Brand Trade Partnerships: Influencer Marketing Without Breaking The Bank


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Investing In Influencing That Works For You

As a brand or marketer, you are always asking yourself, "what can I do to help make a difference in our efforts?" Influencer marketing seems so daunting, when you see how large brands work with powerhouses like Kim Kardashian. But when you think about influencer marketing, there are so many ways it can work for brands of every size.

Despite the preconceived notions you may have about influencer marketing, it's actually a very accessible marketing practice that you should absolutely invest in. You can even do it with a very small budget! In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares how to approach trade-based influencer marketing for brands, without breaking the bank.

Influencer Marketing Without Breaking The Bank

Influencer Marketing Today

For many brands, agencies, and marketers it's a very scary time due to the fact that COVID-19 has impacted business of almost every industry. As we've written about in other blog posts, influencer marketing is no exception to this state of commerce. However, it has seen a gradual increase in revenue since shelter-in-place lockdown went into effect in March this year. We are seeing a slow return to influencer marketing, as brands are beginning to collaborate with influencers in highly effective partnerships.

As the market to continues to open back up and expand once again, we always recommend that brands consider investing further in influencer marketing. It can be a true game changer and help your brand make a difference both in your social reach and sales.

Working With Influencers

As influencers are independent contractors, they can set their own rates for brand deals based on their following and content engagement. Of course, as a result many influencers set their rates very high in hopes that brands will agree to their terms. In our experience, paid marketing negotiations between brands and influencers is always a delicate balance. 

When looking at potential influencers, there are many factors to consider and, of course, the two most important are quality of content and the engagement it receives. As many influencers aspire to reach new levels, it's not uncommon to invest in paid like and comments. Fake numbers in social following is a topic we've covered many times, so for the purposes of this blog, we won't dive too deep down that rabbit hole but it is a common practice that poses problems for brand partnerships. As the goal of our campaigns is to increase both sales and brand awareness, any percentage of fake likes or follows makes it that much harder to achieve this goal.


While assessing influencers to partner with, we have to take measure of the engagement of their content and their following to see how much of it is actually real. This is an important part of negotiations, because more often than not, we find that the rates an influencer is quoting a partnership, are simply higher than what our calculations dictate. Needless to say this often leads to a lot of back and forth in the dance of negotiations. In fact, when reaching out to influencers for a campaign, we go in knowing that we will likely work with less than 10% of the content creators we reach out to inquire about partnership..

A recent article from a prominent business publication quoted several nano and micro influencers (with reach under 50k) stating that they often feel that brands lowball them. Many even stated the biggest grievance of all was with brands offering only to gift product and not pay at all; a proposal some found to be offensive. 

And there is a fine line here because creating content does take time.  These influencers, no matter their size, are spending time ideating, crafting the idea of the shoot and their text, editing, filming or shooting, often times styling themselves in the process - all to get that perfect shot for your brand.

And for influencers starting out, the reality is they do need brand partner experience in order to solidify their value for future paying partnership opportunities.  Which means when working with smaller influencers, it's really not that offensive to offer gifted product for two reasons:

  1. Many of these influencers don't have enough case studies to prove a track of success in brand partnerships.
  2. If the product itself is desirable enough, it can absolutely be worth such a deal.

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Case Study: PassionRoses

In addition to other types of partnerships our agency builds, one of our influencer marketing ongoing partnership campaigns is with our client PassionRoses.  While we also create major event driven partnerships for the brand with Miss America and The Tony's, one of our favorite campaigns to build for them is with influencers of all sizes, as the content we receive in return is typically incredibly creative and beautiful - and perfect to be reshared on their social media platforms (which is one of the big wins for influencer marketing... sharing the awesome content your brand receives!)

All of the partnerships we create that are 'wins' for this client are trade-based, and for a reason.  Similarly, the partnerships we craft for influencer marketing efforts for PassionRoses are trade-based deals.  This is a great campaign example of where the product is of high interest and desire by influencers of all sizes as the roses are gorgeous, and shipments of roses are certainly not inexpensive.

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While many influencers aren't interested in partnering with a gifted deal (which we respect), due to the fact that PassionRoses' roses are of such high quality that they can last up to two weeks, many influencers have jumped at the chance to partner with the brand. And while these deals aren't paid, they can become fruitful in other ways.

If an influencer's content can generate sales or significant increase in awareness and following, the brand is open to work with them in providing roses in mass for specials events like weddings and birthday parties. Or even potentially custom influencer lines in bigger partnerships.

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One of our current campaign influencers has consistently produced such quality content that we have creating an ongoing partnership where they regularly receive roses on a quarterly basis, and not of one bouquet but instead several large bouquets of different colors.

While influencers like given in this example above may only create a few in-feed posts in which the brand is tagged and named, they now have the ability to use large numbers of roses to create other content both for other brand deals as well as artistic content with no branding. While gifted product deals are not for every influencer, they can absolutely be a mutually beneficial deal for both parties involved. 

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Most recently, we began an ongoing influencer partnership campaign, partnering the brand with five new influencers a week. This allows our client the opportunity to work with new influencers and reach a wider spectrum of potential customers, especially around the holidays. Not only that, this influencer marketing campaign gives the brand access to high quality content they are able to repurpose for their own social platforms. Not only are they reaching new eyes with influencer content but it also helps build their own feed, make the campaign highly effective to maintaining a well-curated and professional feed of content - that is (almost) hands free to achieve.  It allows our team to help grow the awareness of the influencer we work with as well, and a mutually beneficial partnership is born!


While many brands consider influencer marketing to be a costly endeavor, it can actually be very effective and of low cost for your brand. What matters most is being strategic with what you offer and how you do so.

Here are some quick takeaways from our campaign with PassionRoses that will help any brand thrive in their campaign:

1. Build a large list of influencers who are both on brand and within a reasonable target range. While it has been very successful for our nano and micro campaigns, we don't recommend this approach for influencers of higher following.  Niche there is the key. Narrow in quickly and work to define, instead of going wide.

2. Utilize a service that can help you identify influencers without spending a lot of time doing manual searches on your own. While some of these services can be pricey, you can find options that will stay within your budget and we guarantee you that the time it will save you in research is worth it. One of our current favorite social influencer platforms to use?  Strawberry Socials, which offers DIYer brand teams to research and have a place to start their reach out.  

3. Be firm on your offer and your budget but also be kind. You never want to offend a potential collaborator and if your offer isn't in line with their terms, be gracious and understanding with the fact that you don't want to disrespect their time or work. You never know if you'll be able to work with them on another campaign down the line.

4. If you can't pay influencers, come up with a gifted offer that's still worth their time. If you can provide a product offer that is enticing on its own, it can save you thousands of dollars in negotiation fees.

5. Be clear about what is expected of the influencer in terms of content quality and deadlines. It can be difficult to leverage this power when you're working on a gifted product deal, but polite clarity in your correspondence can help prevent you from sending many follow up emails to ensure that the influencer will keep their end of the deal.

Here's the truth about influencer marketing. It truly is like herding cats.  It requires massive multi-tasking and micro-managing skills to create a successful program. Most influencers have real jobs - which means the influencer game is a side hustle in many cases, and not their number one focus.  Or they may be full time moms, with a side Instagram influencer business - or the flip of that as well.  Just know that most influencers are not going to drop all that they are doing to race to post for your brand - it will take some time.

Want To Learn More? 

Want to learn more about influencer marketing? We've written so many other blog posts on the subject! Here are a few you should check out...

Ready to roll up your sleeves and learn even more about the nuts and bolts of influencer marketing? Our Influencer Marketing & Brand Partnerships report is chock full of statistics, graphs, analytics, insights and over 300 bite sized direct influencer suggestions for brands to make campaigns run better. Get it now for free!

Hollywood Branded Influencer Marketing Survey