Perlu CEO on Influencer Marketing Done Right [INTERVIEW]
Think influencer marketing is just for B2C? Think again! At Stratabeat, we use a platform called Perlu to find and collaborate with influencers for our B2B clients. Stratabeat CEO Tom Shapiro had the privilege of sitting down and chatting with Andres Echenique, CEO of Perlu, on the latest episode of B2B Marketing Tech Talks.
Grab your coffee, sit back and hit play to learn about the platform and how to use influencers effectively. (Hint: it’s all about getting them involved in the brainstorming and planning process, not just giving them a copy-and-paste social media post!)
Tom Shapiro: Hello and welcome everyone to another episode of Stratabeat’s B2B Marketing Tech Talks. Today, I’m joined by Andres Echenique, who is the CEO of Perlu, which is an influencer marketing platform and network. We here at Stratabeat use Perlu, and we love it and endorse it. We’ve been working with Andres for several years now, and I’m very excited to have him here. He’s a wealth of marketing knowledge. So, welcome Andres.
Andres Echenique: Thank you, Tom. Great to be here.
TS: So, Andres, can you start out by telling us a little bit about yourself and Perlu?
AE: Sure. Perlu is an online community that can be used by brands and influencers to connect with each other and ultimately grow in whatever way they need. People usually think of brands and influencers as separate things, but they’re actually pretty similar. Influencers really are brands—they’re just smaller and perhaps more personal—but they both brands and influencers need growth. Perlu is a community that allows these two groups to connect with each other, and we provide a bunch of tools and help them team up and do projects to create growth. These projects are mostly in the social space, but there are a lot of other possibilities with Perlu?
TS: Great. As mentioned, Stratabeat uses Perlu and we love it. Later on in the discussion we’ll get into specific examples. But for now, Andres, can you tell us a little bit about Perlu’s differentiation in the market.
AE: Yeah. I want to start from the brand perspective on this. The brand perspective is that influencers are a hugely valuable marketing channel, but the challenge is there’s just too many of them. The space is enormous, and brands get tangled up trying to find exactly the right one.
So what we do at Perlu is actually try to reduce the number of influencers to include only the ones that matter. The way we do that is a little indirect, so bear with me as I explain. It turns out that influencers don’t live in isolation. They travel in groups, they network with each other, they work on things together, and it’s a natural part of their development as influencers for them to collaborate with other influencers. They’ll share content and work on things together.
And what we realized was if we provide tools to influencers to help them do this better—and there is a lot of pain points and friction with the current tools—they will continue to collaborate with each other through Perlu. Eventually, it will become obvious which of these influencers are the most active and which are only somewhat active. We’ll see how they’re working and what kinds of projects they’re working on. All of that shows brands who they should work with.
So, rather than presenting a brand with a database of five million influencers—which is pretty easy to generate these days—Perlu gives brands the ability to look at profiles and see who is connected, what skills they have, and what their track record is. It’s similar to what LinkedIn does for HR departments and recruiters. As people work together on Perlu, we start to accumulate reviews and different connections, and all of that creates a faster way for brands to find good candidates to work with rather than sort through millions of influencers to get to the ones that actually matter.
TS: Great, and the types of collaborations that brands are doing, that’s transparent, right?
AE: Yes. Many of our competitors have their platforms and databases, etc., and brands join and just walk through the database and try to find influencers. Perlu, on the other hand, is truly a community. Brands and influencers have profiles on Perlu, and anyone can look at anyone else’s profile. Like a true community and social network, they can follow each other, start to understand what’s going on, see all the connections that exist in this network, and use those connections to find the right people, whether it’s an influencer trying to find other influencers or a brand trying to find influencers for campaigns.
TS: Great. I know one of the ways that we at Stratabeat use Perlu is to organize different groups of influencers for different clients, purposes, and campaigns. It helps us be ultra precise in what we’re trying to achieve and match up with the right influencers.
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AE: Yeah. Another cool thing about this community approach is that, as I said, influencers look for people to work with who will advance their careers as influencers. On Perlu, these influencers organize their collection of connections, their peers, and the people they’re working with in a public way using what we call Packs.
If you’re a solo female travel influencer, for example, you’ll pull together all your other colleagues in that niche and put them together in a Pack. And this Pack of influencers that this influencer has curated and worked with can be seen by brands when they have a need for not just one solo female traveler influencer—but many.
The result is thousands and thousands of members on Perlu have organized themselves into thousands of these different groups. We have about 4,000 of these Packs in a variety of areas from the large groups of moms interested in fashion to the nichiest of niche-y things like small dogs on Instagram.
TS: So, Andres, can you give us a couple of examples of how brands have been executing campaigns or simply doing interesting things on Perlu?
AE: Sure. On the B2B side, we work with a company called 8×8, which is a corporate infrastructure company offering tech services, like communications and internet and a number of different tools. We helped them launch a video conferencing product.
On Perlu, it’s very easy to find an influencer because they’ve organized themselves into these Packs. If you can find a Pack, you can find the right influencers, and then you can communicate with them very easily—in one click—and get some feedback from them. This makes it very easy to get influencers’ opinions about what you should do as a brand.
It’s not always clear to brands these days what to do with influencers. There are many, many, many ways to use influencers. But what’s interesting is that influencers function as the voice of the crowd. So they have a whole bunch of followers and a pretty close relationship with those followers. They understand what their audience wants and needs and what their opinions are, because they wouldn’t be influencers if they didn’t understand that.
AE: Asking for those influencers’ input on what to do as a brand is a super powerful thing to do because they represent thousands or tens of thousands or millions of consumers or users of your products.
Because we make finding influencers so easy on Perlu, you can actually ask them, “What should we do?” and they’ll respond to you within hours and give you some ideas.
For 8×8, being a corporate company, how they can step into small business and Soho worlds with their product. They knew influencers would be a gateway, but they didn’t really know how.
Perlu pulled together a handful of influencers—freelancers and traveling consultant types—and put them in a focus group to hear their opinions on launch and different creative ways to ask influencers to produce content on behalf of 8×8.
That took about 72 hours, and the next day, we had about 50 influencers creating content on behalf of 8×8 in various spaces. One angle was setting new years’ resolutions for communicating better. Another angle was about staying in touch with clients when you’re traveling all the time. The 8×8 conferencing solution is very simple and easy-to-use platform that helps with both of these problems.
Within about three weeks, we had about one and a half million social impressions.
AE: Fifty influencers produced over 100 pieces of unique content—a huge success.
TS: That’s awesome.
AE: That’s on the B2B side. On the B2C side, we are in the middle of a pretty interesting campaign for a scotch brand. If you know your high-end scotches, Bruichladdich—which is one of the brands out of Rémy Cointreau—has a sub-brand called Octomore.
TS: I like the name.
AE: It’s an interesting name. It’s an interesting product, too. Not for the faint of heart. Octomore is the most heavily peated scotch, if you know your scotch. I barely know scotch stuff, but I know enough to say that. It is a very, very complex flavor profile and runs about a $350 or $400 per bottle.
AE: Every so often, they tweak the blend a little bit and introduce it as a new product. We’ve been helping them with this introduction of Octomore 11, and the concept that we are running with was created by influencers. We pulled a bunch of scotch influencers into a room and had long conversations about how best to best use influencers and what kind of creative approaches to follow. They came up with the idea to start a tasting guide to help consumers understand every note in the flavor profile and understand how it all came together.
Then we decided to have these eight influencers each write a chapter in this guide. We sent them samples, they tasted them, and then they produced long-form content. So the result was blog articles, actually. There are eight of them, and reading the whole guide leads you from influencer to influencer to influencer since they’re all linked. It was great for exposure—to basically say, “Here are eight scotch experts and all their nerdy analyses of the scotch and why you should care.”
TS: I love that.
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AE: That’s phase one. The cool side effect is that if you Google Octomore 11, three of the five chapters are on page one of the search results, so it takes up space there.
TS: Nice. Beautiful.
AE: The second part of this, is we have about 100 Perlu influencers lined up to start sharing this content. They’ll share their favorite chapter with their audiences, so we’re looking at about a 5 million social impressions over about a month and a half.
AE: Over about a month and a half. So far, we’re doing great. So those are kind of two good examples I think of what we’re up to. So what ties these two campaigns together is that influencers are part of the planning process.
AE: It allows brands to get to unique solutions that stand out in a world that’s crowded and complicated. When influencers are doing all kinds of stuff with all kinds of brands, you have the same challenge you have everywhere else: how do you stand out?
TS: I love those examples. The way that we’ve used and interacted with Perlu, it’s incredibly valuable whenever we can engage with influencers upfront and upstream in the process for brainstorming and ideation. Their ideas are so creative. I think that one of the reasons for that is that they are so directly connected to the end audience. So, it’s really fantastic.
I want to change the topic for a second. Can you tell us a little bit about National Influencer Day?
AE: Sure. I wish it’d come to us about six months ago, but someone noticed that October 6th is the 10th anniversary of Instagram. And with some conversation about that, we thought “Hey, there doesn’t seem to be a national influencer day.” We decided it could be on October 6 and we would just put a stake in the ground and claim it as ours. Then we wondered what we would do, and considered online conferences. In another era, of course, we would have probably had a real conference, but we decided to do an online conference.
A big part of the Perlu brand—and this ultimately benefits brands as well as our brands’ customers and clients—is that we have tools that help influencers grow. A big differentiator of our brand is that we not only do the things you would expect us to do to help brands with influencer marketing and social, but we’re also helping influencers advance their careers. Sometimes that involves brands, and sometimes it involves influencers working amongst themselves.
A big part of our brand is helping influencers, so we focused this conference on influencers to market a National Influencer Day, not because it’s good for brands, but because it’s good for influencers to show them we know they have challenges and needs. It’s a hugely underserved community.
TS: It is.
AE: There really isn’t anybody that sort of addresses the needs of influencers, so we put together a panel discussion. A couple of presenters that talked about the things that influencers need to understand to be kind of more brand ready—to understand what brands are looking for, where they fit in the ecosystem, and what they can do to be more valuable to brands. It’s a big opportunity for both brands and influencers to really get serious about bringing influencers into the planning and design process.
So we made the bold statement that here on the 10th anniversary of Instagram, we’re entering a new era for influencers that’s not about using influencers as fancy banner ads, but as partners that can advocate for your brand in many different and diverse ways because they know what their audiences want and need.
TS: Yes, absolutely. That’s great. And the day was a huge success, correct?
AE: Yes, it was really good. The thing that was really different about it is that we didn’t charge influencers for Perlu because we’re trying to put our money where our mouth is. We’re in this to create something useful to influencers.
AE: We actually got a brand sponsor of the United Arab Emirates who’s involved in the Special Olympics to sponsor a $5,000 prize for a hackathon. The first half of the conference was what you’d expect—some panel discussion and some speakers and knowledge exchange. For the second we decided to take the influencers that have attended this course and break them up into teams to do a live real-time planning exercise with these influencers. The $5,000 would go to the influencers who came up with the best way to promote the UAE’s involvement in Special Olympics using the influencer channel. We gave the influencers just 20 minutes to come up with a plan. I think you had said, “That will never work.”
TS: Twenty minutes was really pushing it.
AE: But it worked like a charm, and some influencers, complete strangers, were dumped into Zoom meeting rooms together and they did their thing and came out on the other side with some pretty great ideas. Now we’re moving forward with some great ideas for the UAE.
Afterwards, the influencers were saying, “Oh my gosh, it was so great. It was so intimate. I really got to exercise my creativity and make some new connections,” and all that.
TS: That’s awesome. Kudos to you and your team for designing it and flawlessly executing it.
AE: Thank you.
TS: All right, final question for you. We’ve been talking a lot about what you and brands and influencers have been doing on Perlu. Let’s look at the influencer marketing industry itself. If you look in your crystal ball, what do you see happening over the coming year or two? What changes do you think are going to be coming to influencer marketing?
AE: Well, there doesn’t seem to be any slow down. Indeed, there’s actually an acceleration of investment on the part of brands and influencers in this channel. The headwind that the industry faces of course is that anyone can be an influencer, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re really an influencer or a good one.
AE: But when you talk about the sheer numbers across TikTok and Instagram and whatever else, the numbers are just enormous.
So what we call the discovery process—trying to select influencers and find the right influencers for a campaign—is very difficult. The easy way out is to find celebrities, but that is expensive and increasingly inauthentic, because what we figured out is that these folks just accept checks and will say whatever you want.
TS: Yes, absolutely
AE: But the smaller influencers have much more authentic relationships with their audiences and are far more selective about what brands they’ll work with because they have to, like any publisher, have to keep their audiences happy or they lose them, right? So they have to produce stuff aligns with whatever their personal brand or expertise is.
Unfortunately, brands can’t just write a lot of checks to force their way through it. It just won’t work. The influencers won’t cooperate with that. So trying to find the right influencers at scale for your brand will continue to be a challenge, but it’s also an enormous opportunity. If you find the right set of influencers, they will be your best friend and not just produce content on your behalf.
When we find a good influencer for a campaign, they will typically get excited about the product and they’ll do more than you ask them for because it resonates with their audience and they personally enjoy it.
AE: So when you get it right, it delivers in spades.
TS: That’s awesome.
AE: But the other challenge is that brands don’t know what to do, and the obvious thing to do is getting pretty tired. The obvious thing is the smiling millennial with the product on the beach, and just repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat.
The audiences of the influencers have gotten hip to that, and the influencers themselves are weary of that. Brands have to come up with more interesting things, and that’s where the influencers themselves come back in.
What we think is going to be the big driver is influencers becoming planning partners for brands to create campaigns that really stand out. That’s going to be the big thing for the next couple of years.
AE: It’s hard to pull off, but it will be the key to success.
TS: Fantastic. So Andres, if someone listening or watching us right now is interested in learning more, where should they go?
AE: Sure. They can go to perlu.com. We’ve got lots of forms here. We can do demos, and we have a services team called Launch Studio, which will help you plan and execute campaigns. Or you can use the self-serve platform for small fees.
TS: Excellent. Everyone, I would encourage you to check out perlu.com. We use it. We love it. We think it’s a fantastic platform—very unique and different from any of the other influencer marketing platforms out there.
Andres, thank you so much for joining us today.
AE: Great to talk to you, Tom. Thank you.