This is How Working with Creators Decreased My Customer Acquisition Cost by 40%

Josh Zhang
December 21, 2023

Brands don’t understand how to work with influencers.

Most brands are paying ridiculously high fees just to get one or two mentions on accounts that won’t do anything for their business. A mere Instagram post, holding a product, with a cheesy smile, meanwhile the followers are all commenting “Get that sponsorship money” without any intent to purchase what they’re promoting.

The days of paying influencers on a post-by-post basis are gone. This strategy is not effective for smaller brands that are looking for a return on investment (ROI) with their marketing dollars.

When I was at Hint, a few years ago we ran a marketing test that has now become an industry-standard marketing tactic — we worked with influencers, not for their following, but for their content.

This strategy dropped our customer acquisition cost by 40%.

In this post, I’m going to show you exactly how we did it, so you can use that same strategy to lower your CPA (cost per acquisition) and drive sales for your business.

1. Select the right creators

First, you need to change your mindset.

You’re not just paying an influencer to post about your product. You’re forming a relationship with a director, a producer, a filmer, the talent, the editor… but all as one person. View your work with creators as a partnership.

As you search for potential partners, identify creators who are great communicators talking right into the camera. The best ones, like Sara Dietschy or Danny Duncan, make you feel like they are sitting right in front of you.

Sara Dietschy, who is a famous YouTuber and now a close friend of mine, was one of the first influencers I worked with at Hint.

To get her attention, I shipped her an absurd amount of product (108 bottles to be exact) in an attempt to be featured and figure out what flavor she liked.

The strategy worked. Within 24 hours, Sara posted this video talking about Hint:

Her whole brand was "Sara Dietschy, Rhymes with Peachy", so I sent her a ton of peach flavored water. She was also a La Croix drinker, so I personally enjoyed her calling out La Croix for never being supportive of creators, whereas we now were.

Soon enough, I had every YouTuber, photographer, influencer, and creator in New York and LA drinking Hint, and those that didn't have it wanted it.

Her product feature was serendipitous, genuine and natural. It didn’t feel forced or orchestrated. That combination lays the foundation for kickass content for your brand… all made by talented creators, who loved working with us.

When deciding which creators to work with, look for 3 things:

  1. The creator should truly love the product (if not, it doesn't work).
  2. The creator should be willing to produce a testimonial-UGC style video.
  3. The ability to run the ads through the creator's handles.

When you work with a creator who's able to truly use your product and love it, all those emotions come through in the video. Just paying a random influencer who you think will do well, but doesn't know the product, won't drive meaningful results. Remember back to those Instagram comments we were talking about… consumers know an “ad” from a mile away. You can bet they know a fake ad even faster.

But how do you find the right creators to work with your brand? There are many different ways, but I primarily use two sourcing methods to find potential partners.

First, you can find creators on platforms you love. If you have a visually-stunning product, you might start sourcing influencers who are prominent on Instagram and YouTube. If your audience skews younger, you might consider starting with TikTok creators.

It’s important to know as a brand what it takes for someone to buy your product… think about your “Why” behind the purchase. If it’s an emergency kit, YouTube would be the better play since you see things visually. If you sell a moisturizer, a series of Tik Tok creators who can really personify your products would be a better fit for you. Use your existing customer reviews to understand what people truly love, then figure out what platform you can show those outcomes off on, the best.

Once you find a creator, reach out directly to them on the platform. Most creators have an email listed in their bio or you can send them a direct message. Think about them as a co-worker when you send the first DM, not as a fan. Creators can spot the difference right away.

Another way, that is more scalable, is to use a platform like #paid, a marketplace for brands and creators. With #paid, you put out a brief on exactly what you’re looking for and creators can apply to be in your campaigns. They activate their network of creators and within 24 hours you have a campaign ready with creators.

2. Let the creators take the lead

Creators have attracted a ton of followers because they make great content.

Give them your value propositions, get out of the way, and let them take the lead. Don’t get so involved that it disrupts their creative process.

One of the greatest parts of working with creators is the whole creation comes together by them. You're not dealing with more than one person/team. They do everything from planning, writing, shooting, editing, mastering, and more.

Because they create content daily, creators know how to present your product in a fresh and exciting way that will resonate with their audience. You’re not getting something that was created by an agency’s 5-year old best practices, you’re getting something that is modern, fresh, relevant to culture today, and fits into the social feed very organically.

The content you’re looking for should have all the great characteristics of a good lower-funnel creative. This includes:

  • A fast-paced and thumb-stopping intro
  • The product shown within the first 3 seconds
  • Main value proposition within first 10 seconds
  • A clear explanation answering, "Why?"

With these four components, you’ll have an engaging creative that will perform well in ad campaigns.

3. Run ads through creators’ channels

Finally, you shouldn’t just have creators post the content and be done with it. Think of their profile as an additional channel in your marketing strategy.

Request advertiser access to their account, so you can promote the content asset and run ad campaigns on their account.

Running the content in news feeds with a creator's social profiles, instead of the brand, has so many benefits.

First, it shows a true partnership between your brand and the creator, resulting in an added boost of credibility and social proof for your product.

Second, it is more authentic in the creator’s news feed. It’ll feel less like an ad and more like a genuine application of the product and endorsement from the creator.

Finally, it’s more effective. This approach will bring you higher CTRs, lower CPCs, and lower CPMs than the ads you’re running on your brand page.

With Sara, we ran this ad for Hint on her Facebook and Instagram channels:

I gave her the product and a list of value propositions customers talked about the most. She put together the story-board and created the entire video.

The ad sent consumers to a landing page optimized with an offer, creating an extremely optimized funnel from the ad to checkout.

This ad lowered CAC by 40%, and had immense scale behind it. Why? It was concise, entertaining, hit all the value props (including a customer's pain points with diet soda), and had a convincing offer to sample the product.

You can use this strategy over and over again with new creators and use their unique content and influence to drive sales for your business.

The creators are waiting

Working with creators is an essential tactic to get your brand in front of your target customers. Without the proper strategy, though, you could just be burning through cash.

Make sure that you select the right influencers, let them take the lead, and activate through their channels to get the most out of your influencer marketing strategy.

By taking this approach, you’ll drive more sales for your business while lowering your CAC and forging new relationships with creative partners.