Once we started attending more and more events, I realized that being a spectator significantly limits your access to influential people, so, I decided to join in on the action and started speaking.
This was a major turning point because once we started speaking at events, we got access to the speaker lounge -- where new relationships and partnerships are born!
Of course, you can't always meet the people you want to meet at conferences; Either it doesn't work for your schedule, or they just aren't attending.
That's why we also send emails and make phone calls to connect with other influencers. Connecting on social media is a good start, but you really need to take it a step further if you are serious about a partnership.
Once you have broken the ice, you have to take the next step to start growing your influencer network.
Find Creative Ways to Add Value to Relationships with Influencers
Conventional advice tells you to share their content on social media and promote their brand online to get on an influencer's radar.
This might get the occasional like or retweet from your favorites, and it does add some value, but it usually doesn't add enough value to make them want to have a relationship with you.
To add real value, you have to be willing to do what most others won't...
1. Offer a Free Product or Service
Free is hard to turn down, especially when it's something you would normally pay for, or in other words, has real monetary value.
A perfect example of this is when I introduced myself to one of my favorite influencers at INBOUND 2016. Without asking for anything, I offered to help him with HubSpot and a website redesign that he mentioned we was looking to do.
He was so impressed with our work that he gave us an amazing testimonial, and he even referred a few new clients our way.
He's become a great friend and an awesome resource for us when we have marketing questions that are right up his alley. He's also appeared as a guest on our webinars and speaks at our events -- all because we offered tremendous upfront value.
This relationship has tremedously beneficial for both parties, and that's how a great partnership should be.
Most service-oriented businesses hate working for free, but free work for an influencer often has more value than paid work for an average client. The word-of-mouth you can earn with an influencer is ultimately worth much more than the resources spent on the project.
2. Co-Market a Campaign
If your brand is already established and you have either a big audience or loyal following, you can provide value to influencers by agreeing to co-market/co-brand a campaign together.
This helps you both because it exposes your audience to that influencer and the products/services they offer, while also doing the same for their audience to you.
Looking beyond the potential revenue, co-branding a campaign is a great branding strategy because it allows you to align yourself with other brands that share the same values and promote the same message.
It builds brand awareness and acts as social proof of your expertise.
3. Offer to Be a Testimonial
Testimonials are incredibly valuable for influencers and businesses of all types.
We are quick to offer to be a testimonial for any influencer or brand who has impacted us because it's an easy and honest way to connect with them and we know it provides them a ton of value.
4. Give Them Helpful Feedback on a Product/Service
You might be tempted to offer praise for an influencer's product because you want them to like you, and if you honestly feel that way then you should offer praise, but your feedback needs to be useful.
The key to offering useful positive feedback is specificity. Tell them exactly what you like about their product/service and why you feel that way. Also, be specific about how those particular things helped you.
Along with positive notes, you should also provide constructive feedback wherever possible. The key to offering helpful criticism is also providing a suggestion for improvement.
Embrace the Competition
Now, there's a good chance that a lot of the influencers you want to add to your professional network are also competitors.
Does that mean you should hold back on the value you contribute to keep them from figuring out your secret sauce?
Embracing the competition and adding value to others has been one of the best decisions we have made in our business. We're open to sharing what we're working on with other agencies because, in exchange for our insights, we become thought leaders, which ends up bringing us more business.
Unfortunately, some people will try to take advantage of the information you reveal about your business, but I look at like this -- if they are going to imitate what we're doing, they're already behind us. So, why worry?
Our willingness to embrace our competition has allowed us to connect with other businesses that share the same attitude. In return for our help, many are willing to share insights from their business and find ways to help us out as well.
The best part is that the more we share, the more people want to learn from us and work with us. It just goes to show that the reciprocity-aspect of inbound is real and extremely valuable.
How to Capitalize on Influencer Relationships
After establishing genuine relationships with influencers, you will eventually want to capitalize on those relationships to boost your own brand or to attract more customers to your business.
Consider the following tips to get some ideas:
Interview the influencer with questions from your audience
Offer them a commission in return for promoting your product/service
Collaborate on a charity campaign
Run a contest together that gets both of your audiences engaged
There are an infinite amount of ways to leverage influencer relationships, as long as it makes sense and feels right for both of you. There are no rules to break, so try something new.
Give More Than You Get
Building your influencer network comes down to always giving more than you receive -- or at least trying to always give more.
Influencers know you want to build a relationship so they can later help you out. That's okay because they want the same thing, but remember, big influencers are careful who they partner with because they have to protect their audience and their own reputation.
Don't try to capitalize on an influencer relationship until you've already done the things I mentioned previously and have built a strong bond.
Once you feel confident you are both on the same page and you have provided value without asking for anything in return, then you can pitch them with an idea that benefits both of you.