When Does Beauty Product Seeding Actually Bear Fruit?

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 18 founders and executives: How have you changed your approach to seeding product to influencers, makeup artists, hairstylists and other recognizable people to be more effective?

Trinny Woodall Founder and CEO, Trinny London

It's really important when you choose people who you want to send products to that they are the kind of women you feel would love your brand. Just because there’s somebody's feed you admire or they have a million followers, you're gonna know by looking at what kind of things they post, if they would even pick up your product or if it would even get through their front door. 

As a brand, as much as we love the occasional celebrity, I equally love the strategy of finding women who are very inspirational. I can give an example in Australia of a woman called Mia Freedman. She's a real all-rounder. She's in her 40s, she runs a business, she has a podcast, and she has a very dedicated following. She's a strong businesswoman, and she loves makeup and fashion. That's quite unusual. She's quite unique. 

Her feed is really balanced, and she is really authentically supportive of other women and what they are producing. I think that authenticity is key and knowing your product is going to be part of their life rather than too commercial. As you lose the story of them, you lose the way it fits in their life.

Liz Kirby Founder and CEO, Betoken

We have found that doing a fair amount of research on the influencer ahead of deciding whether or not to send product is essential. We've sent product to influencers with huge followings who have posted the product, and it's resulted in zero sales. On the other hand, we might send product to an influencer with less followers, but a more dialed in audience, and it results in our best sales day ever when they post. 

Getting to know the audience of an influencer, how dedicated their fan base is to them and how closely the niche, if any, aligns with your brand and what you are selling is going to determine if it's a successful campaign. Don't be fooled by someone with a million followers if all their followers are looking for is pictures of that person in a bathing suit. We target a lot of parents, so mom influencers tend to work well for us, for example. 

Find influencers in your niche, follow them and study their engagement a bit, then decide to reach out. Not only will you have more to say in your correspondence to them, but you'll know if their audience is going to buy what you are selling.

KAYLA JUAN Creative Director, J Beverly Hills

We have explored a variety of partnerships when it comes to working with influencers in the beauty industry and have found that micro-influencer collaborations tend to be the most advantageous for our marketing goals. We determine our campaigns on a month-to-month basis and are extremely focused on PR seeding to micro-influencers (5,000 to 25,000). We collaborate with women in the beauty, health and wellness space that have buying preferences and lifestyles that are aligned with our target audience. We have also moved toward utilizing platforms that allow us to better track the return of these collaborations.

Dimitra Davidson Principal, Indeed Labs

In the past, we were focused on a theme and curated items that fit the theme to send along with our products, but we realize that people are inundated. We now focus on the products as they speak for themselves, and we find recipients get excited without extra fluff!

Angela Kote Social Media Manager, Undone Beauty

My approach to seeding product to influencers has changed quite a bit over the years [and] even more so since the pandemic. The influencer landscape used to be the wild west for both creators and brands, creators [were] willing to work with any brand and brands [were] completely in the dark about who to work with. This has taken a turn. Millennials have come of age as powerful consumers, and their interest in causes, experience as well as meaningful partnerships with businesses is at the forefront of their decision-making. 

The best approach in seeding product is connection. Reaching out to influencers is no longer just about scheduling a post and hoping it resonates with their audience. I look at it as a chance to open up a dialogue and educate a new potential consumer about the brand. I want to know that they are excited about what they are going to be using and can see themselves incorporating it into their daily life. I think collectively consumers are conscious of waste, so having creators be part of the process in picking out their own product is also very important in this process.

I make it a point to research creators who already have an interest in beauty. In my case, this makes it an easy entrance point. I am lucky to work with a brand that is clean, cruelty-free and also stands for all the right things in the industry, so it's an easy sell. People like to talk about things they actually like and brands they resonate with on an intimate level. Instead of making everything about a collaboration or a return on investment, I seed product to influencers through a genuine love for the brand and the relationship they build with it.

DAVID SIMNICK CEO and Co-Founder, Soapbox

It's about making a genuine connection. It's not just getting beauty products into the hands of beauty influencers. It's about really knowing their interests, their platforms, etc., to make a great connection that establishes authentic partnerships. Influencers and stylists are looking for brands that provide more than a great product, but also an entire messaging they can get behind. So, whether that's vegan/cruelty-free focused, sustainability forward or giveback-driven, it's finding the common thread between brand and influencer to go beyond products and create a relationship that's built to be long term.

CHARLOTTE KNIGHT Founder and CEO, Ciate London

Our main change in how we seed product is reducing our packaging and making sure that all our materials are recyclable. In line with our pledge to be more sustainable as a whole, we want to do everything we can to reduce any packaging waste with our seeding. In terms of becoming more effective, we review our seeding lists for every send-out to make sure we are targeting the most relevant people for each launch and for our brand at the time.

Anastasia Bezrukova Founder, Minori

We are launching this spring, and our approach is to leverage the genuine relationships that we’ve built with influencers and makeup artists over the past 18 months. Our belief is that we’re better off working with 50 influencers who know us inside and out than a few hundred who have had only a few interactions with our brand. Ultimately, the better influencers know your brand mission, the more effectively they can communicate it to their audience.

Our relationship with influencers extends beyond IG engagement. We have greatly benefited from the many conversations that we’ve had with content creators over the past year. When we were still going through product development, we leaned heavily on their feedback to make important decisions around product naming, packaging sourcing, design and more. 

Additionally, we’ve created a friends and family newsletter for our community to follow our entrepreneurial journey and get a behind-the-scenes view of the brand-building process. My advice to other founders is that there are no shortcuts to this process and that building genuine long-term relationships is the most effective way to conduct influencer marketing.

Belinda Kǒkóèkà Bassey Ephraim Founder and CEO, KOKOBÉRNA

Initially, we were hesitant considering our premium price point and the handcrafted nature of our products. However, we've since changed our approach, taking the time to research and cultivate long-term relationships with a limited cohort of influencers who consistently demonstrate a strong design aesthetic and really understand the value of honoring the brand elements and story. 

Based on their honest feedback regarding their experience and concerns with other brands across a diverse swath of industries, we feel better positioned to roll out a comprehensive ambassador program designed by ambassadors that includes seeding product and, subsequently, based on performance and their ability to authentically present the brand, offering a well-thought-out incentive plan to drive their long-term success and access to user-generated content.

LINDSAY HOLDEN Co-Founder, Odele

Our approach hasn’t changed much as we’re only just over a year old [as of January 2021] and still functioning in the introductory phase to many. The whole concept of our brand is built around shareability, including the brand name itself, which is inspired by the Norwegian word for “to share.” So, we very much subscribe to the philosophy of #shareOdele. Our belief is that the proof is in the goop, so we’ve continued to seed product in an effort to build awareness and get honest reviews. 

The people we seed to include influencers, up-and-comers and notable names within the industry as well as everyday consumers who have become natural evangelists for Odele. This past year, we’ve all spent more time in the confines of our homes than ever before and, with that, comes time to discover new brands and methods of self-care. We’re all about doing more with less and embracing the undone/effortless look, and people have responded to that.

Stacey Lee Founder, Rude Cosmetics

Influencer marketing is particularly important to us, so we are very keen to monitor the effectiveness and make adjustments where necessary to our strategy. We do this by maintaining relationships with micro-influencers whose personalities are aligned with the brand. We are a brand with a full line of color cosmetics and skincare, so we curate appropriate products depending on the influencer's channel theme and core audiences when we send products out for testing. It is also especially important for us to reach out to diverse cultures and backgrounds to support our expanding global brand presence.

Olowo-n’djo Tchala Founder, Alaffia

It has always been important that the influencers and ambassadors we partner with are like-minded in their interests, morals and lifestyles. I would not say that we changed our approach to seeding product, but, rather, we continue to identify individuals who share our values. I have found that this is the most organic way for these influencers to make the connection to us as an organization and our products. We truly have something for everyone, which you can see reflected in the influencers that we engage with—moms, natural-living enthusiasts, athletes, haircare experts, television personalities and so many more. 

Jaleh Bisharat Co-Founder and CEO, NakedPoppy

We have a pretty unique approach to retail, and it's reflected in our approach to influencer marketing. We consider ourselves a smart clean beauty site (with lots of tech under the hood) that's designed to let shoppers find their personalized clean beauty matches from the couch. 

Given this, we typically approach influencers by asking them to take our online beauty assessment so we can send them a goodie box of products that will be perfect for them. This has the dual effect of engaging pretty much exclusively with influencers who are genuinely interested enough to take our assessment—we respect the fact that people don't want to waste products they haven't asked for—as well as making sure they experience what makes us magical and different.

Pooja Ganesan Founder and CEO, Booni Doon

Since we launched last summer, we have completely revamped how we gift products to influencers. As a zero-waste skincare brand, we don't want to contribute to product waste or overconsumption in the industry, so we now are quite selective when gifting products. We only seed products to influencers who share our brand values and focus on those influencers within our existing community. Skincare is such a personal matter that we send across ingredient lists and product information prior to gifting. That way we can confirm the product is a good fit for them, and it is something they currently have the bandwidth to use. This approach has felt more aligned with our sustainable ethos and has been more effective as well.

Ada Polla CEO, Alchimie Forever

Truthfully, our approach hasn't changed. We're big believers in sharing the magic of Alchimie Forever and have experienced many times over how powerful organic social media is, so we do our best to ensure our community remains well-stocked on their brand favorites. UGC is extremely important to the brand. 

In particular, over the past year, we've seen more and more requests come in from our influencer community to deal with pandemic-related issues a la dry hands from all the hand washing, sanitizing and maskne breakouts. Needless to say, our dry skin balm and gentle refining scrub have become beloved items.

In terms of social messaging, we've been chatting with the community about our eye care products since so much focus is above the mask on the eyes as well as the importance of self-care through skincare, something we've been touting since the brand inception in 2004. We're ramping up for a new launch in late March—our first in close to two years—and we will be seeding that to a list of our top influential brand fans to ensure they have a chance to sneak a peek at the new launch.

Victoria Ferguson Founder, East 29th

I'm a makeup artist and have been for 10 years, spending the last eight years working in the film industry. Before launching East 29th, I spent years building relationships with other artists, hairstylists, actors and other influential people. I saw firsthand what was missing product-wise and personal connection-wise in the industry. My initial approach was sending products to these connections, which resulted in a great first reach. I was on one show for the entire two-year process of taking my homemade product to the lab while creating our presence as a brand. It was helpful to work with skin on such a large scale while developing for needs other than my own. 

As an artist that didn't wear makeup often, my face became a walking business card. It made my initial outreach easier as I had built a foundation of trust when it came to skincare. I can't remember a time when strangers haven't commented on my clear skin. My goal is to promote being softer inside and out, equally focusing on self-care and skincare. We're now seven months in and partnering up with foundations with similar values. And, now, we’ve shifted to reaching out to those aligned with the clean beauty movement, vegan and cruelty-free since these are all important to us. I’m not one to wait around for my door to be knocked on. I am the first to reach out, so much so I playfully call myself the “director of first impressions.” We have the ability to reach out to a lot of people, way more than in past decades, which is helpful and effective.

Katherine Lancman CMO, Hume Supernatural

We try and focus on content creation opportunities that can showcase where our product fits well into routine for each partner. When it comes to makeup artists and hairdressers, they are opinion leaders when it comes to personal care products. Their community relies on their recommendation. We look for opportunities to supply product and information that demonstrates our uniqueness and superior performance.

Kristin Bauer Founder, Nourishe

At this time, the market is changing to support at-home self-care routines and practices. This is actually totally in alignment with our vision for skincare anyway. Even before shutdowns and staying home, our most potent practice is teaching our clients how to manage skin health with short practices that they fit into their daily skincare routines. 

By teaching influencers, makeup artists and other influential people these techniques, they will gain credibility with their followers and, then, our main mission for holistic self-skincare is exposed to the world of consumers. Our products are inspired by these techniques and work hand in hand with these self-skincare practices to create magnificent skin. As the consumer understands these techniques and applies them in combination with our powerful skin rejuvenation products that we make based on indigenous herbalism, we see customers not only loving the results, but sharing this information with their friends and spreading the love. 

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to [email protected].