Learn from Fast Growing 7-8 Figure Online Retailers and eCommerce Experts

EPISODE 406 54 mins

“Direct to Creator” Influencer Marketing Framework → Yash Chavan

About the guests

Yash Chavan

Kunle Campbell

Yash is a master marketer who's scaled companies from traction to over ~$1.5M in ARR. He used to run a boutique marketing agency and scaled influencer programs from 0 to 350+ creators for brands. He's shared his 6-step-system for profitable influencer marketing on the Story of a Brand show and also has been on The Exceptional Sales Leader podcast (top sales podcast in Australia).

On today’s episode, Kunle is joined by Yash Chavan, Co-Founder of Saral, an influencer platform that assists brands in achieving their brand goals and mission.

In his third year of engineering, Yash gathered his courage and took a leap of faith by dropping out of college to pursue his passion in business and sales. As a man of action, he went and did freelancing gigs in sales and got his first role in sales at a startup. He later on built his own agency with a four-man crew. As the agency’s client list grew, things piled up and became too heavy to handle and too messy. Out of necessity, they created SARAL.

When you got more than 100+ influencers, a spreadsheet or organization tools are not enough to be on top of things. SARAL is a platform for brands to help them with the complex process of influencer marketing. SARAL’s goal is to assist brands build a great relationship with their influencers to make sure that both the brand and the influencers are profiting.

It’s an interesting episode as you’d hear Kunle and Yash talk more about influencer marketing, the direct-to-creator approach, and setting up a systemic mainframe for influencers, ambassadors, and affiliates, and how he manages the SARAL community.

Here is a summary of some of the most important points made:

  • Performance marketing is more measurable than influencer marketing.
  • The Direct-to-Creator philosophy of SARAL is cutting middlemen like talent agencies and marketplaces to avoid a transactional approach in influencer marketing as this doesn’t usually end well and costs more.
  • One of the common mistakes of brands in influencer marketing is always focusing on the strategy first.
  • Giving a creative brief to creators defeats the purpose of working with them as influencers or promoters of your brand.

Covered Topics:

On today’s interview, Kunle and Yash discuss:

  • From Engineering to Marketing
  • Influencer Marketing vs Performance Marketing
  • The Ideal Influencer Marketing Operation
  • Direct-to-Creator Philosophy
  • A Systematic Mainframe to Influencer Marketing
  • Prospecting Influencers
  • The Direct-to-Creator Mainframe of Influencer Marketing
  • Managing a Community of Ambassadors and Creators
  • The SARAL Community
  • Yash’s Preferred Platform
  • Incentivizing Influencers


  • 00:01 – From Engineering to Marketing
    • Yash took up engineering but business and sales excited Yash more than engineering. He started an agency after doing some sales gigs and freelance marketing.
    • After Facebook’s iOS 14.5 update, Yash needed to figure out how to help his clients to make money.
    • SARAL was made up of a team of four people including Yash and they had 3 to 4 clients when they started doing influencer marketing.
  • 04:26 – Influencer Marketing vs Performance Marketing
    • “Influencer marketing is more top-funnel.”
    • Performance marketing is more trackable than influencer marketing because of the ads and attribution.
    • Influencer becomes the discovery channel for the product and the performance marketing is the Google ad or Facebook ad which will be the conversion channel.
  • 06:53 – The Ideal Influencer Marketing Operation
    • One marketing savvy is enough for a starting/emerging brand/company.
    • With SARAL, the marketing person doesn’t need to be full-time on influencer marketing
    • Yash studied how bigger brands like Loop Earplugs, Magic Spoon, and a couple of others. These companies have 2 or 3 influencers and they have a marketing angle to it.
    • The roles of Yash’s team in SARAL depend on what the brand needs which is categorized into three categories.
  • 10:38 – Direct-to-Creator Philosophy
    • The Direct-to-Creator is a way of cutting the middleman (agencies or marketplaces or UGC platforms) when brands start to work with influencers. The brand will directly coordinate with the influencer.
    • “That usually does not work out and you end up spending a lot of money for little return and that’s a very transactional approach.”
  • 12:19 – A Systematic Mainframe to Influencer Marketing
    • There are six steps in the approach of SARAL to Influencer Marketing.
    • The first step in SARAL’s approach to influencer marketing is finding the perfect fit influencer for your brand.
    • The second step is giving your offer to the influencer which has 3 components: an incentive (payment) for the influencer, a discount offer for the fans, and additional offers (e.g. early access to new products, access to the community, recurring free gifts, etc.)
    • The third step is reaching out to the influencer. Email is a much more preferable way to reach out but if the email of the influencer is not available, send them a DM.
    • Personalized shipping experience is the fourth step and step 5 is tracking performance and step 6 building the right relationship.
  • 21:40 – Prospecting Influencers
    • SARAL recommends to the brands they work with is to start with affiliates as the incentive.
    • Using the six-approach of SARAL, track which influencers are performing well and promote them to a paid retainer model.
    • SARAL uses their own affiliate management platform but they used GoAffPro, Refersion, Dovetail, and Shopify collabs before.
  • 24:19 – The Direct-to-Creator Mainframe of Influencer Marketing
    • With traditional influencer marketing, there is a creative brief where there’s a middleman involved which is what SARAL is avoiding.
    • Instead of a creative brief, SARAL gives out guidelines like for some brands, there are things you can say and cannot say.
    • “We don’t necessarily script anything, especially at the ambassador stage. When they’re just an ambassador, when we onboard them, we send them the tracking link and the discount code.”
  • 28:40 – Managing a Community of Ambassadors and Creators
    • 50 to 100 influencers is a great goal to have and should be the first mountain to climb.
    • SARAL is also a CRM or a relationship management platform that helps brands stay on top of things.
    • “Make sure you follow the six-step system and you will get to your first let’s say 50 to 100.”
    • Once you get to your goal number of influencers, introduce stuff like challenges with monetary rewards or extra perks.
    • For smaller brands with a fewer number of influencers, getting influencers to ascend to the ambassador level either with a higher commission rate or a monthly retainer.
  • 33:19 – The SARAL Community
    • “SARAL is more for the manager or the brand to use, it’s not for the influencers. We are not like Discord or something like that for the creators.”
    • SARAL has a group for creators in Slack, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Discord.
    • Another suggestion from Yash is to create a private Instagram account for the ambassadors where they can follow the account and you can follow them back.
    • “By coincidence, we found out that all the influencers that performed well at the end of every quarter were the people we did Zoom calls with, the people we were on WhatsApp with, and the people we added as LinkedIn connections.”
  • 37:55 – Yash’s Preferred Platform
    • “I don’t have one specific platform to answer here because usually, with influencers, we see a variety of platforms work. It depends on the niche and it depends on the product.”
    • Youtube is a good platform for products that “lends itself to doing some education” and that it is in a longer form.
    • For something catchy and unique, TikTok and Instagram reels are good platforms to hook your customer’s attention.
    • Make sure that your customer is in your preferred platform for marketing.
  • 39:35 – Incentivizing Influencers
    • There are five ways to incentivize influencers.
    • Before incentivizing, brands should identify first the ways how to do it. Yash says that there are the cheapest to most expensive ways on how to incentive influencers.
    • The second is affiliate or ambassador. The third one is paying them upfront.
    • The fourth one is paying them upfront and paying them affiliate commission.
    • “The final way, which end might end up being the most complex or the most expensive in the long run is equity partnerships with creators. It’s not upfront payments or affiliates, it’s equity.”


  • Performance marketing is more trackable than influencer marketing. Still, they go hand-in-hand since influencer marketing becomes the discovery channel for the product, and performance marketing (e.g. Google ads, Facebook ads, etc.) becomes the conversion channel.
  • SARAL is approaching influencer marketing in a six-step process.
  • “Taking a relationship-first approach to influencers is critical.”
  • “The way you structure your guidelines document is your origin story, things to say, things definitely not to say, and then creative inspiration at the end. We leave them with that.”

Links & Resources:



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Yash, a warm welcome to the 2X eCommerce podcast. 

Thanks, Kunle. I’m glad to be here. 

First things first, you’re dialing in quite late to this podcast. Where are you? 

I am in Mumbai, India. It’s raining, it’s nice and cozy weather, and I’m glad to be chatting with you.

It’s also raining here in Oxfordshire. Incredible backstory you have and who best to tell your backstory than you? Let’s dig in and I want you to go as far back as you want to speak to the key experiences that have led to Yash in 2023. It’s an open-ended question. Some people go far back and others start with their careers. I’m going to leave you to jump right in. 

I’ll give you the full story. Like every Indian ever, I was in engineering college, and then I figured out it was not for me. I always wanted to do business, sales, and marketing, this stuff excited me more than the engineering side. Around my third year, I dropped out of college and then was doing some sales gigs, did some freelance marketing stuff like that, and that’s how I got into this world of marketing. 

Since then, I got my first role at a startup in sales, I was the first sales guy there in a group of tech people. I was always the person who looked at a product, looked at a market, and figured out a way to sell it or market it. I started in sales and I went into marketing because I found that sales were one-on-one versus marketing was one too many so that was more exciting for me. 

I got into marketing, did some marketing roles, and then eventually started an agency, which is where the story about influencers starts forming a little bit. Facebook ads stopped working around the time of the COVID-19 thing happening and IOS 14.5 happened. I was like, “Facebook ads don’t work anymore because of all the privacy updates.” As an agency, we had an option, we could get fired because our clients were making no money from Facebook, or we could figure out another way to make them money. We looked at influencers as a possible viable channel and then I was like, “Let’s figure this out.” 

I was always the guy who had a bias for action so I did not read a blog or read a book or take a course or anything. Because I already had sales experience, I was like, “How difficult can it be to contact a bunch of influencers and get them to promote our product?” It turns out it was difficult but then we figured it out for sheer brute force and then we were like, “We are spending 20 to 30 hours every single week managing the influencer programs for every single client. There has to be a better way.” 

At this point, we had everything in spreadsheets and notion tables and Trello, another emailing tool for mass emails, and so on. It was all over the place and messy. It led to a lot of headaches for me. We were looking at software and then everything in the market was super expensive and super complicated to use. We were like, “I need something affordable and that’s easy to use.” There was nothing like that that existed and that’s how SARAL was born. That’s the story so far. 

It was born out of sheer necessity to cut down 20 to 30 hours of management of accounts. How many accounts were you dealing with when you pivoted to an influencer marketing agency model at the time?

We were always boutique. It was a team of four people, including myself. It was my first business so we never had plans to scale. We were like, “Let’s do our best work possible for these clients and then get as much experience as possible, and then we’ll do our own thing.” We had 3 or 4 clients at that point. That whole management was taking too much time for us in terms of we were doing influencer marketing for two of them and it took us pretty much an entire workweek to sort out the management of it.

What are your top-level takeaways from influencer marketing versus performance marketing? I’m not looking to say one is better but you’ve done both. 

Influencer marketing is more top-of-funnel. It’s sad for us, it’s less trackable than performance marketing is. Performance marketing tends to be more trackable because of all the ads, attribution, and everything. Your tracking is a little bit more wonky on the influencer side of things so that’s a difference. Usually, on a broader scale, what I’ve seen is influencers tend to be the discovery channel and then the performance marketing is let’s say a Google ad or a Facebook ad will be the conversion channel. I agree with you, there are no one is better than the other conversation. It’s, how do influencers feed into performance and how do we use the performance data to get better influencers? It’s circular. 

As long as the blended CPA works for both channels, you’re good, you’re off to the bank, and you can continue to scale and pour more money on both ends. I picked up on the fact that you went to engineering college. Was this one of those elite engineering colleges in India? 

I was not one of the smart IIT people. 

You live in Mumbai.

We have one of the top IITs here called IIT Bombay. 

Is the tech space quite active there? 

It is more so in Bangalore, which is in the south of India than it is in Mumbai. I think of Mumbai as a tech scene but it has more of a media scene. Because Bollywood is here, that’s the overshadowing giant. Any scene in front of Bollywood is small. Versus Bangalore, which is called the Indian Silicon Valley, all the startups in India are basically there, and every tech company was incorporated there. 

“I was always the guy who had a bias for action.” Click to Tweet

With your company, SARAL, you have a six-step process. You also have a direct-to-creator framework, which is based on your standard operating procedures. I align with what you said with regard to the fact that you had to build out this system because you had the people, you had processes in place, and you’ve evolved through those processes to an entire system called SARAL. Stepping back to people, to D2C eCommerce operators reading this, and I mean people managing their D2C channel, what is the ideal team for a high-performing influenza marketing operation? Let’s start out with people. 

Good angle there. If you’re starting off, if you’re an emerging brand, and if you don’t necessarily have a big budget, one savvy marketing person is all you need. With a tool such as SARAL, they don’t have to be full-time on influencer marketing. Let’s say you’re even not using a tool, even if they’re part-time, let’s say twenty hours a week on influencer marketing and they do that week on week, every week, they have a system that they follow, that should be good enough. 

To answer your question maybe in a little bit more detail, we have studied some bigger brands that do it. We studied Loop Earplugs, Magic Spoon, and a couple of others of these big companies. At max, they have maybe 2 or 3 people on their influencer team, not more than that. Usually, there’s some sort of performance marketing angle to it. 

Maybe they’ll have the performance marketer as part of the marketing team and then the marketing team is a couple of influencer marketers or a couple of performance marketers and then they work with each other because the influencers send the UGC to the performance team. The performance team sends the data back to the influencer team and then they work in tandem. I’ve never seen a completely blown out team in-house and you don’t need that, especially nowadays with all these tools and tech available. 

You’re suggesting 1 or 2 people in your team. What are their roles? 

One person to start influencer marketing manager or social. Even a part-time person is fine. You could just be a social media manager. We’ve worked with about 100 brands so far, especially on SARAL. We’ve worked with founders directly who do influencer marketing, especially if they’re small, maybe starting out, or something like that. The hustler founder archetype is what we’ve worked with. We’ve worked with influencer marketing managers. The founder has hired someone who’s solely responsible for influencer stuff, which is great. That’s the perfect model if you’re serious about it. 

There’s a third model where you have a person who may be a marketing manager or a social media marketing manager. They have their hands on some other marketing stuff but then they have their plate clear to take on some influencer responsibilities. I’ve seen all three of these models work. The founder-led model works, the influencer marketing manager works because that’s their role, and then the social media marketing manager or the marketing manager who takes up influencer marketing works. 

Would you be able to break down their process? You talked about a six-step process to influence marketing and it’s within this framework of the direct-to-create framework. I’d love to hear what the processes look like. 

I would shed some light on the direct-to-creator part first. What happened was when I was at the agency and when we were doing things, it was always direct-to-creator. Even our clients were startups. We weren’t working with big brands so they did not have the budget to sign up for tools or platforms. All we could do is DM or email the creators directly. That’s what I mean by direct-to-creators, go to the creator directly instead of going to an agency or a talent agency or instead of going to a marketplace. 

When I started the platform, which was SARAL, what I saw was a lot of brands go to these influencer hiring platforms or UGC platforms, and then they “hire” influencers to post about them, and then it’s over. That usually does not work out and you end up spending a lot of money for little return and that’s a very transactional approach. 

It’s like, “I’m going to pay you X amount and you’re going to post about me and then it’s over.” That’s a transactional third-party approach where you’re going through a talent agency or you’re going through a marketplace instead with direct-to-creator, you cut the middle man, you save your cost, you save your time, and you go direct to creator. That’s what I mean by the whole direct-to-creator philosophy. 

What about the actual day-to-day process? What should influence marketing teams, whether it’s a one-man band or a team of 2 or 3? How should they systematically approach influencer marketing for the maximum return?

I have a six-step process for this, I’ll go through each one of these steps, and then you can ask me questions. Step one, and a lot of times brands make this mistake, is that they will always focus on the strategy first. It’s like, “What’s our strategy going to be with influencers?” I’m always the bias-to-action kind of guy. Always, I would say that your first step as a brand is to find your first 100 perfect-fit influencers. Don’t worry about strategy yet. Don’t worry about anything else. 

Figure out who you want to work with and make a list of at least 50 of those people and better if you make a list of 100 people. Make a list of prospects so that’s what I call step one, which is prospecting, which is finding the creators that you want to work with. This may be as simple as, let’s say, for example, you’re an organic skincare brand, you can go on Instagram, type in #organicskincare or #skincareroutine, and find influencers who are posting about it and add them to a Google sheet. 

Making a list of creators is step one. Once your who is figured out, then you figure out your what. Otherwise, you’ll create strategy but then strategy depends on who the people are like we said. If you don’t have clarity on if you’re going to work with makeup influencers or if you’re going to work with organic skincare influencers or if you’re going to work with lifestyle influencers, if you don’t have clarity on the who, the what is irrelevant so that’s why I put the who first. Find who you want to reach out to and who your influencers are. 

Step two, I hate calling it strategy because that’s a little bit of a buzzwordy thing so I call it offer. You create your influencer offer and your offer consists of three components. Usually, it consists of an incentive for the influencer, which might be a straight upfront payment if you have the budget, a commission, or a free gift. That depends. It’s an incentive for the influencer to post about you. 

The second component of the offer is the discount for their fans. Now they’ve posted about you, why should their fans buy from their link instead of going to the website or clicking on the Google ad and buying? Why should they buy now instead of later? For that, you create a discount or create some bundle offer for their audience. That’s the second component of the offer. 

The third component sweetens the deal a little bit, which is, what parts are you offering? Are you offering recurring free gifts for them? Are you offering some community access? Are you offering behind-the-scenes access or early access to new products? Something like that. It makes the influencer feel like they’re part of a community as opposed to being an affiliate salesperson mindset. That was the offer. You find your influencers, you create what I call a no-brainer influencer offer. If you put a no-brainer influencer offer in front of your ideal prospect, it should be imagined they should say yes. 

Once you have these two things figured out, step three is to reach out to them. Sometimes there’s a debate in influencer circles about whether you should DM people or email people. Usually, most influencers will have their email listed somewhere, either in their bio, or they’ll have it in the email button on their profile, you can use that. If their email is not available, only then DM them is what my opinion is. To start, you can stick to purely email. There are enough influencers in the world who have businesses done over email. You don’t want to get into the hassle of back-to-back DMing because that’s a different piece to manage. That, you can keep for later. Email people, send them an outreach email.

Step number four is shipping the product. It might feel like a non-consequential step but a lot of brands mess up here, which is why I’ve made it a fourth explicit step. With shipping, you have to be careful. Use express shipping. Ship the product as fast as possible as soon as they say yes. If you can deliver in 1 or 2 days, deliver in 1 or 2 days instead of waiting for a week. Do that. Pay a couple of extra bucks for the shipping, do that. If you can, add personal letters to every influencer shipment that you send. Write a personal letter yourself or there are apps that do this. Send them a personal note thanking them for accepting the gift and being a part of your community. Do that. Shipping is important. 

Influencers are always looking for content. If you have the most amazing shipping experience, they’re going to post about you. They’re going to do an unboxing video when they get the gift. They will expect a cardboard box to show up. If you send something that’s nicely tinted, maybe it’s colorful, maybe it has some goodies inside, and it has a personal letter, they have more excuses to post about you. Shipping is a crucial step. We’ll ship products properly and personalize the shipping experience. 

Step number 5 of the 6 steps is to track performance. At this point, you’ve pretty much done everything you can, you’ve found the right people, you send them the right offer, and you ship them the product. Now you wait for the post and then you track performance. See who’s working well, see who’s posting, and see who’s not posting. Follow up with them if they’re not posting and then track the performance, track the traffic that they send, and see the quality of the content. 

Performance with influencers is not to be confused with performance in performance marketing because it’s a discovery channel. A lot of times, the good performing influencer could also simply mean for you, and this depends on brand-to-brand, a good piece of content can be good performance because good equity and brand value were created there. Make sure that you are tracking the posts and tracking the sales also that come with it. 

If you do the first five things, you already have a good program, and you don’t have to worry about it. To go from good to great is where step six comes in, which is to build long-term relationships and maintain them with creators. If you have someone posting once or twice, that’s fine. If the same person keeps posting about you month after month for let’s say even 6 to 12 months, that is going to be insane for your brand value. 

I like to say relationships compound and transactions don’t. If you pay someone to post and they post about you once or twice, it’s done, it’s dead after that. With relationships, maybe even if they had a slow starter, maybe they test your product out for a month or so, and then they start advocating for it, it’s going to hit well with their audience. You have to maintain that relationship for the long term and the way you do that is with the perks side of the influencer offer. 

“Relationships compound and transactions don't.” Click to Tweet

Send them new free products, send them special offers, give them a gift card, send them something for their spouse, son, daughter, or something like that. Do special things for them. Treat them like a friend. I can keep giving tactics but then as long as you treat them like a friend and make sure that they feel welcome and then they’re part of a community and you give important things to them, you should be good. 

Those are my six steps of influencer marketing. To recap one last time, it’s prospecting, which is finding the right influencers. Creating the offer is step two. Sending the offer is step three. Shipping and personalizing the shipping experience is step four. Tracking performance is step five. Go for good to great by building the right relationships. 

It’s an incredible rundown and I resonate with it. One of our brands lends itself to influencer marketing. What hooked me from what you said was the relationship building because we work with some influencers, we pay them good money, but they just keep on delivering, and the relationship is there. We’ve built an over one-year relationship with them. We keep that cadence and then they give updates to their audience so it’s like a chain. I have to agree with you. Those are your elite special influencers you keep really well. 

Taking a relationship-first approach to influencers is critical. Most brands tend to fall for the shortcut of using a marketplace or a talent agency, hiring a bunch of creators, and then making them post and then whatever. Don’t do influencer marketing if it’s a box to check for you. It’s not a box to check. If you’re not devoted, and if you’re not ready to spend at least 5 to 10 hours a week, you or someone on your team, then don’t bother with influencers. It’s unlike performance marketing where you set something, you forget it, you check in every couple of days for performance, and then you tweak variables. It’s a different mentality. It’s more soft skills oriented than hard skills oriented. 

I have a couple of questions and one is zooming into prospecting, step one, on the one hand, to affiliate or to pay. Do you have any rules from your perspective? 

Usually, for the brands that we work with, I recommend them to do affiliate to start. The incentive part of the offer has to be affiliate only. If a brand does have the budget to allocate, I do recommend that they allocate. If a particular creator is good and you want to work with them but they don’t want to work with you on an affiliate basis, it’s fine to make an exception. Generally speaking, it’s better if you do what I call the ambassador model. 

Affiliate is the incentive part of the offer. The offer has two more components. The offer has a discount and the offer has perks. There are more ways in which you can make the offer more enticing for the influencer. The affiliate commission is one. I’m also offering a discount to your audience or you could do a giveaway or you could do a special bundle or something like that. Finally, you could give them special perks. 

For example, there was a CrossFit brand that we worked with and then they offered their team of ambassadors free training sessions at their nearby gym, which everybody liked because they’re CrossFit people, they love to train, and they want to visit different gyms and train. Giving that perk. They got people with 50,000 or 60,000 followers to promote them just because they had that extra additional thoughtful perk that they added in there instead of saying, “We’ve got this affiliate program.” 

Take the ambassador approach, do the affiliate discount and perk model, and then from there, see who’s posting that step five, track performance. Based on that, see who’s performing, see who’s getting the best type of content, see who’s already starting to get you sales, and then promote them to a paid retainer model where you pay them a certain amount. You can maybe also let them keep the affiliate commissions you pay them and then you make sure that they’re generating content, which can also fuel your performance marketing side of things. 

What affiliate ma management platform do you use to track performance and returns from ambassadors or partners?

We use SARAL. SARAL has that built in. Even before SARAL, we’ve used others. There’s GoAffPro, which is a free platform that we’ve used. There’s Refersion. We’ve used Dovetail and Shopify collabs before. 

There are lots of options. The second question I had has to do with guiding influencers and how far would you go. The reason I’m asking is that you’re not just speaking from a point of view of, “We have a few clients,” but you guys have a bunch of customers using your platform so you’re seeing trends. That’s why I like speaking to SaaS solutions every now and then because you have aggregator data. 

Going back to my question, it’s around, do you put together material and in what structure to guide posting? Do you give the influencer quite a lot of flexibility to translate it in their own tone of voice and get out there? How far do you script? How far do you guide? What’s your philosophy there with regards to giving them that offer that they’re going to present to their audience?

I like to say creative briefs are a scam. Usually, with influencer marketing, traditionally speaking, there was what’s called a creative brief. This is all from the old school not non-direct to creator world where usually there’s a talent agency involved or nowadays, there’s a tech marketplace involved. You hire the influencer and then you slap them with a creative brief, which defeats the purpose of working with the creator, in my opinion. 

You’re hiring a creator and their job is to create. They’re creative and they’ve used their creative skills to build an audience of let’s say 10,000, 20,000, or maybe 50,000 people. Now you’re going to slap them with a script that your marketing intern wrote two years ago, that does not make a lot of sense to me. What we do instead is give some guidelines. For every brand, there are going to be some things you say and some things you don’t say. 

We don’t necessarily script anything, especially at the ambassador stage. When they’re just an ambassador, when we onboard them, we send them the tracking link and the discount code. With that, usually, our brands will send them something like a guidelines document, and we have our framework for that as well, which is a notion template we send our brands where they fill their details in. The way it’s structured is it has an origin story of the brand that helps the creator relate. 

Direct-to-consumer brands also have a founder story, how they started, the pain that they felt, and so on. They have a personal origin story. They have what things to say. It’s not necessarily, “Say these nice things about us,” but it’s like, “It has this and this is how it can potentially help your audience.” You have that. 

Finally, things not to say. Sometimes there may be misconceptions. Maybe if it’s an organic brand, an influencer might accidentally end up saying it’s gluten-free or it’s vegan but maybe it’s not or maybe it is so you have to say that. It’s stuff like that, which is around more like the specifics of what the brand stands for, we mention that. “Definitely mention this. Definitely don’t mention this because we don’t stand for that.” 

In the end, we add other inspiration. If you have nobody promoting you, you can add some of your own creative assets that you’ve posted on your socials, or best if you’ve got customers already promoting you and sharing your products online. Add their stories, their posts, and their reels as inspiration. After a certain point, once you have your ambassador posting, you replace all of those with your actual influencer’s post and then use that as creative guidelines. 

The way you structure your guidelines document is your origin story, things to say, things definitely not to say, and then creative inspiration at the end. We leave them with that. With the origin story, they have context from what the brand is. After the next two points, they know what to say, what not to say, and then they’re left with some inspiration so that their creation can flourish within those guidelines. 

I love the framework. The origin story, guidelines, and inspiration, I like that structure. It makes a lot of sense. They will connect with you with that origin story. If you’ve nailed your story right, they can connect their story with your story to engage emotively their audience with the offer, which is super. Yash, on your website, I’m going to read a section of your homepage. 

“People trust people, not ads. Having a community of 50 to 100 influential ambassadors constantly promoting your brand on their socials is of supreme importance in 2023. Don’t take my word for it. Ask Lululemon, Pura Vida, Band, and Sephora, all the big brands, (which you and I love) in different industries were built by partnering with creators.” My question is how do you manage a community of 50 to 100 ambassadors who are creators? It’s a lot of people. 

It’s a good starting point. Some of our brands have 500-plus creators in their community. Some of our bigger brands definitely have that. A 50 to 100 is a good goal to have. When you’re just starting out, that should be your first mountain to climb. Once you’re there, you’ll have different problems, and then that’s a separate podcast to record after that point. To get to your 50 to 100 influencers should be your first main influencer mountain to climb. Honestly, I’m not trying to sell but then you use a CRM or a relationship management platform such as SARAL, which helps you stay on top of things. 

“Creative briefs are a scam.” Click to Tweet

For maybe a dozen or so people in your community, you are able to manage it in a spreadsheet. Honestly, you don’t need a tool. If you’re at that stage, don’t even sign up for something like SARAL. If you want to scale that to a legit scale where you genuinely have all these influencers promoting you nonstop and they’re getting you sales is when you would need a tool such as SARAL to stay on top of things and do the step number six, which was building of those relationships and maintaining them for the long run. 

The thing is, do you refresh the offers and say, “Folks, we’re willing to give this offer, it might be a discount or a perk.” How do you refresh or keep the energy going? Is it purely based on incentives whereby we say, “If you promote today, rather than getting 15% commission, we’ll give you 25%.” What tactics are they using to energize their community of ambassadors? 

To be honest, you don’t need to try this if you are just getting to your first 50 or 75 creators. At that stage, when you are at that inflection point where you know that you’re going to hit 100 any time is when you have to introduce this stuff to get. To your first 50 is simple, keep things simple, and don’t worry about doing any like challenges, giveaways, or fancy stuff. Make sure you follow the six-step system and you will get to your first let’s say 50 to 100. 

At that point, we do introduce stuff like challenges in the community. It’s something like, “Whoever gets the first ten sales of this product on this day will win a certain reward.” It can be a monetary reward, an extra bonus perk, or something like that. We can do that. Challenges are one way. An ongoing way, to answer your question for some of the smaller and earlier-stage brands who might not have fully developed influencer programs, is to ascend influencers from being ambassadors to being higher-tier ambassadors. If the commission for everyone else is 15%, the best ambassadors get a 25%. That’s one way. 

The other way is what I mentioned early on in the podcast, which is to ascend your influencers to a monthly retainer. If they’re good, you know you’ve got your economics figured out with them, get them on a monthly retainer. Pay them $500 to $1,000 a month and get them to make a certain frequency of content, a certain style of content. At that point, you can also start scripting the content a little bit, which is what we somewhat alluded to early on. 

That’s interesting in and of itself. Could you paint me a picture of what the community looks like within SARAL? 

SARAL is more for the manager or the brand to use, it’s not for the influencers. We are not like Discord or something like that for the creators. Usually, the way we engage cross-influencer stuff is we can add them to a group usually on Slack, WhatsApp, or Facebook. If it’s a younger audience, Discord also works, although we haven’t personally done it but then it can work. Get your influencers to be part of a group like your ambassadors. 

Another interesting thing that brands can do, and this is the easiest to set up, easier than a group and everything is to create a private Instagram account, which is just for your ambassadors. Let’s say Sephora Ambassadors, to give you an example. That’s a private account, only influencers can follow it. You follow all your influencers back. 

The problem with getting your community off of the platform is it’s hard to keep them engaged and that becomes a separate role and then you go to hire someone to do that and that becomes a different piece to figure out. It distracts you from your main mission of influencer marketing. Instead of doing that, keep things on social media, create a private Instagram account, and have all your influencers follow that. On that page, you can share all your influencer’s content, encourage cross-DMs, have groups on Instagram with different influencers, and so on. That’s an interesting way that I’m seeing some of our brands do it.

Thanks for clarifying. SARAL would manage the entire workflow and then it’s up to the brand to select a platform, be it Instagram, a private Slack, or Discord to build that relationship with the influencer. I’ve even seen some brands use Facebook groups, which works well. It’s important. The point I want to confirm with you is it’s important to have a platform that brings your influencers and ambassadors together. You speak to them and there’s that social interaction. 

To illustrate with a real-world example, even with our brands, on the agency side of things, the best influencers were the people whom we’ve had Zoom conversations with. We had even some of them on WhatsApp interacting with them like friends. At that point, I did not have these fancy frameworks, steps, and everything. We were just figuring things out as we went. By coincidence, we found out that all the influencers that performed well at the end of every quarter were the people we did Zoom calls with, the people we were on WhatsApp with, and the people we added as LinkedIn connections, for example. 

Random stuff like this helped us build that authentic connection with our creators and those creators ended up being the highest-performing ones. We were like, “We should systemize this and make it such that we are building these deep connections with every single influencer that we onboard.” That’s how the relationship concept in SARAL was born, which is the relationship is at the core of everything else that you do. 

I guess you’re on Shopify also. 


Is there any other question I haven’t asked you that you want to communicate to the audience?

You asked some interesting questions. If I were to give you a final nugget apart from the mainframes that you need, the two most important frames with influencer marketing are to be direct to the creator, reach out to the creators directly, and don’t lease this away to a talent agency or some marketplace where you hire UGC creators from. Take ownership of the channel. 

The second frame is to set the right systems. Make sure you follow the six-step system every single week and you should succeed. Once you have these two down, the specifics, you can figure out yourself on how you have to work and operate at your own brand. These two things you need to have sorted and apart from that, you can figure things out. 

I have one final question. What’s your preferred platform, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat? Where is all the magic happening on your end?

For myself or you’re asking in terms of influencer marketing? 

In general, influencer marketing. 

I don’t have one specific platform to answer here because usually, with influencers, we see a variety of platforms work. It depends on the niche and it depends on the product. If it’s a product that lends itself to doing some education, YouTube tends to be a good platform for that because YouTube is longer form. The audiences on YouTube have a higher attention span. When you’re on YouTube, you’ll be likely on your desktop computer. They’re also more prone to buy. YouTube is the best for a product that lends itself to explanation. 

For a product that is very catchy and maybe unique, something like TikTok is good, also, Instagram reels to a certain extent. TikTok is going to be the platform for you if you’re a fun product that hooks someone’s attention. Instagram is usually the best of both worlds. If I were to give you one answer to be safe, go with Instagram. There are many new answers to it. If your audience is not on Instagram, just because I said Instagram, don’t do Instagram. Make sure that there are people in your customers who are on Instagram and who are browsing Instagram and only then choose the platform. 

Great answer with regard to the options you have. If you have something like an electronic device that needs quite some explanation or a demonstration, then go long form. If it’s instant, these are the results is how I look, go for shorter-form platforms. There’s a lot of calculation involved in, “Should I go for this influencer or not?” When you are running an ambassador or affiliate model, you’re not concerned about how much you’re paying because it’s almost like a performance model. That would be for another episode on how to make calculations on what to pay an influencer. That’s a powerful framework. 

We can do another recording. I’ll leave with a cliffhanger. There are only five ways you can incentivize influencers. We’ll leave that for another episode. 

Let’s summarize. What should people expect from the five ways to compensate? 

A lot of people tend to ask, “How do we pay influencers? Should we do affiliates? Should we do ambassador? What should we do?” There are only five ways to pay influencers. You give them monetary compensation. I’ll start with the cheapest way and then I’ll go to the most expensive ways. You can do gifting or seeding, that is step number one, and that’s the easiest way. 

Does it work? 

It works in certain markets, especially if the product is something that is either rare or useful. Let’s say you reach out to productivity influencers and you gift them a table Pomodoro timer. It’s something that’s not exquisite or rare, it’s common but then it works for that niche. That’s a need that they need to solve. In that case, gifting works. Gifting or seeding, whatever you want to call it, that’s going to be the cheapest way to work with influencers. 

The second one is affiliate or ambassador where you pay them a percentage of the sales that they drive. The third one is you pay them upfront. That’s a more transactional model where you say, “We’ll pay you $200 for two Instagram deals,” or something like that. The fourth one is a mix of the last two where you pay them upfront and you pay them an affiliate commission. Sometimes what will happen is that an influencer will say, “I’m going to charge some exorbitant amount.” They’ll say, “I’m going to charge $1,000 for a reel,” or something like that. 

In that case, if you want to figure out a way to work with them, a good negotiation tactic is to cut that in half and say, “We’ll offer $500 upfront and 15% recurring commissions so your upside is unlimited.” As a brand, you reduce your downside as the influencer increases their upside. It’s a win-win offer. That’s the fourth way to incentivize creators. The final way, which end might end up being the most complex or the most expensive in the long run is equity partnerships with creators. It’s not upfront payments or affiliates, it’s equity. Those are the five ways and we can dive in on another episode. 

We had Kelley Thornton from a men’s brand company. He got a YouTube influencer with 1 million followers. He gave him equity in his company. They created a whole YouTube channel for the brand, which was quite interesting. It’s called Tiege Hanley. 

One of their competitors uses SARAL. 

I was looking forward to this conversation and it met my expectations and checked all the boxes. I am smarter from an influencer marketing standpoint. For people who want to find out more about SARAL, they could go to GetSaral.com. Do you have any special offers to the readers? Is there any special offer you want to give? 

I can set it up. If you go to GetSaral.com, sign up and then we’ll give you a fourteen-day trial. It’s a seven-day trial by default. Start the trial and message me in support, there’s a support chat that’s on the website and on inside the app. Once you sign up, message me and say you came from Kunle’s podcast and then we can extend your free trial to fourteen days. 

I like the fact that on the foot of your website, you have an alternative to GRIn, Paid, Mavrck, Aspire, Tagger, Upfluence, and everybody there. I’m interested in the landing pages there. Yash, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the pod. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of the director-to-creator framework and your six-step process for influencer marketing.

Thanks for having me on. Hopefully, we do another one of these very soon. 


About the host:

Kunle Campbell

An ecommerce advisor to ambitious, agile online retailers and funded ecommerce startups seeking exponentially sales growth through scalable customer acquisition, retention, conversion optimisation, product/market fit optimisation and customer referrals.

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