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If you’re serious about your marketing plan, you’ve probably considered the idea of starting an influencer marketing campaign by finding high-profile individuals to help market your product for you.

But creating an influencer strategy is a lot more complicated than simply picking someone famous and asking them to promote what you’re selling. It takes careful strategic decisions to avoid choosing the wrong influencer for your audience or losing your audience altogether by over-promoting.

So before you implement an influencer marketing strategy, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your campaign will be as successful as possible.

2. Research Your Audience Thoroughly

You can’t choose the right influencer unless you know what your own audience will respond to. Define the target customer you’re trying to reach, then consider the type of influencer that is already reaching those people.

Doing this will require extensive analysis, so be prepared to dive into your data. Look into standard demographics, such as age, gender, and location, but also find out as much as you can about their general interests. This will help narrow down the possibilities as you search for the right influencer.

A mismatch between your audience and influencer will not only turn away your audience, but it will also hurt your brand.

2. Start Your Influencer Search

Once you have an idea of what kind of influencer would appeal the most to your audience, you can begin your search.

At this stage, it’s important to be realistic about the types of influencers you can afford (and who are willing to work with you). In other words, if you run a tiny startup with an even tinier marketing budget, it’s unlikely you’ll get the most sought-after influencers to work with you.

That being said, you can still dream big. Organize all of your potential prospects into three groups — Group One being the “dreamers,” or influencers you probably can’t get but you want to try anyway, Group Two being the most realistic influencers who align with your marketing and budgetary goals, and Group Three being the ones who aren’t your top choice, but they’d get the job done in a pinch.

You may not have a huge list in the beginning, and that’s okay. You only need one influencer to get you started, and it’s important not to overdo it and hire every internet celebrity you can find to promote your product.

3. Reach Out — The Right Way

When you have a list of prospects and are ready to start contacting them, it’s important to go about it the right way. Nobody likes cold calls and emails, and most influencers are unlikely to work with a company that sends them a generic email asking to partner with them.

Instead, make it personal. Establish a relationship with the influencer before asking them for anything. You can do this easily by leaving comments on their social media posts or blogs so that they know you appreciate their work. While you don’t want to go overboard and leave hundreds of comments telling them how much you love them, a few thoughtful responses can show them that you’re a real person and a fan.

Once you’ve established a relationship in some form, you can send them a personalized message asking to work with them. Be sure to outline the benefits they receive, whether it’s monetary payment, a bigger audience, or more clicks/views/subscribers for their blog, video channel, or website.

4. Be Clear About Expectations

So you’ve signed your first influencer and you’re ready to get started promoting. Congratulations! But the hard part isn’t over yet.

You still need a strategy in regards to what type of content you’ll be posting, how frequently you’re posting it, and what your goals are. It’s important to be clear with your influencer about all of these aspects so that they know what’s expected of them.

For example, if you’re working with an Instagram star to promote your product, they’ll need to know everything from how often you want them posting about the product down to tiny details like which hashtags they should use in their post.

Or maybe you don’t have strict posting rules and you want to give your influencer all the creative freedom. That works too, but you need to be clear with them about it upfront. A lack of communication can lead to frustration and a breakdown in the relationship, which ultimately hurts everyone involved.

5. Give Them Some Freedom

Even if you have a very specific idea for how you want the influencer to promote your product, let them have a say in it too. They know their audience better than you do, and they know what works and what doesn’t in terms of reaching their target customers.

Be prepared to compromise, and remember that the influencer is putting their personal brand on the line for you. If their sponsored posts come across as too promotional, for instance, they could lose fans.

You don’t need to give them complete control over your strategy, but you should allow them to be themselves.

6. Analyze, Analyze, Analyze

You won’t know what’s working and what isn’t unless you study your data. Set goals and objectives before you start so you know what you’re looking for within your data. Are you looking for more sales? More website visitors? More social media followers? Be clear about what you want so you’ll have a goal to work toward.

You may also consider sharing your findings with your influencer. They’re likely interested in whether their posts are helping you reach your goals, and they may share some of the interesting findings within their data as well. Maybe you’re reaching an audience you didn’t expect to reach, for example, or perhaps one type of fan is more engaged than the others.

It’s also important to find areas for improvement. No strategy is perfect, especially in the beginning, but if you look for ways to improve, you’ll see far better results.

Developing an influencer marketing strategy takes time, patience, and a lot of research. But if done correctly, you can reach a much larger audience, build relationships with high-profile influencers, and ultimately increase your bottom line.

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William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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