Businesses are in a tough position when it comes to standing out and making a name for themselves. This is especially true for startups. Many of these businesses have emerged to meet emerging customer trends, often disrupting long-established and competitive markets. Creator endorsements similarly disrupted traditional marketing techniques that relied heavily on TV and newspaper ads. Despite many people thinking influencer marketing is expensive, even small businesses can leverage creators to bolster their brand in saturated markets and reach prospective customers. The key is to work with influencers who are equally passionate about a common cause and truly represent the brand. But that is just one point we’re going to cover in this article, we also discuss different budget-friendly tips young companies should consider and incorporate into their strategies and prove that influencer marketing is a vital option for startups.
What Influencer Marketing Challenges Do Startups Face?
As a newly started business with a few employees, most of these companies lack professional marketers and can't afford external advertising agencies. Many startups are established by young entrepreneurs who finance their businesses and handle production themselves in the beginning. They even lack the experience or time necessary to develop a marketing tactic that increases brand awareness and reaches their target audience; two essential goals for success.
To break into the market, startups must carefully select an ad option that is cost-effective and develop a highly optimized marketing plan. Through leveraging influencers, startups can reach their intended audiences on multiple social media channels, build their brands, and drive conversions.
Why Influencer Marketing for Startups Can Work?
Similarly to the way influencer marketing has changed advertising, startup culture is changing business environments by breaking old practices.
They differ from typical companies in that they focus on innovation, are more flexible, and aren't afraid to take greater risks. Most of these brands build on ideas and creativity and overturn fixed business thinking and implementation in the process. They want to fill market gaps by creating unique products or cater to emerging consumer demands by drastically improving existing ones. Moreover, they must succeed in a highly competitive environment and stand out from many well-funded and prestigious companies. They have the best chance of success with influencer marketing and here’s why.
Precise targeting: Unlike traditional advertising approaches which often target broad demographics, influencer marketing enables startups to target more precisely and reach audiences highly interested in the brand and its products. Creators whose followers match your target audience and are closely linked to your industry can convert users into customers.
Grow awareness: Due to their lack of visibility, startups have a harder time standing out from their business environment as compared to companies that have been in their sector for decades. When an influential figure gets the word out, they can help build the brand and make it a viable player in the industry.
Affordable: It’s a common misconception that influencer marketing is only for companies with deep pockets. Startups don't have to feel excluded from it if they prioritize lower-tier influencers, carefully negotiate rates, and agree on non-monetary payment options.
Establish credibility: Content creators’ followers look up to them, and if they promote your product positively, their fans will take notice. Support from individuals with knowledge and expertise can establish a business's reputation.
Viral potential: The above demonstrates how influencer content can massively enhance a brand's reach. By mentioning the brand to followers and spreading the word among their community, your company’s audience and potential customers can grow immensely.
Influencer marketing helped these startups level up and grew revenue
The founders of MVMT Watches, two young men in their early twenties, set out to change the luxury watch market - a competitive industry - by offering affordable, but high-quality watches. The first noticeable difference is the company's capital was not obtained through bank loans, but through crowdfunding. Since the company was founded in 2013, it was cheaper to advertise on Facebook than to use Google ads. So they used Facebook Ads cleverly by experimenting with various ad formats and split-testing each ad to gain the highest conversion. As a final step, they offered freebies to micro- and macro-influencers whose content they liked and thought would fit their product. And it worked! Creators posted about the watches to their followers, who also shared images under the hashtag #jointhemvmt.
A total of 39K images by social media influencers and 160K photos by users were shared on social media and the company generated $90M in revenue within five years.
Would you believe that a subscription-based company selling dog toys and treats can reach $1.6 billion and can enter the stock market? Then, let us introduce you BarkBox. Even in a very niche market, despite the economic downturn during and after the pandemic, they managed to grow their profit and fan base. Thanks to their multifaceted marketing tactic, which involved fun and educational blog posts, an affiliate program, and teaming up with opinion leaders and influencers to promote their service, BarkBox built credibility and earned the trust of dog lovers.
An Effective Influencer Marketing Strategy for Startups
We already emphasized the importance of a strategic approach and this starts with determining who you want to target and what you want to attain with your marketing pursuits.
Define your target audience and goals
Go beyond basic audience demographics, like age, gender, and location, and get to know as much about your target customers as you can. You may develop a product to satisfy a certain consumer group’s demands, but extensive research can reveal their buying habits and preferences. Do they prefer online or offline shopping? How much are they willing to spend? What specific qualities would grab their attention and inspire them to buy it? Using this knowledge can help you improve your product or service if it is still in development. Furthermore, you can identify creators with followers similar to those you hope to attract.
As a startup, your main purpose is to grow your brand’s visibility and the audience’s engagement, drive sales and generate profit. The latest is especially fundamental if you started your business with a loan. Setting goals is easier if you think about why you started your business, what is its purpose, and who you want to serve. Your company’s mission and vision are interconnected with your goals. Your mission reflects your core ideas and values and assists you in decision-making, including your creator selection. At the same time, your vision helps you reach your long-term aspirations and sets a direction for development.
Your goals must be clearly defined and achievable, relevant to your industry, easy to measure, and time-bound. They will serve as a guide and motivation for you and your team, increase the morale of your crew and avoid procrastination. Objectives provide transparency and accountability and help you measure your overall progress and the performance of your colleagues. This allows you to quickly make adjustments to your method and aid in allocating your resources and evade overspending.
Once you've determined your goals and targeted audience, you can develop your influencer campaign message and see which social media platforms and content will resonate with them. Lastly, you will be able to pinpoint social media influencers who will be most beneficial to your influencer marketing campaigns.
Identify the right influencers
Of course, you must consider several factors like relevance, engagement, reach, size, and authenticity when it comes to creator selection.
Consider your niche
The only way to establish yourself as a trustworthy brand is to work with influencers who are authorities in your industry. If you’re offering vegan protein bars, you probably won’t contact financial advisors or DIY experts, but rather fitness instructors, promoters of a healthy lifestyle, and even vegan home cooks.
Don’t forget your values
Even if you find creators who are producing content in your niche, they must be in line with your values. To take the vegan protein bar example further, in this case, you should look into influencers’ diets as well. Your business image would be immediately tarnished if you collaborated with a fitness personality who has previously worked with a meat delivery company.
Go for small influencers
More precisely look for nano- and micro-influencers. Nanos have 1,000 to 10,000 followers, while micros have less than 50,000, making them more affordable for businesses that just started. But that's not the only thing that speaks for them. These types of influencers nurture a close and genuine relationship with their audiences and produce the highest engagement rates on TikTok and Instagram. As they are still at the beginning of their influencer careers, they are likely to produce a decent return on investment. Additionally, they can spice up content about you with their unique voice.
Negotiate non-monetary compensation
The other perk of collaborating with nano- and micro-influencers is that they are more likely to accept exclusive services and free products as remuneration. If you can't pay them a one-time fee, be upfront about it, but assure them that you can offer valuable goods or services that will benefit them, just like MVMT Watches did.
Tools for influencer search
You may search social media platforms for creators by using relevant hashtags or your competitors’ names. This way, you can get some data on the number of likes and comments creators receive on their posts but you won’t see their follower dynamics and ER unless you ask them. Alternatively, you may use influencer marketing platforms that have large creator databases, like HypeAuditor, and offer free trials or free plans, or you can use free tools to audit influencers’ accounts for fake followers and ER calculators.
Build relationships with influencers
Influencer marketing for startups works only if they cultivate lasting relationships with their influential partners and ultimately, that's what it all comes down to. You and they are both at the beginning of your journey, you can grow together, and you can push each other to reach your goals because you are not the only one that wants to grow.
Reach out to creators in a way they won't reject you
Start off on the right foot and make a good impression by paying special attention to your first message. Needless to say, the more you learn about digital creators and their content and relationships with their community the more convincing your initial message will be. How are the two related, you ask? The easiest way to get them on board is to acknowledge their work, like their posts, or share their content on your social media. In your first email to them:
Describe yourself and your business briefly.
Tell them why you approached them. Here’s the time to mention one of their outstanding posts or how their overall attitude and ideas are a perfect match for your brand.
Summarize your campaign message and the nature of the partnership in short.
End your message with a CTA.
Give them just enough information at first to intrigue them, rather than a lengthy brief. Besides, try to personalize your messages as much as possible by using their names, and profile names, quoting some of their posts, etc.
Ways to incentivize influencers
You may motivate creators by engaging them in an affiliate or referral program and offering them a commission after each sale that is attributed to them. Because you only pay after a purchase is made, these programs are considered risk-free and can boost conversions as well.
Make your proposal more enticing by giving discount codes to influencers that they can share with their followers. This will prove to them that you’re interested in providing value not only for them but for their fans too.
A glimpse behind the scenes, attending an event, or providing valuable materials gives them content ideas. Plus, it makes them feel like they are part of the company's exclusive inner circle.
It's not just your communication that needs to be relatable. If you opt for sending them freebies make the experience incomparable. Add a personal message and thank them for their time in trying out your products, and personalize the package and even the items you send.
Through your partnership, you get to meet people who will become enthusiastic about your brand and would make excellent ambassadors. Let them know that you are thinking long-term once you have worked with them together successfully.
Discuss content ideas and write an agreement
After you have found social media influencers who are interested in collaborating with you, it’s time to send them a brief where you describe your campaign details and message, reiterate who your target audience is, and what you want to achieve, and summarize what differentiates your brands from others. You can share your content ideas, provide a timeline and your brand guidelines, and also include the terms and ways of payment.
As a next step, draw up a contract where you establish the scope and length of the partnership again along with payment terms and content usage. A contract should ensure protection for both sides defining each party’s obligations and conditions. An influencer contract has to include how the creator will be compensated for their work and clarify content usage rights and exclusivity. This is especially critical when repurposing user-generated content across several channels.
Essentially, the content generated by influencers or users is their property, and you must obtain their consent to use it. Reusing UGC is budget-friendly and enables brands to grow brand awareness on numerous social media platforms. Encouraging people to take part in your challenge or contest have the potential to go viral and will enhance engagement. Further, influencer recommendations and user reviews, and testimonials significantly influence customers' purchasing habits because they are more authentic and carry more weight.
Measure and analyze your influencer campaign’s results
Let’s quickly refer back to the point where we talk about how goals can help you improve your marketing efforts. Technically, they help you define how and what you will measure during your influencer marketing campaigns. So you need to set goals to determine metrics that allow you to track and evaluate your performance. Through data, you can understand whether you are on the right track, uncover your weaknesses, and spot under-performers. On the other hand, it helps you identify first-rate creators with whom you can plan long-term and lets you analyze your influencer campaign’s return on investment. Calculating the latter is crucial if you're working on a shoestring budget.
Influencer marketing for startups is an effective way to stand out among the crowds of brands that are competing for consumers' attention. Don't let a low budget hold you back! Influencer marketing is ideal for targeting accurately and growing your business through credible endorsements. Select creators who can authentically spread the word about your brand and foster relationships with them. Let influencers unleash their creativity during content ideation and monitor your campaign's progress. If startups keep these tips in mind, they can use influencer marketing to bootstrap their business and build their brand.