How Fashion Start-ups can work with Influencers: Interview with Lenka Gourdie
Selling online does not need to be very expensive or hard work. It should be fun, easy and effective! It is like driving a car, once you master the skill, it becomes easier. You only need to watch out for other cars and follow set rules. The first ride is the most scary.. Lenka Gourdie, CEO at Sale Servant
We stole Lenka Gourdie away from her busy routine to talk to us about Influencer Marketing. Check out her take on how start-up and emerging fashion brands can work with Online Influencers to boost their sales and brand awareness.
Lenka has over 15 years of international sales and marketing experience from a variety of industries with specialization in fashion and working with small businesses. Lenka has experience in working with small businesses as a coach and also in her role at Kingston University where she was responsible for commercialization.
1. Pulkit: Please tell us about yourself.
Lenka: I am the Co-founder of Sale Servant & a handbag destination BagServant.co.uk. I love working with SMEs in fashion, beauty and lifestyle as well as on- publishers and connecting them together. Having had 15 years international sales and marketing experience and headhunting with over 3 years digital marketing experience, I love sharing my knowledge and helping small brands to grow. I love connecting people, brands and being creative to help companies to come up with creative solutions to reach out to new target audiences and engage their customers.
2. Pulkit: Great. Please tell us in your words, what is Influencer Marketing?
Lenka: A charismatic/inspiring person/ leader in their area of expertise to be able to influence and inspire others & motivate others to do things. I actually believe that not always big influencers are the only way. It is a combination of things – influencers in my eyes could be a group of brand ambassadors. If you create a trusted group of small influencers you can achieve bigger things too.
3. Pulkit: So is it a marketing channel that’s only for big brands with deep pockets?
Lenka: To certain extend yes as big players come with the price. However, I do believe that a brand with the right product can reach out to the right influencers or can create brand ambassadors to create a buzz about their products.
4. Pulkit: Do you think all bigger brands use Influencer Marketing these days?
Lenka: I do believe so. I also believe that as large brands have an integrated solution in place, by working with influencers – they can see big results. It is a part of any marketing strategy. What is the biggest challenge you think Start-ups face while working with Influencers?
Being noticed and have the budget to spread the message. I have noticed that some start up in fashion have very high expectations in terms of results, they think if they reach out to 1 or 2 key influencers, it will take their business to the next level. From my experience, it is a combination of steps/actions they need to take to be noticed and grow. Again using creative marketing, engage a group of small influencers may be a better solution to start up in fashion without huge financial backup.
5. Pulkit: Your platform is a marketplace where brands can connect with online publishers, how does it work and what are the ways of working together?
Lenka: For brands to drive enough traffic to sell, they need to have enough online engagement (the quality vs quantity). We provide them with the tools and services to find the best publishers to work with. Each brand can find the best publishers to match their budget, target audience and brand values. As a brand approaching a publisher, just to mention a few, they can either work via paid promotions, in exchange for a product, affiliate marketing or a combination of all.
6. Pulkit: OK, so your platform uses an affiliate marketing model so that a brand only pays for a real sale. How much monthly budget do you think a brand should have?
Lenka: Having worked with publishers by using affiliate marketing, brands pay when they sell. However, with growing demand for content marketing, lots of big publishers will be still asking for additional up-front payment. When it comes to budget, we suggest that each brands identifies a budget from the day one, this way, they can select the best publishers & campaigns to achieve their commercial objectives.
Large brands spend £100k+, more expensive product you need a higher budget. Each brand needs to have realistic expectations when they are on a small budget.
7. Pulkit: Realistically, what kind of ROI should they expect?
Lenka: As for affiliate marketing, a well managed programme brings increased in sales by 25% – however, the product needs to be right, their website optimised for conversion etc.
8. Pulkit: In our pre-interview discussion, you mentioned that your platform helps brands get instant feedback whether their products are really that great. Please tell us more about it.
Lenka: Affiliate marketing can be used as a tool to find out the traction in the market. Firstly, brands will get an immediate feedback if publishers like their product/products, if they do – which one is the best seller. Also, once publishers write about them, they can see the clicks through.
For example – I have a Polyvore profile – a handbag from one of our designer Joanna Maxham gets shared daily, the same bag gets shared on our product discovery tool too. This is offering great feedback for Joanna to understand what the market likes
[quote]I love working with emerging designers and small brands. I feel that each time I work and speak with them we both learn something from each other.[/quote]
9. Pulkit: Let’s talk little bit about ethics. Do you think paying these publishers for product reviews is ethical?
Lenka: Absolutely. Everybody is running a business and we live in a commercial world. I don’t have problems with paid promotions. I don’t like to hear that affiliate marketing is unethical for the same reasons.
Pulkit: I second that thought. When we look at TV commercials, we know that these celebs are paid for promoting these products but still we buy them. Let’s go to our next question.
10. So how do you find all these publishers and what are the things you look for while recruiting these publishers?
We are using a variety of marketing tactics to attract them including social media. We make sure that they are not spammers apart from that we don’t have a criterion. However, we do have a VIP club for credible publishers & high performing publishers. For this we have certain criteria and it is based on our algorithm
11. Pulkit: Which demographics are you targeting currently?
Lenka: We work with fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands & publishers who want to work with these brands globally.
12. Pulkit: Alright. I have been longing to ask you – Why did name your platform Saleservant?
Lenka: We have started with BagServant – we wanted to keep it in our family. I believe that we help brands to sell more! I have a vision for a marketing/PR campaign for this.
13. Pulkit: Which Social Media Channels can brands target with your marketplace?
Lenka: Our publishers can share the tracking links to all social media – Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube. But lots of bloggers are creating collages on Polyvore and using it for Tumblr.
14. Pulkit: In the paid promotion model, please share few examples of ways how brands can work with publishers to promote their products or brand?
Lenka: There are still lots of different ways starting from sponsoring a contest on Polyvore, Tumblr, to writing a bespoke post called sponsored posts which is designed to get across a pre-agreed content getting across key messages.
15. Pulkit: Great! It was a pleasure interviewing you Lenka. Your responses were really insightful and I hope our readers have a better idea of how they can better leverage Social Media with Influencers and Affiliate Marketing. I thank you for your time and wish you all the best.
Lenka: Thanks for having me Pulkit!
Lenka will be happy to answer any additional questions you may have about Influencer Marketing for Start-ups. Please feel free to post your questions in the comment section below. Or you can reach Lanka directly via. Twitter at @saleservant or @Lenka_Gourdie.
I am the Founder at ILoveFashionRetail, where we design & develop e-commerce websites & mobile apps for fashion retailers. We also help fashion brands grow their online sales & traffic. My essays are featured at Forbes, Moz, Fairchild, FIT and more. Contact me.