It’s a pretty well-known fact that marketers spend most of their time, effort, and money on content. But what if there was another way to boost your brand awareness and ROI in a shorter time! Influencer marketing is not new, but businesses are starting to tap into it more because they know that this market will continuously grow — Brad Hoos and The Outloud Group started as a family-sized agency but currently have over 60 employees!
In this episode, Brad shares the basics of influencer marketing and how to make sure your campaigns are successful. He talks about finding the right fit for an influencer campaign by ensuring that you are what they need – not vice versa. He also discusses the common pitfalls of dealing with influencers, as well as how The Outloud Group operates and has evolved over time.
Tune in to this episode to learn more about influencer marketing!
Click here to read transcript
[02:59] So for the folks in my audience who maybe aren’t familiar with who you are, what you do, and what your expertise is, let’s start with a quick introduction. Who are you? What do you do?
- Sure! So, my name is Brad Hoos. I am one of the owners, the Chief Growth Officer at the Outloud Group. So we’re an influencer marketing agency and help brands to scale out of their efforts through creators and influencers.
[03:23] Cool. So that’s what we’re going to be talking about today, folks, is how a brand can do exactly what Brad just said. Take advantage of influencers and creators to grow their revenue. Let’s start with just a little bit about your company. Your agency is roughly by headcount, or revenue, or whatever metric is easy for the audience to understand how big, what size is your company?
- Sure, we’re about a 60-person influencer agency and keep growing and growing just like the Creator Academy does.
[03:52] You’ve had a fair amount of success already. So folks, hopefully, you’re going to learn a couple of things in this interview…more about how to do this. Maybe there’s some of the folks that are listening may find that they want to partner with you in some way, shape, or form, or they want to offer it on their own. Also, just lessons about scaling an agency in general because we are going to be talking a little bit about process management in the latter half of the interview. So if that’s your jam, like it’s mine because I love processes and everybody who listens to my show knows that I love processes because I started a process management software company, stick around for that half.
Let’s jump into it. Let’s assume that I know next to nothing, which is largely true about influencer and creator marketing other than, you know, conceptually, I get what it is. Get somebody famous to tell their audience to buy my stuff. But help me to understand, Brad, a little bit more of the nitty-gritty of that. So, let’s dive into it.
- Yeah, I love it. Well, you just hit on one of the hot buttons that we love to talk about, which is sort of the difference between an influencer and a celebrity. So, I would argue that a celebrity is someone who lots of people know and follow. But a creator or an influencer is someone who a lot of people trust. And so really, what we do as an influencer agency and what influencer marketing is, is ultimately, how do we tap into that third-party endorsement that’s been around for decades and decades, right?
Going back to the radio-DJ hosts, that would say, “Hey, this is Bob WXYZ. I just had a great burger last night over at Moe’s Bistro. Why don’t you head over to Moe’s tonight, and tell him Bob from WXYZ sent you over that way” Right? I mean, that sort of stuff has been happening for a long time. And it’s gotten a lot more sophisticated. We’ve moved away from a model where, you know, we have these narrow sets of linear TV sources of entertainment for people, to being in this multi-channel world where we’re inundated.
But what’s great about that is you get to pick your tribe as a person. And there’s actually a lot that is behind when you decide to click subscribe, when you’re really opting into being part of someone’s tribe. And in nine times out of 10, and there’s certainly exceptions to that 1 in 10, you then trust that person, and you like that person. In a world of ad blockers and noise that’s out there, you’re actually saying, “I want to hear what this person has to say.”
What influencer marketing does is it basically says, “Hey, this person who’s liked and trusted by a whole bunch of people, how can we get them to authentically and realistically advocate for our product in a way that communicates their excitement about it to their audience?” When done right, it’s basically a one-to-many word-of-mouth type of activity. Of course, when done wrong, and that certainly happens, and that’s sort of the biggest fear for influencer marketing as an industry. It’s really seems to be shallow. And it actually has the opposite effect of what you want. That erodes the confidence of the creator in their audience but also the confidence in the brand and that they can trust what’s being said by a third party.
So, influencer marketing at its best, you know, fantastic, word-of-mouth marketing, at scale with people who are trusted. That’s really what we try to do successfully at scale. And it can be done on any platform. It can be done on YouTube. It could be done on Facebook, podcasts, TikTok, Instagram, all sorts of different channels for influencer marketing. There’s different approaches you want to take based on channels. Of course, it gets nuanced quickly. But that’s sort of the 5000-foot view of what influencer marketing looks like.
[07:56] Cool, that helps me a whole bunch. And I really liked how you explained celebrity versus trusted because that absolutely hit home. You know, Bob, the guy who’s the radio announcer, not really a celebrity, but people who are listening to his show every single day on the drive into work, probably trust the guy because they have come to have an affinity for him in some way, shape, or form, and like what comes out of his mouth, and believes the things that he says, or she says or so forth.
So, a few questions came to mind. So, I want to know, and you don’t have to answer these all in one go. I just want to give the audience an idea of where we’re headed. Who does this work for? How do you find the right influencers? What does the deal structure look like? What are some of the gotchas and things to watch out for? So, we’re going to cover off those questions and the rabbit holes associated with them. We’ll go down some rabbit holes as we see fit. So, let’s start with who does this work for? I mean, I don’t imagine it works for everybody. So, if you’re a brand, and you sell a thing, how do you know if you should consider this or not?
- Yeah, I think in some ways, we can answer the question of who works for, and otherwise, I’d like to sort of say who it doesn’t work for. But we’ll start with who it does work for. I think it works really well for B2C brands. In general, influencer marketing isn’t great for B2B. There’s some exceptions to that. There’s some things that you can do. But as a starting point, it’s a B2C industry. It’s great, and I’m going to dive into one of the challenges too.
One of, like, the great friction points I love to try to get into with influencer is it works great for brands that are willing to not put influencer marketing in the silo of brand or performance, right? So many organizations, from a marketing perspective, they say, “We do something we’re gonna put in the branding bucket. And we’re going to only look at top-of-funnel stuff because that’s the way our team’s structured. Or we’re going to put it into the performance marketing or growth marketing, or direct response marketing team, whatever it’s called.” And the reality is, influencer, for a number of reasons, works really well. It’s actually a full-funnel marketing program. So, brands that are able to actually capture that value, understand that value, and not just silo it, it works really well.
And finally, brands that have a story to be told. So, influencer is not great for commoditized products. They work really well when there’s a story to be told that might take a little bit more understanding to really be able to connect with a product. For those sorts of brands, influencers are a really, really strong marketing channel from my perspective.
[10:35] Can you give me an example of that?
- Sure. So, one of the things that we’ve done —- we worked with Audible for a long time. And one of the ways that Audible is able to tell its story is basically, “What is a creator listening to, and what are their big insights?” Because that way, it’s about the creator, it’s not about the brand. But yet, the sense of the creator gets the chance to explain how a product helped them to get to an “Aha!” moment. So, it’s not about, in this case, saying like, “Hey, it’s this audio library of books.” It’s actually being able to take it to the next level of saying, “Here’s how being part of this community, in this case, Audible, is able to impact my life in a positive way and deliver these “Aha’s!”.
And that’s something that influencer really allows you to go to that next level and really understand the depth of the product in a personalized way. That’s kind of hard to do when you’re just, you know, pushing something out from a brand-voice perspective.
[11:42] Okay. So, let’s assume then, “Okay, check! We’ve ticked the box. We think this is going to work for us. Don’t have any idea who we should work with, though.” So, how do we go about finding the right people?
- Yeah, that’s always a big challenge, is, “Who are the creators that are going to be most effective?” So, certainly, we want creators who are a good brand fit. Well, okay, “What does a good brand fit need?” Well, the good brand fit, first and foremost, like obviously, we want to make sure we’re not working with creators who, I use the term as ‘dating me’ a little bit, who are not ‘shock jocks’, right? We don’t want to work with a creator where their brand is to sort of shock people because they’re much more likely to get in hot water for saying something really stupid or something that unearths their true characters whether that’s in sexism, racism, whatever. That’s a whole category of people we just want to stay away from in general. But, we want to find someone who’s adjacent to your brand and what you’re trying to do.
For instance, SimpliSafe, full transparency, it’s one of the brands that we work with. And so, they’re a home-security brand. You could work with technology creators. You could work with security providers, excuse me, security creators. One, that’s a reasonably narrow pool of folks. And two is, those folks have probably already heard of the product or nerded out on it one way or another. But we love going after adjacencies to where the brand typically lies.
So, for instance, we work with a lot of outdoorsmen, right? Hunting, fishing-type of folks. With Simplisafe, they tend to be, you know, those who like to protect things, do-it-yourselfers, but they’re not necessarily looking at a tech channel. So when brands are looking to find the right creators, we’d love to look at folks who are adjacent to the industry that they’re in.
And then, really tactically, for someone who says, “Okay, that’s great. I kind of get it. How do I find them?” So, one is, ask your customers, “Where do they consume content?”, “Who are they interested in?” And two is, there’s great tools that are out there that can help you to search inside of YouTube. But the thing I would do, first and foremost, is actually do the search inside of YouTube since it’s the number-two search engine in the world, and just try to search among some of the key terms that you’re interested in, and think your audience are interested, and start to identify some of those creators.
You can certainly use platforms, as well, that are out there to help you source influencers. I mean, there’s hundreds and hundreds of different influencer platforms that exist out there that a lot of them will have different niches that you can choose to go into or not. But there’s a lot of different ways you can identify creators.
But I think the most important thing is, “Who are the creators that are going to be the best fit for your brand?”And then, as you continue to get more sophisticated, you want to obviously look at things like, “How have these creators performed with other brands?”, “How am I differentiated from those other partnerships that the creators may have?”, “What’s the right cadence for engaging with those creators on an ongoing basis?” There’s a lot of sophistication that you can layer on, but starts with, “Hey, who’s a good fit for my brand, and what my audience is going to be interested in?”
[15:11] So now, when I want to start a conversation with a given creator or creators, I would assume that the larger they are, the harder it is to get their attention. The smaller they are, the easier it is to get their attention because you’re basically reaching out saying, “Hey, I might like to send some money your way.” which always gets people’s attention in my experience. I don’t generally ignore emails like that.
So, anybody listening, if you want to send me some money, go ahead! Send me an email, I will promise I’ll reply. So, let’s assume that that part is fairly easy, unless I’m mistaken. Now, you’ve got their attention. You’ve started a conversation. There’s all sorts of ways that you could structure a deal. Talk about that.
- Sure! Well, you know, the industry is actually a really fascinating industry because you can have a lot of different layers that are involved. So, your theory, in general, is correct in that, “The smaller the creators are, the easier it is to reach out with them” And part of the reason for that is, they’re less likely to have managers or agents that are involved as well. Because as you do scale up with the creators, then they’re more likely to have a manager and an agent involved, and you’re actually less likely to be talking with the creator. As part of that, at times, it can get complicated really quickly because you start to learn that certain folks are not maybe as reliable as you’d like them to be. And over time, you start to develop some patterns in terms of where, it might be a manager or an agent versus where it’s the creator. And you can start to suss that out.
Sometimes, it actually stays easy. As you go up the scale for when you have creators who are reliable and have good people surrounding them. Sometimes, it gets exponentially harder, depending on… It’s a really fascinating industry from that perspective.
But in terms of the deal structure, addressing your primary question here, it depends a little bit on what the brand’s trying to do. It depends a little bit on what the creator has set as norms for their further channels. And it also depends a little bit on the nature of the deal, in terms of it’s a short-term, a long-term deal, if it’s video-based, if it’s static-based. But in general, as a starting point, a lot of brands will do an initial test with a creator.
Generally speaking, a test is somewhere in the range of one to three pieces of content. I’d say most brands are doing a single piece of content. And then, as part of that, almost all creators now will do a ‘flat rate’. There are certainly folks who are on the smaller end, who would do creative content in exchange for a post or might do…
[18:03] By ‘flat rate’ you mean, “I want to pay you X dollars to put this post on Instagram. And if it generates nothing for me, too bad for me. But you’re still getting your flat fee?”
- Exactly. And part of the reason for that, just to take like a little bit of a rabbit hole if we can, if part of the reason for that is that one, creators can be skeptical in general. Part of that skepticism can come from being burned by brands in the past who may not be as scrupulous as your listeners.
And then secondly, is that doesn’t give, you know, if you’re only looking at payment based upon purchase, you’re not giving any value to the creator’s upper funnel advantage that exists. Certainly, we know, when, you know, you see a TV ad and over-simplify it, that’s top of the funnel, we know there’s value in that. So similarly, when you have a trusted voice advocating for a product, there’s certainly value in that even if you can’t see the conversion immediately.
And then, finally, creators, a lot of times, they don’t want to be punished for something that’s not their fault. So not surprisingly, brands, websites will sometimes crash, or someone will make a mistake with respect to the vanity URL, or somehow the attribution of how many purchases were made, were you know, allocated to the wrong URL, and there can be [a] problem. So, there’s a lot of reasons behind it. But in general, creators, sort of, have moved away from the model where they’re comfortable being paid based on a per acquisition basis.
And generally speaking, creators are getting paid based on a flat fee that’s agreed upon upfront. We can get into, sort of, what specifically drives what that flat fee is, but most of the creators today, you know, it’s a market-based world that we live in. And as they continue to have more brands that want to partner with them, their price is going to go up and up. So a lot of times, creators who are more expensive are not necessarily a worse deal. It’s just that they are better-performing. And over time, more people want to be with them. What happens in that world, the prices, of course, go up. So the pricing is actually a super fascinating piece. That’s probably a good microcosm of the economy. But that’s a topic we can go into, if you want to.
But in general, I think the takeaway is, brands generally look to a flat fee for a test. And then, they’ll evaluate creators against one another. And then, they’ll look to repeat and look to do long-term partnerships with creators who are strong performers as part of that initial test period.
[20:42] Well, let’s go down the rabbit hole a little bit. What are some of the KPIs that a brand, during the testing phase and then the subsequent phase, you’ve got to negotiate during the testing phase, like, “Here’s what I’m going to pay you.” And they’re evaluating one creator versus another versus another and attempting to discern which one of those, maybe they’re going to test all three, or maybe they’re just going to pick two of them, or even one of them. What are some of the things you encourage that they pay attention to in the testing phase? And then, if assuming that the test was successful, now, they’re trying to negotiate a longer-term deal, maybe it’s going to be a one-year deal or what have you. What are some of the levers that they might want to pull on during negotiation to try and make the deal as equitable for them as they can without, obviously, pulling too hard so that the creator is no longer interested?
- So, I think when it comes to looking at pricing upfront with respect to a creator, and then we’ll get into the measurement piece, and then we can talk about the long-term piece. Initially, when it comes to pricing, we typically are going to look at what’s the CPM for a respective creator as a starting point. If we fast forward a little bit, then once we’ve ran with these creators who really don’t care what the price is to get a viewer or 1000 views in the case of CPM, we care in terms of “How are they doing in terms of driving traffic to our website?”, “How are they doing in terms of driving conversion?” But as a proxy for that, we’ll generally start with looking at, “Hey, how are they doing from a CPM?” And in different verticals of creators have different pricing.
And for instance, mommy vloggers are much more expensive than our male outdoors creators, right? By a factor of three or four is where we would see that.
[22:40] Wow, good for the mommy vloggers.
- Yeah, absolutely! Beauty folks, beauty influencers are even more expensive. So, you’ll see a range on YouTube, where it’s gonna be anywhere from $30 to $100 plus CPM. I’d say on average, you’re probably looking at a $50 CPM. On Instagram, it’s measured a little bit differently. Usually, with posts, you’re looking at 25 cent cost per engagement, plus or minus. Instagram stories are probably $10 to $30, CPM traditionally. Again, there’s ranges based upon the industry that you’re looking at. TikTok is actually a little bit more cost-effective. These days, it’s probably more in the neighborhood of $5 to $10 CPM.
So, if you’re a brand, you get some general idea about what the pricing is. As you engage with creators, you’re going to get a sense pretty quickly about what their price is. And I should make a quick note here to your listeners. It doesn’t really matter, the subscriber count to any of these creators. That’s really a vanity metric. Take a look at what their content has been delivering with respect to views over the course of the last few months. And then, throw out all the outliers as well. That’s how those numbers should be based.
So, a lot of talking, but you’re going to be looking at, generally looking at the efficiency from a CPM perspective, and of course, the fit with a brand, “How well you qualitatively think they’ve done at advocating for other partners in the past?” And then, you finally pick this initial set of creators. And we always encourage brands to make sure you’re partnering with enough creators to separate signal from noise out of the gates.
So, I would recommend a minimum of five creators to start with. Probably would recommend being in like the seven to eight plus creator range. And then, when they perform, you’re going to be looking at, “How did they do with respect to the views on a per dollar of spend basis?” Then, you get into the more interesting stuff, which is, “Hey, how do they do in terms of directing traffic to our site?”, “What was the quality of that traffic on the site?”, “How engaged were they? How long did they stay?”. And then, “What was the conversion rate of that traffic in terms of purchases?”
This gets new ones quickly. I’ll just say quickly that actually — for every one purchase that you see through an attributed link, there’s actually three additional purchases that you would see through creators. We did a big white paper Clickstream data study with a vast on this. The analytics become more complex quickly, but just from that TL;DR perspective, know that you’re not seeing the whole story when you’re seeing the people who use that vanity URL that the creator is advocating for.
And then, okay, now, we’ve seen the creators. We, of course, have seen the upper funnel, the mid-funnel. I think the lower funnel is a little bit more straightforward. What was the order value? What was the conversion rate? And what’s the forecasted lifetime value of that customer? And then, you can say, “Okay, great. We know which creators worked well. We know which creators didn’t. And we move to that long-term deal.” In terms of where are the levers to pull, I think, then, it says, “Okay, how far do we want to push this partnership with our creators? Because we’ve engaged them to post, I’ll say, organically on their own page. Yes, you’re paying them, but it’s their audience. That’s organic. And now, you can use that content, if you choose to, for influencer-paid social, historically known as ‘whitelisting’, where you’re now pushing out content ads that appear to be from the creator, from the creator’s page, but it’s advocating for the brand.
You could get UGC content that you could use as a brand on your owned and operated social channels or your website. You could also run paid social from the brand’s website with that content, as well. So one of the things that we see and love to do when we find a good fit between a creator and brand is to really make sure we’re leaning into that relationship and not just having the creators post organically. But translating it into UGC, paid social, and an influencer soft of an entire suite of things, and trying to negotiate, you know, a deal where it can be truly a deeper partnership between the brand and those creators. And that allows you to get better pricing, of course, when you’re looking at things a little bit more holistically with creators.
[27:48] Alright, let’s talk about, now, some of the things that can go wrong, the things that when you have experience, you can look at them in hindsight and think, “Oh, well, I won’t do that again.” But for the people that don’t yet have hindsight, let’s try and shed a bit of light on that.
- Now, there’s so many things that can go wrong. But I think that one of the first and most important things is that brands need to be willing to let creators do their thing. And here’s what I mean by that. Brands have, generally speaking, done a fantastic job over time of developing their brand voice. We know the images that resonate with consumers. We know what words work. We know the pentameter with which we say the words that is going to resonate with our customers. We know the imagery, we know the emotions we want to elicit. And that’s great when a brand’s pushing out content.
Now, when a creator is talking with their audience, they need to talk in a way that’s going to resonate with their audience and not try to be a second-rate version of brand voice. Using the buzzwords that a brand wants, or the images that a brand wants, or try to speak in the pentameter of a brand, that stuff has to be left on the cutting-room floor.
A brand has to recognize there’s a difference between brand voice and brand advocacy. When that’s done well, then good things can happen. It sounds so simple. And it is. But it’s not easy. Because as marketers, we’ve spent so many hours trying to develop that brand voice that to just allow that to go by the wayside is really hard. I think that’s the first and probably the most important part, which is making sure you have the right mindset for how to run an influencer campaign.
[29:43] Give me one more.
- Another thing that can go wrong is trying to develop more of a script for a creator or trying to get too involved in the way that — I guess is part of the same, but maybe bring it to light a little bit more. A lot of times brands will be like, “We just don’t like the lighting in that.” or “The creator just doesn’t seem very excited.” We’ll hear that sort of thing a lot. I think, well, they’re scientists, and that’s how they talk to their audience. If they try to be too excitable, it’s actually going to undermine everything you’re trying to do. So we see this push and pull, where we’re trying to get the best out of creators. And a lot of times, the way we do that is to push back on the brand.
The last thing, I’ll give you maybe a bonus one, Trent, which is, you don’t actually want to negotiate the lowest price possible when you’re a brand working with a creator. The reason for that is, as humans, we communicate — don’t quote me on this — somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 different ways, and only three of them are verbal. So whatever the exact numbers are, that’s directionally the approach. If a creator doesn’t feel valued in terms of how they’re being compensated by a brand, the brand’s not going to get the best version of that creator. That’s just the way human nature works.
And this is where, you know, influencer marketing is still very personal. We talked about earlier, there’s definitely more people involved. But it’s still pretty close, right? The creators are knowing how much they’re getting paid. And they’re going to invest a little bit more for those brands that are paying the creators better. So you want to negotiate the best price, not necessarily the lowest price. The best price is defined by where the creator feels valued, and the brand’s getting meaningful value from that from the partnership as well.
[31:44] Alright! So, that has been a phenomenal introduction and overview of the world of influencer marketing. I hope that the audience has received value standalone from that. I do want to make good on the promise that I made at the beginning of the show, which I nearly forgot about, was part two of the interview.
And so, you’ve done a pretty darn good job building a 60-person agency. I don’t know what the average agency size in North America, but I’m going to guess it’s less than 60, which means that you’ve managed to scale your business in an effective way. I’m interested in opening up the hood a little bit if we could, to talk about some of the… We’re not going to spend as much time in the second half of the interview as we did in the first.
I would like to know, think back to when you were at, say in the 10% to 15% range, and you were going to get to the 25% to 30% range. Is it a fair statement to say that much of the things you did to get to 15 needed to change to allow you to go from 15 to 30? Or were you able to just keep doing the same stuff?
- No. 100%. Things had to change. In some cases, it was systems and processes. In other cases, it was just sort of a mindset that we happen to adopt. And to be honest with you, we sort of had this seminal discussion where we had always viewed ourselves as a family of sorts, and maybe that’s a little hokey, maybe that’s a little bit overplayed. But at 6, at 8, at 10 people, we knew a lot about each other, and we had boundaries still. But we would really value that time to get to know one another.
You’re starting to get at, you know, 15, 16, 17 people, and you’re kind of like, “I don’t really know Sue that well.”, “Like, I don’t even feel like I…I know Bob anymore. Like yeah, I talk to him, and I see him, like we just don’t really work together as closely as I feel like we normally do.” and that’s what makes it tough. We sort of have to have this come-to-Jesus moment where we realize that now, we have to move more to a pro-sports-team model, as opposed to a family model, where the pro sports team is like, “Yeah, we’re all working together. We have a clear goal. It’s something that we all get excited about. But we might not be best friends with each other. We’re not going to know everything that’s going on in their lives. And we’re gonna come together.”
And to me, that was the hardest shift because we were successful early on, I think because we had that sort of family atmosphere, and we developed our culture. I think our culture is the same values. But those values have to be lived out differently at 60 people, certainly, than when you’re at 10 people. That’s the part that I think was like the most challenging piece of the whole thing, was sort of being mentally comfortable with that shift.
[34:57] Were there any books or other resources which you found very helpful in guiding you through the mental transition first of all?
- No, not on the mental transition. And the reason why is because, for us, the culture piece, I feel like it was so specific to who we were. And we wanted to make sure we were doing things our way. And we felt like so many times, in agencies, or in any environment, there maybe was a little bit of a different approach. For us, for that mental mindset, we knew that influencer marketing was not something that got us out of the bed in the morning, and we are super passionate about, right? Like, we are not saving the world in any way with respect, influencer market share.
Sure, we work with brands that we feel really good about. Don’t get me wrong. But I don’t want to ‘BS’ anybody here in that. So as we’re thinking about it, we’re like, “Okay, for us to do this, we have to create an environment that pumps all the toxicity out of the world, you know, out of the room, and where people feel like they can bring their whole self to work, interact in a whole cell. And giving them that was our mindset and approach. I never found anything that was super helpful with that.
I mean, with respect to processes and how to change things, I found a ton of resources. And I’ve really been nerding out on the High Growth Handbook, you know, recently. But I don’t know that from a culture perspective, there were external resources. It was just a lot of hard, purposeful conversations that we had repeatedly, internally.
[36:55] In your tech stack, tell me about, just by name, the top three apps that you rely on.
- Wel, Gmail suite of services, for sure. Just a Google business suite, number one. Number two, Salesforce. And number three, because we do so many deals, currently, it’s Conga, which is a contracting app.
[37: 22] At what size did you track? Because nobody starts out on Salesforce because it’s too expensive and too complicated. At what headcount did you realize now “We need to make the transition”?
- Yeah, it was probably around 20 to 25. We’d started out with this free Google plugin, Streak, which was actually a free-to-fee, which I liked and it was great. But as our business became more complex, we needed a system to get a little bit more complex with it. I mean, it took us over about a year to actually implement Salesforce in the way that we wanted to. Because as an influencer agency, we have creators that we’re dealing with and working with, and we have brands that we’re dealing with and working with. By the way, when you have creators, you not only have the creators themselves, but you have their managers, and you have their agents, like we talked about. And sometimes, we also work with other agencies, as well. So you had a whole bunch of complexity underneath the hood.
[38:22] Tell me about some of your most, in your business now, and if you want to comment on maybe how this has shifted, but some of the most repetitive processes that you rely on to make the sausage factory make sausages?
- Yeah, it’s interesting because, you know, one of the things that we think about often is our goal to try to automate things, to do as little humanly as possible, or is our goal to try to have the best customer service possible for brands and for creators. We definitely lean more towards the latter. I think, for us, one of the things that becomes very repetitive is dealing with contracting, with creators and with brands and the process leading up to contracting.
So, for us, and I think a lot of marketing agencies, we ultimately move towards a media plan, where we say, “Hey, here’s the 20 things — whatever the number is — that we’re actually going to do for you.” In our case, it’s creators post our video, and we propose that to a brand. Ultimately, a brand says yes to some subset of it. We might tweak it. And then, those pieces get moved into the contracting. That’s something that we’ve spent a lot of time optimizing.
But also, there’s certain things where we don’t want to optimize it because the back and forth is actually important, and people need to be able to have things explained to them and really understand them as well. Because we are dealing with a product that is the creators going live with things versus a machine like if we were doing SEM marketing, where your product ultimately is plugging something into machines. It’s very different in that regard.
[40:23] What about in the bucket of marketing and or sales? What’s the most repetitive process or two there?
- It’s probably email. We actually just launched… We have a salesforce of zero at our agency. We believe strongly that the best business development tool or approach we’ll ever have is doing really good, good work because marketers do talk to each other. So when we do get inbound leads through our website with our introductions, it’s responding to those notes, having introductory conversations.
A lot of times, it’s either before the first conversation or after the first conversation. We’re really sussing out to say, “Hey, is this brand really a good fit for influencer?”, “Do they really have the budget to be able to move through things?” And then, assuming those answer’s yes, then it’s helping them to craft a strategy that they’re excited about. We feel good about being able to work.
So, I’d say for us, we’re much more of working with bigger budgets and fewer brands. So, most of our process optimization is really more on the execution as opposed to business development. So that’s where we’re maybe a little bit different as an agency than some of the folks who are listening today.
[41:49] With respect to the development of standard operating procedures, is that something over the years that you put a great deal of effort into, and you have a lot of your processes documented? Or is it mostly just up in people’s heads, and you’ve got rock stars going from memory?
- I would love it if we could all just remember things. But I sure as heck don’t fit in that bucket. I wouldn’t expect our team to do that either, no. We’re being nerds when it comes to the SOP approach. With us, it started with culture, right? So we crafted, initially, our standard operating procedures around our mindset, in our approach, and what it means to live our values. We’ve since evolved that to say, “Okay, hey, here’s how we do things with respect to creators once we get approval.” Right? “Here’s the 10 steps that you need to take. And oh, by the way, here’s the four exceptions that exist within step three.”
Because there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to creators. But no, those SOPs are definitely an important part of who we are and what we do. And it’s something that’s a living document for us too. It’s always getting upgraded. One of the things we focus on all the time is our mental outlook and being able to appreciate, “Hey, just because someone is proposing that we do something differently than what you’ve done before, which you’ve developed, doesn’t mean that we were doing it wrong before.” Right? And so big, we’ve really worked hard to get the whole team to coalesce around that of like, “No, we want to change. We want to improve it,” and not having that personal connection to say, “Oh, I created this before, therefore, why would you change it?” It’s much more of a sense of “Oh, great! We have something, and let’s continue to find ways to build upon that.” So for us, an important part of our standard operating procedures is the willingness to change and to hopefully continue to evolve in a positive way on an ongoing basis.
[44:04] Where do your SOPs live currently?
- We have a Google Doc with all sorts of links that go to external documents, PowerPoints, Google, Google Docs, external resources. It’s broken up into different parts of the organization.
[44:30] So how do you make sure, then, because Google is not a process or project management system. It’s just sheets and sheets and Word docs. How do you make sure that people are actually using the processes? Then, when you need to update a process, how do you make sure that people are, again, working from the latest version, as opposed to from their memory?
- Yeah, no really good question. In terms of the latter, that’s definitely a hole that is right to be poked into in our process in like terms of how is it updated on a regular basis and then enforced, right? Because that’s one of the things, honestly, I personally struggle with. Because I do believe how you do anything is how you do everything. But as a team lead, I’ll see things. And I ultimately am in a spot where I have to pick like, “Okay, we’re not comfortable with how this is done. But is now the right time, given everything that’s happening?”
In terms of how we manage it, in terms of how it’s working on an ongoing basis, most of our work is done in Salesforce. So the SOP is more like, “Hey, how do you do that?” And then inside of Salesforce, we get into some nuanced details.
We have the media plan. Everything that goes on a media plan is a media plan member inside of Salesforce, and then all that information has to be in there. Then, that populates the media plan, right? From that media plan, things get approved, or rejected, or changed. And then from there, it gets contracted directly inside of Salesforce. So we can run reports. We can see inside of Salesforce. Where is everything? What’s done? What’s not? But there are definitely times where we’re not catching something until the end of the month where we’re actually going through all of it.
Some of that can be optimized a bit more inside of Salesforce. Some of it’s structurally not set up for perfection in terms of the way that we’re doing it. I think that comes back to us, right or wrong. And I think this is definitely one of the cons when we’re balancing the pros and cons, but are starting with our SOP with much more of a philosophical or like behavioral tilt to them in terms of how we do things as an agency.
[47:03] So, for the folks who listened to my show before, they’ll probably get a kick out of the next bit. So, I’m going to give Flowster, obviously, a shameless plug here, folks, because he talked about updating and enforcement. Those are two very real issues in every organization. Those are things that Flowster and any good process management software platform will be particularly good at. In Flowster’s case, anytime the master template, we call it, is updated, any active workflow, which is an instance of the template, it’s being worked on by so and so, it’s got a so and so due date, you might be having several workflows on a given template at any point in time, Flowster will automatically make sure all those updates are pushed out to all the respective workflows, and then of course for enforcement.
I’m speaking from firsthand experience because, obviously, we drink our own Kool-Aid. Flowster allows me to assign things to people. We get alerts when things are done and not done, and things are overdue, and so forth. We’re able to look at the reporting within Flowster and determine, “Hey, is this new employee or this new virtual assistant, so and so, actually using our software on an ongoing basis?” And if they weren’t, if they were just operating from memory, that would be a pretty big, bright, flashing red light for us to see.
If you want to know more about that just go to flowster.app, and take it for a trial spin. And when you do that, be sure and check out our template marketplace. Because we have many, many, many, many, many templates that you can choose from so that you don’t have to create one from scratch.
So, one of my remaining questions, Brad, is the role of virtual assistants. I’ve been using them for 10 years, and they have been a wonderful addition to my companies because of the fact that we’re very, affordably able to tap into labor, then uses all of our SOPs to get stuff done. Are you making much use of virtual assistants in your business yet?
- You know what’s funny? The answer is no, but we probably had the conversation 10 times. Recently got an email from you talking about how to use virtual assistants in your business. Definitely intrigued by that. I’m convinced of the value proposition of it, having not ever used it. I’m still convinced, and just need to move to operationalize that. I know a lot of folks who’ve had really good success there.
Some of that challenges, but it’s funny in my world, influencer marketing, there’s plenty of brands who have like, “Oh I just don’t think that works for us.” It’s usually the fact that you haven’t done it right. Not the fact that it actually doesn’t work for your business. So no, very open to it. Lots of success stories. And it’s something that I would love to dig into more because there’s a lot of value that can be added. So hopefully your listeners, like myself, then move forward to take the next step towards being able to optimize their business a bit more. So something we can all aspire towards here that are part of this podcast today.
[50:06] So for anyone listening, who’s chuckling or nodding their head right now, if you would like to start a conversation with me or my team about that, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be happy to answer whatever questions that you have.
So, Brad, I want to thank you very much for coming on and doing a great interview and answering all the questions that I’ve asked. In the event that there is anyone in the audience who is thinking, well, maybe they’d like to work with you to do something for one of their clients, or they are a brand, and they’d like to work with you as a client, if you could just give us the one easiest way for them to start a conversation with you, that’d be great.
- Sure, I’d say just go to outloudgroup.com. We’ve got forms on the website. It will land in my inbox. And also, the benefit of sharing our URL again, outloudgroup.com is that you’re gonna be able to see all sorts of fun stuff that we’re doing with different brands and our approach. Sort of an all-in-one solution there.
[51:05] Brilliant. Well, on behalf of the audience, and myself, Brad, thank you so much for making some time to come and be on the show. It has been a pleasure to have you here.
- Thank you, Trent, and thank you Flowster. Appreciate you having me on today.
Thank you so much for listening to get to the show notes for today’s episode, go to brightideas.co/381. And if you really enjoyed this episode, I would love it, love it, love it if you would take a moment to subscribe, rate, and review the episode on your favorite podcast listening app. Because that is a huge thank you for us as one of the ways that the algorithms learn to promote this episode to people who maybe haven’t heard a Bright Ideas episode so far.
Lastly, if you’re a longtime listener, and you’re a fan of the show, we’ve recently created a Facebook group where you can interact directly with yours truly, select guests who choose to join the Facebook group, and other members of our audience. And to do that, just go to brightideas.co/fans. Like I said, this is a brand new experiment. I literally just created that Facebook group today. So it’s going to be an area where I’m going to be putting some of my attention on an ongoing basis. I really look forward to interacting directly with members of my audience because I haven’t really had a great way to do that before now. So again, if you’re a fan of the show, and even if you don’t have any questions, but you just want to say, “Hey Trent. I love the show, love here!” And stuff like that, go ahead and go to brightideas.co/fans.
Thanks so much. Have a great day. We’ll see you another episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.
Thanks very much for listening to The Bright Ideas podcast. Check us out on the web at brightideas.co. All right show’s over, I’m tired.
Brad Hoos’ Bright Ideas
- Tap Into The Power of Influencer Marketing
- Find The Right Influencers For The Right Brand
- Optimize Deals And Pricing
- Avoid Common Influencer Marketing Mistakes
- Changing Your Mindset As Your Business Grows
- Humanize Your Workflows
Tap Into The Power Of Influencer Marketing
In this episode, Brad shares that influencer marketing is all about expanding your brand’s reach and growth. Before you start considering influencer marketing, you need to understand these 3 things first:
- There is a difference between celebrities and influencers.
“A celebrity is someone lots of people know and follow, but a creator or an influencer is someone who a lot of people trust,” Brad says.
Influencer marketing is essentially third-party endorsements. When done right, the right influencer can create excitement for your product and services.
- Influencers gather and create their own tribe.
The variety of entertainment options has increased dramatically over time, yet it’s still simple to choose something you enjoy. When you subscribe to someone, you become a member of their tribe.
The power of influencer marketing is how the influencer is already liked and trusted by a pool of people.
- There is a wide range of platforms to choose from.
Influencer marketing campaigns can be done on several platforms since influencers already operate their own media platforms. This can also affect pricing.
Find The Right Influencers For The Right Brand
Influencer marketing is typically more effective for B2C brands and works as an excellent funnel marketing campaign. To get the desired results from influencer marketing, you need to ensure that your product is not commoditized and that you have a story to tell.
For example, Audible works well with influencers since it’s easy for them to share the service personally.
However, not all influencers can help your brand, no matter how big their following is. “The most important thing is who are the creators that are going to be the best fit for your brand?” As a general rule, avoid creators that focus on shock and controversies and instead find influencers who fit your brand or are related adjacently.
Optimize Deals And Pricing
There is a difference between reaching out to small or big creators. The smaller they are, the easier it is to reach them directly since they usually don’t have managers or agents.
Remember to do an initial test with a creator first before committing to a long-term deal. This test can start with 1-3 pieces of content on their social media platforms. Influencers usually charge a flat fee regardless of results.
Before considering a long-term relationship with influencers, Brad suggests verifying the cost per thousand impressions (CPM). You can observe this through the increase of engagement and traffic to your brand.
Creators will price their services differently. For example, Brad observed that mommy bloggers and beauty influencers are more typically more expensive. The social media platform can also affect pricing. Right now, TikTok is more cost-effective.
Brad reminds us that “the subscriber count to any of these creators doesn’t really matter. That’s a vanity metric. Take a look at what their content has been delivering with respect to views over the course of the last few months.”
Avoid Common Influencer Marketing Mistakes
There are ways to ensure the success of your influencer marketing campaign success:
- Let the influencers do their own thing. Remember that influencers have their own voice and brand — you cannot force them to use your brand voice.
- Don’t become too involved with how the influencer will promote your brand.
- Negotiate for the best price, not the lowest price. Brad shares that the “best price is defined by where the creator feels valued and the brands getting meaningful value from the partnership.”
Changing Your Mindset As Your Business Grows
Brad shares that his agency, OutLoud Group, went from 6-10 people to over 60 people. They started with a family model where people can really get to know each other. However, as the business grew, the mindset and model also needed to change.
The agency then adopted a pro-sports team model where everyone is working towards a clear goal. “We had to create an environment that pumps out all the toxicity out of the room, and people feel like they can bring their whole selves to work.”
Humanize Your Workflows
While they didn’t implement specific systems to support this work principle, they adopted automation systems to ease execution rather than improve business development. The agency uses tools like Google Suite, Salesforce, and Conga.
Brad shares that automation may be helpful, but “there are certain things where we don’t want to optimize it because the back and forth is actually important and people need to be able to have things explained to them and really understand them. We are dealing with creators versus a machine or SEM marketing.”
Since influencers and brands differ, no one SOP fits everyone. Brad shares that willingness to change is at the heart of their workflows.
What Did We Learn from This Episode?
- Treat influencers as third-party endorsements and remember that they built a loyal following through trust.
- Find the right influencers for your brand.
- Optimize pricing by measuring CPM rather than the size of an influencer’s audience.
- Let influencers do their own thing.
- Negotiate for the best deal rather than the lowest price.
- As your business grows, your mindset needs to change.
- Automating processes and systems is helpful, but we don’t need to automate everything.
[2:57] — Brad Introduces OutLoud Group and Influencer Marketing
- Brad is the Chief Growth Officer at OutLoud Group, a 60-person influencer marketing agency.
- Brands can use influencer campaigns to grow their revenue.
- Social media influencers can be tapped as third-party endorsements because their audience trusts them.
[7:56] — The Who Of Influencer Marketing
- Running an influencer campaign is not for everyone.
- Influencer marketing campaigns are not great for commoditized products, but they work best for B2C brands and those with a story to tell.
- Brands should make sure to pick influencer types that are either a good brand fit or adjacently related to their brand.
[15:10] — How To Structure A Deal With Influencers
- Smaller creators are generally easier to reach since they usually don’t work with managers or agents yet.
- Brad observed that some creators are more reliable.
- He also recommends starting with an initial test with influencers before committing to a long-term deal.
- Most influencers will protect themselves by asking for a flat fee regardless of the campaign’s success.
[20:42] — KPIs To Watch In Influencer Marketing Campaigns
- Brad recommends observing CPM by the increase of traffic to your website.
- Different creators and their platforms will have different CPMs.
- The subscriber and follower count is only a vanity metric — it may contain fake followers and cannot assure conversions, potential customers, or traffic.
- Brad recommends starting with a minimum of 5 creators first.
[27:48] — What Can Go Wrong With Your Influencer Marketing Campaigns
- Don’t force influencers to use a script of brand voice and marketing buzzwords.
- Let them do their own thing since they know what will resonate with their audience the most.
- Don’t negotiate for the lowest price. Remember that influencers’ work will be affected by how much they feel valued.
[31:44] — Brad Shares How The Outloud Group Grew
- Brad shares that their agency started with a family model. However, as the agency grew, they had to adopt a pro-sports team kind of model.
- The agency’s main principle is to have clear goals and bring out the best in people.
[36:55] — Where To Automate Or Humanize
- As their agency grew, the business became more complex. At this point, they implemented Salesforce.
- Brad shares that their agency prides itself on customer service rather than automation.
- The agency automates its contracting and execution. However, they keep their humanized communications with different influencers and clients.
- There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to brands and influencers. So the agency’s SOPs evolve over time.
- The core of their SOP is the willingness to change.
Bradley Hoos is the Chief Growth Officer of The Outloud Group where he leads brand relationships and spearheads Outloud’s suite of influencer marketing offerings. Published in Forbes and featured on Cheddar, when Brad is not working there’s a good chance he’s skiing, hiking, or watching college football.