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Have you ever watched a commercial featuring a big celebrity and wishes that you had access to the same resources that big companies do?

You might not be able to get Tom Cruise to recommend your products, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t reap the benefits of influencer marketing. In fact, sometimes getting a local influencer to talk about your brand can be more effective than attracting a huge celebrity.

Influencer marketing works. Research shows that 69% of consumer are more likely to buy a product after reading about it on a blog they follow. That’s just as true for small companies as it is for big ones.

Do you want to put influencer marketing to work for you? Here are some tips to help you.

Identify Your Marketing Goals

It’s not a good idea to reach out to influencers until you know what you hope to accomplish through your association with them. In that sense, influencer marketing is no different than any other kind of marketing – you need a strategy.

Are you hoping to attract a certain number of new customers? Boost sales of a particular product? Whatever your goal is, you have to define it and be able to articulate it before you take the next step.

Locate Potential Influencers 

Your goals are in place… but how do you find influencers to work with? The key is to use tools to find the influencers who are most likely to have an impact on potential customers in your area.

There are two ways to approach your search. The first is to search for influencers by niche. For example, if you own an apparel store it would make sense to seek out fashion bloggers to talk about your products.

You can find bloggers by niche using Blog Catalog, which has convenient menus you can use to narrow your search. You might also want to try searching on Google using your keywords. Sticking with fashion, you could search “top fashion blogs” to find potential influencers.

You can find social media influencers by niche by searching keywords with Facebook or Twitter. Searching hashtags may be useful on Twitter and Instagram.

An alternative option for local business is to search for influencers in your area. Here are a few tools that might speed up the search process.

  1. Twtrland is a tool you can use to track influencers anywhere in the world based on their location (as well as other metrics.)
  2. If you’re using Google+ for your business, you can try Circloscope as a way of identifying local influencers in your niche.
  3. Add local keywords to Google and social media searches to narrow your list of results.

Accumulate a list with multiple influencers so you have options.

Filter Your List

Every influencer you find isn’t going to be a match for your particular business and needs. Many of them may not be. That’s why, before you reach out, it’s important to dig in and do some research to narrow down your list.

What are some of the metrics you can use to narrow your choices?

  • Number of followers. Determining this figure on social media is pretty easy, but on a blog it can be harder. You might see the number of subscribers, but not everybody who reads the blog subscribes to it. Sites like Alexa can help you figure out how much traffic a blog gets.
  • Target audience. If there isn’t a fair amount of overlap between your target audience and an influencer’s audience, there’s no point in pursuing a relationship. It can be tricky to find out who someone’s followers are, but it’s worth taking the time to do it.
  • Brand values. Anybody you’re considering has to be a good match for your brand values. You might find a local blogger with a big audience, but if they’re advocating for ideas that you don’t want anywhere near your brand, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
  • Passion. Checking out what an influencer has done to help other products or brands is a good way to determine whether they’ll be a passionate advocate for your products.

Nobody knows your brand better than you do, so do the legwork and then trust your instincts to choose the best influencers to approach.

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Build a Relationship

At this point, you might be tempted to jump in with both feet and ask the influencers you’ve located to talk about your brand.

Not so fast. Instead, take a little bit of time to build up some rapport with them. Subscribe to their blog, follow them on social media – and get involved.

Involvement might consist of commenting on their blog, liking their posts on Instagram, or re-Tweeting or replying to them on Twitter.

Think of this stage as paving the way for your request. You can soften them up a bit and make them more receptive to your approach if you let them know ahead of time that you’re a fan.

Make a Request

Once you’ve established a connection, then it’s time to reach out and ask if the influencer would be willing to work with you.

If you’re asking someone to help you out on Facebook, your best approach might be to message them on Facebook – and so on. Be polite and professional, and it wouldn’t hurt to offer up some mild flattery too.

Know in advance what you’re prepared to offer in terms of compensation. Some influencers may work only for cash, while others may be willing to help you out for a free product.

Be prepared to negotiate – but also, be prepared to walk away. It’s not worth paying an amount you can’t afford. Influencer marketing can be a big help to local businesses, but not if you break the bank to pay someone.

Reap the Rewards

Once you’ve made a deal, all that’s left is to let the influencer you’ve selected work their magic. Part of the reason you chose them is because of the connection they have with their followers, so don’t try to micromanage it. Let them have some creative control over how they approach it.

And don’t forget to track your results! Influencer marketing works best when it’s just one piece of your marketing mix. Try one campaign – and then expand if you find that influencer marketing makes sense for your business.

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