Top 10 Influencer Negotiation Tips

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Influencer negotiation is a critical skill in today’s digital marketing environment. Many profitable influencer campaigns started with the kind of influencer collaboration that one can only achieve during goal-driven negotiations.

Great influencer relationship managers hone their negotiation skills. They recognize that the quality of an influencer program rises and falls on the quality of influencer negotiations.

That’s why we’ve decided to show you how to negotiate with influencers. Not only does the GRIN team possess decades worth of influencer marketing experience – but we also pick the brains of our top clients. 

As a result, we’ve compiled this list of ten critical influencer negotiation tips, plus a little extra.

Working with Influencers – What to Expect

Influencers are a rare breed of smart creatives.

While influencer partnerships resemble the typical contractor-contractee relationship on paper, these relationships demonstrate an entirely different collaborative style. Brands have built their businesses on influencer relationships.

Influencers drive sales and web traffic and frequently contribute to product development and experiential marketing campaign planning.

Download: How Much to Pay Your Influencers, Creators, and Ambassadors

Each successful influencer leverages their own style to nurture online communities sharing similar lifestyles, aspirations, and problems. Influencers often set the tone for brand authenticity – a key factor in a consumer’s buying decision.

We say all this to emphasize just how important it is that you nurture collaborative partnerships with influencers. While your priority will naturally be your brand’s bottom line, we promise that your influencer negotiations will be more successful if you treat influencers as equals. 

The top-performing influencers are professional, endearing, and driven. That said, influencer outreach doesn’t always produce excitement among your list of preferred influencers. But when an influencer does respond to your direct message or email, you generally can count on that individual to be focused and ready to make your brand a success. 

Nano, Micro or Macro Influencers – What’s It Like to Work with Each?

Every influencer works a little differently. However, categorizing each influencer by type can greatly benefit your influencer negotiation approach. 

Instagram Like Rate vs. Followership showing a surge around 1k and a progressive trend downwards
Instagram Comment Rate vs Followership showing spike around 1k followers followed by a progressive trend downwards

Nano Influencers: 1,000-10,000 followers

Nano influencers have small audiences and (generally) high engagement rates. These audiences are typically niche markets, and influencers within that niche hold a great deal of sway.

That said, most nano influencers are fairly new influencers. As such, these influencers often cost less and are willing to accept free products in exchange for posts. At the same time, they may be less experienced in negotiating rates and terms. 

If you plan to nurture long-term relationships with nano influencers, you may need to work a little harder to make your relationship sustainable or anticipate renegotiations in the future.

Despite their occasional lack of negotiation experience, nano influencers are deeply connected with their audience and can drive sales with relative ease. 

Micro Influencers: 10,000-100,000 followers

Many marketers view micro influencers as the best place to begin your influencer search. They are popular enough to increase your brand awareness dramatically, and they’re small enough to maintain high engagement rates.

Some micro influencers are willing to join a campaign in exchange for free products and other perks. However, most micro influencers do charge brands modestly for their work.

If you’re new to influencer marketing, we encourage you to begin within the micro influencer space before venturing into negotiations with nano and macro influencers.

Macro Influencers: 100,000+ followers

Macro influencers have an enormous reach. In fact, many macro influencers are also celebrities. A single, well-executed post can drive enormous web traffic, ongoing user-generated content, and increased sales.

That said, macro influencers are usually pretty expensive. Influencer marketers use these influencers carefully to earn the highest possible ROI. When you feel more confident in your influencer negotiation skills, you can benefit greatly from investing in a macro influencer or two.

Watching Out for Fake Influencers

Unfortunately, categorizing influencers by the number of followers they have can be misleading. Fake influencers buy followers and manufacture engagement.

Thankfully, these fake influencers are easy to spot. Their engagement rates will be low (less than 2%), and the quality of their comments and shares is suspect. That’s one reason why you should research influencers before you hire them.

How to Research Your Influencer

When researching influencers, you are checking the quality of their audience engagement and learning what they like. Understanding both will help you immensely in your influencer negotiations.

What Can the Influencer Accomplish?

Fake influencers can’t accomplish very much on behalf of your brand. Their manufactured engagement can’t drive sales or spark ongoing user-generated content. 

On the other end of the spectrum, top-performing influencers nurture the kind of engagement that produces 1000%+ ROI for your brand.

Most influencers are somewhere in between in their ability to meet campaign objectives. Take a close look at their campaign posts from other brands to gauge their effectiveness. When an influencer insists on fees that exceed their worth, you have hard numbers to help you negotiate with that influencer for a more realistic compensation agreement.

What Do Your Influencers Like?

If you operate a tight budget and can’t offer the level of compensation that an influencer desires, you can offer perks. Influencer perks not only take the pressure off your budget, but they can also strengthen relationships with your influencers.

These perks could be product giveaways, trips, or more exposure for that influencer. The key to leveraging this technique is to know what your influencers like. You should offer influencers perks that you know they will appreciate rather than assuming what they want.

Identify Your Compensation Strategy

If you’re like most marketers, you can’t afford to pay all your favorite influencers top dollar. Your influencer budget might need to get a little creative to partner with the influencers that you know will launch your brand into a new era of profitability.

In our 0 to 100 webinar, “Chapter Three: Influencer Budget,” Ethan Frame from MVMT Watches recommends a five-step approach for arriving at a sustainable compensation strategy:

  1. Know your numbers
  2. Ask the influencers what their rate is first
  3. Adjust the campaign specifics (type and number of posts)
  4. Leverage additional perks
  5. Be transparent about what you can afford

However, if you’re brand new to influencer marketing, you may not be aware of all the ways you can approach your compensation strategy. To acclimate you to the world of influencer compensation, we’re going to discuss three critical questions.

How Much Do Influencers Cost?

Many influencer marketing managers don’t feel confident in their knowledge of “what a fair price is” when negotiating with influencers. There’s a good reason for this – there’s no standard cost for influencers.

Because there’s no easy way to answer the question, “How much do influencers cost?”, you must treat each influencer negotiation as an isolated collaborative moment between the influencer and your brand.

The more clearly you can define your budget and your expectations, the better you will know whether or not the cost of a particular influencer is realistic. It may be that the best partnerships cost you a few hundred dollars per post, while others cost you almost nothing at all (in terms of dollars and cents).

How Does Product Seeding Work?

Product seeding is exchanging goods/services for influencer posts. If you know that a particular influencer will appreciate free products from your brand, you may be able to negotiate a compensation agreement based almost exclusively on product seeding.

More than likely, offering free products will lower the price of an influencer that lies just beyond your budget. By giving a particular influencer free apparel or gifts, they may be willing to lower their rate.

Will the Influencer Accept Commissions?

One of the most common ways to accommodate a tight influencer budget is to suggest a commission structure. If an influencer is confident that they can generate sales, a commission structure will be attractive.

Many influencer compensation strategies demonstrate a hybrid of flat rates and influencer commissions. This way, brands can focus on campaign performance rather than saving money during influencer negotiations.

For more direction on how to incorporate a commission structure, download our Influencer Marketing Budget Toolkit. It’s free!

Top 10 Influencer Negotiation Tips

Influencer negotiations take practice. To accelerate the learning curve, here are ten influencer negotiation tips to help you move forward.

1. Be specific on content.

Ambiguity breeds poor communication and relationships. In contrast, using specific language allows everyone involved in negotiations to understand and respond.

As such, your influencer negotiation should address content specifics including, but not limited to:

  • Campaign and post timeline
  • Information to include in each post
  • Post frequency
  • Post timing
  • Content type (written, picture, video, blog, etc.)
  • Expected engagement

2. Discuss content usage rights.

If you’re using GRIN’s influencer marketing software, content usage rights are included in customizable agreement templates. But if you’re drawing up your own contracts, you must discuss content usage rights with your influencers.

Content usage rights should address post ownership and the timeframe within which a brand may exercise ownership over a particular post (or batch of posts).

3. Keep repurposed content in mind.

Ideally, you want influencer content that can perform across multiple campaign types. For example, a high-performing influencer post makes great branded posts (sharing and shout-outs) and digital ads.

Getting more mileage out of an influencer post can also include adding that post to your company website, email blasts, and even SMS marketing content. Repurposing influencer content in this way reduces your graphic design costs.

In real life (IRL) deals encompass content repurposing, as well as tighter partnerships with your influencers. IRL agreements involve endorsements, event appearances, and more. 

Either way, thinking beyond the next influencer campaign allows your marketing budget to accomplish more with less. Should a particular influencer charge slightly more than you expected, a plan to repurpose that content lowers marketing expenses elsewhere.

4. Prepare for contingencies.

At the risk of overthinking the negotiation process, you must discuss common “what if” moments with your influencers. If you or the influencer suggests an unreasonable plan, bringing these contingencies out in the open can expose unsustainable terms. 

In addition to these front-facing conversations, consider internal contingencies that you may want to keep to yourself in conversations with your influencers. Anticipate possible responses and come to negotiations armed with alternative suggestions and logical arguments.

5. Talk about brand exclusivity.

If you want exclusivity from your influencers, this is a critical topic. By asking for exclusivity, you are limiting an influencer’s ability to partner with other brands.

As such, broaching the exclusivity discussion means that you must have something valuable to give the influencer. If an influencer is going to refrain from doing business with other brands, your offer will need to be clear and compelling.

6. Ensure non-disclosure.

You and your influencer must have an understanding of what is public and what is private. During influencer negotiations, both parties will have certain non-disclosure demands. It is wise to include your legal team regarding contracts and language that you must use to ensure confidentiality with your influencers.

7. Define engagement expectations.

When investing in an influencer, you are counting on their ability to engage audiences authentically. As such, it is perfectly appropriate to share your engagement expectations.

If you’ve properly researched your influencers, you will have calibrated your expectations for each influencer. Should an influencer suggest a price point that fails to meet engagement expectations, you can carefully point out the discrepancy and recommend a different compensation approach. 

8. Anticipate more negotiating for Instagram takeovers and influencer whitelisting campaigns.

It’s one thing to partner with an influencer for a campaign or a series of campaigns. But if you would like to execute an Instagram takeover or whitelisting campaign, you are asking that influencer to give you a certain level of control over their social media account.

As such, you should only recommend these campaign approaches if you and the influencer have a strong working relationship. Additionally, you should come prepared to “sweeten the pot” for that influencer, whether in higher pay or better perks (or both).

9. Discuss short-term versus long-term partnerships.

If an influencer suggests a price that is outside of your budget, you can often give a counteroffer that is lower than their rate while explaining how your influencer relationships work. By informing an influencer of your desire for a long-term partnership, that influencer may feel comfortable dropping their rate.

10. Don’t be afraid to renegotiate with your top-performing influencers.

After running a handful of influencer campaigns, your top influencers may ask to renegotiate terms for future campaigns. If this happens, don’t be afraid to renegotiate. 

You both want the same thing – to make one another successful, together. By asking more from your brand, you will also be able to ask more of your influencers. And if an influencer wants compensation beyond your preferred rate, suggest additional perks or alter campaign specifics until both parties are satisfied.

Conclusion: Recruit the Best Influencers and Maintain Your Bottom Line

Return on investment requires your brand to maintain positive cash flow (bottom line) and partner with the influencers that best align with your brand. Great influencers will ensure that you meet your campaign objectives, resulting in higher revenues and brand exposure.

Like most business decisions, your influencer ROI will increase with experience. Your influencer negotiation skills will grow in time, as will your influencer relationships.

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Written by GRIN Contributor

GRIN is the pioneer behind the world’s first Creator Management platform built to support every brand’s journey to connecting with consumers through authentic creator relationships. Thousands of the world’s fastest-growing brands—including SKIMS, Warby Parker, Allbirds, Mejuri, and MVMT—use GRIN to make creators feel like trusted, empowered partners and work with them to build their brands into household names.