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Influencer Outreach Guide: How You Should Be Contacting Creators In 2023

June 2, 2023
15 min
Rochi Zalani
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Sliding into an influencer’s inbox feels intimidating. Aren’t you just showing up at their door unannounced? You feel unwelcome and ignored. Are you writing just another email that’ll move to trash, unread? It’s like you’re playing a game, but can’t win because you don’t know the rules.

But plenty of marketers have seen success with their influencer outreach strategy. You can too.

TL;DR: think like a salesperson when reaching out to influencers. Focus on increasing the volume of emails you send every day and keep tweaking your message based on feedback. The more personalized emails you send, the better the chances of you receiving a reply. Follow up more than you think you should.

Why marketers fail at influencer outreach

Did influencer marketing not work for you? Or did you reach out to 20 creators, hear back from 3, didn’t negotiate, and give up?

The number one reason most marketers don’t see success at influencer outreach is because they aren’t putting on their sales hat.

As a marketer, you aren’t used to the lack of replies of cold emailing. Following-up seems desperate. If they were interested, they’d respond to your first or second email, wouldn’t they?

That kind of thinking derails your success. Volume matters more than you think.

The more influencers you email > the faster your feedback loop gets > the more you refine your outreach methods > the quicker you see success.

It might give you the ick to reach out to someone you don’t know and then follow-up with them. But remember, influencers are actively looking out for pitches like yours in their inbox. Why? Two reasons:

  • When you come to them, they don’t have to make an effort to go out and find perfect-fit brands to collaborate with. In the sea of noise on social media, they’d be grateful to discover a new brand that fits with their profile.
  • You’re enabling them to share something new, helpful, or entertaining with their followers via your products. They make their living on serving their audience, and you’re getting them closer to their goal.

Takeaway: don’t think like a marketer. Think like a salesperson. And do more volume!

How to reach out to an influencer: email or DMs?

First things first, use email.

Creators are brands running their own businesses. And business usually happens via email. Not to mention: emails keep things professional and easy to track.

I'm not saying to never use DMs, but you should start with email. More on DMs soon.

How to write the first email to an influencer

You’ve narrowed down your shortlist of influencers. You’ve found and collated the emails. What next? Blast the same copy-paste email to every influencer? No. Personalization is crucial for increasing your response rate. Mass messages don’t make a good first impression.

What you should include in your first email differs based on the size of the influencer you’re reaching out to. This doesn’t mean you slack off writing thoughtful emails to smaller influencers — personalization is the key for any cold email, regardless of influencer type.

That said, cold emails to bigger influencers will require a higher level of personalization to get noticed when compared with smaller influencers.

How to write the first email to nano-influencers and micro-influencers

Nano-influencers are creators with a following of 1,000 to 10,000. Micro-influencers have an audience size of 10,000 to 100,000.

Finding micro influencers or nano influencers is the hard bit. Standing out in their inbox isn’t as difficult if you play your cards right (when compared with reaching out to bigger influencers).

The reason? These creators are building their businesses and actively looking for brand partnerships. But they haven’t blown up yet, so their inbox isn’t as cut-throat.

Email subject lines you could use:

  • You're the perfect match! Let's work together  👐
  • {Your brand} + {Influencer name} = ❤
  • You would be the perfect {brand name} ambassador!
  • We loved your {specific content you loved from them}
  • {Brand name} wants to sponsor you!
  • Brand ambassador opportunity ($1,000/month)
  • You’re on our top 10 list. Let’s work together!

⚠️ Note: use the “brand ambassador” subject line ideas only when you’re *actually* finding creators for your brand ambassador program.

Your first email to smaller creators could be something like this:

Hey John,

Saw your portfolio update today (it popped up on recommended vids). Love your general approach -- I'm taking a similar route with XRP & LTC myself. Thought your editing was great, too. (Genuine personalization)

I wanted to ask: are you open to sponsored collabs currently? (Make it clear what you're looking for)

I work with CryptoGiraffe; we're a growing marketplace with 1,000,000+ daily trades, fully secured, compliant with EU data standards, & audited as required by law. (Show you're relevant & trustworthy)

Can I send you more info about what I have in mind? (Soft ask - just get the 'yes')

Get directly to the point, and make a genuine effort to personalize. Don't cop out with a generic compliments (such as, “we love your content”) if you want a solid reply rate (and to kick off your relationship on the right foot).

How to write the first email to mid-tier & macro influencers

Let's talk about bigger creators (100k-1M & beyond). These are creators who likely have established businesses and aren’t as proactive for brand collaborations as smaller influencers. You’d notice many creators of this stage have partnered with a talent management firm to represent them. Your emails would be read and scrutinized by managers at these firms. This has its pros and cons:

Pro: talent management firms are more interested in looking at your brand collaboration request. They’re more business oriented and are invested in increasing the influencer’s revenue through sponsorships from companies like yours. This means you’d probably get a response in far fewer follow-ups than if the creator was also the manager of their business. Talent managers are also experts and know their stuff — so it’s easier to communicate with them and share your goals.

Cons: talent managers will probably haggle you a bit and upsell to increase the influencer’s revenue and/or benefits. You must go armed with your influencer negotiation skills.

Either way, a macro and mega-influencer’s inbox is filled to the brim with offers similar to yours. How do you get their (or their talent management firm’s) attention? Hyper-personalized, business-focused cold emails.

To stand out from the competition, we want to make it abundantly clear that we have a good offer, that the creator can get some value from this collab, and that you really know who you're reaching out to.

Subject lines you could tweak and use for your first email:

  • We’re big fans of your {a content type the influencer does} and would love to work with you
  • Why you should work with {your brand name}
  • We'd love to have you involved with {campaign/event}!
  • The perfect {product type, e.g. mascara} for your {niche} audience

All subject lines here are specific, personalized, and (most importantly) enticing curiosity. The curiosity gap in the subject line is non-negotiable when you cold email bigger influencers. Why? They get hundreds of collaboration emails every week. Half the battle is getting your email opened. They must think, “I need to know more,” which curiosity-gap subject lines fulfill.

Here’s what your first email should sound like when messaging bigger influencers. Let's adapt the previous example.

Hey John,

Saw your portfolio update today (it popped up on recommended vids). Love your general approach -- I'm taking a similar route with XRP & LTC myself. Thought your editing was great, too. (Genuine personalization)

I want to pitch you a collab idea. (Don't beat around the bush)

I work with CryptoGiraffe; we're a growing marketplace with 1,000,000+ daily trades, fully secured, compliant with EU data standards, & audited as required by law. (Show you're relevant & trustworthy)

Since you reach an audience of finance-savvy investors, I thought you'd be the perfect fit to collab with us on {promotion/campaign}. (Shows you understand the audience & have a logical reasoning)

Naturally, we're prepared to offer base pay up front, plus a revenue share from the campaign. (Prove you're a serious revenue opp for the creator - say what you're offering)

Can I send you more info about what I have in mind? (Soft ask - still just shoot for the 'yes')

This time, we're first and foremost talking business -- you need to prove that you're a real revenue opportunity for the creator's business. And, of course, that you're a good fit for their audience.

⚠️ Note: it's normal to still not get a response on this first email from bigger influencers. That’s ok! Still make the personalization effort upfront — it makes an excellent first impression and increases the likelihood of getting a response when you follow-up.

How (and when) to send follow-up messages to creators

A little nudge hurt no one.

The secret to any influencer outreach strategy is the art of following-up. You don’t want to follow-up daily and risk getting marked as spam. But you don’t want to go radio silent either and miss the opportunity to partner with your dream creator.

How often should you follow-up? Spread these out over 2-4 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

These numbers might seem like a lot, but it’s easy for things to get lost in a crowded inbox. An influencer might have seen your email but forgot to respond to it. Or maybe they’re taking some time to think about your message. Maybe your first message didn’t come at the best phase of an influencer’s business. Following-up increases your chances of being at the right place at the right time.

Pro-tip: if you don’t get a response from a creator despite multiple follow-ups, leave them alone…for a while. Continue following up with them every 3-6 months. This is easier to do when you have systems in place for tracking your outreach. You can simply refresh your list after every quarter or half a year to reach out to creators who didn’t respond to you the first time around.

Now for the scripts:

How to follow-up via email

Subject line ideas:

  • Did you have a chance to check out {your brand or product name}?
  • Pushing this up your inbox
  • Did you miss this, {influencer name}?

Email to tweak:

Hey {creator name},

I hope your day is going well!

Quickly wanted to check if you had a chance to check my previous email and would be interested in collaborating with us? Here if you have any questions!

In the second and third email follow-ups, you want to remind them of your offer (since some time has passed). Also emphasize what’s in it for them by partnering with you to entice them to reply.

Keep tabs on their social media and ask about something specific you saw on their profile — like asking how their dog is doing if they recently took him to the vet or congratulating them on hitting a certain milestone.

How to follow-up via social media DMs

DMs are the place to be short, casual, and direct. Don’t write a long-winded speech. Here’s a template to tweak:

Hey {creator name}!

Loved your recent post about {a short and specific compliment about their recent post}. I’m a {your role at your company} at {company name} where we {what you sell and your brand mission}.

We’d love to partner with you! Can you take a look at our email? It’s from {your email address}. Let me know if you have any questions!

In the first and second follow-ups to DMs, highlight your brand’s mission or find something common with the influencer. If you have already collaborated with other creators, mention the success they’ve seen by partnering with you to scoop some social proof.

How to follow-up via social media comments

Commenting on an influencer’s post requires low effort and is an easy way to follow-up. But try to avoid generic compliments or “please check our DM'' comments. They might not get noticed or be seen in the best light. Here’s the template you want to tweak:

Your {specific compliment related to the post you’re commenting on} is superb! {team member’s name who messaged the influencer} from our team reached out to you. We’d love to work together. If you have a second, can you check your email for our ping?

In the remaining two to three comments, interact with the influencer’s post like an engaged follower. Turn on their post notifications so you’ll be one of the first ones commenting (high likelihood of a creator noticing this). Reply to their Stories and sprinkle some specific compliments without mentioning your brand at all. You can take it further by sharing their post on your Stories with a compliment and tagging them.

Need more templates? Read our influencer outreach templates guide.

How to find an influencer’s email

Okay! Now you know what to say, you need a reliable way to find emails. And that has never been as quick and easy as it is today. Here are two quick ways to find a creator’s email:

The first way: check the influencer’s profile manually

TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube — all have specified places for creators to share their email.

  • TikTok: creators share their email on their TikTok profile in the bio.
  • Instagram: finding an influencer’s email on Instagram is the easiest. There’s a separate “email” tab on the mobile phone. Many creators also choose to share emails in their bio, like on TikTok. Use the email in the bio if you see both.
  • YouTube: finding a YouTube channel’s email is as easy as it is on Instagram. Go to the “About” section, and under the “Details” section, find the influencer’s email next to “for business enquiries.”

A reliable method, but very tedious and not at all scalable. Combing through each influencer’s email on their profile and adding it to your Google Sheet database is time-intensive — which is why the second method is far superior.

The second way: use Modash to find influencer emails in bulk

Modash has an influencer email finder that makes finding, categorizing, and exporting influencers’ email addresses unbelievably quick and easy.

  • Search for the influencer’s name or profile username in the search box.
  • Next, save all your influencers in a list.
  • Find your list in the “Relationships” tab.
  • Here, you can either unlock specific creators’ email as you need them or export contact details in bulk to a .csv file.

Using a software like Modash is much more efficient than the manual process. Plus: you get a host of other influencer analytics data to help you vet influencer profiles thoroughly.

Give it a whirl — your first 14 days are free.

7 best practices to level up your influencer outreach

Here are seven best practices to keep in mind to make the most of the templates above:

1: Don’t use words like “free” or “gift” in your subject line in emails

(Unless maybe you're focusing on a product seeding campaign).

Email providers might notice a pattern of your email repeatedly using these terms and mark you as spam. It’ll suck to not even make it to an influencer’s primary inbox after spending hours personalizing your emails.

Even if email providers don’t block you, creators might tune you out, thinking you only want free influencer content in exchange for no money. Best to steer clear of such words in your subject line.

2: Have a soft call-to-action

In our conversation with Nikola Sokolov, he talked about the power of “soft call-to-actions.” These are questions that are ridiculously easy to respond to — think yes/no questions. For example, your CTA can be:

  • Can I send more info?
  • Shoot me a “yes” if you’re interested!
  • Sounds like something you’d be interested in?

The critical bit is ensuring you minimize the effort required from the creators’ side, and get the conversation started.

3: Follow the multi-channel approach

Any influencer you reach out to today is likely active on multiple platforms. They might be building a following on TikTok and Instagram while also uploading videos on YouTube.

When following up via DMs, you want to utilize all these channels. Also check if there are different email addresses on different social media platforms — many times, a creator will have multiple emails and check one frequently and another sporadically. You want to write to all emails to increase your chances of getting a response.

4: Become a familiar name before cold emailing

Often cold emailing doesn’t get responses because the emails come right out of the blue. But what if your brand was a familiar name to the influencer you’re contacting?

Focus on building a relationship before you cold email a creator. This might look like:

  • Sharing their content on your profile unasked with proper credit
  • Frequently commenting on the influencer’s post with specific compliments
  • Replying to the influencer’s Stories (on Instagram) and keeping up with their life updates

Even if the creator isn’t responding to your comments or DMs (especially if it’s a mega-influencer), they are noticing your name pop up frequently. The longer you build up this engagement before cold emailing, the better.

It’s a long-term strategy, but it’ll make your emails personalized, and you’ll be a familiar name in the creator’s inbox — increasing your open rates.

⚠️ Note: this interaction shouldn’t be ingenuine, fake, or insincere. It’s easy for well-established creators to see through pure flattery. Truly make an effort to understand a creator’s content style and engage authentically.

5: Invest in forming a creator-invested brand reputation

The influencer industry runs on word-of-mouth. If you leave a sour impression in any influencer collaboration, it might be hard to come back from that. Conversely, if you become known as someone who pays their creators well & on time and offers creative freedom in influencer briefs, creators will be eager to partner with you.

Invest in building your influencer relationships well — no matter how small the creator is. You can also build this social proof proactively:

  • Ask your existing influencer partners for testimonials on what it was like working with you and showcase that on your website
  • Comment and engage with your creator community frequently on social media
  • Highlight the results your creators have achieved after partnering with you

6: Do unscalable things in the beginning to learn fast

What if I told you to speak to every influencer on the phone or video chat who responds to you in the first couple of months?

It’s unscalable — you can’t automate a bot to talk to influencers for you on the phone (well, with AI, it’s possible to do that…but don’t).

Something tangible and time-intensive like a video chat or a phone call is beneficial because:

  • It moves the communication at a faster pace and minimizes back-and-forth
  • It helps the influencer feel like you truly care and are interested in forming a partnership with them
  • It gives you an opportunity to learn more about the creator, what they look for when doing brand partnerships, and help them win

Doing similar unscalable things at the beginning of your influencer marketing journey will put you hundreds of steps ahead in the long run. You’ll learn better with faster feedback mechanisms and understand the nuances of what influencers look for and what gets them to say ‘yes’ to any brand.

⚠️ Note: this might not be possible for bigger influencers or for one-off collaborations like product seeding, but do it whenever you can.

7: Proactively hunt for feedback to improve your response rate

Doing everything right and still barely moving the needle? It’s time for some external feedback.

Let’s say you’re barely getting any responses with your cold email script. Try making some sweeping changes, like adding rates upfront or making your email much shorter. Email half creators the first script and half the second script. Which has a better response rate? As you increase your volume and keep making tweaks, you will get responses that will help you determine what works and what doesn’t.

If none of your scripts seem to get a good response rate, ask for another set of eyes to analyze it. Maybe another teammate within a different department. Perhaps a friend in the same role in another company. Or just your network on LinkedIn. Do what you can to get some external feedback. Sometimes you’re too close to something, making it harder to see your own mistakes.

Lastly, ask the creators you’re cold emailing for feedback. Ask them why they didn’t respond. Is it your offer? Should you make changes to the template? Or is it something else entirely? Not all creators will respond to this email, but some might (if you send enough feedback emails).

Focus on building relationships, and the rest will fall into place

Influencer marketing as a whole is all about relationship-building. Why should your outreach strategy be any different? With every email, DM, or comment you write, keep forming influencer relationships at the center. Once you do that, it’ll be easier to empathize with a creator — understanding what they’d like, where they’d get frustrated, and how you can help.

After you have that sorted, it’s all about increasing the volume of cold emails and the number of follow-ups. Enter without expectations, keep an open mind, and keep improving your emails.

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