Can Small Brands Work With Influencers on a Budget? [Spoiler: Yes, They Can]
Can you work with influencers on a budget?
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Ok, ok. It isn’t actually that simple to answer.
Did you know that Crisitiano Ronaldo is predicted to be be paid over $2M for a single sponsored post on his Instagram?
...with numbers like that being bounced around, it is no surprise that many smaller brands consider influencer marketing the reserve of the 'big boys'.
But the fact of the matter is - you don't need to be a business behemoth paying insane prices for insanely popular influencers to post about your products and services.
No! In fact, small brands can benefit massively from working with influencers to increase their reach and engage a new and relevant audience.
In this article, we explore why and how small brands can and should consider working with influencers.
Think Small, Go BIG
If you want to work with macro or celeb influencers (the Kardashians for example) from the get-go you are going to need deep pockets. Honestly, unless sheer luck is on your side, there is no real other way to get your brands featured on their feeds.
Look at it this way, most major influencers get tens if not hundreds of requests for paid collaborations every day. Most of these requests will be offering a serious bit of wedge to get their brands out there…
...so, if your targeted mega-influencer has never heard of you and you have no cash to splash, unfortunately, your email is going in the bin. To add to this, most of these individuals will be working with a talent manager whose sole purpose is to make money out of influencers help influencers make money and get a fair deal – they are even less likely to give you the time of day.
Micro and nano influencers, on the other hand, are not likely to be inundated with these types of messages. They may also already know and love your brand and likely don't have an agent rubbing their hands every time they get an email from a brand requesting a collaboration.
Therefore identifying smaller influencers that are relevant to your brand is an excellent way to build a list of influential individuals that could be used to promote your business.
...now all you have to do is convince them.
The Secret: You Have to Earn it
Cue Rocky montage…
"If you want to work with influencers, whether nano, micro or mega...you have to get out there and EARN IT" - actual quote (maybe) from Rocky
Arguably in influencer marketing, you should always seek to add value above and beyond financial reimbursement. This is even more crucial when the budget is low. In this case, you cannot simply pay off an influencer to post about your products (for the record NEVER do this, even if you have a massive budget).
Your goal should be to follow this process:
Educate the influencer on your product/service
Earn their advocacy
Reimburse them for the time they spend creating great content about your brand
...this is the ONLY way to generate real, compelling and genuine content with influencers. Taking a 100% pay-to-post approach simply doesn't work.
Look, for small and start-up businesses it may seem like resources are short. But there is more to your businesses that can be attractive to influencers than just the money you offer.
Other benefits you bring to the table may include:
Access to internal thought leaders
Access to other influencers in the industry
Free or heavily discounted products or services
Early access to new products or services
Invitations to events
Support with content creation (such as access to photographers/videographers/graphic designers)
It is also important to consider other aspects that reach beyond direct benefits like those we list above. These include the passion and knowledge that those in the business have for the industry or CSR such as helping charities that are close to the influencers' heart.
Paying Influencers: A Note
Just a quick note on paying influencers...
If we had written this article 5+ years ago it is likely we would have included a section on how to work on influencers for free, based on benefits outside of financial reward. But things have changed - influencer marketing has become more established and paying influencers is now a key and recognised part of that. We aren't saying that you cannot work with influencers for free. In fact, many nano and micro-influencers are willing to work with brands for no physical exchange of cash. But what we are saying, is that if you want to build good and long-lasting relationships with influencers we strongly suggest paying them. Even if that is just a token amount to show you value the content they create.
Influencer Marketing is About the Journey
So, you know which influencer you want to work with. You also know how you are going to entice them to work with your brand.
Smart brands understand that influencer marketing is a long-term thing.
You must maintain communication with influencers in order to build a strong and ongoing relationship. To do this you must communicate on a personal level, show you value their skills and highlight that you understand their goals.
Put it this way, a quick message saying:
‘Hi valued influencer...do you fancy posting about my product in exchange for a free product?’
...is probably going to fall flat.
In contrast, getting in touch with an influencer and explaining why you love their content, why you think they match with your brand so well and how you feel you could benefit each other in the longer term is a much sounder strategy for executing influencer marketing on a budget.
Working With Influencers on a Budget: Summary
It is clear that influencer marketing is a powerful marketing tool. For brands with smaller budgets, it can be tricky to engage with the influencer that will have the biggest impact on your brand.
Knowing how to approach influencers in a genuine way and understanding the broad spectrum of benefits you can offer will help you get noticed among the noise. Then, build on those relationships over the long term. This will help you grow your brand as your chosen influencers grow their audience. Plus, it will help you get noticed and recognised by other influencers in your niche, making it easier to engage them.
Have a question about working with influencers on a budget? Drop a question in the comments below and our experts will be happy to help.