Chapter 3: Influencer Outreach

Best practices for reaching out to content creators who are right for your brand

Outreach & Negotiation

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.

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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.

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Pro Tip

Use our Chrome Extension to find a content creator’s email and stats quickly and easily.

How to Structure an Outreach Email

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What to Include

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.

Tell them who you are.

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.

Introduce your brand.

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.

Tell them why you chose them.

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!

Include your “ask” and their compensation.

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.

Give them a call to action.

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!”

Characteristics of a Strong Email

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:

  • It’s conversational.
  • It’s concise.
  • It fosters relationships.
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Pro Tip

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.

A good outreach email is conversational.

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.

A good outreach email is concise.

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.

Direct Messages (DMs)

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.

Why DM?

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).

DMs vs. Email

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.

DM Best Practices

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.

Keep it casual.

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 _____ !

Keep it short.

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?

Engage with their content beforehand.

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

Send a personalized video message.

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.

Reply to a Story.

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.

Move it to email.

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.

Other Outreach Methods

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.

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Pro Tip

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.

Get Creative

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.

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Pro Tip

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.

Strategies & Best Practices

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. 

Strategies

In order to effectively send outreach emails en masse, follow these strategies and best practices.

Set up an automated email sequence.

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?

  • Open rates for drip campaigns are about 80% higher than single send emails. 
  •  If your first email is not opened or replied to (your choice), have an automatic follow-up “check-in” a few days later. A period of three days works well.
  • A third and final attempt would be to remind them of the proposal.

Monitor outreach metrics. Optimize any inefficiencies.

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.

Learn from influencer responses.

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.

Ultimately, the goal here is to increase your communication efficiency.

  • Track your open rates and response rates.
  • Be relatable, approachable, and fully transparent.
  • Keep the email concise but comprehensive.
  • Provide all of the specifics up front to prevent hours of back-and-forth emails.
  • As simple as it may sound, don’t forget to explain your brand.

Strategies & Best Practices

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.

Network
Integration Type
Feed Post
IG-Story
IGTV
Misc: Link in Bio, Highlight Reel, Story Takeover
Standard Integration (Feature)
– Your product or brand is integrated in the video
– Typically time-capped (30s, 60s, 90s, etc.)
– Can be Pre-, mid-, or post-roll, or Organic
Dedicated Video

Campaign Factors

Campaign factors consist of all the specifics of the partnership you want to establish before you even begin negotiations.

Type of partnership

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?

Exclusivity

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.

Campaign Duration

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.

Usage Rights

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.

Brand Fit

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.

Negotiation

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:

  • Know your number.
  • Ask the influencers.
  • Adjust the campaign specifics.
  • Leverage additional perks.
  • Be transparent (when it makes sense to).

Negotiating With Influencers— Key Strategies To Know

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:

Know your number.

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.

  • Your target rate: This is the ideal amount you’d be willing to pay the influencer for their services. Ideally, you’ve calculated this number beforehand with a pricing model you’ve developed that is specific to your business and its core metrics.
  • Your max rate: Your max rate is quite possibly more important than your ideal rate. Your max rate is the absolute most you’re willing and capable of paying an influencer. Your goal should never be to pay more than this rate.

Ask the Influencers

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.

Adjust the campaign specifics.

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.

Leverage additional perks.

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.

When Being (Selectively) Transparent Works

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.

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