In April 2018, I did something that 6.5M people do every year: opened a business. Despite the statistics literally showing you're more likely to fail than succeed, people go after the American dream and try to build their own company.
The first steps I took should look familiar to any one that's opened a business before.
File for an LLC in your state (Florida for me). Get an EIN from the IRS. Hire someone to make a cool logo. Create a website. On paper, my business was officially set up within a week.
This business would sell cool products online for active dog owners. It was called PortaBowl after the signature dog water bottle I would be selling on the site. I worked nights and weekends on building my Shopify site. Once it was ready, it was time to take on the task of marketing.
A google search for marketing hit me with a bunch of terms I didn't understand like SEO, Drip Campaigns, and "funnels". I narrowed down and found that the top two sources for ads were Google and Facebook. Setting up the campaigns didn't seem too difficult so I split $500 between Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. Then, I waited for the customers to start piling in. And I kept waiting.
Two weeks later, I was down $500 with 0 sales to show for it. I knew that I had great products but I also understood that customers had to find a way to trust my young business. If the company Instagram looked legitimate, customer's might buy and checkout on my site.
I got to work following any account that mentioned dogs in the hope that some of them would follow back. The few stock product photos I had became the first posts on the company's Insta feed. I threw the site in my bio and waited for some clicks. Howver, my profile was still not getting enough views.
As I helplessly scrolled through my feed, I noticed that some of the bigger dog accounts I followed would tag a business in their posts. In one example, they tagged a leash manufacturer and the comments were flooded with consumers asking how they could buy that leash. This word of mouth marketing was exactly what I needed.
Shortly after, I found out that these people with large, dedicated followings were called "influencers". I started sending mass emails to them and tracking who I emailed in a spreadsheet. The answer rate was pretty low but I was able to partner with a few.
I shipped them samples, they took some pictures, and posted to their feeds. These posts looked amazing, got me a bunch of new followers, and finally...SALES! If only I had known about influencers from the beginning.
Those initial sales felt great but all of a sudden there was this big task of managing influencers that was taking up way too much time. Searching for influencers and negotiating prices was annoying. Even after I found a match, I still had to manually update a spreadsheet with tracking numbers, prices, contact info, and files. Oh and don't forget sending off money through PayPal with no assurance of them delivering.
There are numerous influencer marketing platforms on the market but they're all geared towards corporations and require subscriptions. PortaBowl didn't have predictable revenue and I didn't have the time to learn new software. It seemed like influencer marketing for small businesses wasn't really a thing.
PortaBowl ended up dying out and I moved on to other things. The idea of an influencer marketplace for small businesses didn't leave my mind though. If 99.7% of businesses were small businesses, then why were they underserved?
In January 2019, I decided to build it myself - the Amazon of influencer marketing which I called Dananza. The focus would be providing influencer marketing to small businesses by connecting them to the small businesses of the influencer world, microinfluencers. These microinfluencers were also underserved as influencer marketing platforms all vied for the biggest influencers. Microinfluencers actually have 7x the engagement of those bigger guys which makes them a perfect fit for small businesses.
Businesses will be able to search and filter for influencers, add influencer content to their cart, and checkout. No subscriptions, no commitments, no headaches. Influencer marketing for small businesses is almost here.
Are you a food influencer or restaurant owner serving the South Florida community? Sign up for our beta and we'll help you simplify the process of collaborating in influencer marketing.
Are you interested but in another city? Then still sign up for our beta.