Influencer Marketing Strategy: How to Scale a Business : Social Media Examiner

Wondering if influencers can help you grow your business? Wondering how to work with influencers?

To explore influencer marketing, I interview Adi Arezzini on the Social Media Marketing Podcast.

Adi is an influencer marketing expert. She’s the CEO and co-founder of Teami Blends—a lifestyle brand that creates products inspired by the natural benefits of tea.

You’ll learn Adi’s strategy for working with both micro- and macro-influencers, find out how to research and reach out to influencers, and discover what types of offers work best for influencer marketing campaigns.

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After departing from the military, which she had joined at age 19, Adi began looking into a digestive issue that was causing her discomfort. Through that journey, she developed a 30-day tea-based detox program, which was the catalyst for starting her own business, Teami Blends, in 2014.

She was 23 years old and shipping tea out of her bedroom with no idea how to get her products into Whole Foods or other retail stores.

She and her business partner noticed that a lot of people were promoting products and brands on Instagram, and decided to use the platform for their own marketing. Adi didn’t have the money for photographers or videographers, nor did she have influence of her own, so they decided to use the influence of others to promote their products.

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A lot of people talk about influencer marketing as an idea but they don’t know what it actually takes to make it happen. Adi started with an Excel spreadsheet and a lot of time and patience. Through trial and error, she discovered an influencer marketing method that works.

Today, Teami works with approximately 1,000 influencers every month on an ongoing basis and has grown into a multimillion-dollar brand. The majority of sales come from influencer marketing, and 70%–80% of people find out about Teami for the first time via influencer marketing.

Why Working With Influencers Succeeds

The beauty of influencer marketing is that it works on any social media platform. For instance, in addition to Instagram, Teami is working with YouTube influencers because that content generates perpetual views that can be indexed in search.

The value of influencer marketing—especially to smaller businesses without huge social media profiles—is two-fold.

The first advantage is the power of being recommended by someone people trust. People will almost always prefer a word-of-mouth recommendation from someone they know or trust to an ad featuring a stranger.

The second advantage is social proof. When an influencer recommends your product, their audience will ask questions about your product, check out your social profile, and visit your website. Teami gets thousands of new followers every week, not from growth tactics that involve hashtags and giveaways, but from massive social media exposure via the influencers they work with.

The combined downstream effect of those mentions and that social proof is that even if your product isn’t right for someone who hears about it, they’ll remember your brand when it’s right for someone they know.

Micro-Influencers vs. Macro-Influencers: What’s the Difference?

Influencers are often categorized by audience size. In Adi’s business, she views anyone with between 5,000 and 100,000 followers as a micro-influencer, and anyone with a following in excess of 100,000 as a macro-influencer.

Depending on your product and your target market, you’ll have a pool of both micro- and macro-influencers to work with.

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In Adi’s experience, you can work with micro-influencers to create a commission-based partnership, which is extremely important for profitability. Macro-influencers, on the other hand, typically get paid up front; macro-influencers will rarely work with you on a commission basis.

Influencers make the jump from commission to a flat fee when they’ve reached a certain level of influence and performance, and feel that they deserve to be paid up front.

If you’re going to pay a fee up front, the key is to negotiate and understand the risk involved versus the anticipated return. You have to be okay with the possibility that you’ll lose that money. Each month, Teami tests new macro-influencer relationships and assesses who was valuable at a given rate and who wasn’t. They find a few who were very worth the money and a few who tank. She notes that while she’s at a level where she can take those risks, she wouldn’t suggest it for someone just getting started.

Influencer Marketing: Strategy and Tips

When she started, Adi worked only with micro-influencers and she suggests others follow her lead to gain confidence in choosing which types of influencer accounts work for you and which don’t.

She wants to emphasize that working with micro-influencers can be very simple.

First, you find and reach out to your micro-influencers and agree to partner. Then, you send them your product and follow up to make sure they receive it. You agree on a time for them to post about your product and give them direction on what kind of content you want them to produce—a video, story, picture, selfie, reel, IGTV, and so on.

When considering the creative, it’s important to recognize what’s already working well for an influencer. If someone’s feed is built around pictures of her babies and suddenly a very professional, staged-looking photo of her on the couch holding a product is inserted into her feed, you instantly know it’s an ad and you don’t want to trust that influencer.

Teami actually sends links to content from the influencer’s profile to show examples of what they want the influencer to do. With that direction, they can create the content that seems native or looks organic to their feed.

You also give them a unique discount code to share in their post so you’re able to track sales from their audience. Adi notes that three sales per week is a good average for a micro-influencer working on commission.

Begin by testing 50 initial micro-influencers in slightly different niches, maybe yoga accounts, food accounts, and recipe accounts.

When you identify influencers who are delivering sales, take a deeper look at them. What is it that works for you? Perhaps she’s a mom with a recipe account, is really authentic with her fans, and her fans ask her for a lot of recommendations. At the same time, you may find that micro-influencers niched in yoga didn’t generate any sales so you can remove yoga influencers from your outreach.

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As you watch the results come in, you’ll develop a compass that will guide you toward the types of accounts and influencers that will help you scale your results.

How to Find and Contact Influencers

Adi finds Instagram influencers two ways. The first is via paid software such as GRIN, which you can use to search accounts by keyword. The second, which Adi still uses today, is hands-on research on Instagram.

When you’ve identified someone who’s working well for you (Teami HQ refers to this as an origin account), open their Instagram profile and click on the down arrow in their bio. Next, you’ll see a row of suggested accounts that are similar to and/or followed by the origin account.

Click See All and take screenshots of that list of accounts. And just like that, you can have hundreds of accounts to research and reach out to.

Most Instagram or YouTube influencers have their email listed in their bio and you want to email and DM them. Email first, and don’t rely on canned messaging here. The first two lines need to be very specific to the person you’re contacting.

“Hi Ashley. My name is Adi Arezzini, and I’m the co-founder and CEO of Teami Blends. I am obsessed with how you’re homeschooling your daughter.”

Then tell them about your product and ask if they’re interested in a partnership with your brand.

Next, send them a slightly less formal DM.

“Hi Ashley, I just sent you an email about my brand, Teami. I would love to partner with you. Let me know if you have any questions.”

When you close an account (the term Teami uses to note an account that has agreed to work with their brand), you can transition into the strategy outlined above.

Is This System Scalable?

When Adi was doing the research and outreach on her own, she found that one person can use this system to reach out to and manage about 500 Instagram influencers on an ongoing basis.

She now has a team of seven in-house influencer managers tracking how many influencer accounts they close with, how many accounts have posted, and how many sales are generated.

It may look overwhelming but you can start small by doing it yourself. If you start seeing some traction, consider hiring an assistant to help you and see if it will scale for you.

How to Build Ongoing Relationships With Influencers

Where people often misstep with influencer marketing is failing to maintain relationships with those influencers who generated sales.

Regardless of whether someone is a micro-influencer or a macro-influencer, if their posts worked for you, you want to create an actual relationship with them so they continue to post every 2 weeks or every month or every week to show that they have a collaboration with the brand.

And this is why having an influencer manager is so important.

Going back to the example above with Ashley, you or your influencer manager sent Ashley one of your products, told her exactly what you wanted and needed, and scheduled a post to go out from her on Thursday. When she posts, you want to maintain communication with her, again via email and Instagram DM.

“Hey, Ashley, I saw your post. Thank you so much. I loved how you mentioned X about the product. I’ll check in on you in a couple of days and give you an update on the sales.”

Then, early in the next week, you reach out again.

“Hi, Ashley, happy Tuesday! I hope you had a great weekend. I wanted to let you know that you had two sales in the last couple of days. That’s incredible! I’m so excited that your followers love the recommendation of our product.”

The influencers love to know that their followers are interested in what they’re promoting because that signals the product aligns with the influencer’s brand.

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In the same email, you move the relationship forward.

“How about scheduling your next post in 2 weeks? How does November 20th work for you?

You get that next post locked in and you continue the cycle.

A micro-influencer will likely be open to posting for you 10–20 times a year, and while macro-influencers may be open to the same frequency, that might not be best for your brand. Adi recommends 30–45 days between posts. That way, if you’ve paid several thousand dollars up front for a post, you’re giving it time to deliver sales and become profitable.

Using the above approach will open you up to some variables, but as long as you’re building a genuine relationship with an influencer, you increase the likelihood of them working with you.

If you see that someone’s doing really well for you and generating a lot of sales in a short amount of time, you want to almost hyper-speed the relationship-building. To visualize this, if an influencer averages 200 sales every time she posts, show that influencer all the love she deserves. Send her gift packages, engage with her on social media, and generally try to create a genuinely friendly relationship.

If an influencer says they aren’t sure about doing another post and that they need a week to think about it, respect that boundary. Then, when you follow up in a week, remember to give them a solution that helps them as well as yourself.

“Hey, I think it would be a great idea to give your followers an update on how you’re doing with the skincare product that you promoted 3 weeks ago. And, when that post makes sales, I could send you more commission.”

Relationship Management Tools

To effectively manage influencer relationships, one-on-one and at scale, Adi’s team uses a couple of different tools.

To manage calendars, scheduling, and daily reminders, she uses Asana, which is similar to Slack. They always know who agreed to post what and when they agreed the post would go out, and when to follow up with every influencer.

To track sales via discount codes, Teami uses in-house software developed by Adi’s business partner, but tools such as GRIN also offer this functionality.

To streamline email communications and follow-up, her team uses Gmail Boomerang, which is an email follow-up reminder feature that will alert you to follow up on an email if the recipient doesn’t respond in a certain timeframe; the feature costs $10 per month.

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