A primer on influencer fatigue for brands and b2b2c.

Will we see the end of influencer marketing this year?

In this essay, I will present the latest industry research as featured in Forbes, ZD Net, and highlight macro trends for brands, consumers and the growing landscape of influencer marketing tools.

Influencer Marketing Tech Landscape

Over the past few months, I’ve conducted a series of qualitative interviews and read a number of quantitative studies to understand how the influencer marketing landscape is changing.

Influencer fatigue has become a common theme for brands, consumers and influencers. In many ways, the current model is broken, here’s why:

According to a recent study featured by Forbes, brands pay more than 10x what they would pay to reach the same number of people in a traditional or digital media buy.

According to a recent study by Sprout Social, 46% of marketers believe influencer marketing should be part of their marketing plan, however only 19% have budget for it.

In many cases, the pressure to launch an influencer campaign often means that campaigns have loose metrics. Influencer matching continues to be a huge challenge for marketers. No tool has been able to solve the matching problem.

Brands are spending up to $500 million a year on fraudulent followers.

Changes in follower count attributed to fake followers

From an influencer perspective, the pressure to grow your fan base leads has led to top celebrities and influencers paying for fake followers.

Patterns that indicate fake followers include batches of new followers created within a certain timeframe, many of these accounts will appear and disappear within a short period of time.

While nine of out ten influencers say they must already like a brand to accept its sponsorship, 71% of influencers’ income is almost exclusively from sponsored content, versus more traditional ad streams like display ads, affiliate links and e-commerce. If you want to make money, you have to partner with big brands.

Bad matching = more brand control = fake posts. 80% of influencers say they are deterred to work with brands that control their content too much. Influencers want to create their own brand, not mirror someone else’s brand.

Fake posts = low engagement from consumers. The average engagement rate for an influencer post is around 4%. This means 40 likes, comments or clicks for every 1,000 impressions.

In many cases, brands are reducing paid spend for influencer marketing and re-investing in owned channels such as customer support as a lever for user-generated content and reviews.

Consumers are almost twice as likely to consider a product recommended from a friend rather than an influencer. 61% say they’d be more likely to research a product or service recommended on social by a friend versus only 36% for influencers.

This essay is Part I in a series on influencer marketing and new channels for user acquisition. I would love to include additional research and data points from founders working in this space.

If you’re working on a project in the influencer marketing space, please DM me on Twitter: @briannekimmel 

Join me on YC Leap

This originally appeared as a tweetstorm on Twitter. Follow me for more updates like this: @briannekimmel

Since the launch of YC Leap, I’ve kindly asked women in tech who contact me via email/DM to move the conversation to Leap. This was a strategic decision to encourage women in my network to get more actively involved in the YC ecosystem. Here’s why:

YC has taught me everything I know about startups: how to build them, how to advise them and how to invest in them.

While we’ve all learned so much from Paul Graham over the years. Many people don’t realize we have Jessica Livingston to thank for the community.

YC alums are the most authentic and helpful people you’ll meet in tech. This is not coincidental, it’s because of @JessicaLivingston’s x-ray vision for character which Paul Graham describes here:

But historically the alumni network has been a walled garden. Bookface is private and alumni make time for other alumni.

Earlier this year, Cadran Cowansage built YC’s first open community for all women in tech. It’s a safe space for women to get advice from YC partners, alumnae, investors and peers.

Founders can ask anonymous questions including a recent example: “Co-founder expressed having feelings for me. Not sure how to proceed.”

Gender neutral advice such as “What is a reasonable founder salary after seed funding.” is more common.

As I dive deeper into SaaS and enterprise investing, I sadly have less time for advice emails and one-off coffees. So, please join YC Leap. You’ll meet awesome women like Holly Liu, Kat Manalac & so many more.



A completely customizable car with 580 parts

While Silicon Valley is obsessed with electric scooters and Model 3 deliveries, France is quietly building a completely new vehicle class. XYT is a modular, customizable electric car with only 580 parts.

Early XYT model

Electric vehicles today mimic traditional gas-powered vehicles: design, production and delivery processes are inefficient and outdated.

Tesla Inc. vehicles are loaded onto a truck for transport at the company’s manufacturing facility in Fremont, California, U.S., on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.

The XYT’s 580 parts can be transported and assembled locally. This creates new opportunities for upgrades and customizations, particularly for international markets.

I remember when I saw my first “ute” in Australia. Holden is famous for their utility vehicles specifically designed for Australian culture. “Chuck your 🏄‍♀️ in the back of the ute” is unique to AU. XYT has the potential to unlock customizations like this globally.

2008 Holden VE SS Ute

The XYT be easily customized into a number of new vehicle types including delivery & utility vehicles. This creates new ways for companies to reduce logistics costs and own the delivery process up to 200 kilometers.

Possible service and utility vehicles using XYT.

The most exciting thing about XYT is its open source platform. Renault released the first major open source platform at CES 2017. The XYT platform is fully customizable across car capabilities and connected services.

Images source: YXT Twitter account

I’d love to connect with founders who are working on hardware and software in urban mobility and transportation to learn more about the space.

Follow me: @briannekimmel 

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Advancing the Short-Term Accommodations Industry

Over the past few months, I’ve looked at nearly a dozen Airbnb-like startups. And like many investors, I’m typically pretty skeptical about consumer travel companies.

Travel is an infrequent activity and after spending a few years at Expedia, I can tell you that there’s a big gap between what we see on Instagram and how people actually travel.  

Consumers want unique experiences, but typically make booking decisions based on price, availability and convenience.

When it comes to short-term accommodations, Airbnb and Expedia are likely to own global network effects in this space for three reasons:  

  1. Homeowners and property managers are incentivized to cross-list on major platforms
  2. Consumer usage is episodic and driven by paid marketing spend
  3. Highest CAC/LTV wins based on conversion rate and market liquidity  

To break this network effect, I believe any new company will need to offer highly differentiated inventory or a stronger value proposition for property owners.  

In this post, I’ll cover demand-side differentiation and present a market map for evaluating inventory. In future posts, I’ll spend more time on supply-side services like Pillow and verticalized software like Hostfully.

When evaluating inventory, it’s important to look at both single properties, which emphasize loyalty programs and exclusive upgrades to encourage direct bookings and aggregators which provide a better search experience with a higher volume of available inventory.   

When it comes to demand-side differentiation, new players won’t be able to compete on total number of listings, however they can create competitive advantages through differentiated inventory and improved services. Hipcamp is a great example of differentiated inventory such as traditional campsites (high availability rate and high margin) and more premium inventory type such as yurts and cabins.

Demand-side differentiation can be created with one or more criteria:

  • Gaps in inventory type such as campsites and non-traditional accommodations such as Hipcamp and niche communities with social proof such as Overnight
  • Gaps in inventory location & availability such as unique advantages during peak travel seasons or high volume of available inventory in high demand location
  • Unmet audience segments such as kid-friendly travel, accessible-friendly travel (Accomable, acquired by Airbnb) or baby boomers. 

Let’s look at two examples of possible demand-side differentiators.    

Business travel is one segment with higher frequency and lower price sensitivity. Compare to other segments, business travelers are more likely to prioritize convenience over all other criteria.

They will pay a premium to be walking distance to a conference and close to the office. Due to the nature of the trip, a business traveler will look for amenities such as laundry service, free breakfast, daily newspaper and a mini bar for late night snacks.

Business travelers typically join a loyalty program and prefer a consistent experience in every city. This is an unmet need with the average Airbnb experience: finding keys can be a hassle, communicating with the host is time consuming and homes are unique by design.

Some companies that are tackling the business traveler segment:

  • Sonder: nightly bookings in Airbnb-like properties with hotel-like amenities.   
  • Zeus: monthly bookings in fully managed units
  • Outsite: group accommodations with a large common room to accommodate offsites

Extreme last minute is another interesting segment where travelers are willing to compromise on inventory quality and services to accommodate extreme last minute bookings.

Three types of extreme last minute inventory:

  1. Remnant inventory is last minute available inventory sold at a deeply discounted rate. For example: HotelTonight generates revenue by taking a cut of each transaction—about 20-30%.
  2. Opaque inventory offers deep discounts by specific suppliers (i.e. hotel, airline, etc.) however the specific name remains hidden until after the purchase has been completed. For example: Hotwire.com provides a neighborhood level map with proof points such as star rating and peer reviews to help ensure customer satisfaction.  

On-demand inventory is another segment where short-term accommodations can be booked instantly.  

Overnight is a good example where users can instantly book a friend’s home on the platform.

Recharge is another example where users can instantly book luxury hotels by the minute.

For hoteliers, this is a highly valuable model to increase occupancy rate above 100%. The only consideration is additional labor costs required for housekeeping outside of the traditional daily checkout time.

 

In closing, this analysis is intended to serve as a primer for evaluating short-term accommodations. This is not an exhaustive list of recent startups in this space, it’s simply a framework for evaluating differentiated inventory.

If you’re a founder working on a travel-related company, say hi! I’d love to learn more about what you’re building.

Follow me on Twitter: @briannekimmel



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Hi friends,

It’s been a busy month as I continue to explore the new building blocks for consumer technology, which I call “the unbundling of cool.”

I’ve asked dozens of founders working on social apps, gaming and other consumer tech: When do you build vs. use an API or Platform as a Service? What technology do we need to make online feel more IRL?

Based on these conversations, I have a few updates:

  • Why I invested in Voxeet, the best API for live video
  • How I killed the phrase “I’m not curing cancer”
  • New CEO office hours: Summer School 

Why I invested in Voxeet, the best API for live video.

In 2018, I believe many of our best moments will happen online.

With real-time video calling, we’re connecting with friends and family in a more meaningful way. We’re celebrating holidays, reconnecting with old friends and creating new memories from our phone.

And even though the experience is getting better, it still doesn’t compare to IRL. There’s distracting background noise, garbled noise and cross-talk.

What if we could add “same room” technology to make every video call feel real? With Voxeet, developers can bring IRL quality video to any website, app or hardware integration.

Voxeet’s TrueVoice™ 3D audio and video technology provides a true surround sound experience and removes distractions like background noise.

With Voxeet’s API library, widgets and UX toolkit developers can easily add real-time communication such as live broadcasting, video calling and messaging to websites, applications and hardware integrations on iOS, Android and all web browsers.

I’m excited to join a great group of investors:
Jason Lemkin (SaaStr), John Kim (CEO, Sendbird), Nicolas Dessaigne (CEO, Algolia), Bill McGlashan (Founder, TPG Growth)

P.S. If you’re an investor, please reply if you would like to receive my weekly update on companies. 

How I killed the phrase “I’m not curing cancer” 

When my dad was a kid, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He dropped out of school, my grandmother quit her job and they moved across the country so he could get treatment at St. Jude.

My dad can tell you a million stories about his experience, but most are related to the board games he played, snacks he ate and friends he made. When you’re sick, you need distractions to keep your spirits up. My dad frequently says he wished he had video games.

Fast forward to early 90s. Due to years of cancer treatment, my dad needs a heart transplant. We waited a long time for a heart and ultimately my dad gets on the list for an artificial heart at UPMC. As a kid, I spent an entire summer in Pittsburgh.

The entire experience was scary. I sat for hours in waiting rooms and my only distraction was video games. I made friends with kids who were in a similar position to my dad. We played Mario for hours and as a result, I believe in video games, silly apps, etc.

As a founder, you may never know the impact you have on the lives of individual users. There is so much more to life than curing cancer. Anything that makes someone smile & feel better about their current situation is worth building.

Follow me: @briannekimmel 

Sign up for CEO office hours: Summer School️

Want to practice your pitch, get product feedback & growth advice? Sign up for Summer School.

Keep building & stay cool! 😎
Brianne 



You’re not curing cancer (and that’s okay).

I recently had a very heartfelt conversation with a founder who is working on a new gaming company. As we were going through the pitch he said, “I’m not curing cancer.” This is a common lie that we tell ourselves. So I told him my story:

When my dad was a kid, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He dropped out of school, my grandmother quit her job and they moved across the country so he could get treatment at St. Jude.

My dad can tell you a million stories about his experience, but most are related to the board games he played, snacks he ate and friends he made. When you’re sick, you need distractions to keep your spirits up. My dad frequently says he wished he had video games.

Fast forward to early 90s. Due to years of cancer treatment, my dad needs a heart transplant. We waited a long time for a heart and ultimately my dad gets on the list for an artificial heart at UPMC. As a kid, I spent an entire summer in Pittsburgh.

The entire experience was scary. I sat for hours in waiting rooms and my only distraction was video games. I made friends with kids who were in a similar position to my dad. We played Mario for hours and as a result, I believe in video games, silly apps, etc.

As a founder, you may never know the impact you have on the lives of individual users. There is so much more to life than curing cancer. Anything that makes someone smile & feel better about their current situation is worth building.

This originally appeared on Twitter. Please follow @briannekimmel for more updates.



Why I invested in Voxeet, the best API for live video.

Why I invested in Voxeet, the best API for live video.

In 2018, I believe many of our best moments will happen online.

With real-time video calling, we’re connecting with friends and family in a more meaningful way. We’re celebrating holidays, reconnecting with old friends and creating new memories from our phone.

And even though the experience is getting better, it still doesn’t compare to IRL. There’s distracting background noise, garbled noise and crosstalk (🤐).

What if we could add “same room” technology to make every video call feel real?

With Voxeet, developers can bring IRL quality video to any website, app or hardware integration.

Voxeet’s TrueVoice™ 3D audio and video technology provides a true surround sound experience and removes distractions like background noise.

With Voxeet’s API library, widgets and UX toolkit developers can easily add real-time communication such as live broadcasting, video calling and messaging to websites, applications and hardware integrations on iOS, Android and all web browsers.

I’m excited to join a great group of investors: Jason Lemkin & SaaStr Fund, John Kim (CEO of Sendbird), Nicolas Dessaigne (CEO of Algolia), Bill McGlashan the founder of TPG Growth, the Webex co-founder, an early investor of Skype and the CEO and CTO of Nexmo.

In the coming months, we’ll be focused on building the developer platform and community. I’d love to connect with founders working on APIs, PaaS, Dev Tools and CTOs working on consumer mobile and video applications.

Connect with me on Twitter: @briannekimmel

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Here’s why perfectionism is killing our progress

Perfectionism is killing our progress. I’ve talked to 4 women this week who are “thinking about starting something,” but afraid to get an MVP live.

Here are some thoughts:   

If you have an early idea, but need help with an MVP: Y Combinator Leap, Dreamers//Doers and Women in Product are safe spaces to share ideas and get feedback from top product leaders and engineers.

Don’t overthink the MVP: Keep costs low. AWS, Hubspot, Zendesk all offer free tools and support for startups. For non-technical founders: Alyssa Ravasio built Hipcamp after learning how to code at a short dev bootcamp. Hackathons like Spectra and AthenaHacks are another way to get a low-cost MVP live.

Keep in mind: Other people are here to help. I’ve found this to be particularly true in SaaS.

In today’s environment, every SaaS company needs a partner integration strategy. Get your MVP live and get feedback from partnerships folks at other SaaS companies.

If you’re thinking about starting something (especially in SaaS), I want to hear from you.

Write me on Twitter: @briannekimmel

Stop buying contact lists. Try these b2b growth tools instead.

90% of contacts from list buys will ultimately not convert to a sale, so let’s explore a few data-driven growth tools.

I recently calculated that 40% of my LinkedIn Inbox messages are cold emails from vendors who sell contact lists. “Hot leads.” “New contacts.” “Prospects searching for software in your category.” Each sales rep claims thousands of unique contacts based on a proprietary technology or differentiated data sources. Tempting, but something tells me these hot leads are too good to be true.

If you’re in B2B, and in particular have lead generation or growth in your title, then I’m guessing your inbox is also flooded with dozens of vendors who claim they can provide thousands of relevant contacts who are high intent and ready to buy your product.

While it may be tempting to try the new vendor with the latest methodology for acquiring prospect data, it’s highly unlikely that you’ve found a silver bullet for growth. Here’s why:

According to Leadiro the average list buy yields:

  • 50% bounced contacts
  • 40% unanswered emails

This means 90% of new contacts will ultimately not convert to a sale.

[It also assumes 0% overlap with current customer base, which is extremely rare. From personals experience, I’ve found any sample sets of data can yield anywhere from 40–50% duplicate contacts when you de-dupe against existing contacts in Salesforce.]

After pooling collective knowledge from growth leads at companies like Drift, Dropbox, Segment and Twilio, here is a short list of data vendors to help systematically scale your b2b growth efforts:

  1. Clearbit Reveal: instantly match IP addresses with company names, and see full profiles for all site visitors.

Clearbit Reveal immediately identifies web traffic by dynamically converting the IP address of visitors into a rich profile (85 data points including name, company, revenue, employee count and contact information for sales).

For Marketers:

Clearbit data is dynamically refreshed, which means cleaner data for personalization and refreshed contacts when an email bounces.

  • More granular retargeting campaigns based on site behavior and psychographic and firmographic data: job title, industry and more.
  • Safer personalization: recent data means fewer awkward emails such as bounced emails, incorrect job title, outdated company information.

For Sales:

  • Real-time alerts in Slack for named accounts who visit your website with recent contact information including name, job title, phone number and email.
  • Give your Sales team more context on the prospect before an exploratory call or old outbound: company revenue, employee count, industry and current technology stack: analytics tool, live chat provider, etc.
  • Ability to personalize programmatic outbound email campaigns. Create one email template and personalize using Clearbit data fields such as technographic data:

“Hi John, I noticed you’re using Slack. 60% of our customers use the Slack integration to solve customer support tickets faster. Would you like to learn more?”

Learn more about how I’ve used Clearbit to run competitive marketing programs at scale in Clearbit’s free Data-driven Digital Marketing book.

2. Datanyze: predictive technographics provider, helping B2B companies apply unique technology insights to identify and close their best accounts.

Datanyze crawls the web and mobile technology for technographic data of 35M companies to help you build a more robust view of prospects and customers.

Datanyze aggregates company-level data based on technology installed on their site. For Marketing and Sales, this empowers your team to have more productive exploratory conversations. It can also become a foundational tool for tracking your competition.

This technology is particularly relevant if you’d like to track competitors or complementary products. While it’s highly effective for web widgets and front-end tech tags such as live chat products (Intercom, Zendesk Chat, LivePerson), it’s less effective for back-end technology such as customer support products (Freshdesk, Zendesk Support or Salesforce Support Cloud).

3. HG Data: technographic data provider with best coverage of back-end technology such as help desk software

HG Data has the most robust database of technographic data on the market today.

While HG Data provides a similar solution to Datanyze, they have a unique ability to provide intelligence on back-end technologies such as help desk software.

Download the free Chrome extension that allows you to see the technologies used in your Accounts while in Salesforce. See the most trusted technographics on the market displayed in the most popular CRM.

In addition to these vendors, I would also suggest real-time search data providers such as Bombora and G2 Crowd. I plan to create a deeper analysis of these two tools in the future, please share any feedback or experiences you’ve had with these tools.

Say hi on Twitter: @briannekimmel 

 

What crypto companies can learn from TransferWise

When you look at the latest crypto companies, it’s clear that good companies are being built outside of Silicon Valley. The challenge for these companies? How do earn trust and establish credibility? How do you successfully transition from a scrappy side project to a more mature company? Where do you go for relevant best practices? You are building the Wild West after all.

As I spend time researching the latest crypto companies, I’m reminded of the early days of TransferWise. For many Americans, TransferWise is not a household name and it’s likely a product you’ll never have to use (unless you’re planning to move overseas).

It’s a currency exchange that offers a simple user interface and peer-to-peer network that matches customers wanting to swap money with each other. This means foreign exchange (FX) rates can be drastically reduced in comparison with bank charges where money is actually moved overseas.

TransferWise’s most recent valuation of $1.6B makes it one of the UK’s most valuable tech companies. The Estonian built, London based fintech company was started 2011 and moves £1 billion across its platform each month and has over 1 million customers.

Over the past 7 years, TransferWise has developed industry-leading best practices on product-led growth (paid acquisition, web monetization and peer-to-peer referrals).

They also embrace a few non-traditional philosophies such as “mission-driven growth” heavily dependent on employee culture and brand building and an emphasis on autonomous teams (such as performance marketing) with no formal Growth Team.

So one of our autonomous teams is performance marketing. They have a product manager and engineers and can change anything on the site, that enables them to grow traffic from Facebook. Hence marketing is an autonomous team in its own right. The only shared teams which don’t have a growth KPI are HR and finance” – Neilan Peiris, VP of Growth at TransferWise on GrowthHackers

After spending time analyzing the TransferWise’s experience, I realized there are a number of valuable learnings that apply to all crypto startups who need to build trust quickly.

Three ways to build trust quickly:

  1. Create ways to engage with the product (pre-signup)  
  2. Prioritize reviews, recommendations and in-product referrals  
  3. Make Customer Support a core function (hint: hire a dedicated product manager. Solve problems using product, not just people.)

Create ways to engage with the product (pre-signup)  

Currency converter with transparent fees

By bringing modules such as currency converters, calculators and product tutorials before a sign-up form, users can engage with the product and increase time on site.  

Possible metrics to watch:

  • Increased sign-up conversion rate
  • Reduced bounce rate
  • Test smart form fields: smarter retargeting, future personalization
  • Test waving first-time transaction fees

Prioritize reviews and recommendations

Similar to other transactional businesses, peer reviews are an integral piece is establishing trust with new customers. In the case of WeTransfer, reviews are powered by a credible third-party Trustpilot.

With over 40,999 reviews, WeTransfer has a 5/5 star rating.

Reviews powered by Trustpilot

Possible ways to solicit reviews:

  • Sign-up confirmation page: test incentive/non-incentive
  • First transaction complete: give/get offer to increase repeat transaction rate
  • Following happy moments: automated request for review based on NPS score

Make Customer Support a core differentiator

In many cases, this is easier said than done. In a recent post on Medium Coinbase reported 887% growth in Customer Support.  

Ensuring a consistent, on-brand experience across hundreds of new agents sounds nearly impossible. While supporting crypto customers is new, support for financial services has been around for decades.

Ways to improve Customer Support:

  • Mirror support best practices from banking (look at both self-serve and white glove services)
  • Focus on 1-2 channels to start: email and phone
  • Early social customer care should sit with Marketing
    • Pass early feedback to product
    • Create a weekly all-company update to keep customer experience top of mind
    • Build shareable moments into customer journey: incentivize positive mentions
  • Too early for dedicated support? Host a “ticket smash.” Ask all employees to allocated 1 hour per day to responding to customers. It’s a great way to build user empathy.
  • Customer Support extends far beyond agents. Leverage existing communities, empower early users to host user groups and don’t be afraid test non-traditional mediums such as political action committees, guerrilla marketing and more brand-building activities.

TransferWise Change.org campaign: http://stophiddenfees.co.uk/

If there’s anything we’ve learned from recent crypto success stories, great ideas can come from anywhere and small teams are punching well above their weight. To successfully transition from scrappy startup to credible company, small teams should look to more mature success stories. TransferWise is a $1.6B unicorn who successfully established trust quickly and built a credible tech company outside of Silicon Valley. Their product-led growth strategy is worth analyzing in detail and 5/5 star rating is nothing short of amazing.