How to Collaborate With Influencers & Access Other People's Audiences
When built the right way, B2B influencer relationships can be invaluable.
- They can lead to business development opportunities
- They can help you distribute your owned content to a larger audience
- They provide an opportunity to work on co-marketing projects together
The trouble is, most advice begins and ends with “provide value", which usually comes in the form of sharing content, mentioning them on social, and commenting on their blog posts.
But busy influencers are bombarded with these social notifications and cold emails on a daily basis. What influencers really need help with is getting their message, brand, and story in front of a larger audience.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to build long-term, meaningful relationships with influencers by getting them in front of a wider audience. You’ll learn how to engage with them, create content for other people’s audiences and create win-win scenarios for all involved.
The best bit? You get to create amazing content for a wider audience in the process.
Identify relevant influencers
Not all influencers are made equal. And those you target will depend on your marketing goals.
For example, if you’re looking to establish co-marketing efforts (e.g. a co-branded eBook) with another non-competing brand, you’ll want to target senior marketers.
Perhaps you’re trying to expand your audience? Then you’ll want to engage with thought leaders who create great content for a large, engaged audience.
You should already have an idea of who you want to connect with. But you might also be looking for other opportunities outside of your “frame of reference.”
Here are some techniques to identify the best thought leaders in your space.
1. Use BuzzSumo for data-driven validation
Influencers are already sharing great content. You just need to find it.
BuzzSumo is just the tool for this job. With it, we can identify top-performing content and the influencers who shared it.
Let’s say we want to engage with influencers interested in chatbots. Type a keyword (e.g. “chatbot marketing”) into BuzzSumo and look at the top results:
Click on “View Sharers.” You’ll be taken to list of Twitter users who shared this content:
If you’re on the free version of BuzzSumo, order the list by Twitter Followers and identify individuals who would be a good fit.
For those on the premium version, we can download a CSV and perform some data wrangling. Click the “Export” button at the top right of the list and select “CSV.”
In Excel or Google Sheets, filter the data as follows:
- num_followers: > 5,000
- person_type: deselect any with [company]
- num_followers: order by largest to smallest
- Place name, URL and bio columns together (you may need to paste filtered data into a new spreadsheet to do this)
Moving these columns together makes it easy to sort through the list. You want to find users that have authority beyond the size of their followers.
Phrases such as “author,” “CEO” and “founder” are all indicators of legitimate influencers. Ignore users with their Pinterest or Facebook profiles listed.
Add these to your list of target influencers.
2. Find Popular Brands to Partner With
When we think of influencers in the B2B space, we often think of bloggers, authors, and thought leaders.
While there’s some overlap, we often overlook “organizational leaders” – the senior decision makers and movers and shakers who work for other brands.
There are several benefits to strategic partnerships like these:
- They can help you reach a larger audience
- You can establish a partnerships to promote your content to each other’s audience
- You can create co-branded content
For the sake of this guide, we’re going to focus on co-branded content.
So, what exactly is co-branded content?
Co-branded content is a long-form asset (usually an eBook, report or webinar) co-authored by two (or more) brands. It helps increase the awareness and authority of both brands while generating qualified leads.
When starting up his agency, KlientBoost, Jonathan Dane decided to sacrifice “owned” content for partnerships. He identified software companies with access to his ideal clients and created co-branded eBooks with them:
As a result, KlientBoost grew from nothing to $1 million in revenue within a year. That’s the power of other people’s audiences.
Find brands using the BuzzSumo technique above. This time, include companies in your search. Look for influencers who have their company and job title in the bio.
LinkedIn is another great place to find potential partners. Using the advanced search features, you can find individuals within companies who would make great partners:
Tracking influencer activity & metrics
When identifying target influencers, you must keep track of the right metrics, activities and contact information.
This information includes any engagement touchpoints, as well as audience metrics.
Let’s break down the kind of information you should be collecting:
Social engagement can include likes, shares, and Tweets. But you need to get into the interview phase as quickly as possible.
As you’re aiming to add value through content, you should see a generous response rate during the outreach phase. We’ll cover influencer engagement in step 3.
Step 2: Creating Insanely Valuable Influencer Content
Once you’ve created a list of influencer targets, you’ll need a topic that brings them together.
There are two ways you can do this. The first is to make them the central focus of your content.
This is exactly what I did when writing a guest post for CrazyEgg, titled “7 Side Projects That Became Marketing Engines.” I reached out to marketers at the organizations featured, asking questions to get insights on their experiences on those projects.
The second approach is to find a common theme that links your content to your target influencers.
Let’s say you’re writing a piece on content distribution, and you want to connect with CMOs at technology companies. The approach would look like this:
- Position your article as a content distribution guide for SaaS companies
- Identify 10 to 20 CMOs with access to your audience/work at target accounts
- Interview them about their distribution strategy, predictions, and results from their efforts
Finally, you can dedicate an entire piece of content about a single target influencer. This approach is especially effective if the influencer conquered a challenge that your offer solves.
Here’s an example of this in action on the Fieldbloom blog:
As you can see, the article positions Sarah Jones front-and-center. The result is a thorough and actionable case study that exposes Sarah to a wider audience.
Here’s a simple formula you can use to come up with story-driven articles:
“How [INFLUENCER/BRAND] Grew/Generated/Reduced [PROBLEM] [QUANT] in [TIMEFRAME] by [ACTION]”
Let’s break each element down:
- Influencer/Brand: The individual or organization you’re featuring
- Problem: The challenge they solved or the results they generated
- Quant: Provide specific numbers on the results
- Timeframe: How long did it take them to achieve this?
- Action: How they got those results. This is the topic of the article
From here, you need to create a killer piece of content. Whichever format you choose, it must be actionable and practical.
Take the insights generated from your conversations and provide actionable takeaways for the reader. You’ll learn how to do this in step 4.
Step 3: Influencer Engagement They Can’t Ignore
The most difficult step to influencer engagement is “getting past the noise.”
Here’s the good news:
The methodology outlined in this guide is designed to cut right through it.
Getting an influencer featured in industry and business publications is a sure-fire way to grab their attention.
The best method to reach out will depend on each target influencer. And to make matters worse, once GDPR ruins everything in May this year, you may want to diversify away from email.
Regardless, here’s how to reach out to B2B influencers and begin the relationship.
Pre-Engagement for Familiarity
While not always necessary, you can get on an influencers’ radar before reaching out.
Let’s look at some common methods of building familiarity.
Yes, I’m aware a “poo-pooed” these at the beginning of this guide. But these techniques are designed to nurture, not as a way of pretending to give superficial “value.”
- Comment: If they’re publishing content, add meaningful comments. By meaningful, I mean useful. Don’t just say “Nice post!” Ask questions, add your “two cents” and inspire debate.
- Social Engagement: Respond to their posts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Go beyond “likes” and get involved in the discussion. Tweet at them, comment on their posts and mention their name when sharing their content.
- Communities: Find the forums and groups they’re active in and get involved. You can do this directly or indirectly. Indirectly means contributing to the entire community.
These are just a few easy methods of getting on an influencer’s radar. The underlying principle is a simple one:
Go where your influencers are and start a conversation with them.
Influencer Email Outreach
If you can find the right email address, this form of outreach is often the most effective.
I’m not going to share any templates. They can quickly saturate and ruin an approach. Instead, here’s a framework you can follow to write your own:
- Personalized Opener: The expectations on personalization moved on long ago. “First name” variables no longer count as “personalization.” Instead, reference conversations and content where your paths have crossed.
- Get to the point: State why you’re reaching out, and why it’s relevant to them.
- Take the lead: The responsibility must be on you. Whether you’re guest blogging or creating co-branded content, you should be the one taking care of the heavy lifting. Make this clear to them and working with you will be a no-brainer.
- Soft CTA: Your call-to-action shouldn’t be assumptive or pushy. Simply ask them if they’re interested in collaborating.
If you’re reaching out to executives within an organization, Elucify is a great lookup tool for professional details and email addresses.
Use the following approaches if you’re unsure of the legal aspects of cold outreach. This is a hurdle will affect many of us thanks to GDPR in 2018 and beyond.
Start with Twitter. Send a DM if your target influencer follows you. Use the same principles laid out for email outreach above.
If they don’t follow you, then you’ll have to tweet @ them. You have less room to make a case here, but 240 characters should be enough.
Get to the point quickly. “Hey @username, I’m writing a piece on TOPIC for PUBLICATION and wanted to get your thoughts on CHALLENGE THEY OVERCAME. Can I DM or email you?”
Alternatively, there’s LinkedIn. When connecting with your target influencer, add a personal note to state the intention. A note will increase the accept rate on your connection requests.
(Details blurred out for privacy)
What if influencers don’t respond? Try again on another channel, and keep following up until you get a “yes” or a “no.” Persistence is key, especially if you believe you’re adding real value.
Step 4: Influencer Interviews For Awesome Insights
So, you’ve established a relationship, and you’re ready to create content or establish a partnership.
Influencer interviews are the final step. Here, you’ll learn how to set up these discussions, the right questions to ask and how to turn their insight into content.
1. Digital Interviews
Some influencers just don’t have the time to chat with you on the phone. Deal with it and interview via digital channels.
I took this approach when creating the CrazyEgg post mentioned earlier. In fact, I conducted an entire interview with Sujan Patel on Twitter:
Just like any other interview, you can then dig deeper into their responses to understand the larger impact and thought processes behind these strategies.
Don’t let them drag on too long. Try and limit to three to five exchanges. Otherwise, you’ll see response rates drop.
2. Phone Interviews
Interviewing over the phone is the preferred approach for two reasons:
- You can dig deeper into responses while getting honest, raw insights on their motivations, needs, and experiences.
- It’s much easier to build rapport and lay the foundations for strong, long-term relationships.
When asking influencers for the interview, give them the option to talk on the phone or via email, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
What should you ask them when you have them on the phone? Here’s a framework I’ve borrowed from customer development frameworks.
- Really, really listen: Don’t wait your turn to respond. Instead, soak up everything influencers have to say. Learning to listen will help you use the next principle.
- Be open: Avoid scripts at all costs. Instead, ask questions that probe and dig deep into their answers. Allow yourself to be flexible depending on their response.
- Don’t lead: Avoid questions that imply an answer. E.g. “What impact did your side project have on lead generation?” vs. “How did this side project impact your business?” You’ll get more insights this way.
- Make friends: People do business with people they like. Spend one or two minutes at the beginning of the call to learn more about what they’re up to, but get to the point quickly.
Go in with three or four open-ended questions. Let their responses drive the rest of your questions. Get an understanding of the true impact their experiences and results had in their business or career.
Turning Influencer Insight into Content
You’ve conducted the interviews, and you have pages of notes. It’s time to turn that insight into content.
Your content must be actionable and practical. Whether it’s a guest post, webinar or podcast interview. The reader/listener should be able to execute on what you teach.
A good litmus test is to ask yourself “does this thoroughly guide me through the solution?” If the answer is no, add more detail to your content.
The introduction should outline the challenge, pain or complication in the market. What’s the problem that your content is about to solve?
One way to boost credibility here is to include third party data and statistics. Cite them when backing up your points throughout the entire piece of content.
Influencer insight will allow you to tell a story. What was the challenge, and why was this such a pressing problem for them and their business? How did they overcome these challenges?
Then, it’s time to drive practical value. Extract takeaway lessons from your influencer’s story. Provide actionable steps with examples, screenshots, and instructions on how your audience can do the same.
Include as many quotes, statistics, examples, and images as possible. These ramp up the perceived value of your content, leading to more shares, traffic and, most importantly, leads.
This methodology is designed to work across all platforms and content formats.
Looking for interview opportunities on podcasts? Need examples for an upcoming webinar? Influencer interviews will help with that.
The importance is that you’re adding value to all three parties:
- The creators or editors for the platform/publication your content will feature in
- The influencer you’re engaging with
- You and your business
Drive as much value to all three, and you’ll see your audience expand rapidly.