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Making a good first impression is always important when you’re hoping to form a long-term business relationship with a person or organization. Yes, influencers may do business a little bit differently than the rest of us. But it’s still true that your approach really matters in forming a good first impression.

Influencer outreach is the process of approaching influencers to get on their radar. Ideally, you’ll form a mutually beneficial brand-creator partnership. This approach, when done correctly, isn’t just a matter of finding an influencer you like and getting in touch by any means necessary. The more careful you are about influencer outreach, the better results you can have.

Do Your Due Diligence

Influencer marketing can pay off in increased exposure, better sales and stronger relationships with your customer base. However, these good results are by no means guaranteed. There’s definitely a wrong way to go about the process of recruiting influencers. If you get it wrong at this early stage, you’ll likely get a dismal ROI.

First, you need to do a lot of prep work before you start reaching out to influencers. You shouldn’t just look for influencers who are a good match for your niche and demographics. Look also for those who have track records of making high-quality sponsored posts.

There are some red flags to look out for in an influencer’s feed. If their personal content is all carefully curated and beautifully photographed, but their sponsored content seems like an afterthought, that’s a red flag. The influencer in question might not think too much about their brand deals. Both parties should bring thoughtfulness and creativity to the table for an influencer brand deal to really succeed.

While you’re checking out their social media history, scan for anything that makes the influencer seem like a particularly good match for your brand. Take notes about specific things you like or that seem like a good fit for your brand. You’ll mention these later in your outreach message.

Go Through the Proper Channels

Smart influencers want to see that brands know what they’re doing before agreeing to a deal. That goes beyond just finding the right match for your brand. Do some research to find the influencer’s business email. If this information isn’t available in the influencer’s Instagram, Facebook or Twitter bio, check other platforms. YouTube About pages, for example, can be good resources for this.

If that doesn’t work, you can send a DM to ask the influencer for their contact information. But don’t do your first outreach contact through social media. It’s not polished and professional to leave a business inquiry in a comment section or even send it as a DM. You want to be engaging, not surprising.

IZEAx Discovery’s influencer search tool also makes it easy to send inquiries directly to an influencer via their chosen medium. The bottom line is that you need to be strategic in how you reach out. Aside from being unprofessional, leaving an inquiry in a comment or DM means you can’t be sure that the inquiry reached the right person. These messages also may just get ignored. That’s because social media isn’t really a platform for business dealings that may involve contracts and other legal components.

There’s something sketchy about a business that appears to be trying to circumvent potential avenues for accountability. That’s a big reason why outreach over social media is a bad look. Whether through a platform like IZEAx Discovery or a business email, you need your initial approach to reflect your understanding of business and accountability. Influencers will respond to this in much more positive ways than they do shoddy, hasty messages.

Get Personal

Tailor your messaging when you approach influencers. There’s not much appeal in an influencer outreach email that’s obviously generic. Simply saying “We want to work with you, influencer” isn’t enough. Beyond merely plugging the influencer’s name into a form, you need to personalize your outreach emails from start to finish. Make sure to highlight the reasons why you think your collaboration would be mutually beneficial.

Influencers need to look out for their own interests too — it’s not just about making money. A brand deal that seems inauthentic or forced won’t play well with the audience. That can lead to criticism for the influencer and a lack of ROI for the brand.

For example, British influencer Scarlett Dixon had a bad experience with an over-the-top fake post and bad brand match that resulted in a flood of harassment. Listerine, her brand sponsor, didn’t necessarily suffer — most of the negativity was directed at Dixon herself. But the company also didn’t get a good ROI from that partnership. The post was just too fake to play well on social media.

The influencers who are good at what they do realize how important it is to create authentic content, and they won’t take just any offer. You’ll need to show that you understand what the influencer does and that you’ve put strategic thought into why they’re a good match for your brand. If you explain this in a concise, convincing way, the influencers you approach will find it hard to say “no.” The outreach email is a pitch, after all. Put effort into making your partnership appealing by highlighting the opportunity to work with a niche-relevant brand.

Be Friendly and Stay Diplomatic

In addition to making your outreach personal, you should make it approachable and friendly. Write in a way that makes the influencer want to respond to you rather than ignore your message. Remember to keep this friendliness within the boundaries of acceptable professional behavior and don’t try anything too out of the box. Just be fun, personable and direct.

If you play your cards right, you aren’t likely to get a rejection when you reach out to an influencer. However, there’s always a chance that the influencer’s dance card is full or that they quote a rate that’s not within your budget.

An influencer might reject you, quote a rate you find high for their level of engagement or otherwise respond to you in a suboptimal way. Stay friendly and professional. First and foremost, this is a business transaction, so there’s no need to get personal. But influencers can also take screenshots and put brands on blast when they get rude.

Influencers want to work with brands, but they aren’t supplicants. You can quickly and easily ruin your reputation by being rude. Plus, the influencer you reached out to may eventually change their mind, so it’s best to leave bridges unburnt.

Don’t Forget to Talk About Your Brand

So far, we’ve covered a lot of ways to put the focus on the influencer. This helps them feel confident that you’ve actually done your due diligence and aren’t just selecting them at random. However, it’s also important to remember that the influencer might not have heard of your brand before. Don’t forget to put some explanatory information in your outreach email or message.

This information should include links to relevant products and social media accounts. The influencer may want to vet your brand just as you vetted them. Providing this information also helps bolster your initial impression of being organized and professional. Anticipate questions and provide information that might help answer those questions.

Again, though, don’t go overboard. You’re writing an initial outreach message, not a novel. Balancing all these elements can help you get to “yes” without much back and forth.