Connecting with the right influencers can go a long way toward making your product launch a success. But getting them to simply open your email (let alone help promote your product) is a challenge that can leave even the most savvy marketing pros scratching their heads.
While there's no guaranteed path to mastering the art and science of pitching influencers, here are a few tips and action items to improve your odds.
Find the right influencers
This may seem obvious, but the first step in any successful influencer outreach campaign is to accurately identify those who are most likely to be interested in what you're pitching. Unfortunately, this vital first step too often doesn't get the time and effort it deserves.
Perhaps the primary reason for this deficiency is over-reliance on subscription media/influencer databases.
PR and marketing pros have access to all sorts of tools that enable them to create expansive lists of influencers in seconds by inputting just a few search criteria. No doubt these tools are very valuable when used correctly, but relying on them entirely can yield a list that's simply too broad and unfocused (i.e., filled with influencers who won't give a damn about your pitch and will feel inclined to disregard any email you send them in the future).
With such a list in hand, it's easy to paste your pitch into a form and hit "send all." Of course this carpet-bombing approach yields poor results, and whatever time you save on the front-end not refining your list will be wasted later as you try to follow-up with up with all of those disinterested contacts.
It's a hassle to narrow down such a broad list to find just the influencers most appropriate for your message, but it's worth the time and effort. An off-target list results in an off-target pitch akin to junk mail, and it's destined to get junk results.
Action item: Don't rely entirely on subscription media/influencer databases. Do your homework!
Reach out before you're ready to pitch
Today's most sought after influencers exert their influence via social media, so it's easy to figure out what turns them on. It's also easy to connect with them and start building a rapport. The key is to get on their radar and earn their interest before it's time to hit them up with a pitch. This approach should seem like common sense in the age of social media, but it's often ignored.
Action item: Don't wait until you need an influencer to make a connection. Start building a relationship today!
Keep good company
There's a social networking theory called Triadic Closure. It asserts that if person A and person B are close friends, and person A and person C are close friends, the two who are currently not friends (B and C) are also likely to become friends once they discover they have a friend in common.
Having such a friend provides a shared point of reference for bonding and a reason to trust each other. Most people (especially influencers) also thrive on building their social circle and closing gaps within their network.
If you're having trouble connecting with an influencer, check out whom they're talking to, and then reach out to these "friends of influencers." Twitter makes it easy by allowing you to see entire conversations and join in directly. You can also connect on LinkedIn and other platforms. Then when you reach out to the influencer, there's a good chance she/he will notice that you have friends in common.
This works especially well if you want a specific influencer to attend your event. Start by inviting their online friends.
Action item: Build your network to include friends of the influencers you want to reach. Be social!
Go offline as well as online
We tend get so caught up in our digital relationships because we're constantly looking at our smartphones. Alerts from Twitter, Periscope, Facebook, etc. are a constant distraction. Perhaps that's why we forget that nothing beats the original form of social networking -- face-to-face communication.
One of the best ways to make in-person connections is to attend networking events that appeal to the influencers you want to reach. There are all sorts of digitally-oriented groups nationwide that stage great networking events; Kevin Winston's Digital LA and Jessica Lawrence's NY Tech Meetup are two of the most prolific that come to mind. Both offer recurring events that are fun, informative and filled with influencers.
Perhaps the most valuable offline opportunities for brand marketers are the more niche events targeted at a specific group of influencers, such as my company's traveling TECHmunch Food Blogger Conference. Each year TECHmunch stages a series of events in cities across North America to bring together top influencers and content creators, including many who are eager to work with brands. When it comes to such events, PR and marketing pros are welcome to attend, sponsor, and join the conversation.
Action item: Step away from the screen, and attend targeted offline events!
Solve their problem, not yours
Top influencers are inundated with correspondence from marketers eager for attention. In addition to dealing with all the off-topic and inept product pitches, they're also under pressure to produce a steady stream of quality content that informs and/or entertains their audience. Feeding the content beast -- whether it's a blog post, YouTube tutorial, Snapchat story, or Instagram pic -- is their single biggest challenge.
So rather than pitching them an opportunity that solves your problem (promoting your product), try pitching them an opportunity that helps them solve their problem (creating great content). Help them, and there's a much better chance they'll help you in return.
This tip can be illustrated through a couple of sample pitch subject lines:
Subject Line No. 1: "We launched a new line of pans. Would you like a sample?"
Subject Line No. 2: "I read about your burnt eggs. Our new pan can help with that."
Which email would you rather open? The first one is clear, but it doesn't tell a story (and therefore doesn't suggest that the pitch will help solve the influencer's problem). The second one demonstrates real knowledge about the influencer, and is more likely to spark his/her imagination.
Before you reach out to an influencer, stop and think about your product and what you're really offering. Is it something the influencer could go out and buy on his or her own? Is your $20 lipstick really worthy of a blog post?
Food blogger Jerry James Stone adds, "I hate it when brands sound like they're doing me a favor."
One way to make your product and pitch more valuable to an influencer is to send it with everything required to use it. The influencer will appreciate not having to make an extra trip to the store for the cake batter to fill the new cake pan you just delivered. Your extra effort and attention to detail will be noticed, and chances are the influencer will actually try the product.
Action item: Make your subject line (and the rest of your pitch) about the influencer... not your product. Appeal to the influencer's ego, their wants and needs. Once you have captured his or her attention, you're halfway to the finish line.
Cut to the chase and size appropriately for the small screen
According to EmailMonday.com, nearly half of all emails are read on a mobile device, and the number is growing. So it's likely your pitch will be read on a small screen while the influencer is multitasking.
This means that your pitch has to be concise and easy to scan. Start with a clear and compelling subject line and don't bury the lead. Address the who, what, where, when, and why, and state clearly how you can help satisfy the influencer's needs.
Food blogger Donna Currie says, "Don't make me have to ask a dozen questions to find out what you want. Who is your client? How do they want to work with me? Don't beat around the bush. Tell me all, and I will respond. Tell me nothing, and I will assume it's something shady. If there's no budget, say there's no budget. Leaving that detail until last is not going to make me feel warm and fuzzy. It's perfectly fine to say, 'we have no budget for cash payment, but we can offer you…' and then spell out what you will do."
Action item: Be clear, concise, and upfront about what you're offering!
"I don't want to listen" image via Shutterstock.