Tell us about your role and journey into technology. What made you start AspireIQ?
I started my career in finance and got into technology after getting my MBA at Harvard. Afterwards, I joined Pocket Gems where I served as VP of Product and managed an organization of more than 60 people that generated $80 million in annual revenue.
At Pocket Gems, I realized how difficult it is for products to be discovered. Without a physical storefront, there are hundreds of thousands of e-commerce brands that must build growth strategies that align with the channels that have become most important to consumers, namely social media and mobile. When we started the company in 2014, up-and-coming brands like Stitch Fix and Birchbox were getting much of their traction through Influencer Marketing. Our founding team made a bet that this would become a core competency of every business going forward.
Today, Influencer Marketing is in the middle of a massive evolution. Back when we started, brands looked to only a handful of mega-influencers with millions of followers to drive a single campaign. But successful brands today are beginning to understand that the biggest value of an influencer program comes from the creative content and storytelling that their community creates. As brands realize the power of influencer-generated content (IGC), we’re starting to see IGC become mainstream in advertising, on websites and even in retailers and Amazon stores.
At AspireIQ, we help brands build communities of influencers and creators to power the branded content needed for all of today’s digital and social media channels.
How is AspireIQ different from other Influencer Marketing platforms?
AspireIQ is the only enterprise-grade SaaS platform designed specifically for building large-scale influencer communities. Most other platforms are built for one-off campaign activations of a few dozen influencers or less, which is the legacy way of doing Influencer Marketing.
We identified early that there is a competitive advantage in building your influencer program into a true community. This means empowering brands to have genuine, direct relationships with influencers, giving brands and creators the flexibility to collaborate in any way they see fit, and focusing on the tools to manage communities of hundreds, if not thousands, of influencers at any given time.
We automate processes such as contractual negotiations, licensing rights, product fulfillment, payments and more, in order to save the average team 35 hours per week as they build Influencer Marketing into a competitive advantage.
What is the current state of digital commerce around influencer-driven Content Marketing and advertising?
We live in a post-targeting world. What I mean by that is: The last decade of Marketing Technology, from ad platforms like Facebook and Google to marketing automation like Marketo, has given every business the ability to hyper-target consumers on practically a one-to-one level.
This means that the biggest challenge facing every business is not how to deliver the message, but what to say. How can you possibly create custom content, especially videos and images, for every relevant customer segment, on every channel? Content velocity is a daunting task for any single creative agency or in-house creative team.
However, many fast-moving direct-to-consumer brands have solved this by not relying solely on a single team, but by building communities of influencers, customers and other content creators who can produce more authentic content than any professional studio shoot. Moreover, brands like ipsy and Fashion Nova are able to activate thousands of people to create content on a monthly basis, giving these brands the content pipeline required to deliver true personalization across all of their digital marketing.
Could you tell us about how customers are using AspireIQ to scale influencer-generated creative across marketing channels?
With AspireIQ, brands can quickly discover, manage and grow large-scale communities of the right influencers to generate the large volume of images and video content needed to personalize every customer touchpoint: from paid media to website content, to email marketing and more. We’ve also built a powerful content dashboard that measures the impact and effectiveness of that creative content across every marketing channel. Poshmark, for example, relies on AspireIQ to build its community of more than 1,500 influencers to generate content for their entire marketing stack.
AspireIQ is most powerful when it’s used across the entire marketing team. Our most successful consumer brands use our platform every day across social, brand, digital and e-commerce teams. Because each team shares creative ideas, distributes assets to their own channel and uncovers new learnings, they’re able to accelerate the content-generation process and personalize each channel through high-quality images and videos.
How do you choose, promote and sustain influencers in the ecosystem?
We use two types of vetting and authentication when onboarding new influencers into our ecosystem:
- Quality – We employ a team of experts who carefully vet each influencer’s content and monitor for any red flags or offensive content.
- Analytics – We have a proprietary algorithm that scans the statistics across each influencer’s social profiles, looking at the consistency of their engagement, past sponsorship history and dozens of other important factors
When influencers collaborate with brands on AspireIQ, they receive reviews and ratings from the brands which increases their profile and market value to each of the other 200+ brands on the platform. Influencers are able to highlight their creative content and past successes in their AspireIQ profiles when negotiating with brands, even if those collaborations happen off platform.
How much have Influencer Marketing Operations changed since the arrival of automation and BI/analytics tools? How do you leverage these tools at AspireIQ?
We built our own digital asset manager, called the Content Library, as a central hub of content for all clients on AspireIQ. We’ve also integrated with various ad platforms, like Facebook and Instagram ads, and have an API that customers can use to plug into business intelligence (BI) tools such as Domo and Tableau.
Our goal is to make the influencer content produced by our clients as shareable and reusable as possible, and that often involves sharing with other teams and agencies as well as plugging directly into marketing channels for distribution.
Brands can leverage our analytics dashboards to see the impact that each piece of content is having on different channels in real time. This provides creative and performance teams with the ability to assess which content has been most successful and quickly iterate on the creation of new content through their communities every single month.
Could you tell us about an outstanding digital campaign from one of your clients?
The Bouqs Company, an on-demand flower company, was looking for a way to tell their brand story through authentic content. Because flowers tend to be an emotional product, they needed content that was authentic and human-centric in order to resonate with customers, especially on social media.
Before AspireIQ, Bouqs’ Senior Social and Content Manager, Tricia Teschke, was struggling to generate enough content to power the company’s seasonal campaigns and product pipelines. She was working with a small in-house team to produce content, while leaning on influencers for additional creative. She knew that influencer-generated content performed better as it lends a layer of authenticity to storytelling that cannot be replicated with owned content or traditional studio shoots. She wanted to build long-term, organic relationships with influencers, but lacked the tools to efficiently scale her influencer community.
AspireIQ allows Tricia to quickly find the right influencers for each campaign, manage the relationship with dozens of influencers at a time, and analyze the performance of each post. Bouqs was able to increase with content production by over 300 percent, and uses influencer-generated content across multiple marketing channels, including email, website and social.
“Through AspireIQ we’ve built a community of over 150 influencers which has been invaluable for scaling up our media campaigns and social media presence,” said Tricia Teschke, Brand Director at The Bouqs. “The platform makes it easy to build relationships with hundreds of creators and analyze where we’re having the greatest impact.”
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
The rise of API-driven platforms such as Segment will further commoditize the ability for any one vendor to “own” your data. For years, many Marketing Technology companies have used consumer data to build lock-in. This means those rich datasets, and the ability to personalize experiences based on that data, will become more accessible to a broader range of businesses.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
AI is inevitable, but I tend to view it as an augmentation to human decision making rather than its own decision-maker. It’s similar to the way that cancer screenings are 75 percent accurate with AI, 83 percent accurate from a doctor, but 99 percent accurate in combination. However, many roles, which are driven by pure memorization, knowledge and structured logic, rather than creative judgment, will be threatened (e.g. law and medicine).
In the marketing world, many touchpoints will become increasingly automated within channels by AI. Already Facebook employs an ever-changing algorithm to determine what billions of people see on a daily basis. But the “application layer” will always depend on the creativity of marketing teams and content creators which will succeed for many years to come.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
The best part about being in San Francisco is that people, by default, are hungry for a technology-driven culture. Therefore, they don’t need to be inspired by technology itself, but rather a custom-built career path that is accelerated by it.
One word that best describes how you work.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Superhuman for email – it consolidates three to four different email tools that I previously used separately.
What’s your smartest work-related tip for productivity?
I try to carve out at least one hour per day to myself to think. One of the toughest parts about growing a business quickly is that there are an infinite number of “important” tasks. If you focus on pure productivity, you will lose sight of the future.
What are you currently reading?
High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil
Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Constantly ask yourself if you are personally scaling every quarter. What are you doing four-times better than this time last year? What can you train someone else to do just as well as you?
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
Making decisions quickly. When you’re scaling rapidly, many times you just need to make a decision based on the information you have in front of you, rather than trying to build consensus or having a perfect statistical argument.
Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read
Emily Weiss, Founder and CEO of Glossier.
Thank you, Eric! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Eric Lam is the founder and CEO of AspireIQ, the leading influencer marketing platform for producing branded creative at scale. Previously, Eric served as the Head of Live Operations at Pocket Gems, where he led a
60-person team that generated the company’s $80+ million of annual revenue. He began his career in finance, working at The Carlyle Group and Berkshire Capital.
AspireIQ (formerly Revfluence), the leading influencer marketing platform, empowers brands to produce branded creative at scale through large-scale communities of content creators. Its software platform makes it fast and easy to discover creators who are an authentic fit for brand campaigns, manage relationships and creative workflows, and analyze the performance of large volumes of creative across all marketing channels. It is headquartered in San Francisco, with an office in New York.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.