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57. Doing Influencer Marketing the Right Way with Cody Wittick

Influencer marketing has changed in the last few years and there is definitely a right and a wrong way to do it. Now that influencers have solidified their position in the online space and built a whole new industry if we want to take advantage of the power we need to take a different approach. 

Today’s guest has cracked the influencer code and he’s sharing how he got his start in influencer marketing a QALO, eventually building up the influencer roster to over 250 people – including household names such as Lebron James, Jason Aldean, Mike Trout, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as well as micro-influencers within the industries of TV personalities, Crossfit, outdoors enthusiasts, and pets.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Cody got Lebron James to wear his product without even trying
  • Why relationships are first in influencer marketing
  • How to leverage the content from influencers to tell your brand story

Read the Full Episode Transcript

My guest this week is Cody Wittick. He runs an influencer marketing agency alongside his business partner, Taylor, called Kynship, which is focused on building relationships 

Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur?

I kind of just fell into it. I never really associated with wanting to be an entrepreneur, or being a business owner. Words like leader or self starter felt more like me. An opportunity arose at a former brand and wanted to do this for myself and for other brands and take my experience elsewhere. My inner dialogue was asking, what is next? And that’s how it eventually led to me becoming an “entrepreneur.” 

What is the three phase blueprint you walk through with all of your clients? 

1. Influencer Seeding 

This is essentially just building a community of influencers around brands. 

2. Influencer Generated Content

Taking that community and identifying the best content creators out of that community and working with them consistently. 

3. Facebook & Instagram Ads

We run Facebook ad accounts because that’s where we see the best attribution with sales. 

If you go to our website right now, it says right at the top: “We are judged on sales not likes.” 

And that’s because that’s what all your listeners care about. That’s what everybody who owns a store cares about. At the end of the day you have to make money to be in business. 

As much as I love mission oriented brands and brands that have a great purpose—those are the best ones—you also need money. You need to make $1. Otherwise, having the best purpose in the world means nothing if you can’t make sure that cause like goes out into the world. No one will know about you. 

What does influencer seeding and community look like? 

You need to ask: who do I want my customer to be? You better know who your customer is if you’re a business owner. Then you can determine which influencers represent that customer. Who can you send your product to? 

The philosophy 

Centres around building a community based on giving and not asking. 

In our industry gifting programs pride themselves on guaranteeing a bunch of posts. If you send out your product to 1000 people, you’re going to get 1000 posts and lots of impressions. 

Problem is, all those influencers don’t give a crap about you, they just want the product. 

We have a very opposite mentality where we want to set up brands long term with a community of people that actually really care about the product. 

They get hounded by brands all day long and you come in—a brand they’ve never heard of—and ask them to post three times right off the jump. It makes sense. 

The mentality is I’m going to send you my product, I better get something. But influencer marketing is so human, so it has to be human first, it has to be a relationship first. Doing that sets up your brand for success in the long term. 

The practicality

What you can do is send out your product out for free. Start building your relationship by giving them value and not asking for anything up front. You’ll be amazed at just the results. 

As an agency we can do that at scale, of course, but if you can send 5-10 products out a month to certain influencers with no strings attached, that’s really a breath of fresh air to influencers. 

Messaging is an important factor, but just let them know that you think they’re a brand fit, you love them. You love their content and you’d be proud to have you represent our company. 

Influencer marketing has been around for a while now that influencers have really solidified their space as influencers and businesses. As business owners we think they need us, but actually, we need them. It’s their job, it’s their business. They put so much time, energy and effort into creating that amazing content that made you contact them in the first place. 

It’s like dating. If I asked you out on a first date, but I say you have to buy dinner, there’s likely not going to be a second date. You’re starting off the relationship in a completely off way. 

The problem with doing work this way is that it’s just a bunch of first dates. What we try to do is gather a bunch of mates for the brand’s birth. They become long-term advocates and it’s a genuine relationship that grows over time. 

Maybe you send them more products or maybe you eventually work together officially, to deliver UGC on a month-to-month basis. How you start the relationship sets you up for long-term success. 

We want to set you up beyond our three- or four-month contract. Our long-term goal is that you just have an internal community that is actually very interested in loving your brand and product.

Do you sometimes choose influencers simply because they’re amazing content creators, even if they don’t have a huge following?

It’s not always about that return sale, that ROI. Sometimes it’s that they create really amazing content, and you do not have the capacity and the bandwidth or the skill set to do so. 

We like to paint this difference as creator versus distributor

When you see them as a distribution channel, you’re valuing their follower count and their engagement rate. They’re got 100,000 followers and their 5% engagement rate means that 5000 people are going to see that and convert. 

Whereas we view them as a creator. We might use that same 100,000 follower influencer, but we don’t really put a lot of stock in that follower count. Their content creation ability is the number one value. 

You should already have the key sales generating avenues, like email and Facebook Ads, because they can distribute this content better and more places than the influencer. 

Your brand has to believe that you can distribute the content better into more places. 

There are brands out there who have made 500k in one day off a TikTok video, but they’re outliers. Generating a ton of sales organically is a lot harder to do than it used to be. So like why put all your eggs in one basket? Redistribute this content in more places. Let it help you tell the story about your product and your brand. 

People want to see that this person actually really cares about this product. It would be great if you could get to a place in that relationship where they love your product so much they talk about it for free. 

Word of mouth advertising is not dead, we’re just doing it differently. We’re doing it over zoom calls or through DMs on Instagram. People talk about things that they love. If you can create a great first impression regardless if they post and regardless if they end up working with you, people tell people about things that they love. It has a compounding value. 

How do you use influencers for Facebook and Instagram Ads?

There’s two ways. As a brand, you can use the influencer’s content in ads. 

The other way is serving ads through their handles. The benefit is taking their name to other audiences, which allows them to have social growth. Sometimes it’s called dark posting, because it doesn’t actually end up on their feed. It’s attractive to them because a bunch of people see it but it’s not messing with their aesthetic. 

Do you see a lot of success with Ads? Is it worth the effort?

I’ll be honest, sometimes it’s not. It’s not a magic thing. 

Many people paint it as you “just haven’t done whitelisting.” That could be true for your product, it could not. 

What we’ve seen actually, after visibility into $250 million in ad spend, the one differentiator is creative. The same is true with every ad account. 

There’s no magic trick. There’s no point having Jessica Alba as your influencer and serving an ad through her page if the creative sucks. 

Obviously there’s going to be some brand validity and credibility there as opposed to a micro influencer the audience has never heard of, but if the creative is awesome, that’s the real differentiator between what works and what doesn’t. 

What makes awesome creative?

Thumb stopping content. In the first three seconds, you need to get someone to stop and watch the ad. There is a metric on Facebook for three second views, which just goes to show that as a society, we really find it hard to watch longer than three seconds 

You can have awesome creative, but it also depends on the brand and on the product telling that story as well.

There’s no magic. It’s testing, learning, trying again, and doing better. 

Who is influencer marketing good for?

This might disappoint you, but anyone—even B2B businesses. There’s always at least one influencer in your space. It just might not be an influencer in the traditional sense of the word, in that it’s a specific person. Rather, they could be another category that you’re trying to enter. It could be someone that’s not a competitor per se, but someone in the industry that you share your product with and they tell everybody about you because you created that relationship.

On the other end of the spectrum, it could be a person who just creates amazing content that you can use to sell a product on a Facebook ad. 

When you’re talking about the difference between hiring an agency like us versus doing it yourself, especially for early stage entrepreneurs, an agency like us is just completely out of budget. If you’re only making $100,000 a year, paying us $10,000 a month makes little sense. 

To work with us as an agency, we usually work with $5 million in top line revenue and above. A few weeks ago we created an influencer course for people to do this for themselves. We just gave away everything that we wanted to, for people to learn to do it on themselves by teaching you the whole blueprint. 

There’s never a wrong time to think about influencer seeding or influencer marketing because you can always seed your product and get your product out there. No matter what stage you’re at. 

What should you have in place before reaching out and making those relationships?

Make sure you’re really clear on your brand story and the messaging you’re bringing to the world. You need to know where the ship is going and the destination you want to take it to.

The user experience matters. The customer experience matters. Think of influencers as another customer. They need to buy into the story of your brand; they need to care about it. They need to give a shit about you, your product, and what you stand for. 

Just because what you sell is t-shirts with a print on them, doesn’t mean that you don’t have a story. There’s always a story. It’s just about how you pull that out. 

When they get the package in the mail, what speaks to them? What are you communicating? What do you want these people to think and feel? Are all five senses being hit? 

You don’t have to have all your ducks in a row, but I do think you need to consider some of the less thought about things like the mailer and first impressions. 

If you have pretty packaging that you traditionally ship in, there’s every chance it’s going to get destroyed in shipping. Put it in another brown box to protect it so that when they open it, it’s still in pristine condition. Now they have a wonderful product to take pictures with, do an unboxing and share. 

Something as simple as a handwritten note goes a long way. People are still old school. It takes two minutes to write a genuine note. Create a positive first impression and do better than every other Joe Schmo trying to send them their damn product. 

What’s one of your failures or something you tried with a client that bombed or didn’t work?

When I was working at a brand called Qalo, a brand that makes silicone wedding rings and we got caught up in the 2015/2016 Facebook drug. We were creating testimonial videos, working with some big time athletes, NFL Quarterbacks and the Monday Night Football crew on ESPN, and they were getting 7-11 ROAs (Return On Ad spend). As soon as we hit that high we tried to do it for everyone—and we couldn’t replicate that success. 

Our mentality was that we needed to find the big names to work with, get them to create a 30 second testimonial, and we would have success. Influencer marketing is easy, right? I wanted to ride that wave as long as possible. It didn’t even cross my mind that Facebook Ad Testimonials were going to stop working. 

Just because something is a “current trend” doesn’t mean it’s going to work. You need to think holistically. You need to think, what’s next? 

What I will say is getting those testimonials would never have happened if we didn’t start the relationship without Seeding. People actually loved the product. It wasn’t cold outreach. 

What’s been one of your biggest successes with a strategy or something you’ve implemented?

Back in the day, Qalo got our silicone ring product on LeBron James. That was definitely a huge win. But that actually first started with a relationship with another NBA player, and he ended up giving the ring to LeBron. It all ties back into relationship building.

When I originally met the first player, he was on a competing team. He had no relationship with LeBron. I didn’t give him the ring and say, Hey, Isaiah, post 17 times! 

Two years later, he just happened to be on the same team as LeBron. I didn’t tell him to specifically give the ring to LeBron, I just said, Hey here are some rings for you and the team. See the difference? 

It took two years, so just be patient. You do get some short-term stuff out of it, but it is a long-term brand play.

What’s your one take away, something my audience should either implement or remember? 

Be easier on yourself. Take a breath. It’s all going to work out. The entrepreneur world can be a lonely space. Find people that are doing what you’re doing and just talk shop. 

When it comes to influencer marketing, just send your product out. Build relationships on giving. Who can you provide value to without expecting something from them in return? 

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Hey, I’m Jessica!

eCommerce + email Marketing Strategist

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. Learning from the top experts in the digital marketing & eCommerce industry she loves working with female entrepreneurs and teaching the secrets of 7-figure eCommerce businesses.

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