As a startup, your priority is to attract, engage, and turn potential clients into lucrative, long-term consumers. And the optimal way to make this possible is by incorporating startup influencer marketing.

Most consumer brands these days collaborate with influencers to grow their business. Why? Because these individuals have built a lot of trust behind them, they can promote your product or services to their audience and get them to trust your brand. This is a huge sales-driving strategy, especially for new and upcoming businesses.

Collaborating with influencers is still a relatively new marketing strategy and there’s a lot of room for errors. Startups need to know how to collaborate with influencers and build real relationships with them, otherwise, they will end up wasting their limited budget. That said, if you manage to find the right influencers, the quality of customers you will get is generally higher.

Here are some ways startups can make use of collaborations effectively and build their brand’s presence and growth:

1. Engagement is more crucial than the follower count

To make sure your marketing campaign delivers results, examine how an influencer’s audience reacts to their posts, instead of looking at the number of followers they have. If people comment on posts or send shoutouts to your product or services, it shows that they are aware of your brand.

Generally, influencers with high follower count tend to receive fewer interactions when they post. People who are interested in such semi-famous individuals only see them as eye candy and don’t really take their product recommendations seriously as it is not relevant to their daily lives.

Consumers usually tend to relate more to someone with, say, 12k followers and as such, they are more likely to take their product suggestions seriously. It is also often recommended for brands to associate with as many micro-influencers as possible. Micro-influencers with 2-10k followers are not approached by brands that often, and can become willing and happy promoters solely in exchange for a free product from your brand.

“People do not buy goods & services. They buy relations, stories and magic.” – Seth Godin

2. Look within your fans

Find influencers you wish to collaborate with by searching among your current fans. One of the best ways to do this is by determining the type of social channels your consumers are more likely to use. If your company has customers and social media channels already, find individuals who love your product/service, ones that have more influence among their peers.

Remember, you are looking for the popular girl in college, not the Kardashians. While we all know the Kardashians can sell out dresses and products in minutes, it is not easy for most brands to afford these megastars, even more so for startups.

You are left with thousands of influencers, scattered across a number of channels, each charging a different price for promoting your brand. And often, they don’t have much evidence that their content can actually drive sales. This is why finding popular individuals who love your product and collaborating with them can help considerably in driving your brand awareness amongst their peers, which is also your target market.

This strategy is not only great for startup companies with a tiny marketing budget but also drives endorsements from the heart and not the wallet.

3. Pay for performance, not posts

Rewarding influencers for a set number of shoutouts or posts is the easiest way for brands to waste their money. In such instances, the brand manages all the risks of a failed campaign and the influencer is not encouraged to make use of their imagination and creativity. While this marketing format is comparable with the traditional magazine and TV placement, it is being replaced by paying influencers on a performance basis.

Not every influencer will want to collaborate this way, but there are some who will. You just have to put in some effort to find them. For example, the influencer market in the US is more mature as compared to the UK. In the States, there are more influencers who are willing to partner with brands that reward them on a performance basis.

Also, the cost in different industry segments varies and is related to the ones on digital marketing platforms. E.g., hyper-casual games cost around 1 dollar per download on iOS but increases to 3-5 dollars for e-commerce and shopping apps. And although Facebook provides instant scale to brands, influencers offer an endorsement.

“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.” – Mark Zuckerberg

By implementing these tips on your next marketing campaign and following a well-articulated strategy, you can build a successful startup.

Beauty and fashion companies may have been the first ones to collaborate with influencers but the industry has changed. Influencer campaigns are starting to become a major part of the marketing strategy of most consumer brands, including paid media and public relations.

However, people are becoming more incredulous of conventional advertising as well as influencer promotion. If you want your influencer campaigns to be successful, you should find the right influencers, ones that love your product genuinely, and have an authentic interaction with their audience.