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Sep 26 Turning Your Influencer Pilot Program into a Cost-Effective Strategy

How influencer marketing pilots can effectively feed into your larger influencer strategy

Pilot programs. It seems that almost every brand is interested in running a pilot influencer marketing program so that they can dip their toes into the influencer marketing pool. That said, pilot programs typically come with limited budgets, yet brands still expect to see a positive ROI from such an investment.

While we have nothing against pilot programs (we've done tons of them, many of which lead to repeat programs and ongoing relationships) it's essential that brands remember what the program is intended to do. Then, take those learnings and insights and apply them to a larger influencer initiative that in turn should prove to be more efficient and cost-effective, despite the fact that you're likely investing more.

Vera Bradley Influencer Marketing Program by CaruseleIf you don't believe me, the following steps outline how you can pull this off yourself (or maybe hire an influencer agency such as Carusele to do the heavy lifting for you) with examples of how we pulled this off with our Vera Bradley Back-to-School program.

Step 1. Narrow Down Your Timing

As with all other marketing efforts, implementing your influencer initiatives within the right time frame is important. Take note of when you implemented your pilot program and if there's a more effective time period your brand could leverage these efforts.

Our 2019 Back-To-School program with Vera Bradley launched almost a full month earlier than the 2018 BTS program in an effort to get in front of consumers during the time they would be most likely to purchase school supplies.

Step 2. Narrow Down the Right Influencers

Unfortunately, not all influencers are created equal. While all your partners should have an audience make-up that matches your target audience, there are other factors that impact their overall effectiveness (like their saturation rate, for example). After the pilot program wraps up, be sure to rank the performance of your creators in an effort to identify those whose content generated the best results. Then, invite those high-performers to participate in other programs while you mix in a few new partners that match their style.

Ranking Influencers By Performance, Carusele's iStack Ranking SystemExample of Carusele's iStack Influencer Performance Ranking

Additionally, it might be beneficial to mix in influencers from different categories to test their effectiveness. For the 2019 Vera Bradley program, we not only invited our top-performers back, but expanded our original influencer category to also include moms with children who matched the target audience as well.

Step 3. Identifying Top-Performing Assets

A key component that's often overlooked in influencer marketing is the ability to identify top-performing assets in real-time. This practice should be included in every campaign you run, pilot or ongoing. We say this because we've historically seen that 20-25% of content in a campaign outperforms the rest. If you can create a system that identifies these assets as the campaign is running, it tremendously helps make the next step more efficient.

Step 4. Narrow Down Your Targeting

Now this is where things get really interesting. Adding in a layer of paid media into your influencer marketing campaign is going to help set your brand apart from the rest and reach additional target audiences outside of your influencers organic followings. Your pilot program may have not included any paid media, and that's fine. But if it did, now you have additional insights at your finger tips that are going to make your media strategy more effective.

Vera Bradley Influencer Marketing Content Example by CaruseleFor Vera Bradley and all of our clients, when we enter a new phase of a program we look back at the Engaged Audience Profile information from our previous campaign in order to build a custom audience that matches those likely to take the action we want them to take. We also create lookalike audiences that have proven to be 2x as more effective than the original custom audience built for targeting purposes. If you combine these tactics along side objective-optimized content, you should surely see cost-effective results.

Step 5. Re-purposing Assets

Finally, consider this: Why pay influencers to create a library of content that you can never use? Make the most out of your investment by repurposing top-performing influencer assets on your own brand social channels and in other marketing efforts (as long as you have the rights to do so). We've seen clients use content for billboards, websites, social media ads and more.


Wondering how the Vera Bradley 2019 program did compared to the previous year? Long story short, the 2019 campaign not only exceeded our new website click goal 2x, but exceeded the previous years results 3x.

If you're looking for help getting your influencer pilot program started, or looking to test of the efficiencies of a longer, ongoing program, contact us today using the form below to get the conversation started.