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Influencer Marketing ROI - Are You Set Up For Success?



Introduction: Attending Events to Network with Influencers

Andy: Welcome, everybody. We are live. Thank you all for being here. This is the Influencer Marketing Webinar. I'm going to be your host. We have an awesome guest that I'm going to introduce. John Rampton is here.

We're going to learn a lot from John because this guy is one of the original influencer marketers. He's got insights for us on how to work with influencers and, of course, one of my favorite topics, how to just be more influential ourselves. It's going to be dense.

Yep. Before we jump in, we always kind of kick off with a mini-moment of just presentation and I've got kind of a story here. I'm going to show for you real quick one of my favorite influencer marketing tactics and answer one of the best questions in our business, which is, what is the best way to meet influencers? Here's my favorite way, guys.

Events, live events. This is a picture of me giving a big hug to Ann Handley. This is me at a local event. Look there's Deana Goldasich and Tom Martin. Look at Heidi Cohen and Andrea Vahl. I am thrilled and honored to get to hang out with my marketing heroes all over and just connect with them in person one-on-one.

I mean, there's, like, how to send a good cold email, and how to build a relationship, and how to move from social to email to the phone, to face-to-face. Events kind of short-circuit that nonsense and you go straight to the point where I'm hanging out with Chris Mercer, and Dan Schorr, Viveka von Rosen by seeing them at events.

It's a killer influencer marketing tactic to go to any event with anyone speaking and sit in the front row and then go up to them and say hi afterward. While you're in that moment, I encourage you to create a little bit of content and take a picture with them, just like I did with John.

In the end, of course, this is just a step toward building a relationship, which is going to lead to all kinds of good things. In the end, what we really want to do is collaborate with influencers, and we're going to talk to John about this.

John Rampton: I love it.

Andy: Three types of collaboration: influencer quotes, expert roundups, and deep dives. With the ultimate goal, we showed these ones before, of generating that lead, I'm going to break it down for you guys; that lead is going to start with relationships. That's our topic for today.


This is relationships and influencer marketing. The relationships, combined with content to lead to links, which combine to content to lead to rank, which attracts qualified visitors, which combines with conversion rates to generate qualified visitors.

Here we go. My ultimate advice for everyone on this webinar is to collaborate with relevant influencers, to create high-quality link-worthy content that organically attracts enough links and authority; that are search optimized products and service pages; those sales pages rank for the transactional commercial intent key phrase, generating qualified visitors.


That's how we attract those targeted visitors, which we can then convert using our informative and trustworthy websites to create a steady stream of new leads every day. There it is, all in one shot.

John Rampton: You don't even need me anymore. You nailed it.

Andy: These are the skills involved: research, and social media, and outreach, and writing, and search, and analytics. The SEMrush community knows this pretty well. But what are the personal attributes required? You've got to be creative, and friendly, and friendly and creative, and analytical and friendly and creative.

This is what a great marketer is in the modern era. We are creative, we are analytical, and we are friendly. I thought that would kind of help set the tone.

John Rampton: I love it. It's great.

Andy: John, tell us, give us the high level: John Rampton.

John Rampton: You guys, my name is John Rampton. I'm an entrepreneur. I've been an entrepreneur all my whole life, business owner, very similar to the people doing this. We're marketers, we're always pushing our own products or somebody else's products. I've been doing that my whole life.

My current gig is, it's called calendar.com. We're reimagining the whole calendar space. You use your calendar every single day, but your calendar really hasn't changed over the past 10 years. Well, we've re-thought everything and that's what we're doing.

Andy: Wow. Well, you are a fun person to talk to about this because you've been in influencer marketing before we started calling you that. Advice for brands, not all of us, not everyone here has a mature program on influencer marketing, where should we begin?

John Rampton: I'm here to answer questions. Let's jump into it.

How to Define a Successful Influencer Marketing Campaign

Andy: Great. How do you define success in influencer marketing?

John Rampton: Success, it's very different for every single person. In influencer marketing, I mean, success could be driving clicks to a page. Success could be driving revenue.

For me, success is primarily revenue because, if ultimately you're not driving revenue, and even better than that, profit, eventually you're not going to have a product, you're not going to have a service, or you're not going to be able to keep doing it. For me, influencer marketing success, or whoever I'm doing it with or for myself, means profit.

Andy: Can you just give us an example...for how influencer marketing generates revenue?

John Rampton: Yeah. I mean, for myself, as an influencer, I'm just tweeting things out for people. I'm doing that. That's my revenue model, for me. But for an actual client, it's fulfilling whatever their goals are. Most the time I'm trying to drive revenue. So I'm trying to come up with a campaign with them and direct them in the ways that they need and want to be able to drive traffic.

How to Identify Relevant Influencers

That is my relevant traffic that I talk about, that I know. For example, I don't blog, I don't tweet; I don't do anything in the fashion space. If a person comes and says, "Hey, I want you to tweet about this dress," I'll be like, "Hey, it's not really my jam. It's not my thing." You want to make sure that it's relevant to you and what you're doing and the influencers you're reaching out to are super, super relevant.

Andy: Yeah. We heard that from Lee Odden. We heard that from Neal Schaffer. A bunch of people have said influencer identification is a big problem because people who are trying to jump into this are not really doing a good enough job for qualifying influencers. What's a good sign or is there a test for this is a relevant person to my audience?

I mean, there are tons of different tools out there that you can look, tons of different social ranking things that you can see how well they're traffic's doing, how well they're this, but honestly, when it comes down to it, I like just looking at their last 50 posts that they've done on social media and see if they're relevant to you and your audience.

John Rampton: If you find them interesting, most likely your audience will find them interesting. If your audience doesn't find them interesting, most likely they're not going to click on it.

I mean, that's my biggest thing, is just seeing what they're doing, seeing who they are. If you can communicate with somebody and you don't jive with them at all, I wouldn't hire them as an influencer.

Andy: I got a question, what are trial and error or life lessons that you learned when you began doing influencer marketing.

John Rampton: Whew! Man, lots of life lessons that I've learned. I mean, the first one we kind of already briefed on. Don't do anything that you're not passionate about.

Andy: People often say, in the startup world, they talk about a product and market fit, does the product fit in the market? This is like an influencer-audience fit.

I've got slides that are kind of hilarious examples of a bad ... These are influencer marketing boo-boos, big mistakes.

A famous one. This is an Instagram influencer who accidentally posted on Instagram the instructions for posting. It's like okay, this is the post, this is the caption, at 4:00 PM, write this: keeping up with the summer workout routine. Look at the comment. "Seriously? Dude, you're obviously getting paid."

John Rampton: Yeah. I mean, in defending him a little bit, you can understand what happened here. He said, "Text me exactly what you want," and then he just copied and pasted it. This does happen. But, yeah, that's a terrible mistake. That is 100% his fault.

Andy: But he might’ve had someone else doing it.

John Rampton: Yeah, I'm sure. I'm sure this was a team doing it.

Andy: If you're working with an influencer, should you expect to actually work with the influencer? Or how likely is it or normal for that influencer to be delegating this to a team?

John Rampton: Most of the influencers, especially serious ones, are working with the team and the team is doing all the work. You're very rarely actually working with an influencer. You're going to be working with them for a couple of minutes, even in the introductory phone call.

Andy: With that in mind, if you're targeting a minor celebrity, do you change the pitch? Do you say, "Hey, I'm interested in ..." I mean, do you write the pitches if you're working with them or do you write it like you're talking to their agent?

John Rampton: I think when you're pitching them out to "Hey, let's work together," you're pitching it out to them. But when you get introduced to the team or introduced to a random email, that is like, "Oh, and my team's involved," they will all be checking. This means it's an assistance email or personnel in their team's email. You should be addressing them and making sure that they are very clear on the instructions.

I mean, honestly, I actually feel it's better when you're working with those people over the influencer.

How Much Should You Invest in Collaborating with Influencers?

Andy: A question from Nora Meyers, "How do you discern how much money to invest in these kinds of collaborations?" It's pretty open. I mean, that's big.

John Rampton: For me, I try and do as much free as I can. My way for getting influencers and gaining influence over influencers is to help influencers out. You talked about linking to them, doing content with them, being friends with them; that for me is helping them out.

If you're looking at budgets and stuff like that, I would budget time over money. You'll get a lot more ROI on time. That being said, a lot of us have more money than we do time, so it's a time or money thing. If you want to dedicate a budget, I would say start small.

I know tons of influencers that will do it for $25 to $50 that have a million followers and they just want to get relevant content out to their audience. I think if they tweet 40 times a day and each one is 25 bucks, they're making a very good and substantial living doing that.

A lot of them will just do it, one, because they love money; two, because they need content. But start small. Start with 25 bucks, 50 bucks, 100 bucks. If you have a $20,000 budget, budget $5,000, save the other 15,000.

Andy: Okay. That's a great idea too. I got two takeaways. One, the numbers might be smaller than you'd expect. I've never even considered down there at that range. Two, you've got a budget, use 20% on trials and, whatever gets traction, invests the bigger amount on what worked. Which is classic content marketing, right?

John Rampton: Yeah. I mean, it's on anything marketing, it's on anything sales. It's like you put a little budget to it, if it works, pour gasoline on it.

Andy: This is good. I like this. This is we're thinking the same. I've got a couple of questions here. Someone's asking about tools: Topfluence tracker.

John Rampton: I've never used Topfluence. I haven't used a ton of influencer marketing tools. I've used a couple that I mainly stock people a little bit to see, there's a couple ... I usually just go to Google. When I'm looking for it and I find a tool and I use it, I never go back to it. I don't necessarily have any specific tools that I use. I do use some of the ranking tools when I'm doing a little bit deeper of a dive on some of the influencers.

Because if an influencer is out there and they have a strong following, but they don't have a strong site behind them or a strong presence other than that, I find that it might be a weaker connection than somebody with a high-ranking site that's driving millions of visitors to that site every single month. I find those are a lot better of a connection. I mean, in the SEO community, links are gold and the more I can get high authority links on good sites, if an influencer has that and that link is included in that, that's just an added bonus.

Andy: It's a huge bonus.

John Rampton: I mean, if you pay attention to that too, you know that if they don't have that, that many authoritative places aren't actually referencing or talking about them, and not many people care versus... There's certainly influencers like the Guy Kawasaki out there. I was looking at him the other day. I'm like, "Okay. You actually have some pretty good influence." But then you go to his site and his site is just astronomical influence and you're like, "This person truly has influence."

Versus I went to another person's site and they had three million followers on Instagram. You go to their personal site and it has the ranking potential of a brand new site. Their site's been up for years and I'm like, "That doesn't give me near as strong of a reference." If these are relatively around the same price or around the same credibility, I'm going to focus my efforts and my attention a lot more on one than the other.

Andy: Yeah, I agree with that. I need to go too far with that, but I sometimes have said social shares are temporary, links are forever. It's totally true. But the collaboration with a content creator, journalist, blogger, editor, researcher is going to likely drive a greater long-term benefit to your brand than just getting someone to share you on Instagram.

John Rampton: Yep. In our context, today, we've been talking a lot more about like social influence. Influencer marketing goes far beyond that and this is where I would not woo you away from social influence because social influence can do. But there are actually truly influential people out there in different worlds that aren't influential at all in the social world.

B2B Influencer Marketing

Andy: There's a question here about B2B influencer marketing. Is there anything we're saying specific to B2B or B2C?

John Rampton: I mean, again it's going back in finding those specific people. There are influencers who are so amazing at B2B. But I feel in B2B it's a lot more about the micro influencers who are very, very good at their specific niches. Find those different people. Find who is talking about it.

On Twitter, it makes it very easy to find certain influencers. I like just using their search and then go up to top people. Twitter does a pretty good job of sorting out who the top people are in whatever industry. Just search a hashtag and you can find a lot about things. Now you can gain that and stuff, so dig a little bit deeper into it.

I also like just using Google search. Searching for different topics and finding different people who keep coming up over and over and over. Find about who are people who are speaking at bigger conferences that are out there and have other presences.

But again, it depends on what you're going for. An influencer could be a link. In this community, I feel it's a lot more about links than it is about tweets or clicks or this. It's about getting the right link. There are people who are very influential at writing for major publications or writing for multiple publications, or own this or own that, and a link from them would be much more valuable than anybody else.

Really find those micro influencers out there in the B2B community. Again, I don't know too many out there that are massive, massive people that wouldn't cost you a whole lot of money, but I do know a lot of networking ones. Or you can network, you could help them out and they would help you back.

Andy: Networking is going to be good. People producing video in LinkedIn, which I'm a fan of. Someone that's using video in LinkedIn to promote content on a high authority website. If they are using hashtags, they're going to show up all the time for you and for many other people. You can see the stats, I think, like engagement in LinkedIn. Those are going to be good clues for any category.

We had someone asking about tech and SaaS. We had someone asked about dental and oral hygiene. So we have to overcome that bias of thinking influencers are about B2C because those people are so visible. The influencers are about food and fashion and travel and lifestyle because those people are so visible. But that's not what your audience is doing in B2B. They're researching a specific decision today. They're more likely on LinkedIn than Instagram.

I do collaboration, collaborative content, I'm always advocating for this kind of organic influence marketing of collaborative content. I might be writing for someone else's site or I might have someone else writing for my site. There's this point of tension, I've been thinking a lot about this, I actually made a tiny diagram. Check out this.

John Rampton: Yeah, let's see it.

Overcoming Tension Between Influencers and Brands

Andy: The headline is like a debate, like a point of friction I have when I collaborate with people. My kind of philosophy here is that people see headlines a million times a day and they have to see a bigger benefit than the cost. Right? If the benefit is greater than their two seconds of that person's attention, they click, you get a visitor. If not, they just keep scanning and scrolling. That's actually super simple and very obvious in a way.

But when you collaborate with someone, they may... I sometimes want to change the headlines of content submitted to us, or I see people change a headline when I submit it to someone else. What about the tension between influencers and brands on what kind of collaboration and how do you iron that out?

John Rampton: Well, if it's your site, you know what works best for your site. So I would tell them also your dictate, I mean, if you're paying them, to tell them what to do. If not, if they're doing it for free, you kind of have to play that battle. Typically, again, if it's your site, you know what works best for your site. If it's their site, they tend to know what's best for their site.

That being said, sometimes they don't know and they just want to put something in there that seems relevant to them. You just have to play the game. It's literally playing the game and figuring out what works.

When I'm doing content, when I'm building content, about 50% of the time, so if I spend an hour on a blog post, 30 minutes of time is spent on the title.

Andy: I know.

John Rampton: The title is the most important thing in the entire world because if nobody clicks on it, nobody cares. Nobody cares. I mean, Google cares, obviously, and being in the search community, Google cares. Google read everything. Google is the most unbiased biased person you'll ever meet.

Andy: Yeah. It's the only visitor who reads every word.

John Rampton: Yeah. It is the only visitor who reads every word and then judges you based on the title tag.

Andy: I need to shift gears and talk about becoming more influential ourselves before I run out of time. Anything on this topic is awesome because all of us are potentially influencers, right?

How to Grow Your Own Influence

How can one become more influential themselves?

John Rampton: If you want to become a lot more influential, I recommend start niching. Become the best, become that big fish in a small pond in your specific niche. We had the person talking about plumbing earlier, and the person talking about this, SaaS earlier, become the best at that and become one of the best influencers in that space.

How I did that when I was younger, growing my influence, not younger, younger, but growing my influence younger? I started networking with every single person in the industry. I started helping them out. I started retweeting them. I started mentioning them in blog posts. I started talking about them on LinkedIn. I started interviewing them. I started helping them.

Birds of a feather flock together. People help other people, they hang out all in the same crowd. The more you can do that over time and network with those team, people, the better your influence will grow.

I got into big websites by helping people. I write for Entrepreneur Magazine, in Forbes, TechCrunch, Mashable, New Times, Wall Street Journal, I write for all these big places, but I got into those places by helping people and by writing amazing content that people consume.

But when I write for them, people don't look that I've been writing for them for five years. I write two posts a week and I've written two posts a week for five years. They just think, "Oh, yeah. You have all this influence. You get millions of page views every single month." They think I got there by just getting there and just starting. You got to stop comparing your chapter three to my chapter 20.

It's the same in influencer marketing. Stop comparing your chapter one or your chapter two or three to somebody's chapter 20 or 30 or 50 or 100. Right? Start reading, start paying attention to what they're doing, to what I'm doing, what others in the industry are doing to help build up their reputations and mimic what they're doing, and then help other people and develop your own path towards becoming an influencer.

The Importance of Face-to-Face Networking

Andy: I'm wondering about the steps that led to that. How important is it to do what I sometimes say; move from social to email, email to phone, phone to face-to-face. Did you become a columnist strictly by interacting with editors on social media or was there a lunch or a coffee or a beer involved?

John Rampton: I'll explain how I became a writer for Forbes. I was writing for other different places. I started at a small site. So I actually started writing for Search Engine Journal. It was one of the first little sites. I then reached out to Huffington Post. I said, "Hey ..." I've been writing for this site. I've had probably 60 or 70 posts that I've written on that site. I was like, "Hey, I've written a lot for this site and I feel I would be a very valuable person in this community." I reached out to them and I started writing for them.

I then wrote for them for a while and continued writing for Search Engine Journal, and then I reached out to Entrepreneur Magazine. I actually went out, flew out to Entrepreneur Magazine. I got connected with an editor. I talked with a person who wrote for them. I said I helped them out. I actually ended up helping out at four or five different people and one of them made an intro for me.

I then went and I flew out to New York and I met one of the editors. I said, "Hey, I'm this person. I love writing for you. Thank you very much." I took him out to lunch. I did the wine and dine thing, but it was more on a beer budget, wine taste, a beer budget. I then helped them out. I wrote really amazing content.

I helped them out personally. I got to know them as a friend. I consider that editor one of close friends in the industry now.

That one was all networking. Forbes was a little bit different. Again, I got to know how people interact and what's valuable to them. That one I got to know he would always ping people and say, "Message me on Twitter," and I saw him very active on Twitter.

I DM’d him, I said, "Hey, I've written for all these different publications. I'd like to write for you." He was like, "Okay. I'll test you out." He set me up with a bio that day, a WordPress login. I log in and I could live publish on Forbes. All from a Twitter DM.

Do’s and Don’ts When Contacting Influencers

Andy: Well, you confirmed my hypothesis there about moving the conversation to the highest format, which is face-to-face. Don't miss the chance to sit down with someone, offer help. Anyway, I totally agree. What are some top end do's and don'ts when approaching an influencer?

John Rampton: I would say, do help them out, don't be annoying. If you follow up three times and they haven't responded to you, might be time to just give up. I would say before you really message them, get to know what their preferred message is. Had I messaged the Forbes guy over and over and over through email, it would have gone nowhere and I probably actually would have turned him off. Do get to know what people's preferred method of communication is.

Again, don't be annoying, follow up a couple of times. Influencers and people, in general, tend to be awake a little earlier and respond to messages earlier. They don't respond on Mondays or Fridays, so don't message them on a Monday or a Friday. I find Tuesday and Thursday AMs are some of the best time to contact people.

Andy: I think that's a good tip. I was emailing with someone this morning at 6:30 a.m. And a lot of us do get up early.

What about form submissions? It's almost like spam. I get several times a day. That's just a delete, delete thing. Right?

John Rampton: I mean, I still pay attention to mine. I have a filter based online that has a couple of different things and a few pass through the filter you actually get to me and I will respond to a lot of those. Typically, if a person asks me for something immediately, it's a turn-off.

If people come and they say, "Hey, I really liked this. By the way, I mentioned you on Twitter. Here's the link. I linked to a post that you created. I think it was amazing," it just shows you putting the extra effort. I'll usually respond to those and actually try and help those people out.

Andy: Yeah. I think those robots that are doing it. I get these form submissions that say, "I really liked your blah blah blah. I wrote something related linked to your thing."

Is there ever a point at which the influencer stops the influencer marketing?

John Rampton: I think you're always doing it. I mean, even Kim Kardashian, she's still going on talk shows. She's still doing this, she's still doing that because you become irrelevant so fast if you're not constantly working.

Andy: Yeah. One thing to keep in mind is no matter how famous someone is, podcasters all want podcast reviews, authors all want Amazon reviews.

John Rampton: Correct.

Andy: Thank you for your time, man. This was awesome. Thank you, SEMrush.

John Rampton: Thanks, guys.

Andy: Thanks, John. Thanks, Kate. Thanks, Anton, the team at SEMrush. A quick final note; check semrush.com/webinars to see an incredible lineup. It still grows. We're adding more and more all the time.

This was a blast. Thanks again, everyone. We'll see you next month.

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