The influencer marketing gold rush is underway, and recent surveys confirm that budgets are continuing to grow in this area. Unfortunately, when a lot of money is headed in one direction so quickly, some of it gets thrown out the window. To avoid wasting your budget, it's more important than ever to form relationships with the right industry influencers.

Through mistakes and many lessons, I've learned that remembering these seven things can help you seek out and attract the best influencers to become long-term advocates for your brand:

1. The best influencers aren't always well-known.

Sometimes, higher-profile influencers are in the business for themselves. They've had people cater to them for years and expect you to bend over backward for them, too. For example, one of my more well-known relationships emailed me on a holiday weekend just days after my daughter's birth to ask me to do something for him. That's not a healthy relationship. But lesser-known influencers usually aren't sidetracked by self-promotion or fame, which makes them more likely to become true brand advocates for you.

2. The one thing influencers love more than money is more influence.

Influencers are naturally attracted to influence, so do everything you can to build your own influence before seeking partnerships with them. In your own content strategy, do what you can to include these influencers in your work. Source their content, quote them in an article on your blog, mention them in your speeches, etc. My approach is to draw attention to those outside influencers who deserve more influence--those who are leaders and experts in their industries. As a result, I've formed solid relationships with many of these people.

3. Seek out influencers who are helpful people.

In one conversation with someone, I'm able to determine whether he or she is a helpful person. Helpful people listen to you and lend a hand because it's the right thing to do. They value the relationship and want you to succeed--and that makes them great influencers to work with. But if ego is involved or they clearly have an agenda, they probably won't help you unless there's something in it for them.

4. Earn the relationship before you pay.

Think about this: If you pay somebody $10,000 to be your best friend for six months and then ask him to stay your best friend even if you can't pay him again, do you think he'll be there for you? No. You should do all you can to naturally earn an influencer relationship before spending thousands of dollars to buy it. (Note: Sometimes, you have to pay up if there's no option, but at least attempt to earn it first.)

5. Make sure they actually have influence.

One of my friends who consistently shares my content on Twitter has about 250,000 followers. Fortunately, there are tools to help me track engagement, and I can see that almost no one interacts with our brand or my content when this person shares my content. However, I have another friend with about 5,000 followers on Twitter, and some kind of opportunity always comes when this person shares my content. Don't be fooled by the perception of influence.

6. Care about people beyond what they can do for your business.

One of our clients, John Ruhlin, is one of the leading appreciation specialists in the U.S. He and I had lunch recently, and I told him that my wife was having a birthday party. From the same conversation, he remembered a certain type of gift he once gave us that I told him my wife really enjoyed. On the day of her party, that gift arrived at my doorstep with a handwritten note to say happy birthday and that he appreciated our friendship. John Ruhlin is cemented in my mind as someone who cares about me beyond what I can do for his business and vice versa. And in return, I'll probably always be an advocate for him.

7. Remember the small things.

Just like any relationship, the small things matter most. The other day, I noticed that Jay Baer received his speaker's certification. Jay's received a lot of recognition in different ways as an influencer, but this time, he was being recognized for all the hours he's spent on planes and speaking to people and the positive reviews he's received for putting the time in. Right away, I sent him a personal note to congratulate him. I like to do small things like this for people because when someone does something small for me, it always sticks out.

Influencer marketing will only continue to grow, and it's up to you to make sure your budget is spent on building the best relationships with the right influencers. Whether it's mentioning an influencer on your blog or sending a small message about an accomplishment, it's important for you to build trust and stay top of mind in the right way to seduce influencers into becoming your long-term brand advocates.