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How A Solopreneur Used Influencer Marketing to Reach the iOS Top 100 Listby@max-albert
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How A Solopreneur Used Influencer Marketing to Reach the iOS Top 100 List

by Max AlbertDecember 14th, 2022
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Influencer marketing campaigns grew a staggering 26% in 2021 and the trend appears to be continuing in 2022. The process of having an influencer promote your product **—** —**— has become increasingly important. Smaller influencers are often very affordable or even “free” “big big bucks” are often often very big. Target influencers will follow up three times without a response before you give up on reaching that creator before giving up. Targeting influencers on YouTube or Instagram or Instagram.
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How to Find, and Leverage Influencers To Market Your App


Ever since iOS 14.5 handicapped programmatic marketing in April of 2021, influencer marketing — the process of having an influencer promote your product  has become increasingly important.


In fact, influencer marketing campaigns grew a staggering 26% in 2021 and the trend appears to be continuing in 2022.


Many bootstrapped startup founders & indie entrepreneurs believe that influencer marketing is out of reach for them.


Often I hear founders say:


  • “Aren’t influencers super expensive?”

  • “What would influencers want to do with me and my product?”

  • “I can’t get in touch with influencers even if I tried.”


I’m here to tell you that influencer marketing is more accessible than you think!


Why? Because I was able to partner with NFL wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones to market my mobile game DeepPassJam.com to the iOS top 100 free games list without paying a cent.


Here’s how I did it, and how you can do it too!


Note: Even though our product was a mobile game, all these tips are applicable to mobile apps and “direct-to-consumer” products too!



Step 1: Identify and Make A List

Start by creating a spreadsheet of your top 50 ideal influencers to work with.


You should separate your list into 4 columns: “Name” “Contact” “Passion” and “Status.”


Under the contact column, write down the most convenient way to contact the influencer. A warm intro is most preferred, followed by email, followed by text, followed by in-browser “contact me” page, followed by cold social media DM.


Quite often, smaller creators will have their business email available publicly if you scan their social media and website site.


If you cannot find an avenue to contact them, then the influencer is likely too big — leave the contact column blank.


Under the passion column, rate on a scale from 1 to 5 how much passion you would have to work with them if they said “yes.”


Under the status column, write down the status of reaching out. All the influencers will start with a status of “have not contacted.” Once you reach out once, change to “Contacted x1”


If you follow up once, change to “Contacted x2”. If they respond, then change to “Negotiating.”


If they ultimately decide to pass, or you follow up 3 times without a response change this column to “Contact lost.” This column serves as a Client Relationship Manager tool to keep you organized.


Sort the list by contact method quality.


From there, sort the list again by passion.


You should reach out to creators in this order. Eight creators at a time. You should follow up three times without a response before you give up on reaching that creator.


A few tips to think about when creating your list:


  • Target Smaller Influencers — Big influencers cost big bucks. Smaller influencers are often very affordable or even “free” (more on this later). Target influencers with followings under 50k on YouTube/Instagram or 500k on Tik Tok to start.


  • Ensure Your Influencer Has The Right Influence — Some influencers have astronomical follower counts but when you look at their content, it’s not engaged with or only being engaged by bots.


    Beware of influencers like this! Also, it’s critical that the influencer has an audience that matches the demographics of people who use your product.


    It doesn’t matter how many followers Oprah Winfrey has, if she promotes a First Person Shooter game (something typically younger men enjoy), the campaign could perform catastrophically poorly since Oprah’s following tends to consist of older women!


  • Have An “In” — Prioritize influencers you can actually get in touch with: either via warm intro or because they have their business email readily available. Golden rule: avoid their agent at all costs! Agents care about one thing only, money upfront.


    If you’re a startup founder, you likely don’t have the budget to be shoveling out loads of cash on influencer marketing campaigns. Instead, you could try contacting someone in the influencer’s orbit first: someone in their “entourage.”


    If you can convince them of a quality product, they’ll likely be willing to warm intro you to the influencer at that point.


  • If you’re really struggling to find an “in” — You can reach out to small marketing agencies such as Homeplate or Courtside as these agencies are likely to have connections to influencers. Keep in mind, these agencies will likely require a fee for their services. But they might be affordable to you.


  • Don’t discount your passion — It’s important to identify which creators you’d most like to work with because your passion for their brand will come off in the pitch.



Step 2: The Pitch

It’s time to reach out and pitch influencers you’ve identified.


Influencer partnerships are relationship based. That is to say your reputation matters. Influencers only work with people they trust. Here are some items that can help give you credibility when you initially reach out:


  • A strong portfolio of past products you’ve created that have good reviews.


  • An active community — even if it’s small — of existing & happy users.


  • Strong concept art of the future product — the more personalized to the influencer the better.


  • A mutual acquaintance that can speak to your talents.


  • A strong “why” or mission to illuminate why you’re doing what you’re doing.


For instance, my initial text to Donovan read:


Hey Donovan! I own a game studio called AppStop.io — we make sports games starring pro athletes. Our last moible game “QB Chase” starred Chase Winovich and is rated 4.9 stars on the iOS store. I’d love to build you a mobile game, completely free of charge. Curious if you have 30 minutes to discuss details next week?


Full disclosure, I did have a warm intro to Donovan, but if I didn’t, I don’t believe I would’ve changed much about the initial text. I would’ve only included concept art in the initial message to grab attention, make the pitch more exciting, and make the pitch more personalized.


In our next meeting, I showed off a short slide deck highlighting my game studio, what I envisioned for Donovan’s game, how AppStop.io partners with philanthropies to donate money (this turned out to be critical), and concept art for how the game would look with Donovan in it.


A few pro tips to keep in mind when entering the final pitch:


  • Keep it Short — What is your product? What makes your product the next big thing? What is your “ask” for the influencer? Keep it lean.


  • Content is King — (IMPORTANT): There’s a common misconception that influencers only care about money. In my experience, influencers do care about money but what they care even more about is content.


    If you can convince the influencer that your product will inspire content that will thrill their community and that your company can actually create that content on the influencer’s behalf, then they’re very likely to want to do business with you — perhaps even for free.


    This could be a giveaway, custom digital art, or a cool video or Tik Tok. In our case, we let Donovan know that we would create Instagram content on his behalf and that this Instagram content would perform great (more on this in step 3)


  • Do You Need to Pay? — You don’t always need to pay the influencer an upfront guarantee. This is especially true if your product is remarkable, your intro is particularly warm, and the marketing activation is very easy for them to implement.


  • You do need to offer them something such as revenue share, content creation services, or philanthropic donations.


    Smaller influencers may also be fine with accepting an upfront guarantee as small as ~$500 simply so they can develop their own portfolio of successful marketing campaigns for when larger businesses reach out.


  • Have Thick Skin — If you reach out to 100 influencers cold and even three respond, then that’s a huge success. Influencers are flooded with entrepreneurs such as yourself (now more than ever), and they can’t get to every pitch.


    Have patience, and don’t take rejection personally. Every influencer you work with gives you more credibility. The first deal is the hardest.


After the pitch is over, be sure to sign a licensing agreement with the influencer(s) so that you have the ability to use their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) in app and on promotional content.


Even though it’s a hassle, it’s important to sign these contracts so that each party is committed to following through on their end of the deal.


Chapter 3: Implementing the Influencer Marketing Campaign

The first thing to note is that the influencer’s fans are not the end all be all of your app’s users. Ideally speaking, you should think of influencers as a marketing catalyst that can increase two important stats:


  • Get your app on the top charts of various AppStores — thereby increasing “organic **growth” (**i.e., users naturally finding you online)


  • Provide a solid foundation of users that will naturally share the app with their friends. Often, this is called the “K-Factor.”


The right marketing strategy should always have your organic growth and K-Factor be the primary source of users. For instance, our game, Deep Pass Jam, grew 213% from users naturally finding us on the top iOS charts.


That means that all the marketing we did with the influencer accounted for less than half of our final total users! But, we still needed the influencer as a catalyst to get onto the top 100 charts to reap those benefits.


The next thing to keep in mind is content delivery. Sometimes the influencers will want to create the content for the marketing campaign. Often, they will want you to create the content and then they will approve the content with edits.


It is very critical to express who is responsible for creating what content and when you plan to have the influencer post it. If you don’t express this in plain language, it will not be posted, or worse; the content could be posted incorrectly — having catastrophic consequences.


In our case, we expressed to Donovan that AppStop.io would be creating the content. We had a trick up our sleeve. We knew semi-realistic video game content performs unbelievably well on social media.


It’s jarring and fun for the viewer to see the digital version of your favorite character inside a video game. This type of content increased Kim Kardashian, Connor McGregor, and Gordon Ramsay’s social media engagement.


So, we had our animators get to work. In the end, Donovan got to relax for a week while his Instagram engagement increased a tremendous 300% because of the content we created on his behalf:


Regardless, a few tips and tricks with any content you plan to have the influencer post:


  • Include a Call-To-Action — Ensure there’s an easy off-ramp from the content to have consumers download your app


  • Provide Value — The best social media content is content that can provide value to the viewer. Make the viewer laugh, give them valuable information, and show them something emotional. It’s important to study other apps’ high-performing content to see what worked for them and copy that format!


  • Create a Network Effect — Influencers often have strong ties to other influencers with followings. Make it easy for them to engage and re-share the content by having the art be high-quality, tying the product to a larger mission (possibly a philanthropic partnership), and highlighting ownership of the original influencer.


  • Balance the Influencer’s Presence —While having the influencer star in promotional content and in-app can help drive traffic from fans who know the influencer, it can also be off-putting to those who aren’t familiar with the influencer.


    That’s why it’s important for the influencer to have a “muted” presence. They shouldn’t be plastered on the front page of every piece of content, but they should be visible in some of the content.


In addition to posting content, it’s important to know the data behind what you’re posting. Have a plan on exactly how many downloads you hope to gain from the influencer’s promotion. Stats matter because they can help advise content strategy.


Here are some of the most important statistics every startup founder should know about the AppStore:


In conclusion, influencer marketing can be a powerful tool for bootstrapped startups looking to scale their apps. By partnering with influential individuals within their target market, startups can tap into their existing audience and gain valuable exposure for their apps.


This can help drive downloads and increase user engagement, ultimately helping the startup to grow and succeed.


To get started with influencer marketing, startups should identify potential influencers within their target market, offer them incentives to promote their app, and track the results to see if the strategy is effective.


By implementing influencer marketing as part of their growth strategy, bootstrapped startups can take their app to new heights.