Best practices for reaching out to content creators who are right for your brand
Back to Chapter List
Select a Chapter
We’ve covered how to properly identify your target influencer and screen for potential “bad apples.” The next step is to focus on building an effective influencer outreach strategy. However, remember that no matter how promising a roster of new influencer prospects may be, finding an influencer alone does not guarantee a successful campaign. The next step is to communicate and negotiate effectively with potential influencers. Effective communication is a mission-critical component that can either set you on a path toward a successful campaign or leave you with a downright discouraging response rate. Influencer marketing campaigns have a considerable breadth and do not consist of simply launching ad campaigns with the click of a button.
You will be conversing with a high volume of real people simultaneously, so you need to understand how to communicate effectively and build authentic relationships.
Interest from influencers lies heavily on how you conduct yourself and represent your brand—and it all begins with your outreach email. Remember, the core of influencer marketing revolves around human-to-human relationships.
Use our Chrome Extension to find a content creator’s email and stats quickly and easily.
With the surge of influencer marketing over the past few years, it’s safe to assume that other brands are reaching out to the influencers you want to target and looking to work with them. It’s crucial to leave a thoughtful message in your first outreach to improve your chances of receiving a response.
We’ve put together some best practices for what to include in your initial outreach email.
Influencer marketing is about relationships; introducing yourself and telling them your name is the first step to starting on the right track. You’re adding a layer of personality to your email.
In addition to sharing your brand’s name (with a link to your site), you should briefly describe your brand. Think of this as a sales pitch without heavy sales jargon. Describe your brand in a compelling manner that would resonate with the recipient.
Here is your chance to add a level of personalization to your email. Do your due diligence and explain why you’ve selected that particular influencer for your campaign and why you think they would be a good partner. You can reference a past piece of content they’ve posted or cite a specific example of their work. That will show them that you’ve seen their account/channel. It’s a great way to start a partnership!
Given the volume of outreach you’ll conduct with various prospects, you’ll want to set yourself up for optimum efficiency. Be clear about absolutely everything to avoid miscommunication and wasting time. Explain to them what you’re looking for (regarding campaign deliverables) and an initial offer for their services. An initial offer could include product in exchange for posts or an actual cash offer, whatever your campaign calls for.
Naturally, some influencers will want to engage in negotiations, but there will also be many folks who agree to the terms outright and are ready to get started. By including this tiny bit of information up front, you’re saving time, anchoring a baseline rate for the deal, and setting expectations upfront. Including this information will ultimately save you money (from influencers that might see an opportunity to overcharge) and your most precious resource: your time.
Your call to action is the final and most critical component of an effective outreach email. A solid call to action separates a skimmed-over introductory email from one that warrants action from the recipient. Prompting action is the first step toward initiating agreeance with the terms and moving the campaign process forward. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or lengthy—just something concise to encourage the influencers to reply that they are interested in working together and learning more. A well-executed call to action should sit at the end of the email and look something like this: “If you’d like to move forward, please reply to this email and let us know—we’ll reply with further information!”
Now that we’ve discussed what components you should include in your initial outreach email, we’ll move on to how to write your message.
A good outreach email includes the following strong characteristics:
Be wary of influencers indifferent to your brand/product. They may see your offer as an opportunity to make a quick buck. The result is content that feels inauthentic or hollow. We’ve all seen it. This type of situation is one of the reasons it’s so important to screen your prospective influencers. There are plenty of content creators out there who are willing and enthusiastic to help you.
We already know that including a personalized component in the email will foster more responses, but you should also monitor your writing style and tone. Consider the following: You don’t text your friends the same way you send an email to your boss, right? You are engaging in a business proposal, so you’ll want to maintain a certain level of formality. The key is to do so in a conversational, friendly manner. The best influencer relationships are indeed friendships. Putting this into action isn’t all that complex and can usually be accomplished in your email’s introductory and closing sentiments. You can reserve the body to outline the campaign specifics and discuss compensation. Opening/closing in a relaxed, conversational tone lets the influencer know that a relatable person is on the other end of the message.
The strongest outreach emails are short, comprehensive, and to the point. The last thing you want is to overwhelm a potential influencer with an over-the-top, lengthy message. An overly long email can detract from your initial goal and cause distraction and even unnecessary questions.
A good rule of thumb is to make your message at most three brief paragraphs, each with three to five sentences. The first should introduce yourself/your brand and incorporate a personalized component (discussed above). The following paragraph should outline your campaign and why you’ve selected the influencer. You’ll finish with a brief section covering the campaign deliverables, compensation, and a solid call to action.
Think of your outreach email as an opportunity to plant a seed—this is an opportunity to grow a strong working relationship with an influencer right from the get-go. Sure, this is a business deal at the end of the day, but try to communicate in a way that feels less transactional. This perspective goes hand in hand with maintaining a conversational tone. The first email is where you can present yourself (and your brand) as someone who treats their influencers with respect and trust, and as part of a community.
Building that sense of community is the ultimate goal of an influencer program. You want to create a group of advocates who willingly talk about your brand not because they “have to get their post up this month” but because they are genuinely excited to show off your products. You can put this into practice by always treating each new influencer as if they might be a long-term partner. Treat them as an extension of your marketing team, not just another Instagram post.
Should you utilize direct messaging on Instagram to contact influencers? The short answer is yes. Why not?!
You can count on an influencer always being active on Instagram (or whatever social media platform they’ve built their following on)—which presents an opportunity to catch their attention, perhaps on a more personal level.
Direct messaging a prospective influencer is exceptionally lucrative because it allows you to go straight to the source. Anyone in the world can DM anyone else in the world. Ariana Grande, the Rock, the Pope—go for it, shoot them a message, and they may just read it. When DMing influencers, you have a better chance of avoiding agents or managers, who can sometimes present speed bumps in your outreach and negotiations. (More on dealing with managers and agents later).
Although direct messaging is effective, there might be better strategies depending on your program goals and the amount of time you can allocate toward outreach.
Least Ideal: Mass outreach is the least ideal option. Mass outreach via DMs will be more laborious than email, given that it only takes place on the Instagram mobile app*. This experience is less efficient than email, will be harder to maintain organization, and ultimately has fewer customization/automation tools than an email application. Thus, an email will be a more productive alternative if your goal is influencer volume and time is a factor.
Most Ideal: Using DMs is best for big fish and non-responders. If you want to establish communication with a macro or celebrity influencer, a DM can be a great place to start the conversation. Since you’re going straight to the source, there’s an immediate opportunity to send a quick message while simultaneously (and conveniently) presenting your brand to them. Upon reading your message, they’ll instantly be able to check out your page, allowing you to establish some preliminary pathos—provided your brand social presence is up to par.
The DM is also well utilized with influencers you are particularly excited about and have already contacted by email, but from whom you have yet to receive a response. You may have had the wrong email address, it went to junk, or you caught the influencer at the wrong time, so they neglected to reply. Whatever the case, you can use the DM as a secondary follow-up tactic.
Outreach via DM shares many of the same characteristics as its email counterpart. You’ll want to introduce your brand, be conversational, and express an interest in working together. However, your execution will differ from an email since the DM format and context resembles texting. With that in mind, here are some best practices.
Instagram can be a fun, informal, expressive place—so let your message and tone match that. Of course, you’ll always want to maintain some professionalism, but that doesn’t need to prevent you from sending an energetic, inviting message. Heck, even throw in an emoji or two.
Hey girl! We’ve been following you for a while now and just had to reach out! We absolutely love your _____ !
Please don’t copy and paste your email outreach template and send them via DMs. This tactic will likely be too long and appear like a giant wall of text. Get the gist of it in there, and include a call to action (examples below).
Shoot us a message back, and we’ll get you more info.
We’re happy to send over a free ____ just to show our appreciation! What’s your size and address?
You can put your brand on the influencer’s radar even before a DM simply by liking or commenting on some of their recent content. You can do this just before you send a message (try not to go overboard with the likes) or play the long game and begin interaction days/weeks prior
If you have the confidence, a less common and more creative way to spark conversation is with a personalized video. Say precisely what you would in your text-based message but film yourself (or your colleague or your founder) and send it as a video! Just remember to be presentable, well-spoken, and energetic.
In addition to sending a cold DM, replying to an influencer’s IG Story is another tactic. Depending on the story’s context, you can initiate a conversation with something relevant to something the influencer is already discussing or doing. This tactic is potentially an easier way to get your foot in the door where you can later present your sponsorship opportunity.
If you’ve successfully gotten an influencer’s attention and are messaging back and forth, eventually, you should suggest moving the conversation to email for all the reasons listed previously. But don’t worry about drop off—now that they’ve accepted your initial DM, any future messages will appear in their inbox.
Another tactic to catch an influencer’s attention is commenting on a recent photo. This tactic can be an effective, public-facing way to initiate a relationship. Depending on its context, there’s also the chance that your comment will be seen and liked by the influencer’s followers, thus increasing your brand visibility and pushing it higher. Photo comments are most effective when you can spark curiosity or prompt action from the influencer.
Yo @_____, we’ve got a few shirts with your name on ’em! Just shoot us your size and address!
Disregard asking for anything in return for now—you may find that this tactic results in a free, organic promotion from the influencer.
It’s easy and fun to think of ways to involve your prospective influencers. You can post something to your brand’s story and tag them in it to invite their casual participation. A handwritten postcard lets someone know you are looking forward to an exciting partnership. If you’ve taken the time and made an effort to get to know them, you may want to send a personalized message or gift introducing them to your brand/product.
Do not simply ask them to message you without any incentive or justification. It may be a matter of personal opinion, but saying, “Hey, DM us. We’d love to work with you,” feels tacky and desperate. Alternatively, you may leave a comment letting them know you sent them a message and ask them to check it out.
Now that we’ve covered what characterizes a compelling outreach message and how you can send it, you’ll want to implement a sound process that enables you to conduct your outreach on a larger scale.
Sending one, five, or even ten emails is relatively easy. Sending over a hundred, however, will require more work to organize and keep track of everything. Once your outreach begins, you’ll have the opportunity to analyze a variety of metrics that you can use to optimize your overall outreach strategy.
Some of these strategies require implementing various email outreach tools/applications, such as the one integrated into GRIN’s creator management software.
In order to effectively send outreach emails en masse, follow these strategies and best practices.
An email sequence (sometimes called a drip campaign) is a series of automated emails you arrange to send on a set schedule. Why give up after just one email?
What is your deliverability? Open rate? Response rate? Are you frequently getting the same questions asked? Or are you just constantly waiting for responses? You should analyze, iterate, and test regularly.
Study responses and gather learnings from how influencers are replying. Make adjustments or restructure your strategies when necessary.
This reaction could hinge on a variety of factors. Perhaps you’re targeting influencers with too high of a following (justifying their request for more money). Or, maybe your initial compensation offer is just a little too low. Maybe you’re asking for too many deliverables to justify your compensation. Possibly ask for one less Instagram Story.
Each social media network has attributes allowing users to create and consume content. Social media platforms (Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Twitch, and so on) foster influencers that continually post content to build their following. It’s essential to understand how and why the rates vary by network and how each type of integration affects the pricing.
Campaign factors consist of all the specifics of the partnership you want to establish before you even begin negotiations.
Depending on your brand’s budget, you may want your creator to work across multiple channels if they have large followings on different social networks. Do you want a one-off deal where your influencer shares just a few posts for your brand, or do you want a long-term partnership with your influencer?
Most brands seek to include an exclusivity clause in their contracts, where the influencer agrees that they will not promote or work with competitors for a set period (usually during and for some time after your campaign). If you identify a highly successful influencer rising in your program, making them exclusive is an effective way to lock out your competition, but it can come at a cost.
When working with influencers for the first time, the topic of campaign duration remains a constant tug-of-war between brands and influencers. Brands prefer short, one-off deals to mitigate risk if the influencer promo flops. No marketer willingly signs a six-month contract.
We recommend having a timeline in mind when reaching out to creators. Some have partnership requirements which may include the length of the campaign. When discussing these requirements, it is best practice to have some flexibility, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide what’s best for your brand.
If you intend to use or repurpose the content you create with an influencer, you’ll need to incorporate usage rights into the agreement, which can impact the influencer’s rate.
Does the influencer LOVE your brand, or are they meh about it? A lack of passion doesn’t mean they won’t do a good job, but it’s much easier to work with an influencer that genuinely appreciates your product or service. A creator that knows that value of their influence to your product or service may also charge a higher rate. In this seemingly complex and overwhelming process, a foundational principle will help guide you: successful influencer-brand relationships are mutually beneficial, where both parties are in a position to provide value to one another outside of just cash in exchange for posts. If both parties understand this, you’re at the beginning of a harmonious relationship.
Effective negotiating is an art of its own, which is why there are entire courses dedicated to negotiation in a business setting. Countless factors dictate what steps you can and should take when negotiating, and they vary significantly depending on a business’s performance targets, budget, risk tolerance, and more.
Key Negotiation Strategies:
Effective negotiating is an art of its own, which is why there are entire courses dedicated to how to negotiate in a business setting. There are countless factors that dictate what steps should/can be taken when negotiating, and they vary significantly depending on a business’ performance targets, budget, risk tolerance, etc. Let’s discuss some key strategies and relate them specifically to influencer marketing:
Any time you initiate communication with an influencer you have hopes of working with—always know what you’re willing (and can afford) to pay. In practice, there are actually two numbers to know.
It may seem like a bad idea to ask your influencer initially what they would like in exchange for partnering with your brand, but there are a few good reasons for bringing them into the discussion. The first reason is that it’s still new territory, and influencer rates and pricing are not standardized. In addition, many influencers are between the ages of 18 and 35. They are young and perhaps just starting as influencers. They might not have a set rate for their work yet. Creators who’ve been in the game for years, have built a following, and work with large-name brands do not fall under this generalization.
Ultimately, there is no standardized practice for some of these factors. As long as you stick to what’s best for your business and consider the creators interests too, both sides can win in a partnership. Sometimes negotiations do not work out, and that’s okay too.
Sometimes adjustment of your campaign is necessary. For example, you may decide to offer additional product to your influencer’s family and friends to expand your reach. Alternatively, you might need to ask your influencer to increase their deliverables. Sometimes you need to tweak content rights and exclusivity details.
Is there anything else in the minutiae that can be adjusted to offset costs? Any changes to a campaign will hinge on effectively managing your influencer campaign results.
Additionally, if your influencer is doing a great job at promoting your brand, you could consider working with them on a long-term basis. Offering to work with an influencer long-term will show them that you are willing to invest in them, but it typically leads to discounted rates.
Offering additional perks to your influencers speaks to the long-term potential of your professional relationship, but be careful to keep your promises. Is your influencer interested in becoming an affiliate model at some point, or would they be interested in earning a sales commission?
Another way to partner with your influencer might be to help subsidize their production costs. You may have access to a team of photographers, so you could consider helping the influencer produce their content with your brand’s resources and connections. The influencer will be thrilled to get some professional shots taken that they can then continue to use for their purposes.
For micro influencers, offering free product typically works. However, depending on your product or service, you may want to use a different approach. If you sell a consumable product, offer a three-month supply instead of a seven-day sample pack. It would be best to send your influencers enough product to appreciate, so they can effectively promote it to their followers.
It’s up to the discretion of every brand or influencer manager to make strategic decisions about financial transparency. The level of transparency also varies by brand. There is no standard for transparency; it takes insight and instinct to know when it is beneficial and how much is necessary.
For example, if you have a smaller following, you could say, “We’re still a really young, bootstrapped company, and truthfully, we cannot afford anything above $X.” In the case of an influencer with a large following (mega influencer), showing transparency may be an effective means of negotiating an affordable rate.
Introduction to Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a marketing strategy involving a brand and content creator collaborating to promote a product, service, or the brand itself on social media.
This guide will turn a novice in influencer marketing into an efficient influencer marketing pro who understands the ins and outs of strategy, terminology, and campaign growth and refinement.
We will describe all significant aspects of influencer marketing, from setting up your budget to finding the right content creators for your campaigns.
The world of influencer marketing is new and constantly evolving, but understanding the basics can make a huge difference in setting up campaigns for your brands.
If you’re already familiar with these topics, use the table of contents to the right to jump to the section you need. Otherwise, let’s begin!
Why do influencer marketing? Influencer marketing is several years old in practice. There are already brands demonstrating influencer marketing’s fantastic power to yield incredible ROI and create stronger bonds with your target audiences.
Influencer marketing is pretty established in the zeitgeist of modern digital marketing, so if you’re new to it, you’re in a good spot. Many marketers before you have already done the hard work of testing, retesting, and failing at several types of influencer marketing campaigns, and you get to see the fruit of that labor.
Take Branch Basics, for example. Branch Basics figured out how to launch and improve its influencer marketing campaign with a two-tier system using affiliates and paid content creators.
City Beauty found social media creators who shared their values and sent them products to promote on social media. Now they have over 6.9 million impressions from influencer-sourced content.
And a baby product brand focused on content creators from the start, wanting to expand on their word-of-mouth through influencer marketing. After growing their campaign, the baby product brand reached a 7-figure code conversion revenue.
If you’re still not convinced, check out our blog on the total value of influencer marketing.