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Don’t Buy Influencers, Create Them

Influencer marketing. Despite all outward appearances, working with influencers isn’t just high-fashion photos and shameless plugs in videos.

It’s one of the most effective marketing tactics out there, and it’s only growing.

Plus, it can be really easy, especially if you do your homework first (but we’ll get more into that later). All you have to do is find the right person, get them the right resources, and you just sit back and watch the money roll in.

But we know that that’s easier said than done, especially in a time where it seems like everyone is an influencer, but nobody is quite the right fit for your business or product.

In fact, more than 60% of marketers agree that it’s difficult to find the right influencers for a campaign.

But it doesn’t have to be.

We’ve talked before about why creating strategic partnerships with certain influencers can be really beneficial for both them and you. Not only can finding the right person mean you often don’t have to pay as much, but chances are you will both benefit from merging your audiences.

See, the best way to effectively run an influencer campaign isn’t to pay high-dollar prices to someone with a million followers.

It’s to create the influencers yourself.

This is something that Erin MacPherson, the General Manager of The Scalable Agency, talked about in her recent DigitalMarketer workshop. As a content marketing expert, Erin has helped brands increase revenue and generate traffic by utilizing this exact same method.

And you might be surprised at how well it can work for you.

How to Find and Create the Right Influencers for your Business

Finding the right prospects to become influencers is easier than it sounds because you have more at your disposal than you may think, and it’s easy to get into contact with them.

That’s because the best influencers are your customers.

If you’re in the market for an influencer, chances are your business has had a fair amount of success. Brand-new businesses don’t typically have the capital to hire influencers in the first place because they’re too expensive. And, if your business has had a fair chance of success, you should already have a built-in network of customers. That built-in network will give you plenty of options to choose from.

The first step of the process is finding the right candidate(s) for the job. You can comb through your email list, your Facebook groups, and your customer records to try to find someone that will work. And, if you’ve ever had a customer write a good testimonial for your business, that could instantly vault them to the top of your list. But what actually makes a qualified candidate for turning someone into an influencer?

Your customer avatar is always going to be the best and most effective candidate. When you are finding the person you want to be an influencer for your business, they need to represent the kind of person who is most likely to buy from you. That way, when people see someone like them using and enjoying your products, they’ll want to join in on the fun. Depending on what your business is, that avatar could look wildly different from another business’s.

Luckily for you, you probably have a pretty good idea what your customer avatar is. You already have loads of them in your email list.

After you identify who it’s going to be, you need to figure out what you want them to do. This could be anything from Instagram videos to blog posts, but the more creative and visually appealing, the better. It should also align with your specific campaign goals, whether that’s simply to raise awareness, or to sell a specific product.

This may be the most critical fact to remember when using this approach. Organization is key when trying to create your own internal influencer campaign for exactly the same reason that they’re enticing in the first place: the people you’re using are not professionals. For all the benefits of having a genuinely happy customer become a brand spokesperson, you also have to remember that they aren’t practiced like people who charge lots of money to post about your product on Instagram.

For the sake of everyone’s understanding (and sanity), it’s best to have your marketing campaign plan detailed and specific. That way you know exactly what role you want your community members turned influencers to play.

Don’t worry—if you keep calling on the same people to help you out, they’re going to get more and more comfortable with the process. No one is excellent at something when they do it for the first time. That’s why, even though you may want to swap about influencers from time to time, it’s best to always keep your best ones involved. Not only will they improve, but people will start to build a relationship with them (and your brand).

Once you know what you want your influencers to do for the campaign, all you have to do is reach out to them. If they’re already an established customer—and if you send them some free stuff—chances are they’ll happy to hear from you.

Then all you need to do is explain the situation and get on the same page. If you do offer them something up front, they’ll probably be more than happy to assist you with advertising. That’s when you’ll strike your first deal with them, and they’ll be so happy they might just do it for free.

Just like that, your grassroots influencer campaign is underway. You outline the content, and let your influencers execute the plan. Then, as their platform grows, so do your profits.

Why Creating Influencers is Effective

I can hear the follow-up questions already…

Creating influencers? Isn’t the whole purpose of influencer marketing so you don’t have to do work? People spend years strengthening their personal brand. Won’t doing that for them take a lot of time and effort?

And these are all perfectly valid. But if you dig a little bit deeper, you’ll see that there is a reason why top brands such as Wal-Mart, Lysol and Facebook have used this same strategy.

The fact of the matter is yes: creating influencers does take more time and effort. But the potential payout from it is massive. Here’s why…

For starters, you don’t have to pay them as much. The people you are recruiting for this form of influencer marketing are totally normal people and have likely never been an influencer for anything before. Lots of them may do it for free, but just giving them free products may be enough to get them to start participating.

And if after a while you really want to make the working relationship more official, you can always put together a larger contract. But chances are, you still won’t be paying them anywhere close to what you would pay for a “regular” influencer.

The trick with “creating” influencers is that you aren’t limited to just having them talk about your product once or twice in a post.

You use their testimonial in commercials, you make social videos with them in it, you have them write blog posts, and any other kind of content you can think of. You get to dictate how and what they say about your brand on any platform.

Then, once you have the foundation of the internal influencer machine built, you get to enjoy the best part about this strategy: you can turn it on and let it run again and again.

This method always stays low cost. There doesn’t need to be any negotiating new contracts or finding new price points every single time you need an influencer. You can just keep calling on them, again and again, to help you out.

You control the message; they do most of the work.

The other reason for doing it this way is it’s also great PR. And it’s great PR in a variety of ways.

Being able to put a face (or faces) on your business is always a good thing because makes your business more personal and welcoming. So, if you don’t already have a face for your business, introducing one will go a long way in building more of a connection with your customers.

On top of that, turning customers into influencers is a great way to tell a good story. It’s why when big companies make television commercials that they use real customers, they make sure you know it. When people hear that your business used real customers within your ads, it builds up the trust they have in you and your products.

And what’s better than that? It’s ingenious, it’s cheap, and it’s extremely effective. And on top of all of that, it’s really pretty fun.

Why settle for influencers that are way too expensive and not as effective as they could be. Reach your target audience by turning your best customers into marketing machines.

Mark de Grasse

Mark de Grasse

Mark de Grasse is the President and General Manager of DigitalMarketer and has worked with thousands of business owners to create brands, companies, and marketing campaigns.

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