No one knows if they are an influencer, while self-proclamation is looked down upon. The only way to find legitimate influencers that actually drive action is through back room deals and cash transactions. Okay, perhaps not such a dramatic exchange, yet it comes close.
The only option left to be a full-fledged influencer, is to join the black market, but with no “membership” how does one join? The trick is to understand that your particular niche has its own black market that deals in a different currency, strange rules, and sometimes initiation procedures…bitcoin aside.
Do Some Profiling
Prior to becoming a part of this peculiar group, you must first study them, and you probably already have since the peers of your customers are your true influencers. If you are unable to profile your customer down to what he/she eats for breakfast (more importantly, what blogs he/she reads) then bookmark this blog for later reading. You can’t influence your customer, if you don’t know who they are!
At Onboardly, we spend a lot of time ‘creeping’ the people we need to reach. Whether they are potential bloggers, writers, media or journalists, we make sure to have detailed lists of the appropriate people to be chatting with. We aim to find out as much as we can about these people before making a connection. Are they into mommy blogging? Are they pet owners? Do they cover stories in the tech space? We always want to make sure that we are genuinely reaching the right people, and at the right time. But how do you and can you target such people? How can you hire someone that really is a ninja? Think about who your customer is, create a profile, and find a similar match.
Your customer profile may look something like this:
- age 25 to 40
- wants to improve all aspects of his life by 20%
- uses an iPhone
- reads hacker news
- comfortable buying online
Know The Secret Handshake
More often than not, your startup may have a founder or new employee that fits this exact description. After all, isn’t this the reason you started your company, to solve the pain that you’re facing? If for some reason you don’t have someone like this, HIRE THEM. The point is, the influence club requires that you live and breathe their language and know the “secret handshake” on a daily basis. Once you interrogate this person (perhaps in a back room), again, more often than not, he may have a warm connection or insight (knows Mark Zuckerberg personally, went to school with that popular Mashable blogger, religiously pours over hacker news.. etc). Ah! You have an “in.”
In most cases though, some niche influencers are not so exclusive, and a simple email to a very relevant blog you come across may illicit a promising relationship. Unless you have a warm connection, don’t send cold emails to TechCrunch raving about your new online widget. Instead, look for smaller, less well known blogs/writers that are just starting out or have a niche following. This may prove to be more of a mutually beneficial relationship as 100 dedicated and loyal followers is better than zero.
While all of this underground activity is going on, ensure you are also slowly building up your own awesome content in this niche on a consistent basis. This will help your credibility and better enable you to slowly build a community.
Don’t Keep The Handshake Under your Tongue
You may consider yourself “in” but you won’t be until you’ve met (in person, if possible) at least 10 to 20 influencers and they have acknowledged it. No one likes self-proclamation, you’re either in the club and considered a peer, or you’re an outsider who is sending cold emails to an info email address. Make the connections real – don’t spit out the pill after the doctor’s given it to you.
This is not as easy as it looks. The black market is underground for a reason. Fakers, self-proclaimers, and wannabes are not allowed. The wise words of Dale Carnegie ring truer than ever before.
- Prior to emailing or reaching out to an influencer, you may want to read their blog, and add them on your social networks (personal as well as business).
- Follow them for a few days to get a sense of their style and content – is this someone that you would consider your customer’s peer? Is this person someone you want to have a beer with?
- Engage with them (not about your company) but about their blog or whatever they are talking about – this is where stroking an ego helps.
- What happens next may be organic, but more often than not, you will have to reach out to them by email – ask to meet in person, don’t slam them with your pitch right away!
- Not everyone is going to respond or it may be geographically impossible for you to meet in person – but this is the difference between a long lasting relationship and a one off campaign that may not benefit you at all.
- When you do meet, again don’t slam them with your pitch. It’s not about you, it’s about them. After all, they are an influencer and you’re not (yet). What can you offer them (other than money)? In the back market world this can be an introduction to an investor or help with their newsletter distribution. More importantly, you have to be genuine and CARE about their success.
- Let them dominate the conversation, and understand their pains and struggles. Influencers like to talk about themselves.
- Once you know you can help them, then you can chat about possible ways of working together (review of your product/service or commission on sales for example) and thus your status has just risen a bit.
When it comes to results, true influence drives more than awareness and engagement, your goal is action which can be conversion or sales. A part of this is achieved through genuine promotion and mutual respect. Eventually, these influencers will promote your product/service on their own accord, this is when you can safely declare that you are no longer on the outside of the black market, but remember, don’t tell anyone that.