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Lee Greene on the Rise of Influencer Marketing

Lee Greene, VP of partnerships at Grin.co stops by 10k a Day to discuss the rise of influencer marketing. Listen in as we go through a high level talk on how to build relationships with influencers and how brands can start thinking about all the ways to utilize this emerging channel.

Episode Transcript — Lee Greene on the Rise of Influencer Marketing

Peter Starr N:
From MuteSix media, this is 10K a Day, a podcast about the details it takes to scale your business online. As always, I'm your host, Peter Starr Northrop, bringing you this time a conversation on all things influencer marketing with Lee Greene, VP of partnerships over at Grin.co, a new, awesome platform for building and scaling an enterprise-level influencer marketing strategy. It's an awesome conversation about the ins and outs of building relationships with influencers and then utilizing them throughout your whole E-commerce funnel. Let's go ahead and jump right in.

Peter Starr N:
Lee Greene, it's so great to have you on the channel. Thank you so much for your time. How you doing today?

Lee Greene:
I'm great. Thanks so much for having me.

Peter Starr N:
I'm just going to jump right into it here because, as somebody who has been in the E-commerce space for the better part of four years, I have always completely, thoroughly written off influencer marketing as a channel. I just thought it was a nice thing for super huge brands who have the resources to do it, but I have been completely blindsided by how it's a channel now and basically every E-commerce brand can jump on this train now. I would love to hear from you real quick, how has influencer marketing been evolving? Can you tell me your journey to Grin, just real quick as well, so I can get an idea about Grin's narrative and your narrative with Grin as well?

Lee Greene:
Sure. So my journey to Grin starts with having founded my own company, called WearAway. WearAway was essentially an online marketplace where fashion brands could connect with influencers. In January of this year, Grin acquired WearAway, so now I'm VP of partnerships for Grin.

Peter Starr N:
Classic. Now I'm going to get into the Grin narrative as well. Take me through, maybe not necessarily Grin right now. I want to save that for a little bit later in the interview, but I think one thing that are audience is equally blindsided by is how much influencer marketing has gone from this cool, niche thing for giant brands to an actual channel. So I'm just curious to see, from your perspective, how the influencer space has evolved, literally over the past year it seems, and then just kind of get into what brands can be doing, in terms of making influencer marketing an actual channel for them.

Lee Greene:
Absolutely. Influencer marketing has completely exploded over the past five years, actually.

Peter Starr N:
Oh, [crosstalk 00:02:04].

Lee Greene:
No, no, it's really kind of started out, actually, I think of it as influencer marketing 1.0 towards an influencer marketing 2.0, which we're currently in. Influencer marketing 1.0 I think of as, back in the day when brands really didn't know how to work with influencers, they outsourced that process to agencies and they worked with marketplaces where they could have access to influencers and test it out to see if it would work. Now that influencer marketing has been completely proven to generate really great ROI, we're seeing this influencer marketing 2.0 where brands are building in-house, internal teams to run influencer marketing. So now we're seeing this huge surge of influencer marketing manager roles. Think there was about over 40 thousand job postings on Zip Recruiter for an influencer marketing manager in the U.S. It's incredible to see this growth of a department that never existed five years ago.

Peter Starr N:
As such, once you have these kinds of departments, you have vendors as well, of which I'm not going to say I'm biased, but I super am, towards Grin and the Grin narrative, in terms of actually bringing strong attribution to the influencer marketing space, so I'd love to see where Grin fits in real fast. We can just get that Grin elevator pitch out of the way.

Lee Greene:
Yeah, so essentially Grin powers in-house teams for brands to scale their in-house influencer marketing from A to Z. So we really are that full solution, most comprehensive platform that helps brands just complete the entire process from recruiting and discovering influencers that are best for their brand to automating mundane tasks so that they can focus on strategy, everything from monitoring the campaign process to tracking ROI, revenue attribution, we really do it all.

Peter Starr N:
That really helps split out the way our audience has been thinking about the influencer process, because it feels like two completely separate problems. One, recruiting influencers who can speak to your brand and find you a good audience and then tracking that revenue. So let's split that right in half.

Lee Greene:
Sure.

Peter Starr N:
Let me just ask you, how are brands right now recruiting influencers and how are they thinking about the best ways to find the best influencers? Because it feels like an impossible task with how gigantic and fragmented the social media space is these days.

Lee Greene:
Right. So a lot of brands are recruiting or trying to discover influencers manually on Instagram or a social media channel or they're relying on a database of a platform. Grin actually has the largest database of influencers in the world of over 27 million influencers to choose from, all with verified emails.

Peter Starr N:
That's not a real number. Million.

Lee Greene:
Yes, a million.

Peter Starr N:
Not 270 thousand, 27 million.

Lee Greene:
Correct. Those are just verified emails.

Peter Starr N:
Right. Right. Yeah.

Lee Greene:
Otherwise we have over 77 million.

Peter Starr N:
Okay, what are the metrics like? What makes you an influencer? How many followers do I need to have to be considered, air quotes, "An influencer in the space," out of curiosity? Or at least what is Grin's metric for that?

Lee Greene:
Well, I think that depends on the brand. The brands have their own way of segmenting, nano influencers, micro influencers, mega, celebrity. Everybody has their own terms for defining what an influencer looks like for their brand.

Peter Starr N:
Right. There's a whole metric system for it, even.

Lee Greene:
There's a whole metric system.

Peter Starr N:
That's amazing.

Lee Greene:
But taking it back to the channels, so relying on a database is one aspect, but there's also ... We at Grin think of it as, there's so many different channels to recruit influencers, not just from the database, but also from maybe your email list, from your customer list, even from your employees. So we see companies like Macy's, that they have their style crew program, relying on their own employees as influencers, essentially, and promote products.

Peter Starr N:
Exactly.

Lee Greene:
Yeah, so really interesting different ways to do that as well as once you find the right influencers, finding lookalikes of those influencers and using audience demographics to really figure out the best influencer that matches with your target market.

Peter Starr N:
Definitely. So major thing right now, if you're thinking about starting the process from scratch, which a lot of the brands that I talk to are, and they're very much in those mason stages where it's like, "Oh, I guess I need to make this a channel now. I don't know what I'm doing," and so the major thing is you probably should look at your own customers first, right?

Lee Greene:
Yeah, absolutely.

Peter Starr N:
Awesome. Okay. I'll try to make it as yes and no as possible so it's a very engaging podcast. Once you get past that, though, what are the next major steps? After your own customers, after you sort of scoured ... What's the next level after finding your own customers that can kind of count as influencers? How do I begin recruiting from from a cold call perspective?

Lee Greene:
Yeah, so you want your communication to be extremely authentic. Obviously these are real people on the other end. You want to make sure that your email is authentic and your outreach feels real. Before, I think getting into that, I think actually something that's completely overlooked by brands is a strategy, a program, putting together actually what a successful program looks like. A lot of times I think brands think that they can just find the right influencer, email them, send them product, and once they post, boom, they've got 10 X ROI.

Peter Starr N:
That sounds exactly like the way it should happen, right? No?

Lee Greene:
This is not how it happens.

Peter Starr N:
Okay, cool.

Lee Greene:
That's not to say that you won't find some success with your first posts, but there is a longterm relationship that needs to be nurtured. There needs to be a plan in place, this strategy that I'm speaking to, where you're actually setting yourself up for success and nurturing this relationship. You've got to set expectations and it takes some time, a few posts. Let the influencer post a few times of your brand so that their audience can get more familiar and feel like there's more credibility between you as a brand and your influencer.

Peter Starr N:
Who dictates that kind of posting schedule and posting relationship? Is it just a matter of the influencer via the brand sending products to the influencer and them just posting their own way? Or, as you're setting up a strategy, are there guidelines, very ... I know, I understand brand by brand basis is going to be very different, but from as high level a standpoint as possible, when you're making this strategy, how do you give out guidelines to your [inaudible 00:08:06] influencer folks?

Lee Greene:
I think that's very dependent on the type of brand. We really are built to support whatever it is that they'd like to do and test. Testing is a very important aspect of influencer marketing. You want to test different strategies, test different influencers. It's this process of refining what works and figuring out what works, and when you do, doubling down on that.

Peter Starr N:
I love how good influencer strategy is also just generally good E-commerce strategy. You're focusing on the LTV of this influencer relationship, but you can't ... A lot of brands really think about, "Okay, well, I'll just get somebody with 10 million followers and pay them obnoxious amount of money and get one piece of content out of them and then I'll wipe my hands and be done here."

Lee Greene:
Right.

Peter Starr N:
That's completely wrong.

Lee Greene:
Right, well, and to what you're saying about E-commerce brands, they spend a lot of time thinking about who their ideal customer profile is. In the same way, they need to think of who their ideal influencer profile is. Once they start defining that and refining that, they're going to really find a lot more success than just kind of spraying and praying.

Peter Starr N:
One thing that gets into the way that brands really think about the influencer space in general, a lot of people either see influencer marketing as just paid word of mouth, basically, or sort of brand advocacy, like a branding campaign if you go big enough. Are those the two poles when you're thinking about the different kinds of success you're looking for, in terms of influencer marketing, or is there a better way of looking at it, in terms of what your goals should be for your influencer campaign? Because I think, as our audience builds out these strategies, a lot of folks are like, "Yeah, I guess exposure's good," but I feel like a lot of brands are really tired of that as well. I'm wondering when, again, a very high level, what are the kinds of goals that brands should be thinking about for their influencer campaigns?

Lee Greene:
Yeah, I think it depends on what you really want your goal to be. It could be that you want to focus on ROI. It could be that you do just want brand awareness. There's a ton of different ways, and maybe you just need the content. There's a ton of ways to leverage content as well. I speak a lot about repurposing content at a few different conferences that I've been to. Sometimes I think brands get caught up in, "Oh, we're just going to share that content on our own social media channel," and really that's just the one-dimensional way of thinking about it. Repurposing content can also mean putting it on your own website, on your own product pages, having maybe a styled on-Instagram gallery on your website, using an inner email marketing, using it in ad campaigns, which really shows a lot of conversion.

Peter Starr N:
That's the nature of scales, specifically in this economy right now. A lot of brands aren't ... There's just so much burned spend. People just drop so much into a single campaign and don't do anything to repurpose it, so I love thinking about planning these campaigns in a way that allows us to actually get as much value as possible out of each individual influencer campaign. If somebody posts an image, A, that goes wherever they posted, but then you post it on your own Instagram feed or use it in your own ads. When I'm thinking about repurposing content, we're very Instagram-heavy. We think, "Get an image on Instagram, repurpose it in your ad feed." What are the other channels in which influencer marketing actually works? Should I be looking for YouTube influencers or is that something that's way too advanced?

Lee Greene:
Yeah, that's a really great question. I think it depends on the brand and, again, what they're looking for. So for example, if you're looking to do an unboxing video or unpacking a product or if your product requires a little bit more information behind it rather than just an image, YouTube is an excellent channel for videos with that type of content, whereas Instagram might fit a lifestyle or fashion brand a bit better. So, I think, as a brand, you really have to think through all the different social media channels and figure out which channel you want to focus on or which one would just be better in general for your brand.

Peter Starr N:
On a brand by brand basis, are there any channels that stand out as the most successful ones? Like if I was starting out, I should just look at Instagram? Or is there anything I can do to think about my brand and then just know which channel works best?

Lee Greene:
I think that Instagram is still the dominating channel these days.

Peter Starr N:
It's always going to [inaudible 00:12:08], yeah.

Lee Greene:
Yeah.

Peter Starr N:
It's annoying.

Lee Greene:
For now.

Peter Starr N:
I mean, not really, but ...

Lee Greene:
We'll see, right?

Peter Starr N:
Yeah. As I begin thinking about this, this gets to the idea of scale then. We've talked a little bit about repurposing content. We've talked about general outreach. I'm seeing if the beginning stages of success of my influencer marketing program. How do you help your brands scale through the Grin platform specifically?

Lee Greene:
Yeah, all the basic metrics that you'd need to know, in terms of impressions, engagement, cost per engagement, influencer media value, revenue, of course. We compare revenue with your spend. So there's all types of different things that you can see on the dashboard for your reporting on a campaign, and per influencer. So you can see how much revenue was generated as a campaign, but also which influencer produced the most sales.

Peter Starr N:
Is it, when you're thinking about the success on an influencer-by-influencer basis, do you see, at a very high level, the same kind of rules in all E-commerce bearing out? Is the 80/20 rule completely applicable? You'll get 80% of your revenue from 20% of your influences? Or is it a much broader pot in the influencer marketing space?

Lee Greene:
That's pretty tough to answer because there's such a different variations of these influencers.

Peter Starr N:
No, I love that, yeah.

Lee Greene:
It depends on how much research, I guess, goes into identifying the right influencers for your brand, so it's pretty tough to say or have any rule, but I think that as you begin to test, you begin to figure out what that rule out as you begin to refine your strategy a little bit more.

Peter Starr N:
No, and that's one of the exciting things about having this interview now is that we're still discovering so much about the influencer space. How do you tier out all the different kinds of nano and micro influencers? I assume nano's the smallest and micro's the level up from there?

Lee Greene:
Exactly.

Peter Starr N:
It's just like the metric system. I definitely passed physics. I guess, as people look at the really slapdash way they're organizing their influencer strategy, people see a lot of disconnect and a lot of issues. I'm wondering, what are the main ways that brands can clean up the mess they have, in terms of their influencer marketing strategy so they can get to that moment of beautiful scale?

Lee Greene:
Exactly, so we see a lot of brands that are struggling to communicate with influencers at scale. They're using spreadsheets to manually organize and keep track of the campaign process, as well as manually track ROI and other metrics, so they're in all of these spreadsheets, tab after tab after tab, and it's just a lot of time that they're putting in to manually, basically just ran an influencer program. So what Grin does is basically puts all of those spreadsheets into Grin in a very seamless way where you can save ... I think each user saves over 60 hours per month. So instead of manually tracking and spending all that time, you can focus more time on strategy. Grin just helps you automate a lot of the emails that you'd be sending out to influencers. It's the lowest lift for an influencer as well. We're not a marketplace so they don't have to log in or create an account in any way. It's simply a campaign that they can view via URL that's sent via email directly from the brand.

Peter Starr N:
It's all URL-based?

Lee Greene:
Yeah.

Peter Starr N:
So it takes that one little ... That's amazing.

Lee Greene:
Yeah. Influencers love that.

Peter Starr N:
Yeah, and I guess in the Grin system when you're helping brands organize their campaigns, it's every ... every influencer has an individual campaign or should there be different ad units? Each time an influencer does a post, they should get a different link? How, very high level, do you see people organizing their strategy? Do they do it on an influencer basis or an influencer in an ad-by-ad-by-ad-by-ad basis? If that makes sense.

Lee Greene:
Yeah, so they can do it both ways. They could do a partnership with an influencer where it is much more individualized towards that influencer or they could do a campaign where there's multiple influences involved and scale it that way as well. I'm just thinking of challenges that brands are facing and I think that one of the other challenges that brands face is just the adoption to software. One of the first steps in creating a strategy is also figuring out what software program you're going to use to power your whole strategy. So I think that there's a lot of fear with brands, trying to figure out what's the best platform for them, but also this whole adoption phase of being trained on how to use software. No one likes learning new software. It's never feels like a fun thing to do. Right?

Peter Starr N:
Right. Right. The benefits are there, though.

Lee Greene:
100%.

Peter Starr N:
If you could ... It's so rare to find new channels now. Everything is about saturation. We've had banner blindness for 15 years and yet banner ads are just an insanely profitable, maybe just for the banner ads folks, so it's really exciting that things like push notifications in SMS and finally influencer marketing are getting this level of organization so that you can have this level of automation. The fact that we can get testing in the influencer space is gigantic. It's unlocking this huge new ability to get your message out there. That's what's really exciting for me, but from your perspective, again, it's just been really, A, awesome having you on the channel, having you on the podcast right here, right now. Out of curiosity, any final thoughts from you? Anything else that we need to cap off before we go ahead and read the credits here?

Lee Greene:
No, other than just, look at influencers as a longterm relationship you plan on really focusing on, having that in-house team to help you scale.

Peter Starr N:
Again, thank you so much for your time.

Lee Greene:
Sure.

Peter Starr N:
It's been awesome having you on the program.

Lee Greene:
Thank you very much for having me.

Peter Starr N:
Once again, huge thanks to Lee Greene, VP of partnerships over at Grin.co for that awesome conversation, laying out the foundations of influencer marketing. If you liked that high level look, ladies and gentlemen, we also, in the show notes, have a link to an hour-long conversation between Lee and our head of influencer marketing here at MuteSix, Sarah Gross. Be sure to check that out to get a lot more of the tactical ideas when it comes to influencer marketing now that you've gotten a taste of the high level stuff. Either way, ladies and gentlemen, if you've liked this podcast, folks, make sure you subscribe to us on Apple, Stitcher, OverCast, wherever fine podcasts are sold. You can also feel free to check us out at MuteSix.com/10K, and subscribe to us on that level. Either way, folks, this has been another episode of 10K a Day, a podcast about the details it takes to scale your business online. This episode was produced, hosted, and voiced by me, Peter Starr Northrop. We had associate production of this episode by Sarah Gross, head of influence marketing here at MuteSix. We also had executive production from the astonishing Sarah Hart. As always, ladies and gentlemen, our editor-in-chief and CEO is Steve White. Either way, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for your time. As always, we like to leave you with peace, love, and ROI. Everyone be well. Thank you so much.

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