Marketing is just a fancy way of saying that you’re great at building relationships with people.

You’re used to creating campaigns that drive awareness and conversions (hello Customer Value Journey!). Sometimes it’s challenging to create these relationships, but for the most part, you’re able to get the job done.

As a marketer, we know you’ve peered over at the influencer side of digital marketing and wondered—“Should I be doing that?”

That question always leads to… but how? 

You’re used to building relationships with your customer avatar. What you’re not used to is creating them with influencers. That’s an entirely different ball game, especially if you want to create a long-term relationship.

This is where Jamie Lieberman, founder of Hashtag-Legal lends us her marketing brain. In a recent Insider Training shared with our Lab members, Jamie explained how to maximize influencer marketing relationships beyond sponsored posts. We reached out to Jamie to wrap that Insider Training into a few key pieces that could help our audience (that’s you reading this!) create those long-term influencer relationships that lead to conversions.

If you’re struggling with getting your influencer marketing strategy off the ground… we have a feeling we know exactly why.

Is This Why You Haven’t Tried Influencer Marketing Yet?

Influencer marketing is maturing, but it’s not perfect yet. Digital marketing has taken over, and we don’t even think we need to add the digital anymore, but there are still so many unknowns when it comes to approaching new strategies.

How do you start without messing it up?

As Jamie explains, “When a business owner or marketer considers creating relationships with influencers, many experience feelings of overwhelm about where to start. Business owners often need information about how to start relationships, how to even contact an influencer and what to say, what to offer the influencer, and how to structure a deal.  Because there are so few standards in influencer marketing relationships, many feel as if they don’t have many resources to educate themselves.”

It’s a classic case of Analysis Paralysis. You don’t want to make a move because if it’s the wrong move, you’ll let your team down. But, if you don’t make a move you’re stuck with the voice in your head asking you, “What if…?” every time you scroll social and see an influencer promoting a similar product.

Let’s turn that “What if…” into “I did it” by showing you the two most common mistakes to avoid so you can be confident in starting your influencer marketing.

Jamie sees brands make two major mistakes when they reach out to influencers. 

The first is to only see a transaction. “Failing to view the relationship as any other advertising and marketing relationship by keeping the arrangement too casual (i.e. no terms and no contract). All influencer marketing deals should be memorialized, even when only the product is offered as compensation. “

The second is choosing vanity metrics over engagement. “Business owners and marketers often try to connect with influencers with the largest following, without taking the time to confirm engagement rates and that the influencer’s audience aligns with the brand’s consumer.”

If you avoid these two potholes on the road of influencer marketing, you’ve made it past two of the most treacherous parts of this facet of marketing. Your focus can now shift to creating those long-term relationships with influencers.

3 Strategies for Creating Long-Term Relationships with Influencers

People want to buy products their friends, family, peers, and others they follow on social media actually use. As influencer marketing has matured, it’s inevitable that the consumer mind has followed suit. It’s easier to spot an influencer showing off a product because they got a great paycheck out of it these days. These are usually the products that they rave about for a post and you never see them mentioned again.

That’s not the kind of influencer marketing we’re focusing on here. We’re looking for the long-term relationships brands can build with influencers that continue to show their audience this influencer loves this product.

Here are 3 strategies to bypass surface-level influencer marketing and go straight into the deep end.

Strategy #1:  Spend the time learning about the influencer and creating a real relationship.   

As Jamie explains, “Get on the phone and really talk to each other. Relationships are formed by asking questions and spending time listening (on both sides). Brands can ask influencers about the demographics of their audience, the content that is most popular with their audience, and about past case studies.”

Don’t be afraid to ask influencers for this information. As someone with their wallet out ready to pay them, you’re allowed to ask what their weekly impressions are, how many profiles they’re reaching, and other metrics behind their posts.

The same applies to the influencer as well. Ideally, you’re working with professionals who are looking for more than a paycheck. “Influencers can ask brands about their goals for the relationship, the brand’s ideal customer, and for examples of past successes. A professional influencer will know detailed information about their audience and will be able to confirm the influencer’s audience is aligned with the brands,” says Jamie.

Creating long-term relationships with influencers requires an ROI. These questions ensure you’re setting your campaign up for success and not throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing which influencer is able to get you a solid ROAS.

“These conversations save money so brands can avoid relationships that may not be effective,” Jamie explains.

Strategy #2: Empower the influencer to have control over the content by working together to create the strategy for the campaign.

It’s tempting to walk into an influencer campaign with creative ideas in your back pocket. You know your audience, so shouldn’t you have a say in how your product is presented?

The answer is yes…but also no. When you chose the influencers to work with, you decided how your product would be presented. By looking at their past promotional campaigns, you can get an idea of what yours will look like. But now that the influencer is hired, it’s time to let them do their thing. They know their audience better than you and giving them creative control ensures you’re getting the highest chance of an ROI.

Here’s how Jamie sees it. “Influencers know what resonates with their audience. Working collaboratively with an influencer on the angle of the content will not only get the influencer excited about creating but will also make the content more effective.”

Strategy #3: Be transparent about expectations and respond to communications in a timely manner.

You have a business and so does the influencer. Jamie reminds us that these relationships are professional—and they should be treated as such. “Influencers often experience long pauses in communications, especially when asking for information from brands. This can lead to frustration and a feeling that the relationship is not valued.”

As a marketer, you’re a pro at building relationships. You know the first way to erode a relationship is through bad communication. If you want influencers to be excited to work together again, you have to treat this relationship with the professionalism you bring to your client’s work. 

Here’s Jamie’s advice, “Providing clear creative briefs and providing timely feedback for drafts goes a long way to maintaining a long relationship.” 

Once you’ve hired influencers and are ready to hit publish, go over what success means for each relationship. “To track metrics, the brand or marketer should set trackable goals before engaging with an influencer. Once the brand or marketer decides on the KPIs, it is a good practice to communicate them to the influencer so they are able to create content that will maximize the KPI,” Jamie explains.

Communication is key. But your marketing mind already knew this.

If you’ve been thinking the grass over in the influencer marketing lawn looks really green, it’s time to hop over and test out what it’s like over there. Start simple with a few practice campaigns and work your way up as you get data that can predict how your other campaigns will perform.

Use Jamie Lieberman’s 3 strategies for cultivating long-term influencer relationships to get it right the first time.

Get Free Access to DigitalMarketer's Training Library