Ashley Zeckman

There are countless reasons to start working with influencers: you can improve your sales, increase your credibility, and much more. However, it is much harder to actually get started? How should you reach out? How do you find the right influencers? Should you send them presents? I have consulted Ashley Zeckman to get to know more about this tricky but important way to market yourself.

Ashley Zeckman is the director of agency marketing at TopRank Marketing, which is a digital agency that does content and influencer marketing as well as SEO and social for large brands, both B2B and B2C. Ashley is responsible for creating content and influencer programmes for TopRank’s own brand.

At TopRank, employees define influencers as people who have expertise on certain topics and can help B2B or B2C companies increase their credibility with their customers.

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Here are the major takeaways from the Ashley Zeckman interview

  • Find the right mix of influencers. They shouldn’t all be celebrities or all customers. Balance is vital.
  • It is a good idea to approach less known and up-and-coming influencers as they will make an extra effort in cooperating with you, and they will add more to your credibility than a famous influencer who promotes just about anything.
  • Stay in touch with your influencers after an ended project. You can ask them smaller questions, send them little things you know they like, or ask them for their opinion on certain topics to maintain the relationship.

There are lots of do’s and don’ts when working with influencers, and the interview with Ashley blew me away because of her fantastic advice and amazing approach to it all. So, let’s get started on that influencer outreach!

Step one: Get your strategy straight

Ashley has learned that a lot of companies who haven’t done work with influencers before want to start big. Here’s Ashley’s ideal approach to start on your influencer marketing:

Three things to do

According to Ashley, there are three things you should definitely do when you want to start working with influencers:

  1. Find the right mix of influencers. Don’t do all celebrities or just people who are passionate about a topic.There are three different types of influencers:
    • Previous customers
    • Niche experts
    • Celebrities or really well-known people

    Depending on your company, it should be the right mix, never just one type.

  2. You want individuals who are aligning with your brand message and people who have a lot of followers.
  3. You also want to offer value to the influencers. You can’t ask them for their expertise without giving them something in return – that could be either money or promotions.

Then, there are the things you definitely shouldn’t do:

Are influencers for everyone?

Ashley made one thing clear: anyone can work with influencers, and everyone has the potential to become an influencer. You have to find the right people with whom to partner. If you are a small B2C jewellery company, and you sell your products online, your ideal influencers would be previous customers – get them to encourage others to buy your products. Bigger brands might have more expensive products, which makes the buying process longer. That is a good opportunity to use influencers to help your customer move through the sales cycle. Use influencers to build up your brand and credibility. It all comes down to how you go about it.

Spark their interest

No matter how you look at it, the potential and popular influencers get tons and tons of requests every day, so you have to find a way to stand out in their inbox or on a social network. Ashley said that you always have to give before you expect to get. So, a natural first step is to spark their interest and approach them in the best way possible. Here’s Ashley explaining how to do just that:

The next big thing in working with influencers

Ashley thinks that ecommercers have the opportunity to focus on the up-and-coming influencers instead of only going for the big fish. They can quickly become too big, and their credibility will drop if they promote everything. So, the tendencies right now allow ecommercers to focus on the smaller and less well-known influencers. They will also be more keen and interested in doing their very best.

The difference between B2B and B2C influencer marketing

The approach is different. B2B influencers are representing not only their personal opinion but the brand as well. B2C are sort of doing the same, but the motivation is different, and the things you ask the influencers to participate in are different. It is important to figure out what your customers are looking for and find the right influencer for that specific purpose.

Get in touch

At TopRank Marketing, their outreach is mostly through email. Otherwise, Ashley said they might use LinkedIn or Twitter (direct messages – not a public tweet). Most importantly, they do not send automated messages; they are always personalized. What should be included in the message to a potential influencer? Here’s Ashley’s advice:

Make a fantastic first impression

First and foremost, do not take a standardized approach to influencers. Identify the top influencers for your brand and spend some time getting to understand who they are. When you reach out, you want to say “Hey, I enjoyed that article you wrote on … Based on that, I think you would be ideal for …” That is how you begin building a relationship with them. When it comes to the length of the email, you should keep it short as they are very busy people and have done this before. Use bullet points if you can, highlighting important points. For example, suppose you sell sneakers, and you want to reach out to influencers and have already have found 50 bloggers – where do you go from there?

  • Pick a handful of influencers; send them your product, and let them test it out. You want them to expect the product, so reach out before you send it – or when it’s on the way. Giving them a heads up is a good tactic.
  • Reach out, and ask them what they think about it after a week.
  • If their response is positive, you can ask them if they want to write 100 words on why the sneakers are the best or ask them to send you a picture of them in the sneakers. Depending on whom you work with, your questions might be different.

 

Tools you just can’t be without

Trakcur imports mentions and topics to find people who are talking about certain topics and investigate how big their reach is.

Buzzsumo uncovers people who are content creators and gets info on their content.

GroupHigh uncovers bloggers based on the topic.

Organize responses and the timing: Some of the tools above can help you organize your outreach. Put your outreach to influencers into a CRM such as Salesforce, and do the email communication through there. Other than that, Excel works well if you are organized enough to stay on top of all processes.

Don’t let them go!

This is where many companies fall through – simply because they don’t follow up. Listen to Ashley’s best advice on how to stay in touch even after the project is finished:

You can also send them small things you know they like – just to let them know that you appreciate them and their help. That is really helpful to staying in touch. Keep the momentum going to make sure it doesn’t fall flat.

Wrap up

Throughout Ashley’s career, she has learned some interesting lessons that you can benefit from:

  • You have to approach influencers carefully and strategically. One small mistake can be the difference between partnership and getting ignored. Understand who they are and reach out appropriately.
  • Be personal; let them know that you understand who they are.
  • Reach out to more people than you think you need. They aren’t all going to participate in your project, so it is a good idea to be realistic.

Have you ever worked with influencers? What have you learned? Let us know below. Ashley is also willing to answer any questions you might have on influencer marketing, so don’t hesitate to ask!

Free Downloadable Bonus
Download Ashley’s easy-to-follow checklist for influencer marketing.

Emil Kristensen
Emil is the CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote. When he’s not busy with writing awesome content and building the Sleeknote brand, he spends his time reading and watching vlogs on YouTube (big fan Gary V). Fun fact: between the co-founders he is the fencing champ.

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  1. Interesting subject. I strongly believe that an ongoing communication with influencers is rewarding in many ways. You may not see the results of the communication today or tomorrow, but if you already are in touch with them it will be easy to ask them for a favor when you really need it.

    Reply
  2. Once again, a great post from you guys. It’s not easy to connect with influencers but small blogs has to do it, if they want to get some exposure.

    Reply

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