<![CDATA[Rachel Nilsson used influencer marketing to grow her multi-million dollar kids clothing business from nothing. And we really do mean nothing; Four years ago, with a husband in grad school and three young boys at home, Nilsson knew she had to do something to help her family survive.
The family of five was “broke as a joke” (her words) and she had no capital to start a business, so Nilsson took to selling her kids’ hand-me-down clothes as a way to generate revenue on the side. It didn’t take long for her to realize the clothes she’d made herself were selling out the fastest.
Among those clothes was an all-star product about to become a sensation: The RAG, a romper for kids that slid on and off easily, no annoying snaps in sight.
“We bridged the gap between a product that’s adorable and a product that’s functional,” Nilsson said of her designs.
A problem-solving product, fueled by savvy use of Instagram on Nilsson’s part, helped the mom-turned-entrepreneur bring in more than $750,000 in sales her first year in business — and grow exponentially since, doubling her revenue year after year.
We sat down with Rachel to talk about how she leveraged influencer marketing to grow her brand, what helped her become so successful so quickly, and her tips for other business owners out there.
Work with what you have — but stay consistent
Nilsson had very limited resources when she first began marketing her brand through social media, but that didn’t mean she compromised on quality. She used what was available, whether that be poster board or window light, to achieve the aesthetic she knew she wanted.
“I found a style I loved that looked really clean. I bought cheap materials to mimic that, and I took every photo I had with an iPhone,” she explained.
Nilsson made consistent content an absolute priority, posting visually-appealing photos at least once per day, if not more often.
Utilize influencers for free content
Posting to Instagram so regularly requires a wealth of content — content Nilsson could not afford to pay for at the beginning of her business. She remedied this by asking social media influencers to photograph their own kids wearing RAGS in exchange for free product.
“I looked for influencers that fit our brand — they matched our aesthetic, they had kids. I didn’t care about followers in the beginning,” she said. “I needed free photographs because I didn’t have the money to pay for photographers and I would have that content for my website and social media.”
Be selective about the influencers you work with
“Find people you really want to work with,” Nilsson advised. “Don’t work with just anyone. Don’t just look at the number of followers they have.”
While juggling her kids, Nilsson would scroll through Instagram periodically throughout the day to find influencers she felt really matched her brand’s mission and aesthetic.
“I would screenshot ones I wanted to reach out to. I would find 20 or 30 a day that really fit, and at night, when my kids were in bed, I would reach out to each influencer by email. I wasn’t pushy with the product, I was just really considerate to make sure our brand was a good fit with the influencer,” she said.
By making sure influencers truly matched the brand with both visuals and mission, Nilsson knew she could reach similar audiences full of moms who would appreciate her product.
Make it a win for them
According to Nilsson, making the brand partnership truly feel like a win for social media influencers is key to a successful and profitable influencer marketing campaign.
This can look different company to company, or even influencer to influencer, but it boils down to making the experience of working together a pleasure for the influencer; getting the product they really want into their hands and offering perks that feel special and exciting for them.
“In the beginning, only one out of 10 of the influencers I’d reach out to would bite. But we made sure every influencer we worked with enjoyed the experience and felt special. As we grew, we’d have more and more people say yes,” she said. “Now we have influencers pitching us and hoping to work with us in exchange for product.”
Do followers or engagement matter in influencer marketing?
In a world where thousands of followers can now be purchased for a couple of bucks, the number of followers an influencer has on social media means less and less these days. While it can seem attractive to pay for promotion through an influencer with millions of followers, it’s far more important to make sure the followers they do have are quality followers with high engagement.
For RAGS, micro-influencers with fewer than 10,000 or 20,000 followers proved extremely helpful for growing brand awareness, because their following was engaged and within a niche that would be excited about her product.
Do what you’re good at, outsource the other stuff
Nilsson discovered early that she was pretty good at the whole Instagram thing. She liked putting personality behind her brand and marketing her products online, and she wanted time to do more of it.
“I wasn’t happy being behind a sewing machine every day,” she noted. “An order would come in and I would curse.”
When she finally outsourced manufacturing and fulfillment, she freed up her time to do what she truly excelled at — and her sales reflected that.
“Our sales quadrupled a month after shifting to manufacturing, because I had time to focus on selling the product rather than making it,” she said. “As you scale and grow, it’s so important to figure out exactly where you should be. Focus on what you know you’re good at. I knew I was good at sales and marketing and really pushing that side of the business. Outsource what you’re bad at as soon as possible.”
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Laurel is a member of the executive team at Stryde. She's been doing digital marketing for businesses for 10 years. Two years ago, she started set up her own ecommerce business selling baby gowns and knows the struggles of a small business owner. She loves talking about digital marketing, content, SEO, and conversion rate optimization.