📦 Do’s and Don’ts of partnering with creators
May 21, 2023
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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

For all the founders out there, what’s the best advice you’d give to someone starting their first DTC brand?

Reply to this email, and we’ll share the best of the best!

If you’re new to DTC, welcome! You’re in good company with fellow newcomers from Kanga Coolers, CTV, Love Hair, Case-Mate, Everist, and Pinsy Shapewear. 📺

In this newsletter, you’ll find: 👇

👏 The do’s and don’ts of partnering with creators

🍪 How HighKey raised their AOV by 40% with Chief Digital Officer Ryan Rouse

🤔 Six things beginners get wrong on Amazon

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How to make your brand partnerships a match made in heaven

There are reasons why VCs poured $1.3 billion into the Creator Economy in 2020 and that it reached almost $5 billion in 2021.

Consumers are more interested in supporting and following creators than ever before, and VC firms recognize that “monetizing the individual” is the way of the future.

While VCs are investing heavily into new creator platforms and unique monetization tools, it doesn’t mean that brand collabs aren’t still integral to the success of creators and these platforms.

In fact, it’s just the opposite. Stats show that creators still make a bulk of their money by partnering with brands.

And consumers are over-the-moon excited about brand and creator collaborations. Think Yeezy + Gap for starters 🔥

So, the question isn’t whether or not brands and creators should continue to partner up on exciting and lucrative initiatives.

They should.

The question is:

What makes for a successful brand + partner collab?

In other words, what are the do’s and don’ts brands must know to make these collabs work to the best of both your benefit.

Do’s of partnering with creators 👍

1. Pay your creators with cold, hard cash 💰

While it’s fun for creators to get free products from your brand, it’s not enough to keep them excited about promoting your brand.

Think of it like this.

Not only is your brand getting a unique, engaging, and authentic ad that audiences will love, but…

You’re also tapping into an already-engaged audience of thousands that consists of your target demographic. For example, say you hire @/kallmekris on TikTok. She’s giving you instant access to 40 million people.

This instant audience exposure and new customer acquisition initiative are worth the cash you invest in your content creator.

2. Partner with micro-influencers 👼

While every brand hopes to partner with someone like Ariana Grande or Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s not likely you’ll have the budget for a celebrity or access to one.

What’s more, it’s also not necessarily as effective to partner with celebrities over micro-influencers.

Stats show that micro-influencers have better engagement rates than mega-influencers and even celebrities.
Micro-influencers have engaged niche audiences. Not to mention, being lesser-known adds an element of authenticity that consumers crave.

3. Be selective about who you partner with 🕵

The ultimate goal of entering into a creator and brand collaboration is to acquire new customers and boost brand recognition.

But, to be successful, you have to market to the right audience.

Study the creators you want to partner with and make sure their followers are your target audience. It’s also important to choose partners with similar goals and values as you and your company.

Don'ts of partnering with creators 👎

1. Don’t micromanage

It’s tempting to hand your creators a brand book and shell out ideas of what you think would work.
Avoid the temptation.

Walk away from the table and let your creators do what they do best—create content they know their audience will enjoy.

2. Don’t polish up the content 🏆

If there is one reason why apps like TikTok are growing like wildfire, it’s because the content is short, sweet, and authentic.
Audiences—especially Gen Z—have grown tired of polished and contrived ads. They love the raw, authentic content influencers are serving up. Here’s an example from TikTok influencer Salah Brooks of an ad for Spotify.

It’s raw, funny, encapsulates her sense of humor excellently, and it’s performing.

Once your creator makes an ad for you—leave it be.

3. Don’t overlook every social platform 👀

While you may have a social media darling, keep this in mind. Each platform attracts different creators with unique followers.

The best strategy is to invest in creators with audiences across various social platforms. This is especially true if you plan on marketing your products to different demographics.
For example, if you’re marketing to Gen Z, invest in TikTok creators. If your customers are Millennials, partner with an Instagram creator. If you’re marketing to Boomers, check out Meta for Creators.

Above all, remember this:

Creator + brand collaborations are the way of the future in advertising.

As your DTC brand moves forward, do everything in your power to foster mutually beneficial relationships built on trust and respect.


Increase your ROAS in 2022

Master the art of scaling winning ads in 2022 with the Ad Creative Guide from Insense.

Successful paid social campaigns that provide high ROAS only come through a rigorous testing process using a high quantity of ad creatives.

But when resources are limited, how can you create a high volume of diverse ad content?

🤳 User-generated content (UGC) is the fastest way to achieve this, from professional product demos to selfie-style testimonial videos and product unboxing.

Example: Selfie-Testimonial

  • Drives desire to try a product to get the same results
  • Looks like a real customer sharing their experience,
    which is social proof
  • Strong eye contact makes the consumer tick

Use this step-by-step guide to help you navigate the ad creative process at scale and increase your ROAS in 2022 🚀

You’ll learn:

  • How to create scroll-stopping ad creatives
  • The 8-step paid social testing framework to scale winning ads and drive more sales with higher ROAS
  • How to strategically run ads for every step of the eComm funnel

Download the step-by-step Ad Creative Guide from Insense.


🎧 This week’s pod episode featured HighKey—a brand on a mission to help America snack smarter by creating delicious, crave-worthy snacks without sugar.

We sat down with their Chief Digital Officer, Ryan Rouse, to discuss HighKey’s AOV improvements, Amazon success secrets, his advice for working with agencies, and much more.

Get high-key excited for this one, fam. 🙌

‍The Takeaways 👇

🚀 How HighKey boosted their AOV by 40%

When Ryan started at HighKey, one of his first missions was to boost AOV by enhancing onsite offerings.

“We switched up the strategy. We wanted to make highkey.com the ‘Costco’ of our eCommerce strategy… buy in bulk, virtual bundles… [offering things] that you can’t get anywhere else.

Here’s what they did to boost AOV from $49 to over $70 in just a few months:

  • Offered site-exclusive bulk “value packs” of popular products
  • Created virtual bundles with high-margin, best-tasting products
  • Set up cross-sells and upsells throughout the shopping experience

📦 Amazon success secrets

HighKey has been crushing it on Amazon for years. Their best-selling keto chocolate chip cookies have almost 50K reviews with an average of 4.4 stars. 💥

Part of their success is due to positioning Amazon as a complement to their business, not a competitor.

“There’s so much riff-raff out there about considering Amazon a competitor to DTC. At the end of the day, as a consumable brand, you [should] sell everywhere that you possibly can that your customers are. None of these should be competitors; they should be considered different distribution channels that you should love getting money and customers from.”

The rest comes down to fundamentals…

Things like testing PDP design, titles, images, and making sure bullet points are optimized for SEO and sound like a human.

Sexy? Maybe not. Successful? Definitely. 😏

📇 Advice for working with agencies

Ryan has worked with many agencies over the years and learned a thing or two about what leads to a successful partnership.

“I’ve made the mistake of hiring agencies when I knew nothing and expecting the agency to do everything.”

Instead of assuming an agency will function as your entire marketing team, understand what they can or will do for you, and then try to fill in the gaps internally.

“My biggest piece of advice: Agencies are a partner of yours that’s helping you execute against a strategy that you should have put together… not the other way around.”

Amen. 🙏🏻

👉 Listen to the full convo with Ryan Rouse here!


The easiest way to drive millions in incremental profits.

Unlock 25- 50% more new customers from paid media and identify visitors with the highest future conversion value. All without in-depth data science knowledge. 🤯

Sound too good to be true? Black Crow AI makes it possible!

👉 With their no-code machine learning platform, they leverage the power of first-party data to boost retargeting and prospecting performance.

Black Crow AI packed their knowledge on using machine learning to transform paid media performances into a handy guide, including case studies and tips from brands like Liquid IV and Solo Stove.

Machine Learning is one trick the fastest-growing DTC stores use to drive their incremental profits into the m-i-l-l-i-o-n-s. 🤑

👀 See how Machine Learning can help you here.


Six things beginners get wrong on Amazon

🙅‍♀️ Being too competitive too soon on keywords

Going super competitive right out the gates is highly inadvisable.

Without brand reviews or sales history, it’s a waste of money and kills your relevance for those keywords because you won’t convert as well early on.

🙅‍♀️ Putting your product up against competitors until you’re established

Amazon is all about a long game.

Don’t go after your competitors until you’re ready to compete. You need reviews and other proof backing your brand and presenting a viable alternative.

🙅‍♀️ Bidding on keywords you’re not getting conversions for

This will hurt your relevancy for those keywords in the long term.

🤦 Not separating branded and non-branded keywords

Most advertisers utilize broad match and auto campaigns.

Both allow Amazon's algorithm fairly unrestricted exploration to find potential buyers.

These campaigns will typically perform well for that reason.

However, most advertisers miss that these campaigns are actually just converting on their own branded keywords (i.e., brand name or features unique to their product).

These keywords should be separated out to:

  1. have tighter control over bids,
  2. allow these campaigns more room to explore, and
  3. get a more accurate measure of "prospecting" efforts.‍

🤦Not segmenting campaigns for their specific goals

Different keywords will have different goals. If you don’t effectively segment them, then you’re averaging out.

A ranking VS. a profiting campaign should look different.

🤦Not changing your bids

You’re constantly getting more data on all campaigns.

If you’re not updating based on that new info, you’re not maximizing the results you could be achieving.

Depending on how much you’re spending, you need to update your bids at least weekly, responding to data.

Those spending less will have to wait longer periods for actionable amounts of data to be gathered.

Thanks to the Pilothouse Amazon team for the insights!


😄 SmileDirectClub's strategy for TikTok blends tweaking TV ads and fresh content.

📊 YouTube adds new filters to its video performance chart, enabling more specific data context.

📲 Mobile ad spend lept 23% in 2021, on track to hit $350B this year.

⬆️ Instagram, still benefiting from TikTok’s ban in India, again became the top app by downloads in Q4.

Google Business Profiles sets waiting period for new owners and managers.


🍪 How HighKey Raised Their AOV by 40% with Chief Digital Officer Ryan Rouse.

🍫 Muddy Bites CEO Jarod Steffes on Growing 1000% YOY By Delivering Delight and Mastering Memes.

🍽 The New Non-Profit Growth Model: Wellfare CEO Cole Riley on Food Security and $12 Million Economic Impact.

🤰 Paul Singh from Bump Health on Becoming a Distribution Company and the Road to $200B.

Don’t forget to rate the DTC Podcast on Apple (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

DTC Newsletter is written by Thomas Schreiber, Sadie Evans, Ashley Cummings, and Rebecca Knight.

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