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How to Build Long-term Win-Win Relationships With Influencers

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Influencer marketing has always been around in some capacity, with big brands and superstars forming partnerships.

However, social media has lowered the barrier to entry for smaller businesses. No longer do you need the name recognition of a legacy company to get all the benefits of collaborating with an influencer. Even if you’re a startup, you can leverage influencer marketing to build buzz as one-quarter of marketers do.

This doesn’t mean that influencer marketing is a slam-dunk advertising or public relations approach, though. Like all marketing vehicles, it requires planning and savvy navigation to get right. But make no mistake: It’s worth your time and effort. If you can establish a long-term relationship with an influencer, you can both enjoy benefits like extra exposure and improved financials.

Related: Why Consumers Care About Influencers, and Why You Should Too

Not sure where to begin? The following strategies will set you up on a solid path to forging lasting connections with influencers.

1. Do your influencer homework.

Too many businesses overlook this “influencer marketing 101” must-do, which is to be picky about your preferred influencers. You should spend effort upfront “auditioning” influencers through research. Check out their social pages. See who their followers are. Find out which brands they’re already influencing.

Your role is to make sure that an influencer’s aesthetic, audience, and delivery method align with your company’s. For example, if you’re an eco-friendly brand, look for environmentally-focused influencers. A good match-up between your business and its influencers will ensure you get off on the right foot.

2. Differentiate your influencer relationship.

Why should an influencer work with your company rather than another? It’s a question you should be able to answer with confidence. The influencers you want to work with may have other offers on the table. However, if you can differentiate the advantages of working with your company, you can nudge out the competition. As an added bonus, the influencer may be so impressed that they talk up your brand to their peer influencers. This can create a steady stream of influencers eager to work with your team.

For example, consider offering your influencers exposure through your owned media sites. Let’s say you have a podcast (or are about to create one.) Host your influencers as special panelists and guests.

3. Make collaborating effortless.

Influencers appreciate working with businesses that make the brand-influencer arrangement friction-free. This means you should have a smooth process in motion before getting in touch with any influencer. Your process should prioritize communication through constant touchpoints. That way, your influencer will always be in the know and treated like a true partner rather than just a vendor.

Related: Why Collaboration Is Essential to Entrepreneurship

To achieve this level of easy communication, assign one team member to be the “point person” for each influencer. This ensures the influencer knows where to go with any issues, concerns, or updates. Another way to add impact and increase communication is to bring influencers into marketing conversations. For instance, you might want to ask an influencer to join one of your brainstorming meetings. With virtual conferencing, influencers can sign on and add their viewpoints to inform your next moves.

4. Give creators freedom.

Influencers don’t gain audiences by following scripts. They tend to be free thinkers whose independent, niche streaks attract specific types of fans. Although you can control some of the narrative, resist the temptation to tell influencers what to say. Instead, trust that they know the approach that will work best with the people who come to their channels.

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Depending upon your industry, you may find it more or less difficult to “let go” from a creative standpoint. Again, you can set up parameters to protect your company’s interests — and you absolutely should. With that being said, you need to have faith in the influencers you’ve chosen. This is why step number one above (doing homework before getting in touch with a potential influencer) was so important.

5. Set clear goals.

A fast way to get frustrated with your influencer marketing is to not have clear goals. Without goals, you can’t track whether or not an influencer is working for your company. Your goals can be anything you want, such as a bump in sales or leads. Be ready to share your goals with your influencers so they always know what your end game is.

After establishing your goals, make sure you have a mechanism in place to track them. This will enable you to regularly generate reports on each influencer you partner with. Be sure to set up meetings with your influencers so you can share your findings. Your influencers may have recommendations on how to improve goal-related metrics that are subpar or waning. After all, they probably work with other brands, giving them tremendous insight into best practices.

Though adding social influencing into your marketing mix makes sense, it shouldn’t feel like just another transaction. To develop long-term relationships with influencers, you need to approach your collaborative ventures thoughtfully. Doing so will improve your chances of producing wins for both of you.

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