Scale

If you’re a DTC (direct-to-customer) brand and struggling with producing content, UGC might be your way out. What’s the fuss about UGC? User-generated content is any textual or visual content, produced by people using your brand’s product or services, i.e. users. While high-end branding photos and videos will give you a premium touch, raw, and unedited UGC will give you genuine credibility. People trust people easier than they trust ads - simple as that. 

Acquiring UGC might be a hard nut to crack from the start and it might take more time and effort to build a solid base of it. Start with encouraging existing customers to leave a review on your website or Facebook page. From our perspective, there are 3 solutions to fix the content creation problem with cost and quantity:

  • Outsource it to a content-creation specialised studio or agency
  • Create your in-house studio
  • Create your campaign, using UGC-dedicated tools and platform

If you’re at your raw beginning, you might want to postpone trying out the first option due to lack of budget and longer delivery times. If you have the knowledge, the resources, and the place to set up your studio, give option 2 a go. Keep in mind that aside from those things, you also need an experienced team to back you up. A strong plus to this option is having complete control over the execution, production, and delivery of the content. Let’s focus on the last option - creating your own UGC creative engine. 

But why even choose UGC? For starters, it’s cost-efficient without any massive prior investment. A lot of people are willing to share their experience with your brand in the form of photos, video testimonials, or reviews in exchange for your products.  

  1. The foremost and most golden rule: Define the goal and deliverables of your campaign

Influencers + reach = exposure

influencers + influence = conversion

Briefing, briefing, and more briefing - content creators and influencers cannot deliver on-point content if even you yourself aren’t sure what your objectives are. If you’re aiming at gaining more brand awareness and recognition, do mass outreach to a lot of nano and micro-influencers. What might come in handy here is engaging with your actual clients and nurturing your user-brand relationship. When you feel you have the experience and the budget, contact macro influencers and your local celebrities.

If your goal is getting more conversions, search for more medium-sized profiles rather than placing all your eggs in one mega influencer basket. A small investment or giving away a collection of your products might start a great partnership with your chosen influencer and if your product is at the right place at the right time, it will result in conversions. 

2. Don’t go balls to the wall, take it easy.

Define the scale of the influencer profile you’re looking for - nano, micro, macro. If you’re on a tight budget, start with nano influencers. While it may be time-consuming in the long run, this is a fast way to get a lot of raw and unedited content from genuine people. Profiles with a smaller following might not have the desired reach, but they often have a more loyal audience. They are more likely to collaborate in exchange for fair compensation and free product. 

Be open to people that reach out to your brand with their proposal - you probably already won them over and caught their attention, so they are ready to take it up a notch and become your brand’s ambassador. If they reach out to you and their profile has a decent engagement-to-following ratio, propose a fair deal for both sides.

“Okay, where and how do I start?”

There are 2 ways of creating your very own UGC engine. Either start reaching out and acquiring content on your own or find an existing influencer marketing and on-demand content creation tool. If you want to avoid third-party commissions, start sending emails to chosen profiles or message them on their profiles. 

A simple summary of the said options is: 

For on-demand content creation campaigns, stick to existing tools. There are tons of up-to-date software and tools that let you open your first content creation campaign and there’s tons of material on how to do it. Our personal favourite is Influee, mostly because it offers everything we need to create a killer campaign brief and negotiations: Campaign guidelines, mood board, clear overview of applicants, deliverables, and delivered content. 

For collaborations with macro and mega influencers, go with cold pitching and personalised email outreach. The primary goal of said collaborations is incorporating your product into the influencer’s lifestyle and appearing on their profiles to reach their audience. While these collaborations are often a lot more pricey, you can ask them to deliver the content they posted and use it as social proof on your website or ads. 

Let’s focus on the first and more time-consuming option - Reaching out.

  1. Source the experts in your niche. Do they have the target following and credibility? Will their audience be susceptible to your brand? 
  1. Prepare a list of your top picks and create a sheet where you’ll be monitoring the process of all negotiations and deals. 

3. Create an unique pitch. Make sure to introduce yourself so the addressee knows who’s reaching out and which brand you’re representing. State the obvious facts why you think your products will fit their lifestyle and how you differ from other brands. What always did wonders for us is highlight a few things about their presence that caught our attention. For example, a certain influencer is Youtube-native and you’re enjoying their vlogs on Youtube. Tell this person which episode was your favourite and what part of it stuck with you.

4. Send follow-ups. Always log negotiations and deals you made with each person, even if you only reached out and did not get an answer yet. Try again. And then again in 2 weeks. They might be preoccupied with other projects at the moment and missed your email or they weren’t sure if they had the time capacity to start a new collaboration just yet.

5. Always negotiate the price and deliverables. The most common mistake is closing a deal without a brief description of what your expectations are about the content. Propose the deliverables first, then negotiate a price. If you’re planning to use their content on your profiles and advertising campaigns, make sure to mention it forward and ask for content rights. 

6. Set the date of content delivery. If the content will be posted to the creator’s profile as well - ask about the expected date of posting. If you're working with macro-influencers with over 10K followers, generate a UTM link that they can include in their stories and bio. It costs you nothing to generate a UTM, but it gives you an insight into the traffic they drove to your site and how profitable this posting was for you. If you're aiming for more conversions, agree on a discount code for bigger profiles and track profitability by monitoring promo codes as well. 

Option 2: Using on-demand content creation software

The assets needed to start this campaign are as follows:

  1. A proper mood board - visual inspiration and guidelines.
  2. Content brief - describe the theme and expectations of delivered content, using simple and clear words.

After you have checked the two above, move on to opening your very first campaign and talking with content creators. Check their previous work and decide if their content style fits the vibe of your brand. Keep in mind that most content creators have a distinguished style that differentiates them from others. While they probably will be willing to follow your brand guidelines, it is still better to leave them with at least some creative freedom.

3. Having an Instagrammable product and paying loads to a mega influencer does not guarantee any conversions 

Enter the user-generated content campaign journey with a simple mindset - it will not give you a direct or measurable ROI, at least not to all extents. 

RELEVANCE x REACH x RELATIONSHIP 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: There are no secret formulas to creating a million-dollar campaign and there are no shortcuts to discovering your winning collaboration. The sooner you start reaching out and closing deals, the sooner you can test different formats and pieces of user-generated content. 

Do your homework and explore the most influential people in your niche. For starters, aim for medium-sized profiles and find the profiles that fit your target persona best. When reaching out, be friendly and speak their language, while maintaining a professional approach at the same time. Don’t try to sell them your products at all costs and use cringe-worthy email templates. It will backfire and you will be filed directly under the “Do not answer” category. 

4. The best for the last - double down on successful collaborations and try dark posting

Scale the organic content that reached the KPIs and put it on steroids. If you can allocate more budget to the influencer marketing and UGC, work on your ambassador program. There is no formula to say how long your trial ambassador contract should last, but for starters, we recommend 3 months. In 3 months, you should receive a decent batch of content, decide if their following fits your target audience (or if they helped to reach a brand new audience group), and form a mutually satisfactory partnership. 

If you feel confident that this person should be the face of your brand, try dark posting from their profile. Influencer dark posts are ad-only purpose posts from the influencer's profile that cannot be seen on their feed. The brand does not gain control over their social media profiles, only the permission to advertise from them. Dark posting renders the conventional direct-response ads less effective. Dark posts appear more user-friendly and trustworthy and as we said at the beginning: people trust people more than they trust ads.

Additional resources:

UGC: One of the biggest secrets of 7- and 8-figure brand: https://wescale.agency/knowledge/ugc-one-of-the-biggest-secrets-of-seven-and-eight-figure-brands/ 

All journeys start with the first step on the long road towards the goal, full of challenges, opportunities, and adjustments. With this article, I would like to guide you through the beginning of our agency WeScale.

In August 2019, I had just finished working as a CMO in one of the fastest growing eCommerce companies in the region. In four years, we got from 0 to 50 MM € revenue by bringing together the best of Facebook, Instagram, Influencers, Content creation, localization, and direct response tactics to build up a strong beast in the industry.

Selling in 13 different markets, being strongly connected with other prominent players in the market, leading a 30+ people marketing team, and being part of a C-level management, gained us a lot of knowledge in the eCommerce area. 

Some of the main areas were: how to grow, fast-paced a/b testing, implementing different growth hacks, opening new markets, introducing new products, dealing with challenges, creating original video & photo content, integrating Influencer marketing in eCommerce, and much much more.

Back to the drawing board: How to scale these results and help more companies?

At 27 years old, after being in the industry for more than five years, I was at the stage where I had to start from 0 again.

To tell you the truth, this was one of the most exciting things in my life.  

Being at home, sitting at my table in the bedroom with my laptop and just thinking about what to do next; Like the first time, when I was starting with my own company.

I wanted to do something different, something that will help our partners grow and inspire others in the industry to go out there and do incredible things on their own.

So the first step was the decision on what I wanted to do. It went somehow like this.

I started thinking...

Since I started my journey, I have always loved the performance side of marketing, looking at the numbers, coming up with ideas with a team, and running thousands of tests to find the winning ads for scaling.

So the first part is clear; it will definitely be a performance-oriented company.

The next question for me was: Whom I want to serve?

The answer was easy → eCommerce businesses that sell products that improve people's lives, meaning that I wanted to work with companies that bring smiles and joy to the customers. 

I was thinking deeper...

I compared my years in the agency that I owned to the year I worked in-house for an eCommerce company. 

They both had pluses and minuses, and after hours of brainstorming with my sister Maja, who is an excellent coach; 100 podcasts that I listened to on my phone while hiking and tons of Zoom calls with my new network of people in the eCommerce area; I thought of ways of combining all of my years of experience. 

That's when the ideas of Boutique eCommerce Growth Agency came to life.

Boutique eCommerce Growth Agency as a business model

Sounds interesting, right?

"But what does it mean?" I asked myself, because I wanted a clear picture of what I wanted to do for many years to come.

So the idea was to build a company of ecommerce professionals who love eCommerce and want to create inspiring stories together by learning new things and executing strategies that would help turn branded life-improving products into brands. 

By serving a limited number of clients (quality > quantity), we would be able to go deep into each product and create an excellent environment for personal and business growth for our team members and our clients.

That was it!

After going through the plan, I had an idea of what kind of company I want to start building for the next 10+ years. I got super excited about it, knowing this plan will get me out of bed in the morning for many years to come. On the journey, we will be able to work with many amazing people - people we would never meet, if we weren't on this journey and knowledge we otherwise would not have the chance to gain. 

All I could say at the end of that day was: Let's go! 🔥

Building a 12-member team in a year with zero employee churn

Super excited with a pretty clear idea, it was time to start.

How did it start?

I started working as a freelancer with three clients that I found within my Facebook and LinkedIn contacts. I got on with testing if I can implement some of my ideas and if they would result in sales growth.

This was in late September and October 2019, only one month after leaving the company. Those who had known me for a long time know that I am awful at taking breaks.

I rented a table in the coworking space near my home and started doing the work. 

So the first three projects were all at their beginning, generating 5-15 K €/month and selling in a single country. The fastest way was to start in my own country, because I had some strong contacts here, and speed is always essential for marketing and eCommerce.

I didn't wait to find the perfect name for a one-person agency :); I believed that it would come naturally down the road. I started executing and getting feedback on the market.

For the first couple of weeks, I didn't have much execution to do, since the projects had just begun, so the budgets were small and stock limited, but I decided to go all-in and there were no excuses for me.

I started learning 3-4 hours a day about different growth hacking approaches on digital channels, studying the digital-first eCommerce brands and founders, doing the courses, making notes, and creating a plan at which stage to implement tests.

One precious thing was (and still is) the direct communication with clients; I can clearly remember how many hours we invested in our conversation via Slack, Zoom, or just sitting at the coffee shop.

I still believe that this is one of the best ways to shape your business and relationship because you understand the needs, vision, and business.

The first responses within November & December 2019 were incredible; partners loved the strategy we were discussing. We opened the first new countries together, worked with other freelancers to create content, and scaled the sales results.

That was a massive win for me.

Not only did I get the social proof confirming this is something valuable to work on, but at that moment, the name of our agency was born: WeScale.

From one man band to three musketeers

In December 2019, I decided to transform "me" into "we" and start a WeScale agency to help eCommerce businesses grow.

In order to do that, I needed a team, and I went back to my connections on LinkedIn and Facebook to find the people I wanted to work with.

So my first two hires were directly picked and reached out from my contact lists. 

They are Jure & Nika, who I both already knew and always wanted to work with, because I always believed we shared the same mindset. 

Jure was first, and Nika joined the company a few weeks later. We met in the cafe, and I explained my vision for the company, what I believe they could bring to the team and what I think we can do together.

I'm super grateful that they believed in me and the idea, so they both said yes, and on January 15th, 2020, WeScale officially became more than a one-man band. We started operating as a team and building infrastructure and systems to empower eCommerce growth in Europe.

With that, the exciting story of WeScale had begun. In less than a year and a half, we have worked with 10 hand-picked clients, built a team of 18 KPI-driven individuals and broke dozens of records.  On behalf of the whole team, I would like to thank you for your support; our community, family, friends, partners, mentors, and all the others that helped us start and chase our vision. Thank you!

#wescale

Automation, optimisation rules, account simplifications, remarketing, hacks to 10x your business, creative templates for cold audiences to achieve a 2.5+ ROAS…

Do these topics sound familiar to you?

Yes, we’ve read these kinds of claims in Facebook groups and online articles, too.

But let’s just stop for a minute and think about what we are missing when we talk about how to build a fast-growing seven- or eight-figure eCommerce company.

Is it the targeting, offer, copy, landing page, more products or something else that contributes most to success?

While all of the above are great and can be effective ways to scale your revenue, something very important is still missing.

After working on more than 100 different projects, selling products ranging from €15 to products that sell for €10,000, running thousands and thousands of tests, talking to other eCommerce owners who are doing eight+ figures and analysing millions of ads, we’ve finally found the secret:

It’s the number of creatives you are able to test, iterate and scale.

We also love to say that …

Automation and optimisation are kings, but content creation is King Kong.

Sounds interesting, but what does it really mean?

How doubling the velocity of testing different ad creatives enabled a merchant to scale from seven to eight figures

Let’s dive into an example so you can fully understand the power of testing different creatives in an eCommerce growth engine.

PROBLEM: Stuck at a certain level and running out of ideas for what to test.

An eCommerce client based in Europe was growing super fast, going from 0 to high seven figures in less than two years. The team was expanding, they moved to new offices, they were highly profitable, and it looked like they had everything figured out.

They were living their dreams…

But suddenly, the growth stopped.

They were opening new markets, adding new products, testing different targetings, creating structured remarketing funnels, and following all the guidelines from Facebook’s Power5, but the growth just wasn’t there anymore.

The founders reached out to us and told us about their challenges.

After analysing their ad accounts and analytics, our first question was:

“How many creatives do you test on a weekly basis?”

Their answer was “5-10”.

This was a huge shock for us because we were talking to the founders of a company that was spending more than €10k per day on Facebook ads, yet they only tested up to 10 creatives per week?!

We also need to tell you that we have huge respect for this client and that everything else on their side was done amazingly well:

  1. They really understood their target customers—demographics, pain points, what kind of copy grabs their attention, what kind of upsells and cross-sells they are attracted to, and much more;
  2. They had a conversion rate of 4.5%;
  3. They knew their competitors really well;
  4. They were testing different offers to increase their average order value;
  5. They followed the glocal approach—going global with localised markets; and
  6. They were receiving great reviews on their products and much more.

Their reaction to our advice that they needed 3x, 5x or even 10x the number of creatives they were testing on a weekly basis was: “No, we can’t afford that.” We were confused. They were testing ideas that were really difficult to execute on new products, new markets and so on—but the low-hanging fruit of simply changing the creatives had not yet been utilised.

Their reasoning was that they were outsourcing to a video agency that specialised in TV commercials, which cost them more than €1000 for a single video ad. As such, it would be far too expensive to increase the number of creatives they tested each week.


SOLUTION: Build your creative engine to roll out 50 (10x) creatives to test a week.

To fix the content creation problems with cost and quantity, we analysed different possibilities based on cost, speed, control and diversity. Here are our top three possible solutions:

  1. Find a new, more cost-efficient content agency – The company had actually done this in the past, but they had encountered a lot of problems with self-proclaimed experts with no proven experience. They lost control of the communication of their briefs to the actors, video team and marketing team, they didn’t create any iterations of the creative, and the delivery was slow. So, based on the goal of creating 100+ creatives per month, we didn’t even try this option out. We knew there had to be a better way.
  2. Create an in-house studio – This is a very attractive solution because of the speed with which you are able to execute ideas as a result of having all the knowledge and communication you need in-house. But on the other hand, the company would need to invest a lot of money into setting up the studio (rent a building, buy furniture, lights, cameras, etc.), and they would need to hire and lead people who know how to create engaging and high-converting content. Last but not least, they would definitely face challenges with content diversity. So, the second option was better than the first, but it was still not what we were looking for.
  3. Create user-generated content (UGC) – Keeping in mind that Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and other social media platforms are human platforms and that people are using them because they want to know what is going on with other people, user-generated content became our go-to solution.

Why did we choose UGC?

RESULTS: UGC improved the client’s ROAS by 50%+ and beat all the other creatives

In eCommerce, results have to be demonstrated quickly and reliably. This is why we built an easy-to-execute experimentation program with UGC and took it out into the wild to see what would stick.

Our test: Compare UGC with professional, studio-created ads

The company’s original investment in content creation was €25,000 per month for 25 videos, so we agreed on an extra €5000 that we could spend to generate content with the help of influencers and content creators to see if we could get some traction.

So, first, we analysed what was already working on the client’s ad account and looked for inspiration inside their competitors’ ads libraries.

Based on that, we developed a brief for our content creators, defined the deliverables and reached out to our selected creators.

The results blew us away and fueled the growth of the company.

One week of testing: UGC ads were the ultimate winner

We received 130 videos and 400 photos from our content creators, and our editors used those to create more than 200 iterations for videos. In addition, we tested around 100 different images, as well as thumbnails, Instagram Stories, dark posts and Facebook Link ads.

After seven days of testing both types of creatives across various levels of the funnel, the ROAS on the original creatives was 2.5 and the ROAS on user-generated content was 3.8 = +50% improvement. Keeping in mind that the company’s target ROAS was 3, we were able to increase their spending on user-generated creatives and, by the end of that month, those creatives generated more than 70% of their total sales.

So, the first question that probably pops-up in your mind is:

“How is it possible to achieve better results with an 80% lower investment?”

Yeah, that’s the power of UGC.

Why Did It Work?

The people who were creating the content were using those platforms on a daily basis. They post a lot of content and have a good read on what will catch the attention of other users.

So, on our side, we found the right influencers and creators who would identify with the brand, create content and also generate sales directly from their followers.

By getting more platform-native content for a lower price, you have a lot more room to play with different iterations of videos, test more, learn more and sell more.

But there is even more…

UGC is one of the best growth engines for eCommerce in 2020/2021. 

It will transform the way you do digital marketing.

Based on our experience of scaling multiple international brands to seven and eight figures, as well as generating more than €100MM in revenue with a +3.5 ROAS, using UGC is one of the most effective ways to scale your eCommerce sales and grow your profits.

Some of the world’s best companies—Nike, Apple, Madewell, Glossier, GoPro and many others—are using UGC to create impactful relationships with their clients.

At WeScale, we help our selected partners to build their UGC generation and creation systems to help them 5-10x the number of creatives that they can test on a weekly basis.

We support business by:

Our aim is to create campaigns with the best native content for platforms, as well as build brand affinity and scalability for clients to help them grow their business in their existing markets and enter new markets.

Do you want to collaborate with us on scaling up your eCommerce business and taking it to the next level?

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