When Startups Should Engage Influencers, Part 2

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More often than not, when marketers consider which brands are leveraging influencers for branded opportunities, they think of Fortune 500 companies. However, it’s not just big brands that have a lot to gain from social media partnerships–startups, too, can benefit from this dynamic and engaging marketing channel. Freddie Chavda, Founder at d clttrd, breaks down why startups have a very unique opportunity to engage influencers–from the onset. Read more to find out when and how to engage influencers throughout the entire conversion funnel, and even why entrepreneurs should have them on their advisory board.


A look back at Part 1 highlights

In Part 1 of When Startups Should Engage Influencers, we covered an introduction to why startups should consider influencer marketing, as well as the top portion of the conversion funnel. Below are key takeaways to keep in mind before reading Part 2:

  • A high performing channel like influencer marketing should be at the top of the marketing mix, regardless of budget.
  • Without clear goals, it does not matter what type of marketing strategy is implemented.
  • For awareness, startups can outshine Fortune 500 companies by partnering with an influencer who would actually use their product in real life and explain it in their own voice.
  • For education, startups can outshine Fortune 500 companies by loosening the reins on how an influencer should communicate and how long it should take to communicate to the audience.
  • For consideration, startups can outshine Fortune 500 companies by allowing influencers to stay true to their own opinions and recommendations, and by listening to their feedback.
Now, let’s look at the bottom half of the conversion funnel to see the best ways to partner with influencers and do things that Fortune 500 companies are either reluctant or can not do.


At the purchase stage, a startup just wants their target audience to purchase their product. Fortune 500 companies likely only care about the overall conversion rate for the channel and the highest- or lowest-performing influencers. They will use promo codes or discounts attributed to a channel or influencer to evaluate performance, as well as other measurement or tracking resources. These are all things that startups should leverage as well; however, their true value is in understanding that performance is not only black and white.

Startups can outshine Fortune 500 companies by:

  • Partnering with influencers who do not have a high brand partnership saturation rate. An Instagram in-feed post showing how the product is integrated into their life stands out, since they are not constantly posting about brand partnerships
  • Providing a range of sales tools to allow influencers to sell authentically. A personal testimonial on YouTube is more conversational in tone than one that starts and ends with a prescribed promo code.


At the retention stage, a startup wants the customer to become a repeat purchaser. Fortune 500 companies wait and activate their customer relationship efforts to align with an overall marketing or campaign calendar and make up that lost time with a heavier budget.

Startups can outshine Fortune 500 companies by:
  • Cultivating an open two-way relationship with influencers to better understand how to engage with their audience over time. Ongoing content on Twitter is more intentional and relevant than built-out prior and scheduled in advance.
  • Trusting influencers to create a tactical plan. If your influencer partners have already shown that they can convert their audience into customers, lean into that by allowing them to create ongoing interactions with their audience on behalf of your brand. Your startup will have the advantage of the relationship you have established, and potentially keep influencers more focused on your partnership efforts than other brands’.



At the advocacy stage, a startup wants its customers to tell others about their product and explain why they must have it in their lives. When partnering with influencers, this can either be bought or earned over time. Fortune 500 companies can focus their efforts on the former by buying advocacy for a specific length of time via a contract (which would likely coincide with their marketing efforts). Startups can win in the long run by focusing on earning trust over time.

A unique opportunity that a startup can provide to an influencer is a seat on their advisory board. An advisory board is a group of knowledge and field experts that provide ad hoc thought leadership and business direction. Usually, there is not an exchange of payment or ownership of shares in the startup, which would normally be found with a board of directors.

The influencer would become a symbolic part of the startup and have the opportunity to provide expert advice on channels, platforms, audience-types, etc. The startup would gain key partners to help cultivate advocacy across the influencers’ audiences, and guidance on how to expand that to other partners. The end result is a stronger tie between the startup and its customer advocates.


Freddie Chavda has spent the last 11 years in advertising and marketing in both the client and agency worlds. He has worked across brands like Puma, Verizon, Walmart, Hulu, and Coca-Cola. Recently, he has shifted his focus to the startup world and is developing a service-solution in the home decor space. Additionally, he provides strategic business consulting to small businesses in NY, NJ, and VA. freddie-headshot


August 03, 2020
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