Manuel Brandt

How to Do Influencer Marketing With 0 Budget

At a startup I worked on, we used this strategy to get to 1000+ users. So, what is it about? It’s no secret that both affiliate and influencer marketing can be super effective, but you can basically use your affiliate system as a way to get influencers for free.

Getting Started 🚀

The System

First, you have to create your affiliate system. You can do this super minimalistic in the beginning, as you should always aim for when working on experiments.

To give you some inspiration, you can basically set up a form (e.g. in Google or Airtable) for affiliates to apply. You then go through the applications and add them to a Google sheet regularly. Every new affiliate, you give an individual coupon code that they can share with their audience. Once a quarter, you then review the sales that were made with that coupon code and pay out your commissions based on that.

The Offer

Once you have that, you need to create a super convincing offer. You don’t need to have this offer forever, but can limit it in the early days. An example would be offering affiliates a 30-50% commission on every initial sale, or for subscriptions 10-20%, but lifetime. These rates are above market standards, but influencers will want a good deal.

Getting Your Influencers 🤝

Create a list of relevant influencers and reach out to them or their management. There is software like to make this easier, so don’t waste your time doing it manually.

Usually smaller influencers (under 100K followers) will be the best to talk to. Bigger influencers have tons of offers they can choose from, and they will rather go with big and well-established companies to make sure they don’t damage their reputation.

If they believe in your product, they will be willing to advertise it and potentially earn quite a lot more than usual through your commission system. However, you as a company don’t have a risk if the channel doesn’t perform, and you can try this promising channel without having much cash on hand.

Expanding Your Potential Partners 📈

If you have your system ready, it would be a shame to only use it for typical influencers. You can significantly increase your number of potential partners and your chances of success with this strategy, by also reaching other audiences.

Blogs and Magazines:

Especially smaller blogs and magazines (up to ~50k visitors), often struggle with monetization. Sales of advertorial campaigns, banners, or newsletter placements, don’t happen regularly yet, and just adding Google or display ads to their site, doesn’t generate much money either. That’s why they’re happy if they get interesting partnership offers.

You can simply create a list of high-quality websites in your niche and reach out to them. You can also offer materials right away that they can share. If they believe in your product, there is a high probability that they’re interested in advertising you through banners, post placements, newsletter placements, or social media posts, and earning a nice income through your affiliate system.

Partnerships and White-Labeling:

Example 1:

At a startup I built, we were selling courses, later in a subscription model like Headspace, Blinkist, Calm, and similar. What you can do as a startup like this is to reach out to coaches who are creating and selling courses in the same space but with other topics. These coaches might add your courses to their website next to their own. This way they don’t have to do extra work, but they can make 30% commission on courses their customers might also be interested in. There are countless use cases for this strategy.

Example 2:

At Blogtec we followed a similar strategy with agencies. We’re selling SEO and content services, which is a highly requested marketing service. Therefore, we reached out to:

  1. Full-Stack Agencies (so agencies that offer everything): Usually these are small agencies that solve the variety of tasks through freelancers. With us, they could expand their offerings easily.
  2. Web Design Agencies: These agencies design and create websites for companies, which usually do not have a website yet at that point, or just an old one. While the website is being built, their customers need help with content creation for their website, and once it’s ready, they often want to try SEO. Here again, we helped those agencies to expand their offerings.

Conclusion 👨‍💻

Even if your business doesn’t have plenty of financial resources available, you can do influencer marketing by forming it into a partnership. This way you only pay when you get results, and after you got the money from those results! 

The affiliate system you need to build for that, can then also be used in other strategies. This way, you can create an immense growth opportunity for your startup.

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