So you want to find new ways to promote your business or destination to people that are planning their vacations. Great! But how to do that?

I think we can agree that it is getting harder and harder to get your business noticed in the sea of marketing noise. That battle for people’s attention is real, and finding new ways to get that attention in authentic, non-marketing ways is where you can find space to stand out.

This is where Influencer Marketing comes in. My name is Ryan (RumShopRyan) and I am in a unique position to see how Influencer Marketing works from both the side of the influencer/blogger, and from the business looking to get promotion from the influencer. I’ve been a Caribbean Travel Blogger since 2009 and I have worked in marketing and marketing agencies since 2001. So I’ve seen how to do things and how not to from both perspectives and I’d like to share what I know to help you.

caribbean influencers

When done right, Influencer marketing is an extremely effective way to grow your brand, reach new customers and do it in a very cost-effective way.

First, what exactly do I mean by Influencer Marketing? Influencer Marketing is the process of selecting and collaborating with bloggers to gain brand awareness. Influencer Marketing can be very effective, but can be a tricky process since we are dealing with real people. Unlike creating a Facebook Ad where all it takes is tweaking the copy, image and your target audience; Influencer Marketing involves building relationships with bloggers in order to really see results.

The Power of Influencer Marketing

In a time when AdBlock usage is soaring and consumer trust in advertising is at an all-time low, influencer marketing is the best way to make sure your messages are seen, heard, and remembered.

  • Influencer marketing content delivers 11X higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing. (TapInfluence study with Nielsen Catalina Solutions, 2016)
  • 74% of people turn to social networks for guidance on purchase decisions. (Ogilvy Cannes, 2014)
  • 49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions. (Twitter and Annalect, 2016)
  • 40% of people say they’ve purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, or YouTube (Twitter and Annalect, 2016)
  • Only 14% of people can recall the last time they saw an ad and identify the offer it was promoting. (Infolinks, 2013)
  • Twitter users report a 5.2X increase in purchase intent when exposed to promotional content from influencers. (Twitter and Annalect, 2016)
  • 96% of people believe that the advertising industry does not act with integrity—69% of these people attribute their mistrust to the advertisers’ desire to sell more effectively. (IPSOS, 2015)
  • 73% of marketers say that they have allocated budget for influencer marketing. (Forrester, 2015)
  • 71% of marketers believe that ongoing ambassadorships or influencer programs are the most effective form of influencer marketing. (TapInfluence & Altimeter, June 2016)

Learn The Basics

working with travel bloggers

One of the biggest challenges businesses face when trying to reach out to bloggers is getting a response back. The more influential the blogger is, the trickier it is to catch their attention. Influencer Marketing is also more expensive than it was a few years back. Blogger fees can range from $250 to $50K per post depending on their level of popularity.

I’m going to tell you how you can get bloggers to return your emails and collaborate with you. Most importantly, I want to show you how you measure results and get more leads from your Influencer Marketing efforts.

PRO-TIP: Many businesses forget or don’t think of blogging as a business. Businesses and brands will reach out to influencers and immediately pitch their product and ask for favors. They assume that bloggers will want to work with them for free or for something as simple as a free product or comp. Businesses also really need to analyze the blogger’s audience to ensure it matches with their target customer profile.

To get started, first know what you want to get out of the relationship and come up with an interesting way to pitch to the bloggers. Maybe you have a newly renovated hotel or restaurant you want people to see? How can you position the new renovation in a unique way so bloggers will want to help and tell their audience about it?

You’re about to find out!

Set-up Campaign Outreach

Before you reach out to bloggers, you should always package your campaign offerings and clearly define your goals. What you DON’T want to do is simply ask bloggers to plug your hotel/restaurant/service/product to their followers. Trust me, this will lead to disappointing results and a poor return on influencer efforts.

I get emails every week from businesses that immediately ask for a blog post, a product review, or to share a piece of their content. I turn down 99% of these because I have no idea who they are, they don’t ask for our media kit, and they usually aren’t relevant to my audience of Caribbean travelers. Fail!

But if you have a plan, goals, and build a relationship with bloggers, they will be happy to work with you. The majority of influencers are constantly seeking content ideas. They need stories and the opportunity to show their audience something interesting. Thus, your relationships with influencers can be a win-win for both if you can provide them with relevant content which their audience would find useful. There are ways to do this both for free, and for small budgets.

What Are Your Goals?

working with travel influencers

Influencer Marketing can increase your brand awareness, get you leads, and drive sales. So first ask yourself the following: 
  • Would you like to grow your Instagram/Facebook/YouTube following?
  • Would you like to get more referral traffic – building more links to your website which is great for SEO?
  • Would you like to get more testimonials so you can generate more trust?
  • Would you like to get more hotel reservations/tour bookings or increase sales in general?
  • Is there a specific product/service/happy hour/attraction you want to feature?
  • Do you want people to sign-up to your newsletter and get more subscribers?
  • OR all of the above?

Being on the marketing inside, I think it’s best to pick just one goal to start off with. Keep it simple. See how this one campaign goes first, then you can always go after more brand goals in the future as you further build your relationship with the blogger.

Make your goals specific. I call this making SMART goals; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timebound. How many new people do you want to drive to your website? How many new links are you trying to get? How many testimonials would you like? Having these specific goal numbers will help you figure out how many bloggers to reach out to depending on their audience size and thus a more accurate way to determine your budget.

Define Your Influencer Budget

influencer marketing budget

Most influencers with over 10K followers will ask to get paid even if it’s just $100. If you don’t have close relationships with these individuals, don’t dismiss that you might have to pay bloggers and influencers to reach their audiences.

Determine what budget you want to use each month for influencer marketing. If you are a hotel, also figure out how many room nights you can give away per month. If you are a restaurant, how many comped meals do you want to allocate each month? How much do you want to spend each month or per year on sponsored blogger content? Knowing these budgets will determine what collaboration involvement you can commit to and which bloggers you can work with.

Most influencers will have a rate card that you can ask for which lists what services they offer and how much they cost. After you find the right ones that have audiences that fit your customer type, make getting their rate card part of your outreach conversation.

Package Your Influencer Pitch The Right Way

When reaching out to influencers and bloggers, try to present your campaign idea in an appealing way. Bloggers live to make their readers and followers happy and provide them with unique content so they can continue growing their fan base. Bloggers want to “wow” their audience, so figure out how your product can help do that for them.

PRO-TIP: Do not spoon-feed ideas to bloggers, we hate that! Work with us on ideas, we love to be creative and collaborate.

There are four common ways you can package your influencer campaign ideas: as a barter, a paid collaboration, a contest, or an affiliate program. Let’s go over what each one does and how it can help your business.

1. Barter: The barter or exchange model is when you gift your product in exchange for a review or a shout out. It can be great if you are just starting out and need testimonials. When bartering with bloggers, you must spin it so bloggers understand the editorial value in working with your brand. The pros of the barter is that there will be little cost involved. You will either pay for shipping/room nights/meal, but it’s really just your cost that is being invested here.

2. Paid Collabs: Paid collaborations have become an industry standard. Most bloggers want to get paid for reviewing and offering their opinion about a product. It could be anywhere from $75 for a sponsored Facebook post for a smaller blogger to $10,000+ per post for celebrity bloggers. When doing paid collabs, it’s key to spend extra time screening bloggers and spotting fakes. Based on how many influencers you would like to work with, set-up a budget you feel comfortable with.

3. Contest: a contest can be a good option for businesses looking to increase their engagements. It’s a fun way to exponentially grow your, and the blogger’s audience. The challenge with contests is that they must tie back to your brand. It will require you to put your creative hat on and brainstorm ideas that will bring you quality leads back to your website. What contests aren’t good at is driving meaningful leads or sales. Most people will jump in without much thought to try to win. Contests are great for awareness and engagement, just don’t expect sales to roll in.

4. Affiliate: Affiliate is a commission-based program in which you provide bloggers a percentage based on sales they bring your way. Typically, brands give anywhere from 30% to 80% commission depending on the popularity of the blogger. When picking this scenario, be prepared to set-up marketing collateral, whether it is blog posts, photography or discount codes which they can share with their audience.

Choose an option that best fits your budget, time, and goals. Remember that some of the scenarios above such as a contest, affiliate and barter will be more time consuming than a paid collaboration for instance.

Start thinking about which type of influencer you want to work with – a blogger – a YouTuber – an Instagrammer or Snapchat celebrity, etc. Depending on where your target customer spends most of their time researching vacation plans, you should choose an influencer that has a following on that platform.

PRO-TIP: Choosing a blogger with audiences across all platforms (website / Facebook / Instagram / YouTube…) is better than an influencer that only has a following on one platform.

Create An Influencer/Blogger Brand Kit

This one or two page PDF document will help move the blogger relationship forward as it will answer most of the questions bloggers might have about working with you. Here is what you should include in your Blogger Brand Kit.

1. Objective & Brand Style This is where you provide a brief overview of your brand’s philosophy & mission statement. Give the bloggers a feel of what your business stands for. You also explain the overall objective of the Influencer Marketing Campaign you are launching. Explain why you are interested in working with them and the type of goals you hope to generate, whether it be brand awareness, contest, product reviews, etc…

2. Terms of Collaboration: This is where you highlight the type of collaboration you are interested in. Share your campaign ideas with them and see what they think. Let them know you are open to collaboration and making it a win-win for both sides. Include a roadmap and provide a deadline for the submission of content. The more details you include in this section the better.

3. Campaign and Content Expectations: This is where you highlight what type of content you are looking for; whether it’s a video, blog post, Instagram post, etc. and the quantity you are looking for. Now, keep this open and provide suggestions. Simply highlight channels you would like to create content in and give them creative freedom. This part is super important. I’ve worked with companies where they thought they were getting one thing, and I thought something else. Make sure both sides have a clear understanding of the expectations.

4. Payment Terms: Go into briefly how getting paid works, and when they can expect payment whether it’s upfront or after deliverables are met. If you decide to do an affiliate, you can simply tell them the percentage you will offer them for sales they bring in. If you are paying them a flat fee, you can simply state that they will be paid once they have published the post.

5. FAQ: The FAQ is a great way to sum up the information inside your bloggers brand kit. It is the digestible version of your bloggers kit. This is where the blogger can quickly browse the proposal and information about your company.

Researching Influencers & Finding The Right Ones

Treasure Cay Resort

There are a few different ways you can research influencers: hashtags, influencer platforms, and surprise – Google. You could pay an agency to gather a list of influencers for you – but building your network from scratch is more meaningful and personal. This is why I recommend hashtag research because you will have the ability to find up-and-coming bloggers with plenty of potential.

1. Hashtags: Hashtags are a great way to find influencers on Instagram or Twitter. If you don’t know what a hashtag is, they are words you see with the # in front of them. For example, I use the hashtags; #Caribbean #Travel #JustGo #TravelBlogger and relevant destinations.

Start with a few keywords that best describe your industry. You can use tools like keyhole.co to research which influencers are using which hashtags, but following relevant hashtags on Instagram is a good start too. The more niched your hashtag keywords, the better your chances of finding relevant bloggers. Keyhole.co will provide you with a list of influencers who are using these keywords. Write down the names of all the Influencers you find at first. Research 10 to 20 hashtags which are relevant to your industry and find bloggers associated with these hashtags.

2. Google: Google is king of search, so search for influencers in your industry. You can data-mine influencers on Instagram, Twitter or YouTube by using a simple formula. Ex: use Google’s ‘site:’ queries and time filter to search your target influencers – – – Google Research | site “Instagram” + “Caribbean” + “travel blogger”

3. Influencers Platforms: Complete your research by checking blog directories, and exploring influencer platforms like NaritivFamebit, or Grapevine.

4. Sort Through Your Influencers List: Now that you have a list of influencers, you will need to review one by one the work and the level of influence of each blogger.

PRO-TIP: You should ensure that influencers you are reaching have blogs. Having a personal blog or website allows them to tell more of a story and be found easily by Google when people are researching travel information. Just being an “Instagram Star” and nothing else, limits your marketing and collaboration options.

influencers with a blog

Review the content within their blog & decide whether or not it fits with your overall brand message. You will also want to ensure they have worked with brands in the past. How was the article they wrote about the brand? Did they truly test the product and inject their opinion? Additionally, review how much engagement their blog and Instagram post receives. Do they have a community who regularly comments? Finally, ensure the influencers demographic is similar to yours.

This is a rigorous process which might feel time consuming – but once you have a base list of influencers to work with, it will make your life so much easier. Not only will you get better results if you take the time to comb through your list but will also get to know these influencers so you can better pitch to them.

Reaching Out To Influencers / Bloggers

Now comes the fun part, reaching out to bloggers and influencers! The more professional you come across the more influencers will take you seriously and thus reply back to your emails.

Remember, it’s all about building relationships. Build trust, read their blogs, follow them on social media, comment on their posts, and get a feel for how they like to communicate.

PRO-TIP: Engaging with them on social media will put you on their radar even before you reach out via email. This helps warm the relationship from the very beginning.

Poor email outreach shows up in my inbox nearly every day. Most businesses out there put very little thought when reaching out to influencers. Some of the common mistakes include:

  • An Impersonalized Email: It doesn’t include the name of the blogger you are reaching out to or mention what you like about their blogging style. How will their content fit with your brand? You need to convey how your product appeals to their audience.
  • Writing A Long Email: Most bloggers get hundreds of emails. Get to the point as soon as possible. If you don’t hear a response, send a series of 3 follow-up emails spaced out over a one-month period.
  • Not Thinking Through Your Proposal: You assume bloggers will work with you only by sending your product to them. But you need a business proposal in place where you layout expectations and the type of exchange you are looking for.
  • No Passion: If you don’t show any enthusiasm, how can you expect bloggers will be sold right away? Showcase what’s great about your business and what got you started in the first place.

You have your list in, your blogger kit and campaign ideas in hand. Next you must craft a compelling pitch. Your first step in creating a compelling pitch is by having a short email that gets to the point.

Craft A Compelling Pitch

You should contact bloggers the same way you would pitch your customers. You must reach out as a business but yet display the personality of your brand. Your email must be fun and engaging. Use powerful words to convey the passion behind your business and what you are trying to accomplish with the influencer marketing campaign.

Overall, you must put yourself in the blogger’s shoes and promise them an amazing collaboration. Be transparent and convey why you think their fan base might be interested in your product. What makes your product a good story? Don’t spoon-feed ideas and let it be known that you are open to their creative input.

Finally, you will want to personalize each email. You should include their name, their blog at the very least. I suggest taking it a step further and looking at a post you like and mentioning it in the email. I personally love using the free HubSpot CRM for all my email sequences.

This brings us to the second step needed when reaching out to influencers – an email sequence.

You can also use different outreach channels beyond email. Try Instagram direct messaging or Facebook Message, but don’t come across as spammy or desperate!

Influencer Outreach Email Sequence & Following Up

Don’t expect bloggers to write back to you right away, it might take up to 3 emails for them to finally write back to you. Bloggers are bombarded with requests daily. Brands that are persistent and have professional requests get higher responses rates. By using HubSpot, you can automatically set-up your email sequence or follow up process. It also helps you manage replies.

Now, it is a standard practice to send 2 to 3 follow-up emails. Space the follow-up emails 3 to 4 days apart. Make them fun & don’t sound too pushy.

A simple “Hello did you get a chance to read our email? What were your thoughts?” is enough. If the blogger is interested in working with you, you can schedule a call with them to walk them through your campaign requirements.

Once you get a reply back, you can set-up another email sequence, where essentially you provide steps needed for them to run the campaign and further instructions.

Run Campaign

You have sent your emails to the influencers/bloggers and they are ready to get on board with you. Now it’s time to start running your campaign. This is where you go through the list of influencers who are working with you and send them their affiliate links (you can use something like Bitly to make sure you can track results). You can also set-up promotion codes with any contest software.

Essentially, you will follow-up with influencers and provide them with all they need to run the campaign, whether it be codes, links, photographs of your product, logos etc… You can easily set-up a Google Drive folder with a library of all your digital assets. Here is your checklist:

  • Send influencers affiliate or promotion codes or hashtags to use
  • Send Branding Assets · Send Products
  • Put in place a deadline
  • Send an email close to the deadline to check on status
  • Re-post content – make sure to give shout-outs to influencers
  • Thank you email to all influencers once they have delivered the work.

Provide them a deadline, and ensure to follow-up with them closer to the deadline. Ensure to set-up thank you emails once they have posted & delivered your content. While the campaign is running, it will be important for you to constantly monitor website traffic and social media following. This brings me to the final step, measuring results.

Measuring Influencer Results

influencer marketing results

Once the campaign is running, keep an eye on your analytics and measure the overall health of your campaign. Some key metrics you will want to measure include referral traffic, post engagement, increase in followers, hashtag performance, increase in sales, affiliate links, and overall influencers performance. Keep an eye on the bit.ly links as well to see click numbers.

Now you can track results by either using an Influencer Marketing Platform (like Triberr.com or others..) or you can simply create an excel sheet with each influencers name and their corresponding metrics.

Now, if you are doing affiliate marketing, and paying influencers based on the sales they bring in. I recommend you set-up a LinkShare.com to make your life easier. Or you can set-up specific Bitly URL’s with Google Analytics trackers if you would like to measure your affiliate results manually.

Overall, you will want to set-up a Bitly enterprise account, so you can give each influencer their own Bitly URLs. You will be able to know exactly where your traffic is coming from and how effective your influencer campaign is. You will also want to make the Bitly URL easy to remember so users can easily go back and check it out in the future – something like Bitly.name of influencers and a number works great.

Make sure that you have logged how much traffic you are getting already so you have a baseline of traffic before your influencer campaigns and after. By referring back to your increase in referral traffic, you will be able to have a true understanding of the success of your influencer marketing campaign. It will give you an idea of who is a better influencer to work with in the future.

If social media growth and awareness is your goal, be sure to keep an eye on likes, shares, and engagements of the campaign. You can also track the performance of your hashtags by using a tool like Keyhole. These metrics will help you determine how viral your content is – but if they aren’t creating backlink traffic (meaning people coming back to your website – even though you have high social engagement – you might want to revisit your call to actions for future campaigns.

And finally, beyond referral traffic, you will want to track actual sales you are getting from the campaign. Did you see an increase? Track your sales metrics on a daily basis while you are running your campaign. HubSpot marketing software easily lets you use your tracking links to track traffic sources, and if that traffic is turning into leads and customers.

Your goal should be to bring as much referral traffic to your website so you can capture leads and nurture them to customers.

Conclusion

Don’t get discouraged if your influencer outreach doesn’t go well, or you have trouble finding the right influencers, or your campaigns don’t get the results you want. Influencer marketing takes time – the key is to start small and build lasting relationships with bloggers.

If you follow the steps highlighted in this post, you will be head and shoulders above most of the people I see trying to work with bloggers. It takes time to do it right, but if you do, the business rewards will be worth it.

If you have any questions about working with bloggers or would like to work with us and our Caribbean Travel Blog, please feel free to email us at rumshopryan@gmail.com.

Cheers and thank you!
Ryan – RumShopRyan, Caribbean Travel Blogger