Opinion

How SME’s Can do Influencer Marketing with Little to no Budget

Small businesses can easily get themselves in front of thousands of potential customers by partnering with the right influencer – it will cost nothing more than some free products and a bit of time.

Getting your brand in front of tens of thousands of people in your target market was once reserved for Fortune 500 companies with massive advertising budgets. We’ve now seen a paradigm shift in how brands are engaging with consumers. What once required a production company and media buyer to execute now needs only a mobile phone and a few taps on a screen to upload content seen by millions of people.

Enter influencer marketing. The industry is slated to grow to $10 billion globally within the next five years according to Forbes, with 37% of marketers attributing part of their marketing budget to it in 2018 and 67% looking to increase their stand-alone influencer budgets over the next 12 months as reported by Influencer Hub.

We’re seeing brands moving away from celebrity endorsements to micro-influencers, generally defined as someone with between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. Micro-influencers not only have higher engagement rates but they also have stronger referral strengths and a deeper, more personal connection with the audiences they influence. Still, social media sponsorships with these micro-influencers can cost brands several hundred dollars per post.

So, how do small, local companies enter this space without sufficient marketing budgets? It’s possible if you know what you’re doing and choose those influencers already in your niche.

By leveraging the audiences of influential people within a brand’s city, small businesses can quickly and easily get themselves in front of tens of thousands of potential customers. All this, and on platforms that only require a consumer to tap on their screen twice to reach your website. With nothing more than gifting micro-influencers free products or services, these brands can generate on and offline traffic levels previously reserved for only those with large budgets.

Finding the perfect partnerships

Start by thinking about what your consumer profile is, then think of the locations that they would likely visit. If you’re an auto mechanic, perhaps you would assume your target market might be visiting a local self-serve car wash or a car show. Type the location into Instagram and search through all the posts that have been uploaded with that location tag. Go through each post and look at the accounts to find those that fit your consumer profile.

From there, aim to find micro-influencers with at least 2,000 followers and engagement levels of at least 10%. There are online tools that enable you to check an influencer’s engagement rate for free, so be sure to take advantage of these tools. Phlanx’s engagement calculator tool combined with these five fake engagement tests is a good place to start.

Gifting influencers

Next, you’ll need to decide how much product or what level of free services you can afford to gift influencers in exchange for them promoting your business on their social media accounts. We recommend having at least one micro-influencer post per week, with as many as one per day. Compile a list of relevant micro-influencers and develop a message (no longer than 500 characters) to send them via Instagram direct message from your business account.

It’s best to mention that you’re willing to exchange a free product or service for a dedicated Instagram post, with your brand’s Instagram handle included in the caption along with a write-up about what you offer. With those that respond to your direct messages, you’ll have to facilitate a way for them to receive your gift offering and how you want them to style the content.

Ensure that they’re in the photo, along with your product and that the image is high-quality as this will be a representation of your brand and the first touchpoint for many of the people in the influencer’s audience.

When you select influencers that are already interested in your niche, they’re far more likely to exchange a promotion to thousands of people for a free product or service. Know your consumer profile, find the right audience, and create a long-lasting impression on thousands of potential customers.

If you can get the influencer to come to you in person, work with them to style the content for their social media channels. You know your business best – what sells, what won’t and how to communicate it to people. Dig deep, pull out the passion for your business and shine it proudly when your influencer comes to visit. Your enthusiasm will be infectious and it’ll be easier for your influencer to integrate it into their content.

The measures you need before going live

Before any posts go live, ensure that your own social media channels are active, and your website is in the about sections and bios. It’s important that it’s easy for people to flow from an influencer’s post to your website.

The keys to success are as follows:

  1. An interesting product or service
  2. The right influencer
  3. Excellent customer experience
  4. Engaging content and messaging
  5. Your social channels prepared and optimised for spikes in traffic
  6. Content uploaded during peak engagement hours
  7. Engage with your new customers on the channel where they first found you

By putting in a couple hours per week, you can set yourself up with ten to 15 influencers that you can partner with to get the word out locally about your business. It’ll cost you nothing more than some free products and a bit of time.

When you’re passionate about your business, it shines through. By engaging with influencers on a personal level, they’ll feel your passion and capture it in the content they create for their audiences.

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