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For years, businesses have used multiple digital channels to grow their reach and increase traffic to their webpages. Many businesses have exhausted resources into creating onsite content, curating social channels, email marketing, and other paid, earned, owned media promotions. While investing in these areas do yield results, they can be costly and hard for small businesses to justify.

However, influencer marketing is a strategy that allows small businesses to amplify marketing reach without a huge upfront or ongoing investment. Any business can create an influencer marketing campaign from the ground up that is scalable and affordable.

Here are 4 tips for launching your very own influencer marketing campaign.

Understand Exactly What Influencer Marketing Is

Before you can implement an influencer marketing campaign, you first need to understand exactly what influencer marketing is. Think of influencer marketing as a digital version of word of mouth advertising. As a brand, your reach is often limited to your followers – a.k.a. those who already come to your website, those who follow you on social media or those whose email you’ve collected. This reach is finite and succumbs to the law of diminishing returns after you constantly bombard customers with your message.

Influencer marketing allows you to expand your reach exponentially by leveraging another person’s sphere of influence or the people who follow them. Just like word of mouth advertising, your small business gains credibility by having some peripheral influencer discussing the value or benefits of your brand.

The goal of influencer marketing is to increase brand awareness and subsequent conversions for your business. However, it’s important that influencer marketing remain as natural and organic as possible within the scope of your influencer’s normal language. Additionally, you need to make sure that your influencer programs are completely compliant with legal and ethical guidelines.

Create and Document a Strategy

Now that you have an understanding of influencer marketing, the next step is create a physical plan. It’s estimated that roughly 65% of content marketers don’t have a documented strategy. Don’t make that mistake with your influencer campaigns; take time to write down your internal goals and expectations. After all, how can you measure your campaigns if you don’t have goals or a benchmark to compare it against?

As a small business, launching an influencer marketing campaign will take time. Make sure your goals reflect that. Also, keep your expectations small at the start. Focus on small wins in the beginning, and set your sights higher after you become more familiar with the process.

Besides an internal document, it’s also important to outline your requirements in an external document that can be given to your potential influencers. Think of it as a project style guide or creative brief. This document should cover your expectations for each individual influencer; process requirements, like submitting work for approval and branding or style requirements, like language and linking.

Know Where to Find and How to Recruit Relevant Influencers

Everything to this point has focused on planning and strategy. Now, let’s get to the real meat of the work which is the process of finding influencers, collecting contact information and pitching your project.

When you are looking for relevant influencers, the most important question to answer is “what platform is my target audience on?” Small, local businesses might find that their target audience is on Yelp or local blogs. Ecommerce businesses will want to target different platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Snapchat, depending on the industry.

Once you know the platform, spend some time on that platform looking for the right influencers. These people need to be active in the relevant community, have a decent following, and most importantly, be relevant to your brand or industry. The more relevant and credible they are, the better results you’ll see.

After you create a list of relevant influencers, find their contact information. If you’re using social media, you can communicate via that platform’s messaging. If you’re reaching out to a blogger, you’ll need to do some digging. Try finding a contact page, email or use a tool like Rapportive to find their email.

When you recruit influencers, make sure your first pitch is short and direct. Briefly explain why you are reaching out and the benefit for that influencer working with you. It also doesn’t hurt to ego-bait them by highlighting something they’ve written or shared before. This will help you quickly break the barrier and find common ground. Once you’ve peaked their curiosity, share the style guide, and answer any questions they have about your expectations.

Bonus tip: There are several influencer networks that you can leverage if you don’t have the time to dig and build your own list.

Measure, Track and Iterate Your Projects

After you’ve recruited and started your influencer marketing campaigns, it is important to track and measure the results. This will tie directly to your documented strategy and should be the basis for subsequent decisions. If your program was built around the launch of a new product, did you see incoming traffic from the influencers’ platform? Did you see an uptick in purchases? Look at every possible statistic, so that you can use this data to make changes to your program or expectations.

If you’re working with influencers, ask them if they can share activity data, such as web traffic, post impressions or social shares. Tie all this information and data to each influencer, so that you can find the influencers that yield the highest ROI. As you start to grow your influencer base, it’s important to make changes to your expectations and style guide, as well as adjust and try new platforms or strategies. Use your experience and data to improve the results of your influencer marketing campaigns.

Influencer marketing is a great way for businesses to grow their reach without a huge financial investment. As you acquire more experience with influencer marketing, you’ll be able to diversify and customize your program to your specific needs. However, if you’re just starting off, you’ll want to remember to focus on setting a structured plan, finding the right influencer and continuing to monitor and iterate your influencer program.