The Fundamentals of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is the opportunity to have an influencer, someone with authority, market you.

The influencer promotes your brand, increases your exposure to their audience, and ultimately helps you sell more products (or gain new customers).

The promotion by an influencer is created either entirely by them or with your help, and the content can be in the form of a:

  • Social media post
  • Blog post
  • Video
  • Case study
  • Testimonial

Regardless of what industry you’re in, this type of marketing strategy is extremely effective. Any industry can try this marketing strategy simply because there are always authority figures represented for every industry.

Even plumbers have their own list of the most famous plumbers around.

When people think of influencer marketing, they often think of a Kardashian posting a photo on Instagram of them holding up a product.

Yes, that is one type of influencer marketing, but there are other types and others a bit more realistic for us average folk, if you may.

Don’t feel like you need to have a celebrity to be successful with influencer marketing, especially since 30 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a product recommended by a non-celebrity blogger.

Let’s get down into the nitty-gritty of influencer marketing and discover those other types, and how you can start developing your influencer strategy.

This guide is going to break down all of the fundamentals of influencer marketing, helping to give you a better understanding of why, how when, and where you should attempt influencer marketing as a strategy.

First things first, let’s cover the why and how.

Why We All Need Influencer Marketing & How We Can Use It

A 2016 study by TapInfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions revealed that influencer marketing generates 11 times the ROI of traditional digital marketing.

Let me re-type and bold that for you because it’s easy to read over numbers.

11 times the ROI!

If you’re only using traditional digital marketing (SEO, PPC, social media, etc.) then you’re clearly missing out on a huge opportunity to increase your ROI.

It doesn’t matter if your an agency, brand, or business – everyone can benefit from trying influencer marketing.

Don’t believe me? You should.

Influencer marketing is not “out of your league.” Here’s why.

Influencer Marketing for Agencies

How many clients does your agency have? That’s how many new influencing opportunities your agency has.

Agencies have the ability to use their own clients, the ones they like and that like them, to help promote their agency for them.

Think of it like receiving a referral. If someone enjoys working with you and the business next door asks how they got so successful so quickly, they’re going to tell the next door business all about your agency and how you helped them.

Case Studies & New Content

Capitalize on this process and ask your clients for video testimonials, to become a part of your referral program (create one), and if you can use their results for case studies.

If you’ve really been able to positively impact a client, they’re highly likely to approve you sharing the story of how you took them from 1 to 10.

Gather a dozen different case studies from your past and current clients to publish on your website, social pages, email newsletters, and in ads. This isn’t only additional content, but content your existing and new clients will appreciate.

You can also make the case study a pretty little PDF and share it with the case study client for them to share among their peers.

If you really helped them reach their goals, they’re going to love the PDF filled with graphics, charts, and impressive numbers to share with other business owners.

Trial By Error

Another way to utilize your clients for influence marketing is to ask your clients to test out a new product.

If they’re a big client of yours it is appropriate to let them know that your agency is trying to advance with all of the tech advances out there and you want to try a new strategy or product with them as a test.

FREE of charge <– very important.

If things work out with the test, woohoo! You’ve now added another section to the contract and have a new service or product to charge for.

If things don’t work out, you get great and honest feedback from the client and know how to fix the product or plan.


One of the biggest ways I see brands utilize influence marketing is when they partner up with other brands.

Before I get too deep into this, though, I want to clarify that brands are both the large corporate players like Red Bull and Coca-Cola, but they’re also the individual brands like Instagram famous stars and YouTube celebrities.

A brand can be an individual brand, like you trying to grow your role as a digital marketer in the industry. It can also be something that represents a larger entity, like extreme sports.

Now, back to the brands and the whole influencer marketing idea. Brands will partner together in campaigns to help widen their audience with influence marketing.

They can use both relevant brands, ones that are in the same industry, or reach out of the spectrum and partner with completely different brands to increase their exposure to a completely new audience.

The Instagram post below is a post from REI and featured an energy snack recipe from Fresh Off the Grid, a camp cooking brand. No, REI isn’t directly in the food industry, but they are in the camping and outdoor activity industry. This made for a great partnership:

The level of influence here is how you capitalize on the new audience. Be strategic in who you reach out to and ask to partner up in a new influencing campaign.

Partnering up with the wrong brand will deeply reflect your reputation, and possibly ruin it. If any YouTube celebrity wants to partner up with Logan Paul, now really isn’t a good time.

Red Bull partnering with Coca-Cola for a new content campaign also wouldn’t be the best of ideas. On one hand, Red Bull is heavily involved in the world of extreme action sports. But, they’ve chosen that angle due to their actual product, an energy drink named Red Bull that essentially “gives you wings” to be extreme.

Sure, the Red Bull athletes could do a cool stunt riding a mountain bike down the ledge of the mountain holding both a Coca-Cola can and a Red Bull can, but what would be the point? It wouldn’t make sense because technically the two can be seen as competitors. They both are on-the-go drink manufactures.

Instead, Red Bull could partner with Nike and do a content campaign featuring Nike’s new apparel line, Red Bull’s energy drink, and summer sports.


We can most commonly recognize influencer marketing when businesses do it. This is the example of a teeth whitening product featured on a Kardashian Instagram account.

Businesses don’t have to go to the Kardashian extent to make influencer marketing work for them, though.

If your business makes pipes for the plumbing industry, head on over to that list of the most famous plumbers and start reaching out. Doing outreach is a huge part of influencer marketing. It almost feels like putting on a public relations/journalist hat for a second as you try and narrow down your influencers.

Once you’ve found an influencer who has agreed to help promote your product, don’t just stop there. The more influencers you have, the more brand exposure you get, as well as trust.

If one of the most famous plumbers uses your pipes for repairs, the word is going to get around. Other plumbers are going to trust the famous plumber and follow his/her footsteps to purchase and use only your pipes.

When to Pay an Influencer

Most of the time, you don’t need to pay an influencer. Samples of the product you’re asking them to promote, discounts, or free services usually suffice.

Where it changes and becomes a more costly strategy is when you pick who the influencer is.

The bigger the influencer, the more they’ll want.

If you’re aiming for that Kardashian type of exposure, you’re going to need to break out the wallet. And, the credit card. And, possibly your mortgage.

Influencers Who Cost, A Lot

If you’re a brand, business, or agency who has goals like a Kardashian type of exposure and the budget to match, then, by all means, reach out to your lawyers and start getting contracts prepared for when you lock in those influencers.

Make sure your contracts clearly state the expectations of the influencer. If you want them to run the content by you before they publish it, specify that in the contract. If you want the influencer to only be able to promote your plumbing pipes and not work with any other pipe companies, state it in the contract.

Influencers of Little to No Cost

For the rest of us, focus on the “free” influencers. These are people who may already be investing a lot of their own time promoting your brand because they love your product, or love what you do.

Death Wish Coffee is a great example of this.

People love their product, ridiculously strong coffee that comes with a side of sarcasm. The brand speaks their customer’s language and therefore makes it fun for customers to actually engage and promote the product themselves.

This coffee company can just monitor their hashtag mentions and unlock hundreds of potential influencers that would love to receive a free month supply of coffee for posting more about their brand.

Look at what kind of mentions your brand/business/agency is attracting online and follow the conversation. You’ll quickly discover who’s talking about you the most.

Then, look at their followers. If they have a healthy following reach out and see if they’d be interested in partnering up with you on an influencer campaign.

Don’t stop reading, I know there’s those of you out there who are rolling their eyes yelling, “NO ONE MENTIONS MY BRAND!”

Don’t worry. I’ve got a solution for you, too.

Look at your big competitors. Think of the Red Bulls and Coca-Colas of your industry.

See what kind of mentions they’re getting and from who. Reach out to those influencers and pitch away.

You never know who will say yes unless you ask.

Plus, they may not want as much as you think or even be willing to promote for free after getting to know more about you and your business.

More Influencer Marketing Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, March 2018