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How to Leverage Cold Email In Your Influencer Outreach Strategy

If you’re looking for a way to grab the attention of your ideal buyers, then you need look no further than someone who already has their ear. You need an influencer.

Get them to put in a good word for you, and your chances of success increase exponentially.

Influencers are individuals in a particular industry or niche that have some degree of sway over your potential customers. They’ve already built credibility, trust, and authority, so when they recommend or advocate for a new product, the community reacts in a very positive way. That means more sales, more signups, and more revenue.

It’s not the only way to connect and engage with your target market, of course, but influencer marketing works very well in our modern digital landscape.

Television commercials? We’re streaming commercial-free or skipping them with PVRs. Direct mail? It gets tossed before getting opened. Cold calls? We use caller ID and voicemail to screen, and do-not-call registries to avoid them in the first place. And online? The number of people using ad-blockers in the United States was just under 70 million in 2016, and nearly 87 million in 2017, an increase of 24% in just 12 months.

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The playbook that we used in the past just doesn’t hold up anymore, so we’ve got to rethink our tactics. Marketing is getting the right message to the right people at the right time and place; but it all comes crashing down when you simply can’t get your message in front of the right eyes. Game over.

So start over with an influencer outreach campaign. The audience is right there, waiting to be, well, influenced.

Sounds good, you might say, but does it work? According to a recent Tomoson poll:

  • For every $1 spent, influencer marketing delivers an average of $6.50. That’s a 650% return-on-investment.
  • Influencer campaigns are the fastest-growing customer acquisition channel, according to 22% of surveyed marketers.
  • 59% of surveyed marketers plan to increase their influencer budget.
  • The top two most cost-effective methods for customer acquisition are influencer marketing and email.

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But it’s not just popular with the marketing crowd: 49% of Twitter users look to influencers when making a buying decision, 40% of consumers say they’ve actually purchased a product after seeing an influencer use it on Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube, and 92% of them trust influencers more than a traditional advertisement.

The name says it all. Influencers have the prestige to influence their audience … who just happen to be your audience, too.

Influencer Defined

Before we go any further, we need to define what an influencer is and is not. An influencer typically has a big following, creates and shares their own content, has a sizable email list, and enjoys higher-than-average engagement from their community.

They have an audience and a voice.

An influencer may be a traditional celebrity like an athlete, actor, singer, or ‘other’ (Kim Kardashian, I’m looking at you), but they don’t have to be. Many influencers are not famous outside of their own sphere of influence.

In fact, many influencers don’t even have a huge following. Called micro-influencers, they can pack just as powerful a punch.

More and more, brands are turning to people with far less numbers of followers—sometimes even as low as 8,000—to help share their messages. In return, a brand receives intangible benefits like authenticity, a unique point of view, deeper storytelling and the potential of reaching a more tailored audience.” ~Rebecca Suhrawardi, Fashion Journalist and Forbes Contributor

As long as they have genuine clout and reputation, the actual numbers become relatively unimportant. If their community reacts and responds to their suggestions – do they buy and spend based on what the influencer says? – then the size of the group doesn’t matter.

Besides, who says you have to stop with just one influencer? Influencer marketing can be scaled up or down with ease.

Cold email is a great way to reach out and connect with influencers in your industry, but you’ve got to do it the right way. I’ll give you one guess how many offers they accept when bombarded by messages from people they don’t know asking for a recommendation (hint: zero).

Don’t do that.

Cold Email for Influencer Outreach

Here’s the system I personally use. It works for me, and it can work for you, too.

Step 1: Find the Influencers

Before you reach out, you need to identify the influencers – both big and small – in your industry.

There are several ways you could do this, but I generally like to keep things simple. I start my search with a quick Google query. I Google relevant keywords and phrases followed by ‘influencers,’ ‘communities,’ ‘groups,’ or ‘blogs’ and make a list with a few readily-available metrics like number of followers and publishing schedule.

If I’m looking for influencers in DIY finance, I might Google “DIY finance influencers” or “DIY finance blogs.”

Click a few links, collect a few names, and build your list.

Next, check out their social media profiles for more data. While there, use the platform search in the same way to find platform-specific influencers on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and more.

Use a tool like BuzzSumo to find out who is creating the most-shared content on a given topic or keyword. Look to a service like Brand24 to find the frequency with which they’re mentioned online (the more the better). Try a site like to not only find all types of influencers in every industry, but also to run and track your campaign.

Remember that it’s not just about the number of Twitter followers. Medium-sized influencers are often better than the big fish – and easier to work with – while micro-influencers are increasing in value all the time.

You want numbers, yes, but more important is the engagement they generate – likes, comments, share, mentions – and their impact on their community. The best influencers have reach, relevance, and resonance.

Step 2: Follow Them on Social

After generating a list of potential influencers, I like to check out their profiles and follow them on social media.

My reason for doing this is twofold: 1) By scanning and reading the stuff they share with their group, I can get a better understanding of them and whether they’re actually a good fit for my product and audience, and 2) by genuinely getting involved with them in some small way like commenting, liking, or retweeting, I can warm them up even if only slightly.

By following and engaging, they’ll see my name at least a few times. Then, when I get around to the actually outreach, I’m not a complete stranger to them.

Step 3: Reach Out Via Email

After I’ve spent some time on their preferred social media platform or channel, it’s time to reach out and make direct contact.

The key here is to provide value to them, to help them, and to generally make them look good.

I might make a comment or offer a sincere compliment about a recent blog post they’ve written, ask for a short quote for a piece I’m writing (with a promise to send them the link later), share an article or round-up from my blog that mentions their product or website, point out a broken link or small typo on their post, or ask them about an upcoming speaking engagement.

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If I do ask for something at this stage, it’s usually a generic “let me know if there’s any way I can help you with X.”

The point is, I’m building a relationship with them before I ask them for anything. Everyone asks them for something. Stand out by offering them something instead. Get their attention.

Research them. Personalize the email. Be genuine and sincere at all times. And follow up if you don’t get a response at first.

Step 4: Nurture and Nourish

Once you get that coveted response, nurture and maintain the relationship for all it’s worth … because it’s worth a lot. It’s a give-and-take situation. Give in the first email or two, then take something in the next one (a guest blogging spot, a product review, or whatever).

Clarify for yourself what kind of relationship you want this to become. Is your ultimate goal for them to be an advocate, user, contributor, cheerleader, reviewer, or something else? Know going in so you can gently move the relationship in that direction.

I recently ran an influencer outreach campaign for Linktexting using this system. The blog is primarily about product management and marketing, so I targeted influencers writing on those topics. For step 3, I wrote an email template – and automated its delivery and follow-up with Mailshake – that included a sincere compliment and comment on my favorite post of theirs, and its impact on me personally. I shared some links to relevant posts I’d written, and my anchor piece was an interview I did with a major industry brand. I eventually asked about guest blogging opportunities on their sites.

It’s often best to delay your ask until later unless you have some level of reputation and clout yourself, though. Give before you take.

Influencer marketing is made for the shift away from traditional marketing and online ads. Consumers are more influenced by recommendations, reviews, and stories from people they trust these days.

So find the people they trust. Engage with them. Reach out via cold email. And nurture the relationship. Their influence can be your gain.

Is influencer marketing part of your marketing mix? Any additional tips? Share in the comments below: