Get a return on your influencer investment

“How can you connect me with influencers?” is one of the most frequently asked questions by customers.

Influencer marketing is all the rage, but there’s a reason there aren’t an abundance of success stories: it’s hard. The end goal of a marketing campaign is usually to make money, and paying an influencer, especially an expensive celebrity, isn’t the best way to ensure a profit.

You can, however, launch an influencer campaign that earns you an ROI. To do this, you will need to step away from your natural marketing instincts and follow these three steps.

First step: define your budget and your expectations

What do you want the end result of your influencer campaign to look like? How much money do you think you have to spend to achieve this? Whatever fantasies and numbers you have in mind, scale them down a bit.

In terms of budget, it will depend on how many units of a product you think you can sell through your Instagram campaign. If you pay $1,500 and only sell $400 worth of products, your campaign was a failure. Also remember that your client is not looking to break even; they want to make a profit. My advice: figure out the total dollar amount of the product you think you can realistically sell through this campaign, then set your budget at no more than half that amount.

If you don’t think you can sell more than $10,000, an influencer campaign isn’t the best option. The thing is, high-quality influencers want a paycheck — mere exposure and gift baskets won’t work. If you don’t want to make money, you shouldn’t spend it.

As for expectations, I’m going to give you some general marketing tips that you should apply to every part of your campaign, especially when working for a client: under-promise and over-deliver.

Promising a client that you can catch an influencer who will double the sales is a good way to never work with that client again and get yourself a bad reputation. Promise only what you know for sure you can deliver and use any success beyond that to your advantage.

If an affordable influencer turns out to be a conversion machine, go to your client or supervisor and say, “Hey, I have three other influencers who are similar. Can I get a budget approved so we can repeat these results?

Step Two: Narrow Your List of Influencers

Famous influencers should be removed from your influencer wishlist immediately.

You probably think the reason is that working with influential celebrities of this caliber is too expensive. But “too expensive” is relative. If you pay a million dollars and make a million sales, you will consider that money well spent.

Let’s say you have a million dollars in hand and a major Instagram influencer like Kylie Jenner agrees to promote your product. Even though she has 336 million subscribers, her engagement rate is 1.81%, so we immediately jump from 336 million to around six million who will actually engage with her promotional content.

The average conversion rate on Instagram is 1.85%, but Kylie has some attraction, so we’ll round it up to 2%. And for your million dollars spent, the absolute ceiling of clicks to your website that you can expect is around 120,000 – and you’ll probably be lucky to get around half that.

Instead, look for nano and micro-influencers who belong to the same industry as you or your client. Kylie Jenner has a huge but unengaged following. Instead of fighting for one percent of Kylie’s audience, you can partner with a niche nano-influencer and attract 5-10% of her audience of 30,000 just by pitching a relevant product.

Be picky with your influencers. Review them, see if they already have promotional content, and most importantly, make sure their growth and follower count aren’t being bought off.

Step Three: Be a Partner, Not a Manager

The third step to profitability might surprise you: take a step back.

You have business interests in mind, but your influencer partner will want to handle the majority of the creative development. Here’s why you should let them.

If it is a successful nano-influencer, it has a successful and attention-grabbing presence on Instagram and social media. They built this on their own and they are masters of their own content. When you or the client tries too hard to impose your own creative vision on the talent, you usually end up taking away the attraction their followers had for them in the first place. I speak from experience.

Look, the audience will know it’s an advertisement, but an advertisement doesn’t necessarily have to be equated with inauthentic, strictly promotional content. As long as the creator presents your product in the best light and hits the points you want, let the rest of the project be guided by them.

I’m telling you this so you can make the case for the influencer to your boss or client, who will likely disagree and try to take the reins themselves.

Because influencers are new, influencer marketing is new, and so no one has fully deciphered and written the formula for success. But from my personal experience, I can tell you that success does not come from expensive celebrities who simply post photos or Instagram stories about your product. You need to find niche influencers, stick to your budget, and allow creative professionals to do their job.

Do all three and you should see a healthy return from your next influencer campaign.