How to connect with influencers who have never heard of you (or your company)
Let’s be honest, none of us are nearly as important as we want to be!
We’re all a little jealous of the ‘influencers’ that have Twitter followings and LinkedIn communities that dwarf our own. The kind of figures that can launch a product or send an article viral with a single tweet.
We can all slowly build authority with the hope of one day reaching this position, but in the meantime connecting with these people can have an enormous business impact.
Why isn’t everyone doing this already?
Sadly it’s not as easy as it sounds — I learned this the hard way, (lots of unanswered cold emails!)
These figures are high profile experts — everyone wants their help. They’re besieged by emails every day asking for assistance… for free.
Why should they care about you?
Fortunately all my (carefully crafted) ignored emails have taught me some really valuable lessons.
No matter how much you need someone’s help, you need to change your focus. Think about how you can ‘engage’ with these influencers and build genuine, mutually beneficial relationships, BEFORE you need ask for anything.
I’m appreciate that sounds a little vague, so I’ve put together a stage-by-stage plan to help you connect with high profile influencers and convince them to help your company.
For Beamery, it’s been important to connect with prominent figures within the recruiting community, (we’re a recruiting tech startup), but the advice below is applicable for any industry.
Stage 1: What’s your reason for connecting?
Influencers are busy. Before you reach out it’s important that you work out exactly what you want them to help you achieve. You need to make sure you’re not wasting their time.
These are the 4 best reasons I could think of for getting in touch with my target influencers:
i) Get noticed
Whether you want to get more press or more just more recognition in your industry, the acknowledgement of a respected influencer can go a long way to helping you achieve it.
ii) Build your brand
What are people saying when we’re not around? When influencers talk, people tend to listen. You want them to be talking about how great you or your business is.
Influencers have great exposure to other companies and products (many of whom could be your direct competitors) — their feedback on your company, your product or your strategy could be invaluable,
iv) Product launch
If you are about to launch a new product or business it’s imperative to connect with influencers — a single tweet could result in hundreds of new customers.
Try brainstorming the ways that connecting with industry leaders could help you and your team. If you can’t think of anything, I would advise against reaching out.
Stage 2: Build an influencer list
More preparation I’m afraid! The next step is to put together a complete ‘influencer list’.
i) The influencer must speak to the same audience that you’re trying to reach — for us, the HR and recruitment sector
Make sure that your outreach is highly targeted. I’m sure nothing annoys you more than cold emails requesting help with something you know nothing about
ii) They should get some kind of value out of the relationship
If they share your content, spread the word about your company or talk about how great you are, are they going to get some value out of it? This is essential — you can’t expect thought leaders to endorse something or someone which their following won’t get value out of!
Stage 3: Engagement
Once you’ve worked out who to can help you, you need to introduce yourself.
Contrary to popular belief, reaching out directly is not the best way to do this.
The best approach is to become an avid student:
i) Follow everyone on your list on Twitter (I found it helpful to combine them into a Twitter list which I add to over time. You can check it out here)
ii) Engage with them when the share something interesting
iii) Read everything they write
iv) Leave insightful comments
v) Share their work with your network
Show that you’re prepared to put in some legwork to build a relationship with someone and you’re likely to get a positive response.
We’re all the same — we get a kick out of social praise or someone sharing our content. Make it obvious that you’re a fan of both the influencer and their work, and the next stage should be a little easier.
Keep track of your engagement to make sure that you’re giving everyone on your list sufficient attention.
I used this Google doc from Groove to help me here.
Step 4: Outreach
Now that you’ve laid the foundations, it’s time to connect with your list.
Make sure you don’t just send any old message to them though, you don’t want to waste all your hard work.
I found that instead of just asking for assistance outright, it was much more effective to ask for permission.
Here’s a copy of a LinkedIn Message that I actually sent to show you what I mean:
There are a couple of key things to note here:
1. I kept the tone light. We all get flooded with far too many jargon-loaded messages — after your engagement, a conversational style is the right call
2. I referenced their own content. Providing you commented or shared their work, this should remind them who you are. It should also help the recipient relax — everyone likes a little praise!
3. I provided a brief overview. This lets the influencer decide quickly if the content is worth their time or not — I was trying to make sure I didn’t waste anyone’s time.
4. I didn’t send them a link to the post. This technique arouses curiosity and helps you stand out from the crowd — the vast majority of people would just send through a link.
5. I didn’t ask for anything big. Why should someone important share your content or promote you and your company? They don’t know how good it is. Asking for feedback is a smaller ask, and shows that you respect the influencer’s opinion.
Key point to remember
When you send something to your influencer list make sure it’s up to scratch. Your goal here is to impress them with your company vision, content or product. Wait until you have something worth sharing before you get in touch.
I had a much higher response rate by using this 4-step method — hopefully it will work well for you too.
You can’t reach out to influencers in this way every week which is why it’s so important you send them something of value. If they like what they see they’ll come back of their own volition and (hopefully) promote whatever you have to say.
I can’t tell you how these conversations will end. Maybe with a phone call, maybe a meeting, maybe a great new business relationship, maybe nothing. The only way to find out is to try it out for yourself.
Promotion-aside though, this strategy will help you fill your network with some pretty awesome people!