One of the most buzzed about terms in PR and marketing right now is “Influencer Marketing.” It’s a term making it into job descriptions and titles of marketing and PR pros on LinkedIn, and it’s an important one for authors to understand.
Influencer Marketing is when brands reach their potential customers by partnering with influencers. An influencer is anyone with a strong presence via any of the following:
- Pro speaking
- Book sales
- Website traffic
- Email list
- Social media platform (a strong social media platform is essential to Influencer Marketing)
Basically, influencers help big brands by convincing their audiences to pay attention to said brand.
Why Influencer Marketing Should Matter to Authors
It’s no secret that most authors don’t make much money from books, which means you’ve got to find other ways to generate revenue around your book. Many authors accomplish this by selling products and services to their audience and/or via corporate sponsorship dollars.
Corporate sponsorships can bring lucrative deals for influencers. It’s not uncommon for companies to pay $1,000 to $1,500 to sponsor a single blog post, or $2,500 to $5,000 to sponsor a webinar or Twitter chat. Sponsorships can include all kinds of promotional activities, from video endorsements to sponsored emails, and contracts for authors can reach well into the 6-figure range.
Sponsorship agreements are similar to those that professional athletes and celebrities have with big companies like Nike, Aveeno and Chase bank. Celebrities are paid to endorse products and services by wearing the product, appearing in commercials or talking about the product publicly.
While celebrity contracts tend to land in the 7-figure range, the premise is the same. Celebrities are sponsored because of their influence, and as an author, you have the opportunity to build your influence.
Types of Sponsorship Opportunities
Following are ways that corporate sponsors want to work with authors.
Paid Blogging – If you have established yourself as a skilled blogger, you can get paid by corporations to write blog posts on their sites or, if you have a high-traffic website, you can get paid to write blog posts on your own website. You might also be surprised to learn that the blog posts aren’t usually even about the sponsoring company. The sponsoring company will simply request that you write interesting content that their target audience cares about, and they will benefit from visibility as the sponsor. As a writer, this is one of my favorite arrangements.
Professional Speaking – Every author who wants to build an audience can benefit from developing skills as a professional speaker. Speaking allows you to reach your target audience in a more personal way, and keynote speakers typically earn $5,000 to $10,000 and up for a one-hour engagement, plus travel expenses.
Companies can hire you to speak to their employees or at an event or seminar. One of my author friends has an ongoing contract with a major company where they sponsor free events across the country to attract new customers. He comes in as the keynote speaker for an hour, dazzles the audience, and collects his check. The sponsor benefits by hosting the event and attracting new business. It’s a win-win situation and a dream gig for an author who likes to speak.
Webinars – The popularity of webinars has continued to increase in recent years, and these events provide an efficient way for hosts to reach a global audience. You can sell your services as a webinar speaker to help a company reach its target audience.
Bulk Sales – There are many ways to sell your books in bulk to large companies. They can give away books to employees, distribute them as bonus items at trade shows, offer them as a bonus with purchase, or simply give them away to attract more clients. For example, if you authored a book on how to manage business finances, you could approach a large bank and inquire about them giving books away to their business banking clients. The key is finding the right company with needs that match what your book has to offer.
Product Licensing – Similar to how companies want to distribute books to employees and at events, they also need content to give away as a reward for new social media followers, newsletter sign-ups, contests, and other online campaigns. Consider licensing your ebook or a similar information product such as a workbook, special report, or video series. You can also offer customization, such as a chapter about the company within your ebook, and then license a specific number of copies that the company can distribute in any way they like.
Spokesperson – One of the more lucrative opportunities available to authors is the role of spokesperson, which is similar to how celebrities are hired to represent perfume or shampoo. In this role, you act as the celebrity and you may conduct media interviews on the company’s behalf or attend company sponsored events. These roles are typically hired on a retainer basis with five to six-figure contracts, depending on the scope of the agreement.
Advisory Board – Companies that want to better reach their target audience often seek out experts who understand their audience and look for advice. This is a hybrid consulting role where you may help company leaders brainstorm ideas or choose directions for product development, marketing, publicity, social media, and other business issues.
Advertising – If you have a high traffic website or access to a large audience, you can absolutely get companies to pay you for exposure to your audience. Advertising can come in all kinds of forms: banner or text ads on your website, a page within your next book, an ad within your newsletter, or even a co-produced direct mail campaign. You have a lot of room to get creative here since most big companies have hefty advertising budgets to spend each year and they are looking for new ways to invest those dollars.
Event Sponsorship – If you conduct your own events, from workshops and conferences to online events, you can sell sponsorships to companies. These agreements can include logo placement, mentioning the company in your media releases and promotional materials, prominent displays at your event, and even sponsored merchandise. I recently attended the Small Business Influencer Awards event in New York where Blackberry was a top sponsor. The company name was printed on the beautiful trophies we received, and they also distributed travel bags with battery packs for charging electronics on the go. Not only did that investment get Blackberry exposure with the thousands of attendees, but it’s getting them additional exposure here!
Sponsored Tweets – Social media is a high priority for most large companies, and it’s another place for them to invest their marketing dollars by paying influential industry leaders to share their content or talk about their products and services. In fact, in conjunction with most of the above corporate sponsorships these days, you will also be asked to share news with your social networks. One site where you can easily start getting paid offers is https://SponsoredTweets.com. You won’t earn enough to retire through this site (unless you’re a Kardashian), but it’s a good start. And if you work directly with companies, you’ll get top dollar for your tweets and social media shares.
What Corporate Sponsors Want from Authors and Influencers
Ideas – Big companies are run by people—and those people have to come up with the big ideas. In many cases, they look to outside sources for new opportunities and solutions. If you want to pitch a company, give them an idea that aligns with their business goals. Read their most recent annual report to learn about where their growth areas are, what areas of the company are struggling, and what their priority initiatives are. Then put together a dazzling pitch that addresses a challenge they are facing (like how to reach a certain segment of the market) and how your offering helps them overcome that obstacle. Before you know it, that idea can work its way through the corporate approval process and a check will be on its way to you!
Audience – One way to assure you get the attention of a company is to demonstrate that you have a sizeable audience. That could be a high traffic website, large social media following, thousands of books sold, an active speaking engagement schedule, or a large newsletter subscriber base. The fact is that having an audience gives you leverage. Figure out which companies want to reach your audience and then find solutions to offer them. And by the way, there’s a good chance companies will seek you out when you start building some credibility in your field and show that you have an audience.
Professionalism – If you’re going to pitch something to a corporation, it will likely go through several levels of approval. So, whatever you offer has to demonstrate professionalism on every level. If you self-published your book, they won’t care—as long as it has an attractive cover and has been through comprehensive editing. If you sell yourself as a speaker, make sure you are polished and deliver a great experience. The point is that you need to step up your game and demonstrate that you are the right person for the job.
How to Reach the Right People
Reaching corporate contacts can be tricky, but it has gotten easier in recent years. First, you should always start by figuring out who you know. If you can find someone to refer you directly to the contact you want to meet, that can be a great way to go. But since that isn’t always likely, you still have options.
The best tool out there for finding corporate contacts is LinkedIn. Using the advanced search feature, you can search by company name, job title, or keyword. For example, if you want to find the person in charge of the small business contest at Office Depot, type in the name of the contest as a keyword and see who comes up. You’d be amazed at how easy it is to find the people in charge of specific departments or initiatives.
Next, you can pay a small fee per month to subscribe to LinkedIn mail, which allows you to send email to people outside of your network. Alternatively, once you locate a contact name, head on over to Google and search for that person’s direct contact information. You can often locate an email address this way or other social media profiles where you can learn more about the person. Then you can reach out in any number of ways: LinkedIn mail, email, phone, or even postal mail. Be professional and creative. Most will listen to your idea because, remember, they need new ideas.
If you strike out on LinkedIn, look to Google to find leads. Some companies post an employee directory. You can also call the company operator and ask for the name of the person in charge of XYZ department. And you can check the other social media networks as well to find the information you need.
If your initial contact doesn’t get noticed, get more creative. Mail a copy of your book along with a hand-written note. Send flowers or a fruit basket. Send tweets to the CEO. Do whatever you have to do to get their attention and ask that they at least listen to your pitch. Trust me; they are used to listening to pitches and ideas. If you want to cinch the deal, do your homework and show up fully prepared to pitch them something they can’t refuse.
Include PR Firms in Your Search
One more tip: Pitch your ideas to the PR firm that works with the company you’re targeting. You can search Google: “PR firm for Aflac,” and you will almost always find the answer. These firms definitely want others wo know who their big clients are so their relationships are usually public knowledge and promoted heavily on the PR firm website.
And PR firms are hired to bring fresh ideas, so if you can make their job easier by bringing them ideas that they can pitch to the client, then everybody wins. The firm can be the hero with the client by bringing you on board as an influencer, and you win because the firm has the client’s ear and can help push your proposal through.
Many large companies also work with more than one PR firm. Sometimes different agencies handle different areas of the business. For example, HP probably has a PR firm for it’s personal computer solutions and another one for its commercial computer solutions. So don’t be surprised if you find more than one firm.
How to Become an Influencer
If you’re interested in generating sponsorship dollars, then start by building your platform. Being an author already makes you an AUTHORity in your subject matter. The next step is to capture the interest of an audience. And the larger your audience, the more sponsors will pay attention.
The required size of your audience will depend on the size of the audience you serve. If you have a niche audience of women 55+ who are interested in skin care, your overall reach could be smaller than an influencer in a market that’s fairly competitive, like small business. For a small niche, an audience of 10,000 people could be impressive, but for a broader audience, you’ll probably need to reach 50,000+ in order to get the attention of sponsors.
Your Call to Action
If you have grumbled about marketing and haven’t yet put a lot of effort into building your platform, let this serve as some incentive for you to get to work! It takes time and commitment to build an audience, but the rewards are worth the effort. Soon that book of yours could be generating tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of influencer marketing.
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