Founder of Bloom
Interviewed on October 28, 2017
Bloom, founded by Lindsey Martin in New York in 2016, is a media website to discover simple and approachable wellness. It curates and creates content on fitness, nutrition, beauty, and lifestyle, with the aim to motivate and inspire women on living a balanced life and becoming their best selves.
What is your background before founding Bloom?
After I graduated from college in 2009, I started working at a digital agency that specialized in affiliate marketing. Back then affiliate marketing was really different and not as popular. The people who did affiliate marketing owned tracking sources, such as email lists, or were experts at Google AdWords. Facebook was also relatively new at that time, specifically for advertising. I learned how to do Facebook digital ad buying, which was really where my career began. I worked for this company for about a year and learned as much as I could. I knew that i always wanted to work independently and have my own company, so as soon as I felt comfortable doing that, I left. I started a company doing lead generation with a few people I had met in the affiliate marketing industry. Lead generation is basically driving traffic to a landing page where people input their information to be contacted for a product or service, and then that was sold to that product or service company.
In the process of doing this, I taught myself the ins-and-outs of Facebook and learned how to grow a Facebook page really quickly without spending much money. I built pages for audience of different categories as experiments. For example, I built a Facebook page around people who liked vintage clothing and made an ad specifically targeting people who liked certain stores or other vintage pages, and it would say “click like if you like vintage”. I was able to grow that to 100,000 likes in a couple of weeks because back then everyone wanted to be a part of a page. I don’t think it will work anymore because algorithms have changed. I also made sure to keep the audience size small. The sweet spot for me was up to and around 50,000, so for that range, I could get my ads seen by tons of people and get tons of likes to a very targeted audience. The cost would end up be a fraction of a penny per like.
After spending so much time on Facebook, people started coming to me for advice on how to build their brand on social media. This was when I started consulting and helping companies learn how to be better at social media and also improve their branding. This was around the time when Instagram came out, so I started experimenting with it. No one knew what it was going to be or how important it was going to be. Timing is so funny, because as I was beginning to play around on Instagram, I read read this really interesting case study about Mike Geary who was a trainer and wrote a pdf guide called "Truth About Six Pack Abs." After he wrote the guide, he worked with affiliate marketers to sell it and gave them a cut at first. But then he was thinking if he could figure out what they were doing, he could just do it by himself, so he taught himself how to do media buying and made $1,000,000 per month from the guide. I thought to myself, "hey, I already know how to do media buying, and I know how to do the branding and marketing, so I just need to find someone with a product." So I decided I was going to find a person on Instagram who had a fitness guide and help them market it.
It was 2013, and the concept of Instagram influencers did not exist at that time, at least not mainstream. I already followed a few fitness people, so I made a list of people whom I wanted to reach out to, and one of them was Kayla Itsines. I left a comment on her Instagram and asked if she needed help with marketing, and her boyfriend wrote back and asked me to email him. We emailed back and forth, and we decided I would help them with media buying. This began with me building out a landing page and creating ads that would sell the two products Kayla had. For each one I sold, I got a cut of the sale. It was pretty straight forward. As time progressed, they kept asking me to help with more, which required me to put other clients on hold.
When we first started working together, Kayla was not the behemoth that she is today. She was actually quite small in terms of following on social media, which was the exact opportunity that I saw with her. But there was a ton of work to do. I started with her website and digital products, making everything look much more modern with design and imagery, as well as messaging. I changed the pricing of the products and decided to bundle the guides, which nearly tripled the sales she was doing previously. I built out all of her marketing channels which included: 1) A blog. I wrote all the content for this which was really fun. I had never written much about health and wellness, so it was interesting to research and build this from scratch. 2) An email marketing program. I built out her entire email list and automation funnel as well as newsletters. I created a page on the website that encouraged people to sign up to get a free 7-day trial, which had a huge impact on building out the email list quickly. 3) Instagram following. I helped grow her page by building an internal network of Instagram accounts where I negotiated rates with accounts I wanted to promote Kayla and her products. This was really a precursor for Instagram advertising, which is funny to think about today. 4) Media Buying. Luckily Kayla understood the needs of growing a business and was happy to reinvest money earned back in. This allowed me to scale up our marketing budget drastically each month and really reach a wide audience through Google AdWords and Facebook advertising. It’s really the reason why she grew as fast as she did. Online advertising is the most effective way to grow your business.
We worked together for three years and I wouldn’t change anything about it. We ultimately parted ways due to the team growth in-house at their office in Australia, and me being the only person located in the United States. I was managing the entire marketing department, and it didn’t’ make sense to do this remotely any longer. They were very interested in me moving to Australia to help build a marketing team, but I felt I had reached a point where I was ready for my next journey.
While I was working with Kayla and helped her build her presence, I became more passionate about fitness and wellness. At the same time, I was doing similar things on Instagram like what I did for Facebook, such as building themed pages around nutrition and workouts just for fun. After I ventured out on my own, I saw there was a gap in the market for simple approachable health and wellness, so I decided to create a place to find it. That's when I created Bloom.
How did you come up with the name and the concept of Bloom?
I want a name that embodies evolving into what you have always meant to be and are already capable of. Wellness and health are everyday practices and something you are continuously working on to become a better version of yourself. It’s not about transformation. It’s about natural life cycling.
How did you brand Bloom and differentiate it from other wellness websites?
I actually looked at all of them and asked how we could stand out. In terms of the colors and design, a lot of wellness websites are white, so I want Bloom to be fun and vibrant. We have highlights and little icons on the website. People often think wellness in general is very serious, so I want to build this mindset around Bloom that wellness is about living healthy and happy. I also wanted to incorporate things that aren't traditionally "health" but in my opinion directly affect our health, such as relationships with our loved ones, travel, money, etc.
How did you build out the everything?
We started with social media and the different pages I had built out over the past year. That turned into creating an email newsletter with a signup page on our website. I started the newsletters by sourcing really interesting content and sending them out once a week, and then eventually twice a week. I was used to building lists and was able to get us to a list of 3000 emails within a few months. We’ve grown to a much larger number now, which is really exciting. Our next step is creating original content on the website.
When you first started, you had to do everything by yourself. What were the first steps you did? What was your main focus?
I made sure to have a good logo and web design. It was also about the functionality. For example, when someone signed up for emails, they needed to immediately receive an email from us, so I made sure that was ready to go. I actively looked at the data and saw how people were responding to them. My main focus was emails and Instagram and how I could grow this brand and get as much awareness as possible. I also emailed brands that would be complementary to Bloom to see if they would be interested in doing cross-promotion or at the very least meeting for a cup of coffee.
How do you generate revenues through Bloom?
We do brand partnerships and event activations. The goal is to bring people together and create a community, which may lead to something like a membership model. A lot of brands want not just digital representation but also in person activation.
How did you get brand partnerships?
I just reached out and figured out. I think it’s about knowing what they want and are looking for from me, and crafting my pitch around that. For example, I once created and sold a box of 11 wellness products. We didn’t have money to buy the products, so I asked companies to donate them in return for exposure on social media and email, plus influencers we were gifting to. I had no idea what their reaction would be, but it really worked out!
How do you know how much to charge other companies for brand partnerships?
It always changes. A lot of times people ask for a proposal, and we can go from there.
What are some of the analytical tools that you use?
I use MailChimp, Google Analytics, Facebook Ads Manager, and Keyhole for Instagram. I’m not trying to get crazy. There are too many tools out there, and those are good enough for now.
BUILDING THE TEAM
You specialize in marketing. How did you manage to get the creative works done for Bloom?
I outsource freelancers including a graphic designer in London and a web developer in Germany. I found them through some friends in the tech entrepreneurship space, who recommended them highly. I also use Canva a lot. It’s a web tool so you don’t need to use Photoshop, and it’s really useful to create assets. I’ve managed to build a small yet effective team, and really learned that it is better to outsource the things I’m not great at and don’t get excited about, to the people who are much more capable than I am!
Who was the first person you hired and how did you find that person?
The first person I hired was for social media. I needed someone who really understood it – not just how to post good pictures, but also analytics and growth strategies. I put up a job posting, and I’m sure you can imagine how many applicants I got for a social media assistant. As a way to filter this, I sent qualified candidates an application to fill out. The application was super detailed with many scenario questions and asked them how much they knew about different topics. I was lucky to find a girl who was exactly the person I was looking for, who was able to help with things other than just social media. She was also very hungry to learn from me, so I taught her all I knew, and she has developed so much since she joined. She’s still working with me today.
How big is your team now and are you looking to grow?
Right now the team is me, the first girl I hired who is now the Marketing Manager, a woman who heads up partnerships, an editor who coordinates all of our contributors, two women who work on events, as well as a few volunteers. We are looking to grow our contributor and volunteer efforts.
Where do you work out of? Do you have an office?
I did have an office for awhile, but we didn't really need it. Now I use Spacious for office space which is perfect.
What strategies did you use to grow your Instagram followers?
There are two things. One is posting viral content. The Bloom Instagram is kind of like Fuck Jerry for wellness. We post curated content that is proven to become viral. Another thing is Instagram pods. It’s different now because the algorithms have changed, but two years ago, I would look for pages who had similar followings and make a group. We would then all post around the same time and like each other’s content after we posted, so we could all get more traction.
What is your advice on working with Instagram influencers and figuring out their rates?
It varies on a case by case basis. You need to make sure you know what you want and that your business is aligned with who they are and their audience. It’s becoming an oversaturated market, so you wouldn’t want to work with influencers who don’t know what they are doing. To figure out their rates, you can look at their previous campaigns and sales and estimate the next.
How did you generate press?
I reached out to a lot of press and some found us. Whenever I reach out to people, I never just ask them to write about Bloom. I always ask how I can help them and how we can work together, so it’s more of a collaboration vs an ask. We also did partnerships with a few magazines and blogs. For example, we partnered with Well+Good and do content and email swaps.
I tried and failed and sometimes succeeded. That’s really the best way to learn and continue evolving.
When I first started, I was excited and wanted to move fast. I would compare Bloom to companies that had been around for years, so I would sometimes become frustrated when I continued to do the same thing but didn’t see the result that I wanted. It can be hard to get out of that mindset, but I learned to be patient and have faith in the process.
I tried to do too many things at once, which took my focus off of the big picture. I come up with ideas all the time, but until I can have a team of people, I know I need to be disciplined and stay focused. Another challenge is motivation and perseverance. Finding that every single day not only for myself but for my team can sometimes be a challenge. What has really helped me is to surround myself with other women in the same position working on their passions. It helps to have a support network.
You have to stay passionate. Do something that’s fulfilling for you. Follow things that make you excited. Don’t give up when it gets hard, because that usually means you’re at the point where you’re about to have a breakthrough.