Main Gear Transcript

Transcript has been edited for proper use of grammar


0:12  HANNAH

Welcome to Stratezine’s Guide to influencer marketing. My name is Hannah and today we are meeting with Brent Main Gear to discuss how they have used micro- influencers in their marketing strategy. 


For those who are not aware, we are discussing micro-influencers on the platform Instagram, which is defined as having between 1000 to 100,000 followers. Let’s get started. 


Okay Brent, thank you again for sitting down with us today. I’m just going to go ahead and have you start with telling us about your company and your role there.


0:47  BRENT

Thanks for having me. My name is Brent Fisher. I work for Main Gear computers. 


So we make super high-end gaming PCs, a lot of people have referred to us as like the Ferrari of gaming PCs. So everything from a normal computer up to just crazy stuff you’ve never seen before, like water cooled computers, it’s nuts. And then we’re also into other gaming peripherals and all that. 


I’m the Marketing Manager at Main Gear. So I handle social media, influencer marketing, partner channel marketing so part of our marketing development fund. I work with the companies that make components inside our computers, such as Intel, Nvidia, AMD, all the big tech chip companies and things like that.


1:42  HANNAH

Awesome. Well, we’re gonna just kind of get right into it. How long has your company utilized social media in the marketing strategy?


1:50  BRENT

We’re very early to market on a lot of stuff. It’s a small business with about 50 people. And so we were first to a lot of stuff. We were very early on Twitter back in 2002, I believe. The company has been around for over 15 years now. But we are also one of the first people to go live on Facebook when Facebook started releasing their live stuff. And then we’ve also done a lot of live broadcasting. 


So YouTube, Twitch all that. But yeah social media is a key to our marketing strategy, both organic and paid, especially Facebook advertisements. They are a key thing that gets a lot of our sales for our business.


2:35  HANNAH

So you guys have been using it for quite a long time. When did you guys start using micro-influencers?


2:41  BRENT

We’ve been using them for quite a while, but officially we started an affiliate and partner program about a year ago. Actually, it might have been two years now. My timing is all messed up because of COVID. But we started a program we call the “Be Next” program. 


So it’s an aspirational marketing campaign to help micro-influencers, so people that have anywhere from like 2,000 Twitch followers and below. Twitch is a little different than other social media platforms in that it’s harder to get followers on, and so that’s actually a pretty high number of followers there. But allowing them to kind of be the next big influencer, follow their dreams, and help engage with them when they’re still small and not just going after all the big guys right in our space. 


It’s almost all influencer based so a lot of live streamers and a lot of gamers.


But a lot of live streamers really drive basically all our influencer marketing, right. So these are people that are playing computer video games as their full time job. There’s a lot of influencers in there that are aspirating to get to that point. And it’s kind of hard to get sponsors and stuff when you’re still small, and you still only have, you know, 100 people following you or less than that. So our program helps them get into that. 


I mean obviously, we’re not going to give them free computers, because then we’d go out of business, but offering discounts and affiliate programs where they can have coupon codes and you know, receive credit back for people that their affiliate referred to our site. And then being able to earn off of those referrals and to get the gear that they need to become higher and better, and up their production values.


4:50  HANNAH

No, I love that. I think that’s really noble. I think a lot of the time people who do influencer marketing really are just focused on the big names right? They want people like Charli D’Amelio right? You know, they want those big names, but I think it’s really awesome that you’re working with smaller influencers to help them get bigger.


5:11  BRENT

Yeah, and we’ve done stuff with the big guys too, right. So some of our top influencers include, EDM artists. So like, if you know, Zedd, most people don’t know him, but you’ve definitely heard his music.


And then also in the gaming space, like we’ve done stuff with PewDiePie, and with all those like really top high tier where those guys, the model’s a little different in that they have such a huge following that our business can reap the rewards of that just from the sheer amount of number. Right? If I get one percent of PewDiePie his audience to come back and purchase from us. That’s a huge number of sales. Right? 



That’s a big number of sales!


5:57  BRENT

Whereas, well the little guys, yeah, they have to be a little more persuasive.


6:01   HANNAH

That’s definitely true. So speaking of the little guys and getting success, what success did your brand experience after working with a micro-influencer? And what do you measure success as?


6:13  BRENT

So it definitely varies between person to person, and to be blunt success is measured in sales, right? At the end of the day, we’re a business and we need to recoup our investment and get that ROI. But on a more broader value in that there are different levels of the sales funnel, right. 


So there’s all the way from discovering the brand for the first time and brand awareness, which a lot of our influencers help us with, because our company is smaller, and it doesn’t have the kind of clout that the– we call them tier one, people in the industry. So these brands, like Dell and HP,  are making PCs and like the millions. But all the way from brand awareness, which is what you usually see on Instagram, most people discover brands on Instagram, and then influencers that are farther down that funnel such as people that are reviewing stuff. 


So a lot of YouTube reviewers, especially in the tech space, and then where most of our micro influencers are, are in that kind of establishing trust with the brand, right. And so we can go out and spend a ton of money on Google Ads and Facebook ads, and try to write marketing copy to help people believe that our brand is worth their money. But that it’s not nearly as effective. As you know, watching someone on Twitch play games with the computers and seeing that person and seeing that they associate themselves with high quality brands seeing that they don’t just throw their voice and their opinion at anybody’s anything that comes their way. But they really value the brands that they associate with and sponsor with. 


And I feel like that’s where micro influencers have the strongest pull, right. Whereas, you know, the top, not Echelon, but the really big guys that have tons of followers can kind of go from one brand deal to the next and you know, they’re getting paid for it. And so you kind of expect that, that there’s a little bit of advertising going to, whereas someone who’s, you know, down in the couple of hundreds or a couple of thousands of followers, you know that they likely had to purchase all this stuff themselves, maybe at a slight discount, but they really believe in that brand if they want to sponsor, and they really believe that they’re that brand represents the values that they have.


8:46  HANNAH

Absolutely. Yeah, that is definitely becoming kind of a common theme as we talk to people about influencer marketing. And as we kind of do more research that it seems like smaller influencers, micro-influencers are trusted a bit more by their audience.


9:01  BRENT

With our product. It’s very important, right? Because it’s not like I’m selling products that are four to six dollars. Right?


9:09  HANNAH

Yeah, it’s not cheap.


9:11  BRENT

Yeah like our average selling price for a computer is above $2,000. And so it’s a very big investment. And so it’s something that you need to hear other people’s opinions, you’re going to do a lot more research. 


I don’t know, what’s an example of something you buy, if I was going to go buy juice from the store maybe I would, like go to the grocery store, look at the two brands and be like, ”Oh, this brand looks nice. I’ll buy that.” Whereas with a computer, probably going to spend like four to six weeks just researching before you even like, think about which company to buy from.


9:49  HANNAH



9:52  HANNAH

Even with my laptop I did that.


9:54  BRENT

Yeah, right? Because you want it to last for years, not just days. Having micro-influencers, and someone that you can trust, and have their opinion and know that they’re being taken care of by that company is really valuable.


10:11  HANNAH

Absolutely. When you talk about doing research, what kind of research do you do to find the right micro influencer for your company?


10:20  BRENT

Yes. So there’s some outreach that I do, most of its word of mouth, from other influencers, to be honest, just because they, the gaming community in general is very tight-knit, especially the live streamer community. Everybody knows everyone, it’s a super small industry. And so when… most of the time what happens is, it’s kind of funny, but someone’s computer will break down because they bought from, I don’t want to say an inferior brand.


10:55  HANNAH

But you know..


10:57  BRENT

From someone that doesn’t value quality in friendship as much right, or they built it themselves. And, or it’s just been too long, and it’s old. And so they’ll reach out to their friends. And, you know, look for a new PC, and they want something that’s going to be last and be reliable. Especially if you’re live streaming, right, you can’t have anything, if it’s your primary source of income, you can’t have that going down and having problems. And so most of its word of mouth, especially on the micro side. And then once people start getting bigger, which, if you are a micro-influencer, I suggest you do this as soon as you can, and as soon as you’re able to afford it. But start, I don’t know if partnering is the right word, but partner with an agency to represent you. Because they do a great job. They’re much better at negotiating. They’re very professional. And they know what the companies need. And they know what the brands are looking for. And they know how to position you as best as they can. And they’ll fight for fair contracts for you right and fair for both parties.


12:05  HANNAH

That’s really interesting that you say that one of the companies I was speaking to was discussing how it’s harder when influencers have an agency backing them because their prices go up for what they want to be paid, because now they got to pay the middleman.


12:21 BRENT

Yeah, that can be true for sure. I don’t think I’ve ever done a contract with an agency where it wasn’t a paid contract. With our micro-influencers, most of its hardware trade, just because our product is so expensive, right? And that if to do an activation with maybe something that’s a lot cheaper, like a 10, or 20 dollar product, that’s just like a protein powder, right? In the gaming space. It’s G Fuel, it’s like everywhere, it’s made for two cents, and they sell it for 20 bucks. Yeah. But with us, you know, with the hardware trade, we’re offering like $2500-$3,000 in value. And so it’s a lot easier to do that without pay, because you’re like, Oh, I can get this computer that’s worth this much. Right. And so that plays a big factor into it.


13:09  HANNAH

Especially if they would have bought it with their own money anyway.


13:11  BRENT

Yeah. Right. And then you’re probably not getting a discount or extra perks or like extra customization that we would usually offer in that kind of deal to make things extra special for your activation, right? Because we want to show our best product towards your viewers too.


13:27  HANNAH

So what do you like to look for specifically in a micro-influencer as far as who they are and what they’re doing? Are you specific about the games they’re playing? or things like that?


13:42 BRENT

Yeah. So there’s a couple of key factors. One, first thing is professionalism. Hands down every time. It’s the simple stuff that they tell you in all the resume classes to make sure your spelling is right, make sure you’re addressing people the proper way. One way to not partner with us immediately is if we get into email, and I email you, and there’s other people in the email from my team, and you don’t reply all, that’s like that’s not good at all. So that’s my number one tip to just anybody. I put other people on there, and I need you to reply all because I need them to see our conversation, right? But professionalism, brand friendliness, right? We’re looking for people that, you know, the typical stuff, you’re not a racist, you’re not a sexist, you’re not all those things. You can still have political views, right? That’s fine. And you could still be a little bit edgy, especially in gaming. I mean, everybody’s expected to be a little bit edgy. 


14:39  HANNAH

You can’t have the no cussing rule.


14:42  BRENT

yeah, not so much. But you know, there’s words everybody should avoid, and we’re looking for that stuff. Ensure Twitter feeds are clean, and that there’s nothing indecent or anything that would devalue our brand by bringing them on as a partner or an affiliate. Then Seeing how engaged they are with their viewers, some of our micro influencers convert to sales a lot better than other ones do, right? And it’s just based on kind of who they are as a person and what they value and what their viewers value.


15:15  HANNAH

So when you are doing things like trade, for example, right? What exactly do you have your influencers post or do for you?


15:29  BRENT

So everything’s very community based within gaming space, and especially live-streaming space. And so usually an unboxing video or an unboxing livestream, where they unbox the PC, you know, get their community hyped up for, you know, this thing that’s happening, because it’s typically the community that is helping that. The influencers viewers, are the ones that help them get to this point. And so it’s something that everybody’s involved with.


16:01  HANNAH

So it is an unboxing.


16:03  BRENT

Yeah, so showing the products is cool, right? It’s like a high-end gaming PC, it’s something, you know, you turn it on, lights go crazy. Everything’s rainbows like, it’s awesome.


16:13  HANNAH

It’s nice.


16:14  BRENT

So it’s something fun to do. And then typically after that, you know, there’ll be the Twitter posts, Instagram posts, all that stuff, like typical influencer activation stuff, but where it really comes down to is on Twitch especially, you can have chat bots, so bots that post in the chat periodically, and then you can have panels below where your live stream is. And so integrating with that is what’s really important with us, because that’s more than that one time thing that’s a constant reminder, to the viewer that, hey, the streamer that you’re watching stands by Main Gear, and they love their products, and you know, they love them enough to put them on their Twitch page and bother you about them every now and again. And then the activations usually include benefits to the viewers, right? So typically, with ours, the chat bot will say, Hey, you know, if you want a PC, go check out Main Gear, here’s my coupon code, and it gives you maybe an extra year of free warranty on the computer, or if they’re running a certain special with our influencers at the time. We offer like, automotive paint jobs on the computers, it’s really advanced stuff. And that’s nice.


17:36  BRENT

Also discounts and stuff like that, or free RGB in the computer, get all that other crazy gamer lighting and all that stuff. And so it becomes more than just this, like, hey, use my code, so I get paid an affiliate kickback, it becomes this is also going to benefit you, right? It’s more than just a discount, it’s going to help you with the product that you purchase.


17:58  HANNAH

So it’s not just a one time, I purchased the computer and we’re done. That’s really nice. I think that’s a great idea. When you are running campaigns with influencers. Are you ever running multiple campaigns with multiple influencers at a time? Or is it just kind of like you focus on one influencer?


18:15  BRENT

Yeah, we run multiple, sometimes we’ll do a partner program wide campaign. So like coming up on Black Friday, we’ll have everything kind of incentivized for the influencers to activate more, right? So normally, we do something like so are all our computers come with like a one year free warranty, and normally, they use the influencers coupon code, that would be two years and then during Black Friday, we’ll likely activate and say, Hey, that same coupon code now gets you like three years warranty like the full warranty that you can purchase from Main Gear. And then maybe these added bonuses, like we’ll throw in T-shirts and hats and stuff in this order just to make things more fun and to kind of amplify that. And then whenever we have like large sales on specific skews or products, we’ll have our partners burst out with that and stuff. And then we’ll periodically do giveaways with certain partners and then whenever they activate, right so when they become a partner with main gear, they get their PC we send them, and we actually make gaming chairs too, which is helpful when you’re doing Twitch stuff, right? So the brands on the screen at all times. 


But we’ll give them a chair and we’ll run giveaways with them to increase their social media following and then also to just engage with their community. So there’s a lot of creative stuff you can do when the product is, a higher price because you can do a lot more. Whereas like if I was selling things for 5 dollars and giving away like 50 dollars of stuff the math doesn’t work out.


20:00  HANNAH

Yeah, it doesn’t really help a ton. So when you have your specific posts, is there something that always works for you with influencers? Like, is it like a story? Or does the chatbot work the best? Like what have you found that really works with influencers that you kind of have most of your influencers do.


20:20 BRENT

So the unboxing definitely gets that initial kickback to help us recoup some of that cost. And then the twitch panels and tweets, to be honest, and it’s, it’s not any specific, like copy or anything. A lot of the times with the bigger guys where we’re paying them, you know, thousands of dollars and stuff, then it’s like, No, we want you to say this, right? Because we need to get this money back, guys. With the smaller guys, they know their audience very intimately and very specifically. And so a lot of the times they’ll ask me like, hey, what you want in this tweet, and I’m like, I just make them go to


21:06  HANNAH

Whatever you think..


21:07  BRENT

like you know them better than I do. Like it’s gonna sound insincere and not genuine if it’s coming from me, whereas, you know your audience, and what they’re going to react to. And, you know, you can be more true to yourself in that way.


21:21  HANNAH

I completely agree. I definitely love my macro celebrity influencers, but the micro-influencers are definitely really fun to be in chats with, when I’m watching streams and stuff. They’re just really fun. Why do you choose to use micro-influencers? You’ve obviously had experiences, you know, with people like PewDiePie, and all of that fun, amazing stuff. So why would you choose micro-influencers? When you have that option?


21:48  BRENT

Well, it’s lower risk.

To put it forward, right? If I can trade hardware that’s valued at a certain level, and then it’s costing me obviously less than that level. So profit works, then, at the very most, like, I just have to make back that computer to break even on that, right. And so from a math standpoint, and like just a numbers standpoint, it works out really well. But I found because of the price point of our product, it’s kind of like a reverse bell curve, right? So these micro influencers, they know their people really well. And so they can get a ton of sales, and the affiliate kickbacks from that. And then it kind of goes down in terms of like sale numbers, and then it only really goes back up when like, you’d get really big guys where it’s just like just the sheer volume causes a certain amount of sales, like, just because if they’re like 2 percent of their audience converts, it’s like, you know, thousands of people. And so, there’s kind of this sweet spot because our product is less of a commodity and more of like a long term investment.


23:04  HANNAH

Gotcha. So would you recommend other brands work with micro-influencers more? Or would you say it’s about the same or are macro influencers better? Because it kind of seems like there’s less risk with micro, but there’s kind of more kickback with the macro? So which one would you say works better?


23:24  BRENT

It all depends, it all comes down to the math right at the end. I mean, we’re trying to help people better their lives and achieve their dreams. But at the end of the day, we have to make sales. We got a business, right. So with AR specifically because it’s that kind of reverse bell curve, there’s specific numbers that we look for right? There’s a certain level of YouTube subscribers, where I can just be like, Okay, if we give this guy a PC, it’s gonna come back, just because of the numbers, but with other brands, I don’t know. I think it would work just as well, you have to be a little more discerning with micro-influencers, just because the numbers aren’t there to like, tell you whether success is there or not. But if your product is a lot, you know, a lot cheaper than ours is, then the risk is also lower. And you can, you know, for the same amount of money, you can spread it out to a bunch of people. And I would assume that their curve is more linear, right where it goes up.


24:26  HANNAH

Alright, well, my last question for you today is do you have to get approval to work with an influencer? And if you do, what’s kind of the process? I know you kind of mentioned you have to have multiple people on like an email chain when you’re reaching out. So what kind of is that process for approvals?


24:41  BRENT

So I handle almost all of it, especially small stuff. If something’s really big or really public. We’re in a pretty small company. So I’m the marketing manager and we’ll go to the managing director. And actually, we all meet with the CEO once a week and so I’ll bring up really big stuff with him too. But you know, for stuff where I’ve gone through and looked at their brand and looked to make sure there’s no red flags and stuff like that. It’s pretty straightforward. And we just figure out what we can do. And if we can bring any of our other partners in, like our hardware partners, and if they want to be part of the sponsorship and things like that, but you know, It’s not too complicated.


25:26  HANNAH

Yeah, no, it sounds like you got a handle on it there with the approvals. Well, my final fun question, just kind of to wrap everything up for you today is who is one of the influencers you’ve worked with, that you loved working with? And why


25:42  BRENT

That’s a business secret. No, we’ve had quite a few. I have a couple guys. I don’t know their actual names.


25:56  HANNAH

That’s totally fair.


25:59  BRENT

I know some of them. But one of the guys name’s DC Live. And he’s awesome. He’s been a Main Gear fan for over 10 years. And he’s almost to the point where it’s over branding, where it’s like, oh, yeah, I get Main Gear all the time, which is awesome. And he sells that way. And then I’ve had other guys who are just really down to earth, people who are just like, you know, I just, I love that you guys have taken care of me, I want to take care of you. You know, let’s just keep the cycle going. And it’s been really great. To be honest.


26:32  HANNAH

I love that. I think it’s so fun. I recently actually started watching gamers and Twitch and my mother thinks it’s the funniest thing. So I love watching them and they’re such sweet people.


26:45  BRENT

So yeah, yeah, they’re a great community. I think it gets a bad rap from a lot of people. I will say they’re definitely keyboard warriors in there to, you know, poke fun and stuff. But at the end of the day, you know, it’s just full of a bunch of sweethearts that are just trying to be really nice to each other and just, you know, trying to get through life a little bit easier, which you can definitely see when you go to the conventions, right and meet these people. They’re just sweethearts.


27:15  HANNAH

They are. Well, thank you so much Brent for sitting down with us today. I really do appreciate your time and all of your experience with micro-influencers. Thank you everyone for listening today. For those who are interested in more information, you can reference the show notes for today’s episode. Stay tuned next time where we will be sitting down with Brianna from Purple to discuss their experience with micro influencers