by Dalene Heck and Stephanie Yoder
If you’re here, you probably already know about the amazing benefits of working with influencers, and how they can help spread awareness about your brand or destination.
You also probably know that influencer services often aren’t free. Well established influencers with hard-fought followings aren’t going to promote your brand out of the goodness of their heart. Influencers want to be compensated, either with money or goods of equal value.
But what if you don’t have a budget, or you only have a very small one? If you are still trying to get your feet wet in the world of influencer marketing, but you don’t have much of a budget to back it up, what can you do? How can you make the most of whatever budget you have and still reach out to influencers?
Leverage What You Have
While it’s true that some influencers expect to be paid for their work, there are others who may be willing to work with you in exchange for some other incentive.
Flights are the big deal breaker for many travel influencers, and not offering them can be a major issue, but it helps to figure out what you do have to offer. You may have to call in some favors.
Can you work with your connections to offer a hotel stay? A city pass? Can you arrange some comped tours or meals? If you are a business, can you partner with other businesses nearby (think hotels, tour companies, restaurants) to create some sort of package?
Once you know what you can offer to an influencer, you are in a better position to reach out to some.
About Those Flights…
As stated above, many influencers will be unable to travel to your location without assistance on flights or other travel costs, and that can be an immediate deal-breaker for them. And unless your budget is robust or you’ve stacked up a lot of airmiles, this requirement may be a deal-breaker for you, too. So what can you do to mitigate that?
First, continue to extend the invitation in case anyone finds themselves in the area. Perhaps they can fold your destination into another trip! You may also receive cold contacts from bloggers who are already traveling to your area and looking for a partnership. (Of course, you will need to evaluate these requests carefully to confirm they can offer whatever they are promising.)
Second, look for bloggers in your immediate area. Almost every small to mid-size city has at least some local influencers building their online presence. These people can be ideal to partner with since they are already where you are! Reach out to them and begin a conversation about how you can work together.
Make Reasonable Requests
Every influencer has a story of being offered two nights stay in a hotel in exchange for two blog posts, 15 social media posts, and 20 license-free photographs, or something equally ridiculous. An ask like this is likely to be met with incredulity.
If you can’t afford to pay influencers, then you need to scale down your requests to a reasonable level. This usually means either a blog post or some basic social media coverage, but probably not more than that. Depending on the value of what you are offering, if you want extras like photos or video you will likely have to pay.
Look Beyond the Big Names
Some people are never going to work with you if you don’t pay them. It is best to accept that and move on. But there are other people out there who will definitely be interested and eager about what you can offer them.
If you can’t afford the big name influencers, then it’s time to start setting your sights a little smaller. There are lots of micro-influencers out there who still have a decent amount of influence. Some studies have even shown that micro-influencers inspire greater trust than bigger names.
Focus on Building Long-Term Personal Connections
This is good advice for any brand, but particularly for people without a lot of money to throw around. The greatest value you can create is with an influencer who truly loves your brand and would promote it regardless of whether they are being paid or not.
Remember influencers who you loved working with and who did a great job promoting your brand. Invite them back and think of new creative ways you can work together.
Tips for Convincing Higher Ups for a Bigger Budget to Work with Influencers
Even though marketing budgets worldwide are making room for influencer marketing, not everyone is convinced yet about the power of influencers. Risk-averse money managers might be hesitant to make room in the budget for this newer phenomenon. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when talking to your superiors about increasing your budget for digital media collaboration:
- Emphasis the unique traits influencers bring, including their ability to inspire, and their ability to help your brand reach new audiences.
- Show how cost-effective it can be – influencer marketing is cheaper than traditional advertising and has been shown to have better ROI. You won’t need a huge amount of money to get started – you can effectively put a plan in place with just 5 or $10,000. Also, you can commission talented influencers to create videos and photos for less than a traditional marketing agency would charge, all the while they are also influencing for you!
- Come with a plan, Most likely your bosses will want to test out influencer marketing before committing to a permanent budget. Come armed with a detailed plan of what you hope to achieve and what metrics you will use to measure it.