By Amanda Maksymiw published March 12, 2014

A Content Marketing Plan for Turning Your Influencers Into Partners

image-businessmen shaking handsFor me, influencer marketing and content marketing go together like peanut butter and chocolate — each is fine on its own, but it’s better when they work together.

As marketers are looking to turn up their content marketing efforts, many are turning to influencers to help take content to the next level. Why? Influencers can lend credibility to a piece of content or brand. They can help amplify reach and awareness which, in turn, helps ensure that the desired target audience will consume the content. Companies can also piggyback on an influencer’s brand to get a jump-start on developing their own brand preference and thought leadership in the market — take, for example, how industry-leading practitioners contribute content to the CMI blog, looking to use the platform as a means to extend their circles of influence.

Companies typically leap into influencer marketing by identifying their key influencers and engaging them in discussions, with the goal of bringing the influencer onboard to co-create or share content. Of course, this is a nice win — when it all works out. But to be really successful with influencer marketing, you’ll need to put together a content marketing plan — one that will help you build influencer relationships that will extend beyond a single content collaboration.

This is where nurturing your influencers comes into play. Just like with contacts and leads, influencers must be nurtured in order for the relationship to continue bearing fruit over time.

Understanding the influencer’s journey

image-buyer's journey-stages

Many of us have documented our buyers’ personas and journeys and use that information to help guide our content marketing programs (I like the above illustration of this concept from HubSpot because it uses a simple concept that we all understand — getting sick). So, here’s how we translate the example to B2B:

  • First, a buyer must be aware that there is a problem or challenge he faces that needs to be addressed.
  • Next, he must gain understanding of possible solutions to that problem, and commit to a particular solution.
  • Finally, the buyer must justify the decision and make the final selection.

We can apply this same school of thought to better understand our influencer personas and their journeys — although I propose we simplify the phases to Awareness, Interest, and Commitment. Just as we can strategize different content types to different stages of the buying journey, we can strategize different content types to stages of the influencer journey.

Developing the nurture framework

Once you have an understanding of the overall influencer journey, you can develop a rhythm to your outreach and a content marketing plan to nurture your influencers. There isn’t a silver bullet when it comes to this, but here’s how I view such a plan:

image-arrows-nurture influencers

Awareness: This is where you lay the foundation for the relationship that is to come. The influencer first has to be made aware of your company and the problem you solve. It may take time to ultimately get on the influencer’s radar, but success will likely come with consistent and frequent outreach efforts.

Here are some content marketing activities you can consider at this stage:

  • Reaching out to your influencer via social media
  • Sharing your influencer’s content on social channels
  • Commenting on your influencer’s blog
  • Attending industry events and professional speaking engagements and introducing yourself personally

Interest: This stage is about building an understanding between your company and influential followers. Here, the target influencer is aware of your company, has demonstrated interest in your company’s offerings, and understands your value proposition, so the goal is to build his or her interest in working with you.

Sample content marketing activities might include:

  • Discussing customer stories
  • Providing a demo of your product
  • Requesting a contribution to a content project
  • Sharing existing content assets with a request for feedback

Commitment: This stage is all about mutual value — where the influencer adds value to your content program in some shape or form, and receives value from working with your company, in return.

Sample content marketing activities in this stage might include:

  • Co-hosting a webinar
  • Co-creating an eBook, video, or infographic
  • Contributing new content to your blog
  • Submitting a quote or perspective on a larger content asset

Here are two email messages (a pitch request, and a follow-up letter) that you can use as a starter template for your initial outreach during the commitment phase. They can be customized based on your influencer’s knowledge of your brand, areas of expertise, and your particular ask. 

Pitch request: 

pitch request email

Follow up: 

follow-up email-thank you

These three stages ultimately lead to the final stage of true influence: where the influencer acts on your company’s behalf without necessarily having to be prompted with a direct request.

It can be really smart to add some level of automation to track your progress and stay in contact with your influencers on a more regular interval. You may experiment with reaching out to the influencers with whom you have solid relationships two to three times a month to ensure you stay top-of-mind. During those touch points, you can share other relevant blog posts, eBooks, videos, topic ideas, etc., to keep your influencer in the know and help identify future opportunities for collaboration.

How are you nurturing your influencers? I’d love to hear about your efforts in the comments.

Looking for more guidance on influencer marketing? Download our complete toolkit, Influencer Marketing: The Latest Strategies, Templates, and Tools, for a simple 8-step process – including templates.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Amanda Maksymiw

Amanda Maksymiw is the content marketing manager for Lattice Engines, a leader in B2B sales intelligence software helping Fortune 5000 companies sell smarter and achieve a 6-14 percent increase in sales productivity within one year of deployment through Intelligent Targeting, Contextual Conversations and Measurable Execution. She is responsible for setting and managing the company's content marketing strategy including creating, producing, and publishing engaging content. Follow her on Twitter at @amandamaks.

Other posts by Amanda Maksymiw

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  • Hashim Warren

    Amanda, how do you feel about starting out with an email during the awareness stage?

    I’ve been testing introducing myself with an email, and building interest through a chat over the phone. I haven’t asked for an commitment yet.

    Here’s how content marketing works with this. I find that people Google me before answering my email, and definitely before hopping on the phone. I better have some thought leadership content to back me up, and it has to be scattered across the first ten results for my name.

    • Amanda Maksymiw (@amandamaks)

      Hashim, I’d recommend starting with email over a cold call for sure. If you are having success with an outright email, that is really great! Sometimes it is difficult to cut through the clutter, which is why I recommend engaging the influencer on social media or through blog comments. Best of luck!

  • Paveya

    Thanks for sharing Amanda! I agree with you. Above all things are Awesome! User generated content is good but it can also effect keyword density, so if your page is targeting a highly competitive keyword, user generated content may effect your rankings. Once again Thanks for Sharing!

    • Amanda Maksymiw (@amandamaks)

      Thanks for checking out the post, Paveya.

  • Tom George

    Thanks for a great post Amanda! I know a lot of people who could really benefit from reading this. Happy to share the article.

    • Amanda Maksymiw (@amandamaks)

      Thanks, Tom!

  • Lea Ann Stundins

    As both a marketer and an influencer, I am constantly on both sides of this equation. As such, I help PR firms to develop better strategies for engaging influencers as content partners. As the influencer, I’ll agree with you that when a brand interacts with me on social media and shares my existing content of their own accord, I am much more inclined to start working with them.

    • Amanda Maksymiw (@amandamaks)

      Thanks for sharing, Lea Ann. I appreciate the feedback.

  • Nadine Ebert

    Dear Amanda,
    it just so comes, that today I got in personal
    contact with an influencer after I commented one of his blog posts. He
    wrote me an e-mail and asked me something about my comment. I will keep
    doing this and now I’m thinking about asking him for a guest post or an
    interview on my blog later. I hope, it works out 🙂 But anyway, I can
    tell by own experience, that your strategy works. I was part of a
    project where we collected interesting facts for a topic from different
    (more or less official) ressources. I stayed in contact with them and
    later on I contacted them again, informing them about the results and
    got some attention.

    • Amanda Maksymiw (@amandamaks)

      Glad to hear that, Nadine. Keep it up!

  • Jason Murphy

    This reminds me of link-building requests back in the early SEO days. The approach is penalized these days.

    • Amanda Maksymiw (@amandamaks)

      Jason, influencer marketing goes well beyond link building and instead focuses on building the relationship to get so much more than a simple backlink. If that is just the goal, something is certainly missing!

  • guptaabhijit318

    Really nice posts there are many things to learn from this post about how to build relationship online with their readers. These tips are important and true. Thanks for sharing this post.

  • VBL Technologies

    Thanks for a great post Amanda! I abundantly comply with your points. despite what platform you are victimisation, content is often the amount one attraction, strategies of conveyancing it return second.