Is influencer marketing becoming a strategy of the past? Are influencers worth what brands pay them to endorse their products?
LMS, an influencer and social media agency, founded by Denise Lambertson, chairwoman, with partners Tim Lambertson, co-CEO, and Kelli Reyes, co-CEO, has proven that influencer marketing is providing the startup community the power to reach a larger audience. What sets LMS’ strategy apart from other agencies is the fact that all three partners’ experience in the entertainment industry before starting the agency has driven their business decisions. Before introducing brands to influencers, the product has to align with the influencer’s values and a product that they will actually use. The endorsement of products from the influencers needs to be authentic.
Established in 2009, LMS operated in the influencer marketing space before the term was coined what it is today. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, just in the last 12 months, 320 new influencer marketing-focused platforms and agencies entered the market, and the 2019 industry is estimated to have reached $6.5 billion. For LMS, it has over 35 thousand influencers in its network, and in 2019 alone, its influencer campaigns have generated over 30 million impressions and 1.3 million engagements.
“We quickly realized that influencers were not willing to work with brands who did not have a well built out social media account, specifically on Instagram,” Tim explains. “Instagram was a validator for the quality of the company. We started hiring and building out a social media team.”
“That’s what people get excited to share,” Denise adds, “is something that they’ve discovered and they love. When you’re talking about really big brands, that discovery element is kind of gone. Also in this era, there’s a lot of mistrust of those big brands. The consumers, and therefore the influencers, are like, ‘what is this new, cool thing that is taking the place of this product that in my life I’ve grown to mistrust by this company that I no longer feel connected to?…How is this company doing it differently? I love it so much. How can I share it?’ That just lends itself really well to the startup community.”
All the partners understood the value of networking and building a positive reputation. It has been through their connections that they have built the cornerstone of their company. Prior to LMS, Denise interned for a film production company owned by Madonna before transitioning over to Madonna’s team as her executive assistant. During her time as an intern, she met Reyes. At the time that they met, Reyes was already working for Madonna’s manager.
Reyes explains, “I was really drawn to the tour industry. I had never really thought about that for myself. I ended up staying in music and touring with different artists for several years on the artist side. During the mid-2000s, brands were really starting to get smart about implementing themselves into tours, especially seeing the experiential space in the concourse; you have a captive audience before the show and intermissions to be able to talk to them about your brand. I was working for Maroon 5, and Verizon sponsored the tour. After that, the brand team came to me and asked if I would like to manage tours from the brand side.”
Tim’s experience in entertainment began as an assistant in a management office. He then started handling licensing deals for A-list musicians and other artists on the roster. Part of his responsibility was doing A&R (talent scouting) to expand the client roster. On the side, he worked as a digital marketer for a Grammy Award-winning DJ production duo and ultimately began working at a record label. When Denise had the opportunity to move to London while working for Madonna, Tim moved as well. While on a music video set, he met Tracy Anderson, a professional fitness trainer. He left the record label and managed Anderson’s enterprise, everything from fitness DVD’s, production, and studios to business management and appearances.
After transitioning out of Madonna’s management team, Denise consulted for various startups, which made her realize that companies were more interested in who she could connect them with. Her experiences with startups sparked the idea of connecting brands with celebrities.
Fast forward to the end of 2019; the partners have grown their company to over 40 employees and have orchestrated some of the largest endorsement deals in the industry from the Beyonce and WTRMLN WTR deal to the Ellie Goulding and CORE partnership. The LMS programming contributed to the acquisition of CORE by Keurig Dr. Pepper at a purchase price of $525 million. The partners facilitated a partnership between Jillian Michaels and Thrive Market. The promotion generated by Michaels’ Thrive Market activation generated 60 thousand registrants within 60 days.
Throughout the years, LMS has had to pivot their approach to employee retention, reframe the company’s story, and how they initiate the conversation between influencers and brands (mainly how they set the clients expectations). With each pivot the partners focus on these essential steps:
- Don’t wait for the perfect moment to pivot. There’s never going to be a perfect moment. When you’ve mapped out your course, have some money in the bank and feel scared, that is the moment to leap.
- Be prepared to run. You can’t pivot and then gingerly walk towards your goals. You have to be ready to sprint.
- Take the risk. Learn to fail quickly and move on. The risks take you further along the path of your goals than remaining in the comfort zone.
“I think that our failures have led us to be able to be more risk-takers,” Tim concludes. “I think in business where we are right now, especially on the forefront of marketing and digital marketing, if you’re not willing to take a risk, and then have that backfire, or fail in a way, then you’re going to be missing what the latest greatest thing is. This whole business is risky.”
Feature Image Credit: Founders and Partners of influencer and social media agency LMS. From left, Kelli Reyes, co-CEO,Leslie Hassler, 2019