Startup To Scale

136. Micro-Influencers to Grow Your CPG Brand

September 04, 2023 Foodbevy Season 1 Episode 136
136. Micro-Influencers to Grow Your CPG Brand
Startup To Scale
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Startup To Scale
136. Micro-Influencers to Grow Your CPG Brand
Sep 04, 2023 Season 1 Episode 136

We all hear that working with influencers can be beneficial for your brand, but I find most founders are highly underutilizing the opportunity.

So how can you do better? I invited on Esther Kim, founder of Maven Reach to talk through how you can better leverage influencers for your brand.

Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.

Show Notes Transcript

We all hear that working with influencers can be beneficial for your brand, but I find most founders are highly underutilizing the opportunity.

So how can you do better? I invited on Esther Kim, founder of Maven Reach to talk through how you can better leverage influencers for your brand.

Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.

Maven Reach

Jordan Buckner: [00:00:00] We all hear that working with influencers can be beneficial for your brand, but I find most founders are highly under utilizing the opportunity. So here's what it usually looks like when I see it. A founder, reach out to influencers on your own that you might find through social media. Then you either get them to work with you for free or end up paying them a few hundred dollars.

Maybe they create one Instagram post or a story. Then crickets. Nothing happens. No increase in sales. No measurable bull social growth, no traffic. It feels like there's nothing to show for it. So what are you doing wrong and how can you do this better? So to talk through how to better leverage influencers, I've invited on Esther Kim, who's the founder of Maven Reach to really talk through the strategies and tactics that you can better use.

Esther, welcome.

Esther Kim: For having me, Jordan, 

Jordan Buckner: I guess starting out, I'd love for you to share with our audience how you got started connecting brands to [00:01:00] influencers. 

Esther Kim: Yeah, so actually during Covid I saw a lot of minority founded and women founded brands closing up shop. After speaking with a couple of them they all mentioned influencer marketing is so expensive, I can't pay for it.

It's just not a priority. And I think you're absolutely right. A lot of brands are under utilizing it. And. I wanted to create a solution where I can meet the brand, , where they were or where they are. My goal is to really help take time consuming tasks off the brand's plate and essentially work as an extension of their team.

So, to answer your question I wanted to be able to provide a cost-effective solution that provided value for these minority founded and woman founded brands. So that's how I started getting my feet wet. 

Jordan Buckner: I think it's been really helpful and especially your focus on working with micro influencers.

You and I worked together in doing a campaign for Good Food Brands, which is my e-commerce gifting company, which is now rebranded as Joyful Co. And it was really great to see your team in action and the [00:02:00] influencers that you were able , to connect me with and it's really great. So we'll talk a little bit more about that later, but can I start out from the top?

I'd love to understand. From what you see, what are the top mistakes founders are making when they're working with influencers? 

Esther Kim: Ooh, that's a great question. I think, well, yes, going back to what you said before, under utilizing them I feel like a lot of founders are open to testing. You know, you're constantly testing with Facebook ads but when you're thinking about influencer marketing, it's like, For some reason it's not that same mindset.

I would say the biggest mistake I see is a lot of brands blowing their budget by partnering with macro influencers right out the gate. You know, most brands I've worked with they've shared feedback where they're looking to partner with a few macro influencers per year. Sometimes it works out, which is great.

But a majority of the time my clients have shared that they're. Genuinely surprised at how little they moved the needle. How little traffic they're driving to their website, how many sales or lack of sales they generated. It didn't even cover the cost of [00:03:00] the partnership by partnering with that macro creator.

So that's where hopefully , I can step in as Maven Reach. Help problem solve there? With influencer marketing, I would say it's a longer game. We do product seeding 'cause it gives us the opportunity to work with dozens of influencers. By kind of casting a very wide net, we can see who's driving engagement, you know, the influencers get to prove themselves.

Then I would recommend the brand to go back, develop a long-term relationship, because essentially, again, these influencers have already proven themselves with that free product seating campaign. 

Jordan Buckner: I think that's a really great mindset, chef, because I think the biggest mistake that founders make from my perspective of when working with influencers is coming with the wrong expectations, right?

Like at the end of the day, especially as small businesses, we're all like, I need sales so that I can grow or stay in business and. You think like, oh, influencer is a way to like get traffic to my site or get awareness so that people can come and buy my product and it doesn't have that immediate r o i in a lot of cases.

Sometimes it [00:04:00] might with a certain influencer, but Oh, generally I see. It doesn't have, like you post and you see sales coming in and so I like that you mentioned that as a longer term kind of opportunity with maybe some short term benefits. 

Esther Kim: Yeah. And I'd also like to ask, add at Maven Reach, we always recommend testing first and then building that long-term relationship.

And what I mean by long-term relationship is you wanna make it a win-win relationship. I think a lot of brands are like, I wanna generate sales. I don't wanna give commission, like I'm already covering the cost of the product and the shipping. I think we need to be a little bit more collaborative.

There is this like middle ground between brands and influencers where they're both happy and. You know, again, we primarily work with micro influencers because they're more collaborative, more flexible, more budget friendly, and they are looking for those long-term partnerships. So there are those type of influencers out there.

We just need to go out and find them.

Jordan Buckner: So when working with the micro influencer group, like what are the different types of deal structures you're seeing and working with? 

Esther Kim: Oh, There are so many different types. At Maven Reach, our bread and butter is [00:05:00] product seeding. So gifting with a no strings attached approach.

You know, you can also pay for random pieces of content, $50 here, $300 here for a reel. I always recommend providing an affiliate code or some type of unique promo code to incentivize the influencer with commission. And it helps again on the backend differentiate which influencers are driving traffic and sales.

Some creative things that we've done at Maven Reach is we put together a contest. This was actually fascinating. This really moved the needle for two of my clients. We put together a contest where we offered a $500 cash bonus to the influencer who had the highest engagement on their post. By the end of 12, 14, you know, any type those type of weeks and influencers want to get paid. You know, there's a shift in social media where influencers and content creators are saying, you know, free product does not pay the bills. So I do see this shift in. Creators asking for monetary compensation. And usually with micro influencers, they understand like they don't have that [00:06:00] reach for a brand or they haven't , proven themselves yet.

So that $500 cash bonus one helps. Increase the number of times an influencers posting. But two, they might do a giveaway or they'll get creative, they'll keep responding in comments. So that was a really interesting and creative campaign. Another one is kind of thinking outside the box, providing this v i p experience.

So one of our clients is a hair extension company. And you know, we're sourcing 300, 400 unique micro influencers for them per month. And what we've found is they're like, Hey, Like there are these key star players in terms of who we think is like really on brand with our, that hair extension company.

So we're gonna identify those people who are very aligned with the brand. We're gonna partner almost triage this v i p experience with a salon, the influencer and the hair extension company and hair extension. , they're not cheap. Yeah. So we'll help set up the scheduling, the filming. So the salon gets content, the influencer gets content and free hair. the hair extension company gets [00:07:00] content to repurpose and to paid ads. So it's a win-win win. 

Jordan Buckner: I love that collaborative approach and thinking about everyone that's involved and how they can kind of grow the collaboration. I think that's really smart. Yeah, because you're like, most founders are only thinking about like, how can they make me money versus how can I help the influencers make money because it's for them understandable.

Into a business or a side hustle. 

Esther Kim: Yeah. And for bigger creators I know there's been a big shift, especially with supplements. I'm finding a lot of licensing deals for macro creators , or even setting up some type of rev share. So that creator is incentivized to keep, you know, promoting that brand.

Jordan Buckner: Once you get, an influencer to post content for you, how can you best leverage that content over time so it doesn't just live on say, Instagram or TikTok? 

Esther Kim: Yes. I love this question because I think a lot of brands, the buck stops at the social platform, right? But if you wanna think bigger, I think a great way to do it is by asking to test. High performing content for paid media over 30 days. Most will say yes and [00:08:00] not charge anything. You'll say, Hey, like, let's test it for 30 days. If it does well, I'll come back to you. We'll negotiate some type of payment structure in term for the content usage rights. At Maven Reach, we download and scrape.

All media based on hashtags and mentions using the software called Mighty Scout, amazing software. Look into it if you haven't. And we understand, you know, every brand has their own content usage rights agreements. But usually since we've built such great relationships with our influencers, they'll allow us to test their content at for 30 days at no cost.

Jordan Buckner: Oh, that's great. I love that idea. And one thing I've even seen as well is saying a brand will leverage that as a paid ad, but maybe even include , the creator specific discount code and say, Hey, we will pay you like a commission based on how many sales come in through your unique ads.

So it's say almost like a testimonial from them and then they can get paid based on how well their ad performs.

Esther Kim: Yep. It's a win-win. Puts money behind it. 

Jordan Buckner: I like that. That's so much fun. So then what other things can you do to leverage that content as part of your [00:09:00] marketing funnel? Have you seen any of your clients leverage them like emails or on their website or things like that?

Esther Kim: Yeah. I've seen a couple of clients who are also selling on Amazon. They've reached out and said, Hey, we love your content. Would you be open to posting this on your Amazon storefront? So I know Amazon storefront. We just had a client, a home appliance company, one influencer linked a kitchen. Product it was kind of like a air fryer or like a conventional oven, and they generated $7,500 in one month just from her Amazon storefront. Oh, wow. So, yeah, I think , the thing to take away from, you know, like how can you leverage content is one, obviously you need to be active on social media, keep an eye out.

If someone tags your brand, make sure you're reposting their content. But yes, I think you can think bigger, right? Ask. Has to test their content for 30 days for paid ads. And then two, if you're on Amazon, you can definitely utilize the Amazon storefront and customer reviews. 

Jordan Buckner: Is it reasonable to think that some influencers can [00:10:00] drive direct sales from your brands?

Like do you see that happen at all across your clients? 

Esther Kim: Absolutely. I think micro, even nano influencers, nano and micro influencers they're almost glossed over 'cause they're like, oh, they're up and coming. But we partnered with a D2C woman's restorer company and we drove almost $85,000 in sales only partnering with nano and micro influencers from October 20. 2022 to June, 2023. Wow, that's really amazing. So it's definitely possible. 

Jordan Buckner: What makes the difference, do you think? Is it , the offer from the brand? Is it finding like certain influencers just have an audience that's more willing to buy? Or is it just like you have to do a white net and you're gonna catch some, like what's kinda the approach you take?

Esther Kim: I think it's the latter. And I know it's very frustrating as a brand 'cause you're like it's so overwhelming. I wish there was this hard set. You know, look, do A, B, and C and you'll get D. But I think the key is really understanding who your target audience is. People who genuinely love your product are gonna talk about it.

Those who genuinely love your product [00:11:00] will create authentic, believable content. I think we can all sense when something , is paid for or when it's not true to the influencer. And I think another key aspect is providing exclusive offers. Offers that beat the offers on your website and kind of making all of that melt together.

Jordan Buckner: I think that makes a ton of sense. And if it, I like how you mentioned at the beginning like there's a lot of trial and error that's involved just in terms of making sure you find the right people and the right ones that really love your products because you know, it's interest, like everyone is potentially like an influencer in these day and age, right?

Like every, so many people have accounts, so like what makes , the ones who are, can actually drive business results separate from the ones who are just like posting to their friends you might not buy. So yeah, I love that. How much time does it really take to start seeing an impact from your efforts with influencer?

Esther Kim: Great question. So, for U G C campaigns where, you know, Maven reaches sourcing like 32nd, 15 to 92nd U G C videos the U G C campaigns, you'll know if [00:12:00] a video performs well within a month, I mean, at the end of the 30 days, you can see. All the performance for product seating. , it's a different story.

I would say you know, month two and month three is really when you see the content rolling in. Just due to the nature of product seating, right? You're shipping out product. Sometimes influencers won't open the package for maybe one to two weeks. It also takes time for content to gain traction and sometimes go viral.

A quick note on viral videos, so, It's funny 'cause influencers have shared how shocked they are when a specific video goes viral. They're like, it's the video I just randomly posted did not even like think I spent the least amount of time working on it. The videos I spent the most hours on never go viral.

So I think people can pick up on the authenticity and whether, you know, someone is genuinely speaking. To the products benefits whether , it solved a problem in their life. So yeah it's very interesting. Viral videos., there's that statistic where it says, you know, someone needs to see your brand seven times before someone makes a purchase.

And I think [00:13:00] influencer marketing humanizes your brand, right? It gives, it creates a PO positive association and. The power of someone of a recommendation really shortens that time. It takes someone to make a purchase. So yeah, the power of influencer marketing is pretty nuts. 

Jordan Buckner: Yeah, and I think that's what's cool about your approach as well as working with nano and micro influencers, is that you can work with more creators and. Ideally, you know, like people might be following two, three or four of them and like, oh, I've seen this post-it not just like one time, but multiple times by different people. Yeah. And you know, hopefully if someone loves it maybe multiple times by the same influencer and then they can say like, oh, this is probably something that they genuinely use versus something that they're just promoting or sponsoring.

One thing that I'm curious about as well is like, what type of money do you need to invest in an influencer campaign? especially for brands starting out, do you recommend they just focus on like product seating or paying for content influencers? I. Which approach? 

Esther Kim: The big question pricing whenever I pitch our [00:14:00] services I always position ourselves as an affordable, low cost influencer marketing agency. And why do we do that? How do we do that? It's. Again, we're partnering primarily only with nano and micro influencers. I can't speak to other agencies. I know there are other agencies that work only with micro influencers that charge an arm and a leg.

But our services at Maven Reach can , can range anywhere between 2 to 3K a month depending on the scope of the project. You know, before a campaign even begins, you have to factor in the cost of. The product, the cost of shipping, the product, you might wanna cap. Like, okay, I only wanna ship 15, 30, a hundred units every month.

And I think the strategy I always recommend is two-pronged. The first arm being product seating, right? Especially if you're an E C P G brand or DTC brand, , you need to get your name out there. So. Let's do product seating, and then the second arm is U G C. So we have packages where we can bundle 2 3 5 U G C videos a month so that we hire [00:15:00] content creators.

These aren't influencers who have following. These are ready actors who are very good in front of a, like an iPhone camera. And we will bundle packages with product seating and a few U G C videos a month so that you can, you know, invest in paid ads. And product seeding. 

Jordan Buckner: I love that. So I wanna share to you and talk about the campaign that we did , with good food brands a little bit so that our listeners can get a sense of what that can kind of look like.

So when I was starting and reaching out to you with good food brands, we were celebrating our boxes around Women's History Month and. In Black History Month, and that was in February and March of this year. So one thing that I wanted to do was get content from different creators. And so I think we ended up, I forget how many influencers you reached out to.

Maybe there's like a hundred or so. And a lot of them actually wanted to participate, so we sent 41 pieces. We had 41 pieces of content out of it from different influencers, so that was really cool. And I think the reach was about 474,000 people, which is really neat as [00:16:00] well. And a ton of engagement, pre-high engagement rate.

And so I think that was really great. I think a couple things that I've learned from that as well is like, We started seeing the content rolling in and that was really fun. And being able to like, engage with the audience of , the influencers as well was something that was a really good opportunity.

One thing I learned about our boxes in the unboxing was that with good food brands, we sent everything like an unbranded box and the actual presentation wasn't great, which I kind of knew, which was part of the reason of the rebranding for Joyful Co. All the videos are. Box. If it did appear it looked terrible, but Right.

It was like a cardboard box with a label tape on there. Or the influencers would take it out and nicely kind of position , the products and like their own basket or on the table. But our branding was completely missing and that from their fault. But like, it was totally our fault in terms of not having a presentable kind of brand element within the boxes. And people were like, oh, these products look really great. Everything looks awesome. And there was a [00:17:00] highlight on the individual products that were in there, but our brand got lost. And so it was a good learning opportunity as I am launching Joyful Co to make sure that the boxes themselves are like make really great photos and they are including the shots. And we've done that with like a nice bright orange box with gold foil, with, has our branding in there and actually designed for unboxing particularly. So that mm-hmm. That really shows up in, in those videos. 'cause I think those a huge miss opportunity just from , our own branding and unboxing process.

Esther Kim: Yeah. And , I know That there are so many various levels of branding. Like , every penny counts, right? When you're launching a brand. So if you don't wanna invest in like the outer box, you can always do something like an insert. You know, I've done so many Instagram stories where I'm holding up a piece of paper or like branding and you know, you hold it up against a pretty background and tag the brand.

 You can also get creative with inserts as well. So . We're able to learn that from campaign, that making sure that if you [00:18:00] were an influencer and you have all the tools necessary to create the content that the brand is looking for.

Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I love that.

And how you , create , that wow experience around it. And so what I'm also gonna do is from this campaign, thinking of testing, there was some content that like really performed well with thousands of people, like engaging and liking, and the comments were kind of blowing up. And so around the joyful co launch, I'm going to actually go back to some of those same people and say, Hey, I love the work that you did and the content that you created.

Can we partner together on this new launch and kind of taking the learnings to improve that even more. And so instead of having this kinda live as just like a one-time campaign , and imagery, then that's been able to help me identify who are the best influencers who like really resonate with the products and the brand to be able to take that to , the next level with , our new launch.

Esther Kim: I love that. And I always recommend with our clients, like if you have any product launches coming up if you have additional, you know, skews, like please ship them to the influencers who've performed and like prove them themselves. Content, [00:19:00] extra content out in the ether never hurts. Marketing, it's, you know, marketing's always good marketing.

So I think. I love that you're going back to those influencers we previously worked with, have proven themselves and establishing again, that win-win type of relationship. They'll get free snacks and you get free marketing. Yeah. 

Jordan Buckner: Any other kind of takeaways , that you notice from our campaign and working together that other founders can learn from?

Esther Kim: Yeah, so we do at, we have a three month minimum when it comes to a campaign engagement. And in the past we've been a little bit flexible, like, yeah, let's try two months, let's try one month. But I think now that was a learning opportunity for us as well. Month two, when we ended the campaign at month, I think we did like a two month trial.

Yeah. When we ended the campaign, we were still getting like an influx of emails of, Hey, I'm interested and I'm interested. And it felt like, you know, I didn't wanna create more work for you and like, hand over all these. I ended up having to forward emails, you know, and I think with that month three, it's really that it's a key [00:20:00] month in terms of timing where.

Influencers are getting back, like getting through their backlog of inboxes or finally , opening their packages. So I think the three month campaign engagement is really that sweet spot of it drives the most value for the brand. Yeah, it's not because I wanna hold them to the three month campaign, like if we wanna do two months, you know, we can talk about it, but for the brand, I think.

There's just so much content and relationships that come through in that third month. 

Jordan Buckner: Yeah. And then that's one thing that I found as well, everything starts to build. So like the first month gets a little bit slower, right? As you're setting everything up, and by months like two, three, and four things can really start to grow.

And I think you made a comment earlier of understanding like how much you want to gift every month. It's either if you're joining yourself or working with like your team to be able to say, Hey, we're doing 50 boxes, so you can kind of control the outreach and how many people you're talking with and filtering through.

Because , it can quickly snowball, I think, you know, like with leverage like hundreds and hundreds and thousands of people like could be interested and yeah. If you're only [00:21:00] have a limited amount of product, then that can , you might wanna set a limit on that. And so it's kind of very clear to kind of set your own goals and budget for it.

So I think that's great. 

Esther Kim: Yeah. And it doesn't hurt to set that cap. , it's more clarity and on our end, we can continue sourcing and reaching out. We've created this email template where we essentially tell the influencer, Hey, this campaign's doing really, really well this month. Thank you so much for your interest.

We just wanna let you know that you're slotted in, like you're gonna be the first person to receive product the following month or the next month. So it, it helps set expectations on the influencer's end and for the brand. So I'm glad that worked out. 

Jordan Buckner: Awesome. I love that. Well, thanks so much for being on answer and sharing these tips today.

I think this is super helpful. I'm gonna make sure the link to put a link to Maven reach in the show notes, so anyone who is interested in working with you and getting in front of influencers in the right way, in a strategic way can definitely reach out 'cause it's very beneficial , for me and my business and I think for others as well.

Esther Kim: Thanks Jordan.