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Trefiel, like most new businesses, relies heavily on marketing to drive business and sales. Our initial plan was to be an entirely online business, as Michael and I both wanted to continue traveling while working on the business. The most obvious case of online marketing is, of course, social media.

One of the things that initially gave us the push to start Trefiel was seeing hundreds of small businesses make it big on Instagram. We knew it was possible to do, even with grammar and spelling mistakes that we saw all over their accounts and websites.

We modelled our initial marketing plan off the success of others - repurposing content and making it fit our brand.

Repurposing other people's content to create a brand

But what we soon found out was Instagram had changed significantly since these same businesses had had their success. It’s full of other small businesses trying to do exactly what we were doing - reusing other people’s content to promote our product. The platform was and is saturated and trying to differentiate yourself by doing the same thing as everyone else wasn’t going help us stand out.

So I knuckled down on our messaging. While before we’d share a wide range of content (kittens, food, funny quotes, photos, donuts, vacation destinations), now we started on focusing on two very clear things - skin care and self-love. I didn’t realise how all over the place our messaging was until I started enforcing these two requirements for our content. Immediately, you can see a difference in our Instagram feed and how it all ties in together.

Being more selective with content resulted in a more cohesive story

At the time I thought “Eureka! I’ve worked it out!”. But as we continued following this formula, we still saw the same issues we were having with when we were re-using content - low engagement and slow growth. One thing I’ve found since starting Trefiel is that running a business is constant revising of the things you thought you knew about it. I thought I’d solved the problem of our engagement, but I had only made a baby step.

Our next step was to deploy mirror marketing - we harnessed the power of social media by delivering hundreds of samples around the country to key influencers. Some of these were paid (more on that later), but hundreds were not. We spent hours and hours on Instagram finding suitable women to send product to. Our key requirements were that they had to be a reasonable photographer, they needed to have a following of 5000 or more and they needed to be based in Australia.

When you think about how many Instagram accounts are currently in use, we had a very broad criteria that meant we could sent out a huge amount of samples to numerous women. Because we didn’t knuckle down on who we wanted, we were able to target so many different women and it actually turned out to be a good thing. Immediately, we saw results - higher traffic, higher engagement and a huge increase in growth.

Sending out hundreds of samples helped us gain exposure

We noticed something fascinating. As a new company, we rely heavily on word of mouth and experiences from users. Posts that mentioned our company with an @ tag only converted poorly, where full scale reviews - multiple paragraphs describing the users experience - were three times as effective.

Because of the nature of Instagram, we never knew when we were going to get a post from an influencer - images were often being posted every couple of days, which ended up working out quite well for us. This enabled us to track the success of our posts and influencers, leading to hiring a number of girls to post regularly for us.

Much of our success has been establishing key relationships where the demographic of influencer suits our own intended target audience. Another huge part of our success has been our market saturation. We literally flooded the Australian market with our masks and even started to adapt our influencer requirements, lowering the number of followers to 1000 so we could get the product into more people’s hands.

What we found with influencers who had under 1000 followers was particularly interesting. If the influencer was young, the mask generally didn’t convert with their audience. But slightly older women, say from 25 and up, the mask converted decently. Why? We realised that even though these women didn’t have huge reach to hundreds and thousands of people, they did have reach within their community.

As well as this, most older women are not approached by companies asking to give them free samples, whereas with younger women it is quite common. It meant the product in their feeds was more natural, as they didn’t often advertise products and it also made it possible to convert some of our influencers who we sent free product too.

Our customers and influencers were sharing awesome content and helping solidify us as a real brand

By this stage, we’d tried paying a few major influencers with varying success. One in particular is extremely successful for us and we continue tow work with her on a 6 month contract, where she posts about our product and helps us promote our current marketing campaigns. Others have been less successful - we spent $1000 on an influencer only to get 3 sales (about ~$110).

We felt that our inexperience had potentially lead us to choosing influencers that weren’t particularly suited to our product, so we spent a lot of time revising who we actually wanted to connect with and what we had to offer them. We didn’t hire influencers for over a month, as we figured all of this out. When we were finally ready to go again, it took weeks to find suitable candidates and work with their agencies to come up with a good deal.

Not all influencers are created equal

It bombed. In fact, they all bombed. It was incredibly frustrating as we had spent so many hours trying to revise our requirements and searching for particular influencers. My thoughts on this are that most influencers honestly don’t have THAT much influence over their audiences. Sure people follow them, they like their photos, they occasionally comment - but for the most part, what that person says and does has no effect on their audiences life. For us going forward, paid influencers are a thing we do very cautiously and we would rather skip it while working on other things.

What worked intitially with the unpaid influencers has since stopped working as well, which I knew would happen eventually. We’re no longer new and we have developed quite a trusting relationship with our audience, so posts that were reviews were starting to get less and less engagement. I noticed this, but I didn’t change anything because I knew that while we may not be able to share those captions anymore, we could still use the photos from influencers and the exposure.

When our influencer tactic stopped working, we started creating our own content

But we did start something new. One of the systems we have installed in the backend of our website sends follow up emails once a customer has purchased. We have a survey email that goes out after 3 weeks, asking key questions about our customer and the things they’d like to know. We found so many people wanting to know more about us - who was behind Trefiel and what happened behind the scenes. Not everyone, but a significant portion.

The people that answer this question wanting to know more about us are identified as our key customers. They want to know more about us, they love the mask and they love us as a company. They’re our raving fans and while we may not have 1000, by marketing to people that love us and our company, we can attract others like them.

So I created a new marketing plan, where we aimed to shoot more of our own content to tell our story about Trefiel. Initially, I thought this would be a secondary content type to our customers images, but what we found blew my initial thoughts out of the water.

Original, beautiful content went nuts and drove a tonne of growth

People loved it. Even more than our customer photos. So what initially started out as a few hours on Fridays, shooting and editing content, became a full day of shooting, with editing being done over the weekend (for the following weeks content).

The content we started producing was initially very rough and not as professional as I would have liked. In fact, I look at the things I shot just a few weeks ago and I see massive room for improvement. But it’s exciting! This type of content is perfect because we’re trying to differentiate ourselves on the Instagram platform and we do this by simply telling our story.

We’ve found videos have huge results and people love seeing Michael and I joking around for our promotional videos. The posts that I thought would be least successful have turned out to be the most successful and each week I’m learning something new about the business and the customers we’re trying to serve.

Now our feed features specific customers and/or influencers that either have fantastic photos or are key influencers that will provide us with leverage when acquiring new customers. As well as this, we’ve swapped most of the customer image photos captions for #skintips - captions where we help our audience to improve their skin. These are hints about our masks and tips that we have for better results, or just general suggestions for better skin in general.

That’s where we’re at now, but I have hundreds of ideas for how to continue improving our social media efforts and our marketing in general. As we gain more experience, I see the value of providing incredible content more and more. It’s not easy to start a business and it’s certainly not easy to market a business, especially when you’re playing the same game as everyone else. Differentiating ourselves by letting our personality shine through our content has lead to MASSIVE growth and engagement, something which I’m really proud of having been the lead on all of our marketing efforts.

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Lucy Bloomfield


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