What is influencer marketing and how can you run a profitable influencer marketing campaign?

Often times when building a business, you know exactly what your product does, and you have a good idea of who would find it useful. 

That’s entrepreneurship 101, right?

You’ve probably done a bit of market research, built some customer personas, maybe even started advertising on platforms like Facebook & Google.

But when it comes to scalability & developing trust with cold audiences, finding a growth channel you can rely on is proving to be more difficult than you imagined.

Traditional PR is often a dead end — getting you a few placements in digital magazines that no one reads or print magazines that may or may not be useful, but all you can count on are rough impressions stats that are probably inflated.  

Public relations and marketing have undergone a dramatic shift in the past decade, and there are many new ways to reach your potential buyers.

One of the most intriguing and promising avenues to develop is called influencer marketing.

By leveraging existing social authorities, your brand can pay or work with people who have a following of relevant customers to talk about your product.

When you work with a whole network of influencers, your brand can develop an omnipresent effect on your customers, sparking a butterfly effect of brand exposure and buzz.

This strategy is often used and discussed alongside the idea of “micro-influencers” — people with small (<15k) but highly engaged audiences.

Influencer marketing is a fascinating new marketing landscape and has helped establish a variety of fashion and artisan brands across the globe, including Glossier and Bigelow Tea.

“An influencer promoting and amplifying your message, your brand, to their audience means credibility. It means additional reach, and it means you get an outsized modifier to the conversion process.”

Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz

Influencer marketing isn’t a mindless mechanism, though.

You can’t just throw money at random people with Instagram followers and expect the results people rave about.

You have to have tact, guile — strategy.

Without that, you’ll get some conversions, sure, but you won’t unlock the real potential of influencer marketing — the kind that makes your brand so popular consumers start coming to you by their own volition.

That critical mass of popularity is the lofty goal of all influencer marketing campaigns and with proper planning, it can be achieved.

And that’s exactly what you’re about to discover in this guide 🙂

I’ve helped my students generate hundreds of thousands of email addresses and multiple millions of dollars in revenue by combining influencer marketing tactics like paid promotions and virtual summits with smart products. 

And these industries are as varied as play therapy, insurance, harp music, adoption, and many more. It’s one of the most powerful and underrated marketing strategies that exist today.

Note: This ultimate guide on influencer marketing is several thousand words long, so you can check the table of contents below to jump to the section you’d like to dive in to more. 

What Is Influencer Marketing?

Before we dig into the how, let’s cover the what and why.

“Simply put, influencers are those that, well, influence others to action. They might be traditional print authors, bloggers, industry leaders consultants, media figures or others in occupations that put their opinions in front of an audience.”

Sujan Patel

In other words, influencer marketing is leveraging influential people with existing personal brands to target and engage your ideal customers.

It’s a highly effective form of advertising because you target the influencers instead of the market as a whole, which can turn into a butterfly effect of sorts.

Influencer marketing is not social media marketing, although it often works in tandem with it.

Instead of using a channel to market, you’re using people.

How does influencer marketing differ from traditional testimonial advertising? 

It’s a matter of platform. As opposed to a company paying a celebrity to talk about their brand on a commercial or through the company’s channels (excluding account takeovers), you can think of influencer marketing as someone distributing a message to their own audience through their own personal channels.

This distinction is what makes influencer marketing so powerful.

When a prospect sees a message from someone they trust through a familiar platform, they are more likely to engage with the message. It’s a sort of hybrid, third-party advertisement that still retains authenticity.

This is why influencers have to be careful about what they promote — that caution plays into what their audience thinks about the brand.

The last thing they want to do is cheapen their brand by oversaturating their market and diminishing their trust. That’s their entire business model after all.

How do influencer marketing relationships typically work?

Influencer marketing is either set up by the influencer reaching out to a brand, or more commonly, a brand reaching out to the influencer.

A business relationship is then established and the influencer and brand work together to create content. 

And content isn’t restricted to social media content.

Not by a longshot 🙂

Influencer content can include:

  • Emails
  • Social media posts
  • Interviews
  • Guest posts
  • Live streaming
  • Account takeovers
  • Videos
  • Partner webinar appearances
  • Virtual summit appearances
  • Reviews
  • You name it!

Influencer marketing is typically approached in one of two ways: transactions or partnerships.

Transactional Relationships

When you pay to work with an influencer, you agree on a style of content to produce together and pay them ad hoc for that service.

E.g. you may agree to 3 posts over a month for $500.


Partnerships are more difficult to obtain but can be lucrative for the right products.

By setting up unique affiliate links and collaborating with influencers on a campaign, you can work together to generate sales and split the revenue at a predetermined percent.

Influencer marketing in practice

American Express

American Express partnered with photographer Casey McPerry around a 2018 Small Business Saturday Campaign. He put out a series of posts that highlighted other small businesses and associated American Express with positivity and community.

Groundhouse Burger

Burger joint Groundhouse Burger teams up with popular L.A. Instagram influencers to promote their L.A.-based burger brand.

Chandler Bolt of Self-Publishing School

Chandler managed to get over 30 influencers to join his virtual summit campaign and generated 60k+ email subscribers and $700k in revenue. 

Chandler is a great example of how hosting virtual events can really take off with the right influencers on board.

Crosshair Music

Influencer Marketing Crosshari Music
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Crosshair connects artists with micro influencers to create a new, digital-first PR approach. By using an algorithm that matches types of music to particular influencers (think folk music matching with boutique carpentry), Crosshair is able to push indie music and pay influencers at the same time. 

Not all influencers are equal.

The Types of Influencers

There are three main types of influencers.

Influencers aren’t restricted by platform, but I’ve included some rough “follower” numbers so you can get an idea of the types of influencers we’re talking about.

Note: How many followers that is required to reach a certain “influencer status” also depends on the specific niche (in some niches you may be an A-lister with only a few 1,000 followers for example, so keep that in mind).

A-Listers or Celebrities: 

These are well-known names with huge followings (>50k-500k+), are harder to reach, and offer more credibility and authority. 

You can use their names to bring other influencers on board, but they are less likely to respond unless you have a lot of money to spend.

B-Listers or Trusted Authorities:

Known experts with solid followings (15k-50k), looking for growth, offer credibility and authority.

These are usually big players in smaller spaces and are more open to connecting.

They often are looking for synergistic relationships and can often offer great ROI in partnerships due to their credibility and authority within their niche.

C-Listers or Up-and-Comers (Micro Influencers):

These influencers are new or unknown (2,500-15k) but can have a highly engaged audiences and are usually eager for publicity. 

They may not offer much in terms of name recognition, but they are the hustlers — they’re eager and hungry to help you, and some of them may someday be A and B-listers.

Micro influencers are becoming more and more popular as influencer marketing grows, with many brands choosing to work with 100 influencers with around 10k reach instead of one influencer with one million.

“Influencers with 2,500 to 25,000 followers can offer the highest ROI.” 

Joe Burton, Social Chorus and Stephanie Agresta of MSLGROUP

That being said, depending on your brand getting a good mix of the types of influencers can help your campaign to succeed — especially when you’re aiming for partnerships (e.g. affiliate revenue) instead of transactions (paying an influencer $1,000 for a post).

If you’re coming into a new market, you need to know at a minimum who the celebrities are.

They are the easiest group to start identifying, and then you can work downward from there.

Again, influencers are not restricted by channel 🙂

While Instagram is the most well-known platform for influencers, influencers can operate in any space.

In the same way that you choose influencers based on who you’re targeting, you can also narrow down your search by where your audience interacts.

For some people, this is all about email lists. 

For others, it’s Instagram.

For some, it could be a public speaker with reach across network television or Youtube.

What makes influencer marketing worth it? 

Influencer marketing is worth looking into for all sorts of reasons, including:

Third-party reviews are king

Today’s consumers rarely buy just because they are made aware of a brand.

Today’s consumers care about social proof more than ever.

From Google Reviews, to Trip Advisor, to Amazon’s review system, customers need validation before buying a product.

Because influencers are trusted sources, they act as a sort of reviewer/third-party recommendation at scale.

Interruptive marketing is dying

Interruptive marketing still has its uses, but it’s now most effective as a reminder as opposed to a brand-building tool.

Instead of attracting new customers with interruptive advertising, you retarget warmer audiences instead.

Consumer behavior has changed

Modern consumers care more about their social status than ever, and that plays directly into the social capital your brand brings them.

They want to research brands on their own to make sure it’s complementary to their identity.

You can take advantage of excellent content creators

Influencers make their living from content — they know what they’re doing.

By working with them to spread your brand, you’ll take advantage of their creativity and content creating abilities / save your team some time on creation.

When influencers link back to you and boost you up, your site’s authority will increase and your reputation will grow.

When executed correctly, you can go from seemingly nowhere to always having been an influencer yourself.


You can get your brand in front of more people without having to build each individual connection yourself.

High ROI

Not only are these types of partnerships less expensive, study after study shows they are more effective than traditional advertising, too.

Rapid Growth

It helps you rapidly grow a highly engaged, targeted email list of hundreds (or even thousands) of people who want to hear from you.

The “Oprah” Effect

You become a trusted expert by virtue of the fact the influencer has introduced you to their audience.

Influencer marketing is scalable 

Once you have one influencer promoting your product, it’s easier to find more and more partners.

Influencer marketing is long-lasting

Cold advertise and it’s gone as soon as the person clicks off the page. Invest in a relationship, and you have them for years.

The stats speak for themselves

Influencer Marketing Stats

70 percent of teenage YouTube subscribers trust influencer opinions over traditional celebrities.

86 percent of women turn to social networks before making a purchase.

32 percent of US influencers who currently work with brands cite Facebook as the best platform, followed by Instagram at 24 percent.

71 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference.

A report published by Marketing Charts in 2015 revealed that the most effective channels for brands to implement influencer marketing are events at 70% and guest posts at 69%. The same report showed that brands are 67% more likely to use influencer marketing for promoting their content. Content creation (blogs) and product launches are also popular reasons why businesses work with influencers.

On average, businesses generate $6.50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing.


Influencer Marketing stats
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Influencer Marketing Guide: How to Connect & Partner With Influencers And Get Them To Promote You

Now that you know how powerful influencer marketing can be, let’s dig into the how.

The most important thing to keep in mind through all of this is how closely related your target audience is to the influencer’s audience.

You should also incorporate proper tracking and data throughout your campaign.

Combining bit.ly and UTM parameters are key to influencer marketing ROI tracking.

By creating custom links that hook into your revenue reporting and website analytics, you can see exactly who did what and how.

For more on setting up influencer analytics tracking, check out bit.ly’s blog, and we’ll touch a bit more on this later.

For now, we’re going to cover the 5 proven steps to connecting and partnering with influencers and get them to promote you:

Step 1: Identify Potential Influencers

Step 2: Choose the right influencers to connect and partner with

Step 3: Connecting with and add value to influencers

Step 4: Making the ask to influencers the right way

Step 5: Following up on your influencer marketing campaigns

And finally towards the end of this in-depth guide, we’ll take a look at tracking and reviewing your influencer marketing campaigns… and all the tools you need to succeed.

Let’s go!

Step 1: Identifying Potential Influencers

Since influencer marketing is so broad, there is no one way to identify potential influencers.

It’s best to start with where you know (or believe) your target interacts, identify the biggest players, and start populating a spreadsheet from there.

You’ll want to collect their contact information, style, what you think they would be good for, etc. (more on this in step 2). 

This may seem like a lot of work, but remember that this list will serve you for years to come.

Here are a few ideas to get you started (I’ve included some screenshots as well):

Your Personal Network

Influencer Marketing Personal Network Chandler
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Who do you already know?

Pull the LinkedIn without LinkedIn approach here — identify friends or colleagues in a space you want to reach and start conversations.

This is the most traditional “networking” outlet you have. If you don’t have any names or people you can talk to now, don’t fret!

Your network will grow as you grow.

When I first started using influencer marketing and hosting virtual summits I didn’t know anyone, now I have a reliable group of people I can collaborate with on all of my big projects for the year. 

Existing Customers 

Does your company already serve anyone that has influences your audience?

E.g. if you sell SaaS software and one of your top clients is a marketing consultancy that works with entrepreneurs, then there’s an opportunity there. 

Instagram searches

Influencer Marketing Instagram Searches
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Old-fashioned #hashtag searches aren’t a bad route to go. Most influencers use hashtags frequently for exactly that reason — to be found.

Try to use hashtags that would only be associated with people devoted to a particular topic. 

So instead of just using #food when looking for food influencers, type in #professionalchef #artisanfood #foodofinstagram etc. This will save you time, believe me.

Course “Affiliate” Launches

You should always be following your competitors and industry peers.

Sign up for all of their mailing lists and get an idea of what promotions they are running and when.

Influencer marketing often develops into quid pro quo style relationship, and identifying people who have helped promote other courses in the past is a good place to start.

Check out the emails, keep an eye on advertising, and see what “pods” of people working together that you may be able to tap into.

While you’re here, notice which hooks grab your attention and which ones do.

Is there anything you can steal and implement into your own business? 

What would you do better? And which influencers impress you the most? Those are the people we want to go after.

Partner Webinars

Similarly to affiliate course launches, take note of who is both leading a particular webinar and making appearances on other people’s webinars.

This will give you an idea of how they like to work and names of people to add to your list.

Previous Virtual Summits

If you’ve hosted, participated, or seen a virtual summit before, then you’ll have a bunch of influencers to tap into. 

Virtual conferences can have anywhere from 10-80 speakers at a single event, so if you can find a virtual summit in your niche you’ll be off to a great start.

Bloggers In Your Industry

influencer marketing bloggers
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Using Google in conjunction with a traffic crawler like Ahrefs is an awesome way to find influencers. 

Just type in top *YOUR NICHE* blogs or enter in niche blog topics super specific to your industry, check their traffic rank, grab their contact info, make notes on their style and potential audience, and add them to your sheet.

Podcast Hosts

Influencer Marketing Identify Podcast Hosts
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Same idea as blogging. Just type keywords into Apple Podcasts or other podcasting apps and see what’s around.

You could also type the host names into Google and check out their websites as well. 

A lot of influencers use multiple channels, so you’ll be able to build out a well-rounded profile that way. 

Podcast Guests

Influencer Marketing Podcast Guests
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And don’t stop at the hosts! See who they have on and why. Each guest is an opportunity to go down the networking rabbit hole.


Influencer Marketing identify authors
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Books are an awesome resource because only people really invested in your industry will have written books, and you can get an easy idea of how they think / how people are responding to their message.

If barely anyone has bought their book and the few reviews that are there are negative, you won’t want to work with them.  

Course Creators

Take some time to check out online course marketplaces like Udemy, Udacity, Skillshare, and Coursera to see who the best-selling teachers are and how they approach your niche.

Facebook Groups

Influencer Marketing Identify Facebook groups
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If you aren’t already active in your niche’s Facebook Groups, you really should be.

Building up a reputation as an authority before selling anything goes a long way, and you will almost certainly find a bunch of people who work in and around your space here.

LinkedIn Groups

Same approach as Facebook, here.

Utilize common connections when you can, and look for respected authorities based on their endorsements, articles, and activity.


Just like Instagram, you can find influencers by searching particular hashtags and topics — keeping an eye out for popular boards and their creators.

Try and identify solo influencers or small businesses when you can.


YouTube influencers can be extremely powerful for younger audiences in particular.

Try to find people who review products or discuss news in your space, and take note of their subscriber count, average views, etc. (more on what information to evaluate influencers with in the next section).

Bigger Publications

These could be magazines, online news papers, online marketplaces — you name it.

Any website that is about your niche is worth looking at. Find out who is running the site and go from there.

Conferences And Industry Events

Look up all the conferences in your niche in your target geographical area and see who is speaking this year and who spoke in previous years. If one is coming up, grab a ticket!

But what about influencer tools and marketplaces? 

There are also a bunch of awesome tools that are designed to help you to identify influencers and make the whole process easier for you.

You don’t have to you use any of these. And to be fair, most of these are directories.

They do the initial sourcing, but you still have to research and determine whether or not they would be a good fit for you or not. 

Here are a few that help find influencers to connect with:

See the complete list in our tools section.

Other methods for identifying influencers

When identifying potential influencers, it’s important to think outside the box.

Once you’ve exhausted obvious influencers and keywords, take some time to think more broadly about your audience — you may be surprised by what you find.

See what I mean by thinking through these questions:

Who does the same thing as you but to a different customer avatar (that still fits into your target audience)?

Who does the same thing as you, but in a different way? This could be a different product, method, style, etc.

Who offers the “next” step in your demographic’s journey? E.g. if you offer boutique furniture you could target prominent interior decorators.

Who offers the “previous” step in your demographic’s journey? E.g. reverse the one above and target boutique furniture creators if you’re an interior decorator.

What else fits into the customer success gap? What other things complement your product? What are people who buy your product typically interested in? E.g. if you sell healthy snacks you could target fitness instructors.

Action Steps

Identify 50-100 potential influencers using this spreadsheet.

“True influence drives action, not just awareness.”

Jay Baer

Step 2: Choose The Right Influencers To Connect & Partner With

After you identify a bunch of influencers, it’s time to figure out who is actually worth talking to.

You probably already did some of this when building your spreadsheet, but now you should really focus on the researching the best influencers for your brand.

You need to work with people who are trusted and liked. People who are active and align with your style and goals.

More specifically…

Step 1. Look at their REACH. 

Who does their brand attract? How many people do they attract?

How big is their network? Are they primarily on one channel?

What is their combined reach across channels?

Who is their audience?

Their audience should be well aligned with the people that you are aiming for, and you can place them into one of the three types of influencers (c-list, b-list, or a-list).

Step 2. Look at their audience ENGAGEMENT. 

How does their audience respond to the content they publish? 

If the interaction is always one way, they’re not an influencer.

It should look and feel like a community.

Are they treating their followers well?

Are they interacting with them?

Do they have a decent follower to like ratio (15% or higher?)

And then check who actually engages.

Are they the same people you think the influencer is reaching?

Look at a few comments and see who is engaging.

If most of them aren’t in your target demographic, then you may want to reconsider.

Step 3. Look at their PROFILE. 

What image do they portray on their social media profiles and website?

A.k.a. What is their branding like? It’s important that their core brand is well aligned with your own. 

Your best bet is to create a seamless experience from the influencer’s brand to your own — that will increase conversion rates and the impact of your future partnership.

For example, if you run a super modern design agency, you probably don’t want to waste time working with influencers who don’t have sharp branding — unless you did something clever like a “brand” overhaul for the influencer and used that as a case study for the audience.

Step 4. Look at their COLLEAGUES. 

Who do they partner or connect with? The people they work with say a lot about who they are.

If you work in marketing and don’t like people like Tai Lopez, you shouldn’t work with people who work with Tai Lopez.

Or if you run an online vegetarian store that focuses on ethical sourcing, you probably don’t want to work with a foodie that specializes in meat products.

And if you’re running a particularly big campaign, you could talk to brands who have worked with a particular influencer before, too.

This isn’t a bad way to introduce yourself to that brand, either! 

Step 5. Listen to your GUT FEELING. 

Do you have a good feeling about partnering with them? No? Sometimes your gut just knows best, even if someone seems like a good fit.

Believe in yourself. You’re the one who will be working with them, after all.

Additional questions to consider when choosing your influencers…

What do they currently cover?

Do they usually post about food?

Is that the content that performs best for them?

If so, does that fit into your brand?

The closer you can align your brand’s marketing with the content they gained influence with, the better.

What do they stand for?

Are they super political?

Are they health-minded?

Are they promoting beliefs and stances your company is okay associating with?

Any partner you bring on board will reflect your brand one way or another, so choose carefully.

How and what do they promote now?


Influencer Marketing promotion 1
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Take a look at their last 15 posts or so. 

Check out their promoted posts and take note of the engagement compared to their organic posts.

Sometimes the creative is just better in the organic post (e.g. the Alexa Chung example), but other times it’s due to ad fatigue or an ad adverse audience. 

How often do they promote products?

The more often they do, the less their followers will pay attention.

If they do a #ad everyday, you’re going to be fighting through ad saturation and competition.

Sometimes this is okay if an influencer’s audience relies on them for that content, but you shouldn’t have to pay as much if that’s the case.

Avoiding influencers with ad fatigue is another reason why people like to work with micro-influencers instead of bigger names. 

Do they have their own products?

Identify potential conflicts or potential partnership ideas. If an awesome idea comes to mind, put it down directly in the spreadsheet.

If so, will your product complement what THEY do?

The more you can make the deal a win-win for both parties, the better.

That’s the only way to score partnerships, and it’s the best way to get good deals on transactional relationships as well. 

Will they help you to achieve the primary goal of your campaign?

Zoom back out a second. What is your immediate goal? Awareness? Leads? Sales? Analyze their engagement and potential partnership based on your campaign’s goal.

And finally…. Do you commit to reaching out?

It’s important to decide whether or not you are all in for each influencer.

After going through your spreadsheet, put all the passes aside and focus ALL your energy on those that are worth it for you.

Put yes or no, throw the rest into a separate spreadsheet or tab, and move onto the next step.

Step 3: Connect With And Add Value To Influencers

Okay. Now that we have a list, let’s figure out how to connect with these people.

A lot of larger influencers will have managers or are used to working in this capacity and only need an email to get started, but if you’re trying to develop partnerships instead of paying people out of pocket, then your approach needs to be a bit different.

The best way to connect with an influencer is to figure out what they need.

What influencers need and how you can provide it to them

Influencer marketing Jamie Oliver
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Influencers build and sustain their business through content, and good content is the crux of every successful influencer marketing campaign.

When reaching out to an influencer, remember that they know their audience best, and your first step toward developing a relationship is helping them engage their audience.

Here’s what influencers usually need:

  1. Case studies
  2. Testimonials
  3. Blog post comments
  4. Blog post shares
  5. Social media mentions
  6. Engagement on social media
  7. Book reviews
  8. Podcast reviews
  9. Product or service sales
  10. Product or service promotion
  11. Mentions on your blog or podcast
  12. Notifications about mistakes on their website (e.g. dead links)
  13. Introduction to someone they want to meet

It’s often best to play to your strengths. If you have awesome examples of any of these in action, make sure to use them when reaching out (more on that later).

Here’s something people often miss: you can start building relationships with influencers months before you ask them to collaborate.

While starting with the “ask” with micro-influencers and other people you just plan on paying for exposure is okay, it’s not going to work when trying to build relationships with industry leaders or A-list influencers that don’t usually do paid promotions.

So how do you work with top influencers in a more organic capacity?

By adding value and including them in your content.

What works for one person might not be as effective for someone else.

Your best bet is to personalize your approach and use a combination of these methods to add as much value as you can to the people that you want to connect with.

Ways to add value to influencers before an “ask”.

  1. Give them a sincere, genuine compliment for their awesome work! Specificity goes a long way here. 
  2. Provide a great case study or testimonial
  3. Comment on their blog posts
  4. Share their content and interact on social media
  5. Become an active member in the community (e.g. FB group if they have one)
  6. Write reviews for their books or other products reviews
  7. Help them promote their products
  8. Notify them of any dead links on site or suggest other improvements
  9. Introduce them to other influencers that could be a valuable connection for them
  10. Attend in-person events or conferences where they’re speaking.

I wrote detailed product reviews and blogs about influencers in my space.

Then, I used those as leverage when building my virtual summit speaker list.

These are all from my blog:

If you take the time to build smart, awesome content involving the people you want to talk to, you’ll be in a much stronger position to actually get them to talk to you.

I usually organize these efforts in a spreadsheet like this:

Influencer Marketing Spreadsheet
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A good way to make sure that connection and value activities actually get done (it’s easy to procrastinate when it seems overwhelming) — is to schedule these activities into your calendar.

Perhaps every Tuesday morning you could spend 1 hour connecting with influencers – get specific and write down actual tasks that you can do in that time.

Step 4: How To Make The ASK The Right Way

Influencer Marketing Todd Herman
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Again, it’s ideal to already have some sort of relationship with an influencer at this point — even something as simple as having offered some sort of value BEFORE you ask them to take part in your campaign.

A personal networking connection is ideal but obviously not realistic or necessary for most of us.

Of course, this depends on how well known the influencer is and how you position your ask — cold outreach is great for organizing micro influencers.

It’s a bit more difficult for influencers who have a name and make their revenue from something other than paid promotions.

And it’s normal to be scared when reaching out.

But really, what is the worst that can happen?

They say no?

You don’t hear back?

You move on and reach out again when you have a bit more influence?

Big deal.

The best way to get over the mental hurdle of fear about asking is to focus on how your offer will benefit the influencer as well.

Look. If you’re dealing with smart, rational people, then they won’t pass up on a good business opportunity. You just have to make sure your offer and pitch meet that standard.

For example, here’s how an influencer could benefit from working with you:

1. Grow THEIR list with a free lead magnet below a collaborative interview.

2. Promote their product at the end of the interview / get exposure to potentially 1,000s of people

3. Get promotion of their work to your “bigger” list.

4. Get affiliate commission from sales.

5. Simply getpaid for their time.

If you believe in your product, then you have nothing to fear 🙂

How do I make the ask?

After actual referrals or introductions, a personal email is almost always best, but in general you want to find the quickest and most efficient way to the influencer themselves.

Often times this is through the platform they are most active on. If they are a Twitter influencer without contact information listed, you can either tweet @ them or send them a direct message.

If they are an Instagram influencer, DM them there. If they run a website, reach out via email after being involved in the community for a bit.


On to some actual examples.

Here’s an example about asking an influencer to collaborate on a virtual summit of mine: 

Influencer marketing outreach virtual summit
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And here’s a virtual summit influencer outreach template:

Email Template: Influencer who doesn’t make their money exclusively from advertising


I’ve been following your work for a while, and I love all the valuable content you share on your site.

In fact, I just implemented [Specific thing you took action on, to make you stand out more].

Just wanted to reach out because I’m hosting an online event coming up about [Summit Topic].

I’d like to interview you about [What you would like them to speak about. Try to be specific here, so it shows that you’ve done your research ahead of time].

We’re expecting [X number of attendees] people for the event & these people (+ a bunch of others) have already committed to speaking: [List of names of your biggest speakers].

Interested? It’s a very low commitment (same as a podcast interview except much more exposure), and I promise it’ll be a good time. 🙂

Just let me know and I can give you more info. [You can also add here that you would like to schedule a time for a quick Skype chat; that’s the pre-call as I’d like to call it]

Talk soon!

[Your Name]

Read these two emails closely. You can model your outreach after these (just make sure to put your own spin on it and don’t use it word for word) — everything in this blog is for you.  

That first one uses a technique I like to call the Compliment + Value + Request Formula 🙂

Using the Compliment + Value + RequestFormula to Reach the Right Influencers

Even if you have an awesome product, you have to nail the pitch.

Nothing turns off an influencer like a poorly written sales pitch.

It’s often times your first personal contact with an influencer, and when dealing with potential partnerships every interaction you have with them is a reflection of your expertise and influence.

If you run a marketing agency and send a bad pitch or have a poorly designed website, they aren’t going to trust or want to work with you.

I’ve sent hundreds of outreach emails, and here’s the formula that I’ve noticed works best:


When you first reach out to the influencer, give them a specific compliment about an aspect of their work that you like.

For example, find an article, episode, or some of their content that resonates with you and let them know exactly what you liked about it.

Keep it simple and don’t ask for anything at this stage. You can also mention mutual friends in this stage. Just send them a message with a compliment.

In the example above, I reference someone else referring Peter to me in a positive fashion.


Think about each influencer and what they might need help with.

Perhaps they are promoting a new book, product or even free content.

Send them a message and let them know that you’d like to share it with your audience.

This step is important to show them that you pay attention and care about helping them too.

So provide an example of how your relationship can be mutually beneficial. 

In the example above, I let them know that this is an opportunity to reach 20k+ relevant people. That has huge value potential.


You’ve done the prep work; now it’s time to ask. Keep it short and specific.

Tell them exactly what you would like them to do, why you’d like them to do it and how it could help them.

Craft your message in a way that shows how the partnership will help them. Always make the focus on them, not you.  

Finally, I asked him to hop on a short Skype call to hash out the details. You must include an easy, actionable step for them to take.

Put yourself in their position and think about what you would like to see. 

You may have noticed a few extra elements tucked into compliment-value-request, here’s the exact step-by-step process I use 🙂

My Step-by-Step Influencer Outreach Email Creation Process

1. Start with a specific compliment about their work.

2. Tell them why you’re reaching out .

3. Suggest what you want to collaborate on. 

4. Mention the scope of your campaign

5. Add social proof by name dropping other influencers (if possible)

6. Ask if they’re interested in working together

7. End with a direct call to action (phone call, budget question). 

PRO TIP: Use video invitations to make your invitation stand out and get big name influencers on board. Just create a quick 1-3 minute video for them, upload it to YouTube, and link to it in your email!

This is your best bet. 

Using the Ladder Strategy to attract A-listers

As you may have surmised or experienced, it’s harder to get big names on board with a collaborative campaign.


There are ways you can approach those conversations that will give your business the best shot. It involves snowballing smaller influencers into larger influencers.

I like to call this the Ladder Strategy 🙂

The Ladder Strategy is awesome for getting big-name influencers on board.

The trick is to start by asking people who you know personally or have some kind of connection to and work your way up “the ladder” to invite bigger and bigger names on board.

As more influencers commit and say yes, you can add them as social proof when you’re reaching out.

This strategy work so well because it shows A-listers that you already have some people on board that they recognize and they aren’t the first person to say “yes” to your event or project. It proves you’re trustworthy and worth considering. 

Do you already have some kind of relationship with any of the people you plan on asking to work with?  

Reach out to these people first because it is easier to get people that you have some connection to already to say yes.

Do you have any mutual connections that could introduce you to one of the people on your speaker wishlist or dreamlist?

Do some digging on LinkedIn, and reach out to these people next because the influencer is more likely to say yes if they hear about you from someone they already know and trust.

Are you a member of any mastermind groups – in person or online (e.g. the VSM community) that could help you to connect with speakers in your niche?

If so, make a list of the groups and start identifying who can help you and how. TIP: Ask for referrals from other people in your niche. If you have a mentor or coach, they are often well connected and a good person to go to for help in this area.

Are there any live events in your niche that you could attend to connect with people in person?

Make a list and figure out which events are feasible to make.

Navigating the conversation

The outreach email’s goal is to start a conversation. Once you’ve opened the door, you need to:

  • Have a budget in mind
  • Show you’ve done your research
  • Be flexible. The influencer knows what their audience likes.
  • Your goal is to develop a relationship (be personable).

And lastly, make sure you know where you can and can’t be flexible on your “offer”.

How To Position Your Offer As A WIN-WIN-WIN Scenario

There are many ways that influencers can benefit from being a part of your campaign.

Below are a few ideas that you can use to position your offer and communicate its value.

Will your speakers have the opportunity to make money by participating in your summit (e.g. commission on pass sales)?

Make sure you have the specifics nailed down for this. Be professional. Be concise. Be thorough. E.g. 50% of all referral income you drive to our mutual landing page.

Let the influencer know they get to reuse any content created during the campaign — videos, assets, etc.

Having awesome assets on hand for their own marketing can save them a lot of money and time, and that’s an instant incentive you can leverage.

Will your summit speakers get exposure to thousands of new and engaged subscribers?

Give an honest and accurate idea of your campaign’s scope. If an influencer campaign goes well, you can continue to use these relationships for years to come. In no way fudge or embellish stats. This will only hurt you and your reputation.

Will you allow speakers to grow THEIR list with a free lead magnet somewhere in the campaign?

If there are opportunities where the influencer is free to plug their own products, let them know.

Will you continue to promote their work to your bigger list after the campaign is over?

Talk about how you’ll use the assets created in the future and how they may benefit the influencer.

Step 5: The Influencer Marketing Follow-Up Process

After you make the ask, there are four main responses that you might get:

  • Stone-cold silence
  • Request for more info
  • Straight up YES
  • Straight up NO

Let’s look at each of them.

Follow Up With People You Don’t Hear Back From 

Influencer Marketing Outreach Follow Up Email 1
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Some people may not respond at all in the beginning, so it’s important to keep on prompting them to get back to you as well.

Here’s a template that you can use as a base to follow up with people that you don’t hear back from:

Influencer Follow-Up Email

Hi [Influencer’s name],

​I just wanted to circle back with you regarding my email below. Any interest in exploring this a bit more?

I’d love to send you a bit more info. If not, no worries at all.  

Thanks for considering this.

​[Your Name]

Now that you’ve written it out, it’ll be much easier to schedule it using one of the of the automated follow up tools such as:

And don’t forget to reach out again and again.

Keep following up until you get either a YES or a NO. Persistence is key.

People are busy — especially bigger influencers. Just because they don’t get back to you doesn’t mean it’s a no.

What To Do If They Ask For More Information

Often times the influencer or one of their staff will ask for more information about the campaign before making a commitment to working with you.

It’s a good idea to create a “one-pager” about your campaign.

Pack it with concise information a single PDF page that you can send them. If you can, keep the PDF file size low as well (<5mb).

This makes it quick and easy for them to see an overview of what the campaign is about, how they can be involved, and what the process will look like.

Here’s an example of a one-pager I’ve used in the past:

Influencer Marketing One-Pager
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What To Do When They Say YES

When influencers get back to you with a positive response, make the rest of the process easy for them to follow through.

Send them a link to schedule a conversation with you using an online tool such as Calendly, Acuity, or ScheduleOnce if needed.

Or if it’s a smaller influencer or you don’t think a conversation is needed, let them know any additional specifics. This is when you can be as thorough as you need to be.

Also, when creating video content, it can be more productive for you to schedule ALL of the influencer collaborations into a short timeframe, such as 2-3 weeks. This will save you money if you need to rent gear, etc.

What to do when they say NO

If influencers kindly decline, let them know you appreciate their time and will let them know when the campaign launches in case they want to check it out. If they are rude, well just screenshot it for a future laugh and move on. 

Tracking And Reviewing Your Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Even though reaching out to influencers can be a lot of work, tracking the actual ROI and results of your campaign may be easier than you think.

The most important thing you need to do is set up affiliate links.

It doesn’t matter if you’re just paying them to promote you or are working in a partnership capacity, you need them either way. 

By creating unique URLs for each influencer you work with, you can track exactly how much they made you. This makes it really easy to calculate your influencer marketing ROI. 

I’m a big fan of ThriveCart. They make it super easy to specify affiliate links, organize commissions, and see your campaign’s results.

You can check out my in-depth ThriveCart review here.

Whatever software you use, just make to sure to create unique URLs for each influencer and tie them name directly to the URL for audience continuity e.g. bananarepublic.com/navid.

Or another example for the podcasters out there — squarespace.com/radiolab

Customizing the landing pages or funnel to the influencer

Be careful of diminishing returns here, but customizing landing pages to provide more audience continuity can go a long way. 

Take the squarespace example above with Radiolab.

If you click that link, it takes you to the same Squarespace homepage, but it lets you know that you qualify for the specific RadioLab discount.

This is much more effective than a general discount or generic landing page. 

Utilizing UTM Tracking

Analysis isn’t always restricted to a single platform. You may like the quick revenue overview ThriveCart offers but are curious to see how influencer traffic is moving through your site.

Those unique URLs will populate in Google Analytics (assuming you have the code set up correctly), so you can use that for further analysis.

This opens up pandora’s box of A/B tests — you could test landing page designs, product offerings, you name it. 

Remember to rank your top influencers at the end

After your campaign ends, don’t forget to report back to your influencers on the results and make not of who did well and who didn’t.

Size of email list or reach does not automatically mean they will bring in the most sales.

Smaller influencers with highly loyal audiences can sometimes outperform much larger influencers. 

You won’t know until you look, and you can figure out who you won’t reach out to next time etc. 


Running an influencer “contest” where the person who brings in the most sales gets a bonus can be a great way to motivate your influencers during a campaign.

You can also run a full scale “affiliate launch” where you involve many influencers and a bigger contest with leaderboards, prizes etc.

There’s obviously a world of topics you could discuss in the analytics world, but the key is to analyze collective performance and individual performance — keeping in mind conversion rates, traffic numbers, and how changes in design/brand matching may have influenced those rates.

Influencer Marketing Tools, Software & Platforms


 A lot of influencer tools make the process easier or offer faster connections for a fee, but they are not necessary NOR are they the only place to find influencers.

E.g. Sometimes they are great for organizing micro influencers, but you won’t find many A-listers on a marketplace.

Use your best judgment, and if budgets are tight consider the manual labor opportunity cost.


Influencer Marketing Tapinfluence
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Tapinfluence is an influencer marketplace that estimates reach, cost, and takes a lot of the back and forth out for a fee.


Influencer Marketing Buzzsumo
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Influencer Marketing Upfluence
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Upfluence organizes influencer outreach and provides campaign management.


Influencer Marketing Outreach
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Sales platform that you can use to organize your efforts.


Influencer Marketing Sparktoro
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Rand Fishkin of Moz fame’s new startup — influencer-finder software that focuses on publications and blogs over Instagram.


Influencer Marketing MozBar
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SEO plugin that gives you info on how powerful a site’s SEO is. Use this to evaluate the authority of websites and publications.


Influencer Marketing Mention
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Finds influencers who are already supporters of your brand, increasing close rates.


Influencer Marketing Hunter
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Helps you find email addresses based on domain names. Just be careful not to weird people out by getting their personal email addresses without consent.

HubSpot free Sales CRM / Email Tracker

Influencer Marketing Hubspot sales crm email tracker
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HubSpot’s free Sales CRM. It tracks your email opens & clicks among other things.


Influencer Marketing Iconsquare
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Use this to find social profiles by hashtag.


Influencer Marketing Followerwonk
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Use Followerwonk for Twitter influencer research.


Influencer Marketing Traackr
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Another influencer discovery and management platform.


Influencer Marketing Keyhole
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Social and influencer analytics. This can be useful when conducting large influencer marketing campaigns.


Influencer Marketing BuzzStream
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Another influencer discovery and outreach platform that organizes and streamlines your communication efforts.


Influencer marketing NinjaOutreach
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Similar deal to BuzzStream.

Additional Thoughts Around Influencer Marketing

​​​​Don’t forget to follow the FTC Rules

The FTC governs how advertising operates in the states, and they have rules about how to approach influencer marketing.

These rules stick mostly to transparency, and it’s your responsibility to follow them.

Back in the day, influencers didn’t have to disclose they were getting paid to talk about a product, but the FTC ruled that this deceives customers, which is why you see the “paid by” instagram branding or #ad.

Veteran influencers will be familiar with this already, but keep these rules in mind when working with micro influencers.

Make sure that every influencer you use on Instagram & Twitter includes #ad or #sponsored in their ads for every post, and for other mediums you can look at the established precedent.

This is usually only on social media platforms — email lists are still fair game!

You can use this infographic from Later as a reference from the influencer side:

Influencer Marketing Later Instagram Disclosure FTC
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Your Next Steps: Ready To Use Influencer Marketing To Rapidly Grow Your Business?

As we’ve covered, influencer marketing is a broad topic 🙂

In this ultimate guide you’ve learned exactly how to use influencers the right way to grow your business exponentially. 

I shared the key steps, strategies and tools I used to to achieve this level of success by connecting and adding value to specific influencers.

For me and my team, our favorite way to leverage influencers is through virtual summits


Because they bring in results like this 🙂

Jen 100k VSM Results1
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Ultimately, how you build your business is up to you, but if you want to fast track your email list and revenue, then virtual summits are a great route to consider. 

Using this in tandem with micro-influencers can be super powerful, too. Whatever you do, don’t sit by and avoid taking chances. 

Let me know in the comments below the story behind your influencer marketing campaigns and what tactics you’re going to start implementing to rapidly explode reach. 

Want to learn more?

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One Comment

  1. Sanjib Kumar Das says:

    Awesome guide on influencer marketing, thanks Navid. I will implement some of the steps you shared to connect and partner with influencers in my industry… and I’ll consider hosting a virtual summit too.

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