We get it, influencer negotiations can be tricky and uncomfortable.
But in all honesty, it doesn’t have to be that complicated! And, it’s an important aspect to become a pro at in order to run successful influencer marketing campaigns and programs.
We interviewed mega influencer, Katie Beth Miedaner, and Madeline Chambers, Director of Influencer and Social Media Strategy at Maybelline, to get their different perspectives on negotiation techniques in order to help you approach your negotiating conversations with more confidence.
Would you rather see them talk instead of reading? Watch their influencer marketing negotiation tips live!
“You really can’t have these conversations if you’re talking to someone on such a transactional basis.” - Katie Beth Miedaner (@cappybears), Influencer and Special Needs Pet Advocate
If you walk away from this article with one key takeaway, it’s that influencer negotiations are all about relationship building. If you have the mentality that it’s “your way of the highway,” you’re not going to get very far. Negotiations are actually less of a fiscal exercise, and more of a relational exercise because even if it doesn't work out in an immediate partnership, a good negotiation can still end in a good relationship.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking of creators and influencers as content machines. But, clearly, every creator and influencer is a human being who has their own personal brand and a fan base. A good way to flip your mindset is to think of hiring an influencer like you are hiring a team member. You’ll likely care more about connecting with them and understanding their point of view. Influencers are an extension of your brand, so treat them as such!
So before you send your first influencer outreach email, consider putting more groundwork into the relationship. You can do this by,
“Fostering 1:1 relationships with creators is the most important thing a brand can do. Think about dating on a dating app. If you’re messaging back and forth, you probably aren’t going to say ‘I want to be your girlfriend’ right away. Instead, you probably want to get to know them on a more personal level. This is the same in influencer marketing! Finding the time to foster some sort of connection with the creator prior to engaging with them on a work basis is key.” - Madeline Chambers, Director of Influencer and Social Media Strategy at Maybelline
Pro Tip: When you prioritize building relationships with influencers, the process of “negotiation” might even start before you know you want to work with someone! For example, Katie Beth worked with CeraVe because the influencer marketer and her started talking about their love for animals. This eventually turned into a partnership. Getting to know each other without any strings attached can help you ask the harder questions when it’s the right time.
You might be asking yourself “how much should I pay each influencer?” If you haven’t previously worked with this influencer, it’s best to use a mix of data to get a range. Avoid basing your rate estimations solely on vanity metrics like follower counts or a blue check mark, and instead use these indicators:
“We use Traackr to get a sense of an influencer’s audience size, demographics, and engagement to calculate a possible rate. Then we focus on fostering a relationship with them. Introduce yourself and share more about the vision of your campaign or program. Don’t just slap a deal in front of them! Provide them the context to understand the partnership.” - Madeline Chambers, Director of Influencer and Social Media Strategy at Maybelline
If you’ve previously worked with an influencer, you’ll already know their base rates and style, so you can get straight into the nitty-gritty details after providing them with context for the campaign. You can also utilize past influencer performance data and spend efficiency metrics like cost per impression (CPI), cost per engagement (CPE), and cost per view (CPV).
However, it's important to note that while data is powerful, it is often just a starting point in the conversation. Sometimes it's worth being flexible or going slightly outside your ideal budget if an influencer has a unique community or angle that you don't want to miss out on
Another area to prepare for is your campaign details. What type of content are you wanting the influencer to create? Do you have a good influencer brief? Have you thought about usage rights? Be sure to confirm all of these details with your team prior to reaching out to an influencer with an ask. This is especially important if you are asking for usage rights for paid use. Determine with your team the specific time period you want to utilize an influencer’s content. You don’t want to pay for a full year of paid usage rights and then only run it for a month.
Pro tip: Use paid usage rights as a negotiating tactic! If an influencer’s content deliverables are too much for your budget, look into if you can increase usage rights and decrease content deliverables.
According to Katie Beth, the biggest red flag when talking to brands is when there are long gaps in communication. It’s definitely not best practice to “ghost” a creator and leave them questioning if the partnership is still on.
Instead, be clear and communicate if there are any hold-ups or if you and your team have decided to go in a different direction. Feeling a sense of security in a negotiation is the biggest thing an influencer is going to want. Clear, transparent communication will provide them reassurance that you really want to work together.
“If I’m finding that I have to keep following up, the conversation feels less two-sided. It’s almost like dating - you can tell the telltale signs of whether or not they want you. I want to feel a sense of security in a negotiation.” - Katie Beth Miedaner (@cappybears), Influencer and Special Needs Pet Advocate
This is especially important if you are working with an agency to source talent for your campaigns. It would be terrible for a partnership to fall through because the communication took too long between you and your agency partner. So, do the work upfront to properly brief your agency partner on the campaign details and the influencers you are aiming to work with.
“If a brand comes back with an offer that is lower than expected, it’s not a bad thing! It means a conversation is opening up to discuss and find a middle ground. Remember, it’s a partnership which means there are two people involved.” - Katie Beth Miedaner (@cappybears), Influencer and Special Needs Pet Advocate
If the numbers aren’t aligned (and they likely won’t be), this is the opportune time to start thinking creatively and start negotiating.
For example, if an influencer’s rates are way above your brand’s budget, you can always ask an influencer to break out the price per deliverable. This way you can see what influencers are prioritizing and you can pinpoint where the number isn’t aligning. Let’s say their Instagram Story rate is much higher than their in-feed post. Ask yourself, do you really need stories for this campaign? Go back to your main campaign’s objective and figure out the true deliverables you need to make the campaign a success.
On the flip side, you might want to double-check to see if you are asking for too much. Does the type of content require the creator’s house to look a certain way or involve multiple shots that will need to be filmed over a period of time? If so, you may need to pull back on the deliverables if the rate is too high. Content creation takes time, and the more prescriptive you are about it the more the creator would need to work to meet it.
Most importantly, think from the creator’s point of view. For many creators, this is their business and they treat every opportunity like a business opportunity. Can you sweeten the deal by offering them a longer-term ambassadorship? This may bring more flexibility to their rates for each individual campaign.
Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone! It’s a lot easier to be transparent and have an open, honest discussion over the phone versus email.
“The end goal for me is for a campaign to be successful and to continue partnering with talent. When a party is not budging after various back and forth conversations, it can indicate that they don’t see the longevity of the partnership beyond the one contract.” - Madeline Chambers, Director of Influencer and Social Media Strategy at Maybelline
It’s okay to walk away when either the numbers or vision aren't aligned. Trust your gut here!
Also, saying no now doesn’t mean saying no forever. As a brand, offer up opportunities for organic engagement like gifting them products on a new launch or providing them with merch.
You can always pick back up the conversation at a later point when perhaps your budget aligns better in the future. Leaving on a respectful note that signals this isn’t a “no forever” is the best way to leave a conversation.
“I’ve learned that the brand side and agency side is a small community. It’s always good to keep professional and keep your cool. Always stay positive, keep the door open, and be respectful.” - Katie Beth Miedaner (@cappybears), Influencer and Special Needs Pet Advocate