Working with influencers has rapidly become an integral marketing strategy for companies across the natural products industry—with good reason.
Influencers have throngs of devoted online followers who view them as trusted experts in a specific area, whether that's sports nutrition, plant-based cooking or raising eco-conscious kids. Because of this trust, their opinions, advice, likes, dislikes and recommendations, as expressed through the content they create, carry major sway with their audiences. Influencers are also adept at calling their followers to action, which might mean checking out a new brand or purchasing a particular product.
These days, most natural products brands have at least dabbled in influencer marketing, and many have found great success. By contracting and collaborating with tastemakers, they are scoring exposure to new audiences, stimulating engagement and driving greater revenue. But influencer marketing certainly isn't limited to brands. Natural products retailers can wield this tool too.
Not sure where to start or what steps to take? Here 10 expert tips to help retailers find the right influencers, form fruitful partnerships and win with this strategy.
1. Go micro or nano
As an independent retailer with deep local roots, your ideal influencer will not be a megawatt celebrity with millions of followers, says Lisa Mabe, founder and CEO of Green Purse PR. Instead, focus on micro-influencers (10,000 or so followers) or the emerging category of nano-influencers, who have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers.
Typically, micro- and nano-influencers have a closer connection with their audience than the big guns do. They're also seen as more authentic, credible and relatable by their followers, which can be a huge benefit for retail partners.
2. Seek values alignment
While audience quantity is definitely worth considering, quality—of the influencer and their followers—is much more important.
"The biggest thing is making sure they align with your values and are super passionate about your store and what you are doing," Mabe says. "An influencer who reaches only a couple hundred people could be better for you than someone who has an amazing number of followers but lacks zeal for your store or the topics you want to emphasize."
3. Make sure they shop with you
This may seem obvious, but it's crucial: Ensure that the influencer not only appreciates your store but actually shops there too, at least some of the time, Mabe says. Basically, this means they should live in your area and be able to come into the store to create videos and other content.
"The influencer should have a captive audience, one you are also looking to attract to your store," Mabe says. "I suggest working with a local foodie."
4. Assess metrics
Generally, influencers must demonstrate their worth to secure partnerships, so most will have an arsenal of metrics at the ready. Always ask for and review their statistics before signing a deal. For starters, examine follower count, estimated reach, number of impressions and engagement rate. Good candidates should also have detailed info about their followers, such as what they value, what they buy and where they shop.
5. Ensure they can spark action
"Make sure the influencer has trained their audience to do something, whether it's buying a product, showing up at an event or advocating for an idea," Mabe says. "Many influencers are very good at this by now. They continuously ask their followers to take action—and can prove that they can do it, rather than just hoping they are reaching people."
Gathering this intel is important, she explains, especially if you intend to host events, such as a vendor sampling or local farm tour, with an influencer. With proof of audience action, retailers can feel more confident that people will actually show up.
6. Give them the full 411
Once you've locked down an influencer, equip them with as many details as possible about your business, including your history, mission, goals and achievements.
"Yes, they know your store, but if you want to emphasize that you've grown from one small store to three, for example, tell them that," Mabe says. "Give them the media boilerplate background like you'd include in a press release. That way, they'll have plenty of information and some freedom to pick and choose when creating content."
7. Offer thematic guidance
Rather than turn an influencer completely loose to develop whatever content they want for the store, present key topics or themes that you'd like covered. Let them know about new brands you're carrying, local farmers you'd like to champion or even upcoming in-store promotions you want to hype. Or perhaps you want them to hit on store values such as sustainability, supporting local producers, community engagement or regenerative agriculture.
"Anytime you're paying for something, you want to make sure you're getting value out of it," Mabe says. "Don't ask them to be inauthentic, but lay out clear expectations of areas to focus on."
8. Let their creativity shine
Once you've provided thematic guideposts, step back and let them do their thing. "Rather than require a rigid format for content like, 'Go buy groceries, then set them out on the table,' give influencers creative freedom," Mabe says. "Whatever their audience responds best to is what they should continue to do."
9. Ensure all content lives on your website
"Whenever you have content created for you, make sure it lives on your website, not just on social media," she says. "You want to drive traffic to your site, and this is a way to ensure that you will."
Beyond that, owning the content gives retailers total control over it. "Content on Instagram and Facebook doesn't live forever, but anything on your own website does," Mabe adds. "Also, retailers don't own those sites—the companies do, and what if someday they decide to make you pay to access your content?"
Along with posting influencer-generated blogs on your store website, ask influencers to provide you with actual video and photo files.
10. Link up products
"It is very annoying when an influencer creates a video or blog post featuring products but then doesn't make it easy to find those products in-store or buy them online," Mabe says. "If they are going through the store and highlighting products they love, make sure they link each item directly to your online store or at least show where to find them in-store."