It’s the one thing that pretty much everyone hates about inbound marketing…
Waiting for your SEO to bring in qualified traffic.
Waiting to nurture leads into customers.
Waiting to build up an audience of drooling fans who look to you for advice.
But here’s the thing: some brands — depending on the industry — don’t have to wait quite as long as others to start seeing the traffic & leads roll in.
Because rather than having to build their audience from scratch, they can “borrow” one by building relationships with influencers in their niche.
This is essentially what “influencer marketing” is all about. Because when you have an influential person — like a celebrity or well-known blogger — vouching for you, that kind of added credibility can supercharge your digital marketing efforts and expand your reach.
But it’s not always easy to build relationships with these influencers.
So when travel startup Grabr hired us, we put together a content strategy that didn’t focus on traditional influencer “outreach.”
Instead, we invited established travel writers to help create amazing content for us. I’ll explain more in moment, but first, here’s the growth that Grabr saw within 3 months of using this strategy (they were previously seeing monthly newsletter subscribers in the low double-digits):
And when I talk about ‘influencers’, I’m not necessarily referring to celebs with 2M followers here. Really, an influencer is someone who has an engaged audience that you want to connect with.
Now, there are a lot of articles out there about ways to get influencers with gargantuan followers to share your content. And that’s strategy might work for you.
But we took a different approach:
First, we created a laser-focused content strategy
Let’s pause for some background: Grabr is a peer-to-peer delivery service where international travelers deliver retail items to people abroad.
For example, government restrictions make it super-tough to buy an iPhone in Argentina — so a ‘Grabr’ traveler already heading to Argentina would get a cash reward for buying and delivering an iPhone when they arrived.
Before we jumped in, they had been blogging for about 18 months using a mix of engaging travel content. Grabr wanted to build on those results — fast.
We focused primarily on using the blog to engage and convert travelers, who tended to be young, adventurous folks living in North America. The backpacker types.
The audience liked the idea of delivering these items because it gave them a chance to better connect with the locals — while also making a few bucks on the side.
And that really was the appeal of using Grabr: travelers got a more meaningful trip by meeting up with a local in the city they were visiting and delivering them an item.
So our content strategy focused on creating blog content and guides that helped these travelers get the authentic, meaningful trip they were looking for. Articles that connected with them at the very moment they were either researching a trip or looking for ways to make money while traveling.
But to provide that kind of content, we had to have very specific types of content creators working with us.
Next, we hired rockstar travel writers
(who have plenty of friends)
This was probably the most important part of our content strategy.
We needed legit, full-time travel writers working for us who had strong social media followings made up of the exact type of people who would loooooove Grabr. So when they shared the articles they wrote for us, we were connecting with the ideal Grabr audience.
My background is in online travel marketing, so I already had a couple of kick-ass scribes in mind (although, there are ways to find affordable writers in plenty of other niches). Here they are:
Kelly Dunning of Global Goose
She’s a young ‘digital nomad’ who’s spent the past 5 years living in hostels while exploring the world as a travel writer.
Candice Walsh of Free Candie. A veteran travel scribe who’s written for publications like BBC Travel and Reader’s Digest.
But these weren’t just hired guns.
They both loved the idea of creating content that helps budget-strapped travelers connect with locals and earn/save money while exploring the globe.
That was key. It was essential that they were really passionate about the content they were creating — and were excited to share it with their followers. Here’s a taste of the type of articles they crafted:
And if you read those and other Grabr blog posts closely, you’ll notice that they all include interviews or quotes from other travel bloggers, experts or thought leaders.
So that meant not only were Candice and Kelly sharing their articles, the people they included in the stories (often fellow travel bloggers) were also sharing the pieces.
And with that came the big increase in qualified traffic.
Then we served the right offer to the right persona at the right time
OK, we had the travel bloggers creating and promoting content. And it was bringing us a steady stream of social media traffic.
But now, we needed to convert that traffic into email subscribers. That way, we would have a more engaged audience that would pay attention when it came time to educate them about the benefits of joining Grabr.
Like a lot of successful marketing campaigns, it all came down to segmentation and contextual messaging. Fortunately, SumoMe makes it pretty easy to do this.
The funnel essentially boiled down to this: people who clicked on an article about experiencing local culture in Vietnam were shown popups for a free travel guide called ‘Vietnam for the Anti-Tourist.’
Same deal for Argentina — or any other country where Grabr did a lot of business. They then received emails with more relevant travel tips and information about Grabr.
All the offers were interconnected and presented as the next logical option for people to take. And that resulted in a decent reader-to-subscriber rate of just over 3% — without any A/B testing or other optimization. According to SumoMe, the average rate is 2%.
Could your brand get a boost from influencers?
The short answer is ‘yes’. But exactly how successful you are with this strategy ultimately depends on the industry you’re in. Travel, fitness, health and parenting — for example — are all niches that are loaded with influential bloggers.
Industrial plastic manufacturing? Not so much.
But even some B2B companies, like marketing software, do a great job of leveraging influencers to gain traffic.
However, it’s important to remember: inbound marketing is still a long-term game. It takes time to build trust, credibility and authority in your niche.
After all, you don’t want to ‘borrow’ an audience forever. You want to build your own.