Season 5 | Episode 4

Why consumers buy products from people, not brands

Partnership economy podcast Jeanette Okwu

In this episode, host Todd Crawford dives into the creator economy with his guest Jeanette Okwu, the founder and CEO of Berlin-based creator marketing agency Beyondinfluence. Jeanette founded the influencer and brand ambassador marketing agency to help her clients break into the next wave of marketing and drive growth. Todd and Jeanette discuss starting an influencer program from scratch, including managing budgets, strategy, and KPIs. They also take a look at the best ways to work with influencers from a creative perspective, and how non-traditional and B2B brands can empower themselves through influencer marketing.

Episode transcript

[00:00:01] Canned Intro Welcome to The Partnership Economy. This podcast explores the power of partnerships through candid conversations with industry leaders. Join our hosts! Dave Yovanno, CEO and Todd Crawford, co-founder of as they unpack the future partnership as a lever for scale and an opportunity to put the consumer first.


[00:00:23] Todd Crawford Welcome back to another episode of the Partnership Economy podcast. I’m your host, Todd Crawford, and today I’ll be diving into the creator economy with Jeanette Okwu, founder and CEO of BeyondInfluence, based out of Berlin, Germany. Jeanette founded BeyondInfluence and influencer and brand ambassador marketing agency helping clients break into the next wave of marketing. Her favorite thing about her job is intentionally connecting her clients with the ideal influencers to drive growth. As a true champion, Jeanette often shares her insights as a host of the podcast, influenced by design. She was recently recognized as one of the top 50 Global Influencer Marketing Professionals and Global Top 30 Female Leaders in the Creator Economy by Hello partner in 2024. Today, Jeanette and I discuss how to start an influencer program from scratch, including budgets, strategy, and KPIs. We also take a look at the best ways to work with influencers from a creative perspective, and how nontraditional and B2B brands can empower themselves through influencer marketing as well. I hope you enjoy. Hello, Jeannette. Welcome to the show. It’s great to have you on.


[00:01:34] Jeanette Okwu Thank you, Todd, for having me.


[00:01:36] Todd Crawford Yeah. Today we’re going to unpack a lot of stuff around the old creator economy. I think it’s it’s an exciting time right now for creators and brands that are working with have influencer channels. I think there’s some evolving going on and that’s exciting. And and that’s part of the maturity curve here. So we’ll start to unpack all that. But before we head down that path, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your company and your role there.


[00:02:02] Jeanette Okwu So I am a founder and CEO of an agency that solely deals with influencer marketing. And I’ve been doing influencer marketing. I think I’m one of the OGs, actually. It’s been like 15 plus years. So when it started 2010 ish with bloggers, etc., I thought, well, I think there’s something there. And implemented in the beginning, lighter programs, but then later on fully fledged global programs and many markets for a single brand. And I could see the industry changing to where we are now, and there’s no end in sight of improving and being a bigger playing a bigger and bigger role in the overarching marketing mix all together. So I’m still as fascinated as I was from the beginning. And we are heading into a very exciting time with our industry.


[00:03:04] Todd Crawford Yeah, like I said, I think it’s it’s maturing. There’s change both externally with how brands think about creators and how creators think about brands, and then internally just how the teams operate and with agency. So it’s just a lot of moving parts. I think probably the first thing I’d like to just get your perspective on is how should the influencer channel be positioned in within marketing? I think backing up what a lot of people see it as a brand or awareness kind of strategy, or initially they did, and it was I to say expensive. But you paid a lot of money working with historically some larger creators, and you’re measuring the social signals and the likes, the shares, the comments, the views. There wasn’t a lot of tracking or revenue expectations. It was more aligned with PR or display or programmatic. So today I see a lot of brands wishing it were more performance or trying to at least measure the revenue. How should brands be looking at this channel?


[00:04:11] Jeanette Okwu It’s a twofold approach. In the beginning, it was also a testing ground for brands to hone in on somebodies social clout and also celebrity of sorts. With the democratization of content and social standing with the iPhone, basically, or smartphone. We saw all of a sudden. Self-made celebrities pop up left and right on those social platforms. For me. As I see it shook up. PR or publication or communication to its core. Because all of a sudden we had a new beast to deal with, and the classic PR machinery didn’t work as well, or there was an additional component to it. Now, with that said, also, the measurement or the impact of any engagement of an influencer was very much PR driven. So those were the KPIs you were basically reporting on. If you said any KPIs, that’s another thing, because back then I think that was a lot of KPI measurement that has changed over time. I think with brands and also agencies who know the power of our industry very much KPI driven. But again, it’s still twofold. It still has this awareness component. But we are now moving in also into the conversion component because a lot of brands ask themselves, so if I spend all this money on influencers, what do I get out of it in the end? Except for lots of impressions, pretty likes, and great comments. That’s, I think, where we’re heading. We’re moving more toward accountability of influencer marketing or creator marketing.


[00:06:07] Todd Crawford Yeah, I think they play well together in the sense of getting brand awareness or the halo. Those social signals are extra. If you’re seeing revenue right. It helps you make those marketing dollars go farther. Right? If I’m not only getting revenue, but I am getting top of funnel awareness and branding, it’s a little easier, maybe, to justify the budgets than if I was only calling it branding.


[00:06:34] Jeanette Okwu Yeah, I can actually give you an example. I’m working on a product launch of a cosmetic derma care company right now. The product doesn’t exist, so it starts from scratch. But what they’ve noticed is that with one of their base products, an influencer had mentioned them on TikTok, wasn’t even paid, and they could feel the uplift in sales. People went to the store, to the drugstore and bought the product, and then the influencer did a follow up call. She was the reason why all of a sudden the shelves were empty and she couldn’t get her favorite product anymore. She did a post about it. So there is even without pinpointing it, there is an effect that these people have.


[00:07:22] Todd Crawford Yeah. And I think for the client you’re talking about being a startup. They don’t have as many moving pieces. They probably don’t have a huge search campaign going or social programmatic themselves or an affiliate program. So it’s far easier to notice some of that where I think one of the challenges a lot of brands have is, you know, how big of an effect did it have when you have all these other things going at the same time? And that brings me to how brands should initially or be looking at the types of creators they work with. There’s a little bit of anxiety and uncertainty about, gosh, I’m going to spend thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions. There’s really almost no limit to what you can pay, depending on the type of celeb for a single post, much less more of a agreed upon number of posts over a period of time. Is that worth it, or what is the best strategy there?


[00:08:16] Jeanette Okwu I think if you engage a celebrity in it again, it’s where should influencer marketing sit. I think that influencer marketing should sit at the table when a program or a campaign is planned with all the other departments at the same table used to be a little bit of an afterthought. So they had all of the things figured out and said, oh yeah, an influencer, let’s go to the influencer department or let’s call an influencer agency and let’s do that. It was already everything was set up, and then influencer was squeezed in and needed to be fit in there somehow. That’s why the whole measurement framework didn’t really work out, because it was not a cohesive KPI and goal setting mechanism set up. Today, I think if you do want to engage with influencers, you need to make sure what kind of campaign you’re running first and foremost. And then in order to make the most of your money, don’t bet on one horse, right? That one influencer and I’ve seen examples of it looks great on paper. Everything looks great. Didn’t sell a single thing because in the end, that’s what brands want. In the end, they want to see how did this contribute to the bottom line of the business. And I think the smartest way is always a good mix. And have layers. I love to speak in layers. Have somebody who has a bigger cloud has some fame maybe. Also depends on how your marketing budget agrees to it. What kind of negotiation skills you have? How nice the manager of that person is? Or several person? All of that. And then you layer in order to minimize the potential damage that it could take that you just burn money.


[00:10:06] Todd Crawford It also ties into authenticity, I think the very largest creators, the celebs. Maybe there’s time for feels like it’s a really good fit and it’s natural, and maybe it is a product they really like, and that’s why it’s a good fit. But if you come to me and say, “Todd, I want to pay you 100,000 dollars to post about my product.” And I’m like, “What is this product? And I go, sure, for a hundred grand, I’ll do that.” Well, it might not come off as authentic.


[00:10:34] Jeanette Okwu Yeah, I know for since I’m preparing this campaign for this brand, I know I will get her and I will hire her if the price is right, because she already posts it. Now, you don’t always have the luxury of that when you have to engage 10, 20 influencers for a campaign. But what you do want to do is to see if it’s a natural fit already with that person’s ethics? What she stands for? Is she authentic in what she promotes? What does she look at? And there’s technology to see with how many brands she’s worked with in the last three or six months. And then also in the meantime, having done this over a large number of years. I know a few that I could go to with a given topic. Talk to them. Also helps when you know them with negotiation. You’re not paying the money, but then you get maybe two or three pieces of content out of the contract or the agreement, and not just one.


[00:11:39] Todd Crawford Seems to me. Well, I guess you mentioned like 10 to 20 creators, I think for most campaigns. Is that kind of the sweet spot?


[00:11:47] Jeanette Okwu There’s no rule of thumb. What I will say is, if you want to do an influencer campaign with one person, no, it’s not going to do anything. It’s not going to move the needle. If you do it with 200 people, it hurts the team because they’re going crazy and we just went through it. We’re campaign with 200 people. That’s very ambitious. But if you run affiliate influencer campaigns, that’s not unusual over time because these are ongoing or new ones coming. Some drop offs. So that’s like a whole that’s like a whole machine and the beast in itself.


[00:12:27] Todd Crawford So I’m a brand. We definitely want to do this. Maybe we’ve started doing it a little. How do you approach budgets and planning for just a campaign? Let’s say we’re launching a new product line or product or our brand. We want to use some macro and micro influencers in the campaign. We maybe want to include one or two larger ones to give us a little bit more exposure. We’re definitely going to have to have some budget for amplification. And then there’s user generated content, and we’re going to use that as well. It’s all part of the campaign. So I guess let’s imagine it’s up whether it’s 10,000, 100,00, 1 million. It’s a budget of one unit. It’s a pie. And we got to slice it up. Like how should we think about the creators that we’re going to work with and the amplification part of that budget, and then the user generated content, something that as a brand, I’m taking that content and using it in parallel. How do I think about all the moving pieces to make this campaign as successful and effective as possible?


[00:13:35] Jeanette Okwu And let me just ask you a question. So this is a brand who hasn’t done this before?


[00:13:39] Todd Crawford And they’re just getting into it.


[00:13:41] Jeanette Okwu Oh my God. That’s a bit that’s very ambitious. First of all, I would say for the brand, they need to have their content strategy in order to embark on a program like that for sure. They also have to have their own social media channels. Good looking, because if you really want to get serious influencers involved, they look at you. And if you look weird and don’t pay attention to your own social channels, they will not want to work with you because it comes back to them as well. Why would they want to be associated with a brand that looks crappy? Because their audience sees that and then it could backfire. So that’s something that is often overlooked by brands. Just because they’re waving with a dollar bills doesn’t mean that the influencer wants to get engaged with you, but you need to be dressed nicely as well. And then if they’re so ambitious to do this for the first time, first of all, I would spend the appropriate amount of money on an expert/agency that knows what they’re doing. Otherwise, if you haven’t done this before and you don’t have the manpower and the expertise in-house, there are a lot of pitfalls.


[00:15:02] Todd Crawford I’ve talked with brands that say when they’re they’ve got their social media accounts and they’re doing well. They’ve got it buttoned up, they’re dressed up. They look good too. But they say that no matter what they produce, the user generated content that they get from these campaigns always outperforms her own content. Yeah. So you have to almost add that into the results of the campaign that, yeah, it’s your channel now, but it’s not your content, but you’re putting it into your channels and you’re spending money to amplify it, but it’s performing and it’s driving results.


[00:15:39] Jeanette Okwu I think it’s an innate fear of brands to lose control over content, either what lives on their own channel or what these inferences may produce. And it’s so visible. I just spoke to someone this week earlier this week and he has just beautiful product handbags. And I said, he said, what should I do? I said, your Instagram account looks like a product catalog. Nobody wants to see that. They want to see people with it. And it doesn’t even have to be as polished. And I remember saying the same thing almost ten years ago. But it’s still. It’s hard to break that habit. I think.


[00:16:30] Todd Crawford I always hear people say that there’s a lot of concern about letting influencers create content. And they don’t they want to either over see it and control it and change it, which takes away the authenticity in their voice and their viewers see that. And I think that’s a mistake. It may be slightly off message, but it’s resonating with consumers. Your message isn’t perfect just because you think it is right? It’s just your way of looking at yourself.


[00:17:01] Jeanette Okwu Yeah, I think in the end, people buy it from people and not from brands. And if you have somebody who’s like this woman in a positive way in front of her, the drugstore shelf, not finding her favorite product, she’s talking about your brand anyway. She does. You have no influence over this. And same goes with God knows how many other people who talk about your brand, and you want to control ten people who know what they’re doing in a way that you dictate what they’re saying, which then becomes unauthentic, because that’s not how they naturally speak. I can give you an example, and it’s a dear client of mine, Rockwell. I helped them launch the brand overseas outside of the US. And what we’re doing right now is we’re sending them a brief as inspiration. And then we do not get involved at all. They have the hashtags. We do not get involved. And back comes the most beautiful content you can ever imagine. And if some content is not so good, so what? The audience of this person likes it.


[00:18:16] Todd Crawford Now I think that’s the most important part here, is you shouldn’t be working with creators if you don’t want them to create, right? Like they have a voice, they have a style, and that’s why you’re working with them. If you can’t let go, this isn’t the best channel for you right now.


[00:18:33] Jeanette Okwu Yeah. But still, I always think there’s hope because it’s a learning curve. For some people, it’s a very flat one. For others, it’s a steeper one. So in the end, there are so many brands who do a great job and others will follow suit. Maybe not everybody, but more and more. Look, if there’s money involved, you do have feedback loops built in, so it can’t go really that broke unless it is something where you don’t have a feedback loop or an amendment loop within the contract. And if something should go array, then they need to take it down. If you have your contract also in order. You can have that done as well.


[00:19:20] Todd Crawford But creators, they’re invested in this as well. They don’t want to create content that fails or doesn’t reflect a brand. Well, right? I mean, that’s part of.


[00:19:30] Jeanette Okwu That won’t be I wasn’t won’t be too sure about that.


[00:19:34] Todd Crawford Well I mean, they want I mean most.


[00:19:35] Jeanette Okwu Mean well.


[00:19:36] Todd Crawford Engaged again, right? If you’re the client and I’m the creator, I want to do well enough that you say, I’d like to do this again with you, Todd. Not. Oh, it was okay. Thanks. Don’t call us. We’ll call you. Right? You don’t want to hear that?


[00:19:48] Jeanette Okwu Yeah, absolutely. You’re absolutely right. I did a I did an offline an event with influencers last year, end of last year. They were all lovely, except for this one guy who just wanted to get the money and he had the most followers. He was actually a little bit of a celebrity and it was so disappointing to see the content. But what can you do? We had a contract. I had to pay him anyway, even though from the quality perspective it was not the best post by a long shot.


[00:20:20] Todd Crawford I wouldn’t say that’s comes with the territory, but it’s not something to get way worked up about. Maybe it’s a lesson, okay, we’re not going to work with that person again. They just we thought it was going to be a good fit. Let’s talk about KPIs now that brands aren’t solely doing this in the kind of the PR and awareness campaign, what are the some of the KPIs that brands should be looking at to know how well this money was spent?


[00:20:49] Jeanette Okwu Yeah. So if we’re talking awareness, what you definitely should do is also linking back to the brand’s website. So UTM links is a must. Needs needs to be done. Otherwise you can’t really measure. And those and setting those up that you can actually see where exactly it is coming from. And then also if you can see an uplift in sales within a specific time frame around any activity given also that you put all these, these other things in context as well. But if there’s a press release and an influencer marketing campaign going on it, you can’t really pinpointed. But there is a correlation between those things. Then if you also have a paid media campaign into it that you can quite nicely measure, and then if you run conversion campaigns with codes, etc., you know who’s moving the needle on what besides the traffic.


[00:21:50] Todd Crawford So I guess when you first got into working with the influencers, and I remember when this kind of first came out, a lot of affiliate marketers said we were already working with content creators, and most of that was probably YouTube and bloggers. To a certain extent, the rise of these social media platforms, that’s really where I think creator found it’s a place they’re not as easy to track. But I wonder how should brands think, as most brands probably have affiliate and then they added creators or they’re gonna add creators. What’s your thoughts on like the overlap there? Or when’s a creator an affiliate or an affiliate a creator? How should they play together?


[00:22:34] Jeanette Okwu I think they can play quite nicely together. If the creator affiliate has a publication, it’s murky. Can be either way. But if you have creators who are affiliates, sign up for an affiliate program for a brand, for example, so that they only publish on their social channels. And then. They make a sale, and then they get a commission, and then they keep producing content with that sweater. And it might not be about the sweater anymore. It might be about planting flowers. But that mentioning of the sweater that you’re wearing keeps generating potentially more revenue for the creator. Also, what I always do with these programs. I mean, it’s a lot of work. I keep telling the creator, please put your stuff of the brand into the highlights. So it’s always there. When people visit your profile, they can see that you’re an ambassador of brand A, and they can go and enjoy your codes and buy. So you keep selling even when you’re not posting anymore, or you have put it in your bio. So it’s constantly there. It’s even for influencers, still a learning process that these are great ways to generate an income without getting paid for a single post.


[00:24:02] Todd Crawford Yeah, I think a lot of creators underestimate that kind of residual revenue that they can make from those links. We had an interview, our CEO interviewed at the time, more of a cosmetic and lifestyle creator. She’s transitioning, but she said that all of our affiliate links that are mainly in YouTube videos, that’s where they have the longest life. That is like a steady income to her, like money she can count on every month in the pay per post, the campaign base. That’s the hustle. You can’t count on it. So I think a lot of people underestimate that. How that can build up a steady stream for you.


[00:24:43] Jeanette Okwu Absolute I think actually this hybrid model is a good way to keep influencers interested and coming, because I know that brands sometimes. Okay. Yeah. Do we have do we want to pay for for post? Is it expensive? But what about if they are incentivize per performance? I always say it’s really hard for the influencer because they don’t know if they make sales unless they know themselves and they know that they’re a good salesperson. But that comes over time and with experience. The smaller people, they want to have the money in the bank. That’s all they care about because they have no idea if they sell or not once they start doing it. It’s much more easy to say, okay, I have another product. Can you do that? Yes. Give it over. And we know we skip that. The 200 bucks that I get as a flat fee in addition to that. But this hybrid model with a little bit of fee and the rest is commission is a good one.


[00:25:43] Todd Crawford So the last thing I want to talk about, I think when most people think about affiliate and most likely influencer, we’re thinking of the typical brands associated with those kind of more retail brands beauty, lifestyle, food, travel, but B2B in affiliate and now in the influencer space, there’s a lot of desire. I mean, I hear and see brands saying, we would love to be doing this, but obviously when you think of the creators, those aren’t the right fit. But this is possible. It is starting to happen. How should brands B2B brands approach an influencer strategy?


[00:26:21] Jeanette Okwu Let’s take let’s take an email subscription service that is being used by so many people. And if you have an influencer, can be a small business person, your cosmetic influencer, who then develop their own brand. All of those people, they could be great candidates for B2B influencer marketing because they need to run their programs in order to be so successful, and that can go from this industry to that industry to who knows what kind of industry. Now, the advantage of B2B influencer or B2B brands utilizing influencer marketing is that the channels. Are wider, different. You can include LinkedIn and you can obviously do YouTube. You can also do newsletters or vlogs or publications. Now with B2B brands, you even have the ability to utilize more formats. Could be an event, a keynote that this person is giving, or an invitation to get first dibs of some publication. Because these people do need also content, and if they’re the first ones, then that means that they will also get more traffic. So it’s it can be any which way that you can utilize that too. And these can be people who are writing about tech or again, are business people who have a larger following or the right following doesn’t always have to be huge or humongous. Could be people who are specialized in a specific profession. I don’t know handymen, pool cleaners, stuff like that. Don’t underestimate the American pools that we have along the West Coast and elsewhere. So it’s all there for the taking.


[00:28:19] Todd Crawford Yeah. You bring up an interesting perspective of like your own customer base. You think, well, I want other businesses to promote may B2B, but individuals are small business people and they need tools to run their business, and they may already be your customer. But when you look at their content, okay, that’s not a good fit, but maybe they would be willing to share. Either, like you said at a blogger conference or a influencer conference, like, how do I grow my business? That’s an interesting topic. They’re not talking about necessarily posting about lifestyle stuff. They’re talking about. Yeah, I do that. But here’s all the tools I use to make this more efficient and scale and create scale. I think it’s a great tip. What are some of the challenges in the B2B space when working with partners?


[00:29:09] Jeanette Okwu If you go for people that are professional and want to be perceived as very professional, it’s hard to get them to publicly announce a paid collaboration with a B2B brand. You have to do that legally. But that would mean for either for the audience or for the followers, that, oh, he gets paid for it. So he has to say that. Then it becomes, how do you package that content that it doesn’t sound so salesy.


[00:29:45] Todd Crawford And then if I am working with another company as opposed to more of an individual one round payments, what are some strategies there? Because are there challenges around how you pay these different B2B type partnerships versus typical creators?


[00:30:00] Jeanette Okwu Yeah, as I said. So access first access to any kind of information, studies new product launches. If you’re the first one who speaks about it or writes about it, that’s a great way. Keynotes. So they get in, in front of a new audience that they didn’t have before. So they can also build their own brand. Obviously some monetary exchange would be great, but not everybody wants that. What else can it be? The product itself, if it’s expensive enough that it has a some value? Definitely.


[00:30:37] Todd Crawford Yeah. To your point, earlier, you know, if you’re a retailer and you’re wanting to work with influencers, you need to have your social media looking good. I would say in B2B probably need to have your LinkedIn, which is really the social media B2B looking good, like you’re producing content, you’re adding value to the business world, right to your customers, to the industry you’re in such that your content looks good and your intentions are obvious and you’re getting attention from that. Then when you approach another business, you know what you’re looking for because you want it to. Like they’re doing that too. So now it’s like, how can we work together? Maybe. Right? And commenting like you said, that, hey, I’m contributing to the business community, that I’m in the industry. I’m adding comments or perspective on other companies or other smart people’s opinions, right? That where they’re expressing something and that almost develops a relationship, maybe subconsciously. And then when you approach them, it’s a little easier, right? Well, this has been a great conversation. I’ve learned a lot and I definitely appreciate your perspective on all of this. I greatly appreciate everything, Jeanette. This was awesome.


[00:31:54] Jeanette Okwu Thank you so much, Todd.


[00:31:58] Todd Crawford With the democratization of content and the power of smartphones, influencer marketing is becoming an integral part of the puzzle. Increasingly, influencers are driving both brand awareness and conversions. Because of this, influencers are looking for ways to work with brands long term, and they’re looking for brands who have an established identity online and value creator content. The key takeaway from today’s episode is that if you’re looking to start your own influencer program, it’s best to not put all your eggs in one basket. Instead, invest in a mix of influencer types and audience sizes for a better return. Finally, even if you’re a brand that does not focus on traditional beauty and lifestyle verticals, starting an influencer program can still be fruitful. Although outside the usual social media platforms, these influencers are typically active in places your target audience frequents, like LinkedIn or YouTube. And although they might not fit the typical template for an influencer, these online creators have large followings with audiences interested in products and services just like yours, and could be the key that helps take your brand to the next level. It was great hearing Jeanette’s insights and getting her insider tips to starting and running a successful influencer program. Thanks for listening and I look forward to next time.


[00:33:18] Canned Outro Thanks for listening to The Partnership Economy, brought to you by If you enjoyed today’s episode, be sure to subscribe to the show and rate and review it on Apple Podcasts.

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