Influencer Marketing

The Ultimate Influencer Product Seeding Masterclass

Formulae, templates, and frameworks on how to run influencer seeding campaigns for your brand.
Posted on
June 21, 2022
6 minute read
Yash Chavan
Founder at SARAL

Intro

Never heard of product seeding? It’s a fancy way to say you send free product to creators to get them to post about you.

Back in the day, “seeding” meant sowing your farmland with seeds and waiting for crops to grow. Seeding gave you food to eat. Modern day “seeding” in influencer marketing may do the same for you, if done correctly. In this post, I intend to give you the right formulae and frameworks you need to maximise the chances of making seeding work for your brand.

Grab a cup of your favourite drink and let’s dive in.

What is product seeding?

Creator seeding is a bit different from the original seeding, but the outcome is the same.

In creator seeding, you send free product to creators. If they like it, they may post about your brand and a part of their audience will buy from you. This will put money in your bank and give you food to eat. Just like the original.

It’s profitable growth once you run the numbers and mitigate all the “if” and “may” statements made above. A few variables need to align to make it work.

  • Creators have to say yes to receiving free product
  • They need to like the product
  • They need to like it enough to post about it
  • Their audience needs to buy from you
Don't sweat, we'll go over this later

Our goal is to maximise E(S) i.e. the expected value of a sale by manipulating all the levers in the right-hand-side of this equation. I will explain this at the very end to really nail it, till then, keep reading.

We spoke with influencer marketing expert, Malou Deuber - founder at Social Relation, about creator seeding campaigns and here's how she described it:

"Influencer product seeding is an excellent way to start building up a strong group of friends of the brand. Nowadays it is important to know that product seeding is about working with nano and micro influencers. If a creator is very interested in your brand and presents your product to their followers for free, you can add them to a friends-of-the-brand list, invite them to events and send them new products, share special offers and treat them well. This shows you, which influencer might be interested in a long-term paid partnership in the future."

I really like how Malou refers to creators as "friends" of your brand. In step-6 of the formula below, you'll see why having that mindset is important.

Now that you know what seeding is, let’s dive in a little bit deeper into how to do it.

The SARAL Six-Step-formula for product seeding

Step 1: Find creators to partner with

When seeding, be specific with the kind of creators you want to reach out to. Stick to your core hashtags, especially when you start. Seeding is a game of managing probabilities. You want to maximise the probability of them posting about your brand and minimise the probability of them saying no.

For now, your pool is likely restricted to 1000-1500 creators that post about your core hashtags, and fit within your other criteria.

Of course, you can diversify later but start with your 3-5 core hashtags and exhaust that list first.

There are many ways to find influencers to partner with. The best way to start is to go slow. Review the top posts and recent posts for each hashtag and add creators to your “seeding pool”.

Have a bias towards working with creators who have an above average engagement rate, that’s 3% or higher if they’re a nanoinfluencer. A high engagement rate maximises the number of sales you get once they post.

The SARAL chrome extension

We recommend you create a seeding pool of at least 100 creators to start. The next step is to reach out to them!

Step 2: Send them emails

This is where you begin to stand out by adopting a seeding strategy. Most brands, even today, are emailing creators and asking them for posts. They send them long creative briefs and focus on extracting value. With seeding, you flip this on its head to stand out.

Understand that the goal of your email is NOT to get them to post about you. The goal of your email is to begin speaking to them and explore a mutually beneficial relationship. The best way to do this is by starting with a give-first email approach. Taking a seeding approach makes this easier for you as the whole strategy relies on giving product first.

Here’s a helpful template for seeding.

Hey {{first_name}}, I've been following you for a bit and really like your content. Loved the recent post about {{recent_post}}.

I run {{brand}} which is {{one-line description}} and my whole team thinks you'd love using our product for {{benefits}}. This isn't the usual brand email. For no commitment on your end, I want to send you a special package with our product(s) - simply to get your thoughts.

What would be your shipping address?

You also need to follow up on this main email to boost your response rates. Here are some influencer email best practices to follow.

For creators who will be an amazing fit for your brand, go one step ahead and engage with their content on socials. Comment on their posts, reply to their stories, and follow these creator attraction tactics to really stand out.

Step 3: Ship them free product

Once you have their shipping address, you’ve reduced a lot of variables when it comes to seeding. At this stage, the seeding game is a bit more in your control than it previously was. So make the most out of it by making their unboxing experience exceptional.

Do this by sending them a personal note with the “seed” product. Handwrite these letters if you can for the first few ambassadors. Mention why their trust means so much for you. You can use services like Handwrytten for this at scale 😉

Here’s an example:

Save this! 📸

Create a discount code for their audience upfront and add it to the note, this way they’re more likely to share your product. Mention your social media handles in the letter so they know whom to tag.

At this stage, you do not want to create an affiliate link for them i.e. they don’t have to receive commissions. So far the only thing you give them is the free product and swag. This is so you filter for true advocates of your brand and make them ambassadors later, more on that in step 6.

Send them something extra that lasts longer than your product does, eg: A t-shirt, mug, or a branded keychain. This keeps your brand in their headspace all the time. Run the numbers, obviously. Don’t do this if you can’t afford to.

Use services like Packlane to make your packaging unique. This will help you stand out even more.

I spoke with Sambhav Chadha from Augmentum Influencer Solutions, an influencer marketing agency that specialises in health and wellness brands. He had this pro-tip to share:

"Something we've found works extremely well is attaching QR codes to the backs of the handwritten letters. This links to a YouTube video with the founder telling their brand's unique story, and is a great way to build brand-influencer relations from the get-go!"

Imagine getting something like this, wouldn't it be awesome? Make it awesome for your influence partners ❤️

Step 3b: Track the shipment

Your work isn’t done yet. Track the shipment using tools like SARAL. We’ll notify you once the creator receives your product so you can follow up with them. Send them the coupon code over email again and feel free to nudge them to post. Don’t pressurise them. They don’t owe you a post because you sent them a free product. But they’d love to reciprocate if you play your cards right.

If they don’t post, try starting by getting them to review your product. You’d be leveraging the rule of reciprocity here, so most of them would feel compelled to review you (if they actually like the product). Writing 50-100 words also takes less effort than creating a piece of content, so at least you get that for giving away free product.

Make sure you highlight all the influencer reviews on you product page and home page. People in your niche likely know them and will be persuaded by their recommendation.

Step 4: Track how many posts you get

Let’s not forget, we still want them to post. Else this whole seeding thing falls flat on its face.

You can track manually to start. Count how many of the creators that receive your product actually post. You should see a 30%-50% conversion rate from receiving the package to posting. If you don’t see this, there’s work to be done when it comes to all the variables that came before this.

Remember, your goal is to maximise the expected value of that equation and reduce the drop-off rates in the seeding funnel.

Step 5: Measure results

Now comes the ultimate test. You’ve reached out, built a connection, sent free products, and they’ve posted about your brand. Now it’s time to check how much this has translated to in terms of bottom line.

This is easy to do, just put in all the discount codes that you’ve created for creators and track the purchases that have come through each one. You can also track traffic and conversions using your favorite analytics tool like this.

See which creators are the top performing ones, notice commonalities in their audience or their content, or both! This is very useful feedback for you to adapt your criteria as you proceed.

Step 6: Build an ongoing relationship

This is the final step. Most of the work is done at this point. But do you want all this effort to only generate just a few sales on one day? I doubt.

We all know the power of compounding. Let’s apply that to creators. Understand that campaigns and posts do not compound, but relationships do.

You want to keep the relationship going with each creator to whom you’ve sent the product, even if they haven’t posted. This is where using a relationship management tool like SARAL would help. Add them to the regular roster of creators you communicate and engage with. Make sure you keep engaging with their content organically. Then, when the time is right, reach out to them again and see if they’d be interested in joining your ambassador program.

I also spoke with Aditya Mahapatra from Augmentum and he shared some thoughts on the importance of building relationships with creators:

"Relationships are all about being human: an art, not a science. The most important thing we've found is to match each influencer's tonality. Which comments do they respond to? How energetic are they day-to-day? What emojis do they overuse? All invaluable info that can be leveraged to build stronger relationships, faster."

It's really about being empathetic and understanding what makes each creator different. Then doing your best to make them happy working with you.

This is how your creator relationships look in SARAL

Now here’s what you must do. Reach out to the creators who already shared your products and make them ambassadors. Since they’ve already posted, they’re more likely to say yes and receive commissions for future posts.

If they do not post about you, add them to an occasional engagement campaign where you share some company updates, promote ambassador’s results, and do more concierge stuff if you choose to.

Another creative way to engage with the ones that post about you is to ask them for usage rights and leverage that content for your paid ads. You can also embed it on your product page.

Be creative, here’s a handy decision chart for you to download and share in a team slack for reference 🙂

Download this!

Summary

So now you know everything that goes into running a profitable seeding campaign. Remember the equation?

Let’s not forget that the goal is to get sales and make money. Your goal is to increase the likelihood of the sale. The levers in your control are:

  • Response Rates
  • Unboxing experience
  • Post Likelihood
  • Sale conversion rates

Now go back and read each of the steps mentioned in this post. Each step covers how you can increase the “P” of each of these variables i.e. increase the probability of them happening.

You can increase the chances they respond, Pr, by selecting the right creators and sending them a give-focused email.

You can increase the chances they like your product, Pl, by making the unboxing experience great.

You can increase the likelihood of a post, Pp, by sending them swag, giving their audience a discount, following up with them once they receive product, and so on.

Finally, you can increase the likelihood of a sale, Ps, with discounts and making sure you select creators with a high engagement rate.

Does it all make sense now? Don't forget the 6 steps, the formula, and download the decision chart! 

If this post was able to bring more clarity in your mind about what influencer seeding is, I'd appreciate if you share it with your team on Slack and colleagues on LinkedIn. Till then, you can choose to receive such amazing tips every week by subscribing to the SARAL "No BS" Influence Marketing Letter 👉