The Partnership-Building Strategy That Positioned Eight Sleep as a Market Leader


Alexandra Zatarain, Co-founder and Vice President of Brand and Marketing at Eight Sleep

In this episode of the Minds of Ecommerce Podcast, join Raphael Paulin-Daigle as he chats with the Co-founder and VP of Brand and Marketing at Eight Sleep, Alexandra Zatarain. They delve into the nuances of effective influencer marketing through authentic storytelling and partnership building. Alexandra shares the inspiration and technology behind Eight Sleep’s Pod and how the company scales its revenue by collaborating with high performers and influencers in various fields.

Apple Podcasts

Alexandra Zatarain is the Co-founder and Vice President of Brand and Marketing at Eight Sleep, a sleep fitness company specializing in smart mattresses and mattress covers that heat and cool to regulate body temperature. Before launching the San Francisco-based startup, Alexandra worked in public relations in New York City. At Eight Sleep, she leads the company’s brand marketing strategies and partnerships with health-conscious technologists and elite athletes such as Lewis Hamilton and Justin Medeiros.

In 2017, Alexandra was included in the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Consumer Technology list, and in 2020, Inc. recognized her as one of the Top 100 Female Founders. Alexandra is also an angel investor in female-founded companies as a scout for Cleo Capital and an Advisor at The NORTH by Female Founder Collective. She is passionate about end-to-end funnel management including paid acquisition on digital and offline channels, CRM, affiliate and partnerships, and ecommerce optimization.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Alexandra Zatarain shares the inspiration and technology behind Eight Sleep’s Pod
  • Why does authentic storytelling matter in influencer marketing?
  • How understanding the audience's aspirations makes for effective product marketing
  • How does Eight Sleep connect its brand with high performers in various fields?
  • Should you prioritize long-term brand awareness over short-term revenue goals?
  • Case study: Eight Sleep’s collaboration with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One
  • Alexandra emphasizes the importance of data and sharing ideas with the team

In this episode…

According to the Association of National Advertisers, 75% of businesses use influencer marketing as part of their online strategy. However, only 36% of marketers are satisfied with the ROI on brand partnerships, while 19% find it unprofitable — an underwhelming success rate. How can brands build effective influencer marketing campaigns?

Effective brand partnership entails more than understanding the demographics of your target audience or getting brand mentions. Having spearheaded some of the most notable influencer partnerships in online mattress sales, marketing expert Alexandra Zatarain advocates authenticity, relationship building, and respect for the audience as crucial aspects of brand partnership. The foundation of an impactful brand awareness project entails melding genuineness, transparency, and relatability in brand storytelling. This foundation cultivates relationships with prospects and converts them into buyers. Alexandra reveals the relationship-building strategies that scaled her company’s revenue to an over $500 million valuation.

In this episode of the Minds of Ecommerce Podcast, join Raphael Paulin-Daigle as he chats with the Co-founder and VP of Brand and Marketing at Eight Sleep, Alexandra Zatarain. They delve into the nuances of effective influencer marketing through authentic storytelling and relationship building. Alexandra shares the inspiration and technology behind Eight Sleep’s Pod and how the company scales its revenue by collaborating with high performers and influencers in various fields.        

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by SplitBase.

At SplitBase, we design, test, and manage high-converting landing pages and on-site experiences for fashion, luxury, and lifestyle e-commerce brands. Our optimization program pinpoints exactly where your store is losing money most, and then we help you fix that.

The result? Increased conversions and profits for our clients.

With our team of conversion optimization specialists, performance marketers, and conversion-focused designers, we've got your back when it comes to testing and optimization.

Request a proposal on SplitBase.com today, and learn how we can help you get the most out of your marketing spend.

You can find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Don’t miss out on our exclusive podcasts at Mind of Ecommerce.

Episode Transcript

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  0:06

Welcome to the Minds of EcommercePodcast, where you'll learn one key strategy that made leading ecommerce companies grow exponentially. We cut the bullshit and keep the meat in a 15-minute episode, founders and executives take us through a deep dive of a strategy so you'll get to learn and grow your online sales. today on episode number 28. Get ready. Alexandra Zatarain is the VP of Brand and Marketing at Eight Sleep. Eight Sleep is the world's first sleep fitness brand selling temperature-regulating and biometric-tracking mattresses. I have one I gotta say I love it. And they've also had some pretty amazing growth in the past few years. It's also fair to say that a lot of that growth comes from their partnership strategy. And that means partnerships with athletes, and entrepreneurs in brands like Barry's Fitness and even F1. Now, today, Alexandra takes us behind the scenes opening up the curtains revealing their partnership playbook, explaining how they pick which brands to partner with, how to track success, and also some top mistakes to avoid. I'm your host Raphael Paulin-Daigle, and I'm the founder of SplitBase. This is Minds of Ecommerce. Now this episode is brought to you by SplitBase. At SplitBase, we help leading direct consumer brands such as Dr. Squatch with AB test, design, build, and manage high-converting landing pages and on-site experiences. Our optimization program pinpoints exactly where your store is losing money most. And then we help you fix it. The result, increased conversions, and of course, improved marketing efficiency with our team of conversion optimization specialists, performance marketers, and conversion-focused designers. We've got your back when it comes to testing and optimization. Request a proposal on splitbase.com today and learn how we can help you get the most out of your marketing spend. Right today, we've got Alexandra Zatarain of Eight Sleep who's joining us, Alexandra, welcome to the show.

Alexandra Zatarain  2:17  

Thank you for having me.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  2:18

I'm super excited to have you here. Because I'm a customer of Eight Sleep. I love the product. And I've actually been meaning to have you on the show for a little while. So thanks for being here. And I know today we're gonna focus on partnerships, because that's been pretty successful for eight sleep. And you have I think I see on Twitter almost every day you have some pretty killer partnerships and athletes and brands that you've partnered with some hotels in the past, I believe as well. So tell us a bit more first before we dive into partnerships tell us a bit more about eat sleep, like what type of success have you had so far? And for how long? Have you been co-founder and VP of brand and marketing?

Alexandra Zatarain 3:02

Yeah, of course. So Eight Sleep is a health and wellness company focused on sleep fitness, we believe that technology can help people sleep better. And so that's what we do, we build innovative tech-driven products that unlock the best night of sleep for every individual every single night. So as you mentioned, we have a lot of fantastic people who sleep on our most popular product is the pod. And that's a technology that has been clinically proven to improve sleep from giving you more deep sleep better recovery higher HRV when you wake up, etc. So that's why people love it. And it did take a long time to get to that point. So the plan has been in market for over four years, but the company's been around for 10 years. So it's been 10 years that I've been the co-founder that we started this journey and that we set out to innovate all the way from the product to the brand and how we distributed.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  3:50

That's amazing. It's crazy, because, you know, that's the thing. I think most people probably have only seen the past four years, which is when you guys have exploded. But to know that you've been working on that product for 10 is even more amazing. And it shows that you need that determination. Now obviously, as you know, Aleksandra, this podcast is all about dissecting one key marketing strategy that was key to the growth of your company. And you mentioned partnership being something crucial to aid sleep. And you've mentioned before we started recording that now it's your biggest acquisition channel. So tell us a bit more about how do you see and how do you define partnerships as a marketing strategy for easily

Alexandra Zatarain 4:31

Partnerships for us is this sort of framework or approach that we have to what many would consider separate channels, so that encompasses podcasts and audio partnerships, content creator partnerships, whether they are on YouTube or Instagram, Tik Tok, whatever platform they're on, and then also our partnerships with athletes and with other brands? So it's it's big and we have several members of the team that are focused in these areas. And the reason why they have become so important. Our what we believe is the reason behind this success is because our product is actually new, it's a new category, it's not something you go sort of searching round, you don't have any comparison to it. And so it needs a lot of education. It also requires building trust, because it is an expensive product, right? It's not something some an impulse purchase, and we have an AO V of over $2,000, almost $2,500. So then you can think of well, who can we use? Or what can we leverage to tell this story to educate and to convince people that this is a product worth buying. And that's where partnerships really came about. And actually, our friend, Nick Sharma is someone who I remember talking to about this some years ago now. And he said, sort of to think about it as the secondary voices for the brand. And that's how we've really adapted to this environment of friendships, that wasn't really a channel for us, probably up until like two and a half, three years ago. And that's when we started going all in and seeing good results.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  5:59  

And one thing I noticed with the way you approach partnership is that you're not just you know, paying influencers, and then they're posting about you guys, it goes deeper than that. Just to make sure that people were listening, you know, I understand how you guys are in partnership. Can you walk us through what is a typical partnership for you just so people realize, you're not just paying influencers, to post Instagram posts that disappears two hours later. It's pretty complex. And I think it'd be interesting for people to know about it.

Alexandra Zatarain 6:28  

Yeah. And I think the complexity comes from the fact that we are building this brand for the long term. And you know, no disrespect to anyone who's just wanting to leverage the hype of a certain product or commodity. We've obviously, like we were talking about, we've put a lot of years into developing this technology. And we want to continue to put a lot of years into developing the next generations of our product, a pod and other future products. And so that means that this is a brand that wants to be around 100 years from now, right? We think Tesla, we think Apple, we think Nike. And so that means that how we go about in partnership starts from the point of authenticity. And I think a great example to put here is when we started our very first foray into podcast advertising. And we started working with Tim Ferriss, I don't maybe he's like, the first big podcaster, we started working with, like maybe two and a half, I think it's gonna be three years ago now. And the way that that happened is, well, why don't you want to work? Once you work with people who have that audience and have that consideration for who they select to work with, it needs to be authentic, they're not going to endorse products that they don't actually love and that their community doesn't respect. And that was really eye-opening. For us, it taught us how to approach the space, because it took first over a year to just convince him to try it. And then from there, your product needs to do the selling, right, the person you're working with, whether it's Tim or anyone else needs to love it. And then they need to decide to actually take you on as an advertiser. And a lot of these individuals or maybe these brands you may partner with know their audience, and they also want to build their brands for the long term. And so those are the right partners for us and ate sleep. And then it becomes a marriage right at that point, you're like, Well, we both want to be in it together, we both understand and respect each other's audiences or products or brands. And we want to build this partnership long term. And that's how we've approached every single one after that, whether it is an athlete or a guest at a brand or just a content creator on YouTube, we never think short term. We have definitely done that in the past. So we've made those mistakes. But when we flipped that and started thinking long term and authentic storytelling, it started paying off.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  8:39  

What are some other examples of partnerships you've done? Obviously, podcast, definitely big presence there anything else worth mentioning?

Alexandra Zatarain 8:49  

Yeah, something that may be very different. And that I know a lot of companies sort of hesitate to maybe enter into which are partnerships that are much more focused on brand awareness. So last year, we began our partnership with the Mercedes f1 team, so the Formula One team, and that was sort of like a big risk. And it also came from the point of first authenticity, their team reaching out and saying, Hey, we love the product, we think this product can really be embedded further into the story that we tell about the team and how we are enhancing the performance of not just the drivers, but everyone back at the factory, etc. So we thought, well, this is great, like, as long as we can tell an authentic story. We can consider this but it is very different than measuring podcast advertising, right. Like, even though podcasts is still not like measuring paid social, there are methods and ways in which you can create some sort of formula to measure the impact it's having on revenue, versus when you go and do some sort of endorsement deal. It's much higher up in the funnel. And a lot of companies including US hesitate, and it may be seen as very expensive and you don't really know what's doing for the company. But we went for it anyway. So why because we believed what the story that it could tell about our brand was still very relevant to the story we wanted to tell about ourselves. And that it could catapult us to another level of brand perception. And it can continue to build credibility. And so that as long as it's aligned on that strategy, right from the brand storytelling, it's important. And second to that we also define certain deliverables where we said, well, what would make us happy, what will be considered success with this partnership, it's not just about flopping our name next to them and posting a bunch of content and hoping that it lifts all boats, we said, well, we would want to have the drivers sleeping on it, and the drivers loving it, right? Like that was really key for us. So it means that we need to make certain investments. We know, when George Russell won the Brazil race last year, he was actually sleeping on a pod during the race weekend, that men's means we flew someone from our team to Brazil to install the pod at his hotel room, you know, so there's a bigger commitment in order to continue to tell those stories. So we knew that we wanted certain press stories to come out of this partnership as well, certain number of emails or number of athletes, right? So you try to quantify it. And it's still a partnership, it just looks very different than something that's maybe more media based or easier to track like affiliate,

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  11:03  

I love that your dedication to that channel and how you do partnerships is without a doubt the reason why you have been so successful at it, because I can think of so many brands that call a partnership, you know, just slapping their logo next to another logo. Or as you guys built an entire story like that F1 campaign is textbook in the sense that the as you said, you've got the drivers sleeping on it, it's just beyond eight sleep and F1 it the entire story is being told by that, and I'm sure you can really reutilize all that content in so so so many ways as well. Um, no, I think that's, that's fascinating. And I'm sure that a lot of people listening are getting ideas of maybe what they could do. But the truth is, I'm sure there's more options and more ideas than anyone could ever pursue as a brand. So how do you go about picking? Which partnerships to go with? You've talked about influencers and actual people like Tim Ferriss, and then there's F1. And those bigger brands? How do you decide who to partner with, especially when there are so many options?

Alexandra Zatarain  12:09

Yeah, is that is that maybe the hardest question and the ongoing one, as you continue to grow and partnerships, you're asking yourself that question all the time. So the way we think about it is one, just you need to really understand who you're building your product for and who you're trying to market it to. Not just from the specific metrics of Well, here's my demographic sees where they live, here's how much money they make, but even just from like a aspirational point of view and lifestyle, and like, what's the message that you're trying to send as a brand, these two need to come together? And so it's, it's again, it's not just saying, well, it's men or women in this age bracket, it's just who are they trying to be? Who do they aspire to be? Who do we want them to connect our brand to? Right? And so we marry these two. And so for us, we think about high performers, that is our aspirational figure. So then we think, Well, who are high performers, there's obviously athletes, but there's also entrepreneurs, you know, there was recently a few months ago, Mark Zuckerberg posting on threads that he uses the pod and loves it. And so that is what we're pursuing is who are the top performance in whatever their field is artists, content creators, athletes, entrepreneurs, and those are already the first filter for us, there's already like the right fit, right? And there's a lot of them. So then that's the beauty. There's many, many, many of them. And then we go for Okay, outside of that sort of aspirational figure, what are the different segments of consumers that we are right now trying to acquire customers from, and even though everyone in the world sleeps we have very clearly defined who are which are the segments that we're really trying to speak to, in our case, anything tech and productivity is a really high affinity. So then that's where you think of people like Tim Ferriss or Marcus Brownlee or iJustine, right, we work with many of them. Or then you go more into the space of like performance for athletics. So then our athletes fit in there, or, you know, we did partnership with two times CrossFit champion, Justin maderos. And so like, then they all fit in their high performers in their field. And then the last one is more health and wellness. And so then you think content creators like Sammy Clark. And so then we know who our customer is, we know what segments we're trying to speak to we surround those segments, not only through partnerships, but through our other channels, we make sure our brand is speaking to them. And so then it all sort of comes together. It's not just the partnerships rolling in one direction. It's all based on that fundamental core strategy that the company has right now. And it will evolve as the company keeps growing, of course, and goes to most more mass market.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  14:34  

Amazing. So to sum it up, one you need to research your customers and understand who they're influenced by what are their needs? What are their aspirations. After that you build a list of who they could be influenced by, who do they listen to? Who do they relate to? And then I think the third and this is probably the number one reason you've been so successful as well as you before partnering you really make sure that you have a strategy in this story to tell with that partner, you make sure that it fits with your current company objectives, your goals where you're trying to go. And it's not just Partnering for the sake of having your logo visible by more people,

Alexandra Zatarain 15:12  

correct? Yes, I think it's a great summary.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  15:15  

Now, you've sort of touched base on this. But how do you measure success?

Alexandra Zatarain  15:20  

Well, obviously, revenue is the ultimate success metric for any companies. So we need to make sure that our revenue and our cap that which is our opposite metric that we manage everything against is all working well and on track, but it is ultimately a portfolio. So every channel may have a little bit of a difference in terms of the CAC expectations that you have also different ways of measuring it. But we look at all of those numbers. And we even go deeper and sort of look at well, what is the amount of traffic that every one of these partnerships is driving, you know, we have that tracker, and we see every single partnership, particularly those that are easier to measure, say like a podcast, country theater affiliates, all of those, the traffic, the quality of traffic, the cost per email, capture the conversion rate, once they get into your email list, right. So it's all about these partnerships are going to build your funnel. And they also should be converting in a healthy way if they are the right partners. And for anything that's more brand driven, we actually run once a year a brand tracker, and we sort of measure with 1000 external people that don't own our products and 1000 people from our list of customers, just we see how we are measuring up against ourselves and against competitors in terms of awareness, but also other brand metrics, we may want to be known for, like, you know, products being high quality products, helping you sleep better. And we see what type of penetration we've made for people practicing certain sports or living certain lifestyles to see, you know, if we did an effort partnership, are we actually seeing more f1 people being aware of eat sleep after a year? Yeah.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  16:51  

And I think that's a good thing that you mentioned about brand being measured differently. Because I know a lot of people, you know, has they've grown their business through Facebook ads, or Google ads. And you're very used to having metrics for every single action that happens around that. Whereas when it comes to you guys and building partnerships that, you know, are more brand-driven? Well, obviously, you don't have that level of measurement, nor should you expect to have that level of measurement. Correct?

Alexandra Zatarain 17:20

Correct, you don't have the same but you need to find a way to measure it. And I think that's where it varies company to company. And the other big thing as well as that you need to consider it as a cost. So you can't fool yourself as a business owner and say, Well, this is a brand new investment, it doesn't hit my CAC, no, you need to consider as part of your CAC, you need to make sure that all of those investments can still hit your CAC, and they'll still run a healthy business if you decide to invest the money that way.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  17:43  

Very good point. Now, if you were to start this, you know, partnerships all over again, what would you do differently? And what are some of the mistakes that you wish you would have avoided along the way? Yeah, I

Alexandra Zatarain 17:55  

think some of the mistakes go more in partnering with people that maybe didn't really authentically like the product. And, and so maybe, you know, this, I think happens to every brand, where you get a lot of people reaching out, or managers reaching out and they just know what to do, Something's just not authentic, and you push it and you think, Oh, they think they're big, and maybe something's gonna work out. It just it needs to, in order to be authentic, you need to be able to have a direct conversation with these individuals and really hear from them and, and see their love and hear their love for whatever you're building. So that is one second is thinking that money is what's going to solve everything, like the more expensive they are must be because they're going to drive more results. It's not true, you need to understand which creators or which podcasters are which brands have audiences and communities that really respond well to their messages, or your types of products. And so that is the part that's also tricky, right? They may work really well for a another brand and health that sell something very different. That doesn't mean it's always going to translate to you. So you need to go sometimes insured with the mindset of testing, instead of expecting it to work out of the gate. And I think that was not necessarily how we approached it many times in the past. And now we do so then you build the cadence of your testing and your budgets and your CAC expectations in that way. Because you know that maybe it's going to take 30 days before you see any good results. And the last one is just to also follow a little bit your gut. We're all as marketers nowadays used to just trying to use the data and like, you know, try to get all the data as possible to make decisions. But especially as a founder, the more time you spend building your business and talking to your customers and understanding why people buy your product, you're going to build up that sixth sense, you're going to start understanding what's the right fit for you. And you need to be the one steering the brand story in the right direction, because again, it's gonna take 100 years, right. So if we want to be here under years from now, we don't want to take shortcuts. We want to make sure we are partnering with the right people. And we are telling the right stories and that we're not diluting our message just trying to pursue those short term results and that comes a little bit more as an art form than a science

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  20:00

Super key. And I think at the end of the day, you have to be ready to accept that you'll fail at times not everything is gonna work. Some partnerships are gonna be losses, but it's through learning and experimenting that you refine the strategy. And over time, you'll get there. And there's actually one thing I noticed with almost everyone I've interviewed on this podcast, I think this is now Episode 28, or 29. And the one thing I noticed is that every single brand that's been super, super successful with one channel, it's that they've persisted, they failed. But instead of just switching to the next tactic right away, they've just kept going at it and tried getting smarter and smarter and smarter with it. And it sounds like that's also been the recipe for you guys.

Alexandra Zatarain 20:45  

Yes, definitely has. So I would agree with that. And it comes from a little bit of that gut instinct of saying, well, it makes logical sense that these channels should work for us. Yeah. Right. And so let's pursue it. And let's stick to it. And let's refine our methods. And it should work.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  21:01

Amazing. We've got a couple of minutes left, I'd love to know, you know, is there any tools or software or services that you've used that helped you with this, that you find particularly helpful?

Alexandra Zatarain  21:14  

Yeah, I think in general, for us, one channel that's been really helpful, just gonna start really funny, but it's Twitter. Why? Because twitter and reddit too, has become pretty key, they help us stay in touch with their community, and what people are saying about us, and ultimately, that drives understanding of the customer, or the potential customer, which then makes you take certain decisions in terms of what partnerships are working, which partnerships could work for us what messages are resonating, right. So any tool that's going to help you stay connected to your customer, or potential customer number one up in the list for me, and it should be for every marketer. The other tools for us or anything data, right, we talked about also that importance of data. And so all the systems that our data team has built, like Looker is such a great tool for us because we are bringing together data from different sources and building these dashboards that then you know, I don't even have to go into a graduate get a dashboard in Slack and sort of see how the business is doing, see how different channels start performing. So that has been a great investment for us. And then one personal favorite, I just love I love to see what's working for other brands, or what maybe working for other brands reference are doing. So you know, from like Facebook ads library like SimilarWeb, to know sem rush, just anything like that, it's just very helpful to be able to get some ideas and maybe get thoughts on oh, maybe this partner that seems to be driving traffic for that brand may work for us, let's go test it. That's always really fun. And that's intelligence, I love to bring back to the team.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  22:41

Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing. If there's one takeaway, I think from your tools, but also from you know why you've had so much success with partnerships, it's that number one, you know, you really try to understand and relate with and communicate with your customers. And you go further than just, you know, I don't know, guessing or having gut feelings about your customers, you really listen to them, and you build strategies around them. And I really applaud that because I think, you know, it's a little harder, of course, than just looking at metrics. But at the end of the day, at the end of the day, it tells you so much more. And you know, when I think of when we build our programs as put basically do the same, right? The number one thing we do that helps us get better AB test and landing pages is a customer survey. Open ended we ask questions like what can you tell us about yourself? What made you buy from aid sleep, right, those type of things. And the words you get, you know, you just learned so so so much more than if you just look at ratios and numbers all day. I'm Aleksandra. It's been a pleasure chatting with you. I could talk for hours and hours. Now if people want to learn more about eight sleep or yourself, where can they find you

Alexandra Zatarain 23:54  

can find us at eight sleep.com Connect with us on Twitter on Reddit. We're always there, me and my co-founder or the team is actively engaging with anyone sharing anything. And also if you use the product and you have ideas, we love getting them so ping us on Twitter or email our team. We love getting the feedback from the community so we can continue improving.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  24:16  

Amazing. Thank you so much. Thank you. All right. Well, that's it for today's episode. And thank you so much for tuning in. Now, if you like what you've heard, and you don't want to miss any of the new episodes that are about to come out, make sure you subscribe to the podcast. And well bonus points if you also leave a review in the iTunes Store or wherever you're listening to this. Now if you're working on an ecommerce store that does over a million dollars in revenue and you need help with conversion optimization or landing pages, well, I've got some good news because there's a pretty good chance we can help with that. Go to splitbase.com To learn more, or even to request a proposal. If you Have any guest requests, questions or comments, tweet me at Rpaulindaigle, and I'll be super happy to hear from you. And again, thanks again for listening. This is Minds of Ecommerce.