How One Entrepreneur Worked with More Than 300 Influencers Last Year

How One Entrepreneur Worked with More Than 300 Influencers Last Year

access_time Jun/23/2017

Inside Caravan Stylist Studio, you will find Claudine DeSola working with brands and influencers. DeSola helps creatives like actresses, musicians, bloggers, editors and others get ready for red carpets, TV appearances, photo shoots and other major events, and introduces them to different products and fashion designers. Her New York studio is open to creatives who want to come in and have a “me” day or have an event, date night, style shoot or birthday celebration. Entrepreneur Network partner Jessica Abo sat down with DeSola to learn how she brings brands and influencers together.

Q: Claudine, tell us about Caravan Stylist Studio and how you are creating authentic interactions between influencers and brands.

DeSola: We have our gallery space that includes glam stations, a full-time ambassador for brands, an art showcase and a lounge. Programming happens inside the studio and then we recap everything on our website and through social media. There is more consumption of a brand or service after someone attends an activation and experiences that brand firsthand. Our hope is that after guests visit the studio and learn about a brand, they feel 100 percent more like they understand that brand, and share information via word of mouth to friends and families. At least 70 percent of consumers share something about the brands they have used via social chatter, which creates authentic relationships.

Q: You work with everything from OGX and LifewayKefir to cast members of Orange is the New Black and The Americans. What makes Caravan unique? 

Our business revolves around these tenants: Visit. Learn. Sample. Influencers get to experience their next favorite product or service. At Caravan, we try to create that place, guests come and can relax, and while they are there they can hear about new products they might find useful. We are a marketing tool, so our goal is to talk about our brand sponsors. However, we umbrella that with just being like your girlfriends sharing other fun information with you from our favorite new art shows to our favorite new band -- we make sure to only have the best playlists. As far as I know, there is no other full-time experiential hub in New York that is curating this type of influencer marketing as a program. We exist throughout the year so we have repeat influencers and we are constantly trying to meet new guests as well. We offer services every day, but we sprinkle that with events we feel will be of interest to our guests and our brands. With everything happening online it is important to have something that happens in an actual physical space where our brand partner ambassador can interact with our guests and tell them about products and services, benefits and how to use them. Our influencers often tell us our human touch in an online world is refreshing.

Q: There are so many brands working on influencer marketing, but they are typically short and expensive campaigns. How do you set yourself up for success?

We get a mix of creatives that come through and it ranges from those with millions of followers to those that might have a few thousand. The way we create our invite lists is by looking at content creation or projects they are working on. We have worked with actresses when they got their first role and had 2,000 followers because we believed in them and now some of those same actresses may have 1.5 million followers. We try to really get to know our guests and we love meeting actresses from new television shows to a new author to a cool blogger from Bushwick. They are entrepreneurs too, and it is all about supporting other entrepreneurs.

Q: What mistake do people make when it comes to influencer marketing?

I often see an influencer post a pretty photo with a bunch of products and tag the brands in the picture. To me that is not interesting. It would be so much better if the picture told a story about the person using those products. I am also seeing a bit of mismanagement when it comes to influencer marketing. I think brands need to be more careful. I see influencers talking about one hair brand one week and another one the next and being paid by both. I think brands need to seek out new influencers as well as working with the well known ones. 

Q: What three pieces of advice do you have for brands?

1. Take your online, offline and back to human interaction.

2. Focus on bigger programs and strategies, such as what we offer at Caravan. Paying one person to post one time can produce beautiful content, but creating an ongoing program allows for continuous content and authentic interactions.

3. Be different. I love content producers and I too have some of my favorites, but there are tons of creatives that could create programs with brands that are unique. 

Q: What is the number one tip you have for influencers?

Test products and learn if you like them before you agree to doing a campaign, so that you stay authentic.

Watch more videos from Jessica Abo on her YouTube channel here.

Related: How to Help Dad Get Tech Savvy

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3 Keys to the Right Domain Name for Building a Brand

Domain names have been at the forefront of the digital experience for 20 years. They provide the real estate for businesses to build their online presence and provide doorways for their customers to find them.

Now more than ever, choosing which domain names to own is a complicated and critical task for startups and seasoned businesses alike. This complexity can be attributed to the fact that most dictionary words in .com have been taken: According to the latest figures from Verisign, close to 130 million .com domain names are already registered.

To add to the confusion, the internet space now has hundreds of new generic top-level domains, also called gTLDs. As we broaden from .com, .org, .net and to .art, .blog, .google and .walmart, we open the doors to many new opportunities.

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Transforming cyberspace

New gTLDs are in their infancy, and we’re just starting to see their adoption take hold. Undoubtedly, .com is still king, and if you can secure your .com variation, you should do it.

But over time, new gTLDs are expected to become more relevant and could perhaps change the way that consumers globally seek out and consume content online. When well-chosen, domains can be sticky and memorable. A fine jeweler who chooses .diamonds makes an instant connection with prospective clients. Just one simple extension can speak loudly as a branding vehicle.

Some people and businesses are purchasing names in these new domain name extensions in hopes of future paydays, but others are interested because new gTLDs are hyper-relevant to certain verticals. For example, it would make sense to the customers of a store that sells dog-related products to use a .dog domain name. Just look at the designer pet products company, for example.

Similarly, a business that focuses on providing care to others may want a .care domain name. Dedicated Senior Medical Center, which owns multiple senior facilities, chose to register, use, and advertise

Neither of those businesses could have registered the .com variation without first acquiring it from the existing owner, and so the new gTLDs presented opportunities for them to acquire both cost-effective and more relevant names online.

Related: Do’s and Don’ts of Securing a Domain Name

Choosing wisely -- and early.

What holds companies back from pulling the trigger and buying the right domain names today? In some cases, it’s a matter of oversight. They simply don’t know which ones to buy or perhaps haven’t even thought about the name being available until after the brand is selected or the startup decides on its company name. No matter the reason, if you wait to purchase the name you want, it will typically only get more expensive the longer as time passes.

The goal of every small business or startup should be to secure the most relevant domain names early on in the process of building the brand. This includes vertical-relevant new gTLDs and investing in the right .com, even if it means spending $500, $5,000, or $50,000 for the right name. Here are three keys to selecting domain names in a changing internet environment:

1. Investigate new gTLDs focused on a singular marketplace.

Tailored domain name extensions and variants are rising, but that doesn’t mean companies should register all the options. Founders should actively investigate and register with those extensions that make sense, focusing on their core offering.

For example, a new venture funded cash-back company DOSH launched its website as Acquiring should be something that the company seeks to do sooner rather than later. does not appear to be used today and perhaps could be purchased for a reasonable sum. While the .cash version is hyper-relevant to its business, having both that and the .com would help to protect and promote the company’s brand online.

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2. Purchase a .com.

From a broad consumer perspective, .com remains the gold standard. Therefore, startups should consider owning the .com variation, as well as relevant new gTLD extensions. It may mean using a portion of one’s hard-fought startup capital on a domain, but it will be well worth it to do sooner as opposed to later.

Just look at the previous example of While the .dog domain successfully captures the company’s core value and tone, the website still redirects to a .com address. This rewards the team with the benefits of the better-known address while retaining the catchy .dog name.

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3. Work with a valuation company or third party if necessary.

Want a certain domain name? Resist the temptation to approach the domain name owner as yourself; instead, find an intermediary. Many domain owners are professional investors, and meeting them on their playing field makes the most sense. Working with a partner that understands the art and science of domain name negotiations can save you time and financial resources.

In the coming years, these new gTLDs will likely become more commonplace, and foresight will have its rewards. To separate yourself from the competition, think to the future. Your business’ success could be on the line.

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Lessons From This Year's E3 Best Marketing Examples

Every year, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, takes over the Los Angeles Convention Center, and gives consumers a sneak peek at some of the most impressive video games (and related tech, accessories, and industry developments) coming down the pike over the next year (and sometimes several years).

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I've personally had the honor of attending the past few years, both as a gamer and a marketer fascinated by the tactics publishers are using to cultivate their hype and rise above their army competitors.

From this year's line-up, I'd like to point out some of the best and brightest marketers I saw at E3 -- and identify some key lessons they demonstrasted that that marketers in any industry could use to improve their own results.

1. Beyond Good and Evil 2: good at generating hype.

Ubisoft released Beyond Good and Evil back in 2003, and though sales were less than impressive, the game developed a massive cult following.

For reference, Good and Evil is a sci-fi, third-person, action-adventure game known for its immersive atmosphere, excellent music and dynamic characters. Five years after the game's debut -- in 2008 -- Ubisoft released a trailer for a sequel, but the company's ensuing silence over the course of the decade since made fans believe part two would never come.

That's why the latest trailer for the sequel at this year's conference was so successful -- plus the fact thatUbisoft introduced an entirely new, yet equally immersive vibe for the game. Critics have pointed out that this trailer offers no glimpse of actual gameplay, and that a real functioning game may still be years away, but what's important here isn't the quality of state of the game. It's how effective Ubisoft was at generating hype.

Ubisoft knew what narrative and graphic elements would get its fans excited about the game, and kept its trailer a total surprise until it was officially released.

2. What's Good Games podcast: Timing is everything.

What's Good Games is a relatively new gaming podcast hosted by four women who attended the entire expo, covering press conferences and announcements as they unfolded. What I found interesting about this marketing strategy was its timing; in a risky move, these podcasters launched their offering three weeks before E3. That move created immense pressure, but paid off by generating initial momentum.

The podcasters' timing, coupled with the fact that they're helping to reverse the industry's glaring lack of women in the media, showed marketing savvy -- they identified a need in their industry, and filled it. They've also been killing it on social media, responding to every comment posted by their followers across numerous platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.

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What's more, they've started some intriguing conversations, all while covering E3 events live and in person via Facebook Live. Nailing social media marketing is arguably a media startup's most important marketing task, and in this regard What's Good Games is putting on a clinic on how to do it right. The What's Good podcasters, in fact, recently received glowing praise from Apple's official Podcasts Twitter account, which cited "brilliant video game commentary, by some of the smartest in the business."

3. Nintendo: Brand sincerity works.

Nintendo almost always has surprises for its fans, yet the company keeps things fun, creating memorable branding with every announcement and system, and every new game. Fans of the Metroid series have been waiting for a new game in the series for years, so Nintendo upped the ante at E3 by delivering not one but two upcoming Metroid games, including Samus Returns (a side-scrolling game for 3DS), and the forthcoming Metroid Prime 4, rolled out, unfortunately, with few details.

Super Mario Odyssey, a new Mario platformer, looked interesting, and it was revealed that a new Pokemon RPG for the Switch is in development. What set Nintendo apart at E3 was how it presented itself: Rather than make a big show and try to win the pissing contest of whoever can offer the best graphics or fastest processing power, Nintendo focused on the quality of its software.

In short, the company just tries to serve its fans and show honest glimpses of its latest projects. That brand sincerity is what keeps Nintendo around, even when it can't compete with Sony or Microsoft in terms of hard-core gaming experiences.

Meanwhile, there were other announcements to get excited about: the Shadow of the Colossus remake looked stunning; BioWare's Anthem promised to push new boundaries in open-world games; and Microsoft announced a slew of new games. All were presented in a somewhat predictable way, however; that's why they didn't make the cut for the "3 best" marketing examples.

Key takeaways

So, what can brands learn from these marketing examples?

Know your fans. Your campaign shouldn't be about what you think is best about your products -- it needs to be about what your fans are most excited to see. Communicate directly with your target audience members, and they'll reward you with more attention and greater loyalty. Relevance beats volume every time.

Get the timing right. Timing a product launch, an announcement or a social media feed could make or break the visibility of your campaign. Try to plan ahead as far ahead as possible -- weeks at least, months if possible. -- in advance of your efforts.

Stay true to your brand. Finally, stay true to your brand voice and character throughout your marketing efforts. Trying to emulate a competitor is only going to make your product seem like a cheap imitation, so focus on doing what you do best.

Related: Marketing and Branding Wins and Losses From E3 2017

This year's E3 was a blast, and I'm excited for all the impressive games coming our way in the next few years. Hopefully, publishers can learn some lessons from this year's winners and losers, and come back with even stronger offerings next year.

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The Art of Mentorship: 3 Steps for Building Business Leaders

A significant majority of women -- 63 percent -- have never had a formal mentor in their career. It goes (almost) without saying that everyone in the global-business community can contribute to decreasing that number.

I was lucky enough to enter a mentorship program early in my professional life. I sought a mentor because I needed someone to help me figure out the best way to make my voice heard. As a woman working in the technology industry, I needed guidance on how to best contribute at a strategic level.

Related: Looking for a Mentor? The 7 Best Places to Start.

Mentorship is critical because it brings an inherent ability to drive growth and success in colleagues and leaders alike. Mentoring frequently improves employee performance. Meanwhile, mentors are rewarded by the fulfilling experience of seeing their mentees succeed.

According to data from mentorship consultancy MicroMentor, 83 percent of small businesses with mentor programs survive longer than five years. MicroMentor also found that small- and medium-sized businesses with mentor programs experienced an 83 percent growth in revenue (compared to a 16 percent increase among companies without mentor programs). There is clear business value in mentorship.

Related: The Leadership Gap That You and the World's Most Prominent CEOs Have in Common

I recently reflected on my own mentorship experience with a panel of entrepreneurs at Sage Summit U.S. in Atlanta. We discussed ways business owners could not only survive, but thrive. And we noted that the process often reveals fresh perspectives on the trajectory of mentors' own career paths and futures.

That conversation inspired me to share three steps leaders can take to support and mentor entrepreneurial colleagues in a meaningful way.

Step 1: Set the course.

Your approach to mentorship is crucial in the outcome of the budding relationship. Mentoring without intention or thoughtfulness can lead to a wasted opportunity. To be an effective mentor, you must have an understanding that the person looking to you for guidance sees you as an extension of who they want to become. It's important for mentors to establish what mentees want from the interaction early and then build a mentorship program from the ground up.

Mentors should clarify with their mentees any expectations around objectives and outcomes. During the earliest stages of the mentorship program, both parties involved need to agree on ground rules and pinpoint their limitations. This exercise creates a safe learning environment for risk-taking empowered by trust and honesty.

Related: 6 Things Great Mentors Do Differently

Step 2: Create a productive, open and challenging experience.

Mentors should make it a point to facilitate their mentees’ growth by sharing their own resources and networks. They should look for opportunities to challenge a mentee to move beyond his or her comfort zone. In a successful program, each mentor should focus on his or her mentee’s total development. Along the way, pairs should make time at various points to assess their progress and provide candid, respectful feedback. 

Step 3: Maximize the opportunity.

Mentors also need to respect their mentees’ time. Aspiring and seasoned mentors must be organized and consistent with their programming. To ensure mentees get the most out of the experience, mentors always should plan ahead and take charge of follow-up items.

Mentors should also open themselves up to learning from their mentees. The vantage point gained from working with someone in the mentorship context can change your personal approach to leadership. In my case, mentoring reinforced the importance of viewing things through a different lens. It helped me apply new perspective to how I managed people. I learned quickly that mentorship helps all parties involved.

Related: What Male and Female Leaders Can Learn From One Another

Mentorship programs are such powerful tools for small businesses. One of our own studies at Sage Group revealed that while 28 percent of small businesses have mentorship programs in place, 93 percent understand that mentorship programs improve overall company performance. In practice, mentors provide expertise for those who want to develop effective business skills and maximize profit as well as productivity. Mentorship also can play a role in helping people consistently deliver good work despite distractions.

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6 Keys to Increasing Your Revenue in a Declining Market

In 2014, King’s Hawaiian overtook Bimbo as the leading U.S. vendor in “all other fresh rolls/buns/croissants.” In 2016, the bakery increased sales of fresh rolls and buns by 12.2 percent and hamburger and hotdog buns by 23.9 percent, outperforming competitors by a large margin. No matter what your business is, that’s success you want to emulate.

I had the chance to speak with Erick Dickens, CMO at King’s Hawaiian, on how he was able to double his revenue in a declining market overall. Here are six keys to capturing the market share.

1. Have an awesome product.

Sales aren’t going anywhere if you don’t have a brand worth selling. Enough said.

Related: I Use My Personal Brand to Drive Revenue. You Can Too.

2. Get world-class creative on a budget by building your own team.

Dickens quickly realized that outsourcing to a traditional ad agency wasn’t going to work. For one thing, King’s Hawaiian was a relatively small brand with a proportional budget. “Larger agencies don’t give smaller businesses their best talent,” he says. King’s Hawaiian had never really communicated with consumers before, so their first attempt had to be just right. Since he wasn’t going to get that from the big agencies, Dickens decided he would have to build his own world-class marketing as a hybrid of in-house talent and highly talented contractors.

Dickens began reaching out to personal contacts he’d built over the years. One contact, Steve Levit, had previously run a major creative shop in Los Angeles. “I presented him with an opportunity to work directly on the business,” Dickens explained. “I got to pay him a fraction of the cost I would pay a creative agency, and I got a better result.” The new creative director hired a few more full-time employees along with freelancers, according to need.

King’s Hawaiian isn’t the only brand to develop in-house talent. Many have recognized that the traditional agency model is no longer working for them. Adweek reports that in “2008, 42 percent of member companies in the Association of National Advertisers had in-house agencies. Five years later, that figure rose to nearly 60 percent.” 

3. Be the first and the best.

This year, King’s Hawaiian debuted its Super Bowl ad, which also featured its new line of BBQ sauces. During the 2015 Academy Awards and People’s Choice Awards, they aired another ad positioning themselves as the “Official Snack of the Awards Season.” The venue and message have succeeded in setting King’s Hawaiian apart from other breads; often, King’s Hawaiian rolls aren’t even sold in the same part of the store as other breads.“Nobody in the bread category is doing what we’re doing,” Dickens said. “Most bread companies are not interested in marketing. They’ve cut cost and price and commoditized the category.” 

Related: 7 Factors That Make a Brand Stand Out

4. Stand out. 

Whatever you do, the last thing you want is to blend in with your competition. Look for the deals that no one else is making, especially if your product is a so-called “everyday commodity.” For example, in 2013, King’s Hawaiian partnered with Arby’s to create the King’s Hawaiian Roast Beef and King’s Hawaiian Roast Beef & Swiss, two limited-time-only sandwiches sold at all Arby’s locations. They continue to strike similar partnerships, if on a smaller scale. “Our distribution is achieved directly through relationships with deli and bakery department or buyers,” Dickens said. “Separate yourself from the competition. Things we do that are different make us better.”

5. Don’t compromise on talent. 

Your efforts to revitalize your brand will fail if the talent you bring on doesn’t measure up to the task. Speaking to Adweek, industry expert Marta Stiglin explained, “What's essential when staffing any type of organization, internal or external, is that you hire the best and brightest people you can. If you hire ‘B players,’ you'll end up with a ‘B team.’”

Dickens agrees. “I made a commitment to the owner that I wouldn’t build a ‘good enough’ brand team,” he said. That meant looking for individuals, not an agency, that valued quality of work over quantity or time. “I never have to hear the words ‘out of scope.’ For a lot of marketers, this pains them. The traditional agency’s model is of managing time instead of quality. When we give an assignment, you keep working until it is ready. We don’t get out-of-scope fees.”

Related: What Makes a Good Brand Ambassador for Your Business

6. Own your business.

In too many instances, brand team members are more concerned with building their careers over building the business. These members lack what Dickens refers to as “ownership.” “Ownership is focused on long-term health of business,” he said. “We’re able to make decisions and manage in a way that will benefit us in the long term instead of making short-term decisions.” Fortunately -- and contrary to popular belief -- the average employee is now spending more time with a single employer than 25 years ago. Employees want to find a company that they can commit to and where they feel appreciated. By fostering an environment of ownership, you can not only help your business grow but also keep your employees engaged and working.

We all want to have a business that’s strong enough to pull ahead when others fall behind. Recognize your product’s worth. Build your own team. Establishing yourself as the best. Stand out. Accept only the best talent. Own your work. Do all this, and your business is sure to take the cake.

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Your Guaranteed Tons of New Customers with this Killer Referral Program

Last year at The Newsletter Pro, we introduced an amazing referral campaign. We offered a trip to Vegas to any client whose referral became a client, including airfare, hotel, and the opportunity to race exotic cars on Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Some people thought I was crazy to offer such an expensive prize, but I didn’t spend more than is typical for a cold lead. Once the program was complete, our cost per new referred customer was just under what it would normally cost us to get a new customer from a cold source. To me, that sounds like a huge win.

I talked about this concept in my book No B.S. Guide to Maximum Referrals and Customer Retention. Basically, you should be willing to spend as much or more per referred client as you normally spend to acquire a customer from a cold medium. Why? The answer is simple: statistically, referred customers are worth more than customers from other sources. Which is why as soon as we came back from Vegas this year, we were already planning for our next big event.

A Can’t-Miss Experience

Our new referral program is all themed around the classic movie “Top Gun.” When we sat down to come up with the next program, we asked, “What’s bigger than racing exotic sports cars around the Las Vegas Speedway?” The answer we came up with was dogfighting above the desert in acrobatic airplanes.

Our new experience is going to allow anyone who qualifies (by referring one person who becomes a customer of The Newsletter Pro) to join us in Vegas. But this time, we are going to jump in a plane with a former military pilot, take to the skies, and dogfight above the desert. This will be one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences you’ll never forget. Between the Top Gun experience, the hotel, a prime networking opportunity, and a few other surprises, this will be an experience our customers won’t want to miss.

Killer Promotions

But, all this being said, having an amazing experience is not enough. You must have marketing muscle behind the event. We are taking what we learned from last year’s program and have totally revamped both how we ask for new referral partner signups and how we’re helping our referral partners share our resources so they can get in on the trip.

One of the mistakes we made last time was not offering the employees a chance to win for helping us get new referral sources. So, this time, we’ve created three ways for our employees to win prizes based on how much they encourage customers to sign up and refer to us. With any big promotional push, it’s imperative that one of the big drivers be a focus on employee engagement.

Once we have someone interested in becoming a referral source, we send them to a landing page to opt in. You can see an example of that page at Once they’ve opted in, we create a landing page for them to send their referrals to. This page tags the referral to a referral source inside our CRM software so we know who referred whom. Here is an example of the page each referral source gets to send their referrals to:

On the page above, you’ll notice that we’re promoting a free gift, which is a copy of one of my books. This lead magnet is just one of many we will use over the course of the referral campaign.

Dedicated Communication

After someone opts in to be a referral partner and they have their own landing page, we now need to encourage them to promote. We do this through phone calls from the employees, regular emails, promotions in our newsletter, and direct mail to keep the referral source excited about going on the trip.

One big mistake many make is thinking that once they’ve told someone about the contest once or twice, if that person is interested, they’re done promoting the contest. But that’s simply not the case. Personally, I get busy, and even if I have good intentions, without reminders and some poking, you won’t get much out of me — even if it’s an amazing trip like the one we are giving away.

It may be simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If you’ve nailed the contest and promotional materials, you’ll be well on your way to success, but it takes effort. Every day, a little bit needs to be done to make this program work.

Now that you have a brief overview of our program, I want to challenge you to think bigger and take more risks with your own referral program. Spend as much or more on a referral as you would pay a marketing company to generate a new customer for you. Create promotions. Help your customers and referral sources promote by giving them tools they can use.

If you take my advice, at the end of the day, you’ll have a killer referral campaign, your customers and referral sources will earn a cool prize or experience, and you’ll get dozens, maybe even hundreds, of amazing new customers.

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