Influencer Marketing on a Tight Budget: Incentives to Offer Beyond a Big Payout


Many organizations want to work with influencers to gain attention and drive results, but few have the budget to make it happen.

When working with a non-existent or limited budget, identify what your company can uniquely offer to influencers instead of always paying for their support.

The goal here isn’t to take advantage of influencers as I’m a big proponent of reasonably paying them for the value they’re able to provide.

Instead, my advice is to find a mix of approaches to incentivizing influencers so these partnerships don’t require a budget or are less costly.

Recently the Clorox Company set up an advisory board comprised of influencers to help the brand learn what kinds of content people want to see and to guide them on co-producing more impactful campaigns.

A takeaway here is that Clorox identified a way to work with influencers on an ongoing basis where both sides benefit, beyond just exchanging payment for promotion.

And that’s what you should do as well, whether you work at a non-profit, small mom-and-pop business, a midsized-organization, or even a large brand.

To start, think critically about what your business uniquely offers that would directly benefit an influencer enough to collaborate with you.

What you’ll offer to influencers depends on the products and services you provide, who your customer base is, the organization’s size, the industry you’re a part of, how long the influencer has been active, how engaged their audience is, and more.

In most cases, these non-monetary benefits to offer influencers fall under three categories: Exposure, Access, and Association.

1. Exposure – One of an influencer’s motivations is to continue to grow an audience interested in the content they create about their passions and expertise. If you can provide them with exposure to more of the right people, then it’s a benefit worth offering. This requires that your organization has an audience on its website, social media, email list, or elsewhere that aligns with the influencer. Here are ways to provide exposure as a benefit of an influencer partnership:

  • Interviewing them on a relevant topic based on their expertise and including the discussion within a social media series, article, or video.
  • Retweeting, sharing, or commenting on social media posts they create about your organization or relevant topics worth discussing.
  • Allow them to contribute an article, video, image, or another type of media on one of your organization’s most popular channels.

2. Access – The ability to access products, people, events, and experiences that aren’t widely available is another distinct benefit that can be offered to an influencer. Like most people, influencers like receiving free things, particularly relevant items and experiences that help them continue to create and curate interesting content for their audience. Here are a few ways your organization can offer access to an influencer as an incentive:

  • Send them free products to test, review, and create content about to inform them of your company’s offerings.
  • Invite them as guests or participants in your organization’s events, which can be anything from having them contribute to an in-store demo or be a panelist at a conference you’re hosting or attending.
  • Introduce them to relevant people in your network, whether that’s other business owners, marketers, or event planners that they might be able to partner with in the future.

3. Association – One partnership often leads to another for an influencer, which is why being aware of this and helping them land their next project is beneficial. Whether your organization is known locally, within an industry, or due to its philanthropic work, create opportunities for influencers to benefit based on your reputation or brand equity. Here’s how to help influencers associate themselves with your organization to better position them for future collaborations:

  • Involve them in the production of an upcoming campaign by allowing them to provide creative input that they can showcase to other advertisers.
  • Create a program that allows influencers to be an advisor or ambassador for your organization, similar to the idea behind Clorox’s advisory board. The goal is for them to provide useful support to your organization in the form of advice, take part in company activities or offer promotional support. In return, they can list this role as part of their bio on social media, add this collaboration to their resume, meet other influencers in the industry, and reference this work to land new campaigns.
  • Facilitate volunteer opportunities that directly impact philanthropic causes, relate to your organization’s focus, and would benefit from the exposure participating influencers could offer. This provides influencers with an opportunity to see what it’s like to collaborate with an organization before committing to a paid campaign and its a volunteer experience organized for them to seamlessly participate in.

This isn’t an exhaustive list as there’s many ways to drive results with influencers without spending the big bucks.

Apply this advice by finding distinct ways of working with influencers on a regular basis that provide value, but don’t always require a budget. 

Maybe that’s offering a free meal to a mukbang star from YouTube or inviting a group of local influencers to be ambassadors for your non-profit.

Recognize that earning results from influencers is a viable option for a wider range of organizations than it may appear at first glance.

How could your organization work with influencers beyond just paying them to collaborate on a partnership? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Brian Honigman

Brian Honigman is the author of this piece, the president of Honigman Media and a leading marketing consultant. He’s the author of numerous marketing courses for NYU and LinkedIn, an executive coach for marketers and corporate leaders and instructor of corporate training programs on marketing for organizations like Time Inc, Econsultancy and the Weather Company. Contact him to schedule an in-person training or coaching call.


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