Data & Studies

51 Marketers Share How They Reach Out To Influencers

January 16, 2024
·
12 min
Author
Ryan Prior
Head of Marketing, Modash
Contributors
Anna-Maria Klappenbach
Community & Brand Marketing Lead, Aumio
Georgina Whalen
Influencer Marketing Manager at One Medical
Nikola Sokolov
Co-Founder at Influencers Club
... and
9
more expert contributors

Outreach can make or break your influencer program. Finding & vetting talent isn’t useful until you can get creators to actually reply to you.

And, there’s a lot of ways to approach it. There are best practices, but no one-size-fits-all strategy.

I asked 51 influencer marketers how they do it. My goal is to answer common questions, and show different approaches with examples and reasoning.

With that, you’ll be better equipped to decide what’s best for your own unique circumstances.

(We ran this survey in partnership with Influencers Club, a creator outreach agency.)

Let’s start!

Should you use outreach templates?

For most marketers, the answer is probably “yes, but not for the entire email.”

55% of participants used this approach.

Personalize the email for each creator & campaign, but use templates for general information about your brand or products.

Here’s a short & sweet example that is personalized, but partly templated.

(We’ll get into different CTAs & variations later)

Anna-Maria Klappenbach (who leads influencer marketing at Aumio) uses a partial template too, but she prioritizes conciseness over in-depth personalization.

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Anna-Maria Klappenbach
Community & Brand Marketing Lead, Aumio
Our target creators are busy moms. We think they would prefer us to get to the point rather than read through a long & wordy email (even if it’s lovely).

Anna’s emails typically have a subtle hint that tells the creator it’s written just for them. But not so much personalization that it extends the length.

Here’s an outreach example:

Then, Anna adds more personalization in follow-ups if necessary. For example, referring to (or complimenting) recent content.

Whatever degree of personalization you choose, the core takeaway is:

  • Make it clear to the creator that they aren’t just receiving a mass email
  • Template the general business/product information to save yourself some time

Does it ever make sense to use fully templated emails?

It’s not best practice to fully template influencer outreach emails. That doesn’t mean they should never be used though.

Here’s a few things to think about:

1. If you’re already using templates and it’s working, keep doing it. But if you’re scratching your head trying to increase response rates, more effort in personalization is probably the answer. Unless of course your product/offer sucks – then fix that first.

2. For well-known brands, templates may be fine. With brand awareness, outreach becomes less of a challenge. The Nikes of the world can say almost anything in their outreach, and creators will be excited to reply.

3. Some high-volume recruitment strategies can work with templates. I’ll share an example, given by Ben Williams, Influencer Team Manager at Blast.

The email below is long and templated, with no personalization. But it worked for Ben because:

  • It's a specific offer (free ticket & experience in exchange for content). No room for negotiation.
  • They're recruiting a lot of creators as a small team. There's no bandwidth to handle hundreds of back-and-forths. So, they set expectations quickly & get straight to a "yes" or "no".
  • Ben filtered potential creators using Modash, so he knew in advance that every creator fit their requirements (location, niche, audience).

Email vs DMs for initial outreach

In most (but not all) cases, marketers prefer to use email.

But no matter where the initial contact is made, business should be done in the email inbox. It gets difficult to keep track of the collab details in DMs.

So, assuming that email is the default, what are the exceptions? When does it make sense to use DMs instead for the first outreach?

When to use DMs for influencer outreach

Some creators, especially very small accounts, might not list a public email anywhere. They’re not yet used to receiving brand outreach, or proactively trying to monetize their content.

Agita Matule often recruits small local creators in Latvia on behalf of Wolt. She uses DMs since emails are often unavailable, and she gets good response rates.

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Agita Matule
Marketing Team, Wolt Latvija
I prefer DMs because they’re less formal, and a lot of influencers don’t list their email. If they agree to collaborate, I slowly move the rest of the communication to email.

The second is if you’re personally active on the social platform, and you share something in common with the creator. Mutual contacts or interests make for a more personal connection.

Piper Phillips (former Director of Marketing at Tru, and TikTok creator), explained this perspective:

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Piper Phillips
Former Director of Marketing, Tru
I start by taking a holistic view of their page and noting a few things. Do we have anything in common? Any mutual interests or common connections? If so, I've found the best route is to send a DM.

If there's no obvious common ground, Piper uses email.

Which CTA should you use in the initial outreach?

…It depends.

Among respondents, the most common CTA used was a “soft ask”, like “are you open to collabs?”.

Here’s why. Explained by Dmitri Cherner, former Head of Influencers at OneSkin & Ruggable.

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Dmitri Cherner
Former Head of Influencers, OneSkin
It allows more flexibility in the partnership. If you ask for specific deliverables, it pigeonholes the opportunity. Plus, it allows you to consider partners that you may be on the fence about initially. If they respond and it turns out they already love the brand, the partnership comes more naturally.

Additionally, it’s just easier to say “yes” to. Once the creator has replied and you have an open line of communication, you can explore the details.

This would be my default recommendation. If there’s a creator you really want to work with, and you’re open to how exactly that might look, just try to get a “yes” to open up a conversation.

But that isn’t the only option. Here are some other approaches:

Can we send you our product?

Even if you’re planning to do paid collaborations (vs. gifting or product seeding), you want the creator to try your product first.

Offering a free product in your initial outreach is a nice way to kick off a relationship (giving, rather than asking). Plus, of course, it lets you see if the creator genuinely likes it or not.

This is the strategy Piper Philips used at Tru.

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Piper Phillips
Former Director of Marketing, Tru
My first step in outreach is always offering a free product. To even consider a paid collab, we need the creator to actually enjoy our product. My go-to line is: ‘If you're interested, I would love to personally send you some Tru! (No strings attached of course)'.

Pro: it’s a positive way to open a conversation, and you can assess enthusiasm for your product.

Con: It might not be viable for higher-cost products, and it doesn’t guarantee a partnership.

Ask for rates for specific deliverables

As Dmitri said above, this is going to pigeonhole the collab. But sometimes that’s fine. If you’re only looking for creators for one very specific campaign or goal, then you can skip some back-and-forth by doing this.

Noah Bloom, founder at Silicon Viral has experience on both the creator & brand side. He prefers this approach.

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Noah Bloom
Founder, Silicon Viral
In my experience, starting with a clear ask and overview of the paid opportunity helps align expectations upfront and speeds up the process. I've found creators appreciate understanding the compensation structure right away as well.

Pro: You can recruit more creators faster for a specific offer/campaign.

Con: The relationship might feel more transactional.

Ask creators to fill in a form

Georgina Whalen, Influencer Marketing Manager at One Medical, asks creators to share a little about themselves in a form. It helps her to learn about the creator’s experiences and pain points that could relate to their product.

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Georgina Whalen
Influencer Marketing Manager, One Medical
A form is a great way for creators to provide more information async whenever their schedule allows. I don't feel great about asking for a call prior to signing a contract as I know their time is valuable.

The extra information helps with further vetting, and it gives Georgina a variety of content ideas in advance which helps with the final selections.

Pro: you can make better creator recruitment decisions with more information up front.

Con: it’s a bigger ask, and so your response rates could be lower.

Should you follow up?

Yes. Almost every marketer who participated follows up in some capacity.

Most opt for 1-2 follow-ups. Why?

Dmitri Cherner says:

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Dmitri Cherner
Former Head of Influencers, OneSkin
Inboxes are messy and things get lost, so follow ups are necessary. I plan for two follow-ups, max. The first a week later, and the second two weeks after that. Anything beyond three messages just becomes aggravating.

Georgina Whalen adds:

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Georgina Whalen
Influencer Marketing Manager, OneMedical
If a creator doesn’t answer after two emails, I try to not add to their inbox overwhelm! We never know what a creator could be going through. Brand partnerships take a great deal of time, effort, and mental energy.

So, the first 1-2 follow-ups are a no-brainer. You’ll drastically increase response rates by adding those.

Beyond that, the concerns are:

  • If the creator still hasn’t replied, are they simply not interested in my product?
  • Am I going to frustrate the creator by continuing to follow up?

Personally, I think that, with some care, you can add more follow-ups.

As long as your emails are relevant, polite, and respectful – you’re probably not being as annoying as you think. We all know that creators are busy, inboxes are full, and emails either get missed or people just don’t get around to replying.

If it’s a creator who you really want to work with, keep following up – but space them out a little more. And put some effort in to show they’re not automated (if they’re not).

After your initial 2-3 follow-ups, leave a bigger gap. Try again after 1 month, then 3 months, and 6 months. Circumstances change, and you might reach the person at a better time.

Should you automate influencer outreach?

If you’re in the early days of your influencer program, keep everything manual for now. Forget scalability – just learn what actually works first.

Get some experience with reaching out and negotiating deals. Experiment with different CTAs, and the way you personalize.

Then, depending on your strategy, automation might make sense.

Nikola Sokolov, co-founder at Influencers Club, gives us two key considerations to start.

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Nikola Sokolov
Co-Founder, Influencers Club
If your response rate is good already, and the "total addressable market" (number of creators you could potentially recruit) is big enough, then you can start to introduce automations.

If you're recruiting very niche creators, at a lower volume, automation probably doesn't make sense.

But if you’re an agency working across lots of campaigns at once, or if you’re using a high-volume recruitment strategy, you probably need to explore automation.

Sarah Saffari, founder at InfluencerNexus uses automation in outreach, but only for follow-ups.

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Sarah Saffari
Founder, InfluencerNexus
The only part of outreach we automate is a drip of light nudges until the influencer responds. People get busy and open emails at all hours of the day. We space them out and stop at 3.

Levi Hoang is the Director of Outreach at House of Marketers (a TikTok marketing agency). He has a team of 20 doing outreach and hundreds of emails being sent per week. Like Sarah, Levi’s team sets up automated sequences to follow up. That kind of scale just isn't viable without some degree of automation.

What response rate should you expect?

I don’t have a good answer for you here (sorry).

There are a ton of factors that affect response rates, and we’d need far more data to get any useful benchmarks.

Instead, I’ll help you to understand a few of those factors:

1. Brand. More brand awareness = more responses.

2. Are you paying? Paid offers get more responses than unpaid/gifting.

3. Are you personalizing? If you choose to save time by skipping personalization, you’ll probably get a lower response rate.

4. Who are you reaching out to? Typically, the smaller the follower count, the easier it is to make contact.

5. How much pre-vetting have you done? If you’re certain in advance that this creator is a good fit, there’s a good chance they’ll think the same. If you’re mass mailing a big list without confirming fit, response rates will be a lot lower.

3 More quick influencer outreach tips

1. Talent managers are human too

As you start to work with bigger influencers, you’ll run into more and more talent managers.

Instead of having a direct email for the creator, you’ll be reaching out to (and negotiating with) their manager.

So – should your approach change when you’re dealing with a manager instead of a creator?

Lee Drysdale, Influencer Marketing Lead at KILLSTAR says no.

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Lee Drysdale
Influencer Marketing Lead, KILLSTAR
I put in just as much effort to personalize and build relationships when I’m writing to a talent manager. Over the years, I’ve built some really good relationships with talent managers. It always pays dividends in the long run.

2. Do your research before reaching out

Malou Deuber, founder at socialrelation, hits 90% response rates from her outreach. One of the secrets? Good analysis in advance.

Influencer analysis tools are much more accessible than they were 5 years ago. With software, in 60 seconds you can check things like:

  • Audience breakdown (locations, gender, age)
  • Performance metrics (fake followers, engagement rate, growth rate)
  • Content quality & fit

And even if you don’t have a tool, you can get a pretty good idea just by spending 5-10 extra minutes scrolling through a creator’s content.

If you’re only reaching out to creators you’re confident are a great fit, response rates will be high.

3. If you want a long-term relationship, ask to schedule a call

Nycole Hampton, Senior Director of Marketing at GoodRx has her team include calendar scheduling links in the initial outreach.

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Nycole Hampton
Senior Director of Marketing, GoodRx
A call is a great opportunity to assess if it’s a good fit. Does the creator seem engaged and excited about the idea, or does it feel transactional? Maybe they're so engaged you want to build out an even more robust partnership than you planned.

Once you start to build a relationship "face to face", everything becomes easier (even negotiations).

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Nycole Hampton
Senior Director of Marketing, GoodRx
It lets brands introduce their offer and begin negotiations on the call. Emailing a budget and deliverables isn't going to help you negotiate. Sometimes creators won't even respond if it's "too low", but you find people are more open to realistic conversations when a relationship is being built.

When you take the time to show you’re invested, you are more likely to get that back from creators.

Ready to do some influencer outreach?

The faster you start sending emails (or DMs…), the faster you’ll start driving impact for your brand.

If you’re still looking for more outreach examples for inspiration – stay tuned. Many of the kind & knowledgeable contributors to this article also shared full email examples with context, which we’ll publish separately soon.

And, if you need to build your creator shortlist ready for outreach, try Modash for free. It’s a tool for finding influencers, analyzing their profiles, and tracking their content. For influencer discovery, it:

  • *Actually* has enough influencers in your niche & market (literally, every creator with 1k+ followers)
  • Has accessible pricing plans and self-serve options
  • Gives you the audience data you need to do vetting *before* you spend time on outreach

Give it a spin, no credit card needed!

 
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Contributors to this article

Anna-Maria Klappenbach
Community & Brand Marketing Lead, Aumio
Currently at Aumio, Anna is an expert in all things brand & influencer marketing. She has experience running performance-driven influencer collabs in markets like DACH, UK, US & more.
Georgina Whalen
Influencer Marketing Manager at One Medical
Georgina has 15+ years experience in influencer marketing, currently leading influencer strategy at One Medical. She's also a guest lecturer at NYU, and advises on influencer strategy via her consultancy, The Influence Atelier.
Nikola Sokolov
Co-Founder at Influencers Club
Nikola is the co-founder of Influencers Club, a creator outreach agency. He's worked with brands like Discord, Linktree, and Amazon.
Agita Matule
Marketing Team, Wolt Latvija
Agita is on the front lines every day marketing Wolt Latvija via influencer collaborations. Wolt is a technology company known for its delivery platform for food and merchandise.
Ben Williams
Influencer Team Manager, Blast
Previously at Farfetch & Nike, Ben leads all things influencer marketing at Blast. He's responsible for driving revenue via creators for digital products & events.
Dmitri Cherner
Influencer Marketing Expert
Dmitri has 10+ years of senior marketing experience, building and managing Influencer programs at agencies and brands such as Ruggable, Quince, and OneSkin.
Lee Drysdale
Influencer Marketing Lead at KILLSTAR
After spending time in influencer teams at Beauty Bay & Solado, Lee now leads a team of 3 influencer marketers at KILLSTAR, a gothic & alternative clothing brand.
Noah Bloom
Founder at Silicon Viral
After running influencer marketing in-house at Tecovas (and holding other in-house roles at Facebook & TikTok), Noah now runs Silicon Viral, an agency that has run creator marketing campaigns for brands likes Archive and Recast.
Nycole Hampton
Senior Director of Marketing, GoodRx
Nycole is a seasoned marketer with nearly 20 years of experience, largely focused on social media, creator and content marketing. She has built and led social media, influencer and content marketing teams and practices within global agencies and in-house.
Piper Phillips
TikTok Creator, prev. Director of Marketing at Tru
At Tru, Piper led brand awareness initiatives, managed online sales, and worked directly with the founder and CEO to set go-to-market strategy. She's also a TikTok content creator herself! @pipercassidyphillips
Sarah Saffari
Founder at InfluencerNexus
Sarah is the founder of InfluencerNexus, an agency that crafts memorable stories, builds trust, and drives revenue through creator partnerships.
Levi Hoang
Influencer Outreach Director, House of Marketers
Levi manages an influencer outreach team of 20+ people, responsible for recruiting creators for clients of House of Marketers (a TikTok marketing agency).

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