Maddie Raedts, founder of Influencer Marketing Agency and a Meet the Millennials 2016 graduate, is setting her sights on international expansion.
Maddie Raedts is in high demand. Only weeks after being recognised in M&M Global’s ‘Meet the Millennials’ celebration of young international media talent, she and entrepreneurial partner-in-crime Emilie Tabor were last month named in Forbes Europe’s ‘30 Under 30’ list up up-and-comers.
It is richly-deserved reward for the hard work Raedts and Tabor have put in over the past seven years, building not only a business, but an entire media and marketing category.
The no-frills, literal naming of Influencer Marketing Agency (IMA) gives some clue as to the length of the gestation period before the company took off. The idea occurred to Raedts during a Bachelor graduation project as an Amsterdam-based fashion student in 2010, but would not gain traction until some years later.
“We saw two markets that really weren’t aligned,” she says. “On the one hand you had the bloggers coming up, and on the other you had advertisers who wanted to work with those people, but didn’t know how to. So we saw there was an opportunity to become a middle-man between influencers and brands, and to find the right strategy for working together.”
Of course, today every marketer worthy of the name has implemented some kind of influencer marketing strategy. The big international networks have seized upon the concept, leading to what Raedts describes as a “professionalisation” of the space, but this is far removed from the rough-and-ready early days.
“Right now, it is very cool – everybody does it, everyone knows what it is. But even three or four years ago, people didn’t understand it. At the start we had to find our own model. We kind of formed the market, through simple barter deals or giveaways,” says Raedts, who will be speaking at the Festival of Media Global 2017 in Rome in May.
From its humble beginnings, IMA now works with 7,500 bloggers, and has led the development of campaigns for brands including Unilever, L’Oreal, Safilo, Tommy Hilfiger, Heineken and KLM. And the brands being attracted to work with influencers has steadily extended beyond fashion into other lifestyle sectors.
In fact, sometimes it is a case of the smaller the segment, the better the results, claims Raedts: “The new trend is you have all these niche communities – it’s no longer about all the biggest influencers anymore. Some of the smaller communities have really high engagement.”
Specific goals and objectives
With the vast and bewildering choice of bloggers, vloggers and social media influencers available for marketing collaborations, Raedts says it is vital to ensure brands settle on a clearly-defined aim for any campaign.
“There are hundreds of thousands of influencers out there, so you want to work with the people who are actually having an influence,” she says.
“We usually look at brands’ specific goals objectives, and start with who they want to reach, and then we tailor it back to the influencers’ channels. If it’s a really young target audience, we would probably go more towards Snapchat; if it’s a bit older target audience, you stay more with Facebook perhaps. It all depends on who you want to reach.”
“Content has always been one of the biggest needs for brands. We see influencer marketing taking an important role in that”
The maturing of influencer marketing – witnessed in the standardisation of pricing and processes – has also been boosted by the improving use of data. Raedts says IMA is busy developing its own tools for measuring content on a day-to-day basis.
“[At the start] the data was a bit more superficial. Data metrics on the social networks were closed off, but over the last years everything has evolved a lot. It has gotten really important to show your results, the ROI, and to show you are making an impact,” she says.
With a large clientele run from its headquarters in Amsterdam, Raedts says the IMA leadership team is exploring ways to capitalise on its rapid growth outside of the Netherlands. Although no plans are set in “concrete”, she reveals the agency is investigating “options” to expand to other international hubs.
She is also buoyed by the potential for influencer marketing to develop beyond bedroom vlogging and into to work of high-quality content: “There are so many opportunities in content creation – 360 video, virtual reality, documentaries, all those kind of things – and all of that will be implemented into influencer marketing as well.
“Content has always been one of the biggest needs for brands, and that will always stay. We see influencer marketing taking an important role in that.”
Further accolades may also follow, but Raedts insists she is focused on the job, rather than awards. “Obviously I feel very honoured still to be part of [Meet the Millennials]. It’s really nice but I’m just doing my job here in Amsterdam,” she says.
“We’re doing what we love, and I think that is how we got here. I always say, make sure you love what you do. That is important, because you have to get out of bed for it every day. Personally, I don’t mind working at night or working at the weekend because I like it.
“If you have a passion, go for it,” she adds.