their promoting the product, and funneling sales to the startup, of which influencers will be compensated for their work.
If you’re into the sports business, such as a sports ticketing outlet, or you’re an athlete management agency, you can offer free tickets to your prospective social media influencers. You can also use a social media sharing platform to distribute the influencer’s content about the upcoming event, with an athlete collaboration (such as a friendly basketball or badminton game), or similar sports-related engagement activities.
“Establishing a relationship with an influencer isn’t just about promoting, promoting, promoting,” says Reece Sykes, a communications manager at UK Services Reviews. “It’s also about sharing. In the case of entrepreneurs who partner with influencers, they can help the influencer by providing them with free valuable feedback on how they can improve a post, or what to include in future posts. In other words, leaving comments like ‘Great post!’ or ‘I agree!’ on their posts is not providing them with meaningful feedback. Instead, look to giving them helpful and honest feedback on how they can involve in any way possible.”
Here are a few things you can look for, when sending your influencer(s) constructive feedback:
- Check to see if their website is too slow.
- Let them know about any typos that you’ve found in their content.
- If there’s a link that’s broken on their website, you can let your influencer(s) know about it immediately.
- If you notice any outdated content and or data on their website that needs to be looked at, let your influencer(s) know right away.
“Finally, it’s important to remember that your feedback is friendly and not critical,” adds Sykes. “The ultimate goal here is to help each other out. They promote your products, and you give them honest feedback.”
BONUS: Consider Affiliate Marketing
When one thinks about affiliate marketing, what comes to mind? Affiliation? Partnerships? However, it’s important to note that affiliate marketing and influencer marketing are two very different types of marketing. Here’s how:
- Affiliate marketing runs on the principle of direct revenue, which means that businesses pay for each sale or lead generated.
- Influencer marketing aims to reach wider audiences.
Although they differ, there’s a big chance that you can combine them both to create an effective marketing strategy. Since some influencers have no problems with affiliate marketing, you can get together with those who are affiliates for products or services similar to yours. As a result, not only will your brand generate more returns on your investment and reach much larger audiences, but influencers can get a good percentage of the affiliate revenue that’s been generated from the campaign. Overall, it’s a simple, but also effective, tactic that’s inexpensive, let alone costs nothing at all.
As you can see, consumers, now more than ever, expect brands to provide more relevant content and less promotions. And for startups, it can be challenging to meet these demands.
But with influencer marketing, it can help you establish your brand as relatable and authentic, rather than phoned-in and corporate. Therefore, this type of marketing is a powerful strategy, especially in today’s business landscape.
However, to use this marketing technique properly, look to these 5 tips, as summarized here:
- Find the right influencer(s) to work with.
- Get into guest posting on an influencer’s website or social media.
- Encourage group roundup posts on your website.
- Offer enticing incentives to peak influencers’ interests.
- Don’t be afraid to offer any helpful feedback.
As you implement these tips in your next marketing venture, you’ll soon see not only more brand awareness and increased sales but also great relationships with the influencers that you use to work with.
So, good luck, and move forward on your next business venture! The sky’s the limit!
Kristin Herman writes at Boomessays.com. As a marketing writer, she blogs about the latest trends in social media influencing.