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by Joe 

April 6, 2021

Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing For Launching Products and Building Sales In 2021

For potential customers, social media influencers carry a bit of authority, and are a trusted source of information.  They learn which products work the best, which products are cool, and which products they should invest in and purchase.

Recent studies and trends are showing that people are turning towards influencers that they trust more often to get recommendations and even advice because the cancel culture has left them questioning the reliability of previously trusted news sources.  

Running an influencer marketing campaign isn't easy. There are much easier things to do in life. However, if you're up for the challenge, social media influencers' ultimate benefit can most certainly result in a substantial return on investment.   

Whether you are launching a business or just a new product, influencer shout-outs can be a huge boost out of the gate. Instagram Influencer traffic is warm, implied trust traffic. You are appealing to an audience that trusts their opinion and will react to something that they recommend. 

Influencer marketing done right accomplishes:

  • Trust and Authority:  92% of people trust recommendations from individuals (even from people they don’t know them) over brands.
  • Qualified High-Quality Leads: In a Tomoson poll, 51% of marketers believe they get better customers from influencer marketing.
  • It increases ROI: A Burst Media study, analyzed by eMarketer, revealed that brands saw an average ROI of $6.85 for every dollar invested in influencer marketing.
  • Proven Effectiveness:May 2015 study found that 84% of global marketers expected to launch at least one influencer marketing campaign in the coming years, and 81% of those who had already done so reported they were happy with the results. 

Sellers are taught to target potential buyers one person at a time. The cost of acquisition can be extremely high. Alternately, targeting an influencer that your audience worships is an easy way to get your brand in front of large groups for a fraction of the cost and effort.

Targeting influencers that your audience worships, and marketing to their audience is far more effective and cheaper than PPC!  

Wouldn't you like to have additional methods of targeting potential buyers?  Especially something less expensive than PPC yet more effective?  That is a realistic potential of getting influencer marketing right

Targeting influencers that your audience worships, and marketing to their audience is far more effective and cheaper than PPC! #influencermarketing #ecomoptimizer #amazonfbatips

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Even if your competitors' audience is not yours, there is nothing to say they won't be interested in your product. They may not know who you are yet. Competitive research to reveal the influencers that your audience follows can be very rewarding.   Discovering what hashtags your competitors use is an excellent FREE method of getting your content and message in front of their audience!

When you are looking at potential influencers, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Are they relevant?
  • Do their followers respond to the content shared?
  • Are they truly engaging with their followers?
  • Are their followers your ideal buyers and relevant to your personas?
  • How can they help you convert more people into followers and purchases? 
  • What will they do to help you move people onto your subscribers list and into your sales funnel?
  • How will this be mutually beneficial for both of you?

This article is intended to lay out a path for you to take advantage of influencer marketing to build your brand and ranking new products. Typically, sellers are taught that the best way to launch new products is with giveaways, rebates, and high PPC. These are all strategies that can work.  

Not all great influencers use Instagram.  Some use TikTok, it was just reported as the second most popular platform for using influencers.   Some influencers have very popular websites/blogs and do their recommendations there, others are YouTube influencers, do your research and due diligence to find the influencers that can benefit your brand the most.    

Ideally, an influencer that also has a blog and multi-platform presence is preferred.  It adds the ability for them to add additional value through article creation, cross posting and backlinks.  Many people find influencers for Instagram, purchase a one and done shout out and get terrible results.  That is not how you want to work with influencers.  Keep reading, we will come back to this further along in the article.

Launch Methods

We do not utilize giveaways or rebates, but it is a personal preference. We prefer to launch and sell products at full or close to full price to people that may purchase again.   The typical Amazon seller is taught to launch with 100% off rebates that may or may not purchase again, they are essentially paying buyers to take your product?

Depending on the number of competitors, we suggest launching with 10 to 20 influencers lined up.  A shoutout every 2 to 3 days during the first month can drive considerable traffic. They do not need reviews to purchase because of the influencer referral.    Influencers and not rebates have been a solid part of our launch strategy for the better part of a decade in one form or another.

Pre-marketing, the marketing of your product before launching, is a marketing strategy largely ignored by sellers but could easily enable a seller to launch to a group of enthusiastic buyers instead of a group of freebie seekers that couldn't care less what product they get as long as it is free.  

Launching a campaign with 20 influencers lined up means having a list of 60 influencers to start. This can be a long, drawn-out process, but it doesn't have to be.   Please pay attention to the methods outlined in this article as we reveal our strategies to make this a bit easier for you.


Identify Your Buyer Personas

To find the correct influencers, you need to have a firm grip on who your ideal buyers are.    Whom are you trying to reach?   You need to know a lot about your target market before identifying which influencers are the best.    A Buyer Persona is a fictional representation of your ideal buyer.  

Who is your ideal buyer?  Most sellers get this completely wrong.  Your ideal buyer is the fanatic.  If you sell a workout supplement, your ideal buyer is not the casual inconsistent weightlifter.   Your ideal buyer is the person that is hardcore focused on their health and weightlifting.  You want to guy or gal that is in the gym daily for hours.  They will use more product, but more importantly, they will tell everyone about it.  

We have an extensive Buyer Persona Workshop available if you need help figuring out exactly who they are. It is worth the effort, and it will help you tremendously because when you can identify whom your ideal buyer is, marketing and messaging become much easier and more successful.  Anyone familiar with our methods know that from our point of view, Buyer Personas are foundational to your success.   


Build Your Influencer List

There are many ways to go about building an influencer list. It may take utilizing multiple methods to get the right-sized list to begin with. Estimate that you need to start with 3 to 4 times the final number of influencers you want to use because some will not respond to your outreach.

Consider These Methods Of Creating An Influencer List

Hashtags:    Relevant hashtags are effective because you will find nano and micro-influencers using these hashtags and posting relative content. Using a site like IQHashtags.com, you can develop lists of relevant and related hashtags to research. Search each hashtag one at a time on Instagram.

The posts at and near the top of the search results are normally the influencers. Hold your mouse over each post to ensure that there is engagement and not just likes.

Instagram Influencers

You are looking for comment #s. Click into the influencers' profiles to check followers and to gauge their other posts. Does this influencer post things that are consistent with your brand values, tone, and voice? Consider this very closely because this person will be representing your brand to their followers.

Geo-tags:  Geo-tagging can be a convenient way to find influencers if the focus of your business is location-based. You may have a brick-and-mortar store for your business in one geolocation, but you may also sell online to a much wider area. If a particular campaign's focus is a specific area, then geotagging your posts is a good way to target. When you click those geotags, they open up to reveal other posts tagged to that geolocation.

Often the most popular posts, which are generally at the top of the search results, are being made by local influencers.

Follower List:   When was the last time you looked through your follower list for influencers that already use your product that you are probably completely unaware of? Influencers and famous people buy and use regular products just like the rest of us. Look through your follower lists for influencers, celebrities, and other businesses that you may be able to partner with. 

Discover.ly is a Chrome extension that you can use to find influencers in your contact list as well as finding which of your contacts have influencers in their contact list.  Leverage your friend for the introduction to the influencer.

Influencer Sites:  There are many websites out there created for the sole purpose of finding and engaging with influencers. These sites can be very helpful. They can also be very misleading. The majority of the sites do not vet their influencers. Some purposely give exposure to certain influencer friends. Use these sites with caution.

Referazon and Influence, listed above, are optimized for finding and engaging Amazon Instagram influencers.  

Best Practices

The problem with Influencers is they become more “famous”, they become more removed from the average customer, less trusted and your customers start questioning the influencer’s endorsements.  Instead, focus on nano and micro-influencers. They have between 1k and 75k followers. They are smaller influencers, newer to the game, but have more skin in the game.  Therefore, they are more willing to work with you and make every effort to make your relationship successful.

Influencers with less than 1k followers can be effective as well because their followers are generally people that they know. 

In general, we have found influencers with 76,000+ followers tend to have less engagement with their groups, generally are after follower numbers resulting in lists that have not been cleaned of unresponsive people, and often have their VA is doing all the engagement. These are not the influencers that you want to be using.

Keep in mind that follower counts can be deceiving.  That is the primary metric.  Followers without engagement point towards an ineffective influencer and one to avoid.  Smaller influencers with high engagement should be preferred over bigger influencers with little engagement any day of the week.  However you still need to look through the follower list.  

Are they actually the type of followers for your brand?  Consider some of the women posting in the beauty niche.  Some of them are not concerned about beauty, they are more concerned with attracting attention.  This can seen in their following and engagement because their followers are all men making comments about the woman.

How Do I Find Influencers?

Finding influencers can be a lengthy process. The best way to do it is to do it in an ongoing fashion. The smartest marketers try to have some influencer marketing running quite often. If you are starting from scratch and looking to build a decent-sized influencer list of 50 or more, plan on putting in at least 5 to 10 hours to find quality influencers.  

PRO TIP:  Don't waste your money on the influencer lists available on Fiverr.  In general, they are not even worth $5.00.  Steer clear of the people that pose as influencers on Fiverr also.  They are fake.

This is why you should always have your eye out for new influencers to work with.  Commit 10% of the time you spend on Facebook chatting with friends to finding quality influencers to work with, and you will have a great list in no time. 

As you find influencers and add them to your list, we recommend following them in groups of 10. Please pay attention to what they post and their engagement rates. Add several nice but relevant comments to their most recent posts.

Your goal is, hopefully, they at least recognize you as a follower. When you reach out to them, many influencers are much more willing to deal with and help their followers than those who just looked them up to contact them and may never hear from them again.

The best, most effective influencer marketing is an ongoing relationship that grows from their efforts in popularity and your efforts. When you find an influencer that does a good job for you and produces results, you should consider extending the relationship and keeping it ongoing.

Getting Noticed By an influencer

This can be tricky and may seem overwhelming at first, but you'll get the hang of it fairly quickly and do just fine. You have to find a way not only to contact the influencers themselves but get your email read also. Reach out to them using your email, so the name reflects the name you used on the comments you left on their posts.

If they recognize the messages from a follower, the chances of reading and responding to the message increased tremendously.  Understand these people get many emails, and many of them get many requests. This is where choosing micro and nano influencers can be beneficial because they are looking to grow, so they should be willing and open to working with other companies.

Larger influencers can be very stuck up, picky, hard to get a hold of, and even more difficult to work with. Many of them also think far too much of themselves and try to charge higher fees.

Currently, it's still early 2021; Covid-19 is still something that affects businesses every day. Beginning in 2020, many brands reduced their influencer marketing money to save on expenses. This means influencers were making less and, in many cases, are willing to do more to get jobs. Of course, as in anything else, it also means there more scammers out there, so be careful.

However, consumer behavior and expectations has changed quite a bit as a result of the changes brought on by covid-19 among other things.  As I mentioned earlier, consumers are turning towards influencers more often for recommendations and advice.  The amounts brands spend on Influencers is expected to skyrocket as things return to normal.

Use this strategy and worksheet to easily find influencers using Buzzsumo.


Communication

Once you begin contacting influencers. Your goal changes to selling them your pitch. Messages need to stand apart, be very clear and straightforward. Make sure your messages are professional, friendly, and specific. It should include the following

  • Introduce your brand and summarize your vision and USP
  • Complement them on their content, and mention something specific that you saw that made you think they would be a good fit for your brand.
  • Please specify the product that you want them to promote and how they fit into your strategy
  • Specify the types of content you are looking to have posted, such as photos, videos, Instagram stories, etc.
  • Specify the time frame you are looking to run the promotion and understand that they may be busy, so do not wait until the last minute.
  • Try not to get too wordy, boring, or tied up in talking about things that don't matter. Be professional and respect their time.
  • Don't use much slang, but don't come across like a lawyer either.
  • They should have a clear understanding of what you are looking for. By the time they finish reading your email.
Rocket

You'll want to monitor their posts and engagement on a regular basis as you research new promotional partners. If you are familiar with the topics they discuss and their position, or if you have already spoken with them, you will have a much easier time connecting with them.  

Subscribing to their newsletters, reading their articles, and following them on all the channels where they often share their thoughts and ideas are a great way to ensure they are a good fit.

You will also notice that they respond better to your inquiries when you are familiar with them, their content and the positions that they take on subjects.

Keep in mind that they are representing and speaking for your brand.  In some cases, your product may be a necessity that everyone uses, making influencer discovery easier.  In other cases, you may only appeal to a small subset of a larger group, so choosing an influencer that is already relevant to that audience is very important.

If you are successful with your due diligence and chose the right influencers to start with, recruiting them should not be that difficult. The amount of time involved depends on how many influencers you reach out to.

The Email Template

The email below is a great example of an outreach email that you can use to reach out to influencers!

Instagram Influencer Email Template

Subject line: {{firstName}} + {{YourCompany}} = Collaboration?

Hi {{firstName}},

I am {{YourName}}, the {{JobTitle}} of {{YourCompany}}.

We are huge fans of the content that you post on your Instagram account. We especially liked {{Something specific from their feed}}.  It is aligned with our products and the messaging that we are putting out to our audience.  

We are a company that produces [what you do and how it is related to him/her].

We think that we could be a super fit for collaboration [write why do you think that and benefits he/she and his/her audience has from it]. We have some ideas, and we would also like to hear you to get a perfect solution for both sides.

So, if you are interested in helping us market our products/services via your network to reach out to our target audience, let us know when you’re free for meeting.

Please get back to us if you are interested

Make it a great day!

{Your Name}

You've done all this work. You sent out all these messages; now comes the time for the real effort of proper communication and negotiation. At this stage, you will be getting responses, and they will have plenty of questions. Answer their questions clearly and in-depth. Describe what the business relationship between the two of you will look like.

What To Expect

Setting proper expectations of yourself and for them will be key to your influencer marketing campaigns' success. Before responding to them, you should have clearly defined your goals. Explain those goals and how the influencer fits in. They also explain what they could expect from you in terms of assets, support, and assistance.

In this second message, we will ask the influencers what kind of conversion rates they have seen in the past. Human nature indicates that a good majority of them will exaggerate. Some will use that number as their justification and support of their demand for monetary compensation.

Expect them to respond with rates, their schedule, and any existing influencer relationships they have that may conflict or interfere with working with you. If they don't mention any conflicts of interest, be sure to ask if there are any.

Target Audience

A mistake that we see often is failing to ask the influencer upfront what type of content they would be creating for a product like yours.   How do they see themselves helping your brand?  What would be their thoughts on the best approach with their audience.  If the only answer they have is discounts and freebies, they failed the test, move on.  Ask about the type and demographics of their followers to ensure it aligns with your buyer personas also.


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Sending Reminders

Expect to keep in communication with them open because this is the point where you will need to send them reminders possibly, and your approach will greatly affect the ongoing relationship.

Influencers are human and often juggle several relationships. Don't be surprised if they occasionally fail to meet their obligations to post on time, make mistakes with hashtags, calls to action or the messaging you requested.   To build these relationships, you'll need the time to be more hands-on with them. Ask that you are allowed to see their first few posts before it is posted until you are comfortable working together.   You'll need to refine your approach over time, as you learn what works and what doesn't in your niche.

  • Give them the benefit of the doubt with your reminders and inquire from a caring position. Make sure that something unexpected didn't come up.
  • Do not send them an inflammatory, demanding email.
  • This is a perfect template for reminder emails.
  • We are looking forward to your posts and seeing the content about the products. We noticed nothing had been posted yet, so I thought I'd check in for an update on when you'll be posting per our agreement. Let me know if you need anything from me. Thank you.
  • In addition to the posting time, it is important to check the first post and verify that everything in the agreement has been covered; hashtags, FTC disclosures, are expected
  • If everything looks good. Make sure to like the posts and comment. This validates your approval for the influencer and shows engagement to the community.
  • Have your email preset as a draft, so it is reusable and ready. That will shorten the amount of time that things like this taking.

Some Influencers Will Still Ghost You

Investing the right time and effort into finding the best influencers will affect your campaign's time, investment, and ROI. Expect to be ghosted by an influencer or two. The more effort you put into the relationship, and the more excited they are about doing it, greatly reduces the chance of being ghosted.


Shipping The Product To Them

Remember, we mentioned expecting to ship each influencer two products. You need to leave enough time to receive these products before your campaign starts. This means you will need to have a way to ship them either from your  3PL, Amazon, or your warehouse. All shipping expenses are yours. I'd spend the extra couple bucks for insurance as well to cover your butt.

Once influencers have received the products, it is time for them to get to work. I find it interesting to see how they interact and respond to the products via their emails and their content. It is important here that you keep the relationship professional because it is right here where things that can go wrong begin. Influencers are human, and they make mistakes. However, you have a signed contract, and they have a job to do.

Create a calendar complete with the dates and times of all the posts, and it is on you to check and follow up that the posts are occurring. Expect them to miss the occasional deadline for posting but doing so regularly is unacceptable.

Instagram story takeovers typically involve a person temporarily “taking over” your account, and are often used to showcase new products or services.   For example, brands will usually invite a content creator or influencer to take over their Instagram Stories for the day.  This is a great tactic to use once an influencer has proven their worth, and you continue working with them.


What Should Be Included in An Influencer Marketing Contract?

Be sure that your contract includes the items listed below:

  • The specific product they are promoting.
  • The number of posts they will be making
  • The type of content and posts they will be creating
  • The specific hashtags they will be using
  • The specific days and times the post will be made.
  • When and if the posts need to be preapproved and how much time before posting, this needs to be done.
  • FTC the disclosures (see this explanation of what is required by the FTC)
  • Content copyright ownership.
  • Influencer compensation

Be sure that all of your communication is documented via email. Draft up an airtight contract, complete with all the items that you have negotiated.   Here is a sample Influencer Contract(free template) that you can fill out and use from Influencer Marketing Hub.  Please read through it entirely and make any changes.  We are not lawyers and are not providing legal advice.  Please consult your lawyer for advice.

We recommend also sending them your brand's social media policy(free template) which are your content rules that they must follow. Send them a brand style guide(free template) also, this includes the logo, fonts, and colors specs congruent with your brand.  It helps when you have the brand style guide, social media policy, and contract outline set up in advance.  

The brand style guide is something you should set up for your business anyway and provide it to all graphics creators, and ad creators.  You have links to templates for all three of them right here, so what is keeping you from starting?


How Do I Pay Influencers?

For most influencers, everything will occur as expected.  As the campaign comes to a close, you are expected to compensate them if direct compensation is part of the agreement.     Your agreement should indicate whether they directed people to their affiliate link or link that you provided. Either way, there needs to be accountability and tracking to get an idea of how many sales you got from the relationship. 

If you agreed to boost the commission amount they receive, based on their conversions, now is the time to verify documentation & pay them.   We suggest paying them via PayPal.    PayPal is convenient for your business because payment goes directly to them, and it is easy to deal with the accounting.

Another payment method that some influencers like are gift cards.   Suppose this is the one-time payment that you choose.   It needs to be discussed and documented in the original contract, and the type of gift cards need to be designated at that time.


Tracking Results

Paying out many influencers can get complicated and messy if you're not an organized person. I would set up influencer tracking in an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheets with one tab per influencer. Use this to track each deliverable ensuring they met their obligation and to track sales and payment.   We suggest that you assign one person to handle tracking and payment to keep it consistent and less confusing.

If the influencer did a great job for you, keep the relationship moving forward. Thank them, let them know about their contributions, make them feel that their contribution had positive effects and is appreciated. Doing so makes them feel good and keeps the relationship going.

If you are happy with what they've done, consider giving them more work. You can come up with other types of posts or initiatives that can benefit both of you. This would be a great time to negotiate Instagram profile or story takeovers, collaborating on an article or showcasing how they have used and benefitted from the product.   

The ultimate goal is to keep your successful relationship moving forward and even taking them to the brand ambassador level, which is a win-win for you both.


Outsourcing

How exhausting was reading all that? Does the prospect of doing that amount of work make you think it's not worth the effort? Believe me that it's worth every bit of effort. Not only will you see immediate sales from it, but you'll also have that many more people aware of who your brand is.

One of the goals of influencer marketing needs to be brand awareness. The more people who know about you, your products, and how it helps them, the better the chances they will buy from you now or in the future.

The most effective way to gauge your brand awareness campaigns and brand-building would be to watch how many branded searches you receive.

Brand Awareness

A lot of the effort required for successful influencer campaigns can be delegated to a VA. They can do the majority of the initial research, send out the initial messages you have created for them to use, and narrow down the amount of effort you need to put in by eliminating your communication with people who will not work out. 

As always, any VA's success begins with how well you train them and set expectations for them. You need to set up the entire process and write emails, and you need to do the important negotiation communication. Besides that, the VA can handle most of this.

One of the big biggest benefits of influencer marketing is brand building. It creates another moment in time for a potential buyer to interact with your business. Creating those interactions and touchpoints should be one of the primary goals. The more potential buyers know about your business ahead of time and trust your business, the more stable and long-term your conversions and future become.

What Are The Best Influencer Marketing Strategies?

You've done all of this research and work finding Influencers, how exactly are they going to help your brand?  What are they going to do?  We get these questions often, and they are good questions that must be clarified and in writing before you start working with the influencer.   What exactly will they do for you?

As part of choosing the right influencers, ask them what type of content their audience responds to the best.  Good, experienced Influencers will want to create the content themselves.    We prefer that, but it must be approved and in line with your brand messaging.   This is always the best place to start.  One advantage of working with nano and micro-influencers is that they are more open to trying creative things and are looking for new ideas and experiences themselves.

The strategies you employ with an influencer is really only limited by your imagination.   Listed below are just some of the strategies that we have used over the years.

  • Brand mentions of popular Social Media accounts can extend a brands reach pretty far quickly
  • Ask influencers to write sponsored reviews.
  • Ask influencers to create sponsored blog posts.
  • Ask influencers to create video content about product use that you can post to your YouTube channel.
  • Write a branded post to reside on the influencers blog
  • Ask the influencer to create some Amazon Post content.
  • Coordinate influencer-led thought leadership
  • Coordinate an account takeover allowing the influencer to post on your behalf on the brand account..
  • Collaborate and have them promote your current content.
  • Cross post each others posts across channels.
  • Consider whether creating some controversy regarding your topic will get the right coverage.
  • Source user-generated content from influencers.
  • Convert influencers into affiliates.
  • Convert loyal customers to brand ambassadors
  • Collaborate or a non profit or fund raising event.
  • Media coverage and influencer posts about it can boost boosts brand awareness.  It is also good for the influencer because they can network with influential people.
  • Develop a long term relationship with an influencer and make them the face of the brand much like Selena Gomez is the face of Coach.
  • If there is a specific popular TV character or personality that is relevant to your product or brand, consider utilizing a branded shout out using the site Cameo.com

Show Them How To Increase Their Earnings

Our typical strategy with Amazon influencers is that they use their affiliate account and get paid by Amazon. If they beat their quoted conversions that they mentioned previously, we tell them that we will double or triple their commissions that Amazon paid. Think about it, if they do a good job, you both make more, and it's a win-win relationship.

Be prepared to give every influencer that you work with two products, one for themselves and one to use as a prize or raffle. Some will also tell you that they want cash.  We rarely just agree to pay them cash and always tie their compensation to their performance.  Especially the first time we work together. It is easy because we give them a way to make more by suggesting that they raffle off one of the products we give them. 

Often, influencers can sell raffle tickets to enter contests to win a product or hold a mini auction and give it to the highest bidder. The smart influencers realize that they may sell far more raffle tickets than the product is worth.   We tell them we are sending them two products. We specifically mention raffling one off because it can give their earnings a serious bump.

For example, we gave an off-road Jeep club a set of exhaust headers to raffle to their group. As the manufacturer, my clients' cost is very low. The headers themselves retail for close to $300. The Jeep club raised over $2500 just from the raffle ticket sales. Add that to the commissions they made for recommending the product to their 40,000 members.    They did very well. It was certainly a win-win.   You will find that you need to educate the influencer about the value of doing a raffle.

Gamification

Ideally, you want to have a list of influencers that you have ongoing relationships with.  Consider them as your small army of marketers.  Do you like the sound of that?   You are probably thinking to yourself that I said stick with influencers with smaller follower amounts.  Just how much can an influencer actually do for you?    The answer is a lot more than you think.

Running one and done influencer marketing campaigns are a waste of time.  Go into it with a long term, ongoing plan.

Consider turning it into a game with earnable points that can be redeemed for cash or gift cards.  Each post they create gains them so many points.  Each post of yours that they share earns points.  Each time they engage with one of your posts earns them additional points.  For each real engagement they get on one of their own posts for your product earns them points.  Reviewing your product earns them points.  Each blog post that they write or video that they make earns them points

Many people that set this up do it for existing influencers.   Instead, set this up for new influencers with the prize being cash plus an ongoing contract worth $$.  Now you have potential influencers competing over who gets a lucrative extended contract with you.  Set this up by running ads to influencers and pull them into a quiz or funnel that prequalifies them to ensure that you are recruiting the right influencers. Each influencer gets a specific branded hashtag for your business so you can track their progress and their points.

Done right, this will drive your posts higher in the search results both on Instagram and Google.  Plus you will gain valuable backlinks from all of the content being produced.  The name of the game is user generated content.  UGC is more powerful than any Amazon review, plus your potential audience is learning about your brand prior to getting to any marketplace to purchase.  

influencer marketing gamification

This method produces more branded searches, lowers your cost of acquisition and decreases the chances of losing the sale to some unknown marketplace seller running PPC.  This produces warm, implied-trust traffic.  It also automates several functions of the campaign which can involve a lot of work.  Plus, you end up with a pool of potential influencers to choose from in addition to the contest winner.    Theoretically, this group of influencers can become your marketing plan driving sales both on and off of the marketplaces.

PRO TIP:  Is a new seller with a lot of reviews making maintaining your ranking difficult or would you just like to create a larger moat around your search result positioning?  Would your typical response be rebates and a higher PPC spend?  Save your money.  Use your influencers to take care of that at a fraction of the cost!.  An easy solution is to fire up some influencers that you work with and push some converting off-Amazon traffic to your listing.  It doesn't take as many sales from off-site traffic to affect rankling vs PPC.

How Many Influencers Do I Need For A Successful Launch?

Finding influencers, the right influencers, developing that relationship, and maintaining it moving forward can be similar to dating in many ways. Expect some rejection and be prepared to possibly compromise on certain expectations to accommodate their currently scheduled projects.

If you remember, earlier we mentioned that you will need to four times the number of influencers you want to end up with initially because some won't even open your emails and others won't answer.  That is why it is important to pitch far more influencers than you need.  

Ultimately, your goal is to have more responses and potential influencers to work with, than you need. That gives you the advantage of picking the best responses and not having to take them all because you are desperately trying to get enough or meet a deadline.  A best case scenario is one where you develop a small army of influencers over time that are available to you and easy to get something going with.  

Understand that this is relationship building.  It is an ongoing relationship, preferably, which will enable you to get the best value and benefit.  A smaller, high-quality 5k audience with high engagement can be more effective than a giant 100k audience with low engagement.  Plus their audience will continue to grow.

A smaller, high-quality 5k audience with high engagement can be more effective than a giant 100k audience with low or no engagement. #influencermarketing #ecomoptimizer #onlinesellingtips

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Influencer Marketing Posting Strategies

Many brands hate using Instagram influencers because the half-life of an Instagram post is very short.   In addition to the Instagram methods listed below, we are also adding ways to cross post and utilize Influencers on other platforms also.  
Be sure that all contracts include the following statement:  You irrevocably grant to us a worldwide, perpetual license to use, reproduce, disclose, publish and distribute your Photos, for any purpose without restriction.  Consider the following different ideas:
Video & IGTV - Until recently, you could only post a 1-minute video on Instagram.  IGTV allows us to post video up to 1-hour long.  I don't suggest that you go that long at all, but there is a lot that can be done with it.  The 1-minute videos have always performed well.  The longer format can be used to promote more in-depth rich content like your latest products, video reviews, how to vids, non-typical benefits or ways to use the product, and more...
Live Links - Bio links and hashtags are live and clickable.   Let them guide their followers and those interested in your brand directly to your landing page.  Adding a link as a caption to an image is a perfect method when you want to inform people about: sales, contests, restocking, new collections, and special offers, etc...  Simply have them add a link to your website, Facebook account or any other web address that you want them to visit. It’s a simple yet effective call-to-action that will help engage their audience.  
Hashtags - They can use clickable hashtags to turn their followers into brand advocates.   By creating a special branded hashtag and sharing it with their followers, they are adding to a base of posts revolving around your products.    Anyone who clicks the hashtag will be taken to a separate posts base with all the images using the same hashtag.  
In addition, by ensuring that influencers use the same hashtag, you are securing that they spread the word about your brand and help expand your reach.   Give each influencer a slightly different branded hashtag to use to enable tracking of their efforts.  Hashtag Marketing is a very powerful FREE method of growing your brand and getting your content in front of a wider audience that should not be ignored.
Instagram & Pin Stories - Instagram Stories and Pinterest Story Pins are great vehicles for growth and are getting preferred status on both platforms.  The main difference between the two is on Pinterest the story lives within a Pin and does not disappear after 1 hour.  
Tagging Products - When your user finds something they like on your page that they are interested in, they can create a shortcut to it. It’s faster than clicking a link in the caption. You can tag a product on the picture itself and enable your clients an instant connection to the product from the image. All they need to do is click the tag, and it takes them directly to your e-commerce website where they can purchase it.  This is perfect because it’s simple, quick, leads to more purchases, and is available on images and stories within both Instagram and Pinterest.
Swiping Up - This is an Instagram stories feature available to posters with more than 10k followers.  It enables instant redirecting to your’ desired landing page which can be to something very specific.  For example, when you feature a product on your story, your goal is to evoke interest and sell product.
Unboxing Videos - Made famous on YouTube, unboxing videos can be very effective.  Especially when the creator has a large following.  It is worth considering having one made for every product.  I had an unboxing video created in 2008 by a 14 yr old named Marques Brownlee, and it still drives traffic to this day.   He stuck it out on YouTube and calls his channel MKDHD now with 13.9 million followers.  His newest video is 7 hours old with a million views already.  My understanding is they average 8k per million views from ad revenue.  
These are great social proof and if you can get them to let you repost the video to IGTV, Pinterest and your website, even better.    I'm sure he does not come cheap these days.  Don't create the unboxing yourself or have some unknown person do it, use some sort of influencer.
Tweets - As many as 49% of people on Twitter rely on recommendations from influencers on Twitter.  Are your users on Twitter?  Before you say no, at least check to see if your competitors are on Twitter and have a following.  I'd bet that not only are they on Twitter but if you search their hashtags, you will find they use twitter influencers also.  
Pins - The half-life of a Pinterest Pin of 3.5 months.  That means it can be effective for you for around 7 months, although I've seen pins come in style and drive traffic much longer than that.   For that reason alone it is worth reposting anything that you can from other channels as pins.   Be sure to SEO your Pins, so they are seen.    Check out our FREE Pinterest Traffic Domination Workshop.
Pinterest Video - Video on Pinterest along with Pinterest stories get preferential treatment on the platform and enjoy much higher levels of engagement. When posting on any platform, the first objective is to get their attention and get someone to stop scrolling.  Pinterest is loaded with still images and many of them are of not the best quality or presentation.  Anything moving such as a video immediately catches your eye increasing engagement by default.  Find what works for others and recreate their magic but for your own users.   Pinterest Marketing can be a solid source of traffic and sales . 
Facebook - What would an article about this topic be if we left out Facebook?  Like it or not, Facebook has changed the way we communicate and socialize with others.  Sharing content on FB is important if your audience congregates on the site.  IT won't have the best distribution with followers because of how the FB algorithm works, however, posts stay in your feed indefinitely.  
Don't just create ads.  Create posts and boost them as ads.  If you have multiple pages or profiles, share the posts across your different pages.  
Cross Posting Products and Platforms - It is very important that you cross post and cross promote your different initiatives across platforms.   Just as people are marketplace loyal, many are social media platform loyal as well.  They may be on different social platforms, but many times, focus most of their time to one or two.   Therefore, you should cross promote your posts and shared posts across platforms to reach an even greater amount of people.
A tactic that we often use is to create specific fan pages for the different product categories that a brand may have. If you sell baseball gear, but also sell football gear, having separate fan pages under the same brand name can boost your Google SEO because it will get you listed in the search results for both subjects.   So under your main business page of Bob's Sporting Gear, you would have a Fan Page for Bob's Baseball Gear and a Fan Page for Bob's Football Gear.

Amazon Live

Amazon Live gets it's own separate mention here, and not because it is effective.  It gets its' own separate mention because it so easily misunderstood, resulting in a disconnect between influencers and sellers.    Neither party understands the role that the other plays, expectations or objectives of the other.  This is not Amazons first attempt at creating a live platform.  The first attempt was a failure and so far this is not looking much different.  Most of the blame falls directly on Amazon as well.
Amazon sellers, in general do not understand marketing and are not seeking brand awareness marketing campaigns.  Amazon sellers are expecting to see an immediate sales boost from the shout outs and do not consider future sales being attributed to the shout outs.  Partially because they do not understand how it works, and partially because they do nothing to build their awareness or trust.   They are an Amazon only brand, have no presence off of Amazon and cannot or will not interact with potential buyers on social media.  
Many Amazon Live influencers approach the presentation of products as a brand building exercise and use it to justify charging 5k for one or two mentions. They do not understand how the mind of a smaller seller works and frequently do not care.  The only thing they are focused on is the cash and they act like sellers should be grateful that they are available to them.     They seem to think that sellers are rolling in the dough and do not understand that most smaller sellers have much tighter margins.   

Set Realistic Expectations For Amazon Live

Would I suggest entering into a 5k Amazon Live agreement?  I'd be lying if I didn't say I've inked 100k influencer marketing deals in the past, but not on Amazon Live and these were for ongoing projects featuring extensive representation and were done by very large brands with deep pockets and large budgets. 
For most sellers a 5k influencer deal is excessive unless it is a deal involving multiple shout outs and other involvement from the influencer.  But for the majority of sellers, they should take the contract price, for example $1000. and figure out how many PPC sales they would get for $1000.  That should be their measuring stick.  Can they get close to or more sales and exposure for their $1000 with an influencer?  If the answer is yes, then agreeing to that price makes sense.  
Future and brand awareness benefits from the shout outs and involvement with the influencers rely on a sellers additional efforts to interact with potential buyers off of Amazon.

Benefits of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is a key strategy that we use to launch. We will use several methods at once.  Smart marketers utilize multiple strategies at once to amplify their success and ensure any problem with one method doesn't kill the launch.  

Reviews

As has already been mentioned, we do not do full-price rebates.  Influencer traffic is warm traffic, implied trust traffic, because they trust the recommendation of the influencer.   These buyers are primed to purchase your product.   They don't see your competitors listings, nor do they need reviews to purchase, making them a great method.

Email List Building

We will generally use a mix of Amazon influencers and non-Amazon influencers to send people via affiliate links and separately via specific URLs. We do not inconvenience our customers to convenience ourselves, so we do not 'use search find buy'. 

Advertising Campaign

We also send everybody through a landing page 1st. There would be a landing page with an opt-in form.  Here we give them something that adds value to the purchase in exchange for their email.  List building should be a primary objective of every campaign that you run.  When you are building your list using social media prior to the Amazon visit, you are not violating Amazon TOS.  Email marketing should be approx. 30% of your sales and is not that hard to do, you just need to do it.

An example of incorporating list building into your influencer marketing could be something like this.   You sell a jacket.  Your influencer posts some content about the jacket which sends them to a landing page.  The influencer pitches a short fashion guide that you give the user in exchange for their email that contains several different images and ways of incorporating the jacket into your outfit for the night demonstrating how it can be utilized for social, casual and even business formal occasions.  

You can provide a link directly to the product on the opt-in page for those not wanting to opt-in and can provide it again on the thank you page for those that do.  You are collaborating with the influencer on the process enabling you to build sales and your email list.

Buyers Are Platform Loyal

We presell them on the product and provide purchase links at the bottom of the presell. Suppose the client sells on multiple platforms. We will offer more than just Amazon as a purchase link, and we will position it as 'Now Available On These Fine Sites' or something like the image below.   Including the Amazon logo, the store logo on Shopify, the Etsy link, or wherever else they sell.  Our results indicate that Ecommerce is becoming more and more borderless as time goes on.

Don't Waste Traffic - Offer Multiple Payment Options

In this example, this client doesn't have a website and sells directly using a PayPal Buy Now button and fulfilling via a 3rd party warehouse.   Depending on where client sells we never provide more than four payment options.

Plus, we learned that buyers are very platform loyal. Offering multiple payment options enables the buyer to purchase wherever they are most comfortable. However, in terms of influencers, that can make tracking difficult. Your links need to have specific UTM codes for tracking.

Suppose we are using an Amazon influencers affiliate account.  We use their affiliate link on the actual landing page. Be sure that you have your Facebook Pixel and Google Pixel on the landing page and pixel the different actions on the page. This way, you will be able to retarget people who bounce, create look-a-like audiences, and custom audiences of purchasers, and bounces who opted in but did not purchase.  

Retargeting campaigns, traditionally, always exponentially increases the conversion rates. You can add UTM tracking codes to your retargeting campaigns as well.

Influencer Marketing beats PPC and Rebates

Evaluating The True Cost Value

Let's evaluate the true cost value of influencer marketing using a hypothetical situation and compare it to the other methods.  You sell an item that retails at full cost of $50.  Realistically, we both know you probably don't sell at full retail but in this case lets say that you do.  Your cost to sell is $30 including PPC of 15% or $7.50.  You sell 100 units via PPC for a total of $5000 in sales, $750 in PPC expense plus cogs sold of $2250, leaving you a profit of 2k.  

If you gave away the same 100 units at 100% rebate you have the lost sales <$5000>plus your cost of sales without PPC @ 22.50 each or <$2250>plus I think the avg. rebate fee is 3.95 a unit or an additional <$395>.  Since you are refunding the full sale back to the buyer, you also have the expense of the Amazon FBA fees and commissions of $4.80 per unit fulfillment, .40 for storage and $4.76 for shipping if it is a 2lb item, or 9.95 per sale totaling <$995> for 100 units. Our immediate cost of 100 full price rebates is <$3640> and ZERO revenue since you refunded the full cost back to the buyer.   

Now, lets look at influencer marketing on the same units.  Let's say it takes 2 influencers for you to hit 100 sales.  You provide them with two units each @ $22.50 each equaling $86.   They get paid commission from the affiliate program.  You told them both if they beat their goal you would double their 5% commission.  Only one did with 60 referrals, so you owe them an additional 5% of 3k in sales or $150.  So your cost to do 100 sales with influencers is $236. Plus cogs or a total $2486 on 5k in sales leaving a profit of $2514.

Influencer Marketing For The Win

So on the same amount of sales/units you have a profit of 2k from PPC, a loss of <$3640> with 100% off rebates and a profit of $2514 with influencers.  If you take into consideration the 'flywheel effect' that so many "guru's" use to take credit for more sales than they should, doing any of these methods impacts organic ranking which increases additional sales.  Then influencer sales takes even more to the bottom line because we know for a fact that Amazon rewards off-site traffic better than it does PPC.  

It looks like comparing apples to apples, influencer marketing wins with a minimum of 20% more in profits on the same sales.    People often look at me cross-eyed when I tell them their "guru" lied to them about rebates.  Many "guru's" call losing money with 100% off rebates success because you achieved ranking with this method, and it is a cost of doing business.  

As Steven Selikoff likes to point out, Amazon 'gurus' have changed the meaning of success, convincing sellers that they are successful if they achieve certain %'s or aCos while not achieving a sufficient bottom line.  All it takes is a quick look at the case studies they regularly post that leave out the most important detail, the bottom line.

NEWS FLASH:  Losing money is not called success!  Especially when both PPC and influencer marketing can achieve ranking while operating at a profit and not a loss.  Even if you have an aCos that is through the roof causing you to break even to achieve the same ranking, it still beats the crap out of losing $3645 on the same amount of items.  

Rebates are a strategy like any other, and is neither good nor bad and has its time and place.  Application, timing, things like that are what makes the use of specific strategies good or bad in a specific situation.  Studies conducted decades ago and backed up by additional studies since have shown the only difference between a 15% discount and a 100% discount is the quality of buyer and the often negative perception of brand value that comes with it. Don't train your buyers to only purchase when you offer them a discount.

Conclusion: Influencer Marketing Should Be A Part of Your Marketing Plan

You should have a clear understanding of the value that influencer marketing can bring to your business,   The ability to borrow their influence over their audience in the form of an implied trust recommendation can drive large amounts of traffic.  Add that they will purchase without the need for existing reviews, are easier to get a review from post sale, Amazon rewards off-site converting traffic better than PPC, and the cost of acquisition is much lower than PPC, I'm amazed this isn't a standard launching method.

One thing to consider is that Influencers come from all walks of life.  Some items have a much broader appeal in the market and the type of influencer you choose would vary quite a bit.  If you sold car parts, your choice of influencers is limited compared too someone selling general merchandise that anyone might use. 

You must consider the influencer, their followers and the way in which they might present your brand.  Some would suggest that someone like Charles Mansion was an influencer in his own way, but really, who would pick him to represent and speak for their brand?

At the end of the day, it all reflects back on you, your brand, and company.   I'm very careful about whom I allow to speak for or represent my company, and you should also!  The bottom line is that influencer marketing is a strategy that is very valuable for any business.  It can be the fastest path you have to a focused audience that trusts you based on the recommendation of someone they trust.    

I've laid out many different ways to partner with influencers.  I hope that you see the value that can be gained by building strong relationships with influencers.  Dollar for dollar it is a very effective method of acquiring leads, followers, engagement, and sales.  Imagine launching a new product with a small army of influencers primed and ready!  Content, reviews, shout outs, videos, all coordinated, set and ready.  

The exposure potential can be massive.  This can all be put into play while your product is in production so your launch will coincide with a massive pr push.  Yes, I know what you are thinking, so much work.   It seems so overwhelming doesn't it?   I'd be lying if I said it was a walk in the park the first time around.  It can be a lot to set up, but nothing you cannot get done.  Hire a VA for some of the minimum wage stuff and get it done.  

It can be the difference between an incredibly profitable launch or the same old rebates and PPC launch that leaves you wondering if you have enough capital to place a second order.     It seems like a no-brainer, easy answer to me, but I understand every circumstance is different.  Do what is right for your business!  Whatever you do, don't half-ass it.

About the author 

Joe

Joe Reichsfeld is an Ecommerce Consultant with experience going back before 2000. Specializing in listing optimization and marketplace expansion, Joe currently assists clients with over 3.5 million sku's.

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