Independent agency Goat invests in influencer strategy for clients as it expands in the U.S.

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Independent agency Goat this month appointed a new director to lead the U.S. market as it continues growing in influencer marketing.

More and more marketers are after influencers to up their marketing game. But the secret to success, Goat’s leadership contends, is in viewing influencers as a newer form of performance media and using data to deliver clients guaranteed outcomes. Leveraging its campaign data and customer relationship management system help the agency to ensure these deliverables at a fixed price.

“We were able to guarantee results and we always have, and that’s because we have more data than every other agency,” said Nick Cooke, Goat co-founder. “We’ve used more influencers than everyone else… so we have the results and input back in the CRM system. So we’re always one step ahead of everyone else.”

The London-based social media and influencer agency was founded in 2015 and began its expansion into the U.S. via New York in 2018. Now the agency hopes to accelerate its U.S. business, its fastest-growing market, with the hire of former Ogilvy senior partner and managing director Lauriann Serra. Serra will lead U.S. operations as managing director, building on Goat’s portfolio of several major clients that include Dell, Mars and Intuit.

Goat said its distinction from the competition revolves around guaranteeing a level of media that may not be usual practice in influencer marketing. “That’s every marketer’s dream, right?” Serra said. “Throughout my entire career, [I’ve heard]: What will the outcome be? Could you guarantee it? Will we succeed? So to actually offer that upfront is beyond unique.”

Goat has since grown beyond influencer marketing to offer full-service social media tools, including social strategy, paid media and production. And as more marketers increase their investment on social channels, Goat expects influencer paid media to become the best performing channel in the overall social media strategy. To Cooke, understanding the audience on a community level is integral.

“We know that the audience is crucial as what community they live in is crucial, but then the media value is also crucial,” Cooke said. “We look at communities on social like people living in communities in real life. If you’re a skateboarder, you’ll follow 10 other skateboarders.”

Goat is not the only independent agency to develop an influencer strategy in recent years. As Lauren McFarland, head of influencer at performance marketing agency Journey Further, explained, creativity is becoming the driver of performance: “We know that 64% of performance is down to creative, so in 2023 we’ll see more creative partnerships between brands and influencers. Instead of asking influencers to execute on watertight briefs, brands will involve influencers in the initial ideation stages.”

Using content creators and influencers is especially popular when it comes to growing on TikTok, McFarland added. The short-form video platform has become the most popular social and entertainment platform, outpacing Facebook, Instagram and Snap — particularly when it comes to attracting younger users.

“People check Instagram but they watch TikTok,” McFarland said. “In 2023, brands have to start thinking like creators. We’re already seeing brands like RyanAir, Chipotle and DuoLingo behave like creators and we’ll see more brands do the same. The more reactive that brands are able to be, the more relevant they will be.”

Social apps like TikTok have also risen as a place for influencers to thrive, as consumers embrace more user-generated content from creators — as opposed to produced and scripted content from brands.

“Social media consumers, especially Gen Z, are fed up with unrealistic standards and scripted sponsorships,” Amy Lanzi, coo of Publicis Commerce, previously told Digiday. “Shoppable livestreams or video content, paired with a credible influencer and raving comments from a community of viewers is an instant recipe for a believable, trusted sponsored social post… With this blueprint, we have built out industry-first, creator-led commerce solutions with partners like TikTok and Spotify that offer more personalization and closed loop measurement.”

Goat’s strategy starts with developing objectives with the client, whether that’s in sales, campaigns or awareness. Then they discuss the guaranteed set of deliverables, which could include number of influencers, how much content produced on each platform, total impressions or engagement and views in the media plan, Cooke explained. The team uses its CRM to pick influencers, and they typically work with about 80% existing influencers and experiment with another 20% of new influencers.

Generally, the agency is able to over-deliver on its promised results, or some 130% on average, Cooke claimed. Goat doesn’t make money if the campaign’s metrics aren’t met. For example, if a client is promised 10 influencers and 10 million impressions, but the effort falls short — Goat will pay for three additional influencers to meet the goals.

“We take on the risk — we’re completely focused on the outcome rather than trying to take a percentage of what the brand pays the influencer,” Cooke said.

About one-third of Goat’s global revenue currently comes from the U.S., and Cooke said it should overtake its other markets within a year. With some 190 employees across the U.S., U.K. and Singapore, the agency is nearing $100 million in billing annually. Goat has created more than 2,000 campaigns across 70 countries leveraging data on more than 100,000 influencers.

“I think [Goat] cracked the code with influencer marketing strategy to delivery every single step along the way,” Serra added. “And it’s a really powerful tool. Brands have always known it, but they don’t always know how to use it or how to approach it.”

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