These next two months are my biggest ever for sponsored videos. But they have also confirmed my suspicions about this element of the creator economy.

No one knows what they’re doing. Including yours truly.

I’ve written about this before, but the more I deal with sponsorships and brand partners, the more it becomes clear that everyone is winging it.

Despite what you’ve read, there is no such thing as a standardised way to price yourself as a creator or influencer, and no two brands think alike on this topic. Trust me – all of us are working from arbitrary figures, whether we like it or not.

More worryingly, there is some vastly outdated thinking going on – particularly when it comes to how influencer marketing budgets should be allocated.

This is what no one tells you when you get started as a creator.

If brands are focusing on views – they’re (probably) wrong

If you own a business and you want to invest in influencer marketing, you can set yourself one of two goals:

  • Goal 1: increase brand awareness
  • Goal 2: acquire more customers and increase revenue

When it comes to sponsoring online content, these are mutually exclusive goals – you cannot achieve both with an integrated ad partnership.

To increase brand awareness in a meaningful way, you need to place your brand in front of as many eyes as possible. That means forgoing decent conversion rates and taking a punt that, over time, the volume of views you’re sharing with a creator will give your brand a greater share of mind. Once that happens, you can switch to Goal 2.

To acquire more customers, increase revenue, and raise the lifetime value of each customer, you need to place your brand in front of highly targeted audiences and create a frictionless conversion process. Sure, the views you’ll share with the influencer will be less than if you were focusing on Goal 1, but you’ll achieve a far better return on your marketing investment.

Measuring the return on your marketing spend for Goal 1 is incredibly hard (arguably, impossible). But if you focus on Goal 2, every penny spent is accountable and can be directly attributed to tangible results.

All too often, I come across brands who focus resolutely on Goal 1 – even when that isn’t actually their goal. Goal 1 is for start-ups, withering businesses, and pivoting brands – it isn’t for the businesses that want to attract more customers.

So, why am I constantly battling against a tide of brands who will only pay for views on YouTube?

Treating it like PPC

If you’ve ever spent money on Google Ads or Facebook advertising, you’ll know that it’s scarily easy to inadvertently throw your entire marketing budget into a black hole.

As marketing strategies go, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is about as much fun as pissing into the wind. It’s hit-and-hope. It’s close-your-eyes-point-the-gun-at-what-you-roughly-think-is-the-target-and-hope-you-hit-it.

Far too many brands approach content sponsorships like PPC advertising. They want as many views as possible if they’re to hand over a single dollar of their marketing budget to a creator. To them, subscriber numbers and view counts are all that matter and the only metrics that reveal how influential a creator may be.

They’re completely wrong, I’m afraid, and – worse – they’re throwing away money.

The misconception about views

It’s time I added some meat to the bones of this, isn’t it?

Although I can’t go into specifics (I’d never break an NDA), I can highlight two examples of brand partnerships I’ve undertaken on YouTube which have produced vastly different results.

The first is a video with tens of thousands of views – a real performer as far as my channel goes. But the sponsor only gained around 70 clicks to their landing page and less than seven conversions. It was a failure in that regard – plain and simple. This could have been down to the ad itself, the customer journey, the lack of a tempting offer, or the wrong audience. Regardless, it didn’t work.

The second video achieved just 3,600 views, but it resulted in a 100% conversion rate and nearly 120 new customers (and counting) for the sponsor. It was a huge success.

See what I’m getting at? Views are utterly meaningless if you’re focusing on Goal 2 for your brand.

If your goal is to grow your customer base and become more profitable, you need to forget about views, and work with creators to find:

  • the right audience (which is usually far smaller than you think);
  • a long-term, consistent partnership with the creator that works for both parties;
  • a compelling offer for the customer;
  • a super-easy buying journey; and
  • a resolute focus on cost-per-acquisition and customer lifetime value.

If I was on the other side of the fence and had a budget to spend on influencer marketing, I’d never pay for views – ever. I’d work with creators who have access to small, tightly defined, and highly engaged niches. Fly-by-night views in their tens – or even hundreds – of thousands would be of little interest to me; chasing them is a fool’s game.

Thankfully, I think brands are starting to come around to this way of thinking.

Over to my mates!

I think a lot of brands probably aren’t aware that YouTubers talk. We never break NDAs, of course, but we do share our experiences of sponsor partnerships and dealings with brands.

As a result, I have access to a wonderfully inclusive community of creators who are coming up against the same challenges as I. We discuss best practices, wins and losses, and what we can do in our own little ways to make the changes needed in this industry.

Here’s what two of my YouTuber mates think about the state of the sponsorship game.

“My only frustration right now is that companies make it incredibly hard for us to get that initial toe in the door. You’re diverted to catch-all PR email addresses or left scouring social media and LinkedIn for a meaningful way to introduce yourself. It shouldn’t be that hard to say ‘hi – I can help your brand’!

“Some creators are also very secretive about their sponsorships. I know we’re duty-bound not to share the intimate details of brand partnerships, but I love sharing ideas and discussing our value as creators. We’re all in this together!”

Pete Matheson

“I find that most brands know the value of a creator’s reach. Good brands are willing to allocate the appropriate budget. But there are always these brands who want the world, but they want it for free. You pay peanuts… you get monkeys.”

Patrick Rambles

If you’re a creator and have your own thoughts on sponsorships, brand partnering, and the state of the creator economy in general, I’d love to hear from you. Get involved in the comments, below!

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