Early-stage brands should also unlock the power of influencers

They’ve made waves on every screen and have been sponsored by nearly every major brand, from Charli D’Amelio x Hollister to MrBeast x Honey. And they’re only multiplying.

If influencers aren’t part of your early-stage growth marketing plan, it’s time to get on board. When companies think of how to rapidly increase their reach and revenue, paid acquisition is always at the top of the list. But there are other important pillars in a growth marketing engine, such as leveraging lifecycle marketing, cultivating organic reach via SEO and doing later-stage brand marketing.

Influencer marketing isn’t solely for big brands; it’s for every brand. If influencers aren’t part of your growth marketing plan, it’s time to get on board.

However, an often overlooked tactic for new brands is influencer marketing. If the value and power of influencer marketing were widespread knowledge, we would see more of an uptick. And it doesn’t help that we have a supply-constrained pool of marketers who understand how to unlock this lever.

Influencer marketing spending from 2016 to 2021 (predicted). Image Credits: Jonathan Martinez

This marketing tactic is only growing. So let’s demystify influencer marketing, learn how to couple it with a little-known paid marketing hack and uncover the numerous mediums to leverage influencer assets. After three years at Postmates (which nailed influencer marketing), being a YouTuber myself in 2008 and advising startups, I’ve unlocked the power of influencer marketing and want everyone to do the same.

Starting out

If there’s one key piece of advice to take from this column, it’s that influencer marketing isn’t solely for big brands. It’s for every brand. As you start to formulate your growth strategy, make sure to include an influencer pillar as part of the plan.

When reaching out to influencers, it’s a sheer numbers game in capturing their attention and pitching your brand, but there are myriad ways to increase response conversion. Below are the cold message components you must nail down before reaching out to influencers:

  • Your brand pitch.
  • An enticing offer.
  • Clear next steps.

The one constant with influencers is the high number of messages they receive from fans and brands alike. If you’re at the marketing stage, nailing your pitch should hopefully be natural at this point, so utilize what you’ve crafted and condense it down to a sentence or two.

What are your brand’s key value propositions, and why should influencers care? To show them, relate your brand to their category, to their style and to the content that they post.

After the pitch, an irresistible offer needs to follow — something that’s the opposite of this: “I’ll send you a few samples of our protein bars.” The conversion rate will be a freakishly low tenth of a percent with that offer. Instead, make your offer enticing and utilize one of these structures: fixed fee, fixed fee + performance or performance.

Depending on budget and risk tolerance, there are a few ways to structure an influencer offer: paying a one-time fixed fee, paying for each conversion (CPA performance basis) or a hybrid of the two.

Regardless of the structure you pick, add the offer into the initial message and use a range — e.g., “We’re offering $350-$1,500 per post.” This keeps the message captivating while leaving room for negotiation by utilizing an offer range. At the end of the message, it’s vital to wrap up with information on next steps, such as sending additional details via email or sending examples of past influencers that you’ve worked with (if contacting via direct message).


A little-known strategy in the influencer world is called white-labeling and is being employed by larger, more advanced brands. While scrolling through Instagram, you may have seen content that looks like it’s coming from an influencer (that you may not follow) akin to the screenshot below. In reality, this is an ad that HelloFresh is pushing spend and volume to while masking it as if it’s coming from the handle @leamichele. Say hello to white-labeling.

HelloFresh-sponsored ad from influencer @leamichele. Image Credits: Hello Fresh/Lea Michele

Whether this seems clever or deceiving, the ability to push ad spend to organic-feeling ads from influencer handles is extremely powerful. Instead of seeing a brand name and logo, you see a natural, friendlier Instagram handle and icon.

As an additional mask, the content that the influencer creates should be as homemade as possible, without any overlays (other than subtitles, if video). There are a plethora of strategies to enhance the organic touch, but it should ultimately feel as if the post is from a friend that you follow and the furthest thing from a branded advertisement.

When considering which influencer to bring on board, just know that you don’t need to find influencers with millions of followers. Instead, lean toward microinfluencers for testing, which will bring cost efficiency and the ability to sponsor a diverse range of people. Since the white-labeling approach relies on ad spend to push volume toward it, the amount of followers the influencer has is negligible.

Leveraging assets

You’ve sponsored a few influencers, content is on their Instagram feed and you’re pushing ad spend via white-labeling — that’s good, but far from enough. It’s time to double dip.

These influencer-created assets are powerful and should be leveraged across all growth mediums to enhance your brand’s validity. Without intending to do so, you’ve employed influencers as micro creative shops to produce new creative assets. If you have a “testimonials” section on your website, this is a great place to include influencer assets you’ve already spent resources on.

Yotta does a phenomenal job with their “testimonials” page. Image Credits: Yotta

As an additional measure, be sure to reference your testimonials page in funnel drop-off areas or embed the videos directly on there to help address skepticism. Push users over the edge by showing them the positive experience others are having with your brand. Lifecycle communications and your brand’s social media accounts are a couple of other areas where you can leverage these new assets at your disposal.

Consider sending an email in your lifecycle series that highlights the influencer assets or add them into existing emails so that not all of the selling is coming from your brand’s voice.

Measuring success

The effectiveness of influencer marketing may seem abstract or confusing, but there are definitive ways to measure and make meaningful data-driven decisions.

If you’re running white-label ads, the performance will be simple to track because the conversions can be attributed to those specific assets. If they’re standard feed-based influencer posts, the easiest method will be to track via promo code redemptions. If promo codes aren’t possible for your product or service, running a website lift or incrementality test is an alternative tracking method.

What about tracking when placing influencer assets on your website or in communications such as your lifecycle email marketing? You can run A/B tests. If you’ve placed influencer assets on heavy drop-off steps, make sure to have a control funnel that has the original setup stacked against the funnel with influencer assets. Similarly, for lifecycle marketing, have a control that stacks against the email with influencer assets.

As time goes on, influencer marketing will increasingly become omnipresent in growth programs. Whether a seed-stage startup or Fortune 100 company, there should be a robust influencer pillar in the strategy. When thinking about how powerful influencers are, try scrolling through your social feeds without coming across one. They’re everywhere. Leverage their power.