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This article was published on October 2, 2017

5 Influencer Marketing Strategies For Bootstrapped Startups

5 Influencer Marketing Strategies For Bootstrapped Startups
Dmitry Dragilev
Story by

Dmitry Dragilev

Dmitry single-handedly grew a startup from zero to 40 million page views through SEO and got acquired by Google. He has translated his know- Dmitry single-handedly grew a startup from zero to 40 million page views through SEO and got acquired by Google. He has translated his know-how into an SEO and PR coaching program PRThatConverts and a software app JustReachOut which is used by 4,000+ professionals and entrepreneurs to pitch relevant influencers and bloggers to gain exposure and traffic. In his spare time he documents his experiments on his blog CriminallyProlific.

I think you’ll agree with me when I say:

PR is costly and It’s REALLY hard to grab influencers’ attention let alone build a lasting relationship with them.

Well, it turns out, you can dramatically grow your influencer network by taking a few extra steps prior to the “would you feature me?” straight up kind of pitch.

An approach that’s helped my readers get featured in major publications with 3 successful acquisitions so far, one of which by Google.

In this post, I’m going to show you that approach and how you can easily do it for yourself.

Disclaimer: bootstrapped or not, this is how you’d approach influencers.

But first, does this look familiar?

Or this?

Let’s switch roles for a second.

How would you take it as a journalist or potential client if the first thing someone asks you at an event is, would you feature me? or, would you buy my service? I’m guessing probably irritated and annoyed let alone if their pitch is 15 minutes long.

PR is not about how many emails you send or how big your target list of influencers is. PR, in its core, is about relationship building.

Here is are the tactics and techniques I use to do PR and succeed at this stuff…ready? Lets roll!

1. Breaking the ice with influencers

You’re probably thinking:

Yes, getting them to answer my first messages has been the hardest. How can I strike a conversation?

Simply put, people are more likely to listen to you if they’ve seen or met you once. In a Fractl study, over 60% of journalists said that it’s important to establish a connection with them.

Here are three ways you can do that.

A. Trigger their curiosity with comments

The easiest way to grab influencers’ attention is by commenting on a post they wrote. Eventually, no matter how crowded the comment thread can get, if you stand out with your value adding summaries and suggestions, you’ll get noticed.

Commenting doesn’t necessarily have to be on a post the influencer wrote. Here’s an example of how I leveraged Quora to start an engaging discussion with a journalist.

Once they participate in the discussion, quote them in your blog post and tweet their answer thus opening many doors for future discussions.

B. Cite them or a post they wrote

Humans like to be praised and appreciated.

One other way you can start a conversation with an influencer is through citations. Essentially, you’re finding a compelling reason to start a conversation by writing about an argument they made or a post they wrote then contacting them with few personalized notes from your post.

Fred Wilson wrote: “Marketing Is For Companies Who Have Sucky Products.” I disagree with Fred so I emailed him after posting an interview with Matt and Rand who also referenced to his marketing article.

We started talking, he cited me in his next post and the relationship continued.

Notice how the relationship starts with a meaningful conversation and takes time to develop into a long-term win-win relationship. Definitely, not a hit-and-run kind of relationship.


C. Point out typos

Here is how it goes:

  1. In the first email, discuss something about their post to show that you actually read their article.
  2. If they don’t answer back, in the next email, point out a typo(s) from their post like the example below.

  1. Finally, in the following email, close with a leading question to continue the conversation and strengthen the relationship.

Following this approach, Sujan and I eventually published: How to email cold prospects and get people to respond.

2. Become a source for an article

You may be arguing:

I just commented on many of my target influencers’ posts but this strategy seems to be long term and I really need some coverage soon, so what else can I do in the meanwhile?

Assuming you’ve nailed your one sentence pitch, the best case scenario is when you address your target influencers’ needs while you satisfy yours. For instance, if you’re seeking press opportunities through JustReachOut, the easiest way to start is by finding relevant influencers who are seeking content from people like you.

Here’s an example of some press opportunities for those who are working on a product in IoT space.

These are reporters who are deliberately asking for my content. All I have to do is show them how my profile or story will be of value to their magazine, blog, podcast, etc.

It’s also important to keep in mind that an influencer isn’t a journalist by default.

For instance, Abdo Riani, founder of EntrePerks, where entrepreneurs can access over $20,000 in free and discounted tools and services from some of the best products in the market, built relationships and consequently partnerships with over 100 growth startups. His target aren’t journalists but startup founders.

Therefore, the only way you can be of value to your target influencer is by 1) knowing who they are, and 2) understanding their needs. Most people give time to those who care to help them achieve their goals.

3. Provide data or insights

Another excellent way to trigger influencers’ interest is by providing them with unique data or insights that only you have to offer.

Here’s an example from my now acquired startup, Polar.

Here’s another example of an email I sent to Darrel Etherington at TechCrunch:

Darrell had the poll on TechCrunch just a couple of days after I sent him this email.

We are more likely to give back to those who gave or owe us something even if it’s small. Help others do their job and accomplish their goals, you’ll be surprised how far people can go to help you achieve yours.

 4. Interview them

They saw your detailed comments a few times, you cited them in your posts but you don’t have a unique dataset or insights to share yet, how else can you approach an influencer? Interview them.

Back when Facebook was approaching an IPO, I asked a group of experts, would you buy Facebook stock if you could right now? All they had to do was send me a sentence or two answering a question, something that could literally take them a minute.

What happens after?

They may or may not promote the post but guess what? now, I have an e-mail thread with them. I have also been of value because I promoted a piece I created from their expertise. I now have a reason to go back and continue to build a relationship with them.

 5. Contribute to Quora and Reddit

You want to start meaningful conversations with likeminded people and experts in your space?

One of the simplest ways to do that is to answer Quora or Reddit questions, ask questions of your own and engage with others.

What I typically do is contact an influencer who’s not part of the discussion seeking their answer to an asked question because of their expertise in the area. Most of the time, experts don’t mind sharing some knowledge with those who ask for it.

From JustReachOut, I searched and found two questions that fit my profile.


An invitation means recognition. Experts like to be experts. The least you can do is reinforce their expertise.

Above all, start connecting and building relationships with your target influencers before you need them. Treat it like a relationship, not an advertisement.

First, get noticed, second, start a conversation, and finally build a relationship.