LISTEN: Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings explains the company's controversial policies, including that managers should fire everyone they wouldn't fight to keep on their team
Summary List Placement Netflix is having a moment. The company has seen historic levels of growth with many of its customers stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic. In the first half of this year, it added nearly as many new subscribers as it did all of last year. As a company, Netflix is known for some pretty unusual corporate policies that prioritize "freedom and responsibility." That includes things like unlimited vacation, direct and very candid performance feedback, and what the company calls the "Keeper Test." Basically, your managers are encouraged to constantly evaluate if they should keep you … or let you go. Reed Hastings, Netflix's cofounder and co-CEO, has just published a book about the company's policies: "No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention." Hastings sat down with Nich Carlson, Insider's Global Editor-in-Chief, to talk about how he runs Netflix — and how the company's unconventional policies help make it effective.
The following is a transcript of the conversation, edited for clarity. Nich Carlson: So I want to start with, what are some of the books that inspired you to write this one, to really guide your development of Netflix and helped you in your career? Reed Hastings: You know, when Erin [Meyer] and I set out to write No Rules Rules, we exactly had that question: What books have impacted the way organizations operate? And of course, there's older ones like "The HP Way" and "In Search of Excellence." There's the Jim Collins work, "Beyond Entrepreneurship," "Good to Great" — really powerful impacts. There's the radical transparency work that's come out over the last few years. So we hoped to continue that and to build upon it. And, high level, we've had 300 years of the industrial economy. And because of that, everything is organized like a factory. Very top down, very process-centric, very mistake avoidance. And what we're trying to set out is an alternate theory, not for factories and not for safety-critical work, but for creative work, where ideas and mistakes are an inherent part of the innovation process. And when you want to organize around increased innovation, then here are a set of ideas to think through and stimulate the conversation and build upon. And these ideas have worked very well for Netflix over the last 20 years. Carlson: So one of the core, there seem to be many core tenets. I'm going to start with probably the biggest one, which is, I think you would call it F&R, which stands for "Freedom and Responsibility." And it seems to me that really began to spring out of a vacation policy, which is kind of a no vacation policy policy — which doesn't mean no vacation. It means that we're not going to track it, and we're all adults, and do what's right for you and what's right for Netflix, and that sort of thing. I think there's a point in the book where someone brought a dog into the office. And so how, if you don't have policies, where do you decide where the line is, where it's like, "Well, actually we probably have some people in the office who might be allergic to dogs and we don't want them peeing on the rugs, and so, no, you can't have dogs." So, where are the rules and how do you keep dogs from being all over the office, so to speak? Hastings: Sure. That might be a good example because that policy is not so simple because the one you described, you then have to do all the carve outs for the guide dogs and other things. And then, what about not dogs? What about all these other types of possible pets? What about kids? It goes on and on and on. So you can try to reduce the world to like, you're going to document all the cases and edge cases where it's justified or not. Or you can generally set context. Like, it's important to be considerate of your fellow workers, and one part of that is allergies, and you know here are some principles around it. And so we, again, try to have it be not so simple as a set of rules and to have it in fact be general principles of consideration, reminding people of that. That's worked very well. Our former head of HR, Patty McCord, used to say, "Look, we don't have a clothing policy, but no one has come to work naked lately. Why aren't they coming to work naked?" Okay? And it turns out that the cultural standards around wearing clothing are good enough guidelines, and so it's one, another example where you don't need rules. So for each organization it's finding what rules we have that we really don't need. But the fundamental, where it springs from, is this idea that our job is to try to inspire people rather than supervise them. So think about it as uplifting employees, giving them inspiration and ideas — and of course they're going to make some mistakes. That's a natural part of the innovation process. Versus the other model, which is supervising them where you tightly control them. You give them very specific objectives that they're supposed to do without asking too many questions. Carlson: So there's a story in the book about the documentary "Icarus." You hired someone great, and he was at a film festival and he saw "Icarus" and thought it was amazing. Problem was, everybody else in the audience who was there to buy documentaries also thought it was amazing, so it got quickly bid up to very high levels for a documentary. And he goes to Ted Sarandos, who's now the co-CEO of Netflix, and he says, "I kinda want to buy this. It's extremely expensive." And Sarandos says, "Is it the one? It's really your call." It's not his call. And so, what is a boss supposed to do if they're not supposed to make those decisions and approve things? What do they do? What do they do all day? Hastings: Well, we call it "Context, not Control." So what they do is they spend a lot of time understanding what people are doing. And if they perceive that people are buying films that are too much based on cooking, okay, and it's like, "Geez, half of our stuff are cooking documentaries." Then they would tend to set some context. People want to watch cooking, but it's not the only thing they want to watch. Cooking documentaries are 5% of the stuff on cable television. Some things that, again, set out the principles. And what they wouldn't do is go in and kill individual projects. So it's being a teacher. And then to be a good teacher, you have to know what your people are doing. So it's not like you're just disconnected, you're intimately aware of what they're doing, but then you're trying to adjust behavior through principles — through context — which of course has the advantage is it makes people think about it and they remember it for next time. Carlson: So I'm just going to drill into one more slight tweak on that question, which is just, you know, I try to do this with people who are reporting to me: delegate and trust, and give them F&R, "Freedom and Responsibility." Sometimes it makes me feel floaty. You know like I'm like, actually, it would be more fun or I'd have a more concrete sense of what I'm supposed to be doing, but I was really in there. So how, as a leader, do you deal with that floaty feeling and knowing you're doing the right thing and that you're not some sort of extraneous person? Hastings: Many new managers over-manage. They want to really add value, and so they're really in people's shorts trying to show that they're adding value. And the trick is to have the maturity to back up, and again, you really want to know what's going on. Okay? So think of it as a high sense of knowledge of all the things that are happening in your organization, but then, you're using that to reflect on, okay, let's suppose you see three things that don't make sense. One was the cooking documentaries, and another is not taking care of talent, and some third, and then you want to step back and say, "What did I fail to set in the context such that these smart people are making these mistakes?" And then you say, "Okay, this is the context I want to shift. I want to be clearer about this principle of the importance of talent relations." And you know of course, then that helps generally. And occasionally, you don't have the right people, and so if you feel like with your people you have to individually correct typos or some extreme thing constantly, you've just got the wrong person. If they can't do it, they can't do it, and that comes back to the "Keeper Test," and this basic idea of making job performance not about, did someone fail bad enough to lose their job? That's how we typically think about it. But instead, think about it as, how hard would you work to keep them if they were leaving for another company? And you know in your head, "Oh man, these four people, I would really work hard to keep. And these other four, I'm not so sure." Carlson: So the "Keeper Test" is obviously a topic I wanted to get to. It's part of, I would venture to say, part of a broader concept of talent density is very important at Netflix. But let's go straight to the "Keeper Test," which is your competitor or someone else in the industry comes along, you have to imagine looking at your team — if someone on my team was approached by a competitor and made a nice offer and they're about to leave, would I really fight hard to keep them or would I let them go? And if you would just be happy, or relieved, or just okay with them going — hopefully I'm saying this right — you really should just get rid of them actually, and move them out of the company. Fire them, to be very blunt about it. So this, to an outsider, is probably one of the most radical things about Netflix. Where it's like, "Oh, you just can fire people who are okay to good, but maybe aren't amazing?" So let me just get right to it: Doesn't it feel awful to fire people like that? That's just the first human reaction I had. Hastings: Yup. Carlson: Okay. Hastings: Absolutely. If you're going to be the coach of the team that wins the Olympics, okay? Let's say you're in charge of the hockey team for the US, or whatever country you represent. I think you know you better have incredible players at every position or you're not going to win the championship, you're not going to win the gold medal. And you have to have the toughness of spirit to do the right things — in your judgment — to be able to win that championship. And you know we're trying to win the championship of film and television and be the most loved brand for our consumers — that we have the best content, the best service. And to do that, we have to have an Olympic caliber team. And it's super disappointing to get cut from an Olympic team — there's no question. But there's no dishonor in it. You know, the person had the guts to try to compete at an elite level. And you know that's how we model it. Of course, we give them a generous severance package. But the goal's not firing them, per se. The goal is finding someone in that role who will be a rockstar. So think of it as the opportunity cost of, what if you had someone in that role that was incredible and how much better it could make the whole team. Carlson: So, let me ask an even more specific question on the "Keeper Test" which is, Netflix operates in California. California has strict labor laws. Is it really just one day someone comes in and they're fired because the "Keeper Test" didn't work on them anymore? More plainly put, does Netflix get sued all the time for wrongful termination? People often disagree that they should have been fired. And so, how does Netflix handle that legal area? Hastings: Well, we try to never surprise anyone. It should be an ongoing dialogue. And we try to make it safe for the employees to anytime they want to ask their boss, "Hey, if I were leaving, would you work hard to keep me?" Okay? So both sides are enabled to basically not be surprised. And then, to the specific legal issue, because we give a very generous severance package, you know, we've extremely rarely been sued. So again, the severance package is the right thing, which is you know we thought this was going to work out — it didn't. You tried really hard and we honor that, and then they have time and money to find another role. Carlson: So I think we've already answered my next question, but I want to make sure. One of the big metaphors that the book uses is that you have F&R and you give your people F&R. And so you say, "Go buy that documentary, if it's the one," and the way people know what to do is they have a sense of poker chips. They're making bets on things. You walk up to the table, you have a certain amount of money, you bet on things, you hope to grow your stack. But how do you know when your stack is shrinking? How do you know when, "I'm really running out of poker chips"? How does that happen? Hastings: Well so, and to make specific your metaphor — let's say, suppose you'd made a number of bad decisions in the last year. You've generally had a good track record, but you buy four films in a row that don't work at all. Okay? Then both, you would ask your manager, "Hey, am I in the yellow zone? How — would you work less hard to keep me than you would before? I think I know what I'm doing wrong because I'm overemphasizing the cartoon nature of things, and I need to have films, to have some theory about what's going on." And ultimately the manager is making a judgment of the expectation of future performance. Okay? So if you think of athletics — which we model ourself on — if you have a bad game and the coach thinks probably all your games are going to be bad, okay, then they should swap you out to be able to win the championship. If they ... You have a bad game and they feel like that's anomalous and next year is going to be one of your best seasons, they definitely keep you. So think of the past performance is one indicator, but it's ultimately a judgment call of the leaders for each person of, "Are they the best person we can have in this role?" And if they are, even though they've had a tough year, that's fine. Carlson: And so, one more piece about firing people, which is especially around ... Well, you talk about it. One of the phrases that struck me is that you're supposed to fire people loudly, or fire them loudly. Can you explain? What does that mean? And that seems different than a lot of organizations as well. So what does it mean to fire people loudly? Hastings: Oh, I don't know that phrase. That's not a phrase we use. Look, I would fire someone respectfully. Okay? The person had the guts to try and to perform at this elite level, and we're making a judgment call. And we would explain that — because you don't want it to feel arbitrary to everybody else or it makes them nervous. So you're trying to balance being respectful of that person — not dragging them through the mud — with also making it clear to other people that it was a thoughtful decision. And, you know, we're spending a bunch of time — because this is a radical philosophy in a way — but our actual turnover rate is extremely small. You know, it's five or 6% per year. So the fact that we're able to say this when people come in means the only people who are really self-confident and really skilled come in. And ultimately there's not many people at all that are let go on an absolute basis. So it's been remarkably successful for us because it attracts people who want to work with other great players. Carlson: Unfortunately, we're running out of time. So I want to hit a few things that just are direct contradictions to what I would say conventional wisdom. One is, no performance bonuses. You know, briefly, why not? It seems like that's a good way to motivate people to do a great job. And maybe it's also a way for a company to say, "Yeah, we'll pay them if they do great, but we're not going to commit to paying this person a lot if they do a terrible job." So why not performance bonuses? Hastings: For us, the performance bonuses — you get a compensation adjustment for the next year. So if you're really great and you've done amazing work, then you'd get a raise for next year. So it forms that positive reward for great performance. And then, what we don't need to do is document all the things that the bonus might be based upon, because we want to be very flexible as a business. So once you specify the criteria — you've made so many sales calls, you've done this many write ups — it's very reductionist. So we do have a reward function. It's, you know, next year's compensation. Carlson: So the other big piece at Netflix — there's a couple others. We're going to get to this next one, which is "Candor." You know, stopping people and giving them direct feedback in the moment. And Erin Meyer, the co-author, talks about how it was very strange for her to go into Netflix and get this immediately from people. So what is the ... Netflix also has a "No Brilliant Jerks" policy. So how do you square those things up? Because it can feel like if someone's picking at you, saying things, making you cry maybe because you've got some hard feedback — I'm sure that happens. So how do you balance that? How do you get to the point where candor is productive and not just creating people all over the place who are wrapping themselves up in the idea that it's good for the company and just really criticizing people — making it feel like a terrible place. How does it happen? Hastings: So when we get feedback, it stimulates a flight or fear reaction. And what we want to do is when people give feedback, it's got to be with positive intent. It's trying to help the person do better as opposed to tear them down. Okay so that's the first part. And then the second part, on the receiver side — we say it's a little like doing crunches or doing push ups. You know that it hurts and that the hurt is producing strength. And when it hurts, just recognize it's human. It's not going to go away, but it is making you better — just like hard exercise. So on both a giver — with a positive intent — on the receiver, which is acknowledge the pain and know that it's making you stronger like exercise, through that pairing we're able to develop a highly effective communication which means that people are getting better quicker. And people love learning. They love getting better at things, and so they're willing to have some pain to be able to get better faster. Carlson: So last question is just: Is there a deeper philosophy here at work for you and beyond helping corporate culture, is this how humans should live? Is this ... Is there more to it than just, "Netflix does this?" Hastings: This is really a good set of practices for creative companies. It's not the way you should run an airline or a safety-critical business. It's not the way you should run an industrial company where you want to produce a million laptops with no variation in quality. This is really for the set of the economy that's really focused on innovation — where making mistakes is an inherent part of the process. And if you want to be highly innovative, you have to figure out how to manage that creativity. Carlson: Well, Reed, thank you so much for taking some time, and congratulations on the book. Hastings: Nich, what a pleasure, and I hope you get as much out of "No Rules Rules" as we're all hoping. This episode of "Starting Up" was produced by Sarah Wyman, Julia Press, Carl Leibowitz, Corey Protin, and Sarah Seehafer. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Epidemiologists debunk 13 coronavirus myths
More like this (3)
The chief people officer of a $40 billion software company on how hiring managers can improve the virtual interview from the initial reach out to the final round
Summary List Placement Remote hiring has been a challenge for companies across the board. Facebook's Head...Summary List Placement Remote hiring has been a challenge for companies across the board. Facebook's Head of Global Recruiting, Miranda Kalinowski, said it's challenging to keep a human element present in the recruitment process, and for candidates to get to know the company culture. Hinge CEO Justin McLeod said that the biggest challenge is in getting new hires acclimated to the company through onboarding. Joan Burke, chief people officer at the e-signature company DocuSign, has felt these challenges and more. For instance, at DocuSign, managers said they didn't want to hire new employees at all if they couldn't meet them in person. This was a problem, Burke tells Business Insider, given that DocuSign isn't set to return to the office until June 2021. So Burke needed to teach them how to shift their mindset. "Our recruiter said, 'If you don't hire them over Zoom, our competition is going to hire them over Zoom, so get used to it,'" Burke said. "That was really helpful for the managers to say, this can work, and this can be meaningful." Business Insider spoke with Burke about the two pieces of advice she gives hiring managers to help them improve the candidate experience, from the initial reach out to the final interview. Keep the number of people involved to a minimum In a normal interview setting, it's already stressful for applicants to meet with several people. But during a remote interview, it's even more challenging. That's why Burke recommends only two people be involved in the interview process: the recruiting coordinator and the hiring manager. "Just having one point person has really helped with clarity, and giving the person the best experience," she said. When DocuSign would bring people into the office to interview pre-pandemic, they would often have them meet with several individuals on one day. This is easy to coordinate in-person, but can be stressful virtually. It's important, she said, to make the process straightforward. "Make things as streamlined as possible," she said. Be understanding of small interruptions Since interviews are taking place at home, interruptions will probably happen, whether it's a baby crying or a dog barking in the background. So it's important to be understanding of these diversions and not let them take over the interview. During a recent phone call with a candidate, Burke said they were interrupted when an Amazon delivery driver rang the doorbell. The interviewee apologized and asked if they could answer the door because they needed to sign for the delivery. "In the past I might have thought, 'Well that was weird,'" she said. "But now I'm like 'Okay cool, whatever.'" Burke also said she's helping managers not be quite so rigid about things, "like if someone's kid walks in right in the middle of a conversation," she said. If a child does walk into the room during an interview, Burke said it doesn't hurt introduce yourself to the child and strike up a small conversation. It shows you're empathetic, and it's the type of courtesy you would hope to get from someone if the situation was reversed. Plus, it leaves a good impression on the candidate. "Show that humanness when you can't be in-person," she said.SEE ALSO: Most bosses think they're doing a better job leading than they actually are. Here are some ways to close the gap. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Here's what it's like to travel during the coronavirus outbreak
A startup founder who spent 100 hours interviewing millennials found 3 hangups usually keep them from being good with money
Sunny Israni, founder of personal finance app Clasp, spent over 100 hours interviewing millennials about...Sunny Israni, founder of personal finance app Clasp, spent over 100 hours interviewing millennials about their money perspectives and habits. In his interviews, he found that millennials who aren't good with money don't have a clear vision of what money means in their life. He also found that they tend to over-spend in social situations. And, when millennials fall behind their peers financially, some of them have a tendency to give up. What separated millennials who are good with money from those who aren't is mindset — they know what role money plays in their lives and have goals, have boundaries on spending, and work to improve their finances. Want to do better with your money? SmartAsset's free tool can help find a financial adviser near you » Sunny Israni wanted to know what separated the millennials who are good with money from those who aren't. So he asked them. For his new business, a personal finance app called Clasp, the tech entrepreneur and former Wall Street trader spent over 100 hours talking to millennials across the US about their money habits, attitudes, and goals to find out what made millennials good with money. "I wanted to target two different groups: people who tend to make really great decisions around their finances, and people who may not have made the best decisions," he told Business Insider. "I wanted to try to understand, 'what are the big factors that drive the quality of our financial decisions? Is it income? Is it geographic location?'" He found that what made millennials good with money wasn't either of those factors. Rather, it was how they thought about money. In his research, Israni found that three main psychological hurdles tend to keep millennials from being good with money: 1. They don't know what money means to them Israni found that nothing had a bigger impact on how millennials manage their money than their mindset. "I think about it in the terms of identity. As I was speaking to a lot of the participants, I got the sense that when people describe their financial behavior, they're really describing who they are as people," Israni said. "It's like their spending is a declaration of their identity." Millennials who are good with money tended to have a clear vision of what they want from it, and know their money goals. "I spoke to someone from the Midwest who was early in his career and really militant with savings. I got the sense that he was deriving his whole identity from financial freedom. He had crystal clarity on what money represented in his life," Israni said. "People who weren't necessarily making as sound financial decisions had this tension around what money really represented in their life." This tension tended to mean more than internal conflict for the millennials Israni spoke to — it also led to bad habits. "The people who had that tension the most tended to be the people who didn't necessarily make the best financial decisions," he said. 2. They don't set limits on social spending Israni noticed a bad habit that held millennials back: Spending too much on social situations. He also noticed that millennials who are good with money knew where to draw the line on their social spending. "When you're in social situations, people tend to spend more, and we know this. But when I looked at the people who are doing really well, I've found that almost all of those people had an understanding with their friends and their social circle around activities that made sense for them, and that were not necessarily so expensive," he said. "I got the sense from everyone that the price tag you pay to pursue a social activity almost never really correlated with the joy and happiness and the memories that come out of that." Meanwhile, the others kept spending, and weren't honest and realistic with their friends about what they could afford. "The people who weren't making sound decisions didn't talk about it with their friends," Israni said. Israni made it clear that cutting out social spending isn't the answer. Rather, it's about knowing where your boundaries lie. "Have a list of things to do that don't necessarily break the bank," Israni said. "Your friendship with someone shouldn't be expensive." 3. They adopt a 'screw it' mentality and stop trying Israni found that millennials who were financially behind didn't feel that anything could change for them. He found that eventually, they stopped trying. In his opinion, it all comes back to mindset. "After they were past a certain level of circumstances, they got into this whole 'screw it' mentality, where they just felt like they couldn't get a leg up," Israni said. "Oftentimes, it was mental. They felt so behind their peers that they just said 'screw it.'" "It's exacerbated by the current macro trends, especially around climate change and our political system," Israni said. "People are like, 'well, climate change is going to end the world anyway, so might as well live it up right now.'" For a generation that's been behind financially from the start, that's a problem. "It is very much negatively impacting financial behavior, especially for people who are already behind," he said. For these millennials, Israni said making progress comes down to thinking differently. "If their mindset isn't right, then they're not going to use any budgeting, whether that's a spreadsheet or an amazing app or even just you looking at your bank account," he said. Millennials who are good with money, he found, want to improve their circumstances, and don't let the doom and gloom stand in the way of their money goals. SmartAsset's free tool can find a financial adviser to help you get better with money » More personal finance coverage 4 reasons to open a high-yield savings account while interest rates are down It took less than 10 minutes to open a high-yield cash account with Wealthfront and earn more on my savings How to buy a house with no money down When to save money in high-yield savings Best rewards credit cards 7 reasons you may need life insurance, even if you think you don't Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: How to find water when you're stuck in the desert
3 mistakes that could be hindering your influencer marketing this holiday season, according to an influencer strategist
Jenny Beres is the cofounder and president of Pink Shark PR and Pink Shark Studios. Jenny...Jenny Beres is the cofounder and president of Pink Shark PR and Pink Shark Studios. Jenny helps her clients get rich, famous, or both by leveraging the power of influencer marketing to create engaging and exciting campaigns. Beres says that influencer marketing is often misunderstood and misused, but when used correctly it can have a big impact. There are three main things people get wrong when it comes to influencer marketing: They never actually ask for the sale, they think one post will be enough, and they don't give influencers enough direction. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more. Influencer marketing. It's the magical misfit of marketing, the supposed sales heavy-hitter that 49% of modern consumers depend on to make buying decisions, the branding unicorn that generates 8X the ROI, and yet it's the only marketing strategy where its success has been accepted as an outright mystery. We just throw products up on an influencer's platform and if it works, it works. If it doesn't, we complain and write off influencer marketing like a scorned lover. As a long-time influencer marketing and sales pioneer, this approach to influencer marketing never ceases to amaze me. Influencer marketing is the magic word of mouth strategy we all strive for, but on steroids — the steroids being the power of the entire internet. Candidly, there's been a lot of disappointment around influencer marketing. A lot of high hopes and half-baked efforts, with the results to match. And frankly, this comes from mismanaged expectations and abuse of the strategy as a whole. So why are your campaigns — complete with glossy pictures of influencers enjoying coffee under their perfectly coiffed Christmas trees — barely getting your sponsored posts any real, sales-producing engagement? As someone who has fixed more broken influencer campaigns than a plumber fixes toilets — I once took a profitable beauty company that had zero Instagram presence and no influencer sales to 1,500 influencer-generated sales in just two days after launching a campaign, leading the COO to be so overwhelmed that they begged me to please turn the campaign off — I can identify a few big areas in which marketing teams get influencer sales all wrong. It really ramps up during the holiday season, when everyone wants a piece of the ROI pie, by throwing influencer-shaped spaghetti against the wall. Followers will enjoy your pretty pictures, the influencers will enjoy the free products, and maybe their audience will click and buy at random, but why would you leave your revenue to random chance? You don't pay an influencer over $5,000 to be random. The good news? It's a much easier fix than you think. Here are the three major reasons why your influencer campaigns are tanking this holiday season, and how to save them just in time to fa-la-la-la-la out of 2019 and ring in Q1 flush with influencer-generated cash.1. You never asked for the sale If you want the sale, you have to ask for the sale. It's really that simple. Take a look at your last campaign (or the current campaign that's tanking) and locate where and how the influencer wrote copy that specifically asked for the sale. Chances are they didn't. Or if they did, it was posted carelessly on a one-and-done post. Influencers are marketers: They have influence, they have an audience, but they are not necessarily copywriters, and even fewer of them are true sales experts. This isn't necessarily a bad thing or a dealbreaker, but you do have to communicate what you want in terms of copy from your influencer. That means you have to pay attention to how your influencer writes before hiring them based on analytics alone, and you need to be willing to direct them. Guiding influencer copy does not mean that every post is a hard sell (far from it), but it does mean that you have to prepare the influencer's audience through brand awareness and then ask for the sale. It isn't much different than asking someone to marry you on a first date, and then being shocked when they say "Hell no" and call the cops. The issue is most people don't want to ask for it. We're afraid that if we ask for the sale, the audience won't respond well, or that somehow we'll break influencer marketing by simply asking our audience to buy. That is only true if you can't sell your way out of a paper bag. Go back to basics. Influencer marketing is content marketing first and foremost, and while there's room for innovation, most people forget that the same "rules" you'd apply to other forms of online selling not only apply but work even better when applied to influencer marketing. Your influencer has to ask for the sale while providing value and entertainment at the same time. If they do this, you will absolutely see an increase in sales immediately. Which means you must work with the influencer to write copy and build a content strategy that creates solid relationships between you and their audience, and — most importantly — converts them. 2. You expect miracles from one post Would you write one blog post and expect to convert a ton of leads?Would you send one email about your Black Friday Sale and expect to convert a bunch of buyers? Would you post to Facebook one time, and expect to grow your following? No, no, and no. So please tell me why you're okay with paying for one post at a time. In the 80's, we called those one-hit wonders. I don't care what the influencer's following is like. I don't care that their engagement is bananas. One post isn't going to cut it — ever. At best, you'll get ignored. At worst, you'll get ignored by the minuscule fraction of people who even saw the darn thing to begin with. Either way, it doesn't work. And you've spent a pretty penny on one post, for literally nothing. If you want your brand's name to be memorable, and if you actually want to build a relationship with the people hanging out on your influencer's platform, use your sales/marketing head. It takes going the distance. It takes more than cheaping out on just one post. You might think you're saving money "testing" out the influencer, but in actuality you're flushing cash straight down the can. When I'm working with influencers for my clients, I commit to four to seven pieces of influencer-generated content per month, and I work to get my influencers on retainer so if the first month is a success, I work with them for three, six, and 12 more months. By doing this, I have ample time to warm up their audience, get to know them, integrate a higher percentage of their audience into ours, and create content they want to engage with and buy from. Oh, and by hiring an influencer for ongoing work, I actually pay less per post because influencers appreciate the loyalty and relationship. 3. You gave the influencer no direction You heard that influencers don't like to be micromanaged? Well, they also don't love having zero clue what you want from them and being the head-honcho of your failing campaign. Call me a control freak, but I micromanage. Every influencer I've ever worked with (and I have worked with dozens of top influencers at every tier and now have a loyal influencer network) has been grateful for the help and clear expectations. Influencers like to be helped — they want you to succeed with them. What they don't like is getting bossed around by marketing managers who don't actually have a plan, or understand their audience, and are just a general ball of frustration — or don't communicate. If you want your influencer campaigns to be successful, you can't just send over a product, decide on where the post is happening, and take the laissez-faire approach — or what I call the lazy-faire approach. Give the influencer direction, set goals, set expectations, let them do what they do best, but understand that they aren't going to be the one who knows how to sell your product. You are. If you want success with the influencers you work with, you're going to have to roll up your sleeves and contribute some mental muscle. These three steps seem so simple, but are major contributors to how well your sales do this holiday season (and beyond) with influencers. Stop making excuses for why your campaigns don't work, stop being okay with mediocre results, and please stop blaming the influencers you hire. Influencer marketing will never be a strategy that you can just throw money at and hope it works out, but with the right strategy, long-term plan, loyal influencers, and killer content, the amount of sales you can leverage from influencer marketing is literally second to none. Jenny Beres is the cofounder and president of Pink Shark PR and Pink Shark Studios. An influencer outreach powerhouse, Jenny helps her clients get rich, famous, or both by leveraging the power of influencer marketing to create engaging and exciting campaigns that help talented founders, entrepreneurs, entertainers, and brands create fame, brand authority, and — of course — increased sales. Follow her on Instagram.