A common question we get asked at The Outloud Group is, “how are your other clients utilizing influencer marketing to drive results?”
If you’re asking this question yourself, then grab a scotch or apple juice and gather round the fire with us. We’re excited to tell the story of how one client, Bespoke Post, has used influencer marketing as a key part of their growth marketing playbook.
WHO IS BESPOKE POST?
Bespoke Post is a monthly subscription service that curates goods for people that want high-quality items from under-the-radar small businesses with a heavy focus on US-based businesses. Their online store also sells a variety of products including facial kits, clothing, accessories, gear, decor, kitchen tools, and food and drink.
HOW THEIR STORY BEGINS
In the early days of Bespoke Post, they had a small team that was very scrappy with their marketing efforts, an era at the company known as the beg, borrow, and steal stage. At this time, the brand was focused on affiliates or some form of pay-per-action motion.
Fast forward a few years to stage two. At this point, Facebook’s ad platform had matured and Bespoke found themselves growing in parallel. Their success on Facebook allowed the brand to broaden their marketing mix and begin testing other channels, further enabling their growth.
In the third stage, Bespoke further scaled and diversified their marketing channels. As the brand got larger, they de-risked their growth by diversifying budget allocation and avoiding having all their marketing eggs in one basket.
And finally, in the fourth stage, the pandemic hit. Suddenly there was hyper-efficient growth across all channels, which led to a desire to further diversify marketing channels. In particular, Bespoke wanted to ensure strong secondary channels were in place after iOS 14 changes began to affect Facebook ad-targeting and pricing.
So the barrage of testing started. Bespoke tested channels they had wanted to test for years but hadn’t quite started. Included in the mix here was TikTok ads, YouTube ads, YouTube influencers, and Instagram influencers. While Instagram didn’t perform, the brand saw early success with YouTube and TikTok. With this strong initial signal, it was time to take the next step with YouTube influencer marketing.
MOVING FROM IN-HOUSE TO AN AGENCY
Initially, Bespoke Post had one person trying to manage all influencer efforts internally. This included finding channels, negotiating deals, sending products, managing the creative execution, and a variety of other logistics. The brand was working with 20+ creators but as a one-person operation, they were simply stretched too thin.
Bandwidth was quickly identified as the biggest challenge in scaling their influencer program because with influencer, unlike many other marketing channels, there aren’t clear economies of scale. Because influencer marketing is so relationally driven, influencer marketing was always going to be a very manual process.
At this point, Bespoke Post began looking for the right agency partner. Beyond solving for the bandwidth issue, they also recognized that with an agency, they’d be able to get access to a larger roster of talent, see better response rates to cold outreach emails, and would get insights into creator performance.
The brand could learn more from the agency about which creators performed well historically instead of going in blind. Additionally, the agency could help the brand understand what works and what doesn’t work strategically -- plus what new approaches they should be trying. And finally, they would have someone to help with the logistics and execution.
WHAT WERE THE SUCCESS METRICS?
So what were the growth marketing goals for Bespoke Post? Their explicit goals were a healthy or declining cost per acquisition (CPA) and a positive return on investment (ROI), shrinking their acquisition payback period.
With influencer, they saw not only positive impacts to these metrics, but they saw a halo effect on their brand from getting these third parties to talk about them. With influencers, you’re dealing with creatives who can help instill greater trust in a brand and that trust is a major factor in driving new sales and greater brand affinity.
As the brand was thinking about the right approach to investing in influencer marketing, it became clear that one key piece of the strategy was a commitment to a test and learn approach. Regardless of the channel, it was critical that they invest enough to calibrate a new channel -- and influencer marketing was no exception. It performed well enough initially, but it frequently can take up to three months to really dial in your portfolio of influencers.
HOW DID THE OUTLOUD GROUP PARTNER WITH BESPOKE POST?
When we began working with Bespoke Post, we started by asking a lot of questions about the brand to truly understand their goal, objectives, and customers. From there, we mined our database and curated a list of recommended creators and platforms that fit with the brands goals and customer base. We knew what had worked previously for brands targeting similar audiences as Bespoke Post and identified creators likely to perform for Bespoke Post as well. In addition, we reached out to bigger creators that Bespoke Post did not historically have access to. Getting big creators is key for a new brand in the space because other creators will see the sponsorship and be more likely to take on Bespoke as a partner, creating a sort of domino effect.
From there, we kept the lines of communication open so we could monitor what was working or not working well with this collection of influencers so we could iterate quickly. Collaboration and transparency was always a key part of the process. This makes it easier to fine-tune the influencer portfolio and scale the program.
WHAT FACTORS WERE THE BIGGEST DRIVERS OF SUCCESS?
There were two main drivers for influencer success for Bespoke Post:
When developing a portfolio of talent for Bespoke Post, we looked at three main things:
the audience: what is the gender, age, and country (or geography) of the influencer?
the genre: what is the niche, theme, or interests of the influencer? We actually tested across gaming, auto, DIY, outdoors, and others to find out which ones connected most authentically with the Bespoke Post brand.
audience trust: do creators have sticky audiences where, when the creator advocates for something, it really means something to fans?
CONTENT & CREATIVE
Beyond creator selection, the content of the YouTunbe integration is key. One thing that Bespoke Post does very well in this area is giving creators creative control (try saying that 5 times fast!) since creators know their audience far better than any brand. Letting creators “do their thing” resulted in new potential messaging angles that could be used across other channels.
Bespoke Post wanted to introduce a third party brand advocate to the process. They wanted to let the creators create. While they have their own takes for how they want to present their brand, there are small elements over time that they’ve found have worked better.
Here are a few examples.
products in use worked better than just unboxing
it’s important to deliberately tailor the product selection or box to the particular creator’s subject matter
having creators include the website in their b-roll helped consumers visualize the process they would go through
there is huge value in applying the learnings from creators to other marketing channels
when influencers highlight Bespoke’s small business focus, audiences really appreciate that aspect of their brand
influencers can help reset expectations around the subscription, particularly the fact that you don’t need to buy every month
WHERE IS BESPOKE POST TODAY?
Over the past year, the partnership between The Outloud Group and Bespoke Post has led to 92 YouTube integrations across 82 channels and 29 different genres. The program has generated 17.4m views and is continuing to test and grow.
But that’s not all, optimization with YouTube influencer marketing has helped Bespoke Post reach their overall marketing goals. As they’ve looked at the data, they’ve seen positive growth of their customer lifetime value (LTV) coming from influencers.
Purchase rates and retention from customers acquired through influencer marketing have been higher coming from influencers compared to other paid channels. This is a big deal in terms of the long-term sustainability of the influencer program.
THE IMPACT ON CHANNELS OUTSIDE OF INFLUENCER
The beauty of influencer is that it’s impact is not limited to content published to a platform like YouTube or Instagram. For Bespoke Post, influencer has a big impact on other channels outside of influencer.
Influencer marketing has surfaced additional insights on ad creative that works best across all marketing channels. It’s allowed Bespoke to test messaging to see how it resonates with their target audience before rolling it out elsewhere. In addition -- we have worked with the brand to negotiate broader usage of their YouTube video content so it can be used in ads elsewhere. In fact, in a space where everything is really polished, Bespoke Post has noticed that influencer brings a strong UGC feel to everything and helps the results of those other channels.
Finally, the brand can also run influencer paid social-- effectively running Bespoke Post’s ads under the influencers handle to many audience.
LOOKING FORWARD WITH BESPOKE POST
With all this success to date, has Bespoke tapped out all they can with influencers?
Not by a long shot.
Today, we are still partnering together with Bespoke to try out new things.
We’re working to develop longer-term relationships rather than doing one-off videos. We’re experimenting with multi-platform single creator campaigns (where the influencer posts across YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, and Instagram at the same time). We’re using influencers to expand their audience into the female segment by running with more female influencers.
Finally, we’re testing more seasonal activations to support the more traditional ecommerce store (beyond the subscription side of things), so they can use influencers to help promote around the holidays and other times.