How Small Businesses Can Launch Their First Influencer Marketing Campaign

These days, most small businesses have a branded social media page. Social media is the place to see and be seen, whether it’s in business or personally. However, stopping with a simple page is a mistake for most businesses. Even posting organic content has a minimal effect on word-of-mouth marketing. That’s because social networks have made organic content from businesses nearly invisible.

Because of these changes, new marketing methods must be used online. One of the best options these days is influencer marketing. Not only does it bypass the business content disadvantage, but it’s cost effective. With that in mind, here’s a basic primer on how to do influencer marketing.

Decide on your objective – what are you trying to achieve?

Before you even start designing an influencer marketing campaign, it’s important to decide what your objective is. Knowing your objective is the best way to ensure that you have a direction for your efforts, and it also helps select the right influencers. Finally, understanding your objective will help you both determine your strategic key performance indicators (KPIs) as well as measure the success and return on investment you’re getting.

Brand awareness

One goal that you can have for influencer campaigns is brand awareness. In a nutshell, brand awareness is when consumers know about your brand and know what it stands for. As an example, if you’re reading a blog post on a site that offers a product or service, you will probably become aware of the product. You might not know much about it, but you’ve now become aware that it exists.

The biggest reason for raising brand awareness is that it makes your brand top of mind. Your potential customer might not be ready to buy, but if they do need the product in the future then they are more likely to see what you have to offer.

Customer education

The next option for an influencer marketing program is customer education. In this case, you’re asking the influencer to talk about how your product is useful. Ideally, there will be some kind of demonstration or description of product features. For instance, an influencer doing an education campaign might talk about how easy it is to bill customers with an invoicing software. 

Increased sales

Finally, you might run an influencer marketing campaign to increase sales. Here, the goal is relatively simple: getting people to buy your stuff. Of course, the “stuff” can be any product or service. The goal can be expressed in terms of how many individual sales you get, the average amount people pay, and even your profit margin on goods or services sold. 

Based on what you want to achieve, what would be your “ask” of an influencer?

Once you’ve decided on a goal for your influencer marketing campaign, it’s time to decide how an influencer can be helpful. That’s because goals can be achieved many different ways, and your influencer will need guidance. It will also help you select the right influencers, since most have a particular kind of content. This content type will also help decide which social media network to use for the campaign.

Let’s look at a concrete example. If you own a craft store and want to increase sales, one option is to showcase a product. This can be done several different ways: an influencer can create something with the product, then show it off on Instagram. Or, they might do a YouTube how-to video. In either case, the influencer will help sell the product by demonstrating its usefulness. Your “ask,” then, is the original project and associated content to be posted on social media.

Get information from interested influencers

Once you have decided what you want from an influencer, it’s time to go looking for the right one. With so many social media influencers out there, it will likely seem overwhelming at first. However, for a small business, you want to find influencers who don’t mind smaller campaigns. This will limit your search because many influencers prefer to work with bigger brands.

Luckily, there are also many influencers who love to work with small businesses. And, if you are a local bricks-and-mortar business, local influencers are extra nice. To identify these people, set up a web form that they can use to contact you. This can be Survey Monkey, a Google form, or other format. Ask influencers for their contact details, social media profile URLs, what their passions are, what content they create, and their history of collaborations.

Reach out to influencers who are customers or social media followers

Of course, not all influencers in your proverbial backyard will come directly to you. Instead, you’ll have to seek many of them out through influencer outreach. Use your customer database and post to your social media followers that you want them to be part of your influencer campaigns. Then, provide a link to your influencer information Web form. You’d be surprised how many customers and followers are influencers and would love to help. 

Why is this important? For starters, your customers and social media followers already have an interest in your products and services. Customers have some skin in the game, because they’ve bought and experienced what you have to offer in a meaningful way. They also have a great perspective on the best aspects of your product, and in what ways it can be improved. With them, you’ll get more than just a collaboration for social media.

Social media followers who aren’t customers come from a different perspective. There’s something that prompted them to follow your brand, such as interest in the kind of products you make. Often, people would love to buy your product, but they can’t afford it or it isn’t compatible with other products they use. Many fans of Apple products fit in this category. 

Vet the social media profiles of those that apply

Naturally, not everyone who applies to collaborate is suitable for your campaign. There are many reasons why this could be the case, ranging from being on the wrong social network all the way to being a liability to the corporate image. To that end, you need to vet each influencer that applies. Generally, I recommend considering the following criteria:

1 000 followers or more

Here’s the thing: as a small business, you don’t need influencers with a lot of followers. In fact, being small yourself means that smaller is better when it comes to influencers. With that said, however, there’s a limit. If an applicant has fewer than 1,000 followers on the network you’ve chosen, then they aren’t ready for collaborations yet. This person might have a highly engaged following, but they don’t provide enough leads for you to get a decent ROI.

Reasonable engagement rate

The other thing you need for an effective influencer campaign is a certain amount of engagement with an influencer’s posts. Engagement varies by social media platform, but it includes likes, shares, comments, and similar activities. If your influencer has experience, chances are that they can give you those numbers. Otherwise, you’ll need to calculate it. Several platform-specific methods are available elsewhere. 

An influencer’s engagement rate reflects the extent to which people pay attention to what they’re saying, and how often they take action based on posts. It’s well known that influencers with larger follower counts have lower engagement rates. One reason for this is that people will follow someone just because they’re interested in that person’s life. Sports personalities are a great example, because people are inspired by their playing. However, their tastes are often unaffordable for most.

Have one-on-one email or phone conversations with influencers about potential collaborations

Finding influencers who fit your requirements is important to starting any influencer marketing campaign. Once you’ve filtered through the influencer applications and identified the right people, it’s time to engage with them. Depending on their preferences, you can call or email them. In this call or email, let them know you’re interested in collaborating with them. Especially if the influencer is enthusiastic about your brand, it’s possible that you’ll make their day. If you have a lot of influencers to contact, consider creating email templates that you can copy and paste and then add a little personalization for each influencer. 

During this conversation, you’ll want to tell the influencer what your “ask” is, as well as your objectives for the collaboration. Hopefully, your goals and their interests or talents will align well. If this is the case, then the influencer you’re talking with is probably going to be a great match for your next collaboration.

Of course, the influencer should ask you what’s in it for them. Be prepared to talk about your compensation plan for this kind of collaboration. Ideally, the compensation should be enough to ensure that the time your influencer puts in is fairly paid for without overcompensating.

Consider these popular collaboration options for starters:

Speaking of compensation, influencers are typically paid differently depending to some extent on the kind of collaboration they are doing. In some cases, there’s a small fee for content creation. As I’ve said on my blog a few times, compensation can also vary based on the size of their following. With that in mind, here are some popular collaboration ideas.

Gift product and ask them to post on social media

This option is really popular because it’s cost effective for brands and a lot of fun for influencers. Simply described, this is where you send an influencer free products and services. Then, they create the kind of content you have agreed upon and post it to social media.

Content for this collaboration type can be diverse depending on the product, goals, and influencer preferences. One popular combination is Instagram photos featuring fashion brands or other lifestyle products. Another idea is to create tutorials or provide reviews, then post them. No matter what kind of content is produced, the biggest advantage of product gifting is the extent to which an influencer can experience the benefits of a product.

Organize a product giveaway with them for their community

Many influencers love to give products away to their followers. Giveaways and contests have been used in marketing for generations, and one reason is that they’re often a lot of fun. Plus, who doesn’t like getting a little something for free? Consider letting an influencer host a product giveaway for their social media community. In this case, you’ll give the product to your influencer and have them ship it after showing the item off. You might also consider giving the influencer their own item as compensation.

Offer them an affiliate marketing opportunity or provide them a discount code that they can use for their community

With affiliate marketing, the influencer will post a link on their social media posts or website. Then, as people make purchases through that link you’ll pay a small commission to the influencer. Similarly, discount codes incentivize people to buy your stuff since they’ll get a little bit of money off of their purchase. In turn, influencers get paid a fee. These options are great because you’re paying directly for results. I often recommend it when increased sales are the goal, rather than education or brand awareness.

Interview them for your blog/social media or find a way to co-create content with them
If you have a blog or happening social media site, having an influencer guest post or do an interview can be a great way to borrow their audience. This technique builds backlinks and increases traffic to the place where this is posted. Similarly, a lot of brands will collaborate with influencers on a new product. Beauty brands and sports apparel are especially known for this: the product is made by the brand, but largely designed by the influencer. Collabs like this are often highly successful.

Once you’ve run the first influencer campaign for your brand, it’s important to determine how well the campaign performed. As with other forms of advertising, you should maximize ROI and track other measures of success. If an influencer performs well, you should consider asking them to do another collaboration in the future. Likewise, adding new influencers lets your brand reach out to new potential customers who follow them.

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Neal Schaffer is an authority on helping innovative businesses digitally transform their sales and marketing. Founder of the digital marketing consultancy PDCA Social, Neal currently serves as a Fractional CMO for several organizations. Neal also teaches executives digital marketing at Rutgers Business School and the Irish Management Institute. He is also the author of 4 sales and marketing books, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley) and the recently published The Age of Influence (HarperCollins Leadership), a ground-breaking book redefining digital influence. Download a free preview of the Age of Influence by clicking the button below.

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