How to Develop Your Influencer Marketing Strategy: A Step-By-Step Guide

September 7, 2023
15 min
Rochi Zalani
Content Writer, Modash
Ryan Prior
Head of Marketing, Modash
... and
more expert contributors

You Google “how to change a flat tire.” The top articles are filled with fluff like “what’s a flat tire?” and “why change flat tires?” for several paragraphs.

Annoying. 🙄

Most articles about forming an influencer marketing strategy leave you feeling the same way. (Cue: *sad trombone*) This guide won’t. Let’s get right to it.

Step 1: Decide how you’ll find influencers

Before you go on an influencer hunt, decide the size of the influencer you’re looking for. There are four broad types of influencers based on their total number of followers:

Type Follower range
Nano influencers 1K - 10K
Micro influencers 10K - 100K
Macro influencers 100K - 1M
Celebrities 1M+

Creators are paid in part for the size of their audience — so expect to pay more for creators with a large following.

So… how do you decide if you should go big, or small?

In most cases, it’s best to start by partnering with nano-influencers and micro-influencers. Why?

  • Smaller influencers reduce risk: smaller influencers are cost-effective. You can partner with many smaller creators & spread out your risk — rather than collaborating with only a few big-name creators. If just one of those partnerships flops, you stand to lose a lot.
  • Smaller influencers are easier to reach: the larger the influencer, the more barriers they have in place for you to reach them. They likely have a middleman manager responding to their emails and DMs & negotiating deals. Smaller influencers are easier to get a hold of and communicate with directly.
  • Smaller influencers have a niche audience: smaller influencers have a higher engagement rate and a tightly-knit, niche audience. They’re more relatable because they give off the vibe of “everyday people.” Larger audience size often equals a broader audience and less focused niche.

How do you find those smaller creators to partner with?

There are many methods, but they can broadly be divided into two categories:

  • Inbound: get influencers to come to you.
  • Outbound: you proactively find & reach out to influencers.

Most successful influencer marketing strategies include both categories.

Finding influencers (inbound)

With inbound, everything starts with building a great landing page.

Make a page that influencers (and fans, and customers) can easily find. Link it in the footer of your website, and make sure it appears in Google when you search “[yourbrand] + [influencers] / [ambassadors]” etc.

Here’s an example. The apparel brand, Happy Earth, has a great landing page for recruiting brand ambassadors.

Other good examples could include Obvi, Boohoo, or SafetyWing.

Your page should cover:

  • Details about your company — what you do, your target customers, and your organization’s mission.
  • Qualifications for the influencer — if they should be from a particular niche, have a certain range of followers, and be of a specific age group.
  • Influencer perks — answer what’s in it for the influencer, share the details of your collaboration type(s), and payment info.
  • Steps to apply — have step-by-step instructions on how influencers can apply to be a part of your creator team, a timeline on when they can expect to hear back, and helpful tips for the application.

These are the minimum viable things your creator landing page should have. As you grow and scale, you can add more sections — like answers to frequently asked questions, examples of successful posts from your influencers, and post ideas.

Announce your program on social media

If you're looking for influencers, why not broadcast it? Smaller influencers are often on the lookout for these posts. And you might have some existing influential fans who might not even know your program exists.

Direct influencers to your landing page. Or, you can ask interested influencers to drop their Instagram handle in the comments and reach out to creators who meet your requirements — as streetwear clothing brand Pragmatic did. Comments will also increase the engagement and reach of your post, so it’s a win-win.

Finding influencers: outbound methods

Outbound is more varied. Here’s some methods you could use.

1. Using an influencer discovery software.

Using a tool like Modash is the fastest, scalable, and data-driven method to find influencers.

Modash has the data of every creator on Earth with over 1,000 followers across Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. Playing around with the filters is easy, and you get a list of influencers meeting your requirements in minutes. Let me show you how.

Let’s say you’re finding Instagram influencers with a following between 5K – 50K for a skincare beauty brand. In the beginning, use only one filter to source influencer accounts within your niche. For example, I chose “Bio” — every creator in the list will have “skincare” in their bio.

Try one filter at a time and keep slimming down the results.

Next, start applying audience filters. Modash has “percentage granularity” to help you decide the strength of your filters. You can apply filters to show you “only creators with more than 40% female followers.”

⚠️ Remember: don’t be too aggressive with the influencer or audience filters. It’ll narrow down your results significantly, and you might lose out on creators who were a great fit for your brand. Leave a little wiggle room and narrow down as you go. Some trial and error is involved in adjusting filters, but the results will be worth it in the long run.

Once you have a list of potential influencers, you can vet each influencer profile and get metrics like:

  • Fake followers
  • Engagement rate
  • Audience demographics
  • Sponsored content

…And so much more without ever reaching out to the influencer for their analytics. Easy peasy, am I right?

Try Modash for free today, no credit card needed. (Or, view pricing).

2. Searching on Google directly

If you don’t have the budget for a tool, it’s possible to get started with free methods like simply Googling.

It takes more time, and you won’t be working with audience & performance data, but it might get you started with your first collabs without any cost.

Search for your ideal influencer on Google, and you’ll get articles with influencer details. Try to be specific. Broad searches like “fashion influencers” will only reveal big celebs that you already know, but wouldn’t work with.

For example, you can search for “sustainable fashion micro-influencers” if you’re a sustainable fashion brand. The results might be outdated — filter for the latest articles using the “Tools” feature.

3. Searching on social media platforms

You can use hashtags and search on social media platforms to look for influencers. For example, if you’re a beauty brand, search for #beautyproducts, and you’ll get a list of the top-performing posts in this hashtag.

You might have to try several hashtags and keywords to search for influencers on social media. You can’t search for micro-influencers and beauty influencers in one-go, for instance. Vetting every individual profile is a huge timesuck too.

Should you have a selection criteria for influencers?

Should you partner with every influencer who wishes to collaborate with you? Or whose audience matches your target customers? It depends on two factors.

1. Collaboration type

If you’re doing commission-only affiliate deals, you don’t need bottlenecks. Everyone can self-serve — post about you using their discount code or UTM link and earn commissions.

The only exception is if you want content quality checks to ensure creators generally fit your brand style.Other collaboration types, like product seeding, can also keep running like a well-oiled machine. You gift the influencers your product — and they post an honest review about your brand on social media. No intervention required. If you like their content, you can invite them to a long-term relationship. If you’re looking to do sponsored posts though, you must have a selection criteria to choose the right influencers — since you’re spending money up front to earn a spot in their feed. Ask questions like:

2. Collaboration value

If you're running a high-value collaboration and investing a lot of money in each collab, you need to be more selective. There are a few things you can do to go the extra mile.

Ask for deeper performance metrics like past sponsored content results, Story link clicks, and understand engagement rate across various types of posts.

On the contrary, if you’re working at scaling your influencer marketing program, you need volume. Your selection criteria should be flexible here because your risk appetite is greater.

Ultimately, as you do more and more influencer marketing campaigns, you’ll have more data about what works and what doesn’t. This will refine your influencer recruitment criteria to double down on common themes in all your successful creators.

Step 2: Decide how you’ll collaborate with influencers

There are many ways to collaborate with influencers — influencer gifting, sponsored posts, giveaways, and more.

What should you begin with?

Generally, the answer is to set up an affiliate-based influencer marketing program. You provide each influencer a tracking link (and/or a discount code), and they share it in their content.

An example is this post by fitness influencer Caitlin A-J for Women’s Best.

Performance influencer marketing is easy to track, infinitely scalable, cost-effective, and easy to maintain.

The only (glaring) problem is that not all creators will be open to commission-only partnerships. But that’s fine – it lets you provide a solid option for inbound interest from smaller creators, your fans, and your customers.

And, importantly, it serves as a foundation for what comes next. It enables you to add performance-based elements to other collabs. Speaking of which, here are two to consider.

Product seeding (lower cost, more time)

Product seeding is a low-cost way to get your product into the hands of as many creators as possible. It’s certainly cheaper, and it generates a ton of content. But it requires quite significant time input, high volumes of creators, and you’ll probably only reach smaller audiences.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Find influencers who’d be good partners for your brand.
  • Send them your products — no strings attached.
  • Some will post about your product for free if they like it. Some won’t.
  • Recruit the influencers who get the best results into a performance-based partnership.
  • Optional: ask creators for media rights to repurpose influencer content.

For example, Laneige has a solid seeding strategy. So much so that there’s a hashtag group dedicated to it — #laneigegiftedme — with more than 3,000 posts. Beauty creators like Francesca Leah Fairey posted about their products.

The only costs involved here are your COGS, shipping cost, and influencer marketing software (if you used one). The influencers who post about you for free are likely to genuinely love your product and be willing to onboard on a commission-based payment model. Win-win.

Sponsored posts (higher costs, quicker results)

Seeding has its moments, but it’s not free of faults:

  • it’s time-consuming
  • there are no guaranteed results
  • it’s not viable at all for higher-value products

If you have some budget dedicated to influencer marketing, your best route is doing sponsored posts with a variety of creators.

You’ll have less outreach work to do, because response rates are higher when you offer money upfront. Plus instead of hoping creators post (like with seeding), you guarantee the deliverables when you’re paying for it.

The problem? Creators get paid the same amount whether they do an A + + job or a C- job. Overcome this by layering on a performance-based incentive — a creator earns the base pay for a paid partnership and commissions for every sale or website visit they bring in. This increases the creator’s skin in the game, and they might even post about you beyond your sponsored posts arrangement to get more commissions.

This post by Natasha Swingler for protectME is an excellent example of combining standard sponsored posts with a performance-based incentive.

Start sponsored posts with a creator for the short-term, and then — if it’s a good fit — convert it into a performance-based, long-term partnership.

What about other collaboration types?

There are several other ways to collaborate with influencers. You can run a giveaway, launch a brand ambassador program, and even co-create products with influencers.

But these techniques give better results once you have run a few influencer marketing campaigns and have data on what type of collaboration and influencer works best for your brand.

At an early stage, it’s not advisable to do everything at once.

Takeaway: in the beginning, if you have no budget, focus on product seeding. If you have the budget, do sponsored posts with a variety of influencers and introduce a commission-based incentive. Turn your best-performing influencers into long-term partners.

Step 3: Plan how you’ll reach out to influencers

Shortlisting creators and putting the nuts and bolts in for your collaboration model was straightforward. Most marketers get stuck in influencer outreach.

First, how do you reach out to an influencer?

Start with email. It keeps things professional and easy to track. Never say never to DMs, but they shouldn’t be what you begin with.

How to find an influencer’s email? It’s likely in their social media bio.

However, finding emails manually for every creator isn’t scalable. In Modash, you can filter for influencers who have their email publicly available, add influencers to a list of your choice, and get their email in minutes.

Should you use templates for influencer outreach?

Templates help you make creator outreach efficient. But you probably shouldn’t use them unless you’re a household brand name.

Why? Creators will be excited to respond to big names, even if the message is a copy-paste template. But if you’re a small brand just starting influencer marketing, work hard on personalization. The more you personalize, the more likely you will get a response.

(That said: if you notice your outreach templates have a good response rate, continue using them!)

How to personalize your creator outreach messages?

Personalization isn’t just about using the influencer’s name and adding a generic compliment. Anyone can do that. All creators, small or big, have an inbox full of brand collaboration requests. You need a high degree of personalization for your email to stand out.

Look into each influencer’s profile, explicitly state what you liked about the creator, and then make your pitch.

Here’s an example that beginners think is personalization, but in reality could be sent to almost any creator, and is utterly ignorable:

Hi Jane,

I stumbled across your profile on TikTok and was blown away by the quality of content and the amazing detail you go into for every post.

[Company pitch here]

Getting someone’s first name and a generic insincere compliment is not enough.

Here’s an example of actually good personalization:

Hi Jane,

Your peace lily care guide came up on my FYP today. Great idea to use liquid fertilizer in spring -- totally going to try this myself 🙂.

I'm John from John's Plants; we sell all kinds of houseplants (including peace lilies) that I think your audience will love.

Are you open to sponsored collabs currently?

Work hard in the beginning — tweak your outreach strategy, spend time crafting the perfect pitch, and think about automating only after you think you’ve aced the process.

How many times should you follow up with a creator?

Marketers aren’t comfortable in the hot waters of cold outreach. Not getting a response feels discouraging, and following-up multiple times feels icky.

But turn around that marketer hat and think like a salesperson instead.

Influencers are busy. Emails get missed. 99% of the time, it isn’t personal. Follow-up without overthinking it. It increases the probability of reaching the influencer at the right time.

Spread out your follow-up messages over two to four weeks:

  • Three to five times on your first email
  • One to two times on social media DMs pointing to email
  • One to three times on social media comments pointing to DM/email

Still not getting a response? Leave the creator alone for a while and follow-up after three to six months.

Why are you still not getting a response?

Followed everything above and still not getting a response? Here’s what might be wrong:

  • You’re using words like “free” or “gift” in your emails, and email providers have marked you as spam.
  • You have a weak offer, and influencers don’t see an upside in partnering with you.
  • You have a long and hard-to-understand email that’s difficult to say yes to.
  • You aren’t using different channels to follow up.
  • You aren’t following up enough.

You can also ask for feedback from influencers or people in your industry about your cold outreach. Doing unscalable things in the beginning — like personalizing every influencer outreach — will put you hundreds of steps ahead in the long run.

Step 4: Measure your results

Yesterday, I ruined my laptop bag and needed a new one. I realized I had seen an influencer promoting a backpack that’d suit my needs perfectly. Unable to find that old post by the creator, I just Googled the features and business name I remembered.

The bag arrives tomorrow. But no credit reaches the influencer or the marketer who hired her.

Sales via influencer marketing isn’t a straight line. The zigzag buyer journey means you’ll never be able to attribute 100% impact through influencer marketing. But you can still do these three things to measure your influencer marketing results.

1. Use personalized discount codes (or tracking links if margins don’t allow)

If you can, give creators unique discount codes to begin attributing website traffic and sales to influencer marketing.

Make the codes easy to remember. For example, if your influencer’s name is Mark — MARK10 can be your discount code.

If you can’t offer discounts, an alternative would be an affiliate tracking link, or a simple UTM link.

⚡ Remember: promotion codes are usually better at tracking proper attribution than UTM links because UTMs typically credit only last-click conversions.

Discount codes often get a bad rep because coupon sites can scrape data, and people can Google “xyz company coupon codes” — skewing the data. But this usually happens with huge brands, like MyProtein, with hundreds of coupon codes in the market.

Early-stage companies don’t usually face this problem. Default to promo codes if your margin allows for it.

2. Ask your customers

Ask your customers the standard, “where did you hear about us?” in customer surveys. It has its faults, but it can still contribute to the overall picture of how much your influencer partnerships are driving revenue.

3. Correlate increases in website traffic

Many content formats on social media — like Instagram Reels, Carousel posts, or TikTok videos — don’t allow clickable links. But a successful influencer collaboration will still increase traffic on your website because people go and search for your brand outside the app.

See if there’s any correlation between traffic spikes and the dates influencers are posting.

You can use any analytics tool, or Search Console’s data to check if there’s an increase in brand name searches.

Step 5: Optimize your influencer marketing strategy over time

Influencer marketing strategy isn’t a one-and-done deal. You have to continually comb through your efforts and analyze what’s giving you the best ROI.

For example, if you’re a healthy beverage brand, you might notice that your mom-influencers perform better than your fitness creators. Or you might see better results using Instagram than TikTok.

The more you try new things > the more data you gather > the more you learn > the more you optimize.

The best part? Everything in influencer marketing compounds over time — and gets easier. You’ll eventually learn what subject lines get the most response rates, which influencer briefs produce no-edits required content, and what influencer rates give you the most bang for your buck. You’ll also gain brand awareness, which makes everything easier.

The results: reduced operational cost, optimized workflows, and strong influencer relationships.

Give influencer marketing time

Once you dip your toes into influencer marketing, prepare for experimentation and be patient with the results. You won’t likely have a viral post or profitability via influencer marketing right away.

Influencer marketing is a game of perseverance. You need to try, fail, learn, and try again. Like every other marketing channel, testing is crucial, and the beginning is the learning period. The longer you stay in the game, the more your results will compound.

Have the “it takes time” mindset from day one and begin without overthinking it. You don’t need to get everything right in the first go.

Just start finding excellent influencers, sending emails, and getting in the momentum. The inertia will wear off when you begin — and you’ll start to feel excited and ready for the challenge.

Where to start? Begin by trying Modash for free — your perfect creators are on there, apply filters and get started.

Can't stop, won't learning? 

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Ryan Prior
Head of Marketing, Modash
Ryan is in charge of making sure all the content on this blog is great. If anything sucks, blame him.

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