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Get started with influencer marketing as a small business in 5 steps

Francesco Pastorelli
Marketing Growth Lead at Make Influence, I have a background in growing early stage startups through digital...

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As a small business owner or emplfoyee, you are probably aware of the sea of possibilities as well as the multiple limitations associated with startups in terms of time, resources, and money. While the numerous blocks might feel like an anchor to your marketing activities, influencer marketing is not a luxury that only big companies can benefit from. Even as a small business, you can tap into the power of influencers and they can help you to scale your marketing efforts. In this blog post, we will share some do’s and dont’s that can help you get started with influencer marketing for your small business.

  1. How is influencer marketing a benefit for small businesses?
  2. How to get started with influencer marketing as a SME?
    2.1. Set an objective
    2.2. Find the right influencer
    2.3. Connect with and approach your influencers
    2.4. Track your influencer marketing efforts 
    2.5. Build on influencer relationships 


How is influencer marketing a benefit for small businesses?

You might be already well familiar with the restraints of a small enterprise. Among those, the most crucial limitation is a scarce marketing budget or complete lack thereof. Going for the traditional marketing promotions is rather expensive and doing ads on your own is a possibility requiring a dedicated staff to take care of it. To top it up, setting up SoMe ads is time-consuming for the company.

The goal is to get your brand to be out there and to raise awareness about who you are as a company, what you do and offer, and steal some customers while doing so.

When your company is in its infancy, your brand awareness is low, and your brand image (the set of attributes and associations people have when they think of your brand) is very weak. In other words, few people know who you are and what you do, and you are poorly diversified from your competitors in terms of emotions, feelings and thoughts your brand generates.

The good thing is, you can take your brand as a blank canvas: there’s a lot of room to define how you position your company but also necessary efforts to build up.

This is where influencer marketing can help your business. Influencers can both help you position your brand while building brand awareness. What makes influencers so advantageous for brands is the influence they have on their audience. When you collaborate with influencers, you get direct exposure to the influencer’s audience, and your “white canvas” brand starts being coloured by the values and attributes the influencers brings with them in the eyes of their followers.

The best part? People trust people talking about brands more than what brands say about themselves. Influencers have already established trust in their follower base, so when you are presented by them, you’d get a higher likelihood of interest in your brand.

This is the second power of influencers. They not only can help you build your brand image, but also help you cut through the noise of ads, limiting advertisement blindness (the inability of users to remember ads because of the great amount of them they see on a daily basis). This means influencers can drive a significant amount of high quality traffic to your website, which translates to higher conversion rates on your website compared to other channels.

Benefits of influencer marketing for SMEs:

• Building brand awareness and shaping your brand image.
• Access to the targeted audience of the influencers.
• A chance to build trust with the end customer
• High-quality traffic and conversions
• Cost-effective

How to get started with influencer marketing as SME?

Okay, influencers could be a great help to get your brand started getting noticed and generate some good traffic to your website. But how do you get started?

The bad news first: it does take time to get started with influencer marketing, and you probably will need someone to dedicate a few hours every week to it. However, Setting influencer marketing activities as a small business is not complicated if you follow these tips, don’t worry! In general, you will have to face three main macro tasks:

  • Selecting the right fit of influencer(s) for your business
  • Engaging with the influencer(s) you chose
  • Measuring the success of influencer marketing activities

Many small and big brands commit at least one mistake when performing these tasks. Sometimes, they do a poor selection of influencers, hindering potential results, sometimes they do not engage enough the influencers who perform well, sometimes they do not measure the performance of their campaigns properly.

Below we got you covered with the steps you should take when building an influencer marketing strategy for a small company.


1. Set an objective

Naturally, before heading towards a certain destination, you would need to know what that destination is. Do you know where are you heading?

In our case with influencer marketing, what do you want to get out of it? Is the objective to get sales conversions or clicks to get more traffic going on your website? Or is it to raise awareness (roughly put, maximising impressions) and educate your audience with the campaign you intend to run? What you decide to go with determines the next step of your influencer marketing efforts, so make sure to set an objective and have it on top of your mind.

Depending on your objective and what budget you have for influencer marketing, there are different campaign types and ways to pay influencers that can help you maximise your ROI. At Make Influence, we offer both conversion campaigns where you pay per sale generated and Traffic campaigns, where you pay per click generated. You can read more about the various campaign options available to you here.

2. Find the right influencer

The recruitment of influencers begins before actually contacting them. When considering which influencer to collaborate with, there are a few important parameters to look at and things to keep in mind.

As a small business, you should abstain from the super popular influencers (a.k.a. ”mega influencers” with 1M+ followers) and focus instead on the micro and nano influencers. All influencers with a follower base under 10 000 followers are considered to be nano influencers, and between 10 000 - 50 000 are micro-influencers.


While the followers are fewer with the smaller influencers, what matters more is how engaged they are with the content of the influencer. And what you can afford to pay for. It is best to start with those influencers since they are less costly but can still give you good results given their audience is typically more engaged, less geographically dispersed, often belonging to one quite specific niche.

Apart from this, your influencer “background check” is done in two stages: before contacting them and after contacting them.

Before contacting them, perform the following actions:

1. Check that there is a fit with your content and desired brand image.

Remember what we said about your brand being a white canvas, and the influencer having the ability to colour it by passing their values and associations in their followers' minds to your brand? Especially as a new brand, it is critical that you pay extra attention to what the influencers talk about, how they do it and how they are perceived in the niches you want to target. Think of what products have they sponsored before? What are their writing style and tone of voice? Does their aesthetic match the one you want to give your brand?

Typically, nano and micro influencers have a niche audience and tend to provide expertise in a specific area. This is why it’s important to find and connect with those influencers who align and are close to your business. An influencer could be so strongly associated with your brand that it represents values that can be transferred to your company’s values and vice versa.

Remember: you do not need 100 influencers, but a few good ones that really align with your values as a brand and believe in your product. Ideally, these are influencers you follow yourself and that you would like to work for your company.

2. Check their engagement

An influencer might be super aligned with your brand, but if they do not have an active community, then your time is wasted.
Take this example when considering which influencer to reach:

You’ve narrowed down your choice to 2 influencers. An influencer with 30 000 followers and a second with 10 000 followers. The first one only gets around 300 likes and comments per post, while the second one also gets around 300 likes and comments.

To calculate engagement, you can divide the first influencer average post likes by their followers. You will get an engagement rate of 1%. This means that only 1 out of 100 followers usually engage with their posts. The second one, on the contrary, will have an engagement rate of 3%. It might not seem as much difference, but the second influencer is much better at keeping their community engaged, which is usually a good sign!

Now, you have a first good indication that an influencer could be a good candidate for a collaboration, but there is more...

3. Connect and approach your influencers

After you’ve established with whom you’d like to collaborate, reach out to them.

A word of advice when contacting the influencers is to be crystal clear. Say why you’re interested, what you can give them and pay them. Make a campaign brief where you set expectations and be specific about what content you imagine, how and when you would pay the influencer.

Fortunately, this process can be managed in a more organized and clear manner through influencer marketplaces such as Make Influence. There, you can access Instagram Insights, make informed decisions, and discuss campaigns directly on the platform.

After they express an interest to work with you, you should perform the second part of your background check, by asking them access to some of their Instagram insights (data that is available to them, but you can’t see from outside).

  1. View their impressions

    The first thing to check is how many impressions they get. Most importantly, you should check how many impressions they get in a day or week compared to their amount of followers. Over 1 impression per follower per day is a sign the influencer is very active and its content is visible on their followers’ feeds. This gives you an indication of the engagement and interest in your influencer's posts and stories. The more impressions there are, the higher is the likelihood of your viewers’ interest and raised awareness of the brands they see on the influencer’s feed and stories.

  2. Look at their demographics

    Here it is worthwhile to check the influencer’s audience location, sex, age. Is their Instagram audience aligned with your brand target audience (or could be)? Are their followers even located in areas you can serve (for example countries you ship your products to)?

    All those demographic data play a role and can indicate if you are deviating from your potential target buyers. After all, you don’t want to promote a product to an audience who has no indication of interest in it.

4. Track your influencer marketing efforts


Among the biggest mistakes companies do when dealing with influencer marketing is not following up on an influencer campaign. How did it perform? Do we need to do something different? Does it make sense to continue the collaboration?

Data insights can answer those questions. Data is powerful and it can give you a valuable understanding of how your influencer marketing efforts are going.

However, tracking the performance of influencer campaigns can be complicated.

You can use Instagram Insights to track impressions and link clicks on the posts and stories that promote your brand, but a better way would be to track website visits by creating unique links for each of your influencers with UTMs. However, this might feel a bit of an overkill and too complicated if you don’t have technical knowledge of how Google Analytics or UTMs work.

For this, and much more, you can use a performance based influencer marketing tool like Make Influence, which automatically tracks your campaign performance (impressions, clicks, page visits and sales generated by your influencers). A tool like Make influence would also help you pay only for the clicks or sales that you get (instead of paying an arbitrary sum in advance without a guarantee you are going to get a return on your investment), and discover influencers much quicker by having direct access to their demographic and content insights.


5. Build on influencer relationships

To tap into the full potential of influencers, you’d need to keep in mind a fundamental insight into influencer marketing. It’s not about simply paying an influencer or two to promote your brand once or twice. It’s not a one-time transaction with an immediate fix. What lies within the power of influencer marketing is understanding how influence works. And that comes with building relationships with audiences. Luckily, that’s what influencers do.

Getting influencers to be more passionate with your brand comes when you as a company establish a relationship with influencers. If influencers are about building trust with audiences, influencer marketing is all about influencer relationships. It takes an effort that is worthwhile because then the collaboration is stronger and more fruitful.

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