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4 Ways to Build a Successful Influencer Program Without a Huge Budget

Feb 24, 2023

As a marketer, you’re probably used to having a budget that fluctuates. It’s even more rare that you’re just given a pot of gold to blow on influencer marketing (but one can dream, right?). 

That being said, you don’t really need a super large budget to run a successful and impactful influencer marketing program. While the practice was considered “flashy” in the past, it has since evolved into something that is highly strategic and measurable.

This article will discuss four things that can help you build a successful influencer marketing program even with a modest influencer marketing budget.

After you've read these tips, download Traackr's influencer program budget template that you can use to improve your influencer marketing ROI.

4 Ways to Build a Successful Influencer Program on a Budget

Find influencers who drive real impact

And by impact, we mean the quality of connection and engagement an influencer has with their audience. Not only can basing influencer partnerships on vanity metrics (like a high follower count) be costly, it doesn't necessarily guarantee that you will get your target audience to notice or engage with your brand. Instead, focus on the performance metrics of an influencer’s past content. A good place to start is by checking their:

  • Engagements: Ask yourself does their engagements for each post remain consistent or does it differ from organic to paid posts? What is their overall engagement rate? Is it growing over time?
  • Video views: Audiences don’t always traditionally engage (like, share, comment) on video content, so it’s important to check video views as well. Similar to what you would do for engagement rates, check to see if video view rates differ on organic vs paid posts. And, check to see if the influencer’s video view rate is continuing to grow over time!
  • Quality of comments: Dig in to see if the commenters are real people and a part of your target audience. Does the influencer do a good job responding and nurturing relationships with their audience?
  • Follower growth over time: High follower count might be a vanity metric but seeing an influencer who is consistently gaining followers while maintaining their engagement rate is a clear indicator of an influencer whose content is resonating.   

Consider selecting influencers who also align with your target audience. Certain influencer marketing tools, like Traackr, can provide audience data for influencers - giving you a sense of where their audience is located, their interests, occupation, gender and more. A great place to start, regardless of your influencer marketing budget, is with your own community. 

Influencer marketing is unique because it offers nuance and specificity. Influencers often directly relate to their followers, which opens up the door for brands to reach their entire customer base — not just one persona.” — Bette Ann Fialkov, Head of Entertainment And Culture at hims & hers

See how Image skincare haircare built a loyal and impactful influencer community!

The folks within your community might not be mega-stars but that doesn’t mean they won’t create buzz or impact! According to a recent report, 70% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands that work with influencers they know. Since micro-influencers target niche audiences, it's easier for you to reach a specific audience that would be interested in your product – the more specific and niche, the better!

These smaller influencers are extremely valuable to the success of your influencer marketing program. It's just as important to treat them with the same love and care as a VIP influencer.

“Today’s micro-influencers are the future macros, and brands should want to grow their relationships with them over the long term.” -  Evy Lyons, CMO of Traackr

Engage with organic brand love from influencers and fans

Again if your influencer marketing budget is a bit tight, organic influencer partnerships are definitely a good starting point. This doesn’t just mean engaging with influencers with large followings - it can include smaller influencers, or even your customers. Here are a few engagement ideas to get the ball rolling: 

  • Highlight them on social: You could ask for a testimonial or host a social competition asking your audience to post how they use the product. If you gather great UGC content from your audience, consider boosting it to a larger audience. Just be sure to ask the creator of the content for permission! 
  • Offer free product: If these customers are mentioning your brand on multiple occasions and their community is responding favorably to their content, send them a DM and ask which of your products they would want! This simple gesture can build trust and spark another chance for influencers to organically post and share their excitement about your product
  • Create discount codes: You could also make a discount to your most loyal customers that they could offer to a friend. This way you are bringing in new customers and using the most powerful marketing tactic out there - word of mouth. 

Focusing on building long-term partnerships instead of one off sponsored posts - your influencer program will benefit in the long run.

Invest in influencer gifting campaigns

So you’ve engaged with your community and found the most impactful fans of your brand but you’re having trouble getting any content or awareness. The next step is to invest in an influencer gifting campaign. 

Influencer gifting, or product seeding campaigns, are perfect for increasing brand awareness and sales while remaining budget-friendly. Incorporating this type of campaign into your influencer marketing program is a great way to build new influencer relationships and solidify relationships with existing partners. 

Here are a few tips to jumpstart your influencer gifting campaign

  • Set specific influencer KPIs and campaign goals. According to Scarlette Tidy, CEO of Sure Thing Consulting, a strong seeding campaign should achieve a 70% posting rate in the 4 to 6 weeks following a shipment.
  • Gauge interest before you send. Consider using an “opt-in” method before sending products. By gifting to influencers who have indicated that they want the product, you will likely minimize product waste and get a higher send/post ratio.
  • Prioritize quality over quantity. Take the time to develop tailored and well thought out product seeding strategies, even if it's for a smaller pool of influencers. This could also include taking the time to write specialized outreach, send products that are tailored for each influencer!
  • Motivate influencers to post with branded toolkits. See how Bite Toothpaste Bits changed the game with their influencer toolkit design to help influencers visualize what they could create with the gifted product.

Start an influencer affiliate program

Affiliate marketing is one of the more affordable and complementary disciplines to influencer marketing. So how does it work? A brand will pay commission to someone who will promote their products and earn a sale.

For example, say you’re a skincare brand. You provide 5 of your most loyal customers with a 20% off code for your new face cream. They then go and promote that code to their audience. For every sale that is linked to their code, they receive 10% of the commission of the sale. 

Fairly straightforward process. The true benefit of an affiliate program is that the influencers receive an extra incentive to post (because they get a kick back) while it costs you (the brand) less than a traditional sponsored post. 

When you’re building out an affiliate program, make sure to run a performance analysis on the influencers that you've previously gifted product to. If they post a lot and receive high engagement on their posts, ask them if they’d be interested in becoming an affiliate. 

You’ll also want to clearly define your goals for this program and tie them back to your business goals. For example, if your goal is to gain new customers, consider giving a higher percentage of commission for new customers and a lower percentage for returning customers.

If you are looking for more inspiration, check out some of the past success stories that we’ve featured from indie brands working with a small budget:


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