6 Strategies to Get a BIG Return with Influencer Marketing (even with a TINY budget)

This article is part of the Influencer Marketing Series, written and sponsored by Shopping Links, an online marketplace designed to make it easier for Bloggers and Brands to connect and collaborate. For $100 off your first collaboration, use code PROFF100.

As many publicists have experienced over the last decade, blogger outreach and influencer management have become as much a part of the job as maintaining strong editor relationships — particularly for PR pros with fashion and lifestyle clients. Relationships alone, however, are often no longer enough to land exposure with leading influencers, turning publicists into equal parts storycrafter and sponsored content negotiator. What can you do when clients aren’t used to paying for placement, or just don’t have the budget to land the influencers they want?

As it turns out, you can accomplish quite a lot with the right tools! We work with PR agencies and brands alike looking to secure big results on a small budget, and they have found great success with a few consistent strategies. Here’s how to run an effective influencer campaign, even on a shoestring budget:    

1. Leverage your existing audience/customer base

The competition is fierce out there for bloggers! Even leading influencers need to continuously build their following, and if your client has a strong social presence or customer list, you can leverage your audience into a collaboration — allowing you to secure top bloggers who might otherwise be out of your budget. The benefit of this reciprocal exposure is actually twofold: not only does it convey a strong relationship between the influencer and brand, but it also gives your client valuable content for their internal marketing efforts.

MARKS & SPENCER demonstrated the power of influencer content recently through multiple email campaigns, A/B testing campaign imagery against influencer imagery. Holding all other variables constant, M&S saw higher click-through rates, click-to-order rates and revenues from influencer imagery across all campaigns. In a swimwear-focused EDM with blogger Lisa Hamilton, for example, the brand saw a 33% higher click-to-order rate and 21.6% higher revenues compared to in-house imagery. In a separate womenswear campaign targeting Australian customers, the brand saw an incredible uptick of 82% in revenues, with 66% higher revenues for a similar A/B tested campaign targeting American customers. 

Understanding the value of influencer content and that of your own client’s audience to an influencer can help you secure cost-effective collaborations that greatly benefit both sides.

2. Plan ahead for gifting needs

Done correctly, gifting can be a great way to get your client’s product in front of the right audience without stretching your budget. We talked more about this strategy last week in The Inside Scoop on Influencer Gifting, but here a few points that become particularly important when you’re budget-minded: firstly, plan ahead. Make gifting part of your contract, so you have inventory set aside in advance and can select your influencers accordingly. Gifting becomes far more seamless when you can quickly take advantage of  opportunities for exposure. And, you when you know your limit in advance, you can better decide if an opportunity is worth the product.

In a swimwear-focused EDM with blogger Lisa Hamilton, for example, the brand saw a 33% higher click-to-order rate and 21.6% higher revenues compared to in-house imagery.

3. Take advantage of Influencer Marketing Solutions

It’s no longer necessary to manage influencer outreach piecemeal, with a ton of moving parts and way more program management than is often in the budget. We created our influencer gifting service specifically for agencies after seeing how difficult and time-consuming the whole gifting process can be. With our turnkey service, you receive the direct contact information for 10, 25 or 50 influencers with least 10k Instagram followers. Influencers are required to post on Instagram within 30 days. When you’re looking to leverage your client’s product in a short period of time, turnkey solutions like this are often the greatest bang for your buck. We recommend doing a little research and seeing what tools are available for you.    

4. Think Beyond Instagram

Although you’ll have better success with smaller bloggers when you’re gifting without additional payment, you can maximize your reach with each influencer by playing to their strengths. Look for influencers who specialize in Pinterest or Facebook, or who have high domain authority and strong blog traffic. Go beyond the obvious categories as well, and dig deep into niche opportunities. Thinking beyond follower count on Instagram, for example, can help you see a greater return from diversifying brand resources and story opportunities.     

5. Integrate Affiliate Opportunities into Outreach

Affiliate marketing is largely outside the realm of PR, but can be a great way to boost sales and engagement if a client is interested in influencers, but doesn’t have a huge budget. As the name suggests, affiliate links give influencers commission on sales they make from their blog articles and social channels, and they can be a great complement to traditional influencer campaigns. And thankfully, now you can add on a network of over 14,000+ influencers to your existing affiliate partners. When you run a collaboration on Shopping Links, you can easily add affiliate links as a requirement to your collaboration, then manage the results transparently in the platform. We give collaboration results by influencer, so you can show your clients which bloggers performed, giving them the highest return on investment.    

6. Collaborate with noncompeting brands

Boost your bargaining power by collaborating with noncompeting, complementary brands and open up the potential to secure opportunities that have more impact, even with a small budget. Roundups that feature seasonal products or “outfit of the day” features benefit every brand involved. If you represent a designer, for example, you might partner with an accessories or shoe brand on a collaboration to create the perfect look for New Year’s Eve or a big night out. If your client is a hotel or tour operator, you might partner with a luggage brand or skincare product to showcase travel essentials. If your agency represents multiple verticals, there even may be opportunities to take advantage of synergies between existing clients.   

The above strategies will help you keep your budget in check for short-term campaigns, which can certainly feel like the bulk of client requests! As you work to educate clients on the value of long-term influencer partnerships, prioritize client campaign requests (or those you pitch yourself) around investing budget into strategic relationships. This means identifying bloggers whose audiences closely align with your client’s target demographic. At the wrap of a particularly successful campaign partnership, take the opportunity to discuss ongoing ways the brand could continue to work together. Recurring partnerships are a highly  effective way to establish familiarity among potential customers, and a sense that the influencer truly endorses the brand. We have seen the investment in long-term relationships pay dividends time and again for brands of all sizes, and we recommend this approach whenever you can afford the patience of a long-term campaign.

Kim Westwood

Kim Westwood

Kim Westwood is the Founder and Managing Director of Shopping Links, a global influencer and content marketplace for Fashion, Beauty and Lifestyle brands. Having managed 850+ collaborations since launching in 2014, Shopping Links actively works with Fortune 500 retailers and brands such as MARKS & SPENCER, Macy's and Folli Follie, with a focus on aligning brands with influencers who share their target audience. Through a personally vetted network of 14,000+ influencers from 117 countries, Kim and her team have worked with 450 bloggers for a single brand. Shopping Links won the Business Services category at the 2016 Governor of Victoria Export Award and has been named to Anthill Magazine's SMART100 Index of most innovative Australian companies.