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Step-by-step Guide to Managing Your Influencer Relations with a Sales CRM

Three weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me a Fast Company article profiling three successful female entrepreneurs.

This friend happens to be a startup founder as well. He wrote:

How did these entrepreneurs get featured in Fast Company? Did they reach out to the magazine, or did the magazine reach out to them? And how can I do the same???

I wrote back: influencer marketing.

If you're as new to the concept as my friend, read on for a step-by-step guide to your first influencer campaign — and how to run it with a simple CRM.

What’s influencer marketing?

First, let’s define what an “influencer” is.

Mel Carson, a former digital evangelist for Microsoft and the founder of Delightful Communications, explained that this term refers to someone with credibility and a relatively large following.

Influencers can be bloggers, journalists, academics, industry experts, business partners and even celebrities.

Michael Brito, group director of marketing communications agency WCG, said: “They are the 1% of the market that create content. They drive the conversation.”

Influencer marketing involves cultivating relationships with influencers so they will spread the word about your company or product to the rest of the market.

Why it shouldn’t be scary

While the practice might feel foreign, the concept should be pretty familiar.

When you trying to sell to a customer, you need to get to know that person: build a rapport, learn their needs and establish trust. Well, when you’re trying to to work with an influencer, you need to do the exact same thing.

That means that if you can work with consumers, you can definitely work with influencers. It also means that you can use your sales CRM to manage your influencer outreach efforts.

Step No. 1: Identify your influencers

Brito said the first step in any influencer marketing campaign is simple: Identify your influencers.

“There are usually 15 to 100 influencers for any given niche,” he said. “For example, if you run a tech startup, Robert Scoble would be an influencer.”

Carson suggested using social analytic tools like Follower Wonk, SocialRank and BuzzSumo to find the influencers in your space.

Once you’ve developed a list of 10 to 20 people, add them as contacts to your CRM.

Make sure to include all the relevant information you have, including:

  • Email
  • Writing focus
  • Publication (if applicable)
  • Social media accounts

And if you have any helpful observations, such as “Covered competitor in March 2014” or “Writes monthly product reviews,” include those as well.

Then, create a stage in your pipeline that represents all the influencers you’ve identified but haven’t yet interacted with.

Step No. 2: Get to know them

Next, Brito said, you should develop an understanding of who each influencer is and the types of conversations he or she is having.

“Follow them on Twitter and add them to a list so you can easily monitor what they’re doing, subscribe to their blogs via a RSS feed and set up a Google alert to track their online activity,” he advised.

Amanda Kolowich, a marketing associate at Driftt, said her company interacts with their influencers in “small ways,” such as favoriting or retweeting their content on Twitter.

To keep track of these efforts, create an “engagement” stage in your pipeline. It’s also helpful if you schedule tasks for every “deal”; for example, for a blogger, you could commit to commenting on five posts, while for a popular author, you might schedule two tweets about his book.

Step No. 3: Reach out

Move an influencer to the next stage of your pipeline when he or she starts reciprocating (that is, likes or favorites your tweets, shares your content, etc.) or when a predetermined amount of time has gone by (depending on how influential they are, that period could be two weeks to three months).

In this stage, you’ll reach out to the influencer and attempt to engage.

Carson’s agency usually proposes a specific action or goal for the influencer to take. For example, his team might email an influencer and say, “We’re launching this new product next week — would you be interested in writing an article about it?”

“We work on campaigns that are useful for both the company and the influencer,” he said. “So we always try to communicate to the influencers what’s in it for them.”

In most cases, the influencers benefit from industry insights and inside information that helps keep them “experts in their space,” Carson said.

Drift's team asks influencers to contribute to the company’s guest blog or promote existing posts.

However, creating or sharing content aren’t your only options.

Carson said you can also ask influencers to speak at your panel, conference, seminar or other event; act as your representative at another organization's event; participate in Twitter chats, webinars, podcasts, or videos; or be quoted in your eBook, white paper or study.

To keep track of all these separate pitches, make sure you’re using the notes section of each deal.

Step No. 4: Track your results

If the influencer agrees to a partnership, mark the deal as “won.” If he says no or doesn’t respond, mark the deal as “lost.”

Over time, you’ll have enough data to draw some conclusions about what’s working and what’s not.

Maybe every influencer with more than 15,000 Twitter followers turns you down — but 80% of the influencers in the 5,000-to-10,000 followers agree to partner with you.

Or you notice that influencers are most receptive to your pitches when you’ve spent at least one month promoting their content.

These insights will help you make each wave of your influencer marketing campaign more successful than the last.

Interested in more tactical advice on how to use a CRM for outreach? Read about how Lesson.ly used Pipedrive to get more media coverage.

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