When my sister and I launched our dog food company Brutus Broth in 2018, I knew one of our biggest challenges would be brand awareness. It’s hard to stand out in an industry filled with so many pet food brands, big and small.


Yet we realized that our product—human-grade dog food with health benefits—caters to people who care deeply about their dogs’ health—and we saw an opportunity to get the word out by enlisting the help of dog owners who use our products. These people, called micro-influencers, help us reach other dog owners that we’d have a rough time engaging otherwise.


Today, Brutus Broth is in 4,500 U.S. grocery stores and boutiques, and I expect sales to triple over the next year or two, as we look to expand internationally. I attribute much of our growth to micro-influencer marketing. 


Unleashing testimonials


In 2020, our company started working heavily with micro influencers. In exchange for either product or payment, these people post about Brutus Broth on their social media accounts, blogs or online review sites—giving our marketing efforts an authentic voice.


We enlist micro-influencers in one of three ways:


  • Engaging “super fans.” Whenever we launch a new product, I reach out to our most loyal customers with an offer of a free sample and the hope that they’ll post a testimonial on social media, if they like it. One early super fan was my hair stylist, who loved how Brutus Broth enlivened his 13-year-old Shih Tzu. Some of our super fans have a few hundred followers, while others have thousands. 

  • Reaching out to experienced influencers. We’ve also contracted directly with people who work as influencers for other brands and who typically charge between $500 and $2,000 per post, depending on the size of their online following and, even more importantly, the depth of that engagement. When Brutus Broth launched in Target stores, I hired a popular influencer who features Target products for $2,000 to post on Instagram about our brand. That post resulted in comments from more than 600 people. I personally responded to each one, thanking them for noticing our brand and offering a free sample or discount code.

  • Working with an agency. We also work with agencies that represent micro-influencers. Basically, the agency does the heaving lifting—vetting influencers in their stable against criteria set by us. Among our requirements: The influencer owns a dog, their posts must be creative—not just a rehash of what’s written on our packaging—and delivery must be emotional, not rote. We also suggest where and what the influencers post, such as putting a review on Chewy or Amazon, a testimonial on Instagram, or a video on Facebook.


One cautionary note: I get approached every day by so-called influencers who want payment in exchange for a post about our product. These are inauthentic hawkers, and I like to think that consumers can see through that. If I look at their page and see a post that’s gotten 5,000 likes but no comments, I know that’s automated—not real.


Finding bona fide value


So far, our influencer marketing efforts are paying off. One recent campaign that we worked on with an agency involved 50 influencers with a total of 524,000 followers. While it cost us $5,000, it resulted in 16,000 subsequent posts and comments from the influencers’ fans.  


Each influencer we worked with through the campaign is an amateur photographer, and the quality and diversity of their content was exceptional. As part of our deal with the agency, Brutus Broth now owns that content, so we’ve been able to use the photos in our digital ads, on our website and across our social media platforms. 


Beyond its cost-effectiveness, micro-influencer marketing is a great way to spread the word in a way that traditional advertising cannot. I’m a big believer in word-of-mouth marketing, and influencers take that concept to a whole new level.


We don’t have a million dollars to spend on marketing, and, as a result, we are extremely deliberate in how we get our name out there in the most cost-effective way. The biggest thing for us when it comes to marketing, no matter the vehicle, is to have an authentic voice—people who can speak from the heart about our brand.

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