Launchmetrics CFO Alison Levy on startup marketing

There was time when social media didn’t exist. I know, you probably grew up during that time too, but isn’t it so easy to forget? Those were the days of dial-up Internet and battling with your parents every time they took a call during your allotted cyber time. My computer sessions were even monitored back then, my mother scared to death that my judgement would lapse and I’d get chatting to someone dangerous and evil. In the space of fifteen years, oh how the tables have turned. My mother tweets, shares politically incorrect videos on Facebook, and tries (and fails) to tag us all on Instagram. Like us all, she looks to her phone for advice, support, and approval—that is why influencers are so important to building brand equity.

Alison Levy is quick to distinguish between bloggers and influencers. “These days, the concept of an influencer is hot,” she says. “At Launchmetrics it goes beyond bloggers, YouTubers, and Instagrammers, and encompasses anyone else with a measurable footprint i.e. editors, stylists, buyers.” Connecting the right brands with the right communities is a big part of Alison’s job at Launchmetrics. “To acquire new customers or activate current ones, the content won’t matter if you aren’t posting with any influencers who share the same interests of your target audience,” she explains. “Our tools use a discovery method to help brands connect with over 100,000 niche influencers, as well as crawl 1.7 million sites, identifying the relevant influencers that are unique to each brand.”

Alison’s career path has always been in upwards trajectory, but it was her roles at IMG and Net-a-Porter that really helped shaped the type of leader she is today. From the two pieces of advice that’s helped shape her career, to acknowledging that comparison is an inefficient use of time and energy, Alison details the startup marketing strategies that make the biggest impact, how she got to where she is now, and the people who fostered that. “Think for tomorrow, and for sure, your today will be a success.”

Launchmetrics CFO Alison Levy on startup marketingON HER NOT SO AVERAGE CV (CUE IMG & NET-A-PORTER): Funnily enough, my role at IMG Fashion was something that I just fell into; the story is a true testament to the fact that the fashion industry is all about relationships. The person who helped me land my interview at IMG Fashion was someone I met many years before when I was working for an Italian accessories company called Zoppini and I was out in LA for the Billboard Music Awards. I kept in touch with her while I was living in Milan. Then, when I decided to move to New York, I reached out to her for some local introductions and IMG happened to be one of them. I started at IMG Fashion exclusively working on New York Fashion Week and really enjoyed it. The thrill of executing 80 fashion shows with 500-1500 people at each show and working with over 300 members of the international press was exciting and convinced me that I was destined to work in fashion. My role at IMG then grew into managing several of their largest fashion weeks, including those in Los Angeles, Miami, Toronto, Berlin and Istanbul. I also spearheaded corporate communications for IMG Models, Art & Commerce and The Daily Front Row. After a few years, I decided it was time to move on and joined the team at Net-a-Porter. In my role, I oversaw PR for all of the Americas and Australia. It was a great time to be there as the office was still small and I had the opportunity to work closely with so many other departments and be involved in the pre-launch stages of NET-A-PORTER Beauty. That said, the highlight of my experience was overseeing the PR for the opening of their offices on Fifth Avenue and working directly with Natalie Massenet and Alison Loehnis. The two of them are truly inspiring women and having the opportunity to work so closely with them taught me a lot about the manager I wanted to be.

THE ADVICE FROM NATALIE MASSENET SHE STILL APPLIES TODAY: When I look back I can remember two pieces of advice that have helped guide throughout my career. The first was at IMG Fashion during NYFW. I remember there was a huge snow storm one year and it felt like everything was falling apart (I have forgotten to mention, I am a bit of a perfectionist). I remember going to my boss worried that he’d agree. Instead, he turned to me and said, “Alison, the event is still going on, shows are still going up and everyone seems to be happy. You cannot worry about every little detail, it will kill you.” He was right. In the world of PR and events, there are so many moving parts that if you stress about everything you will never accomplish anything. The second lesson learned was at Net-a-Porter. At our annual company meeting I remember Natalie Massenet saying how important it is to think to the future and never get caught up in what others are doing. I’ve always been inspired by those words. People put a lot of pressure on themselves day in and day out as they face the fate of keeping up with the Joneses when they can be missing out on pursuing something amazing. Think for tomorrow and for sure your today will be a success.

THE INS AND OUTS OF WHAT LAUNCHMETRIC DOES: In 2002, our CEO, now President, Eddie Mullon was approached to create a sample tracking system to manage the workflow between publicists and publications. At the time, the industry was managing this process with a paper filing system. Once he realized that users loved the product and really appreciated what he created, he started a company called Fashion GPS. The company focused on building more of these efficiencies and build great products that simplify complex processes through technology. For a decade, Augure had been working on enhancing big data and social intelligence for the fashion, lifestyle and luxury industries. It was their goal to build tools that helped brands use data to accelerate the launch to market of products and maximize their exposure by leveraging influencers. When the Augure CEO, Michael Jais, met Eddie, the two knew that our combined product offering could really be a game changer for the fashion, luxury and cosmetics industries. Our clients are experiencing more and more pressure to quantify everything they do – our vision is to provide them with tools that make that task effortless. At Fashion GPS, we prided ourselves on our ability to listen to the industry and support the way it worked. Now, as Launchmetrics, we are excited to offer new tools that combine the technology we have provided to brands and agencies for over a decade to organize their events, samples and images with game-changing data to help manage the interaction between fashion companies and influencers.

ON HER JOURNEY WITHIN THE BUSINESS: I had been a customer of Fashion GPS when I worked at IMG Fashion, using their event management software to help designers manage their guests for the fashion shows during NYFW and then at Net-a-Porter for the various dinner events we planned. Over the years, I got to know Eddie Mullon really well and I was excited to see a company propelling in fashion tech. When I joined the business, we were just closing our Series A so it was a really exciting time to be there, be part of the team and help grow the business to the next level. My first role was in brand development, which was a cross between marketing/partnerships and special projects. After 6 months in the NYC Office, I moved to London and worked on some of our larger European projects like ANDAM in Paris, Decoded with E-Pitti in Milan and launching our partnership with the British Fashion Council in London. When the company merged with Augure, I was promoted to Senior Vice President for Strategic Development working directly under our new CEO, Michael Jais on strategic projects and business expansion plans. It was diverse and really interesting. It was in November that I was promoted to Chief Marketing Officer, overseeing a global team in marketing and communications in New York, London, Paris and Madrid.

Launchmetrics CFO Alison Levy on startup marketing

THE ONE THING TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE WORKING WITH INFLUENCERS: There are a lot of metrics to measure the social reach of an influencer be it reach or engagement, and even frequency but what I think many people forget is actually that none of those metrics matter if you haven’t thought through what the goal of your campaign is. To start, I would like to touch on the word “influencer”. These days the concept of an influencer is hot, but I think everyone has their own definition of what that means. At Launchmetrics it goes beyond bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, but also encompasses anyone else with a measurable footprint i.e. editors, stylists, buyers, etc. So back to goals…Before posting, brands should think through their ultimate goal. Is it to drive brand awareness or to generate leads? Are you a smaller brand trying to build notoriety or a larger brand looking to drive sales? These questions are key before you begin.

REACH ISN’T EVERYTHING: When some brands come to us to help them discover influencers, often they are caught up with searching for those people with the largest reach. The challenge with this is that reach doesn’t drive conversion on its own. For example, an influencer at first glance may have a wide reach, but if their audience isn’t relevant to what your brand is selling, then they will never engage in the campaign. To acquire new customers or activate current ones, the content won’t matter if you aren’t posting with any influencers who share the same interests of your target audience. This means that not only does there need to be a link in the communities of the influencer and yours, but also an engagement rate that goes with it. Remember, you can have all the metrics you want but if you aren’t clear on your goal then reach, engagement, and frequency just don’t matter.

Launchmetrics CFO Alison Levy on startup marketingWANT RESULTS? STUDY THE NUMBERS: Companies now have the power to make smarter, more informed decisions just from the data they have within their businesses – be it customer data, influencer data or even data direct from your last press campaign. From our experience, the industry is more challenged with how they can connect the dots between all of these touch points and how to use the information to inform their business strategy. The reason why this is so critical is because it means greater returns, more engaged customers and of course, higher sales. The brands we’ve already started to work with have seen as much as an 80% return on their investment just from using smarter technology tools and strategizing based on data.

THE 411 ON CUTTING THROUGH THE NOISE: In the chaos and clutter of today’s world, customers are being communicated to and from everyone and anyone. For your brand to stand out, it’s important that you start by identifying your USP, what you do and what you can provide that’s better than anyone else. Once you understand that, you can begin your story. It sounds easy but communicating a clear and simple message is something that often gets lost among grand marketing plans, buried under lots of big sales language. Be true to your mission and ensure every campaign, content and press material is a reflection of that message.

THERE’S A RIGHT WAY TO CREATE A MARKETING PLAN: In business school, you learn that marketing strategies include the four P’s – price, promotion, product and positioning, but for me, the days of traditional marketing are long gone and to stay ahead of the curve your marketing strategy must be an integrated plan that includes digital, social and communications. Working in a niche industry that sells products to a very targeted audience, your marketing strategy needs to be quiet customer centric. It’s key to understand who they are, how they like to be communicated to, where we can find them and what engages them. They say it takes $1 to upsell a current customer and $4 to sell a new customer, so if I had to bet on a winning horse it would absolutely be to focus marketing efforts on current customers. In our experience, once you make a customer for life, no matter where they go, they take you with them. This power word of mouth marketing is unlike anything else in the marketing toolbox.

STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TODAY TO ELEVATE YOUR MARKETING STRATEGY: I think the first step should always be to look at your target audience and make sure you really understand who they are and what their needs are. Many companies put a lot of effort into marketing but lack the knowledge about their audience so they miss the mark on creating the right strategy. For example, at Launchmetrics as we are selling to a very targeted audience our marketing focus is a 1-2-1 plan. What that means is that we take an account based marketing approach targeting a select group of companies we’d like to work with and develop a specific plan for how we will reach each of them through content, social, online, partnerships and more. It allows us to be more focused as well as direct our marketing spend exclusively at converting those targets. It sounds like it is a lot of work but as it’s more strategic we see a higher conversion rate. If your business is targeting a mass audience, it doesn’t mean you can’t be as strategic in your efforts it just means you need another approach. Working for a data company I’d say I think you should let the data inform your strategy. If you see a huge fan base growing in a new city or country on social or on your website, check it out. These numbers don’t lie and could help you uncover your newest customer base.

THE MOST COMMON MARKETING MISTAKE: I think many believe that to make money you need to spend money. I think that is absolutely false. I can’t tell you how many people I know who work off a shoestring budget. What this does mean, is that you need to be smarter with how you spend the money you do have. It also means that partnerships and PR should be an integral part of your strategy as they don’t cost much but yield high returns.

FOCUSING ON SOCIAL MEDIA ISN’T ENOUGH: Each marketing channel has a different purpose and supports another step in the cycle of converting a prospect to a customer. Social media should be one of many activities you do in your marketing plan to help inform people of who you are, what you do and why they should buy your product. Just remember, whatever your marketing plan includes, each medium (social, TV, online) needs to have its own content. While the sum of it all should tell the same story, customers go to each channel for different purposes so the voice of that content should reflect that.

WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL BRAND PARTNERSHIP: People love the word partnership and once they get the bug, they are eager to team up with anyone in hopes to drive buzz about their brand. It’s easy for people to get caught up in creating partnerships because they are usually free or have minimal costs. My tip is to always make sure you keep your eye on the prize – just because someone’s giving away a free sofa doesn’t mean it will go nicely in your living room. The same goes for partnerships. Not every one of them is going to be a good fit for your business objectives. The most successful partnerships are those where you are partnering with a brand that has the same, if not more, brand equity than yours. If they don’t, you need to make sure you are getting something valuable out of the collaboration.

Alison Levy was recently a panellist at Cocktails and Coding event, celebrating women in tech at the Sanderson, London.

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