I have never been a pretty girl. My position as a business-to-business influencer, though, has given me an idea of what it may feel like to be one.
In a recent Reddit thread, one commenter noted that when one is a pretty girl, nearly “everything becomes sexual.” As a blogger with a decent following who has written a few books, I experience something equivalent: nearly everything becomes commodified.
As a recent 60 Minutes segment made clear, marketers are making increasing use of influencers at all levels. I get approached on a daily basis with one proposition or another. Most of the time it’s clear that someone is just going down a big list, and has no real idea what I do. Such pitches are a waste of time and even counter-productive. A handful of firms do it well. Other firms may want to understand what they do well.
Every day my inbox fills up with emails like the one I got yesterday: “Dear Jay Baer, I see that you published a blog post called ‘Jay Baer marketing keynote speaker…’”
So I delete it. Then I get one today from the same brand, saying, “Maybe you didn’t see the first message.” It’s so ham-handed.
I understand that one of the challenges with influencer marketing is that it’s hard to get scale. It’s not like a display buy, where you can just check a box to increase your buy. Cultivating influencers takes time. It’s tempting to try to automate the process with a mass mailing that promises to dynamically customize each pitch. However, doing so risks repelling the influencer. Now I don’t just feel indifferently toward the brand that did that — I feel irritated.
Recently a company asked me to promote an app that helps law firms communicate with their clients. It sounds fine, but why me?
Because some poorly maintained database had my email address and thousands of others, and someone thought, “Why not email everyone and see who bites?”
Be Authentic and Warm
Entrepreneurs know that cold calling and cold emails have limited success. The best way to approach a prospect is via the “warm intro.” It’s no different for influencers. If you have a relationship of any kind with me, the chance I’ll say yes goes way up.
If not, making the request in an authentic manner will put you ahead of the crowd. If you’re going down a list, say so.
That’s not to say that a cold contact never works. We’ve all gotten messages out of the blue that have led to business relationships. Usually that happens because we were already in the market for whatever the message the sender was proposing. There’s an art to writing cold messages; a clever tweet or email header that can open doors.
A handful of influencer marketing tools, including Little Bird, Cision, GroupHigh and Insightpool — which uses automation to find influencers, but humans to reach out — have found ways to balance intelligent outreach and scale.
Unfortunately, such tools are in the minority.
Give before the Get?
Brands need to show good faith going into the relationship. Free swag is nice, but even better is an acknowledgment that you get what this particular influencer has to offer. Bloggers usually operate in a vacuum where they get no feedback or they get enough negative comments to overshadow the positive ones. So a few kind words that show you appreciate some of the writer’s past insights and turns of phrase will build good will, though it should be genuine, not manufactured.
Going forward, it’s also important to treat the influencer like a person, not a media property. Influencer marketing is a crapshoot sometimes. Influencers sometimes underperform and overperform but don’t focus as much on results as in the effort that the influencer has put in. Of course, results matter in the long run, but in the end your influencer can only control so much of his fans’ reactions.
And in the end, being objectified is no fun. Every day, the bad come-ons I find in my in-box reminds me of what pretty girls have to endure from the ham-handed members of my sex.
Jay Baer is a marketing consultant, speaker, and author of the book “Youtility.” He tweets @jaybaer
Curalate's on-demand webinar on micro-influencers explores how influencer marketing is driving serious impact for brands. Listen to the webinar here.