Gaining traction as a startup is a tall order. Often faced with limited or nonexistent marketing budgets and little-to-no marketing professionals, startups have fewer options to boost brand exposure and awareness.
But getting the brand name out there as a startup is vital to a business’s future success. Without a robust marketing strategy, it could take even longer to build the recognition and growth necessary to stand out in a crowded market.
Influencer marketing is an excellent marketing strategy for startups (and virtually every other business). While it takes some planning, work, and marketing spend, influencers offer a lot of bang for the buck to get a brand name out there in an authentic, approachable way.
Benefits of Influencer Marketing for Startups
Image: Joycelyn from our Hello Panda campaign
Often, influencer marketing campaigns have brand awareness as a broad goal. Sales and customer loyalty are important, but they start with generating brand awareness. As the audience and customer trust grow, brands may have dedicated followers turn into paying customers.
Influencers have a lot of value for building awareness for startups, whether through informational videos, sponsored giveaways, or product highlights.
As mentioned, influencer marketing offers an excellent return for the marketing budget. If money is tight, investing in influencer marketing offers $6.50 in revenue for each $1 invested. Even with a miniscule budget and a small investment, startups can get a lot of traction from influencer campaigns.
Paid ads can get a lot of attention for a brand quickly, but businesses could spend a lot before achieving the desired outcome. On top of that, a lot of consumers are using ad-blockers and ignoring traditional ads, leaving brands to come up with a new solution.
Influencer marketing offers plenty of organic growth and reach. Influencers with active accounts on multiple platforms can get the brand and message out to different communities in a natural, authentic tone, making it more meaningful and lasting for the audience.
A Shortcut to Content Marketing
Content marketing is a long-term strategy, and it takes time to reap the rewards. One of the most effective benefits of marketing on social media is repurposing content for multiple uses, getting the most out of a brand’s time and resources.
When brands collaborate with influencers, they’re getting content from top-notch content creators who will research, plan, and create it themselves. Depending on the influencer, brands may also have an opportunity to share the content across platforms – email, website, brand social media accounts – to give it a wider reach.
Social Media Presence
Like content marketing, building a social media presence takes time. The more followers and engagement a brand has, the more the content will be seen. So, brands that are just starting out with building a social media presence could get buried beneath the larger and more active brands.
An influencer can help with this, too. When followers see the content from the influencer, they may be inclined to learn more about the brand and check out more of its content. They may become loyal brand followers themselves.
Effective Ways Startups Can Use Influencer Marketing
Image: Brooke from our PurePail campaign
Choosing the Right Influencer
Startup influencer marketing is ideal for brands looking to boost visibility, reach, engagement, and growth. It’s important that brands connect with influencers in the right industry and on the right social platforms, however.
Choosing an influencer is about more than popularity. Influencers should be relevant to the industry with an overlapping audience that’s likely to be interested in the brand or product. Brands should also partner with influencers that are appropriate for their budget and goals – influencers with massive follower counts may seem appealing, but they may not have the same dedication and passion from their audience as smaller influencers.
With this in mind, brands shouldn’t get caught up in the numbers. Reaching a small but engaged and highly relevant audience is more beneficial than trying to reach a broad group of people.
Influencers have appeal for consumers because of their authenticity and expertise. The most successful influencers got their followers by crafting content that they know will resonate with the audience and building their personal brand.
This is why it’s important for brands to partner with influencers they trust. Influencers need some degree of freedom to be creative and authentic in creating content. Micromanaging an influencer isn’t positive and only harms the relationship.
That said, brands should establish guidelines prior to the relationship. The more information an influencer has, the more creativity they can use to fit brands into their campaigns naturally.
Working with Micro-Influencers
Startups and micro-influencers are a good pair. These influencers have a niche audience that’s loyal, rather than boasting celebrity status.
These influencers build personal connections with their audience because of its size. Engaging with a few thousand people is much easier than millions, giving them more sway over their audience.
Typically, a micro-influencer falls between 1,000 followers and 100,000 followers, all of whom are engaged. Because of this targeted audience, micro-influencers can market to specific audiences with impact.
Influencers may struggle to provide fresh, high-quality content on a consistent basis, especially if they’ve been in the industry for a while. They’re always looking for inspiration and opportunities for guest posts, which is where a brand can start to build a relationship.
Startups can connect with influencers and offer guest post topics. This not only boosts brand exposure, but it cultivates personal relationships with influencers.
Free Product Exchanges
In most cases, startups are working with limited marketing budgets and seeking cost-effective methods of marketing products. Influencer marketing offers some of the highest return on investment among marketing strategies, making it the ideal choice for early-stage startups.
New businesses with limited resources to offer monetary compensation can offer free products in exchange for reviews, testimonials, or other content. Accepting free products or samples for reviews is also common for influencers looking to build their own personal brand, so it’s mutually beneficial.
Not every influencer is looking for product exchanges, however. Some prefer direct monetary compensation for content creation, so the terms of the partnership should always be outlined, discussed, and agreed upon in advance.
Social Media Takeovers
Brand takeovers are becoming a hot trend in social media. Influencers “take over” a brand’s social pages for a period of time, posting, responding, and sharing on behalf of the brand, gaining the attention of new audiences and boosting brand reach and awareness.
Relinquishing control of a social page can be difficult for brands, however. It’s vital that the brand trusts the influencer and that all the rules and expectations are discussed in advance. Ultimately, startups need to work with influencers that will reflect their brand in a positive light.
Co-Hosting Events or Interviews
Another option for startups to compensate influencers is with invitations to events and product launches. Brands can also interview influencers – or vice versa – to expand reach. Either the brand or the influencer can share information about their experiences and industry knowledge, drawing new audiences.
Affiliate programs offer passive income for influencers who are brand representatives. These influencers are usually micro-influencers in their industry.
With affiliate programs, brand representatives have links to products with a unique URL and promote the products in their content, usually with a discount for first-time purchases. Affiliate marketing is common in the beauty and arts and crafts industries, among others.
Strong influencer marketing relationships can grow into long-term partnerships. Whether they’re partnerships or brand ambassadors, brands can connect with influencers and work with them for an extended period of time – usually a year or so.
This has benefits for both the brand and the influencer. Brands can rely on having a trust influencer backing their brand, and influencers have a steady and reliable partnership to count on. These influencers become the “face” of the brand, so it’s vital that the relationship is built on prior experience and trust.
Brand ambassadors or partners actively share and promote brand content in multiple formats, including videos, tweets, and photos, through social media channels.
Like any other marketing strategy, influencer marketing should be approached with goals and outcomes in mind. For example, a startup’s goal may be to attract a certain number of new followers to the social pages within a month or quarter.
Prior to the campaign, startups should have a record of current data, such as weekly sales, followers, and web traffic. This ensures a benchmark to measure influencer campaigns against and ensure that the campaigns are on track to achieve the goals.
Influencer Marketing for Startup Success
Startups have a lot of hurdles to overcome, including limited marketing expertise and budgets. Influencer marketing bridges the gap as a cost-effective solution with content marketing, brand awareness campaigns, and more.