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019 - How To Find Success With Influencer Marketing with Tanner Charlesworth

019 – How To Find Success With Influencer Marketing with Tanner Charlesworth

Secrets To Scale is a marketing and entrepreneurship podcast that revolves around hearing the stories of successful entrepreneurs and uncovering their secrets to scaling their businesses. Music for every episode of this podcast was written and produced by Treycen Clausse.

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Tanner S:

This week on the show, I have Tanner Charlesworth and he is the director of marketing and sales at Rustica Hardware. Rustica Hardware manufacturers and designs custom barn doors and Tanner and I talk about the success that they’ve had with influencer marketing. Tanner has some awesome insights on how to run a successful influencer marketing campaign. So stick around.

Welcome to the show. I’m super excited to have you. Go ahead and introduce yourself to the audience.

Tanner C:

Hi, my name is Tanner Charlesworth. I’m the marketing director at Rustica where we make doors.

Tanner S:

Awesome, man. So how did your career get started in marketing?

Tanner C:

Yeah, so pretty interesting. I was actually majoring in accounting and pre-dental, and then I started working for a small company that is very similar to Ragnar. In fact, has since been purchased by Ragnar. We did several relay race events in different states and they didn’t have any sort of marketing really in place. So I went in and had to learn. That’s when I kind of found digital marketing and social media marketing and things. And I was like, wow, I really like this. I also really hate accounting. So I made the switch to be a marketing major and have been in marketing ever since.

Tanner S:

Yeah. You know, that’s really funny because when I was going to school, I was actually at one point I was an architecture major. And then at another point I was a civil engineering major and somehow I ended up doing marketing. So kind of funny how we end up going down the path that we least expect.

Tanner C:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I was like, I’m going to be a dentist and then maybe get a CPA hated all of it.

We’re not a big company, but we’ve passed all the other small guys, so we’re in this weird spot.

Tanner S:

Yeah, I mean being an accountant sounds like just boring to me. Like there’s no way I could do that. So speaking of Rustica, what are some obstacles that you guys are facing right now in terms of marketing and sales?

Tanner C:

Yeah, so I mean, a big thing is that we’ve gotten to this point where the company has been around for about 15 years and they’ve done a really, really good job of establishing a brand. And we’ve grown to an extent. We invest pretty heavily on the paid marketing side. But our real, only competitors right now are big box stores. So when I look at auction reports or auction insights, it is Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Wayfair. And those are who we’re competing against now, and that’s who we have to bid against everything. And then if you look at the organic side where we’re making a ton of headway there, but we’ve gotten to the point now where we’re not a big company, but we’ve passed all the other small guys. And so we’re in this weird spot of, we have to spend a lot of money if we want to compete with them.

Tanner S:

Yeah. I mean, that’s crazy. I mean the competition’s steep, they have deep pockets. I’m sure they’re bidding really high, like you said, in the paid ad area. So you mentioned you guys do a lot of paid and organic. What channels do you focus on the most?

Tanner C:

Yeah, so we get a lot of traffic from Google. Our search ads are our most profitable, but the shopping ads bring in a lot of traffic and then Facebook converts really, really well for us which makes sense our product is highly visual. And so our campaigns on Facebook do really well. And we do some Bing, or I guess Microsoft, I dunno, whatever the name is this week for Microsoft ads we do some shopping and some search ads there. And then we have put a ton of effort in this year on the social side and in general, so not just paid social, but just regular organic social. And then we invest quite a bit on the organic side and have it’s, especially since this last algorithm update, we’ve seen, we’re being tested again above home Depot and Lowe’s, so with some key keywords we’re able to get that number one or number two ranking now, which is awesome that we’re able to do that. And we’ve seen a big lift in traffic since that’s happened.

Tanner S:

Yeah, I mean, that’s awesome. Congrats to you guys for doing that. That should make you guys feel really good. Yeah. So what would you say is your most important channel right now?

Tanner C:

Most important channel right now, I think is social. That’s where we’re growing the most. And it’s the one where I think there’s the most potential. Where as if you were to go to the dollars sense, it’s Google, that’s where we get a lot. But we’ve got Google down to, we’ve got a really good ROI there. We know what to expect and we can’t really spend a lot more to get the same results. So we’ve kind of got that figured out on, on the paid side, the social side and the organic side is where we have so much potential and can put in a lot more effort and see the biggest reward.

We’re really picky about who we do work with.

Tanner S:

Yeah. And that makes sense. So I’d like to take some time and talk about influencer marketing. I know you’ve guys have had a ton of success with it. Can you explain to us what your approach is there?

Tanner C:

Yeah, I mean, my number one thing there is I will not pay an influencer. That’s just, it cuts into my budget. Our products are really expensive to begin with. Like, I mean, just to ship a door to somebody costs us like $400 to $500. And then the materials and the doors. So, I mean, one influencer post does cost a couple thousand dollars for us in labor materials and shipping. So it’s a product that a lot of people are willing to do an exchange for in that way. But there are those that refuse and we just don’t work with them. We’ve been able to find success with those that are willing just to trade posts and images. As you can imagine, just to get an image for me, I have to build a door, install that door stage and then take a picture, right?

So it doesn’t really make sense where if we use an influencer, they get it in their house. We see the different settings. So it works for me in a couple of different ways. One we get a ton of product images and then two, we get the reach of them posting and the engagement that they have. So one, I don’t pay. That’s just something that I came in and realized this wouldn’t work if we had to pay everybody that we worked with. And then two we’re really picky about who we do work with. So we’re fortunate that we have awesome products that we get reached out to every day of people asking to do these collaborations. But we’re really picky with how do they engage with their audience? What are their, like the number of followers is probably like the least important thing because they could have a hundred thousand followers and get a hundred likes or less on a post, right? The audience isn’t engaged with them. So we’re looking for, is their follower base engaged with them? Do they reply to comments? Do they interact? Those are really important things for us. And then from there, you know, we look at the followers we look at and then does their style match our brand. Because if it doesn’t, then their audience isn’t who we’re looking for in anyways. So those are just a few things that we consider.

Tanner S:

Yeah. And that makes a lot of sense to me. Because what’s really important is how much reach they’re getting with a single post and engagement has lots to do with that. Right?

So specifically, what type of influencers do you guys usually seek out?

Tanner C:

Yeah, so I mean people with homes, this is an important part, right? It’s typically people that are building a home or they’re remodeling their house. And so they reach out because they have a need for a door. And what I’ve looked at those there’s some that like, yeah, they needed a door in that instance. They’re only gonna post about at one time, it’s not going to be in any other pictures and things like that. So a lot of the people we work with are interior designers or they’re bloggers or who post about projects they do in their house a lot where you see a lot of their house. So those ones work really well, but we have worked with some fashion influencers and in different things where we feel like it’s been a good match. But a big thing for us is it’s, it’s a family run company. So a lot of these followers they’ve got families, they show their family a lot and that’s really who we’re looking for. People that kind of share the same values that we do.

It was less than $150,000 in product to get that amount of reach that would have cost me $500,000 if I did it a different way.

Tanner S:

Awesome. So have you guys really looked into what kind of ROI you see on these influencer posts?

Tanner C:

Yeah, so I ran some numbers. So we got really organized with the influencer stuff starting about July of last year. And so we’ve been tracking since then and of all the posts that, that we were able to track, we had just over six million or impressions. Six million impressions from all of those posts kind of combined. So and I understanding that those impressions are different than what we would get with ads. But if we were to get that same number of impressions through ads, it would cost me over $500,000 in that time. What it ended up costing was this is our retail cost of the product. So this is not like our costs obviously is in the retail costs, but it was less than $150,000 in product to get that amount of reach that would have cost me $500,000 if I did it a different way.

Tanner S:

Wow. Yeah, that’s crazy. And you know, there’s no guarantee on what the conversion rate is on those impressions too, if you did go the paid-up route probably lower, right?

Tanner C:

Yeah. So, I mean, we do pretty well on paid ads. So I did look at that and one of the ways that I, and again, this is a pretty, I think, flawed way to look at it, but we converted about 5% on our Facebook ads and Instagram ads, which is pretty high. Like I said, we do really well on the paid side there. So I said, well, instead of a conversion, what if I counted that 5% as just a site visit? And then our site itself converts at 1% overall. And so I was like, well, of that 6 million, we’d end up with like 30,000 visitors, whatever. And if I ran this and then our average order value ended up equaling about $2 million in sales. If I ran it that way, again, there’s some flaws with that – but I was trying to give a dollar amount. So what if, like we were to measure this? So that’s what I did is instead of a conversion, I counted the conversion as a site visit at 5% of that 6 million. And then I cut it in half at 1.2, because I was like, that seems a little high, cut it in half and still did over a million dollars in sales is kind of a very loose guess on a conversion transaction amount.

Tanner S:

Yeah. That’s still pretty good. Right? Double your money. So is there a limited inventory of these influencers? Do you ever work with the same influencer more than once?

Tanner C:

Yeah, so really good question, because our product is unique in that. And it’s a problem we face on the customer side is, once you buy one, two, maybe three doors, you’re not going to buy another door for your house, right? It’s not something you just run to the supermarket to grab or quickly buy online. It’s a big process involved in it. So we don’t. If we see a repeat customer it’s usually seven to 10 years later. And so we have to focus on other things. So we do work with other influencers, or some influencers more than once. There is a limit to what we can do with these influencers. There’s a couple we’ve done two or three projects with. But they’re usually spread out by months because it’s when they’re ready to do their next room remodel or someone’s building a house.

Once they build that house, they’re not going to do that. But what our influencers do really well is they do tag us when they post another image. And that’s been really important for us. So when they are maybe not focusing on our door, but it’s in the background or it’s just in there, they do a good job at tagging that and the people we work with are, we’ve been really fortunate. They’ve been so nice and so willing to go kind of go the extra mile or to take extra pictures or to send us more images. And like I said, tag us when they’re not featuring us per se. So it’s worked out really well.

Tanner S:

Awesome. Yeah. I mean, you guys are killing it on the influencer side, so it’s been really awesome to really get into the details of that, what works and what hasn’t.

I think follower count is least important.

Tanner S:

That being said, what’s one piece of advice that you could give someone that’s looking to get started, influencer marketing. Did you guys make any mistakes?

Tanner C:

Yeah. I mean, one of the things that I would say to really look for is identify who your audience is and identify if you’re going to work with an influencer, do they match your audience? So that’s kind of the first thing. A lot of people just look at follower count and they don’t really look at well, does this actually match up before we’re trying to do? That I think is the easiest mistake to make, because it’s easy to look at. We get approached by people that have a million followers, but they want us to pay them a ton of money and then they really don’t match up with our brand. So while yeah, if I look at just the follower count, it’s easy to just jump on that and be like, okay, yeah, let’s work together.

But it’s identifying those small things of like what their audience is, do they engage and follower count, I think is least important. Another thing is don’t be afraid to work with somebody who has 5,000 or less followers. Their influence is actually really high because the people that follow them are closely connected to them. They either know them or they know somebody who knows them a lot of the times. So they take their word at a premium versus somebody who has a million followers. They are, it’s viewed. Now they know that they’re an influencer. They look at this as like, Oh, they’re just saying this because they got paid to do it. That’s one of the things that I think people are afraid to do. They’re like, well, I want to get the most for my money, but the influence that they have is actually pretty high.

Now we’ve found some really unique influencers that we’ve worked with that have crazy high engagement. They have a following that is like devoted, and those are our people that are great. We had one, I mean, she had 500,000 followers every time she posts a picture gets 10,000 likes or more. And we’ve sold several doors just from her. But that I think is the exception. That doesn’t happen a lot when people have large followings. But if their audience is very engaged in something that they’re doing it does have hold more value than just, you know, all those followers. So I think something to really look at is that 10,000 or less followers influencer could be really powerful. Especially on the e-commerce side, if you’re selling a product that people are nervous to pull the trigger on, if they get somebody on there that they look to as a trusted person that says, Hey, this is a great product, they’re more likely to buy and that influence has more of a hold for those smaller followers.

Tanner S:

Yeah. I would agree with that. Another thing is those accounts with fewer followers are probably more likely to accept a free product over getting paid, right?

Tanner C:

Yeah, absolutely. So a lot of those they’re just excited to be a part of something like that and to get that free product. And a lot of what we do as well, that’s worked, and I think that this is a mistake that we made to begin with that we’ve corrected is, having a program set up to where their followers can get a benefit. So we have a referral program where each influencer we work with has a specific code that will work at any time and a customer can use that code to get 15% off. And having that extra step in place, I think has helped it be a little bit more successful. Those influences really value that and they want to give something to their followers. They share that quite a bit and it works really well. And I see that a lot with those with smaller followings, is they are really excited about it. And then they share that discount code and their followers are really likely to use that.

Those companies that can tell a story are those that are going to be the most successful.

Tanner S:

Yeah.  That’s awesome. And that’s great advice. So Tanner, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this today. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you think might benefit the audience?

Tanner C:

You know, one thing I’ve been talking a lot about and thinking a lot about lately is it really comes down to looking at what you’re doing overall with marketing. And this is for social. You use social lots to do this, but I think, especially this year, moving forward, those companies that can tell a story are those that are going to be the most successful. So there’s marketing where you’ve got all your channels, you’ve got promos, you’ve got these things, but the companies that are able to effectively tell a story that, that gets people to react and feel a certain way are those that are going to be highly successful. So really looking at the content you’re creating and you know, what does your brand stand for? What are you trying to do? And how can you tell people about that and get them to feel what you want them to feel?

And so we’ve invested a lot on the social side this year, buying video equipment and things like that, to really help us tell this story. And that’s something that those companies that are like, well, how are we gonna, you know, COVID has changed a lot of things. How are we going to be successful this year? And it’s learning how to tell that story effectively. And social can be a really big part of that. But that should go into your email. It should go into your promotions. That should go into everything. This story of what your brand stands for is essentially what people are going to align themselves with those brands that are more likely to purchase now more than ever, I think.

Tanner S:

Yeah. I mean, no question storytelling and portraying what your brand stands for is really how you get engagement in a cold following, as opposed to just posting links to your product pages or promotions on your channels all day long obviously doesn’t work.

So Tanner, what’s a good way for everyone listening to get in contact with you?

Tanner C:

Yeah. I’m on LinkedIn, just Tanner Charlesworth. I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. It’s something that I started kind of last year really been enjoying the engagement that’s happened on LinkedIn over the last few months. And then Instagram, I’m just @tworth33 on Instagram. I interact with a lot of people on there as well. So those are the easiest ways to get ahold of me.

Tanner S:

Awesome. Well, yeah, I follow Tanner on LinkedIn. He posted some great content and we’ll also link up your website in the show notes. Everyone go by a door!

Tanner C:

Yes, please do. And let me know, I’ll get you a discount code.

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