PPE Provider Thrives on Influencers (and Hollywood)

Roman Zrazhevskiy’s company, Mira Safety, sells protective gas masks. It launched in 2018, targeting consumers, medical providers, law enforcement, and military personnel. The masks protect against tear gas, chemicals, and, yes, viruses. Still, reaching prospects was a challenge.

“We did a lot of influencer affiliate marketing,” Zrazhevskiy told me. “We reached out to industry experts and said, ‘We’d love for you to check out our product and write an unbiased review.’”

Fast forward to 2021, and Mira Safety has thrived. Covid-19 created unprecedented demand. But Zrazhevskiy’s influencer marketing program spread the word. A Hollywood movie added even more exposure.

He and I recently discussed his journey. Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript that follows is edited for length and clarity.

Eric Bandholz: I’m guessing 2020 and 2021 were good for Mira Safety.

Roman Zrazhevskiy: Yes, we had incredible years.

Bandholz: How did people find you?

Zrazhevskiy: It was one step at a time. We started selling on Amazon. We funneled the money we made on Amazon to build a robust website. And we did a lot of influencer affiliate marketing. We reached out to industry experts and said, “We’d love for you to check out our product and write an unbiased review, whatever you feel about the product.” We’re very confident. We stand behind everything we sell.

The most important thing is to have a superior product, know the market, and what else is out there. All of the influencers that received it were like, “Wow, this is great.” We manufacture at a defense contractor, which has been making similar products since the 1920s or so.

Bandholz: How does influencer marketing work for personal protective equipment?

Zrazhevskiy: I went through a process called research hacking, where I would put myself in the shoes of someone researching this product niche, looking for a product like this, and see who’s talking about products like this and who the major players are.

For gas masks, I would search on Google for “best gas masks,” “gas masks for children” — all these keyword variations. I would list on a spreadsheet all of the blogs I found. Then I would personally reach out to each one. I would describe our product and invite them to join our affiliate program.

It’s essential to be transparent. Give them the resources they need to write good content, including quality images and technical specs. Send them a product. We give them access to our affiliate dealer folder that has product-by-product info, 360-degree photos, everything.

Influencer outreach has a cascading effect. When a few big guys feature you, others want to. Now we’re getting cool people reaching out to us, saying, “I love your brand. I love what you guys are doing. I think my audience would be receptive to this. They would love to learn about it. Could you send me something, and I’ll create some content?”

Bandholz: Do you have requirements, such as a minimum number of followers or domain rank?

Zrazhevskiy: Yes. Twenty thousand followers per channel, with engagement. We’re looking for someone strong in at least one channel. It’s rare to be strong in all channels. Our deciding factor is whether they create quality content. We’ll use some of that content and chop it up into ads later on. No one’s ever had a problem with it.

For example, I might take their video and divide it into mini segments of ads on Facebook. It’s been successful for us. We don’t have to produce the content ourselves.

With advertising, you have to keep creating fresh content. If you stop, your ads die. Then Facebook sees that engagement is going down, and they penalize you because they assume the ad is no longer relevant to the audience.

Creating content takes someone working full-time. Targeting is easy. What’s hard is producing the creatives.

Bandholz: Back to the influencers. You’re reaching out one by one. What are your goals?

Zrazhevskiy: I’ll decide each day what to work on. I’ll wake up and decide, for example, to focus on influencer stuff. I’ll do a full day of influencer sprints — research, outreach, sending out a bunch of emails.

I’ll create a series of templates. I customize those templates. And I start reaching out through email. I keep a pipeline of these influencers in HubSpot as a deal. That way I know who I reached out to. I take notes if they respond. My goal is to move it from outreach sent to products sent to review posted.

We work with an influencer agency for the big guys. They have gatekeepers, handlers. With the big guys, you have to pay for videos, and they create the content. There’s no guarantee of performance.

Bandholz: How many of those emails do you send each day?

Zrazhevskiy: Around 20 to 30. It’s all about quality, not quantity. You don’t want to blast through, make mistakes, and write something that’s impersonal or doesn’t read well.

I’m a student of neuro-linguistic programming. I write things in a certain way, and then I test it by the response. I try to craft my messages to entice a reply.

Bandholz: What subject lines get the most response?

Zrazhevskiy: One of my big ones is “Product review with 15% commissions.” I’m telling the influencer what I want and the commission percentage.

Sometimes I negotiate the percentages, but typically it’s 10% to 15%. People who we really want we’ll offer 15%. But roughly 95% of influencers get a 10% commission.

Bandholz: What affiliate software do you recommend?

Zrazhevskiy: For anything outdoor — camping, hiking, fitness — I would go with AvantLink. It’s an affiliate network. AvantLink has tracking technology. They show click rates, earnings per click, everything. They make 3% on every sale.

Some affiliate networks take more, some less. But the most important factor is finding a network that’s strong in your niche. For my niche, it’s AvantLink.

Bandholz: How often do you pay the commissions?

Zrazhevskiy: Every month. AvantLink takes their cut and pays the influencers.

I intended to mention another benefit of affiliate marketing beyond immediate sales. It’s a form of social proof. I put affiliate videos on my product pages.

I give visitors all the research they need on those pages right there and then. I provide them with a Q and A section, which goes deep into common questions. I give them my Instagram feed, which has the product on Instagram in use by customers. I include 360-degree spins. Most importantly, I include my YouTube feed. Some of our product pages have 15 videos from influencers. And, also, I include user-generated reviews.

That strategy has worked for us. We provide so much information that somebody could spend hours on that product page without having to look elsewhere.

Bandholz: Can we talk about your Hollywood win?

Zrazhevskiy: Sure. In May 2019, I received a voicemail from Warner Brothers. I first thought it was a scam. But I called back. I spoke to a lady, a product placement specialist with Warner Brothers. She said they were working on a new film by Christopher Nolan, the director of “Inception.”

She called the new movie “Merry Go Round.” That was the working title. She said Chris likes our mask.

Then we negotiated. It’s imperative to negotiate terms before sending anything, even if it’s an exciting opportunity, especially in Hollywood. You have to have everything in writing. We negotiated the credits. They initially didn’t want to include us in the credits. We insisted on it. We sent them around 300 masks and filters. That’s a lot considering each one retails for $250. But it was a dream come true, a once-in-a-lifetime thing. So we sent them the products. The movie released in 2020. It’s science fiction, called “Tenet.”

Bandholz: It’s such a cool movie.

Zrazhevskiy: For sure. A 10-minute section in the movie featured 300 people in a battle scene wearing our masks. It was shown to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

Bandholz: The whole premise of the movie was wearing those masks.

Zrazhevskiy: Yes, exactly. It’s a blessing. I feel it was God who shaped that whole opportunity. It was such a humbling, exciting experience. It’s incredible. Since then, we have had three to four other movies, major blockbusters, which will feature our masks.

Bandholz: How can listeners learn more about you and your company and reach out?

Zrazhevskiy: Our website is MiraSafety.com. We’re on Instagram @MIRASafety or #MIRASafety. I’m on LinkedIn.

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