The recession-proof influencer: How to thrive when marketing spend dries up

While brands are spending more on influencer marketing, they want to see results more than anything as their budgets slim down in the face of inflation.  Learn how to deliver high value to keep brand partners and earn new ones.

Jacquelyn White
Jacquelyn White
Content Marketing Manager
Read time: 10 mins

As a creator, you have a lot to offer brands in a tough economic climate. But with limited funds, brands may be more picky about who they work with and eager to see results from their partnerships.

With inflation rising, 76 percent of consumers are trading down their purchases to less expensive or higher value options. That trickles up to businesses that need to trim budgets and grow their businesses on less. 

But there’s still hope.

If you’re savvy and play your cards right, you can use brands’ increased interest in influencer marketing to thrive as a creator. It’s all about doubling down on your strengths, being flexible, and proving your value.

Key takeaways from this blog
  • Creators are well-positioned to provide maximum value as brand budgets get cut.
  • Creators can succeed by diversifying partnerships and being an attentive, goal-oriented partner to brands.
  • Build a sense of trust and loyalty with your audience to grow engagement to increase your value.
  • Long-term partnerships result in better performance and stability for brands and creators alike. 

Brands and influencers unite to overcome economic challenges

As brands revamp their marketing strategies, understanding their shifting priorities can help you better position yourself for success.

Context: Why your brand partners need to adapt

Brands are experiencing a host of challenges that are changing their marketing approach:

  • Budgets are shrinking, causing marketers to seek out less expensive channels with a measurable return on investment (ROI) 
  • Paid ads are getting less efficient as third-party cookies go away 
  • AI is changing search behavior, reducing confidence in SEO and paid search

In response, brands are redistributing their marketing spend and diversifying marketing channels to insulate themselves from fallout.

Economic pressures may hit some industries harder than others. According to a recent McKinsey survey, consumers are spending less across all categories, particularly non-essentials.

Source: McKinsey

It’ll affect each brand’s influencer marketing budget differently. So expect your sponsorship mix to shift. But whether a brand spends more or less on partnerships, brands will be more selective about which creators they work with and will focus on the ones providing the most measurable value.

The bright side: How influencers help brands make it through tough times

According to research, 63 percent of brands are working with higher influencer marketing budgets in 2024. Even with budget cuts.

Working with creators has a ton of upsides for brands.

  • Increases brand trust: You’ve cultivated a deep well of trust and authenticity with your audience, so your endorsement boosts brand affinity.
  • Keeps brands in shoppers’ minds: You help brands stay relevant (and profitable) by consistently featuring products and services you love.
  • Inspires purchases with deals: A brand can encourage purchases by giving your audience exclusive deals. 
  • Cost-effective: Influencer marketing has a lower barrier to entry than other channels and can be scaled up or down depending on a brand’s funds. 
  • Obvious impact: Influencer marketing has a greater ability to attribute traffic, engagement, and conversions, brands can clearly quantify the business impact creators drive—a game-changer when every marketing dollar needs to be justified.

There’s a ton of opportunity for creators to thrive with brand partnerships. And you could be a lifeline to brands changing their marketing approach. You just need to adapt to the changes with them.

Source: What brands want: building successful creator partnerships in 2023

8 ways creators can build resilience amid brands’ tightened budgets

The most successful influencers will approach brand partnerships by providing more value and demonstrating their impact. Consider these eight strategies to boost your value as a partner:

  1. Add organic value to your traditional deals
  2. Align your content with the brand’s goals
  3. Prove your value with detailed reporting
  4. Open up opportunities with new partnership types
  5. Prioritize long-term partnership potential
  6. Cultivate audience trust to draw in brands
  7. Grow your audience on new platforms
  8. Launch a community to grow your personal brand

1. Add organic value to your traditional deals

Adding organic mentions to your traditional paid campaign deliverables is an easy way to elevate your value. This reinforces your product recommendations with minimal effort from you.

You could tease an upcoming campaign to build anticipation, share follow-up thoughts after the main post, or bring your audience into your creation process with a poll on what products you should try.

These complementary organic posts boost performance while demonstrating that you’re invested in making the partnership successful.

But, Becca Bahrke, CEO of talent management agency Illuminate Social, adds, “Make sure the brand is okay with any content you’re sharing that’s outside of the paid SOW.”

2. Align your content with the brand’s goals

As brands scrutinize their investments more closely, matching your campaign content to the brands’ goals becomes even more important.

If a brand wants to drive sales, create content that compels your followers to purchase the product or service. Reviews, demos, and tutorials can highlight features and help your audience envision using the product.

Before committing to a partnership, Becca advises, “Assess if this is a product that your audience would be able to afford or interested in purchasing.” Otherwise, you risk the partnership flopping.

For example, if the brand aims to increase awareness, create content that maximizes reach. Humorous and entertaining content is great because it encourages social sharing, and research shows that 58 percent of consumers like entertainment content the most.

Whatever the goal, keep your audience top-of-mind. Authenticity is still your biggest strength. And your distinct voice and personal brand are what attracted the brand to you in the first place.

Source: The state of influencer marketing for consumers in 2023

3. Prove your value with detailed reporting

Because brands will be choosy about how they spend their limited budgets, help your partners understand your value. Demonstrate the tangible impact of your campaigns by showcasing the metrics they care about.

A reported 83 percent of brands say delivering on a campaign’s KPIs solidifies a successful relationship. So, focus your reporting on what matters to them so they can see your value. / Creator’s analytics features can help you track campaign performance so you know what works.

Don’t have a media kit yet? Check out our free template!

4. Open up opportunities with new partnership types

Expanding your service offerings can help you bring in more income and increase your value prop.

Affiliate marketing, when you promote a brand or product via a trackable link, is a great option because brands will be seeking tangible results. Most affiliate income relies on customer purchases, so brands can tie performance directly to their bottom line—making it easier to justify those partnerships.

You can also opt for hybrid compensation, which allows brands to compensate you for your effort upfront, and then provide more rewards for your impact. 

Source: What brands want: building successful creator partnerships in 2023

Paid UGC, when you provide content for a brand’s social media or campaigns, is another service you can offer. As brands tighten budgets, they’ll search for ways to support brands’ media creation at a lower cost than an in-house photoshoot.

You can do standalone UGC deals or negotiate them into regular campaign contracts. Then, you’ll earn more on each campaign and brands will squeeze more value from your content.

Overall, your flexibility means more opportunities for brands to partner with you. In the long term, this may help you develop a better relationship with brands because they know you can help them reach multiple goals.

And no matter the economic conditions, you need diversified revenue channels to pivot as things inevitably change.

Source: What brands want: building successful creator partnerships in 2023

5. Prioritize long-term partnership potential

When asked, 86 percent of brands stated they’re prioritizing long-term relationships with creators. 

As you consistently promote the brands you love, you build brand affinity with your audience, leading to better engagement and ROI. “This will help increase [your] audience’s trust and maintain sustainable partnerships with brands,” adds Sara Lawson, Campaign Manager and Team Coordinator at Illuminate Social.

The dependability of a long-term partnership provides more stability amidst economic volatility. When budgets fluctuate, brands tend to stick with the creators who consistently deliver value.

So prioritize working with brands that: 

  • Align best with your personal brand
  • Value you as a creator
  • Resonate with your audience

6. Cultivate audience trust to draw in brands

Investing in audience engagement shores up your personal brand and makes you more attractive to brand partners in the long run.

The more your audience feels connected to you, the more likely they are to buy from the brands you recommend. 

Source: The state of influencer marketing for consumers in 2023

To build trust with your audience through your partnerships:

  • Only promote products that truly align with your values.
  • Give well-rounded testimonials from your first-hand experience to help your followers feel like they’re making good buying decisions.
  • Show your expertise, whether that’s explaining what makes a skincare product’s ingredients great or factors people need to consider when choosing a personal finance app.

Giving your followers the authenticity they crave lays the foundation for delivering results for brands.

7. Grow your audience on new platforms

Building audiences on multiple platforms helps brands achieve the multichannel marketing strategies they crave.

An omnichannel presence gives you more opportunities to reinforce your recommendations, elevating your value as a media partner. And it protects you from sudden algorithm or policy changes on a specific platform.

Whether reposting your TikTok videos on Instagram or creating search-optimized blog posts of your favorite products, you open up new traffic and revenue streams to support yourself. “Having a storefront or blog can set you apart from your peers. It also gives you the chance to sell brands in new and valuable ways that most people don’t see regularly,” explains Sara.

Having your own blog gives you a space to get creative with content outside of social media algorithms. And it’s evergreen, so you can generate ongoing income from each post.

If you use multiple channels, emphasize this in your media kit (template here) and include it in your pitches to clients when applicable.

8. Launch a community to grow your personal brand

Another way you can increase audience touchpoints and build trust is to create a community. Many creator-led communities are popping up on platforms such as Patreon, Discord, and Facebook Groups.

A community gives your followers another way to embed themselves in your world and feel like they’re part of your inner circle. And the interaction between followers strengthens their bond to your personal brand overall. 

When it comes to your brand partners, this leads to better engagement with the brands you endorse. (And something you should showcase in your media kit.)

Be proactive to stay successful during tough times

As economic pressures reshape marketing strategies, embracing a proactive approach and focusing on providing value to the brands you work with is essential.

The tough times won’t last. But by adapting now, you’ll emerge with a stronger content business than ever when brand budgets bounce back.

Want to learn more about how to be a great partner to brands? Get the scoop: What brands want: building successful creator partnerships.

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