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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