Influencers. Stratospheric sales magnets or overpaid and overrated? It’s a question all consumer-facing brands have wrestled with in recent years as the growth of Instagram and TikTok continues apace.
Few are more qualified to express an opinion than serial entrepreneur Grace Beverley. An influencer herself with more than 1m followers, she launched her first business, the fitness app SHREDDY, in her first year at university. It was soon followed by activewear brand TALA, which disrupted the market with its affordable approach to sustainable fashion.
The success of the brands has resulted in Grace being awarded Natwest GBEA Young Entrepreneur of the Year and being named first in Forbes 30 under 30s retail and e-commerce list. And she recently became a Sunday Times bestselling author with her book ‘Working Hard, Hardly Working’. She is just 24.
We were delighted to have Grace speak, followed by a Q&A, at Piper’s latest Virtual GeekMeet, where ecommerce minds from the consumer branded world share insights from their everyday work. Here are some lessons she’s learned from building two brands at record speed:
- Don’t underestimate the power of simplicity. ‘The idea behind SHREDDY was that I wanted to simplify people’s fitness journey,’ says Grace. ‘So whatever that meant to them. For me at the time, the fitness industry seemed to be about making me do things that I didn’t want to do out of insecurity. And I got to a point where I thought “This doesn’t make any sense.”’
- Expect the unexpected. SHREDDY underwent a number of iterations before it settled on its hero product. ‘It started out in digital only, then went into fitness equipment, then the mobile side, and also introduced supplements. But the app became our hero product without us thinking it would and changed our business plan completely.’
- When targeting younger consumers, prioritise your community. ‘If it’s Gen Z and millennial crossover, particularly Gen Z, it needs to be very community first,’ says Grace. This will make it much easier if/when your brand pivots ‘because people want to buy into you, they buy into your concept. And every time they’ve had a great experience with your brand, that will also translate into whatever your new product is.’
- Outsourcing to experts is fine for certain areas of the business but founders usually have their own particular expertise – for Grace it’s working with influencers. ‘It’s one of the areas that I consider myself to have pretty strong experience from both sides. Therefore it wouldn’t make sense to outsource to someone as I can save money by doing it myself. Even when we have teams working on our brand and partnerships, I still oversee that part of the business, whereas other areas I’ve very much moved away from.’
- Being the ‘face’ of your brand can be a tough balance to strike. As Grace says ‘When someone’s package gets left out in the rain at Amazon, no one shouts at Jeff Bezos or emails him or comments on his social media.’ But they do when something goes wrong with one of her brands. So surrounding yourself with strong support is key. ‘You need to be involved, accessible and show you love and support your customers. But you also need to be able to take a step away.’
- When picking influencers ‘engagement is king’. A million followers are meaningless if they don’t actively support the person they’re following. ‘I’m actually really picky with engagement, I do not go below 5% with an influencer I’m working with and usually it’s significantly higher,’ says Grace. ‘It’s not about size, it’s about engagement over and over again. A micro-influencer with 10k followers who’s getting 1000 likes on all their photos is great, go for them. For me, it’s all about engagement and then whatever we can afford.’
- Once you’ve found the right influencers, allow them to take the lead. The best know their followers and how to engage with them better than anyone else. So let them guide you on how their campaigns can push your brand most creatively and effectively.
- Use affiliate links to benchmark an influencer’s success. Otherwise, there’s no way to work out whether or not a campaign is working. And comments aren’t enough. The influencer ‘could have really excitable fans who comment on every single post and you’ll see hundreds of comments and think “Wow, that’s amazing.” But then all of them are 12 and haven’t converted at all.’
- Storytelling and authenticity matter more than ever, thinks Grace, among Gen Z. ‘The great thing about Gen Z is that they want to believe in what you’re doing as a brand. They want to support you and they want to lean into your story. So I’m a huge proponent for getting that kind of storytelling out there.’
- Finally, try to sleep before you’re dead. Despite her schedule, Grace says she’s ‘really quite enthusiastic’ about sleep. ‘A lot of the entrepreneurial sphere can be very like “Sleep when you’re dead.” But I’d rather sleep every night.’
Given the demands of not one but two young brands, it’s a very wise approach.