Imagine it's 2014, and your brand manager asks you to sponsor a trip for a few people who seem to be popular on a new social media app (Instagram wasn't very popular) in return for a boost in sales.
You would think it's a crazy idea! There is no guarantee that you will recover this investment with the sales after the event. You would even get confused about how this trip will lead to sales. All you've known till now is paid ads, some pamphlets, event sponsorship, and such.
But this is exactly how Revolve kick-started its influencer marketing initiatives. After convincing the CEO of the idea, Raissa Gerona, the brand manager, organized a small trip to Sedona, Arizona, with influencers Chiara Ferragni and Sincerely Jules in 2014.
It was an expensive idea! But it worked...
The brand saw a huge jump in sales after the pictures from the trip went live on the creators' accounts. Its social media following also increased.
Since then, Revolve has built a great reputation for maintaining good relationships with creators, built technology to support influencer marketing, and attracted people to become cheerleaders for the brand. So much so that 70% of Revolve's revenue comes via creators!
6 Things Revolve does to build a successful ambassador program
Dedicated landing pages
Like Athletic Greens or lululemon, Revolve also has a dedicated page for its ambassadors. But unlike other brands, the page doesn't give out much information about the program — perks, process, the experience of other ambassadors, etc.
A dedicated landing page gathers inbound interest from people who want to partner with your brand instead of you spending resources in reaching out to them. It also shows the brand's commitment to the program and how much importance it is given. This can make or break a brand's connections with the right creators.
Shoutout to creators
Revolve regularly posts pictures & videos from its creators on the brand's Instagram or TikTok account.
By recognizing the ambassadors on its social media, Revolve gets two benefits —
a) They get quality content that they can use for their social media without investing in shooting new pictures or videos every time. The content from creators is usually high-quality and authentic.
b) They are able to build a strong relationship with creators. The creators get a boost in their following when a brand with millions of followers promotes them. They are more likely to promote the brand for the long term and recommend it even without incentives. The same thing happens with Revolve and the creators who get recognized on the brand's social media channels.
This also motivates the creators to tag Revolve whenever they are wearing an outfit from their website in the hopes of getting a shoutout.
Positioning, relationship and opportunities to create content
Revolve hosts three major events throughout the year — Revolve Awards, Revolve Festival & Revolve Travel. Each event is meant exclusively for top ambassadors or invitees of ambassadors.
This helps the brand and creators in more than one way:
a) It gives creators ample props and a professional setup to create high-quality photos and videos. This helps them create engaging content for their audience. And, of course, in all the pictures, it's hard to miss the brand. If creatives are good, brands can request to use those for ads, as product images, or for socials.
b) These events are an opportunity for the brand to connect with the ambassadors & build long-term relationships with them. It also helps Revolve create buzz on socials because creators like to show the exclusive event they are attending.
c) With exclusive events, Revolve is able to position itself as a cool brand that people would like to get associated with just for the clout. That's why Revolve doesn't have to spend time negotiating terms with popular creators.
Building in-house technology
Revolve understands that there are two sides to an ambassador program that they have control over and need to take care of — the ambassador and the marketers who run these programs.
To make it easier to run influencer marketing, Revolve has built in-house technology that tracks influencers' engagement over time and their potential audience reach and matches them to the relevant Revolve campaigns. It also keeps building a database from which Revolve can pull new influencers to partner with. The database can automatically collect feedback on how much sales or engagement the influencer drives, and then the Revolve team can decide whether or not to engage with the creator for long-term or not.
As an emerging brand, or due to a bandwidth crunch, you might not have the capability to build such tools in-house. And that's not the only path to success. You can leverage already available tools in the market at a fraction of the cost it will take you to build something in-house.
One such tool is SARAL. You can use it to search for creators, send outreach campaigns, keep track of conversations, view shipping updates, etc. Try it for free here. We don't ask for a credit card or make you fill out lengthy forms.
Take a look at how it works:
Creator-specific shopping pages
Revolve ambassadors can create customized landing pages that act as storefronts. They can add their favorite products to this landing page and create a collection they love. The landing pages can then be shared with anyone, just like any other normal page.
In the example below, @lipkine on Instagram has shared the link for shopping her collecting in the bio.
On clicking, it takes you to a page where you can find a curated list. This makes it easy for the creator to promote their style and not the whole website, which might come across as inauthentic. For buyers also, it becomes easy to choose from a small collection and make a purchase without confusing themselves with the whole store.
This also helps creators & the brand track the revenue generated from a particular ambassador since the sales would be associated with a particular landing page.
When Revolve first launched the initiative to create creator-specific shopping pages, they were able to onboard more than 3,000 members and had a waiting list of another 10,000 applicants.
Stacked rewards after a certain number of sales
Revolve rewards its creators a percentage of the sale they bring in the form of cash or 20% more than cash if they get it as store credit. By sharing a percentage of revenue, you can avoid the risk of giving cash upfront without a guarantee of sales.
On top of it, the brand launches special gift campaigns for creators if they bring in more than a certain number of sales. For example, in the message below, they promised free coffee for the rest of the year to ambassadors bringing in the most number of orders.
Stacked rewards are a great strategy to keep creators motivated to talk about the brand so they can reach the next level. This strategy is very well executed by Pura Vida. Read more about that here.
Takeaways for your brand
Here are 4 things any DTC brand willing to work with creators for a profitable growth strategy should learn from Revolve:
- Instead of one-off campaigns with creators, go for ambassador programs that help you build long-term relationships and avoid the risk of giving cash up-front.
- Think about how you can automate your campaigns as much as possible. This will allow you to scale marketing without adding more resources and investing more time. One way to do that is to use tools like SARAL.
- Offer Create a tiered reward system to keep creators engaged with your brand. Surprise them with new challenges and gifts to keep things interesting.
- Get the basic setup & processes right — a landing page to get inbound interest from creators, an email sequence to reach out & follow up with them, and a process to share creators' posts on your channel regularly.
If you are not seeing any returns in one-off influencer campaigns or want to create an influencer marketing strategy that runs almost on autopilot, then try building an ambassador program.
The relationship with the creator will last beyond a few posts and sales. Moreover, the creator will shy away from marketing your competitors' products alongside yours.
Finding creators who will be cheerleaders for your brand and getting a deep commitment to your company from them is not easy. You have to think about outreach, compensation model, building relationship with creators, analyzing the ROI, and so much more. To master each area step by step, sign up for our No BS Influencer Marketing Letter — its bite-size knowledge about influencer marketing, delivered right to your inbox once every week.