There is a trend in marketing that might surprise you. It’s taking the internet by storm, growing mom-and-pop online shops and big brands to new heights. You may not have heard of influencer outreach, but the power of this marketing channel doesn’t come from digital ads or a search engine. It’s coming from seemingly everyday people. These people are influencers. And some of these influencers have more devoted fans than popular movies or TV shows.
How do you reach out to connect with these influencers?
Working with influencers can be tricky. Some think connecting with influencers takes a special secret sauce to get the results you want.
Like any type of marketing, it’s more about learning and using an effective process that scales growth. So forget the secret sauce. I’m about to give you the entire recipe for successful influencer marketing outreach.
Let’s start off by defining our terms.
What is Influencer Outreach?
Influencer outreach is the skill of connecting with an influencer, so you can work with her to promote your brand. That promotion could be organic or paid.
After you find and identify the right influencers to work with, you need to let her know who you are. To do that, you need to reach out to her.
So, how do you connect with influencers? How do you start influencer outreach?
How to Connect with Noteworthy Influencers, Without Breaking a Sweat
Alright. You’ve found the influencers you want to reach out to. You’ve qualified each influencer to make sure they’re a match. Perhaps you are starting to feel a little nervous… like asking a girl to prom.
Okay, maybe it isn’t *that* hard to ask an influencer out. Maybe influencer is simple.
So how do you find and connect with an influencer, without getting rejected?
You could reach out to her on social media. But we would recommend using email for these three reasons:
Many influencers want requests in their inbox. This is simple. When an influencer asks for business requests sent to her inbox, do so. The polite thing to do is not barrage her with tweets or DMs on Instagram. Craft an effective email and send the pitch to her inbox.
An inbox is more personal. When an influencer is on social media, there are distractions demanding her attention. She has 35 comments, 172 notifications, 12 lunatic fans, on top of what she needs to get done to keep her fans happy. In the inbox, you are only competing against a few other businesses.
Tracking and automation. There are many tools to help you track, follow up, and automate your responses on email. This helps you to increase response rates by setting it up once.
Another option to email outreach is to use influencer marketing platforms.
You will find that blogging influencers are usually not listed on these platforms. So for bloggers, again, it’s often best to conduct influencer outreach via email.
For social media influencers, some platforms allow you to buy a shout-out like you buy a product on Amazon. This requires no outreach. But keep in mind that for larger contracts, you may want to connect with an influencer before buying her services.
Other platforms use a private message system. In a sense, this acts like an email. So whether you use an email or send a private message, here are seven outreach best practices to follow.
9 Influencer Outreach Tips to Supercharge Your Results
Writing a short, but effective message is a lost art.
Sometimes, you would rather do anything besides writing. Much less write clearly and persuasively to attract an influencer’s attention.
Influencer outreach can be tough.
Some marketers and salesmen think a 2-3% response rate is good. Others get ecstatic with an 11% response rate. That response rate is terrible.
It’s not hard to get a good response rate. But most marketers have yet to learn good email etiquette.
Here are nine principles of email outreach to use to get a 25-40% response rate from cold emails to influencers.
Do The Right Kind of Research for Influencer Outreach
You may think it’s better to send more messages and skip this step. But you would be wrong.
Influencers are busy. They don’t have time to see if your offer is relevant to her. Do the research, because she doesn’t want to do more work for a random stranger.
While there is a fine line between cyberstalking and doing good research, if you are at all hesitant, Brittany Berger of Mention gives this advice:
People put information on their professional profiles because they want you to see it.
I like to cite specific examples of their work that I liked in the past or bring up a story they’ve shared.
If you do this right, it proves you did your research before reaching out, and also gives us something more personal to talk about, which builds a connection between you and the influencer.
Part of doing good research is knowing if the influencer is relevant to your goals. Tim Soulo, Head of Marketing at Ahrefs explains:
If you want to show an influencer your software, you need to find the reason why they should spend time reviewing it.
Maybe they’re using a competitor, who’s not as good as you. Or they tweeted about their struggle with a specific task.
Unless you have some kind of “excuse” for reaching out that is relevant to them, your outreach is likely to flop.
Another important part of doing good research is knowing who is the right person to connect with. Although many influencers work by themselves, some have a team who helps them.
Keep in mind that sometimes it’s hard to know who the right person is. While doing research is important, sometimes finding the right person it’s not worth the extra time it costs to keep digging.
Ryan Stewart of Webris explains:
We’ve sent over 50,000 outreach emails over the last 9 months for link building and PR purposes.
A lot of people will disagree with me, but outreach is a numbers game, plain and simple. Even if you have the right person, with the right pitch, people are busy and email is annoying – there’s still an element of chance.
If I had ONE tip to increase your positive responses, it helps to find the right people. However, finding the right people costs a lot of resources and time.
If you do not qualify influencers to work with, you will waste your time answering irrelevant emails. You will also waste your budget on influencers who do not influence potential customers. And you can damage your brand and reputation working with the wrong influencer.
If you try to work with the wrong influencer, you deserve to get slapped.
Do yourself a favor. Do the research, because you will get a higher return on your investment.
Tantalize With An Appealing Subject Line.
Don’t overthink this. The email subject line has one purpose – to get someone to open the email. That’s it.
Here’s Sid, VP of Growth at Thinkific:
You aren’t going to get responses if no one even opens up your email. My best subject line is a word smash of our company’s name and the other person’s name. It usually ends up being quite funny and always gets opened!
Others like John Rampton of Due find subject lines do best when they “address the key problem my audience is having.”
Sean Bestor, Head of Content at Sumo, loves using questions in his subject lines. As he puts it, asking questions is “like catnip for opens.” In his article on cold emails, Sean gives this example:
You can see the difference when I take subject lines we’ve received (that we didn’t open):
FW: Checking in
One minute demo
Sumo – Business Opportunity
And turn them into questions:
Want to see what I can do in a minute?
Do you think this is a good idea?
Did you know this was on your site?
You’re INSTANTLY more curious with the second set of subject lines.
Once the influencer has opened your email, now it’s time to woo her with your email. To start off…
Keep It Short, Silly.
Don’t write more than 100 words. If it’s longer than 100 words, you need to rewrite your email.
Why is it worth taking the time to shorten your emails? Simple.
- Shorter emails reduce the chances of the influencer getting distracted.
- Shorter emails show you respect the influencer’s time.
- Shorter emails are more persuasive.
Shayla Price shares her two cents on the topic:
Everyone’s time is limited. Therefore, it’s important to state your purpose and give people the freedom to respond or ignore your message. Don’t be selfish by wasting your email recipient’s time [with lengthy emails].
So before you hit send, read your email and edit to make it shorter.
Don’t Try to Sell Too Soon.
No one dates some random weirdo off the street on a whim.
In the same way, an influencer won’t want to work with you from a random email sent to her inbox as “influencer outreach”. The problem most marketers have is that they focus too much on their goals and not what’s in it for the influencer.
Adam Connell, the founder of Blogging Wizard, has some brilliant advice to help you get into the right mindset when doing outreach.
Would you respond positively to an email that boiled down to, “Hey person I don’t know. Give me your precious time to help me, and I’ll do absolutely nothing to help you in return.”
I wouldn’t. So here’s what you should do instead:
Focus your outreach email about what you’ll do to help the person you’re trying to connect with. What’s in it for them?
You could share their content, offer to fix a glitch on their site, or something else – it doesn’t have to be too substantial but it has to have meaning.
Let’s say you want to do a guest post for a blogger. One issue facing a lot of bloggers is accepting a guest post from someone who doesn’t share it or reply to comments.
One added benefit you can include in your outreach email is that you will share the post with your audience and reply to comments. It may seem basic but it could make the world of difference.
Instead of directly selling an influencer in the first email, you should…
End with a (Soft) Bang.
A statement feels demanding. But a question opens up a friendly conversation through which influencer outreach happens.
If you end every email with a question, you invite the influencer to respond with a clear call to action.
Personalize Your Email, Beyond “Hi FNAME,”.
If you think personalization is just about using an influencer’s first name, think again.
Here are three questions to think about to help improve your personalization:
- How can you build a connection so the influencer trusts you?
- Can you provide context that relates what the influencer is working on with what you are doing?
- Can you give her a reason why she should work with you?
Dan Scalco, the owner of BrainWiz, always personalized his emails in a way that helps the person he’s targeting with his influencer outreach. For example, Scalco suggests using an email like this:
I just stumbled upon your XYZ blog post. I really loved tip #14. I’m bookmarking it for an upcoming article I’m writing for Inc/Entrepreneur/etc. Actually, I’d love to talk about…” And let the conversation begin.
Another part of personalization is to make the email sound like it comes from you, and not a corporate robot.
Templates can work well. But even if she can’t figure out why, an influencer will often get the sense when an email wasn’t written by you.
Olga Rabo of Styla explains how she personalizes her emails:
I sometimes use smileys and emoticons to keep my outreach emails as personal and casual as possible. I also like to wrap my email up with a PS, such as mentioning an article they wrote and say what I liked about it.
Cheesy? Perhaps. But the goal should be to make the email feel like it’s coming from one human to another.
Murray Newlands, the founder and CEO of Chatty People, takes a rather novel approach by taking conversations from their customer service messaging bot to personalize an email.
But make sure that your personalization isn’t fluff. Tyler Hakes, Strategy Director & Principal at Optimist makes a solid point:
There are a lot of guides out there all about trying to butter people up and faking relationships with lines like “I’ve been following your blog for years!” or “I loved your last post (that I didn’t actually read)!”
Look, people aren’t stupid. Most people know how cold outreach works and they know that most outreach messages are just asking them for a favor. So, the most polite thing you can do is to just get to the point.
The key is to do outreach for pieces that are worth doing outreach for.
If you send me a message with something truly great, I’m much more likely to engage with it. If you waste my time with junk, then I won’t be happy.
Tyler’s advice goes back to tip #2, which shows you respect an influencer’s time.
Make It Easier to Say “Yes!”
Influencers are busy. So make it easy for her to say yes to your influencer outreach.
You can offer proof of past success. Or you can give her a done-for-you solution. If you show her why this opportunity is worth her time, she will be glad to work with you.
To improve your chances, it’s also important that you approach an influencer as an equal. Shanelle Mullin, content & growth marketer at ConversionXL explains:
Too many people approach cold outreach as though they’re begging the influencer to do them a favor.
Let’s say you work in PR and you want to connect with a journalist at Mashable to write about your client. Instead of writing a 1,000-word pitch, focus on how writing about your client will benefit the journalist or the publication.
If you have a hard time doing this, consider how journalists are evaluated by their bosses.
[On the other hand], don’t act like you’re doing them some huge favor. Just turn your pitch into an authentic win-win.
The Importance of Delivering Value BEFORE You Ask.
Even better, you can make your first email something that only benefits the influencer. This begins a relationship with the influencer, rather than just stopping at a single transaction.
Giving first can be a great way to impress a celebrity influencer.
Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder of Orbit Media gave internet marketing wizard Neil Patel four compelling reasons why Neil should call him:
- Andy plugged Crazy Egg on Inc Magazine.
- He drove 12,000+ visits/month to KISSmetrics.
- When Andy does teaching/speaking gigs, he often mentioned Crazy Egg or Neil’s tactics.
- He wrote a post specifically about Mr. Patel.
If you notice, for each reason, Andy delivered value to Neil before making his ask to get on a call with him.
Does delivering value first work?
Ashley Faulkes, founder of Mad Lemmings found positive results from a personal experiment he ran:
Recently I did a little experiment where instead of bombarding people with outreach emails, I wrote to the influencer saying how much I liked something about them or their work.
In the end, not only did I achieve my goal, I now have a relationship too. Having more friends is way better for business and life!
Content marketing consultant Ryan Robinson agrees:
When I first reach out to influencers, brands and publications where I eventually want to get published, the conversation never starts by diving into what I want out of the deal.
I [also] make sure that I have a reason to reach out. Maybe that’s in the form of a feature on my blog, in a piece I wrote for my Forbes column or otherwise—the point is that I always provide upfront value in my email outreach.
Everything else can come in time if you establish a relationship based on providing value first.
Do you need some ideas on how to deliver value first?
Here’s one idea from Jacob McMillen:
If you give someone something of high-value, they are going to be a lot more reciprocal with your next request.
[For example], people want to get featured in popular publications.
Lead your email with, “I have a piece scheduled to get published on [well-known site]. As I was writing the [topic] section, I thought it would really enhance the piece to get a quote from you.”
And like that, you’ve begun to build a relationship with this influencer.
Are you not a writer on a major publication?
Not to worry. You can start small by continuously sharing the work of content creators.
Here’s how Ross Simmonds does this:
One of the most common ways to show passion for a maker’s work is to share their content on social media. To find their content, I like to use a tool like Crate which will pull in the top blog posts shared on a specific domain or that a user has shared.
Although email is a great way to connect with an influencer, you can also use social media to warm up a cold email. Benji Hyam of Grow and Convert explains:
Rather than reaching out to an influencer cold, you can interact with someone on their content or social accounts prior to reaching out to them so they recognize you.
For example, if you identify an influencer you want to target, start responding to their tweets, comment on their articles, and liking their updates so that they notice you.
After a few weeks of interaction, then do your outreach.
Gregory Ciotti, who is the head of content marketing at HelpScout, discovered that outreach emails he sent with minimal previous contact significantly outperformed emails with no contact at all.
Follow Up Effectively.
A baby cries. The cat video beckons. People forget. Life happens, so make sure to politely follow up after a few days.
There are many ways to do follow up emails effectively.
One reason why people don’t follow up is that they think their email will hit the spam folder.
The truth is, the odds that your email gets flagged as spam is the same for the first email as the 5th. Manuel Medina, CEO of Outreach.io explains in this short video:
These are the results they found looking at the data of millions of sales emails. If an increase of well-crafted follow-up sales emails doesn’t increase the number of messages that hit the spam folder, then neither should outreach emails.
In order to keep your follow-up spam rates lower, Sol Orwell, director of SJO offers this advice:
One of the best things I ever learned was to have a reason to follow up. So if I follow up, I tie it in with something they have recently put out on twitter, Facebook, email, etc.
Sol believes this type of follow up is a lot more natural.
Are you still having trouble knowing what you should say in your email?
If you are new to email outreach, templates are a great start. You will get a higher response rate when you learn to create your own emails.
But it’s good to start with something that works and then add your own personality to the email.
- Add personality to email outreach templates
- Just put a little “you” in your email (Source)
Before we dive into what you should write in your email, it will be helpful to look at what you should not do. That way, you can catch yourself before sending a poorly written email.
Consider this email:
Subject: Business opportunity for you
My name is Frank with Acme Co. and we offer recovery supplement drinks.
This past year we worked with many CrossFit bloggers, resulting in $2,100 for reviewing our product, RunnersAide.
If you’re interested in working with us, let’s set up a quick call. I would love the opportunity to work with you.
All the best,
We would give this email a C+.
There are some influencers who would respond to this email because the email did not violate all nine rules.
Frank kept the email under 100 words. He provided some context by mentioning Acme works with CrossFit bloggers. And he also gave some social proof, stating he has worked with many other bloggers and that they earned an average of $2,100.
Which means there’s a run for improvement. Let’s look at how Frank should write his email, following the seven outreach tips:
Subject: can I give you $2,100 Samantha?
I came across your article on being at peace with your training.
I loved it! And I constantly obsess over my training results. I’m excited to try out your techniques next time I hit the gym!
My team at Acme Co. has worked with many CrossFit bloggers like you who have reviewed our signature drink, RunnersAide.
The typical influencer made $2,100 for their review. We can provide you with pictures, talking points, and a free case for you to try.
Would you be interested in having me send you more information about our influencer program?
All the best,
Doesn’t this email sound more persuasive than the first email? It hits eight of the nine points.
- Frank makes the subject line appealing
- It’s short.
- Frank personalizes the email and compliments Samantha in a genuine way.
- He also makes a connection between what she is doing and his product showing he’s done his research
- The email makes it easy for Samantha to say yes. Frank states the opportunity to earn $2,100 and what he will provide to help her succeed.
- Frank doesn’t forcefully sell her on the idea.
- And the email ends with a question.
- And if Frank follows up if Samantha doesn’t respond, he’s nailed it.
- Perhaps Frank could deliver value to Samantha before sending this email. You may find this necessary when working with celebrity influencers. But you could send this email as-is and still get a high response rate.
If you would like some more guidance, here are three more email templates to try:
Email Use: Product Launch Email
Subject: Quick question FIRSTNAME…
I saw you promote A SIMILAR PRODUCT and thought of you for something I’m about to launch.
NEXT WEEK, we are launching OUR PRODUCT. It’s like SIMILAR PRODUCT but focuses on SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
We’ve worked with Mary The Paleo Chef, Irena Macri, and many other paleo bloggers like you. We can provide you with a buy-one-get-one-free code, recipes to use, and a box of our PRODUCT for you to enjoy.
Any interest in having me send you more info about our product launch?
Email Use: Evergreen Product
Subject: Quick question FIRSTNAME…
I recently came across your video NAME/LINK. Great video. I can tell you are passionate about SOMETHING YOU ENJOYED!
My team at COMPANY has been working with other influencers like you, who’ve made an average of $2,100. We can provide you a 25% off code, recipes to use, and a box of our PRODUCT for you to enjoy.
You’ll get 20% of all sales made, paid out in 30 days (or three days if you send an email to your list).
Would you be interested in having me send OUR PRODUCT to review for your audience, FIRSTNAME?
Email Use: Follow-up Email
I’m sure you’ve got a bit on your plate, so I will follow up to see if you were interested in doing a video review.
Most paleo influencers we’ve worked with make $2,100 per promotion.
Would that be of interest to you FIRSTNAME?
If we had to boil everything we knew about effective influencer outreach into a simple formula, it would be this:
Research + Relevance + Reward = Response
Research: Like a marathon, if you want to finish well, you need to prepare. To prepare for email outreach, you need to do your research.
You will want to understand what motivates her, know what type of influencer she is, and how best to approach her.
Relevance: If an offer is not something that interests an influencer, it will be ignored.
Researching relevance requires you to find out if they have a relevant audience. It also requires you to make sure you have relevant values and goals. Essentially, you are looking for a product/influencer fit.
Then let influencers know about that fit by explaining why they should work with you in your email.
Reward: Influencers want to work with you. But again, she’s busy. Why should she work with you, rather than the 12 other companies that pitched her this week?
Reward her by making it faster, better, or more profitable to work with you. Go beyond paying more money and reward her with what she desires.
By doing good research, knowing the types of influencers, and what rewards best motivate her will lead to a higher response rate. A higher response rate leads to more revenue for your business.
And if the numbers work for your business, keep using this recipe as you scale up.