Tech Talk with Grin COO Brian Mechem

“If you think about the process that it takes to run influencer marketing, it’s very messy.”

Photo via Grin.
Photo via Grin.

Grin — what is it in layman’s terms?
It’s a software system to run influencer marketing. It’s end-to-end. If you think about the process that it takes to run influencer marketing, it’s very messy. It involves different departments: you have the people searching for influencers and making a deal, you have people managing the relationship in an ongoing way post-deal, you have people who need to ship products to the influencers and you have people who need to run analytics, track sales and make sure things are running efficiently and driving results and impact. 

All of those things are done manually and with tools that don’t communicate with each other very well. 

Grin replaces a lot of those tools... so you can ID influencers, reach out, manage relationships and get content produced. We think of ourselves as CRM for influencer marketing, but it serves an end-to-end purpose. 

What kind of metrics do you supply?
There are a variety centered around different pillars. Metrics around communication performance, metrics around content production and performance, metrics around sales and conversion of performance.

What measurements are marketers using? And what should they be using?
With influencer marketing, there’s confusion in the market in terms of how do [brands] value this, just because it’s so young. We start with here’s the right way to do it, a direct approach, make sure the brand owns the relationship, and that leads to authentic content and trust with the consumer. 

The second is how do we know if this is successful? that gets a bit trickier. There are different ways to do it, and bands do it differently, most obvious is direct sales attribution, but not all systems are set up to track it. Grin offers, and this is a set of differentiation for us, focus on ecommerce and ability to track sales, one piece of the puzzle. We think of it as the halo effect, when you’re adding channels and have a nice marketing mix, it starts to have a nice effect on other channels, we see that in data for customers who give us a peek into that. 

When influencer marketing programs are running effectively and at scale, they’re driving 1% to 2% conversion rate on other channels, most notably paid social. For marketers unfamiliar with influencer marketing, i would think about it in terms of how SEO is symbiotic with paid search. The combination there produces the most powerful result. 

How often do you read that influencer marketing is dead?
I think I just read that this morning. 

I don’t think people are going to write that so much anymore, just because of the market acceptance of it and the realization that social media isn’t going anywhere. Consumer attention has shifted in such a major way to mobile, even we see that in our own website traffic.

I don’t think it’s going anywhere. [Look at] what you’re seeing with TikTok and the constant innovation inside of the space. It’s some of the same players and some new players, but what is consistent is mobile creative content being consumed at higher and higher levels. You’re seeing younger and younger kids getting involved and making really creative stuff. 

How has influencer marketing changed since you founded the company?
Market acceptance is huge. There’s increased investment and more of an understanding that brands want to bring this in house rather than outsource it. You don’t want to lean on an outside person. There’s no relationship with the influencer, the content comes off as fake or paid-for, and it drives the opposite of what you’re trying to do. I think that shift is very, very significant. 

We’re seeing brands that want to bring it in-house more and more, and there’s lots of interest around the earlier question, ‘How do we measure the impact of this? What should we be looking at? And how do we understand that at a deeper level?’

How has it changed during the pandemic?
What we’ve seen is more people spending more time on the internet and social media. With our base focused on ecommerce, we’ve basically seen all metrics go up. When we look at it as an average across our customer base, content engagement doubled during the pandemic and has stayed there, conversions did the same thing. Sales driven, we’ve seen that double, product shipment has doubled. There’s just been a massive explosion, and during that time period, we saw customers say this is the biggest month we’ve ever had. 

Who is your client? Where do they sit in the corporate structure?
This has shaken out a little more over the past year or two. Prior, it was kind of everywhere. We see it in the marketing department most typically, though I have seen it in other places, like ecommerce. Different companies have different reporting structures, but most typically it’s the marketing department.

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