In spite of the buzz surrounding influencer marketing, I’m starting to think of it as a dirty word.

Why dirty? 

Some marketers have turned to influencer marketing as a quick way to meet their quarter's numbers. Influencer marketing isn't about this quarter or the next quarter — it's about building a meaningful, long-term relationship. 

We need a shift in mindset — from transactional to relationship focused.

Put Yourself in the Influencers’ Shoes

Let’s start by defining “influencer.” defines influencers as: “Individuals who have the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of their (real or perceived) authority, knowledge, position or relationship.”

Everyone in your industry is trying to reach influencers. So your influencer outreach needs to stand out from the crowd. 

I asked Andy Crestodina (@crestodina), co-founder of Orbit Media Studios, and noted influencer in content marketing, SEO and more how he evaluates influencer requests.

Crestodina asks the following questions when he receives influencer outreach:

  • Do I know you?
  • Are you asking for a lot? Or a little?
  • Is your request considerate? And brief?
  • Is it good exposure value? Known brand? Social following? Domain authority?

An example of an outreach that’s unlikely to succeed: “A total stranger writes a long, rambling email asking me to read their 200-page book and write a review on Amazon.” When contacting influencers, keep in mind:

  • They’re busy
  • They don’t know you
  • They need to see simple and clear benefits for proceeding

Don’t Expect an Immediate Response

Marketers are used to running campaigns with a fixed time period and immediate results: send an email on day one, then check open rate, click rate and leads generated on day two. 

You may wait days or weeks before receiving a response from an influencer — if you receive one at all.

According to Crestodina, “If the person is much more famous than you, you need to go slow. If you're more famous than them, you can go fast. Fame is subjective, but you can use audience size or social following as a proxy.”

Crestodina demonstrates this point in the chart below:

speed to fame ratio

Source: “35 Ways to Connect with Anyone Through Social Media

What's In it For Them, Not You

The action you take after receiving a response from an influencer is critical.

Carter Hostelley, CEO of Leadtail and fellow CMSWire columnist, noted during a recent influencer marketing presentation to the Bay Area marketers Meetup, “the big question that will determine your success or failure in influencer marketing is this: what can you do for them?”

When introducing yourself to an influencer, think, “is this something that would help them?” rather than “is this something you could do for me?” Offering help starts the relationship off on the right foot. Hostelley suggests helping influencers:

  • Feel smart and important 
  • Get more visibility
  • Solve a problem
  • Find more business

As Crestodina noted, asking influencers to buy and review your book on Amazon is the wrong approach. However, engaging influencers for a content piece provides more visibility and may make them look good in the process.

According to Crestodina, “anyone will do anything for a friend. So your first goal is to be friendly with them. After that box is checked, all things are possible.”

Be Ready for the Magic Question

Influencers value mutually beneficial relationships. Hostelley suggests being prepared to answer the magic question, “What can I do for you?” In his presentation, Hostelley noted the following as acceptable requests:

  • Give you a blog quote
  • Be a webinar or podcast guest
  • Share your content
  • Republish their content

Even when influencers are helping you, look for ways to help them back. If they give you a blog quote, share the blog on social media and tag the influencer’s handle. If they’re presenting in your webinar, spend advertising budget to drive a larger audience to the presentation.

Be in It for the Long Haul

Too often, we mark an influencer engagement as a success and move on. Thank you for tweeting the link to our white paper, influencer, it was nice doing business with you.

But there’s so much more that can be done — if you put yourself in the relationship rather than transaction mindset. Continue to follow what the influencer is sharing and writing about. Put an appointment on your calendar to check in with them every quarter.

Consider ways to deepen your relationship. Ideas include:

  • Collaborating on longer-form content 
  • Inviting them to join your company’s product advisory council
  • Introducing them to your customers
  • Introducing them to potential business partners

The Start of a Beautiful Relationship

Every team has them — that person who is passionate about fostering and nurturing relationships. These are the people you want leading your influencer marketing.

Lifelong friendships can result if your program is effective. And when you think back on how you met these friends, the term “influencer marketing” will be the furthest thing from your mind. 

Title image "Untitled" (CC BY 2.0) by  kenwalton