In this 30-minute interview, I ask Joel Robinson, CEO of InfluenceLogic, key questions about how influencer marketing can be leveraged as a new channel for marketers along with how to start and profit off of it.
Kevin: To anyone who’s joining us today, my name’s Kevin from Scripts for Marketers. Today we’re going to be doing the first piece of content in a series of video interviews with industry experts in marketing.
Kevin: At the core of Scripts for Marketers, we wanna bring the technical side of programming and scripts to the revenue-generating strategies that help us promote the companies that we’re passionate about by talking to some industry experts and marketing and sales.
Kevin: Today we’re gonna be talking with my good friend, Joel Robinson, the CEO of influence logic, and we’re gonna be talking about influencer marketing.
Kevin: Joel runs a company that does influencer marketing for the TeleHealth industry and he has a lot of experience to share with us. I’m gonna pass it over to you Joel.
Kevin: I was wondering if we could start off by answering the question of just giving a brief overview for anyone who’s not really sure what influence marketing is in your own words.
Joel: Influencer marketing is really just word-of-mouth marketing. It’s one individual recommending to another individual to try a product or service.
Joel: The big difference with influencer marketing is that this recommendation comes for people with large audiences that often use social media platforms to communicate with their fans at scale, so people buy from those that they know like and trust, right?
Joel: With influencer marketing, all you’re trying to do is take that approach and do it at scale.
Kevin: Awesome, and now how did you get into influencer marketing?
Joel: In 2014, my business partner, Steve, and I started a company called VidFall, and it was a live video platform. You can kinda think of it like Twitch, but we added an e-commerce element, so people might be live streaming the video game and we’d be selling that game at the same time.
Joel: In order to generate content on this live video platform, we needed influencers. We need people to come on and play games and stream content, and ultimately we went out and we looked for influencers.
Joel: We made the same mistake that everyone makes when they start an influencer marketing and to YouTube, you type in video game influencer, and YouTube spits back the largest influencers out there.
Joel: We reached out to these people, say, “Hey, we are this great start-up, would you like the live stream on it”. Talent agents reached back and they said, “Well, sure, but it’ll be 50,000”, but we can’t afford that. We were just a small start-up, so we found these smaller influencers to come live stream on our site.
Joel: The challenge was these smaller influencers couldn’t really move the needle for us, they’d get a couple of people to a live stream, but they were the only people who would work with us, so we started small and we kept working with his people.
Joel: What we realized with some of these people actually grow up and they get big audiences, they have hyper-engaged audiences, so we were sitting back and thinking, “Well, how do we pinpoint the influencers who are gonna be the stars of these video platforms?”
Joel: We started pulling information from platforms like YouTube to determine who is really hyper-engaged but small now, and that allowed us to make smarter decisions about which influences we wanted to work with.
Joel: Ultimately some of the companies that we worked with on our video platform bid fall said, What we want access to that software, and so we built the software out, we started charging the subscription service to use it, but then what happened was a company came to us and said, “Hey, forget the subscription, we want you guys to do this for us, and we’ll pay you more money for each customer that you get us, than you’re charging for your monthly subscription, will you do it for us on a performance basis”.
Joel: Fortunately for us, that was the last pivot we ever had to make, and we pivoted towards totally performance-based influencer marketing programs for high growth companies. As you mentioned in the beginning, we primarily focus on direct to consumer healthcare and virtual care providers with the services.
Kevin: That’s really cool. Yeah, I know I’ve heard some of your stories about influence marketing, but I definitely like the balance between reaching out to those gigantic influencers because that is the first thing that someone would do, but I work with a lot of startups.
Kevin: At the core of it, it’s like, “Okay, well, how do we get started with this thing we’ve never touched before, and I think, like you said, one of the big pitfalls is going after the biggest users in their space.
Kevin: My next question would be, what stage is right for an influence marketing strategy is, does it work for startups, does it work only for those big companies, what’s the line being drawn there?
Joel: I think the companies of all stages should be considering influencer marketing, so again, influencer marketing is just word-of-mouth marketing, and if you’re an early-stage company and you can’t get word-of-mouth marketing for you… You have a serious problem.
Joel: What I like to do for early-stage companies is I actually just reach out to influencers and start to have conversations with them, because what you’ll find is that influencers actually have a really good barometer for what’s gonna work and what’s not gonna work, their audience really relies on them to bring great products to them, so they’re gonna do a lot of research and making sure that your product is great, so if you have a hypothesis, for example, that fit guys who like to go to the gym.
Joel: Are they going to really adopt your product? You can actually help try to validate that, by just having conversations with influencers and working through the process of creating content together to promote that product, if you’re a high growth company or a more mature company, I think that you can also use influencer marketing because you can pay more to these content creators and you can turn it into a scalable growth or user acquisition channel for your company.
Kevin: Gotcha. Yeah, that’s really, really interesting. I love the idea of using influencers as a barometer of, is this actually gonna work because you’re at the core of these influencers, they have a huge following, and so they’re doing something right by being able to tap that into that for more than just sales, but also validation is pretty interesting.
Kevin: I haven’t seen too many companies doing influence marketing and podcast marketing, which would be kind of a subset of that, I’d be curious or company is missing out on that by not putting that at the top of their priority list or weaving it into their strategies.
Joel: It really goes back to that last point about all brands should at least be thinking about influencer marketing. When we started our company, there were two stats that made us really confident in the future of our company that we were going out and starting a company that really had legs here. HubSpot had reported back in 2017, that 84% of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising, and 80% of the content that was consumed in the future in 2020 was gonna be digital video content.
Joel: So when you think about it, if you’re in the brand’s perspective, you start thinking, “Well, if I even create any content, is anyone even gonna trust it, so maybe I should start to think about having a third party individuals talking about it.”
Joel: And the other thing is, I need to be creating video content and now audio with the big rise in podcasts for people to actually listen to it, ’cause people just aren’t reading as much as they used to.
Joel: I don’t know the last time I walked into a big high growth company and saw a video studio where people could just create content and distribute content on behalf of the brand, but there are these people out there called influencers, as we know who can really be like freelancers and don’t have big buildings and big overhead, so they can affordably create content for you. By the way, they’re trusted third parties, so the message that they put out there is actually trusted by the people who are listening.
Joel: I think it’s important for all brands to approach influencer marketing that way, and think about creating a network of individuals who can create content in a trustworthy way, can spread your message in video platform or video format in which people actually listen to.
Kevin: Yeah, that’s really interesting thinking about it as a third party that is creating content for you, because I come from the B2B startup space, and content for that space is a lot of work. You see content for these B2B or B2C companies and you almost need a media team to keep up and get your brand out there in terms of actually getting brain awareness and all that stuff, so it definitely seems like that’s a good option to get more content, especially in video, because I think that’s where the puck-moving, but there’s only kind of early adopters moving there right now, so I could see that being a huge edge.
Kevin: I come from paid advertising, as we’ve talked about, and I’d be curious, I know you and I had had a discussion about moving budget from paid advertising into influence marketing as a test, if someone had a certain amount of budget. Let’s say they had never touched either paid advertising or influence marketing, but which one do you think they should choose if they’re validating a new channel, and what would be the factors in making that decision?
Joel: Yeah, it’s a great question, and it really depends on the make-up of the company and where the company wants to go, so for example, what we’ve mostly seen with the companies who make big moves and to influence or marketing, they have generally really figured out some of their paid channels, and this could include Google search, Google Display Facebook ads, and they’re looking for that next channel to move into, and the reason why they do that is because if they’re venture-backed, often venture-back companies and venture capitalists are looking for really predictable and scalable customer acquisition costs.
Joel: Influencer marketing, in many VCs eyes, is not that it’s not this really great predictable recurring entered a programmatically scale and is always just working.
Joel: Now, influencer marketing is and can be a really great channel, but what I like to use influencer marketing for at least in the beginning, is validating ideas like I was talking about earlier, and using it as a way to start relationships with individuals, test things, test out hypotheses around audiences, again, like the example, you might think that fit men who don’t have a lot of time or the perfect audience for your product, we’ll go have a conversation with an influencer who speaks to that audience and see if you can do a deal together to see how excited it gets.
Joel: If it doesn’t get them excited and you’re pulling his teeth to do a content deal, it’s probably not the right fit, so you can validate your idea without paying mark of Aber and Larry Page, you can just have a quick conversation to determine that.
Joel: So I think that it all kind of depends on the stage of the company that you’re in, and I either that’s gonna be how I would determine which person…
Kevin: Gotcha, yeah, that definitely makes sense. I think I definitely come from the perspective of doing paid really quickly because it’s like that thing that scales, but I definitely have opened my eyes to see that influence marketing is that kind of next step, and it can give an edge for a company that… In an industry where a lot of people aren’t doing it, maybe especially ’cause paid is more or less tried and true, but I think this could give people an edge, especially if other competitors aren’t really getting into it, right, and they don’t have to operate and totally in silos, like a lot of brands, and most brands, if you’re doing it really well, are aggressively spending on influencer marketing, driving these really high-quality clicks, and then they’re spending aggressively on retargeting to these same audiences or they’re generating a lookalike audience based on the customer shop who are these early adopters and purchasing through influencer marketing. So, one strategy alone really isn’t the best strategy as the ad buyer or the growth marketer, you’re orchestrating traffic across multiple platforms and you’re interweaving in an intelligent way.
A tactic that I’ve seen that I wouldn’t have even thought about, but I love it, is having brands use the pixel of those influencers to re-target to basically overlay, Oh, they saw our brand, but also they’re a fan of this specific influencer, if they give the recommendation, they’re going to actually go to these places. And so I think that’s definitely an interesting strategy where you leave them together and absolutely is really valuable.
Kevin: So what are the key factors that make influence marketing successful? I know you’re in the performance space, and so it’s all you get…
Joel: Yeah, absolutely. I think the single most important indicator of success and influencer marketing is going to be lifetime value of the customer that you’re acquiring through influencer marketing, so the way that I look at it is that the average influencer generates about, at least on YouTube or Podcast, about five pieces of content a month in scammers might generate more, but on those other two platforms, the platforms that I think are most effective in influencer marketing, it’s about five pieces of content, and when you think about it…
Joel: From the influencer’s perspective, they’re thinking, “Well, okay, who are the five brands that are gonna pay me the most, I know the most relevant to my audience, and those five grants are going to get those five spots every month.” So if you are looking at the type of friends that are succeeding on YouTube today, you often see their digital products with high legal, their Audible Squarespace, honey, these are companies that generate hundreds or even thousands of dollars of the left on the… Because so if you’re a mom and pop t-shirt shirt company, you really have no chance, you have to get creative in some other way to really scale, so when I think about who can succeed with influencer marketing…
Joel: I think whoever has the best business model. It’s really a competition of a business model, you’re competing for that inventory, it’s no different than Facebook. If you’re a mom and pop t-shirt company, but you’re competing against GEICO for those same ad spots.
Joel: GEICO is gonna beat you every single time, just don’t… Like time value, same with Google search. So when you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur or building a company, you’re not just competing with the people in your industry for advertising, you’re competing with everybody, ’cause there’s only so much inventory out there, and there’s a lot of people who want that inventory, so to be successful, in influencer marketing, just like any other industry, advertising channel, you need to have high lifetime value.
Kevin: Yeah, gotcha. Yeah, that makes sense. I know that having 15 dollar conversions makes it very difficult to run advertising or any influencer marketing.
Kevin: I’ve done a little bit in terms of YouTube advertising, but because when we think about channels, I think the best marketers are thinking about how they’re different, how they have those nuances of… Who’s coming here, right?
Kevin: Let’s say we have an organic piece of content, we have a huge video ad, let’s say I know the influencers that I wanna target, but I haven’t gotten them to do anything, so I’m gonna run ads on top of that or I finally get an endorsement with them and they’re a trusted third party, how does that make a difference in terms of the quality of traffic and the conversion coming from those three sources.
Joel: I’m a little bit biased when I say that. I generally think that influencer marketing provides the highest quality of customer, just ’cause they’re coming in with significant trust, if you’re coming in with the assumption that traditional advertising is really not trusted by millennial audiences, then you have to believe that they’re gonna be more skeptical, there’s gonna be higher bounce rates, sinister not gonna compete side, but to give you some kind of metrics to back this up, with the influencer marketing campaigns that we run, we generally see a conversion rate somewhere between 1 and 10%, in 10% is obviously very high. Click-to conversion is very high, and you’ll only find that with highly targeted micro-influencers, we’re talking about very small, very targeted on a specific topic, so if this person just… It’s a 1000 us every video, and then they talk about ballet and you’re selling a valley product, you could see a 10% type conversion rate up there, once you get into broader influencers, more lifestyle content, creative things like that, the audiences are not necessarily gonna be as interested in every single product that they promote, and that’s gonna be more in the traditional conversion rates that we see about anywhere from 0 to 3% is traditionally in the conversion rate that you’ll see there, but it all comes down to pricing. What are you paying for those clicks and Influence or marketing can be more expensive on the clicks, really have to negotiate with influences to create win-win deals, it’s not an auction bidding that you’re gonna find on a programmatic channel, so it’s a combination of things.
Joel: Yeah, the conversion rate might be higher, but you have to negotiate and get the right cost per click in order to make it a successful campaign.
Kevin: Gotcha, yeah, that definitely makes sense. Now is, I come from… I know at the beginning of the conversation, we talked about that you focused mostly in telehealth, and that’s more in the B2C bucket, I get more from the B2B world, which means I have not experienced much influence marketing or podcast. And I’d just be curious. Is there a way where you can do influence marketing as a B2B company? Is that something that you could benefit from?
Joel: It’s a great question and it’s really hard. It’s really, really challenging to be successful with influencer marketing with a business-to business product, so the biggest challenge with Influence or marketing is targeting relative to program out-of-channel with Facebook, I can almost pin way down to the… To the human who I wanna reach with a specific advertisement, with YouTube ads, there’s geographical targeting is things like that, but it’s really, really hard to get it down to people who plan events or people who make just purchasing decisions about… Restaurants or real estate agent or whatever. Maybe that be the B type. Marketing is really quite challenging. However, there are strategies that B-to-B advertisers can use to be successful.
Joel: What we generally see is few marketers, maybe finding one or two thought-leaders or experts in their space who can speak intelligently about their product, have them create video testimonials or some sort of content about their brand and then use programmatic advertising like on Facebook to distribute that piece of content to individuals who are making B2B buying decisions, so it’s taking an asset from a thought leader and using programmatic targeting strategies to hit the right person, that’s how I think B2B companies can be successful with influencer marketing.
Kevin: Yeah, that’s really interesting. I know that… What is it? A company in Phoenix Trainual, who I personally love their marketing, they actually reached out to Michael E. Gerber, the writer or the author of the E-Myth, and then ran that to people who like the E-Myth. And that’s that in practice, I know they got that idea from the founder snow, which is definable, he is being… Or B2C strategies being brought over into B2B, which is really interesting.
Kevin: So let’s say I am a B2C company and I’m looking to implement influence marketing or Podcast Marketing. What does a test like that look like if it… Never really done that before.
Joel: Yeah, absolutely. So the first thing to do is to come up with a few hypotheses around the audiences that you think are going to respond well to your product, so for example, you might have a meal kit and you think, Well, maybe it’s busy moms, maybe it’s the fashionista, maybe it’s a vegan and you’re coming up with these different buying personas that you think are interesting from there, what I always recommend people do is use tools or you could hire an influencer marketing agency like InfluenceLogic.
Joel: If you wanna do this really affordable and quickly without engaging an agency, there are tools that you can use to help you identify influencers, like for podcast, for example, is a company I really like called pod sites, and they’ll help you find influencers through the research tool, which is break, and you identify who these people are and you reach out to them and you craft a message and you tell them what you’re trying to do, tell him your mission, tell, we’ll get you excited about this product and why you think the fans would be excited, and then ultimately you gotta negotiate on price, and you wanna create content, and I think the thing that’s really important is avoid them if you have a lot of cash, avoid the mistake of going to the biggest influencers, first the ones that are the easiest to find, find the smaller influencers, find the micro-influencers, negotiate deals with them test and validate your hypotheses and then try to scale them if they work, so that’s kind of what the start of an influencer marketing campaign works, looks like… The other side of this is you don’t wanna go too small, I’ve seen a lot of people test influencer marketing campaigns where they kinda cheap out and they go with really really small influencers that are getting a couple of hundred views every video or every podcast, and then you don’t have a meaningful amount of data to actually test or prove or disprove your hypotheses, so make sure that you’re getting at least enough fuse upon these initial tests to… To validate, yeah, and an extra benefit of going… I think it’s a balance, as you’re saying, But going for the smaller influencers, you’re saying they probably have a higher conversion rate as well… They do.
Exactly, they did.
Kevin: Gotcha, cool. Now, what does it look like? How long do you usually have to run a test before you can see success, is that a number of days, a certain amount of budget or a certain amount of maybe influencers that you even test with?
Joel: Yeah, it’s a great question. It depends on the platform, and it depends on the type of product that you have.
Joel: If you have a digital product, it’s really great ’cause you can get it to an individual really quickly if you have a physical product, influencers to receive it, they got a box file to all these different things, so that can take longer, but at the platform level with podcasts, generally, we see people like to purchase two to three episodes of a podcast, you don’t wanna just buy one, just come and go, might be a done, nobody listens to it, but you buy a couple and then you measure for maybe two to three weeks, you can generally determine if there’s a winning partnership there with platforms like Instagram and YouTube, you have the benefit, you can generally figure out after the first piece of content, if it succeeded or not with a specific influencer, and I would recommend testing across a couple of influencers. So with five to 10 pieces of content, I think you can kind of determine if there is at least a path to a scalable growth channel, once you’ve put that content out there and you’ll know pretty quickly, and you wanna be really scientific with it, you also wanna read the comments, see what people are saying, are they asking questions?
Joel: And if they are asking questions, Why not hop in there and answer them, do things that don’t scale early in your influencer marketing campaign to try to prove to channel because you… And I know is growth marketing, there is nothing more exciting than a new channel that converts… Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Kevin: Awesome, well, something I wanted to ask you about, just because I feel like we didn’t talk too much about it, and I know you’re very passionate about it, is the future of podcasting. Could you talk about that and whether that would work for a B2B company?
Joel: Yeah, that as an influence channel, ’cause even for that, I could see podcast marketing doing really well for B2B companies, specifically because you might not have the targeting, but to a certain extent, you have the fact that they are listening to a certain type of podcast.
Kevin: All I listen to podcast-wise, B2B stuff, and so I’d love to hear your thoughts on where that’s going, and if people are leveraging that enough,
Joel: it’s a great point, and I totally missed that on the B2B question, but if you’re going to do it, podcasts are the way to go. If you’re gonna try B2B influencer marketing, you have to go with Oasis, her podcast about everything, interior design, if you’re a decorator or building, if you’re selling to people who are in construction, venture capital, all these different things, so B2B is definitely an option for influence in the market.
Joel: In terms of podcast advertising, what’s really interesting is there’s a challenge and opportunity which keeps podcast advertising small, and for that reason, pricing really affordable, and the problem with podcast advertising today is attribution, it is incredibly hard to measure the effectiveness of a campaign, because if I’m listening to a podcast on my drive home from work, the chances that I’m gonna remember the cost of coupon code or whatever the attribution method is to determine where that call came from is really love, then chances are most are going to remember the name of the company. I’m going to Google it, find it, and purchase it. In that case, the search engine marketing team’s gonna get credit for it, and there’s nothing worse than that.
Joel: You’re doing all this hard work and they’re getting all the credit, so there are companies who are working really hard and creating really interesting tracking systems for attribution, neck and pixel listeners, and then they put a pixel on the success page, and if someone just listens on a device and then purchases on that same device or same IP address, then it can track the conversion, and that gives advertisers better insights into what’s working, and then they can scale their podcast advertising campaign. So as attribution becomes more sophisticated in podcast advertising, I think we’re gonna see more and more advertisers move into the channel, ultimately prices will rise, but if you can get a little creative with attribution using coupon codes, using software that will help you track attribution at the device level, then you can take advantage of the lower prices now and really benefit from it.
Joel: On YouTube, for example, people are generally paying as much as 10 cents for your click. With podcasts, it might be two cents a listen, so there are huge differences in price. If you can get your targeting down, you can succeed at those levels. You don’t even have to be as efficient as you’d be on a platform like YouTube.
Joel: Of course, YouTube has a link in the description for the specific offer at hand, so you’re gonna get a click-through, you’re gonna really great attribution, you’re gonna know what’s happening, but if you can get creative on attribution with the podcast, you can build a really nice scalable channel there. There are companies that are spending millions every month on user acquisition through podcasts.
Kevin: That’s really interesting. Yeah, I see that as a really big opportunity across the board, especially where I’m from it to be, and so that’s definitely something I watch out for, which is pretty cool, so the… Well, I really appreciate you answering all of these questions and how could someone… Let’s say they have a question. How would they be able to reach out to you?
Joel: Yeah, absolutely. So you could go to InfluenceLogic.com, or you could just reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be more than happy to answer any questions about influencer marketing or a podcast advertising or whatever growth marketing tactic you’re working on. I’d be happy to talk to you.
Kevin: Awesome, well, thanks for being the first person on the show, and I’m excited to see how everyone likes it.
Joel: Absolutely, thanks for having me, Kevin.