The Door-Knocker's Guide to Influencer Marketing
Considering my age, I’ve had a fair few jobs in my time.
The year I spent travelling abroad accounts for many of those.
After a few months spent enjoying myself in Southeast Asia, I finally landed in Sydney a few pounds lighter a few pounds less financially stable.
To tell you the truth, I could barely rub two Aussie dollars together when I arrived.
So you could’ve offered me any job during that time (and I mean, anything) and I would’ve snapped your hand off for it.
Anyway, after a week of acclimatisation and adjusting to my new surroundings, I was hired as a door-to-door salesman for a contracting company located in Sydney’s Surry Hills salesforce district – and I couldn’t have been any less excited to get started.
First of all – I hadn’t yet had chance to grace the golden sands of Bondi Beach, let alone rent a surfboard.
And secondly – based on personal experience, door-knockers were all pests as far as I was concerned. Sleazy salesman not to be trusted.
The saving grace here though, was that this was a job that actually involved doing some good.
Essentially, I was selling charity applications for a range of very worthwhile causes operating within the state of New South Wales.
It was a case of acquiring people’s bank details so I could add them to a donor scheme where they would decide how much they would pay per month.
Most of them were inspirational charities for young people.
Having said that, it didn’t make my job any easier.
I would wake up at the crack of dawn* six days a week, walking the suburbs for 8 hours, iPad and clipboard in hand, wearing a suit in 40°C heat – all in a desperate attempt to charm Sydney’s stay-at-home mums to sign up to one of my many donation programmes.
*Side note: the Australian working day starts significantly earlier than the standard UK 9-5.
(Yeah, I’m afraid it’s true. They head straight to the beach as soon as they finish work).
Not to mention, I was getting paid solely on commission – so there was an added pressure attached.
Still, it was all in the name of charity. And I was still getting a sun tan in the process…
Anyway, after doing the job for a while, I identified three key factors that would determine my success:
1. The Area
Each day, I would be assigned a new territory of doors to knock on. It soon became apparent to me that there was a target market for this type of thing.
The most responsive demographic of people were those living in the more affluent suburbs of Sydney. This consisted mostly of adults probably somewhere in their thirties, looking after their young children. These people were more than willing to help – especially since most of the donor programmes were for children’s charities.
This target audience also expanded into middle-class retired couples who simply just wanted to give something back.
I noticed the most successful sales people in my team were the people who often manged to get themselves sent to these types of areas. Knowing where to find these customers was essential.
2. The Pitch
This was something I obsessed over. Practice in front of the mirror sort of stuff.
How can you gain somebody’s trust in the five second window in which they’re contemplating whether or not to shut the door in your face?
Our CEO had devised a template sales pitch for everybody in the company to use. I understood his thinking here, but I was always more successful when I acted off-the-cuff.
I approached each house differently. Between the time I’d knocked and my potential customer opening the door, I had already established an ‘in’ – something that this person could relate to enough to entertain a conversation with me.
They might have a dog barking away in the background, an expensive car on the drive, or if I was lucky, a union jack flag hanging from the garage door (the standard indication of a proud expat) – in which case, I knew I was on to a winner.
3. The Ratio
Another bright idea from our CEO – ‘The Ratio’.
His belief was that door-to-door sales is a numbers game, and there are four steps on the conversion journey.
- Knock (when you knock on a door, regardless of whether it gets opened or not).
- Engage (where you manage to talk to someone).
- Close (when you essentially manage to finish your sales pitch uninterrupted).
- Convert (where you complete the entire process and end it by signing that person up and collecting their financial details).
The philosophy was, no matter how badly your day is going – if you knock on 250 doors, you can expect to engage with 100 people, of which you should close 20 and make 5 sales/sign-ups.
All you had to do was hit the numbers on a daily basis.
I realised that this was a flawed approach because no matter how many doors you knock on, if your pitch isn’t up to scratch, then you can forget about making any sales.
But in fairness to him, the message behind it was good.
If you think about it, if 2% of the doors you knock on result in a sale, that’s 98% of your time spent a) knocking on the doors of people who aren’t home and b) getting rejected, a lot – and trust me, that can be pretty demoralising.
The real reason for The Ratio was to encourage the team to stay positive and motivate them to actually do the groundwork. If you knocked on the desired number of doors per day and you have a killer sales pitch, then you’re bound to make some money.
So, once I’d worked out all these components, my income slowly but surely began to increase.
The experience on the whole was not as bad as I anticipated – and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve since grown to have the upmost respect for cold callers and salespeople of all disciplines.
Having said that, the job didn’t last that long, and I was soon back where I belonged – behind a bar, pulling pints for sunburnt cricket fans.
But I’m constantly reminded of those days, especially when we tackle outreach for creative projects…
The Door-Knocker’s Approach to Creative Projects
Let me make this clear – selling charity applications is totally different to selling your latest creative project to a blogger as part of a link-building exercise, for example.
But there are things you can glean from the process.
Take our award-winning campaign for AllClear Insurance – Project Bookshelf, for example.
This case is especially relevant because as well as raising brand awareness for the client, we were also raising awareness about dementia.
Although we weren’t fundraising, the way in which we executed the outreach phase of the project certainly brought back a few memories…
Generating Your Influencer List
First thing’s first – you need to create a list. This could be a Google Sheet or Excel doc which becomes the most important asset you have when promoting a creative project.
Think of this as your area. Each tab of your spreadsheet represents a long street with plenty of doors to knock on.
The beauty of Project Bookshelf was that before we even presented the concept to the client, we knew we had a very well-defined audience of people who wouldn’t just engage with the content on social media, but also benefit from the project as an educational resource about dementia.
That’s why building an influencer list with all the right people and organisations to reach out to was of such importance to the project overall.
The main objective of Project Bookshelf was to build brand awareness – and at the time (bearing in mind this project was launched before the findings of the recent BuzzSumo content trends report were released) we were still pretty confident that social media was the place to do this.
The BuzzSumo influencer tool is a good starting point. Simply enter a key term or phrase, i.e. ‘Alzheimer’s’ and export an enormous list of social influencers who include that term in their Twitter bio.
Depending on how many key phrases you want to export – you could have many different tabs here.
As handy as the BuzzSumo influencer tool is however, you will still need to do your own manual research to generate your extensive network of influencers.
Other tabs may include Facebook groups, Facebook pages and of course – link-building opportunities.
As far as Project Bookshelf was concerned, this included dementia bloggers who were actually living with the condition themselves.
It simply doesn’t get any more relevant than that.
The problem with the door-knocking strategy was that they didn’t properly think about where they were sending you on a daily basis.
They would select a different territory every day without any thought or analysis about where they were getting the best results.
Perfecting Your Outreach 'Pitch'
You might have the most outstanding piece of content, but if your pitch is inadequate – you won’t get any potential influencers interested.
As mentioned above, we were encouraged to work from a template sales pitch when knocking on doors.
In the case of outreach, you might get the most talented writer in your team to put together a template outreach email, press release or social post.
There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but when manually approaching influencers I find it best to keep things as bespoke as possible.
Trust me, this is infinitely more time consuming – but I’m a strong believer in the fact that it gets better results.
Think of each person or organisation in your list as a door to knock on.
Then think about how you can get them interested. You don’t need to be a talented writer to do this. They might have recently posted a blog that might have resonated with you, or tweeted about a problem they have that your content might address and solve.
The outreach phase for Project Bookshelf reminded me so much of my door-knocking days because I had to approach people with such care and consideration.
If you’re dealing with a delicate subject matter, it’s absolutely essential that you get the pitch right.
Like knocking on doors, outreach is a process that involves a lot of work and often very little reward.
However, unlike door-knocking, where we had ‘The Ratio’, there is no assumed formula for success in influencer marketing – for now, at least.
A recent SEMrush study into the most effective outreach strategies for link-building displayed the preferred methods of marketing managers, SEOs, PR managers and business leaders.
This ranged from blogger outreach and guest posting to simply adding a link to an article.
The sheer variety of different answers in the report seems to indicate that while success isn’t just limited to just one approach, it’s still important to have a defined process or strategy when you tackle the promotional phase of creative project.
If I’ve learned anything – it’s that outreach isn’t about knocking on a bunch of random doors and hoping for the best.
Out of curiosity, I googled the Surry Hills sales contractors I worked for in Sydney at my desk the other day, and it would seem the business sadly longer exists.
Perhaps the fact that they didn't carefully plan their strategy came back to bite them in the end. Who knows.