Embracing influencer marketing is a great way for start-ups to get an edge over the big brands.
But as a startup, funds are limited, so naturally you want to get the best possible return on your investment.
The good news is that influencer marketing doesn’t have to cost you a whole heap of money. You can even start from zero, and invest more as your business grows.
The obvious benefit of influencer marketing is that you get exposed to an established network and your own reach automatically expands.
Influencer marketing may even be more effective than traditional marketing methods.
Think about it. When was the last time an ad persuaded you to buy a product or service?
A study by PageFair and Adobe shows that online consumers are becoming more and more frustrated with adverts interrupting their browsing experience. As of June 2015, 198 million people used ad-blocking browser extensions.
Today’s consumers prefer to make their purchasing decisions based on either recommendations from friends and family, or from online influencers they admire and trust.
Just check out these stats on the effectiveness of influencer marketing:
- Businesses earn approximately $6.50 for every $1 they spend on influencer marketing.
- 81% of marketers who have used influencer marketing deemed it to be effective.
- 86% of women turn to social media platforms before making a purchase.
- Influencer marketing delivers 11 times higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing.
The power of micro influencers
Influencer marketing is not solely restricted to internet celebrities with massive followings.
According to the Feller Kay Group, an influencer is just “a person who has a greater than average reach or impact through word of mouth in a relevant marketplace.”
So, ordinary people who just happen to be experts in their industry or niche can have just as much – if not more – influence than internet celebrities. Micro-influencers have the ability to share knowledge and passion while sounding authentic. That’s valuable.
According to HelloSociety, micro-influencers are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than influencers with larger followings. Micro-influencers (defined as creators with up to 30,000 followers) drive 22.2 times more weekly conversations than the average consumer.
Just imagine you wanted to hire a celebrity to promote your brand on Instagram.
You’d need a huge budget.
For instance, Selena Gomez is the most followed person on Instagram, boasting 93.1 million followers. She reportedly makes more than $500,000 per sponsored post.
Even celebrities who are not world-famous like Grigor Dimitrov are incredibly expensive. As you can see below, big-name brands like Nike are sponsoring him.
There’s only a slim chance that celebrities like Selena and Grigor would notice your proposal anyway – unless of course your startup had a social mission they wanted to support.
Big-name brands are the ones with the budget to pay these stars, so leave them to it.
As a startup, you should focus on the power of micro-influencers instead.
Here are six influencer marketing strategies that will help you to successfully market your brand. They are affordable and can be implemented with zero cost.
1. Try guest posting for influencers
Cost: $0 – $500
Most influencers have their own blogs. And some of them accept guest posts. If you’re not sure where to look, then you can use Google Advanced Search to find these websites.
For example, let’s say you wanted to guest post on Lifehacker. You could search the Lifehacker site using keywords that might be in the call-out such as ‘guidelines’, ‘contribute’, ‘submit’, etc.
Once you’ve found a way in, you could reach out to influencers and offer to write a guest post that will be attractive to their audience.
There are two main benefits from this strategy:
- You establish a personal connection with the influencer that you can nurture into a long-lasting relationship.
- You get authentic exposure to their blog audience.
Pro tip: Don’t try to advertise anything within your guest article. It’s more natural to mention your startup in your author bio and provide a link to your site there.
Bonus Tip: If you don’t like writing, you can hire a ghostwriter.
2. Attract influencers with group roundup posts
This next tip is the reverse of tip number #1.
Instead of you guest posting on an influencer’s blog, you invite influencers to take part in a group interview or an expert roundup post on your own site.
This type of content is a win-win.
It gives you and your brand credibility, and also exposes the influencer to a wider audience.
Worried you might not be able to attract the right influencers because perhaps your new blog doesn’t get a decent amount of traffic yet?
Try these tips to persuade them:
- Tell them that you’re going to invest heavily in paid ads to promote the post.
- Mention a few big names (like Guy Kawasaki below) who have already agreed to participate in your roundup.
The bonus here is that the influencers in your roundup post will be happy to share the post with their followers, so you’ll see an increase in traffic to your site.
Here’s how my buddy Danny published a roundup post on time management that has over 6k shares and includes thoughts from 86 influencers.
If you’re a contributor at a well-established website, it’s a good idea to invite influencers to participate in a roundup for that website before inviting them to do the same thing for your blog.
In other words, always remember to offer them some real value in return for their time.
Here’s an example of my roundup post at SEMrush that helped me build relationships with influencers and experts in the SEO niche.
I’m a big fan of roundup posts because the influencers create the content themselves and therefore it’s well-respected by your audience.
3. Offer influencers free products or services
Cost: $0 – $1,000
Everybody likes getting presents, and influencers are no exception. In fact, influencers often expect gifts and discounts from businesses who approach them.
Here, you have two options:
- Send them your product as a sample or offer them a free trial of your service.
- Research what the influencer likes and send them a gift. By digging into their social profiles and personal blogs, you can get a pretty good idea of what they like to eat and wear, and what hobbies they have.
Both ways are effective and can help you get initial contact with the influencer. Remember, though, to be polite and don’t pressure them to promote your brand just because you sent them a gift.
4. Give influencers free and valuable feedback
If you want to establish a meaningful relationship with an influencer, then you’ll need to provide some valuable feedback to them for free.
Leaving a comment like, ‘great post’ or ‘I agree 100%’ or ‘excellent job’ on their posts won’t help. That’s what the majority of people do, and it’s a total waste of time.
However, if you provide helpful and honest feedback, then you’re giving something of value to the influencer. Yes, it’ll take you more time, but it’ll be worthwhile in the long-run.
Here are a few things you can look for:
- Check if their website is too slow
- Find a typo in their content
- Find a broken link on their website
- Check their content and data is not outdated
Pro Tip: Make sure the tone of your email is friendly and not critical. You’re trying to help them out and gain their attention, not annoy or aggravate them.
5. Engage influencers with affiliate marketing
Some influencers love affiliate marketing.
So why not conduct some research to find influencers who are affiliates for similar products/services to you? Approach them, introduce your product or service, and offer a generous percentage of affiliate revenue.
This is a simple but effective tactic that doesn’t require any investment.
You can start applying these influencer marketing strategies to your startup right now. Start with zero budget, and as your business grows you can scale up your marketing budget too.
Yes, you’ll have to invest your time or provide free samples of your product from time to time, but you’ll soon reap the rewards.
As Jay Baer from Convince and Convert says about influencer marketing: “It’s worth investing the time and effort to nurture long-term benefits.”
Influencer marketing has been around for a long time now, and it’s not going anywhere.
Start making the most of it for your startup and let me know how you go.
Guest Author: Georgi Todorov is a digital marketer. He recently started his own blog about digital marketing called DigitalNovas. His passion is to help startups grow and thrive in a competitive environment. Hit him up on Linkedin or Twitter under @GeorgiTodorovBG.