One of the questions I’m constantly asked is, “How do I get influencers to help me?”
This blog post will outline approaches that work with true “influencers”–people who can single-handedly make or break a product launch. I’ve been fortunate to interact with hundreds of such people since 2007. (If you’re more interested in pitching big media, here’s a template for how I do it.)
Specifically, I share an e-mail below that gets nearly every “influencer” element right.
But before we get to that, here are some ground rules for interacting with influencers or power brokers:
- If you’re asking them to share something, offer GOOD CONTENT on a website and not merely a sales page or pitch. Responsible guardians of large audiences like good editorial. The reputational risk of sharing great content is close to zero. Conversely, the risk-benefit ratio of sharing a sales page is practically all downside. Make the calculus easy or you’re just pissing in the wind.
- Do not e-mail or contact them unless A) they’ve given you their contact info directly, or B) you can get a warm introduction from a good friend of theirs (tip: ask the “friend” when they last had dinner or drinks together). My preferred approach is in-person meetings in social settings. Here’s the playbook I used to make SXSW in 2007 the tipping point for the launch of The 4-Hour Workweek. Cold e-mails–which most effective people ignore–are a waste of everyone’s time. Put in the ground work and play the long game. Think sniper rifle and not shotgun. If you only have one chance to make a first impression, don’t screw this up. “Sorry, let me try again…” almost never works. Review this before drafting pitches.
- Before you reach out, ask yourself “If this person agrees, are they setting a dangerous precedent for themselves?” If so, they won’t agree, so don’t waste your breath. For instance, why can’t I retweet fans’ Kickstarter campaigns? Because if I publicly help even one stranger, I will be deluged by thousands of “Pls rt my Kickstarter campaign!” requests and my Twitter feed becomes unusable. For the same reason, I can’t wish people I don’t know a happy birthday; if I open that door, I will get thousands of never-ending b-day requests.
- Give them a graceful exit. This means never using BS like “I look forward to your favorable reply!” That stuff is terrible. Be different and do the opposite. Close your e-mail or pitch with “Of course, no worries if you’re too busy to reply. I know how busy you are. Warmest wishes to you and yours…” In my experience, giving people an easy “out” dramatically increases response rate.
- Don’t “keep in touch.” It drives busy people crazy. Treat e-mailing them as you would knocking on their door and interrupting dinner. Treat it that seriously and use it that sparingly.
All that said and as promised, please find below an e-mail from Andrew Zimmern (@andrewzimmern), which I received not long ago.
You’ll see how he gets many subtle elements right. Personally, I would have modified the subject line and closing line, but the length and don’t-make-me-think assets are otherwise outstanding.
Subject line: Little Help From My Friends
[TIM: The single biggest weakness in this email is the subject line, IMHO, though perhaps they tested it. I would have seen it sooner had it been “Quick question from Andrew Zimmern” or something personalized along those lines.]
I hope this email finds you well! My team and I recently relaunched our online store: Shop Andrew Zimmern and I am thrilled to share it with you. It’s a mixture of curated items that I have found on my travels and use in everyday life, along with other branded items from the AZ collection. The assortment of products is ever changing and new items will be added throughout the year. Please a take a minute to check it out: http://shop.andrewzimmern.com.
Don’t be surprised when you stumble upon something you love!
This is where I need your help. It would mean the world to me if you would take a minute and share our shop with your audiences. As we try and build a bigger customer base from the ground up, we could use your support. We provided a few tools to make it easy. Check them out below. If you have any questions, please contact Kelly (firstname.lastname@example.org) or myself! Thank you again for everything.
- Stocking stuffers for food geeked friends & family, hand-picked by @andrewzimmern: http://shop.andrewzimmern.com
- I’m loving the globally curated gifts/gear from my pal @andrewzimmern: http://shop.andrewzimmern.com
- Travel gear & food finds hand-picked by my friend @andrewzimmern: http://shop.andrewzimmern.comSample Facebook post:
- In search of stocking stuffers for your food geeked friends & family? My pal Chef Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, has relaunched his online shop, featuring unique travel gear and food finds curated from around the globe. Check it out: http://shop.andewzimmern.comShop Andrew Zimmern – editorial content for sharing:
- AZ Spotify playlist: http://bit.ly/shopAZplaylist
- DIY cocktail bitters + recipe: http://bit.ly/shopAZeockc
- Adventurer gift guide: http://bit.ly/shopAZadventure
Afterword from Tim
As one last philosophical morsel, here is the quote that Andrew has at the bottom of his personal e-mail signature:
“If there’s one thing that frustrates me more than anything about the notion of being right, it’s that being right too often gets in the way of being generous. Because being right is too often used as a way to protect us from doing the thing that will actually most serve us. And if I can leave you with one thought, it’s that being right is completely fucking irrelevant.” – Danny Meyer
For those eager beavers out there, here are 5 more tips for e-mailing busy people, and here is my conversation with Andrew Zimmern on his success habits and routines.