Arlen Robinson ([00:03].044)
Welcome to the eCommerce Marketing Podcast everyone. My name is Arlen and I am your host. And today we’ve got a very special guest, Casey Hill, who is the Senior Manager of Growth At ActiveCampaign where he works to open up new organic growth channels and help more brands learn about the transformative impact ActiveCampaign can have on their business. Welcome to the podcast, Casey.

Casey Hill ([00:19].311)
Thanks so much for having me. Excited to be here.

Arlen Robinson ([00:21].24)
Yeah, I’m excited to talk to you. You know, today we’re going to be talking about e-commerce businesses. It’s kind of the life cycle, or I guess you could say almost the evolution of taking an e-commerce business from the initial funding, if they’re going that route to D to T D to C sales and then on to retail sales, um, because I think. There’s a lot of businesses that want to go that, you know, have that one to go that trajectory, um, but maybe kind of unsure as to.
how to do it and, you know, kind of want to get some, be able to learn as far as from lessons learned from other businesses that have been able to do it. And so I know you’ll be able to enlighten us on that and based on the experiences that you’ve had. So I’m gonna be diving deep into that. But before we do get into all of that, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into what you’re doing today.

Casey Hill ([01:13].691)
Yeah, for sure. So first off, thanks for having me and I’m excited to chat about crowdfunding because I think it’s something that a lot of people don’t necessarily know about this option. And so for certain verticals, I think this can be a great way to help you kind of get off the ground. So my name is Casey. I’ve been in kind of the software space as my core day job for about 12 years. My job trajectory has taken a very interesting route in terms of the fact that I’ve worked in my day job primarily at marketing focused software companies.

So like marketing automation companies, CRM oriented companies. But during that time, I’ve also done a ton of consulting. I’ve launched a physical e-commerce business. I’ve launched an online e-commerce business and I’ve actually done teaching as well. So I taught at UCSD as a content marketing professor there as well. So a whole bunch of different kind of a plates in the air, but I like to think that a lot of them kind of supported each other because I was working with small businesses and e-commerce companies all day in my day job.

And based on the learnings that I took from those companies I was interfacing with every day, that’s what I applied when I went and launched my own e-commerce business in the board game space, something I’m passionate about personally. And so it was cool to be running my own email campaign, to be spending my own money on ad dollars and sponsorships and experimenting with these levers that I was talking about in theory for many years. So that’s a little bit about my background. And today I head up organic growth at Active Campaign,

Arlen Robinson ([02:34].748)

Casey Hill ([02:41].499)
So essentially trying to find how can you create growth within an organization beyond just the ads, beyond just the SEM and looking for those alternative routes to continue to create that sustainable growth. So.

Arlen Robinson ([02:55].268)
Awesome. Thank you for sharing that. You definitely have a diverse background. And I think, you know, kind of what you were saying with, um, when you were launching your own board game product and you had that out there and, um, then you were also working with other software companies at the time, I’m sure the lessons that you learned working with that product and taking it from, you know, inception all the way to, you know, D to C and then eventually onto retail, I’m sure.

those lessons and the tests that you did there are things that you I’m sure have applied with the, you know, your day job, the companies that you work with, you know, currently.

Casey Hill ([03:33].455)
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, as one example, when we were leading up to the Kickstarter, one of the first things we needed to do is we needed to build a list. So when you go to crowdfund, Kickstarter in particular, it’s super important for you to drive momentum on day one. Typically the rule of thumb is you want at least 30 to 40% of your funding goal on day one. The reason for that is because Kickstarter has a massive distribution network themselves. And if you’re showing strong velocity of funding, they’re gonna circulate your product.

to weigh more people organically. So if you wanna tap into that native audience that they have on the platform, you really wanna bring people there day one. And so for us in the board game space, what we did is we looked up and we found every local gaming store we could along California. And we called these folks up and we said, can we come in on a Friday and have a game day? And dozens and dozens of these stores said yes. But when these people came in, instead of having them just play the game and leave, we had a little…

Arlen Robinson ([04:03].984)

Casey Hill ([04:31].211)
computer open and people would sign in. We’d gather contact information. Then once they left, we’d ask them survey questions and we’d keep respond their answers again in that central database. So we were tracking it. When we went live, we could send a blast quickly to all of those people to let them know we were going live. So things like using tech to build that audience helped us on day one, because we were able to reach out and then had, I think it was 160 people from those play test sessions showed up.

on the first day. So it’s an awesome intersect between those two worlds.

Arlen Robinson ([05:04].696)
Yeah, yeah, that’s really good. And that just really kind of leading me to my first question, which I know a lot of businesses have when they’re going that crowdfunding route is that transition as far as, you know, being highly funded, being very successful, going the crowdfunding Kickstarter route. And then after you leave that platform, how do you then…

you know, keep things going, so to speak, and, you know, keep up sustainable long-term sales. Is there any other specific strategies that you’ve seen that have been effective?

Casey Hill ([05:40].271)
Yeah, for sure. So one of the things I’ll say is when you first finish a Kickstarter, one of the really important steps is you need to make sure that you ask for consent to contact and reach out to these people afterwards, because this is your audience and even though they bought your product, you need to get that consent first off. I often recommend even asking like what someone wants to hear about. Like, do you wanna just hear about future releases? Do you wanna hear more about other aspects of the game in our case, like strategy tactics?

So first get that consent piece. After that, once we transition from fulfilling the Kickstarter into selling just directly through the website, one of the things we realize even from our time in the Kickstarter is we didn’t want to be just be reliant on ads. It’s a highly competitive space. There’s a lot of big players in there and getting good ROI when you have slight margins and we can go into a whole digression about why margins are being effective and shipping is getting more expensive and.

A lot of the big brands are eating portions that are shipping costs to kind of keep that competitive in the Amazon age of everyone expecting free shipping. So we can go down that rabbit hole. But the idea is that the margins are tight with that. So you really have to be kind of tactical about the levers that you go with. So I like to recommend as many organic ways that you can sustain growth in that phase as possible. So here’s a number of stuff that we did. So one is podcast guesting. There’s like a hundred plus podcasts in the board game space.

where you have a big captive audience of folks who play and love board games. So you can hop on, you can talk mechanics of your game, you can talk tactics. The key is obviously to find something that is applicable to the audience, right? No host wants to have someone on just to like show product, but they do have an audience that could be really relevant to the kind of messaging that you’re talking about. So that’s one spot that I love to start. Another that was really effective for us is review sites.

reaching out to review sites and essentially saying, hey, can we send you a copy of our game? Let them know what you’re about and solicit some feedback. So when you’re selling any kind of physical product, really recommend leaning into these review sites. They carry a lot of influence. Send them a copy. Some of those will have a small fee. Some of them won’t. For our case, it really just depended on the people we were working with. But that’s another spot you can open in. So you have podcast guesting, you have review sites.

Casey Hill ([08:00].223)
One other thing we did is we started to launch content series. So we had a board game design series and we would interview top designers in the space. So we were interviewing people behind Katan. We were interviewing people behind all sorts of very big high profile games. And by doing that, they would then reshare those interviews and we got distribution into huge network again, completely organically. So there’s this opportunity to tap into those right fit folks.

through doing things like this. A final thing we did is we tried to do as many events as we could, meaning that sometimes there’s a small fee to like attend an event, but when you’re meeting people, networking in person, you’re kind of getting that word of mouth growth, that can be really powerful. And sometimes we found, we were surprised at how many people today are kind of almost like micro creators, right? Where you might not even know they’re a creator, but they are making content about their time at this, you know, specific.

There’s GenCon and a whole bunch of different events you can go to. And then that gives you natural distribution even through that. And we found that not even going as a person to sell or like vendor of the game, but even just going as a participant, we got a lot of natural proliferation just from folks playing and creating that micro content. And so I think that leap to the second phase, I would really be thinking about sustainable long-term levers that you can build progressively.

that aren’t just rely on pay to play.

Arlen Robinson ([09:28].224)
Yeah, yeah, I like that. And it’s tough with the pay to play and as most businesses know in the e-commerce space, depending on, you know, the category that you’re in, it can be very, very expensive, especially if you’re in a, a very popular category. So, you know, for instance, your category for the, you know, acorn, that board game category, I would imagine the pay per click fees for those.

types of keywords were really high. Am I right?

Casey Hill ([09:59].727)
Yeah, yeah, definitely. So you’re competing against, you know, lots of multimillion dollar gaming companies that actually are using things like Kickstarter more as a, almost like a pre-sale mechanism. So a lot of people you’re competing against, they’ve already, the game is already completely created. They’re just using it as a go-to-market motion versus like an indie creator who’s actually using the funds to build the thing. That’s a little bit of the shift in the dynamics. You have to come to Kickstarter with a little bit more of a polished product nowadays.

Arlen Robinson ([10:11].671)
I see.

Arlen Robinson ([10:15].214)
Okay. I see.

Arlen Robinson ([10:21].794)

Arlen Robinson ([10:28].737)

Casey Hill ([10:28].743)
to get that initial funding. But yeah, 100%, it’s a very competitive space from a purely paid ads like Meta and Google SEM standpoint.

Arlen Robinson ([10:35].356)
Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah, that’s interesting. So you’re saying there’s a lot of, um, when you’re going on Kickstarter as far as like competition on that platform, there are other well established brands putting through Kickstarter campaigns, even though they don’t necessarily need the funding, but it’s more of just a marketing strategy for them to get noticed, uh, before they do a full launch of it. Is that right?

Casey Hill ([11:04].163)
Yeah, totally a go to market play. You know, one of the things that’s kind of fascinating is you’ll sometimes see people that set a goal of 100,000, they’ll fundraise 300,000, and then they actually close the campaign down because it’s not enough. They actually needed 500,000. And from an outside standpoint, people are like, what the heck is going on? It’s because in their heads to do the production run, these are the numbers and they’re just using it as this mechanism to kind of pre-fill. So it can be challenging, but the good news is there’s a lot of niche markets.

Arlen Robinson ([11:05].016)

Casey Hill ([11:32].499)
that come to crowdfunding because they love to be that early mover. They love to be someone to get in on the ground floor. And so not to belabor Kickstarter specifically, but one thing I’d recommend, anyone who’s thinking about crowdfunding, think a lot about your tiers. One of the things we could have done better on, we had like, you could buy one copy, you could buy two copy, and you could buy a custom carved box for $100. And the core game was $20. So that was a big gap. We kind of put it in there, I’m like, I don’t think many people are gonna want custom carved boxes.

but we sold 25% of our sales were that premium tier. And my walk away from that is we should have done way more. We should have had other options. It was clear that people like to get it on that ground floor and get the collectible version, to get the specialty XYZ. And so just know that novelty aspect is one of the things that draws people to those early crowdfunding platforms. And if you’re trying to get an initial motion there, definitely think about that. The other thing I’ll say too though, is once you make that transition to direct consumer,

Arlen Robinson ([12:04].507)
Oh wow.

Arlen Robinson ([12:22].521)

Arlen Robinson ([12:26].477)

Casey Hill ([12:30].831)
you’re moving from kind of a novelty audience to a heavily product focused audience. So just remember those two aren’t the exact same consumer and you’re gonna need to have different assets potentially ready. You’re gonna need to have typically a little bit more polish, right? Once you get to that direct to consumer phase because you’re less indie creator and now you’re trying to sell into a more generalized market.

Arlen Robinson ([12:35].6)

Arlen Robinson ([12:53].444)
I see. I see. Yeah, that, that makes sense. So it’s, it’s not like you can just take whatever marketing materials in the, in, in the messaging that you were putting out for those platforms, the, um, you know, those Kickstarter type platforms, you can’t just use that and immediately just switch it over and say, okay, I’m going to try to reach consumers off platform with the same messaging. It’s just, that’s not going to work. Okay. Got it. Got it. Um, now

Casey Hill ([13:17].639)
Yeah, exactly.

Arlen Robinson ([13:22].356)
Let’s work. We’re talking about D2C, the companies and e-commerce companies going through this evolution. They’ve, let’s say, completed a successful Kickstarter campaign. They’ve transitioned to D2C. They’ve implemented some of the things that you’ve mentioned, focusing a lot of on the organic reach. Maybe they’re doing a little bit of the pay-per-click reach. And, you know, they got pretty sizable traction, pretty sizable revenue. And now they’re thinking, OK, we want to go ahead and

take it to that next level, we want to get this product in retail. What, what would you say adjustments, what adjustments would you say need to be made when they’re thinking that they’re at that point and they want to take it on to, to the retail outlets.

Casey Hill ([14:07].107)
Yeah, yeah, for sure. So I’ll kind of share a little bit about my story with this. So what I started with is I was like, OK, I want to see if I can get into small stores. My focus is not the end point, the targets, the Walmarts. I’m not looking for that yet, right? I need to figure out if I can just get 30 copies, 50 copies into like a small local gaming store. So those initial runs. So we created the pricing for a retail model. I actually went to Reddit and Reddit had a list of like a thousand plus gaming stores.

Arlen Robinson ([14:18].844)
you. Yep.

Casey Hill ([14:35].139)
not just in the United States, but all across the world. So I created a pitch where I included our promo video from our Archon Kickstarter page, some different creative assets, how much we fundraised, as much kind of details around the success of the project as I could, kind of made this pitch of get in on the ground floor. We’re doing this exciting thing. We’ve had a ton of momentum. We’ve sold in over 30 countries. We’ve sold to thousands of people all over the world. And I sent it out. When I first sent it out,

Arlen Robinson ([15:00].784)

Casey Hill ([15:02].743)
I got a handful of people that said yes, and that was exciting. I sold $5,000 of retail sales that first weekend that I did the outreach. I was like, oh, this is awesome. But I realized something very quickly. There was a lot of people who were tentatively interested, but they wanted more information. They wanted to see more sales history. They wanted to see more like context around the games. They were asking about dynamics and lore and recommendations and reviews. And some people said, oh, we’re kind of interested, but it wouldn’t be in this cycle would be on our next purchase order.

Arlen Robinson ([15:31].589)

Casey Hill ([15:31].591)
So we had all these folks in between. So one of the things that was really helpful is I created a pipeline, right? So I basically use my CRM, I use Active Campaign, and I essentially created stages that these folks were in. So one stage might say interested, one stage might say committed, one stage might say circle back in three months. Like I could create all these different stages that folks were in, and I started to essentially nurture those people. So I’d set tasks to myself, follow up in two weeks to this person, right? I would set an email drip that would say,

these individuals asked for more updates on kind of the financial side. So I’d create a little financial update about all of our sales, all the different things we were doing, other retails we were being included in. And I would just have those people getting that newsletter each month, right? And what was really cool is over the course of the next six months, we closed $30,000 more in retail sales through that motion, through just keeping these people updated, through following up, giving them the information they wanted.

Arlen Robinson ([16:15].184)

Arlen Robinson ([16:23].696)

Casey Hill ([16:27].571)
So a major learning that I would have for folks who were interested in making this jump into working with smaller retailers is to make sure that you don’t just treat it as a one shot. Because there’ll be some people, your initial messaging will resonate and that’s great, but we were able to get 6X as much retail revenue in the second part of that over those next six months, specifically from the fact that we were following up, we were giving people what they asked for. So again,

Arlen Robinson ([16:35].149)

Casey Hill ([16:54].555)
Some people wanted the financial side, so we gave them just that style of content. Other people were much more interested and they wanted to know more about the game and the mechanics and the fundamentals and tell us about the story and they wanted to support an indie creator maybe, so tell us more about you guys and the founding team. So I think there’s two really important pieces there. I think number one is in e-commerce, different things will resonate with different people. Some people will really want to stock and support an early stage company.

They wanna back you because of you and what that represents. Other folks, they’re not interested in that at all. It’s purely financial, right? Like can you put a product that we’re gonna put in our store and it’s gonna sell well, and you need to sell that case. So by dividing that audience and then staying on top at whatever frequency that they’re wanting to hear connect with you helps make sure that stuff doesn’t fall through the cracks. Because anyone who has a small e-commerce team knows you’re juggling a whole bunch of balls all at once.

And there’s so many different variables that you’re never gonna have the organization to just remember these and keep picking these out with all these other things going on unless you have a structured way you’re following it. So I think that was a really big one for us was putting some systems into place that helped us track over the course of making that transition.

Arlen Robinson ([17:52].391)
For sure.

Arlen Robinson ([18:07].312)

Arlen Robinson ([18:10].744)
Yeah, it’s great advice. And I understand it’s almost like you’ve created with your outreach to the smaller retail outlets, you kind of created a couple of different customer personas, like you said, one was the company that was really interested in you guys mission, like how you created the product, just, you know, just really wanted to support you and always kind of has that mindset of supporting smaller businesses and you know,

kind of more community oriented. But then there’s that other persona that you say where, yeah, it’s all about numbers. You know, I don’t care. I don’t care what you guys are selling as long as people are gonna buy it. You know, and that’s so that you were, you created two specific outreach campaigns for those two different personas. And yeah, that really, you know, helps because I think a lot of times a brand may just have one campaign kind of thinking that everybody’s in that same category.

but you’re right, you have to sell it a little bit differently depending on those personas. And you kind of give a great definition of those, at least the ones that you dealt with. Now let’s say, and you can tell me from either your experience or with Acorn or with other brands that you’re familiar with, let’s say they’ve gone through that process dealing with smaller shops, smaller retail outlets, have a lot of success maybe in their…

city, there are a certain region and they’re like, wow, at this point I need to, I need to blow this up. I want to go big. I want to get it into the big box retail outlets. What would your vice be as far as getting it to that next level? Is there some specific strategies or actionable tips that someone can take if they’re looking to go that route and you know, how would they do it?

Casey Hill ([19:59].235)
Yeah, for sure. So first kind of full disclosures, like our product is not featured in Walmart, you know, unfortunately, we’re not making millions of dollars as those people are that make those leaps in. But I think that from what I’ve kind of seen and observed is once you have that initial momentum, both from your Kickstarter funding, as well as you have some sales numbers with other retailers, one of the first really good signals is basically restocks. Right. So you want to show not only that you sold 100 copies to them, but they actually went back and they bought more from you. That’s kind of part of this sales velocity.

Arlen Robinson ([20:21].157)

Casey Hill ([20:29].063)
conversation, then you typically have dedicated departments inside of the targets and the Walmarts and all these big brands that are responsible for those decisions. And there’s actually a ton of content out there. You can read on kind of like how to position and how to lay this out. My experience has kind of been that it’s a heavily relationship based next step. So what I’ve found is that if you really want to make that jump, not only do you have to have really strong sales numbers and really strong kind of like proof to put yourself out there, but it.

Oftentimes when you look at big events in the industry, you’ll find that people will send their procurement person, they’ll be a representative, right, from the targets, from the Walmart, from these different things. And as much as you can try to meet folks in person, have conversations and learn exactly what they’re looking for in that upcoming cycle, because oftentimes what happens is they have very specific slots they’re trying to fill, right? And so you might find out is my product fit in,

Arlen Robinson ([21:17].564)

Casey Hill ([21:25].755)
with their current focus of what they’re trying to do this upcoming quarter, for example. And they’ll give you that firsthand feedback. And from folks I know who’ve been working through that cycle, you know, oftentimes there’s some brutal honesty, right? Where people say like, look, I’m just gonna level with you. You guys need to be at 20X, right? What you’re doing right now, before we even talk about any of the specifics, right? So typically that bar can be pretty high for that initial entry, but building relationships I think is a great way

Arlen Robinson ([21:30].364)

Arlen Robinson ([21:42].684)

Arlen Robinson ([21:47].245)
I see.

Casey Hill ([21:55].131)
to build the name recognition, when that application comes in with a thousand other applications that are trying to get stocked in these big stores, if you can have some name recognition from conversations you’ve had, that can be a great edge that you can bring to the table as well as your solid sales data.

Arlen Robinson ([22:00].294)

Arlen Robinson ([22:09].8)
I see. Yeah, that really makes sense because, you know, doing some just cold outreach and just relying or, you know, going through the process of trying to reach out to the buyers of these different outlets, you’re, it seems like you would just be in the mix of a lot of other businesses that are doing the same thing. They’re trying to get their product into, onto those shelves. And yeah, I see what you’re saying. If you, if you have some name recognition, you can mention, okay, I met so and so at this, uh,

you know, trade show, he told me that you guys were looking for this. Our product meets that and something like that where that’s going to stand out.

Casey Hill ([22:48].727)
Exactly, and I would say that one of the advantages is with the smaller retails is they actually don’t get as many pitches, right? These people typically have like a team that goes in so you stand out more because they’re like, oh, that’s unexpected And if you can have something that grabs attention One of the reasons it’s kind of a nice segue to go from Kickstarter into this retail play is that in Kickstarter today if you’re gonna be successful you really need to have that strong video that grabs attention up front So if you’ve already invested in that creative asset

Arlen Robinson ([22:54].702)
Okay, right.

Arlen Robinson ([23:12].973)

Casey Hill ([23:17].007)
It’s also actually a really good asset for other things you might want to do, like try to send it to a retailer. They see that and you peak interest right off the bat with that level of professionalism that you’ve already had to invest in to get success on the front end. So it kind of connects in well, if you do have collateral like that.

Arlen Robinson ([23:34].596)
Yeah, yeah, good stuff. Well, Casey, as we get ready to wrap things up, based on current trends that you’re familiar with and just your overall experience with growth strategies, what would you say is the next big shift or just opportunity for e-commerce businesses and how do you think they can?

Casey Hill ([23:56].443)
Yeah, I’ll say two that I think are going to be things that are gonna continue to expand. So the first thing is subscription e-commerce, I think is going to continue to expand. More and more businesses are looking at the software industry, that’s where I come from, and it’s all subscription-based, and they like that stability of revenue. They like that idea of people coming back. And so you have kind of what I call convenience e-commerce. So now on, if you go to Amazon, right? Like we get our toilet paper and all sorts of core things on a subscription. So that just keeps coming. So that’s one.

Arlen Robinson ([24:10].456)

Casey Hill ([24:24].455)
kind of category, then you have novelty subscriptions. And that’s where you have these like surprise boxes where people will subscribe and you’ll get kind of like a mystery assortment of stuff. And there’s this kind of sense of what am I gonna get? And that kind of excitement around that. But I’ve seen a lot of companies that have gone from just one time sales into subscriptions and it’s provided substantial kind of revenue acceleration. I was actually working a couple of years back with a coffee shop that

had an amazing story of how they converted like 50% of their one-time buyers into subscription people that were getting subscription bags, their coffee, and how it just transformed the business. And so it’s, I definitely think something that we’re gonna see continue to grow and continue to expand. The other thing that I note as a trend is I think there’s gonna be an increasing lean-in on the influencer side. It’s so noisy in the world today. There’s so many ads, people are inundated with so many things.

that instead of you inserting yourself, right? Inserting yourself in with this ad, people are already following certain personalities that they know, that they respect, that they trust, right? And if you’re connected to that source of trust, I think that can be really powerful. What I would recommend on the influencer side is really trying to find though the right partners. There’s some people that will just promote anything and they’ll put, you know, they’ll put out a little plug and it doesn’t feel like there’s any real connection to it. It’s like,

it feels so transparent to the people on the other side, okay, they’re just getting paid for this, right? Versus you’ve seen on the flip side, people that are actually say using a product, people that are wearing a product or that are interacting with a product in some sort of meaningful way, that kind of authentic connection, that to me is the future of what the best influencer marketing will look like, is that type of relationship and connection. And I’ll say, if you’re looking at building out an influencer arm in your business,

I also recommend think about what you can do that’s a little bit longer term. So instead of just thinking about, hey, how much can I pay for one post? Right, it’s one and done. That to me has never worked as effectively as how can we work together over the course of a quarter? And how can we bundle in a lot of stuff that makes sense? You’re showing up not just once, but many times in different formats, maybe the newsletter, maybe in social posts, maybe in a little video that’s made. And that multi-touch approach,

Arlen Robinson ([26:33].732)

Casey Hill ([26:46].643)
I find builds a lot more credibility and drives a lot more long-term ROI. So if you’re trying to lean and get more into that space, that would be a recommendation that I would have is to, I think you’re going to get better ROI if you think with a little bit of a longer time horizon.

Arlen Robinson ([26:52].322)

Arlen Robinson ([27:01].88)
Yeah. Those are some awesome tips and speaking on actually the influencer route. That’s definitely my better bread and butter. And I’ve done different webinars and talks on, on influence, influencer marketing, of course, and affiliate marketing. And one of the things that I am, I’m always telling people is when they’re going that route and they’re trying to find and vet these influencers is, uh, it’s, it’s kind of like what you said, it’s, um, you want to be very careful. You won’t be so selective on who you.

pick a lot of times businesses I think get kind of wooed by the follower count. And you know, okay, this such and such influencer that’s in my space, he’s got 2 million followers and it’s like, wow, okay. That’s going to expose my brand to just 2 million people. But, um, that’s a kind of an easy mistake to kind of fall into because you got to be very careful there. There may be some influencers. Yeah, they have the high follower account follower count, but there may not have a s-

you know, a lot of engagement with their audience. They may just mean, if you look at their timeline, you know, one day they’re, they’re promoting a sports nutrition drink. The next day they’re promoting, uh, wireless headphones, you know, they’re, they’re all over the place. And so the demographic of the types of people that are following them may not gel with who you’re trying to connect with. So yeah, I think that’s very important that you find the right one. And what, what I always say is, is the sweet spot with, uh, influencer marketing is.

micro influencers. And those are influencers that typically have following no more than like 50,000 followers on any of the given top social media platforms. And there are sweets by that, as you’re aware of, is because they’re dealing with a smaller volume of people that are following them. And they’re typically going to have a higher engagement level. So if you kind of look at some

They’re, you know, they’re having, you know, in-depth conversations with their followers back and forth in the comments. Um, they may know a lot of their followers and so their followers are almost like, you know, part of their family, if you, if you will. And so with that level of engagement, there’s definitely a higher level of trust and loyal to that loyalty that they’re going to have. So if that influencer is promoting a certain product, like you said, it’s almost like.

Arlen Robinson ([29:26].896)
their brother or their sister is the one promoting it. And so that goes a longer way. And as far as the incentives that you’re gonna have to pay these micro influencers, it’s a lot more palatable for your resources because they’re not gonna charge as much as somebody that’s a mega influencer that has millions and millions of followers. But I think you can still get a better bang for your buck dealing with those.

micro influencers and just dealing with some select ones.

Casey Hill ([29:59].095)
Totally, I couldn’t agree more. And my experience with that as well has been the passion is often much better with the micro influencers as well. They actually really bring some real energy and enthusiasm. And I don’t think this is a hard stop for every different type of product, but I can speak for myself. I only like to work with influencers, micro influencers who actually have seen or used the product, right? So that’s a hard stop for me. And again, I don’t think that has to be true for every brand, but for me, it’s like, I’m gonna give that person

Arlen Robinson ([30:06].188)

Arlen Robinson ([30:21].516)
Okay. Right. Okay.

Casey Hill ([30:28].567)
a copy of my product, and if they’ve never seen it, if they don’t know anything about the core product, I personally am not gonna work with them because that’s not my style. So figure out what works for you, but there is something powerful about the authenticity that comes from someone actually physically using your product, they’re gonna have a deeper understanding of it, so just something to keep in the back of your mind when you’re assessing what that right fit for you might be.

Arlen Robinson ([30:36].017)
Good. Right.

Arlen Robinson ([30:44].9)

Arlen Robinson ([30:51].096)
Yeah, yeah, that’s very true. That’s a great, great tip for sure. Um, and I know a lot of brands will follow that as well. Um, well, Casey, this has been an awesome conversation. I’ve definitely learned a lot myself. I know our listeners and our viewers have as well, um, because it’s, uh, you know, definitely, uh, a, a journey going all the way from that, you know, start to doing the, going to crowdfunding route, D to C, uh, small retail on the larger retail.

Um, you know, to be able to go to each of those levels, there’s definitely, uh, as we’ve seen a core set of growth strategies that you have to apply to each phase. And so, um, yeah, I think we’ve, you’ve kind of broken down a number of top ones, which, uh, is, I know it’s going to go a long way. Uh, but, uh, you know, lastly, before we do let you go, I always like to switch gears just so our audience and listeners of yours need to know you a little bit better. If you don’t mind sharing one closing fun fact about yourself that you think we’d be interested to know.

Casey Hill ([31:48].087)

Yeah, so a fun fact is I noted at the top of the call that I taught at UCSD. Well, a fun fact around that is I actually cold pitched the university. So the genesis of this was that I was doing hiring and I was frustrated with a lot of new marketing talent coming straight out of university. I felt like they were very theory focused, but they didn’t have like channel specific knowledge. They didn’t know about how exactly should I post on LinkedIn versus Meta versus, you know, like all of these different pieces.

One of the things that I did is I pitched and I said, if you want a practitioner, someone who is in the field right now, who’s doing these things, who isn’t gonna teach theory, but will teach actual structural, like how do you get on podcasts? How do you post on LinkedIn? What should influencer marketing look like? How do you reach out to these folks? And sharing examples from the trenches. And they said, you know, we love that. And they had, you know, I hopped on and I chatted with some faculty to kind of obviously assess that I knew what I was doing.

Arlen Robinson ([32:40].322)

Casey Hill ([32:46].363)
but then they brought me in and I was able to kind of teach a content marketing course for two semesters in a row. So that was kind of a fun experience and also something I tell people to encourage folks to just get out there and try stuff. Again, if you’ve listened to this call, I landed these retail relationships initially from cold outreach and I landed that teaching gig initially from cold outreach and I’m not a person who’s like huge cold outbound. I’m more of an inbound guy to be honest in terms of my career.

Arlen Robinson ([33:06].204)

Casey Hill ([33:16].327)
but I think it’s just about taking the swings, just about trying and putting that energy out there where there’s good fits. And I’ve been amazed throughout the course of my career how many times an unexpected thing like the university getting back and being like, yeah, we’d love for you to teach this course. That was a really novel, unique experience.

Arlen Robinson ([33:18].236)

Arlen Robinson ([33:30].308)

Yeah, yeah, great. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah, that’s definitely unique. You kind of, you kind of switched it. You didn’t go to the traditional route of saying, oh, okay, you know, I’ve taught such and such before, but you based your experience that you have, your practical experience that you had dealing with the brands and figured that would go a long way. And I think you were right going that route because that’s what students really are looking for, you know.

Theory can only take you so far when it comes down to it, that real world experience and the practical things like how do you do messaging on LinkedIn? What’s the best type of campaigns for certain brands on Metta? It’s those things that really what, you know, they’re gonna end up doing anyway once they leave the university and they hit these brands, you know, they’re gonna hit the floor, hit the ground running and that’s what they wanna do. So yeah, I can imagine that your course was really successful. I’m sure you got.

some positive feedback on that. Okay, awesome, awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that Casey, I appreciate that. Lastly, before we do let you go, if any of our listeners and viewers wanna reach out to you and pick your brain anymore about this topic or any digital marketing topic, what would be the best way for them to reach you?

Casey Hill ([34:33].296)
Yeah, definitely.

Casey Hill ([34:51].503)
Yeah, two easy channels. One I post, you know, seven times a week on LinkedIn. And I’m talking about organic thought leadership and just kind of experiences from the trenches. So if you’re interested in organic growth and lessons there, Kasey Hill, C-S-E-Y-H-I-L-L, find me on LinkedIn, the one who works at ActiveCampaign. And feel free to drop me a line. And if you want to send me a direct email, my email is chill, C-H-I-L-L, at So if you have questions around anything we talked about today,

or about the systems if you’re looking to do more email or CRM style work and want to understand how that kind of works in an e-commerce context, happy to talk about that as well.

Arlen Robinson ([35:28].152)
Okay, awesome, awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. We should have the links to your main active campaign website and information on how to reach you on LinkedIn as well in the show notes. Well, that’s been awesome again, talking to you, Casey. We really appreciate having you on today on the e-commerce marketing podcast.

Casey Hill ([35:45].287)

Podcast Guest Info

Casey Hill
Senior Manager of Growth at ActiveCampaign