Episode 152

Referral Marketing Programs for eCommerce

Arlen Robinson - OSI Affiliate Software
February 24, 2021
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If you sell a great product, then no doubt you’re getting referrals.  Referrals are great, but just waiting for them to happen on their own is NOT a formula for rapid growth.  Referral programs are a proven, but underutilized strategy for growing eCommerce brands. In this episode, I interview Arlen Robinson, referral marketing specialist, podcast host, and co-founder of Affiliate Software. We dig into some powerful points to help you take your referral marketing and affiliate marketing to the next level.  Here’s a look at what we cover:

  • What’s the difference between referral, affiliate, and influencer marketing and how they each impact your business.
  • To incentivize or not to incentivize?  Understanding the when, why, and how of referral incentives.
  • Creating a viral loop to get customers into your referral program
  • Tools and approaches to make it easy
  • Plus some real-world case studies

Mentioned in this episode:

Ezra Firestone

BOOM by Cindy Joseph

Influencer.com

Influencer.co

Influence.co

Incorporate.com

The Maca Team

Arlen Robinson - Co-Founder and COO at OSI Affiliate Software
OSI Affiliate

eCommerce Marketing Podcast

Episode Transcript:

Brett:

Well, hello and welcome to another edition of the eCommerce Evolution Podcast. I'm your host, Brett Curry, CEO of OMG Commerce. And today we're talking about a topic that we've really only touched on on this podcast. We're talking about referral marketing, creating a referral marketing program, touch on a little bit of influencer marketing as well and kind of how those blend together and how they differ from affiliate marketing and we're going to get tactical. We're going to be strategic as well. And so there should be a lot of fun.

Brett:

My guest today is Mr. Arlen Robinson.

Brett:

He's the co-founder and COO of OSI Affiliate Software, which we'll hear about a little more in a bit. He's also the host of the eCommerce Marketing Podcast, phenomenal podcast. I was a guest on that show not too long ago. And he's been at it for a while. I think, he's pushing 200 episodes with that podcast. So you got to check it out. It's worth the listen. And with that, Arlen, welcome to the show, man. Thanks for taking the time. Thanks for being here.

Arlen:

Thank you, Brett, for that wonderful intro. I really appreciate it. And I am super excited to be on today.

Brett:

Yes. Look, let's get right to it. So kind of three different topics we'll look at and kind of compare and contrast real quick, but then we get referral marketing, which we're going to talk about decent amount today, affiliate marketing, which I'm seeing more and more people engaging in, or at least talking about, influencer marketing, that's all the rage now, right? So from your perspective, Arlen, kind of what are the differences, where they overlap? But kind of talk about referral affiliate and influencer and how they stack up.

Arlen:

Got you. That's an awesome question. And it's one that comes up quite a lot as you can probably imagine. A lot of times, unfortunately, people tend to use all of those three different things kind of interchangeably.

Brett:

Yes, exactly.

Arlen:

They probably shouldn't be there. They are three distinct things and I'll definitely define the two. So if we start off at the top, which would be referral marketing, that's when any brand or business organization gets their existing customer base to refer others to the brand for an incentive. And typically, their customers are going to be referring people that they know, friends, family, people in their small networks. And that's really what a referral program is.

Arlen:

Usually with a referral program, the goal there is not only to get, of course, referrals, but the goal also is to help build your customer loyalty. And what's usually recommended by just a general rule of thumb is when you have a referral program, the general type of incentive was going to be something that's going to drive the customer back to your particular site or your brand to purchase more. So usually, a typical incentive for referral program is going to be a discount towards future purchases. So that's really what it is. And that's what sort of-

Brett:

Totally makes sense. So this is the refer a friend program, you can think of this has been around forever and marketing, even back in the early days. I remember we used to have dish network way back in the day and they would always mail us the refer a friend program using this coupon, give it to a friend when they redeem it, they get $50 off, you get $50 off the next bill, something like that. So the idea there is not just to get a new customer for the referral, but you're also saying the idea is to get that existing customer to buy again, right?

Arlen:

Yes, definitely. And that example that you mentioned is something that, of course, it's still used today. You probably have heard it and I know the listeners have seen these as well, where it's the, let's say, give $10 earn or give $50 earn $50, meaning that you're going to refer your friend, give them the discount of the $10 off, 10% off, whatever it is, and you're going to earn typically an equivalent amount of the discount if you decide to purchase other items. So that's really standard. And then that's what we usually see with the referral program.

Brett:

Which is great because it does make you want to buy again. And I think there's just something powerful about when you tell a friend about something, it also kind of solidifies in your mind the value of that thing and the value of that brand, right? You're telling people, you're referring people to this specific product or this specific brand, it almost in some ways it enhances your loyalty because you're talking about it so much. You want to be consistent with what you're talking about. I think there's some psychological benefits here too.

Arlen:

Yeah. Definitely for sure. It really just overall, not only if you're going to be growing your customer base from people that you would never have approached otherwise, but it just gets your brand awareness out there a lot more because you have all of these individual advocates promoting. Now the next kind of layer or I guess the next option in this kind of whole word of mouth marketing paradigm because I guess that's basically where all this comes under, would be affiliate marketing, which you mentioned.

Arlen:

Now affiliate marketing is different so that's why I mentioned it. There's a distinct difference than what the difference is, is with an affiliate program and affiliate marketing, you're getting people that are not your customers, that may have never used your products and services at all to promote your brand for an incentive. And what they're going to be doing is promoting it to a network, their own network that they have access to. Whether it's a large community on the social networks, whether they have a community-

Brett:

They get an email list or something. They've got a list there they're hitting.

Arlen:

Exactly. Some type of lists on type of network they're going to promote it to. And, of course, they're not doing it for their health, they're doing it for an incentive as well. And usually with affiliates that are outside of your company, these are people that are not customers. The typical incentive is going to be cash. Cash is king when it comes to-

Brett:

Cash is king. Show me the money. That is the motto of all affiliates, for sure. We were talking about loyalty a minute ago. Affiliates typically are not loyal, right? Affiliates will go to whoever, whatever offer, whatever company they can get the highest payout on. That's typically the quest of successful affiliates. So no loyalty there it's all business.

Arlen:

It really is. It really is. And that's why I like to say, it's typically cash could commission as standard usually. A percentage of an order total is what we usually see across most affiliate programs. Sometimes there's fixed amount for the affiliate program. And it just depends, but cash definitely is king and that's what's the usual incentive. And now kind of the next piece under this whole referral, excuse me, under this whole word of mouth marketing kind of paradigm is influencer marketing, which is fairly new under it.

Arlen:

And there's a slightly distinct difference, but these days I typically tell people that an influencer is really almost an affiliate in today's world. I'm not sure who initially coined the term influencer or coined that whole concept influencer marketing, but I think a lot of it really was birthed from the explosion of celebrities and celebrities doing endorsements. But as long as we can remember, of course, celebrities have always endorsed brands and have been brand sponsors. All the way from back in the day when we saw OJ running in the airport promoting Hertz.

Brett:

Hertz, man. Was a Hertz add. It's was a classic ad.

Arlen:

Classic ad. He was a sponsor, brand advocates. So that whole concept has been around for a long time. With these days-

Brett:

And some of the differences should chime in here really quickly. Sometimes in the affiliate world, you've got people that are just really skilled at traffic, right? They're really good at going out and it's like traffic arbitrage, where they'll go out, they'll run. They're really good at hitting different display networks or native ads. And they can generate that traffic and send it to an offer.

Brett:

And they're better at cheap traffic, better at marketing than some of us. Some of the folks are really good at SEO. But on the influencer side, it's usually more about their personality, right? They've developed a following because of who they are, and what they're interested in, and what they're talking about, and you want to be like them. And then, of course, there is some crossover too. It's interesting distinction.

Arlen:

Exactly. And I think where this kind of really all began was not only through what you mentioned, the explosion of social media and these celebrities or these people that had a huge following across it. A lot of them really started way back, I don't know, this is probably early 2000s with Paris Hilton actually. She has a documentary out and I was watching it a couple of months ago and she actually mentioned this. She considers herself the first influencer.

Brett:

Interesting.

Arlen:

She's coined herself as being one of the first influencers.

Brett:

Kardashian's like, "Wait a minute here, wait a minute. Don't forget about me."

Arlen:

Exactly. But when you think about it, Paris Hilton was one of the first. Then basically what she did was leverage her audience to sell product across all her channels and social channels. And then after that, then we saw huge explosion of other celebrities, other notable people doing the same thing, commanding large commissions from these major brands to promote product. And they were getting brands in front of a new audience. People that are primarily on the Internet, maybe they don't watch traditional live television broadcasting.

Arlen:

And so typically these days, most millennials will never watch a broadcast show. Everything is either on demand or on the Internet. And so in order to reach them, you got to do what you have to do. You got to tap into these influencers because they've formed a connection with the audience. And that's really another thing that I think does differentiate an influencer from an affiliate, is the relationship that they have with their network.

Brett:

And just one quick thought there too, which is really interesting. I think it just underscores the point that we all know. But we were traveling recently for a basketball tournament and staying in at a hotel. And my younger kids, five and four wanted to watch a show. Well, we turn on the TV and they literally had no concept of, "Hey, you just watch whatever's on this station."

Brett:

And they're throwing out requests. "I want to watch this. I want to watch that." I'm like, "Guys, there's just what's here. You just have to pick." That concept is becoming more and more foreign. And I think it just shows the trend that it's all on demand, or YouTube, or something. We're in control of our media consumption habits and that's not going to change.

Arlen:

Exactly. And the thing that I was mentioning that separates the influencer from the affiliate is like I said, that relationship that they have with their audience, because people that follow these influencers, they almost feel like they get to know them, or they're an extended member of their family because it influences... They spend so much time pulling people into their whole circle. You know what they eat for breakfast. You know what types of clothes they wear. You know where they live. I mean, you really know a lot about them.

Arlen:

And so you know about their family members. And so because of that exposure that they're putting themselves out there, the people that are following them are going to be more likely to trust any recommendation that they make. So if they recommend a brand or say that they used a particular brand, their followers are going to say, "Wait, I need to use that. Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian is using it. It must be good. I need to get that." And so that's really kind of where we are today.

Brett:

Got it. That's awesome. So we're going to get into the some of the why's and the how's here in just a minute. What do you recommend though, Arlen? Do you recommend that e-commerce companies consider kind of all three variations? Do you recommend starting in one or the other? Do two of those pair really well together? What advice would you give there?

Arlen:

Great question. And I always recommend starting off with the referral program because most customers, mostly most companies you're going to have at least a few customers already under your belt, unless you're just fresh out of the gate. You have some customers there that have purchased from you and trusted you enough to buy from your brand. And so I always recommend starting with the referral program.

Arlen:

Once you get it launched, communicate with them via your email list or through whatever channels of communication that you have with these customers and let them know. We just launched this and this is what you can earn if you refer your friends, they can get this discount. And then they can get this discount and you'll get this incentive. And so definitely start from there and then-

Brett:

Yeah. I think it really makes sense. And what's interesting, just to kind of go into that just for a second, if your product is good and what you're doing is solid, you're going to get referrals naturally anyway, right? It's going to happen organically.

Brett:

But the thing I love about referral marketing programs is anytime you're intentional about something, anytime you focus on something, anytime you specifically ask for something, you're going to get more of it. So I think a lot of people just want to say, "Hey, I'm going to let this be organic. I'm going to let people refer as they see fit." That's great. But if you put a little emphasis on it, you're going to get more referrals, right? Anything you would add to that?

Arlen:

Yeah. Definitely as far as really kind of what you put your emphasis going, it's really where you're going to, like you said, get the best results. So it's definitely good to get one of those areas down. That's why I recommend starting with the referral program. And then from there, you kind of got your processes in place once that happens because you're going to really understand what it's going to take for them to promote, what types of creatives you're going to need to provide them.

Arlen:

Then you're going to understand the process of getting them the commission. How often am I going to pay that out? How is that going to work? And it's always best to just use your customers with that because you already have a relationship with them and they trust your brand. And then from there, branch out. Start with the affiliate program, launch that because at that point then you've kind of had all of these initial processes and procedures in place and can then start approaching people that you've never talked to or approached before.

Brett:

Yeah. That's awesome. And so as you've been... And I know you work with companies all the time, helping design these programs, and get them implemented, and helping them track it with your software and stuff, but what kind of increase those?

Brett:

What kind of lift are you seeing? Let's talk about the why a little bit. I mean, I know we spoke in general terms and I just referenced it a little bit there where anytime you focus on it, ask for more, you're going to get more referrals, or influencer sales and whatnot. But can you speak to lift or give any kind of quick examples before we get into the nuts and bolts?

Arlen:

Yeah. You mean as far as any specifics of ..

Brett:

It's just like result. Or you've seen someone, once they implement a referral marketing program, the referrals go up 30%, 40% or where we're seeing a 10% lift in sales. Anything like that, that comes to mind? And I know we may get into specifics later and that's fine too. We're just curious.

Arlen:

Yeah. Good question. A lot of it really is going to have to do with, not necessarily the niche that you're in or that particular industry that you're in, but I think a lot of it really is going to come down to really what you put into it and where you're making available to these actual advocates.

Arlen:

But typically, I think overall what we typically see and what I've seen from speaking to customers of ours is once they've launched it, 10% to 20% lift in overall sales on any given sales period or sales cycle, let's say on a monthly period is really what I always continually hear. Between 10% and 20% increase in it if they are starting out with just solely exposing it to their customer base and buying on the networks that their customers have.

Brett:

Got it. Let's talk a little bit about structured here, maybe even incentives. So how would you structure this? How would you advise your client to structure or where should they begin?

Arlen:

Well, when you're putting everything together as far as getting the structure in place, the biggest question, of course, initially is going to be, all right, do I definitely need a software solution to manage all this? Or can I do this in-house?

Arlen:

And so although I've talked to many e-commerce brands that initially you kind of approach us as the company, or I've just hear about, they say, "Yeah. We've got a referral program in place and what we're really doing is we don't have really a system in place, but we just provide our customers with a promo code, a specific promo code that they can share with their friends. And we know that anytime that that promo code is used, we know that John Smith, our customer John Smith is the one who referred it so we got to give him a 10% discount on future purchase. So we'll just send that out to him, email that out to him."

Arlen:

So essentially, it can be as simple as that. If your brand is maybe just getting started and you don't necessarily know if this is something that you're going to maintain and your customer list is small, you can just start as simple as that. But what I do recommend is trying it out like that. You can do that, but that can get kind of complicated quickly depending on how many interest that you get actually from your customer base. It could become overwhelming in a short amount of time.

Arlen:

If it really takes off and you've got a lot of your customers really responding well to it and saying this is awesome, and they start sending you referrals. Overtime in a short amount of time, you're going to really need somebody on your team that's really dedicated to managing that. So I would say you could do that, but I always definitely recommend using a referral marketing solution initially, especially because of the price point to get started with in most cases is pretty affordable that I think can fit in the budget of any brand.

Arlen:

So I definitely recommend starting there and getting that in place. As far as structure is concerned, think about the software solution that you're going to use, but before you've been kind of launching anything, you want to think about initially that incentive. What is that incentive going to be? How often am I going to pay it out? Because that's very important as far as the incentive is concerned, because that's really when it comes down to it, that's going to be what is going to attract people to getting off their butt and promoting your brand.

Arlen:

And so I did mention earlier about the referral incentive and how typically with the customer referral program, it's common that you're going to just give your customer a discount on future purchases or future sales. But I know people that are listening are like, "All right. That sounds good. I can give 10% and they can earn 10%, or they give 20% and earn 20%. That sounds great," but how do I come up with those numbers?

Arlen:

A lot of people listening are probably... they'd be thinking that they may just be shooting in the dark guessing, but there actually is a rule of thumb for that. And what we typically recommend is that if your product costs more than $100, your typical or average product is more than $100, then a flat rate discount is more effective and it would sound more impressive, such as $30 off a purchase or future purchase.

Brett:

So you choose a flat dollar amount rather than a percentage off in that case.

Arlen:

Yes, exactly. If the products costs typically more than $100. However, if your product costs less than $100, you're in the smaller price point range of things, then a percentage discount in that case is going to sound a little bit more impressive, such as 15% off, or 20% off. And so that's the typical rule of thumb that I recommend. And so once you kind of wrap your head around that and figure out what's going to be best for you, you get that referral incentive amount in place.

Arlen:

And then secondly, then think about how is my customer going to promote? Where do they typically frequent themselves? So is it a particular social network? Is it Facebook? Is it Twitter? Is it LinkedIn? If so, what types of promotional creative materials do I need to provide them? So you need to think about that because when you open this up, you want to make it super easy for people to promote. You don't want people having to think about it, and having to create their own graphics, and then to go through too many hoops. So you want to make sure everything is laid out for them and all they have to do is spread the word. And so those were the initial pieces that I think are critical.

Brett:

Totally, makes sense. And if you look at it, like we talked about before, if you got a great product and a cool brand, you're going to get some referrals anyway, right? And then if you just ask for referrals, if you just say, "Hey, we'd love to meet more people like you. You're our ideal customer. You could probably help somebody else by referring them and helps us out too. This was great." Just asking and then you get more. But then if you can incentivize it like, hey, ask, give 10%, get 10%.

Brett:

So you're looking like a hero because you're sharing this with a friend and they're getting a discount. You're getting a discount too. And then on top of that, you're making it easy. You're facilitating and saying, hey, all you have to do is share this quick message.

Brett:

Here's a quick image, something to put on Instagram, Facebook, or whatever, just making that process super simple. What do you recommend, Arlen, in terms of where do you promote this? So where and how do you make your customers aware that one, you want more referrals and hey, here's how to start sending people our way?

Arlen:

Got you. That is probably the second most asked question when people first launch the referral program. So I'm definitely glad you asked that. And how do you find these people? How do you get them into your referral program or your for marketing funnel? And the number one thing is right when you launch things, you've got everything in place, you're getting ready to launch, alert all of your customers through your email list. That's number one. Hopefully, your brand has some type of lists or program to facilitate your communication with the customers.

Arlen:

So you definitely want to send out just a brief announcement saying that you've launched it and letting them know where they can opt in or sign up and just see what type of exposure that you get or response that you get to that. So that's number one. The second piece is going to be alerting all of your new customers about your referral program. And this is something that we call as creating somewhat of a viral loop because, of course, you already have an existing customer base.

Arlen:

You can let them know about your program. You can do that through your mailing list. And then also secondly on top of that, as far as your existing customer base, you can also put an announcement on your social media because a large part of your followers are going to be your current customers. So definitely do the alert on social media. But the next thing that you have to think about is all your new customers, people that have just signed up, or in the process of signing up, you want to alert them.

Arlen:

And that can be done. And to create this viral loop, you can do that through your transaction emails. Believe it or not, the transaction emails are some of the most open emails out there. They have some of the highest open rates of any email out on the Internet right now because when people order things, they're going to be checking those emails. They're going to be double checking the order.

Brett:

So this is your order confirmation email. This is your shipping confirmation email as maybe a follow up after it's been shipped, things like that?

Arlen:

Exactly. So people are checking those emails. And so what we recommend doing is not doing a huge, big announcement in those emails. You've got to be very subtle because those emails have a strict purpose, and that's really to make sure people are aware of what they ordered, they see the price, they see the amount, and they can see the shipping timeframe and all of that. All those details have to be prominent. But what you can do is just put a small announcement in a small link that you've got a referral program.

Arlen:

If they opt in, they can earn 20% off on future purchases. Just something like that, because those emails are going to have a lot of eyes on them. And that is what we think of as being able to create a viral loop because you're consistently getting new customers and you're consistently exposing people to the program through those emails. And those are the, really, some of the biggest areas of getting customers into your referral program.

Brett:

I like that viral loop. You're automating it. You're hitting people when they're paying attention and when it's ideal, and you find that that's the right time to ask as well. So I mean, obviously people are opening those emails or confirmation, shipping confirmation, things like that. Is that the best time to ask? Or is it also good to ask a little while into the relationship maybe after someone's used your product for a week or two, or a month or two, or something like that? Do you have any recommendations there for when you ask for that referral maybe after that initial purchase?

Arlen:

Yeah, definitely. And I'm glad you asked that as well. Part of the viral loop also is going to be doing a follow-up to those people that either have initially opted into your program from those transaction emails or people that just didn't pay attention to it, and that can be through your follow-up emails. Normally within a brand, typically these days, after a certain amount of time, you'll probably got your customers on one of those check-in campaigns where you're following up with them, checking in with them to see do they had any questions?

Arlen:

Do they have any problems? Things like that just to really put a little tickle in their ear and stay in touch with them. And so in those emails, that's definitely a perfect email to do another follow-up, let them know that if they didn't take advantage of your affiliate program or your referral program, rather, they can still opt in. And then the other side of that, is you can also do a whole separate campaign to people that have actually already opted into the referral program.

Arlen:

But this is going to be something a little bit special where you're going to take a look at the backend of your referral program. And you're going to look at some of those top affiliates and really see what they're doing. And what you can do is come up with just a hand-crafted email just to say, kind of a thanking them really for them becoming an advocate, thanking them for all the referrals, and then just showing them some brief stats in the emails saying "Last month you did awesome.

Arlen:

You referred the new customers to us. We see that you earned $500 worth of product. And we still appreciate you." You can say, "Next month, we've got some specials coming down our pike. So we think you can even double that." Things like that. So this is something very personalized where you're looking at what they did in the past, highlighting it with the stats in the email, and encouraging them to do more in subsequent months.

Brett:

Yeah. I really like that. It kind of goes back to the 80-20 rule, where it probably 80% of your results are going to come from 20% of your customers, and probably 80% of your referrals are going to come from 20% of your customers. And so you can probably get more referrals if you treat that top 20% better. One, just acknowledging them, like you're talking about. Just saying, "Hey, well, thank you.

Brett:

You sent five people our way, or 10 people our way, or whatever." Just with celebrating them, and making them feel special, and giving them a heads up really kind of makes them feel like they're an insider, part of your team or whatever. And actually, that kind of leads me to another question. I'm curious. Do you have any thoughts on what you name this? Because you don't want to call it your referral program, not necessarily anyway.

Brett:

I mean, I guess you could, but is it the friends and family program? I know my buddy has a Firestone who runs Boom, by Cindy Joseph, the ambassador program. Actually, it's a little different, but it's got some similarities. So then did you have any suggestions on names? So maybe these are VIP's? Any thoughts there?

Arlen:

Yeah. Just like anything, and I'm glad that you brought up those examples. Usually, when I'm talking to businesses that are launching their own referral program, I don't spend a whole lot of time to think that they should focus so much on the name per se, because the bottom line is they want to focus on really making sure they come up with the right incentive. They want to look at even their competitors and seeing, all right, what are their competitors offering and really focus on the incentive, because you want to attract as many people as possible.

Arlen:

And these days, people are... they want to get as much as they can no matter what it is, that's the bottom line. But there is definitely something to say about how you brand it and the name that you come up with, because that can definitely stand out. These days, I think people are accustomed to go into a site seeing your referral program or referral program links on other graphics on the site. So they're accustomed to seeing that.

Arlen:

But if you do think outside of the box and thinking about something different, like you said, your buddy with the Firestone, they have a friends and family program, definitely is a little different. It can definitely attract a little bit more attention because it stands out. It seems a little bit more personalized. It makes it seem like they're pulling you in, the brand is pulling you in to be part of their company, or organization, or corporate ambassador program, VIP ambassadors.

Arlen:

So there's definitely something to say about that. And I think what it comes down to is just like anything, you have to try certain things and then test the results and see what type of response. Because if you do go with one particular name, that doesn't mean that you've got to stick with that for the life of the referral program. You can always pivot, call it something else and see what type of results you get.

Brett:

Yeah. So, I think being creative is good. The way you brand things, it does make a difference. But if I'm kind of reading between the lines here, you're maybe saying that structure incentive, the way you put it together, it's probably more important than what you call it, as long as it's clear what it is type of thing. I like it.

Brett:

I'll let you, maybe if you have any other points there on the referral program, but then I'm also curious to know, when do you then say I've really got this in place where my existing customers are referring, and I've got the viral loop in place so that new customers, they're going to be incentivize and asked to bring referrals. So then when do we kind of branch out into influencer land then, because you can kind of use, in some ways, some of the same systems and the same platform software, all that? When do you look at influencer?

Arlen:

Yeah, definitely. And that's a great question because since you've already got these processes in place and the structure for your referral program, you've got the affiliate program, there's not that much else that you need to do as far as the structure and the processes are in place to manage the influencer program. The next thing that you have to focus on, if you're looking to kick that off, is really how do you get these influencers? I think that's really the focus though of where you're going to spend a lot of your time is getting those right influencers.

Arlen:

Of course, all of us, anybody that has an e-commerce brand would love the likes of a Kim Kardashian or a Paris Hilton or any of the huge celebrities these days to promote the brand. But unless you have hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay them in commissions, it's not going to happen. That's really the bottom line. We can dream all day, but we have to be realistic. But that's where kind of the beauty of influencer marketing is that a lot of people don't think about. There are tons of influencers that are in just all different levels really. And really, it really breaks down to the type of influencers you want to go after.

Arlen:

I'd like to break it down into categories as follows of which be initially, just a regular local influencer. A local influencer will really just be anybody that probably is within your social media sphere that has about zero to a 1,000 followers. You can definitely look through who's already following you, see what niches they're in, and see would they be right for approaching and letting them know about your influencer program. On the next level is going to be the micro-influencers, which are anybody that has about a 1,000 to 10,000 followers. And you can kind of reach these people. You can definitely do your own kind of grass root searches, and just look at the various follower levels.

Arlen:

And the good thing is today, there's a ton of influencer marketing databases and services out there where you can maybe do some initial free searches, but then you can pay a monthly fee to get access to these databases that have everything broken down on influencers in certain categories. You'll be able to see the amount of followers they have across all of their different networks, you'll be able to see what niches that they are in that they promote. You name it. All that information is there. So you can use those tools-

Brett:

Any specific tools you recommend there, Arlen?

Arlen:

Yeah. There's a ton. I mean, one is just influencer.com is one service that you can check out. Another one is influencer.co, influence.co. Those are a couple ones that are easy to remember that you can check out. But all you need to do is just do a simple Google on influencer marketing services and you'll get a ton of results. There's a new database popping up every day from what I've seen.

Brett:

Sure. Totally makes sense.

Arlen:

And so you can go that route. But you don't even have to be that sophisticated. If you're just trying to see where this is going to go, you're not sure where it's going to go, I mean, you can just do your own, like I said, grassroots searching. And one strategy that I recommend is in the social networks especially Instagram, just do some hashtag searches on certain queries that would be applicable for your business.

Arlen:

For example, let's say you're in the fashion space, a specific hashtag that you could use, let's say you're in the Chicago area, you could do a search for #chicagofashionblogger, and believe it or not, the last I checked, I think you're going to get about 10,000 or so results of that hashtag being used. And do you have to think about it. That's a specific hashtag.

Arlen:

Not everybody's going to be using that hashtag and post, unless they're either a blogger, or influencer, or they're somehow affiliated with somebody in that sense. And so once you get these results, you get somebody on your team to do the due diligence, do the follow-ups, get them in your CRM and just start approaching them, just letting them know you've launched an influencer program. You're interested to see if they'd be interested in promoting your brand, and this is what you could offer them. And just go by it that way.

Brett:

Awesome. And then in terms of, and I want to get to talking about your software here in a minute and any other tips that you have, but any way you would speak to how to make it easy for influencers to promote our brand, our product? Are we giving them graphics, and materials, and talking points? Or how are we making their process, their job easier as an influencer?

Arlen:

Got you. And you kind of nailed it. Just like with the affiliates that I mentioned earlier, and even your referral program, you got to provide them with as many tools as possible so that they can promote effectively and they don't have to go around guessing, because if they have to run through too many hoops, they're not going to do it. They're not going to promote your brand. And so as a brand, number one, if you are selling a product, definitely get them that product, send them the product, let them get their hands on it, have them record some unboxing videos.

Arlen:

Those are the big things of today. These unboxing videos, have them do a review. You want them to be seen with your particular product across their social channels. And secondly, if you have photos and specific high quality posts that you think that they would be appropriate for them on certain networks, definitely get that to them. Whatever graphics or product photos that you have, you want to make sure that they have that so that they could easily share that. So get that to them.

Arlen:

If you've got other... let's say you've even created videos about your particular product, make sure that they have access to that. Or if they want to point a video to their following, they can do that. So all of that, you definitely want to make sure that they have access to that so that when they're thinking about promoting your brand or just starting to promote it in general, your brand will be top of mind because they already have all of this material and they make it easier for them. And the-

Brett:

Yeah. So they're educated and know what to say, and they've gotten materials they can share, if they want to. Go ahead.

Arlen:

Exactly. And these days, because there's so many channels to promote, and especially since we're kind of everybody's living in this virtual world now because we've got a lot of face-to-face interaction happening these days because of the COVID-19 that's kind of affecting everyone, these influencers these days are hitting the digital airways more than ever through promoting on their YouTube channels or promoting on podcasts. They're out there virtually.

Arlen:

So what you want to do, definitely, is also provide them with specific, unique promo codes that they can share. And then make sure on the back end, you have the proper mechanisms for tracking the use of those codes, because when somebody is on a podcast and they're talking about a particular brand, you want to make sure that that influencer gets credit. So the best way to do that is giving them a promo code that they can mention.

Arlen:

So they can mention your brand, they can mention the promo code, and then you'll be able to track if it's used. And the same thing goes for Instagram, because with Instagram, unless the influencer has more than 10,000 followers, they can't put any type of clickable links in their either Instagram stories or their posts. So you want to allow them to use promo codes that they can just mention. And when people see your brand and go to your brand's site, they'll think about using that code so that -

Brett:

It totally makes sense.

Arlen:

... influencer can give credit.

Brett:

Yeah. Awesome. So kind of two things I want to wrap up with, and I'll let you kind of pick where you want to start here. I would love to hear any kind of quick case studies, people you've worked with, and I know you may have to be discrete about either brands, or metrics, or whatnot. Be as specific as you can without violating any confidentiality there, but I'd love to hear some case studies.

Brett:

And then let's also talk about your software, right? Because we kind of see how this could all play out. Certainly, we can maybe use spreadsheets and generate our own codes, and stuff like that. That sounds like a lot of work. I think a specific tool or software would be the way to go. So I want to hear about your software too. So which would you like to start with? You want to talk software or you want to talk case studies?

Arlen:

Yeah. I'll start off with the case studies-

Brett:

Yeah, sweet.

Arlen:

... because it was always interesting just to see the kind of breadth of this. So a lot of times people don't really realize the impact or the bang for the buck that they can get from word of our marketing. But I think when you see the amount of companies that are using it from small to just large, then you really see that it's something that every brand really has to be a part of. And so I'll start with one of our customers, one of our top customers, actually, is a brand called incorporate.com.

Arlen:

They provide business incorporation services for businesses worldwide. So if you're looking to start a business, then set up an LLC or set up an INC. They're one of the top brands for doing that. And they use our software for their customer referral program. And they also use it for an affiliate program. And so I mentioned them because they're kind of really at the top, because they've helped over a million, millions of businesses in the U.S. to create a corporation over the years.

Arlen:

And so they obviously see the value of it. They've been a customer of ours for quite a long time now, and are steadily using that to increase not only their conversions from affiliates and from their customers, but for just overall brand awareness. And that's the second piece to this that I think is essential, and especially with a brand like that, that has so much exposure of brand awareness is. You can never have too much awareness of your particular brand.

Arlen:

So they're a great initial case study that I want to share. And then secondly, we've got some other brands that have been with us for quite a while now. I've got a particular brand that sells a unique, I would want to call it an herb, it's called maca. The brand is called The Maca Team. And then basically what they sell is this particularly unique herbal, I want to say kind of a supplement that you can put in drinks, smoothies, things like that, or just use it as a regular supplement, and it's one of those considered super foods.

Arlen:

And what they've done, is they've done a great job growing this by finding a niche set of affiliates. Because it's considered a super food, they've realized that these days, personal trainers are not only working with people to improve their physicality, but a lot of times personal trainers also act as kind of a nutritionist for people. People are looking at these trainers and be like, "Man, how did you get so fit?" And well, people don't really realize is that 80%-90% of the fitness has to do with nutrition.

Brett:

Absolutely.

Arlen:

And so they get a ton of questions. And so what the market team has found is by approaching these trainers and getting them on board as affiliates, they've been able to create really a great pipeline of new customers from the customers of these personal trainers. And so those are some great that I'd like to highlight.

Brett:

I love it. And I think almost any e-commerce brand, any product you're selling, whether you're in the skincare, supplements, automotive, accessories, clothing, whatever, I think there's a... in fact, I know there's room for one of these strategies or all of these strategies, either customer pro program, influencer marketing.

Brett:

I think every e-commerce brand should be utilizing it to some degree.So let's do this, Arlen, because we're kind of up against time. Let's talk about OSI Affiliate, your company, your software that you co-founded. How does it make this process easy? Kind of walk us through why we might consider it to run our programs.

Arlen:

Got you. Great. I'm glad you asked that. Of course, OSI Affiliate Software is a great tool if you want to launch a referral program, an affiliate program, or an influencer program. Any of those programs can be successfully managed in our software. And that's something you really want to look at as well when you're you kind of in the market to launching one of these programs, you want to find something that's going to be versatile enough to manage both or all three of these types of programs.

Arlen:

And what we've done, because believe it or not, as a business, we've been in business for over 21 years now, actually long time, the Affiliate Software actually has been around for about 15 of those years. We've actually had a whole suite of solutions. And then the Affiliate Software was one that really took off. So about 15 years ago, we closeted our other solutions and have gone full force with the Affiliate Software. So as you can imagine, in these 15 years, we've learned a lot and we've done a lot with the software.

Arlen:

And one of the key things that we've done that I think sets us apart from our competitors is that we've spent a lot of time on determining what are the best features to have and not create a glut of features, which I think a lot of our competitors fall short of, and they try to just flood the product with just so many features. And of course, it is good to be able to have a feature-rich product, but we kind of have a different school of thought of that and decided that it makes a little bit more sense from the feedback that we've got from our classes, that you have something that is going to have just really those main features that people are going to primarily want to use.

Arlen:

Because as you have those glutted features, it makes sense difficult to navigate your product, makes it difficult to use it. But with our software, you can easily get up and running for as low as $47 a month. This is what our basic plan is. We give a 15-day free trial. Once you get into our app, we have a really easy getting started wizard that steps you through creating your initial referral influencer or affiliate program. Steps you through that process.

Arlen:

And then we do also provide a fair amount of handholding because we do know that businesses these days are probably busier than they ever have been, just trying to keep the lights on and trying to increase their sales. And so the last thing that they want to have to do is dig through a cumbersome software solution. And so that's why one of the things that also sets us apart is we offer or an unlimited amount of one-on-one support sessions via Zoom with our support team or customer success team.

Arlen:

So once you get going and you get your program up and running, we always recommend that our customers meet with our company success team that can go through using the software, give you some recommendations, help you through some of the features, and get you on your way. And even after do that, if you have any trouble or difficulty, you can always schedule subsequent meetings. And so those are some of the things that I think are important that I wanted to highlight that set us apart from a lot of our competitors.

Brett:

I love it. You guys are true OGs in the space. You've done this 15 years. In Internet marketing years, that is a long, long time. And so I appreciate that. And it sounds like a really good value. And I think just the ability to chat with you, to chat with the rest of the team, you guys are very knowledgeable in this space. And I think a lot of people listening, smart marketers who are doing great things with their e-commerce store, they get a general idea of how to run this.

Brett:

And certainly we've laid out a lot of good tips here, but once they get into the specifics of their program, and their business, and "Hey, should I do this or that?" It's nice to have someone that they can chat with and someone they can reach out to, like your team, you and your team to get that feedback and that support. So awesome. Well, Arlen, kind of as we wrap up, how can people connect with you? So how can they learn more about the software? And also pull your podcast real quick, if you'd like.

Arlen:

Oh, yean. No problem. And thank you for that. The easiest way to get to our site to access our software if you're looking to jump into the world of affiliate, referral, and influencer marketing, you just go to getosi.com and that'll take you right to our site. So that's just getosi.com. It'll take you right to our site. If any listeners want to get ahold of me and pick my brain anymore about referral marketing, influencer marketing, or just anything in general, I'm always glad to talk to the business owners as they navigate these turbulent times.I'm always interested in giving advice. They can just check me out and get access to all of my social handles by just going to my domain, arlenrobinson.com.

Arlen:

That's A-R-L-E-Nrobinson.com. And you can access my social handles there and you can get in touch with me there. And then lastly, as, Brett, you mentioned and I appreciate that, is if you want to hear some other e-commerce marketing strategies, do you want to hear Brett who was on our show, you can definitely go to ecommercemarketingpodcast.com to access our podcast and all of our episodes, and then even access, of course, our whole library of past episodes of close to 200 on any podcast platform, from Apple Podcasts to Spotify, you name it, you can find us there.

Brett:

Awesome. Arlen Robinson, ladies and gentlemen. And that was a ton of fun, Arlen. I am motivated and inspired to do more referral marketing and blend that with some affiliate or influencer marketing. And so, hey man, really appreciate it. Thanks for taking the time. Thanks for dropping some knowledge, and it was a lot of fun.

Arlen:

Yeah. Not a problem. Thank you, Brett, for having me. It was a ton of fun for me as well.

Brett:

Absolutely. Awesome. Well, as always, we would love to hear from you that a tuning in. Hey, reach out to us on the socials. Let us know what you'd like to hear more of. Give us some show ideas. And hey, if you haven't already, love that review on iTunes, five stars if you feel like we've earned it, helps other people discover the show, and that would make my day. And so with that, until next time. Thank you for listening. And that's a wrap.

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