Building an influencer marketing program ft


Abbey Schoenberg of Fancy (Inbound Success, Ep. 189)

Influencer marketing is a hot topic amongst marketers, but what does it take to structure an influencer marketing program that will drive real results?

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Director of Marketing Abbey Schoenberg shares her approach to building influencer marketing programs that drive double digit results for brands like Oakley, Contiki and Fancy. is the world's best social commerce platform, connecting over 10M users directly to the most unique creators available. 

From launching new stores and product lines at Forever 21 to leading the global digital brand team at Oakley, to driving a direct-to-consumer shift and refocus to brand-building at Contiki, Abbey is an expert in B2B and B2C marketing.

Check out the full episode, or read the transcript below, to learn exactly how Abbey has used influencer marketing to drive brand awareness and pipeline.

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Abbey and Kathleen recording this episode
Kathleen (00:00): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. I'm your host Kathleen Booth and today my guest is Abbey Schoenberg, who is the Director of Marketing at Welcome to the podcast, Abbey.

Abbey (00:23): Hi, thanks for having me. I'm super excited to be here.

Kathleen (00:26): Tell me a little bit about and your background and what you do there.

Abbey (00:33): Yeah, amazing. So I've been with Fancy for about seven months. So I'm relatively new to the Fancy team, but it's been an exciting seven months with a lot of change and progress for what we're working on within the organization. So for those of you that don't know, Fancy is an online marketplace we source and curate interesting and unique brands from around the world.

We bet each of them to make sure that there's a high level of quality and, you know, innovation to the products that we put on our website, which I think gives it a little extra level of curation. And we basically bring together an audience that is interested in those types of products. So you can find anything from home decor, to kitchen essentials, to face oils and new footwear and different things like that.

Abbey (01:18): So we have a really wide selection of products on, on the sites but they all kind of have this underlying quality of something, just a little more unique in inherent quality. So that's a little bit about Fancy. As I mentioned, I've been there for about seven months. My, my history has been kind of in multi-industry I've been in travel, like been in retail. I've been in other e-commerce brands, I've been in sports.

So I've kind of moved an interesting path through my career but always very focused on direct consumer, always very focused on consumer marketing building brands and, you know, both in the traditional and the digital spaces.

So from Forever 21 to Oakley, to Contiki, it's kind of been an interesting path for myself. And now landing in a kind of true e-commerce marketplace space, which has been such an incredible journey.

Kathleen (02:08): Yeah. I love that. And I love Fancy sounds like a great site. I now want to go online and go shopping. I mean, it's, it's sort of solving a pain point because it is hard to, I feel like it's hard to find really interesting unique products and I like the fact that you sourced them from all different places.

Abbey (02:26): Yeah. And you know, I think with the surge of direct to consumer, there's so much option and you don't really know what to trust when you get served a million ads on Instagram or a billion ads in on Facebook, or, you know, you're just unsure of what you're getting.

I think we're trying to solve a bit of a problem by sourcing all of those and bringing them into the platform, but then still giving you the assurance that a big brand is sitting behind it. So, you know, you can return it if it doesn't work or, you know, you're going to get it shifted. It's going to arrive, which is sometimes questionable when you buy some at a funky step off.

Kathleen (02:55): Yeah. Or if it's even going to look like what you saw in the picture, because there's how many stories of dresses. I feel like dresses are a particularly egregious area in e-commerce where it looks fantastic of the picture and it costs $29 and it shows up and it's like, nothing. Like what you saw online.

Abbey (03:12): It was a huge victim of that. I had seen the dress millions of times. I was like, I'm just going to do it. I'm going to pull the trigger. It took, took like three months to get to me. And then I pulled it out of the bag and it was like a miniature. So I was like, I'm not going to try to return it.

Kathleen (03:25): I actually have a funny story about this. I'll digress for a second. So my son turned 14 in the fall and my parents were getting him a present. And my dad saw he was targeted on Facebook with an ad. And it was an ad. You may have even seen it because it was funny. When he told me about it, I was like, I saw that ad too. It was an ad for this like circular shaped rug. And the rug makes it look like, like you're spiraling down a black hole and he was all excited. He's like, I think, I think he's really gonna like this.

He ordered it first. He ordered it and then it never came. So then he called the company and he's like, I want to cancel my order. It never came, but you charged me for it. And they were like, no, no, no. Okay. We'll resend it. So they resend it. He gets to him. And what looked like a five by eight rug or like a big rug on, on Facebook turns out to be this little two foot by two foot. And it's not even a rug. It's like a foam pad.

Abbey (04:21): It was so funny.

Kathleen (04:21): We actually, like, we had so much fun taking pictures of my son holding this little foam pad that was supposed to be a giant rug and like pretending to get sucked into the black hole because it was just so absurd. Anyway, that is my that is my Facebook ad targeting misleading product story. Yes. but I, but I'm digressing.

So you guys you're, you are responsible for marketing. And one of the things that you guys have done is use ambassadors to help with your marketing. And I think this is something that you hear marketers talk about a lot. And I think there's a lot of interest in it, but not a lot of marketers have been able to do it successfully. And so I'm really interested for you to kind of break down exactly what your ambassador program looks like and what you think it takes to build a successful one.

Abbey (05:10): Yeah, of course. We're working on our ambassador program right now for Fancy. Having only been there for a few months, but I've pulled together ambassador programs at two of my other roles pretty successfully. So we've built a woman's ambassador program while I was at Oakley. And then we built a travel ambassador program while I was at Contiki.

And, you know, I think when going into how we start to roll with ambassadors, I think the most important thing is you have to look at them slightly different than you would look at an influencer relationship. And you have to look at them in the way of how they engage with the community in general, not just online or socially, but how they kind of participate in, have an organic and authentic relationship with their audience.

And I think that's the biggest hiccup that I've, you know, fallen into for sure. But then how do you kind of move and start to build a program of people that are really going to be advocates for the brand are really going to be behind. It are going to do, you know, do their best to shine you in a, in a good light, but also be really authentic to their audience. And I think that that's the biggest hurdle that you have to work towards when you're working on these ambassador programs.

Kathleen (06:17): Now you mentioned you, I'm really glad that you started the way you did because you mentioned influencers and then ambassadors, and there is a difference between the two. So can you kind of explain how you see the differences?

Abbey (06:28): Yeah, I look at, so sometimes I look at influencers as a speeding pool into an ambassador. So I look at an influencer is someone that I'm going to test things out with someone that has strong reach someone who has, you know, on the surface level shows engagement within, you know, whatever channel you're running with them, whether it's YouTube or Instagram or Facebook, or, you know, some other realm, which, you know, there is a million ways that you can engage with influencers.

And then I think the next step is taking them towards more of an advocacy role, which is where I point ambassadors. And that's something where you are building a mutual benefit between both where you're building a relationship. That's not just post this for this. It's about bringing them into the fold and really having them involved in the progress and the process of how we communicate the brand to their audience and what we want to focus on with their audience.

Abbey (07:15): And how do we bring them into the fold, even just beyond posting, like how are we bringing them into product development? How are we bringing them into the feedback loops within the organization?

So the way I look at it, as, you know, influencers tend to fall for me in a little bit more of a pay to play the testing realm, like which type of influencers are going to do well for this particular brand or this particular product. And then using that as kind of the pool to seed into an ambassador program, that's really built to be an extension of the brand family. If that makes sense.

Kathleen (07:45): Yeah, that does. So, so you say you're building out a new program now and you've done this a couple of times before, so I would love, I have a feeling, many of the people listening, haven't done it. And I like that you're kind of in the thick of it. So can you talk through like your mental and strategic process of like, okay, I know I want to do this. How do you start to put some meat on the bones there?

Abbey (08:06): Yeah, I mean, I think the very, very first thing I do in any program I'm putting together is think about the value proposition. So what am I going to ask these individuals to do for me on a regular basis and what am I going to do for them? And I think that's going to help you set up how you recruit what that process looks like. What are you looking for them from a monthly or quarterly perspective to help you get the plan together? Because I think where a lot of companies fall is they think, you know, okay, well, I'm just going to put a contract together, pay them a thousand dollars a quarter and expect them to do 10 posts. That's fine. Like there that I put that a little bit more in an influencer bucket, but I think if you really want to build these relationships, you have to have this broader value proposition.

Abbey (08:45): So right now, obviously what we're looking at is, you know, how do we bring them in and have them part of product sourcing? How do we bring them in and have them part of product testing? Like, do we build those different funnels and streams so that when they're talking to their audiences and advocate for the brand, they can do it really authentically and say like, I've tried this. I was part of this process.

I believe in this because I understand why they're doing it versus here's a brief of messaging. Can you please take this out and try to explore it with your follower, your base to see if it resonates? So I think that's always where I start and every I'll take that back. Probably the first ambassador program I did not start there.

I learned second I've started in that kind of process of how am I going to make this as mutually beneficial, beneficial to each of us within and outside of kind of the financials right within like, how are they going to get paid? How are we going to make this like monetarily worth it for them, but also how am I going to make them feel like I care about them as part of this team and part of this family. So I think that's always where I start.

Kathleen (09:49): So now you've done this before and you said sometimes one, one time, your first time you didn't do it that way, but subsequently you've done it. And you've used that approach. Are you able to share any examples of like from your previous companies of how you've put together those relationships so that they are win-win and they really work?

Abbey (10:05): Yeah, I think you have to. So I'll kind of talk about the Contiki one that I put together just because it's a bit was a bit more flushed through and we activated for a bit, a bit longer term on it. I think we, you, there's a point where you, you know, think about the value proposition in general saying, okay, I want to be able to provide additional ad hoc opportunities for them to travel. I want them to be able to earn free travel.

I want them to be able to participate in product brainstorming and so kind of setting those up. And then as we started to get influencers in, we started to identify which ones would fit well into which pocket, if that makes sense. It doesn't mean you have to have each influencer ambassador doing each of those things. It's about how you kind of navigate each of their different roles.

Abbey (10:47): So for one example, we had a girl, her name was Patricia and she was just a great talker on camera. She just knew what to say. She was very eloquent, were like, we can really use her in, you know, having a more real and human person, explain these trips and explain this in a real, more authentic level, versus having someone on staff who's a bit more robotic or really what we never want it to go down and do was hire outside individuals who potentially had never traveled on the trips.

So we're like, let's take her and let's get her into the mix on, you know, doing some testimonials, asking her questions, letting others, ask her questions and having her feedback to them. So I think that that a bit of is about, you know, defining who these ambassadors are defining the different kind of tiers and levels that the ambassadors will roll into, whether it's okay.

Abbey (11:37): I want a couple of photographers. I want, you know, a couple of really strong spokespeople. I want a few on YouTube. I want someone that's, you know, really crafty and then starting to build each of their paths independently. It's a lot of work. I will say that it does take bandwidth to manage these types of programs.

And I've been lucky to have, you know, individuals and teams that have been able to focus on them a bit, always within a shared goal. But I think it's starting to one understand, okay, here are the pillars of the values that I want to be able to provide back and continue with the perfect example of like, let me find ways to get these kids that love to travel, to travel more. And that was a huge motivator for them.

But then for me, making sure that I had a business objective to tidy each of those travel opportunities, whether it was sending someone to Italy for testimonial or sending someone, you know, to be a spokesperson for us with the tourism board or doing different things, just so that they had opportunities based off their own skills and strengths.

Abbey (12:33): And I think that that's important when you think, okay, I started with this influencer program and now I've gotten to know these individuals and I know the strengths before you start to move them into this ambassadorship.

Kathleen (12:44): So now I have a ton of questions. Okay. My, yeah, my first one is I like how you broke that down, because you talked about like, in your Contiki example, having some people who are strong on YouTube, having somebody photographers, et cetera. So like, let's say you do identify these different categories of people that you're looking to pull in. How do you then go find the actual individuals? Like what's that research process look like?

Abbey (13:10): Yeah. So a bit of it, it's kind of been twofold in a lot of scenarios, so there's some of it that we'll source directly. So if I know, I want to make sure I have one, you know, videographer that has a strong YouTube channel. I'll probably go and try to source that myself and start to have those conversations.

But I've also used the power of media to just basically help with calls to action. So having other ambassadors make recommendations for new ambassadors, having a kind of ongoing campaign that says, Hey, are you interested in joining this program?

And then having an evaluation process for getting people on board to it? I think that there is this daunting feeling that every single person you bring in, you have to go out and source or use an agency to go find these, these influencers that have value and credibility, but you would be surprised on how much people are willing to come to you.

Abbey (13:58): And on occasion, I feel like the people that are coming to you directly have a little more enthusiastic about the brand to start with. So in, I would say both my Oakley and Contiki experiences, we actually put a call to action out to our audience. So people that were already friends of the brand who had already purchased the product, who knew about us, you'll be surprised with how many influencers actually probably sit within your own database. So we start there and then, you know, we start posting about it on social.

We see who can come to us and we have application processes and forms you fill out so we can understand how you fit into the mix so we can make sure, Hey, we're looking for five new tubers. Let's filter by anyone that submitted that said they have a YouTube channel and that doesn't always work. And sometimes you're always going to have to go out and find and fill the gaps in the holes by sourcing yourself, which does take time and can be exhausting.

But at the same time, it can you balance out that work a little bit by just saying, Hey, if you're interested in joining this, come join it with us and taking the time to evaluate it. Then on Hulu, the submissions come from on the back end.

Kathleen (15:01): And that evaluation what are the, what's the criteria you're using? Are you just looking at like audience size? It sounds like with your Contiki girl, it was also just her presence. What, what, what are the factors that play into who you choose?

Abbey (15:12): So a big thing I have always focused on with our ambassador programs has been some connection to a community. So I don't, I'm not a big fan of you have to have over 50,000 followers. I don't necessarily think that makes you the strongest ambassador. What I care about is that you have some authentic connection.

So, you know, one thing we found, particularly at Contiki and at Oakley was okay, this person has 10,000 followers or 5,000 followers. We try to stick to the 10,000. So we get the swipe up on Instagram, but if we have something, someone that's a little lower, but they come out and say, Hey, I'm involved in Greek life. I play sports.

I am belong to these clubs. I'm very engaged in this type of community. We've found that we can take some of that engagement even offline and see better success with someone who has an authentic tie to a community pool versus just worrying so much about the number.

Abbey (16:04): So that's always been something I keep in the back of my head and something I've always ingrained in my team is don't get obsessed with the count, look and read about their profile, read about how they're engaging, what community they participate in. Do they have an outlet even outside of their social channel?

And it was interesting and I'll use Contiki. It's just the most fresh, probably while I'm talking about it. The most an example of that was we had a student that was, you know, decent following probably 15,000 followers. So, you know, would fall into the kind of that micro nano influencer space, but she was really active on her, on her campus community. And she was our best seller because her audience trusted her for audience knew her.

So she had this big audience because they were people who knew her from school or knew her from around, not just these random people that started to follow her. So her trust level was higher. So we saw her outperform individuals with hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers.

So I think that that's always been a criteria that we've put a lot of pressure on is how were they participating in what authentic community do they belong to? Because you can get really lost in the numbers. And sometimes it's just not going to translate,

Kathleen (17:14): Do you ever work with somebody for whom it's their first time participating in a program like this? And, and if you do, I would guess that there's some education and training that you need to do for them as to like how to do it. I don't know. I mean, do you, or do you not just come naturally to them?

Abbey (17:32): No, it doesn't come naturally to them. We, I would say in every program there's has always been someone that's relatively new. That's maybe done a poster too for a brand or, you know, participated at a really small level, but has not necessarily had like a contractor, a longterm relationship with, with the partner training is critical and in both, in all kinds of three scenarios and what we're setting up for Fancy now as well, there is a physical and in-person training exercise that we do with these ambassadors.

So, you know, continue, it was very easy because travel was our things to bring people together to travel was very simple. But you know, in, at Oakley, we just had a weekend where we brought everyone together, they got to inter mix and mingle. They met the team, which I think is really, really important to put a face to the team, managing the program.

Abbey (18:17): Cause once you start to show your real person and see that they're a real person, the communication improves but all of those are a hundred percent focused on brand education. What we expect, how you can engage, you know, what to talk about, even how to engage with the others within the community, which has been a really interesting benefit of some of these programs and seeing friendships foster between our ambassadors.

So then they start chatting about the brand between, between different influencers ambassadors. And you just start to see this rub up in this really organic relationship forum, but training, I think, expecting someone to just kind of come in and read a pamphlet or know what to do, just because you kind of stamp them as an ambassador is, is unlikely.

I think the training access is definitely a critical piece of it and something that should be part of that initial kind of value proposition planning at the beginning of, you know, what could benefit can I give this individual app start even it's this opportunity to come and talk with other people in the program, talk with staff, like meet product developers. And even if it's just bringing them to your headquarters for, you know, two days or a day, depending on if you localize or you want to work a little bit more nationally, but I think that's a really critical piece and it was a great question.

Kathleen (19:25): Are you still going to be able to do in person training with the world that we currently live in? Or do you have a plan B?

Abbey (19:31): We have a plan B. I mean, I think there's virtual training. I think there's kind of the carrot that will always dangle in the sense that we'll want to get back to in-person training and have that opportunity to meet face to face. But we won't necessarily stall the program because we can't necessarily can't have that in-person event or in-person experience.

So I think we were optimistic for one we're planning to kind of get things off the ground at Fancy for kind of a opportunity for in-person obviously we'll stay domestic. It's not going to be this fun travel experience, like something like we did at Contiki. But I think that in the meantime, brands can still make a lot of progress by hosting something fun and interactive. I think what you want to make sure to do is again, think about these individuals.

They're excited. They're wanting to join to not make things so stale and to figure out a way to make things engaging and fun in a zoom experience, whether that's sending them a box to, you know, unwrap like live on the call or whether that's bringing on someone into the meeting that has some sort of influence whether it's, you know, your CEO or if you have endorsers for the brand that have some sort of, you know, equity or clout within the community, bringing them, those people in just to give it something.

Abbey (20:43): So they don't feel like they're on, you know, a work onboarding call to, to say the least.

Kathleen (20:48): Now once you've, once you've identified your people, obviously you talked earlier about how there's the whole contractual aspect of this there's what are you going to give me and what are you going to get for it? Are there Stan, like norms or standards that you use to determine, you know, like I don't even know.

I know in the influencer world, there's a lot of standards. Like if you have this many followers, then, you know, there's, this is probably what we'll pay you and how does it work in the ambassador world?

Abbey (21:16): So I think the ambassadors, the way we look at it as in the ambassador spaces, we obviously have additional benefits. So there's, you know, perks and rewards for completing a task or being a part of the program.

So whether that's, you know, dislike lifetime, lifetime discounts or commission kickbacks on anything that you sell or, you know, once you hit a certain threshold, the opportunity to earn something I think is ways that we supplement some of that, that program. And I think we also have, I've always added in like an annual kind of get together that always has incentivizing, like stay engaged, continue to post, like, make sure you're participating in this program.

Then you can join, you know, maybe the next class, that code ambassadors that comes in and join us on this, you know, fun onboarding experience, whether that be that weekend a week or whatever you do.

Abbey (22:02): So I've always tried to handle kind of a little non-monetary carrots to keep the motivated and in a way that they are no, it's something fun. That's coming down the pipeline. Do we pay them for sure. We pay them via commission. We will usually contractually pay certain people that you know, are doing a little bit more heavy production for us.

So in the YouTube space, or if we're asking videographers and photographers to come in and do work for us, we obviously pay them. You know, we're not going to ask them to do their craft for free. So it also opens up those doors of like, Hey, this is also an opportunity for you to continue to expand where you are and where you're going. Those are things that we don't necessarily put in the contract, the rewards and travel perks and those types of things are.

Abbey (22:46): But I think the big difference is it's always crafted in a way that says the more you engage, the more you're going to get, but we're not necessarily going to pay you for every engagement you for a minimum, we'll pay you, you know, 500 bucks to do a minimum amount of postings.

But if you do the more you do the more you're going to get out of this. And again, it's just that mutual benefit. So they see like, Hey, I went above and beyond. And it actually was worthwhile for me versus I went above and beyond and they still just pay me what they paid me.

Kathleen (23:14): Now, you mentioned paying, in some cases, paying people, a commission based on sales, that they are able to help generate. How do you track that?

Abbey (23:23): So Fancy, we track it with an affiliate link. So it's just a system that we've built internally with our developers. Contiki. We did it through a promo code Oakley, since it was so long ago, it was a little bit, a little funky.

So I won't use that one as an example, but I would say promo codes or affiliate links has been the best way for us to do it. I know there's other, that we've looked into this for management, like, you know, brand ambassador or brand ambassador app that, you know, have different ways of monitoring and tracking performance even beyond just a sales level.

So those are things that we're looking at bringing on board for Fancy in addition, just because we obviously want to continue to reward at a higher level for, you know, posting or social engagements and things like that.

Abbey (24:07): So there are different apps and partners that you can bring in to help you track it. The promo code is maybe not the methodology you want to go down, which is fair. I've definitely been part of companies that don't want to discount and then affiliate links.

Some people can do it, some people can, but I think that there are other tools and I kind of just mentioned two companies that we've looked into that I think are really interesting in this space that really do help with the tracking and the evaluation of like success in your programs that can help you progressed and, and keep people incentivized.

Kathleen (24:38): So I have a, I have a, kind of a selfish question. This is, this is me doing research for my day job. If you use promo codes, how do you know when somebody converts on that code that it's not coming from Honey or CapitalOne Shopping, or one of these other extensions that scrapes and injects codes.

Abbey (25:01): So we tend to change our promo codes. We tend to change quarterly just to make sure we keep track of those types of things that we also always had an affiliate partner, which helps us kind of identify some of that promo code leakage that we want to make sure we stay on top of it and monitor and do those types of things.

And there's also really interesting opportunities where our ambassadors have gotten smart. We had one ambassador who was super, super integrated into Reddit. So he got into a travel forum and said, Hey, if you want to travel to use my code, like, and we saw sales from it.

And I was actually really happy about that because it would have been sales that we wouldn't have gotten if he didn't see it out and kind of let his code leak beyond just like a friends and family thing, affiliate, obviously you, you don't necessarily want the scraping happening.

So you're getting like misleading information, right? Exactly. But we're not necessarily against our ambassadors, finding ways to mass promote their promos. But I think that that's, you know, incentivizes them where we don't penalize. Like, Hey, you found a really interesting way. You were able to get our brand into Reddit in a really authentic way with that community being very, very suspect of brands being participants.

Kathleen (26:06): Yes, it's a land, it's a land field landmine field, a field of landmines.

Abbey (26:11): Landlines, for sure. So finding a way that we were able to kind of get ourselves authentically and there, we were really proud of him for doing that. And we, you know, rewarded him and use, you know, let others know like, Hey, this is something guidance name was Archie. He's doing, and he's seeing success success with it.

So feel free to like find these interesting opportunities. But I think when you have an affiliate partner, we obviously share codes with them that we do not want ending up on, on our affiliate networks. We keep an eye on, you know, usage, obviously if someone's cadencing five orders a week, and then all of a sudden they're at 50 orders a week. We've flagged that. And we're like, okay, something's happening here? And we'll start to dig into it.

But generally we just try to change their promo codes as frequently as we can. So usually quarterly is what we do. Some people prefer not to go down those paths because they connect them to old YouTube videos and they want obviously the views to continue to rack up. And they know that there's residual and they don't want to constantly be changing.

So we do make exceptions in certain situations where we try to keep them on long-term and then just monitor. So it is a risk. There's, it's just how much you're willing to take that risk. And I guess the level of discount you're offering.

Kathleen (27:14): Yeah. That makes sense. All right. So shifting gears. You've done this a couple of times. Can you talk me through just impact, like, you know, obviously that's at the end of the day, what all of my listeners as marketers care about, like what impact does this have on the business? I would love to hear some, some stories that from your experience.

Abbey (27:34): Yeah. I mean, I'll start, you know, back at, back in the Oakley days we launched the ambassador program as part of the launch for kind of our women's branding campaign. So we always had some women's product, but it's such a masculine brand. It's known for men's product. We were really having a hard time breakthrough.

And so the theory and the, and the logic was like, well, let's get women who other women athlete connect with and get them to talk about Oakley and see if we can get some, some traction there. And, you know, this one was a little bit harder because we didn't have as much kind of direct attribution tools set up to our ambassador program.

But that year that we did this really focus campaign and we continued the campaign for years until I left and kind of has trickled out since then and moved into more sports marketing relationships.

Abbey (28:20): But we saw double digit growth. And I think we attribute a lot of that to authentic representation of our products, people seeing other women that they respect and care about wearing the products.

So we definitely saw some really good traction, I will say there was a conjunction with media and spend and things like that that, you know, also helped, but we were very surprised by the volume of increased during that period that we saw from a sales perspective, Contiki was much more direct.

By the time I left Contiki, when we were still, obviously the program is still running, it was accounting for about 10% of all of our sales and all of our revenue which was really impressive for us because we've been, you know, we had never had the program before. It was literally in market for a year before it took that type of share, like that type of share from our other channels.

Abbey (29:10): And it was net new. It was, you know, generally new customers coming in yet. Occasionally you'd see a repeat, but generally it was all new travelers for the brand. We also saw, even with the commissions, we were paying out and with the Burkes and benefits, we were kind of paying it at the end of the pay I'm air, quoting a look can see that, but we were paying the, the ambassadors, a smaller commission than we were paying our travel agents.

And they were generating more sales at this point than a travel agent community. So the Contiki one was a major success story. I think it was one that we launched it in the U S which was a team I oversaw from a marketing perspective. And as unfortunately COVID has taken quite the random.

Kathleen (29:54): I was going to say that industry has been hit so hard.

Abbey (29:57): So hard. So kind of during those right before kind of all of that kind of hit the fan, we were starting to roll it out globally as well because of its success. So it was a program that I would say had upfront costs. Of course, I think, you know, between travel and building incentives and any contractual agreements, there was upfront costs, but it was at the end of the day, it ended up being our lowest CPA channel, even calculating all of those upfront costs into it being a major revenue source for us.

When we think about the mix of where our sales was coming from, improving that these ambassadors in this kind of social seller was, you know, could compete with the traditional sales person could compete with the traditional sales channel. And I think that was really eye opening because the travel industry can, in some of those respects be very, very traditional.

Kathleen (30:43): Yeah. That's so true. So what advice would you have for somebody who's kind of starting now, or like knowing what, you know, what would you do differently?

Abbey (30:55): You know, what would I do differently? I think start small. I think there is an under people under estimate the importance of the relationship that you have with the ambassadors. And I think trying to jump in and do too many at once. You're never going to create that relationship.

And I've been very lucky in the sense that I have, you know, the women that I worked with for the Oakley women's campaign and the Contiki ambassadors I've worked for for travel that I've created relationships with. And I'm pulling some of the really good ones into, into the Fancy program because I've built those connections in those relationships.

But if you try to jump too far and say, I'm going to immediately be with 50, unless you have a team of five, that's going to kind of divide and conquer management and relationship handling. You're just going to end up in a kind of hamster wheel of kind of attrition of the ambassadors.

Abbey (31:43): You're not going to see the relationships build, and it's going to be really hard to start to understand the value. Each of them will want out of the program to build something that eventually you can scale, but those learnings you get from some of those initial people you bring into the program are really, really powerful. So I would say that's probably the biggest learning is I think that there is especially from management and I get it all the time. Like, well, if you think you can do this with 10, why don't we just do 50?

And that's always a hard, you know, when they're throwing extra money at it and they're saying we can do it, but I think unless you have the team to manage and relationship build with these influencers and these, I call them influencers at the beginning, they eventually their role to the masters as I mentioned.

But I think the relationship part is probably the most important piece of making sure you have the bandwidth and you have the resource to communicate, talk to them and build it, versus just having them as you know, someone that sits in a contract that you talk to a month. Yeah.

Kathleen (32:40): That's good advice. It's funny listening to you talk about like somebody saying, well, why don't you just get 10 more? And it makes me think of, I was having a conversation earlier today and I had to laugh because it was, it was an analogous conversation.

And somebody that I know said, it's like saying, you know, nine women could make a baby in a month. It doesn't add up. Right. You know, like you still need the there's more effort required. I just thought that was so funny. I'd never heard that phrase before. And I'm like, yeah, that's true.

Abbey (33:11): It's very true. And I think that there's, I think we live in such a digital world where you feel like, okay, you throw more budget at it and you scale, and it's really easy and it's in a dashboard and you just watch it. And it feels simple.

But I think that ambassador programs need to bridge that digital and traditional relationship in the sense that you have to scale really thoughtfully, if you want it to be successful. If you start to throw money at the problem and outsource and do all of these different things, I think you're just going to have a disconnect between the company and the individual.

And that's where you start to feel where the relationship doesn't feel. It's authentic when they're talking about it. Yeah.

Kathleen (33:50): That makes sense. Well, so interesting. I could talk to you about this forever, but we're going to run out of time. I'm going to shift gears and there are two questions that I always ask all my guests.

And I'm curious to know what you have to say the first is we always talk about inbound marketing on this podcast. And so is there a particular company or individual that you think is really knocking it out of the park when it comes to inbound marketing right now?

Abbey (34:14): Yeah. so one, and I think one that I always use as an influence for myself and the way I structure my team is Goop. I think it's, you know, Gwyneth Paltrow's skincare brand, but she's built this organization that pulls people in based off of like her expertise and her knowledge and her content.

And she's not afraid to talk about other complimentary products that, you know, I think she now sells on her site, but she does give you a really kind of holistic view of her industry when she talks about when they goop the company, talk about the product.

So I think what I think, and they're one that inspires me, I'm trying to, you know, take a little group inspiration. We're, we're working on some editorial things at Fancy as well, and, and taking the success that they've seen from bridging those two worlds really, really well.

Abbey (35:02): I think that that's a company I think does outstanding. Just because it feels very, they feel very user first, I would say, in, in the way that they execute their marketing and how they really kind of pull you in through content and pull you in through storytelling and pull you in through kind of their knowledge of the industry. And you just, you land there and you just trust it inherently, right.

Because you feel like you're not getting a full of crap. Right. so I think they do really, really well. I also think Fabletics does, does a really good job because I think they do a really good job letting other people tell their stories for them. Obviously you have the benefit of Kate Hudson running the company, but I think they do give a really good voice to a community of women to talk about the brand. And I think that's a really powerful thing.

I think not everything needs to come from the brand itself, but how do you get the, I think it ties back to the influencer and ambassador kind of model of how do you get people to speak on your behalf in an authentic way to a community that's connected to them. And I think they've done a really good job with that.

Kathleen (36:09): I'm not as, I mean, I know Fabletics, but I'm not as familiar with their marketing, but I have to say I I've given a talk a couple of times at conferences about, and I've mentioned goop in it because I think they were brilliant in the sense that really it's a media brand more so than it is a product company, but it has become a product company because the media brand has been so successful in building an audience and loyalty.

And what I always say in my talk is like, they could literally introduce any product and their audience would buy it because as you said, people trust them and love it. And some of the crazy products and, and, and then I always sort of say, just Google Jade egg, because they charge a lot of money for this round Jade sphere. And I'm not going to say what it does on this podcast, but you know, it's, it's fascinating to me.

Abbey (36:58): Yeah. It's I, they do. They're huge inspiration for like the way I'm looking at structuring some of the things that at Fancy and I I'm with you in the sense that they've, they've done a really good job kind of keeping church and state and blending church and state between editorial and product in a really interesting way. And it's, it's really inspiring, I would say as a marketer to see how they accomplish that.

Kathleen (37:22): For sure. I totally agree with you. I feel the same way about Magnolia, Chip and Joanna Gaines. This company, it's like the loyalty people. They could start any new business and people would run out and buy whatever they're selling.

Abbey (37:35): It could look hideous, but Joanna stamped it.

Kathleen (37:37): Exactly. It's nuts. I give all of them a ton of credit for what they've built. All right. So that brings us to the end. And before we wrap up, I want to make sure I ask you if somebody is listening and they want to learn more about Fancy, or if they have a question about what you've talked about and they want to connect with you online, what is the best way for them to do that?

Abbey (38:00): From a, from a marketing perspective, I would say LinkedIn. I'm pretty active and responsive on LinkedIn. I, you know, love that channel it's place. I do kind of my market research. So it's Abbey Schoenberg. You can see my name in there. You can find me pretty easily. It's not a common name. So LinkedIn is probably the best place to connect.

Kathleen (38:20): Great. And I will put that link in the show notes. So had there, if you want to find Abbey and if you're listening and you enjoyed what you heard, or you learned something new, please consider going to Apple podcasts or the platform of your choice and leaving the podcast a review.

And if you know somebody else doing amazing inbound marketing work, tweet me at @workmommywork because I would love to make them my next guest. That's it for this week. Thanks so much for joining me.

Abbey (38:45): Thank you for having me. It was super fun to chat.

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