How to win in influencer marketing without breaking the bank

Sixty per cent of marketers will be increasing their influencer marketing budget throughout 2024. Influencer rates and usage fees are now scarily high, probably because influencer marketing is still driving substantial results. In fact, our data shows that influencer fees went up by 15% between March and May alone!


Ok, there’s no need to fear. Because we’re going to answer this question – how can brands achieve the same level of content and stay within budget?

At Brainlabs, we’ve developed High-Performance, future-ready planning, optimization, and tech strategies that are reducing costs and upping ROI. We drive long-term results through innovation, testing, digital tools, and creative experience from our Super-Teams of Brainlabbers. Charlotte Littlewood, Brainlabs Account Director, shares her expertise on how brands can achieve high-performing, cost-effective content.

The rising costs of content creation

Many Brainlabs’ clients are facing the same issue. The costs of working with influencers are increasing. 

The cost of content has grown over the last few years, and as many brands utilize influencers as part of their marketing strategy, rates will continue to snowball. 

And that’s not the only expense to consider. Charlotte notes, “Usage rights fees have gone up so much as well – in the last year, they’ve doubled. In most cases, they’re now on par with the creative itself.”

Social platforms have made it harder to boost reach and engagement without paid ads. So, brands need to find more and more creative ways to increase ROI, or risk having to invest more and more money to achieve any kind of cut-through. 

So, what’s the answer?

Cost-effective, performance-driven solutions

Social channels use AI-generated feeds to push content to their target market. 

This means you don’t need to have a huge following to reach a large audience – more niched influencers with smaller loyal followings have just as much of a chance of going viral as mega-influencers with millions of fans. 

“You would think that by using big-name influencers, you’d be driving the most results, but that’s not necessarily the case,” says Charlotte.

Because of this, many brands are choosing to work with micro- or nano-influencers who are often more affordable and still reach a wide audience. But brands can’t just pick the cheapest creator they find. It’s crucial to work with the right influencer for your campaign and ensure their content is high quality and high performing.


Influencer is an inherently creative medium. But to streamline its performance and build out cost-effective campaigns that get results, you need more than just creativity. 

We’ve drawn from our paid media roots to bring a High-Performance lens to influencer marketing. 

But there is a challenge. How do we do this without cramping the creativity that is so fundamental to every influencer activation? 

By elevating the creative strategy of our teams with a suite of innovative tech. 

We have developed three specific tools to do just this:

  • Bytesights 2.0
  • The Social Booster
  • The Sentiment Analysis Tool

By utilizing these, we help brands reduce creator costs and still achieve the absolute best content for their campaigns. Now we’re giving you a sneak peek into the results each tool can give and how they work to do this. 

High-Performance tools for exceptional results

  • The tool: Bytesights 2.0
  • The result: Being in the right place at the right time, with the right influencers

It’s no use talking about eye makeup trends when your target market is talking about skincare instead. Finding the right conversations and tapping into them early is key. You need to find the trend when it’s forming (we call this a ripple) then jump on the trend with the right influencer activations to maximize growth (ride the wave) until it becomes a cultural phenomenon that keeps coming back on trend (what we call a tide). Starting with ripples, riding waves and moving with the tides will ultimately maximize your budget use and create momentum that is pretty hard to stop.

Just as the right conversations need to be had, the right people need to be having them. We find the up-and-coming creators, making the most impact within small niches, nurturing these relationships to build them into cost-effective brand ambassadorships. But not every influencer is right for a brand. Bytesights helps us align with the right creators who meet brand guidelines, goals, and marketing strategies.

  • The tool: The Social Booster
  • The result: Cost-effective results through paid media

We all know testing is key to the right results. But often, it’s used to look at results after a campaign is over. What if it could be used during an influencer activation to consistently drive performance? We efficiently use client budgets with the use of our proprietary and automated social booster. The tool stretches budgets further as it works hard to optimize towards best-performing assets without wasting budgets. 

  • The tool: The Sentiment Analysis Tool
  • The result: Stronger return on investment, based on your brand

The Sentiment Analysis Tool measures, you guessed it, sentiment. But here’s why that is so crucial. Sentiment is defined by the brand. Positive, negative, and neutral sentiments may be completely different for one brand than it is for another. Running this analysis across all content allows us to draw correlations around best-performing content. It then allows us to continually optimize, ensuring we are getting the strongest return on investment for each content piece and ultimately reducing influencer fees. For example, if we see from a video there is a pain point for the audience or they want more information on the product, the tool allows us to direct future creatives specific to the client. 

OK, we know testing works… what makes these tools any different?

Bytesights 2.0 doesn’t just track creators. It looks at hashtag growth and keywords, something that very few platforms can show (even TikTok doesn’t allow this anymore), helping us predict the future without the need for a crystal ball or magic mirror. As the only agency using the Social Booster tool to track organic and paid data, we can safely say that providing a complete strategic review of creator performance has become a game-changer in reducing cost. 

There’s one thing to note about all these super shiny awesome tools. 

They are exactly that – tools. We utilize them to make game-changing campaigns for our clients and, more importantly, to streamline our processes, so Brainlabbers can do the creative thinking, testing, and strategizing that needs to happen in order for brand costs to decrease even further. 

Technology that gets results

Let’s look at these in action. 

Skincare and makeup is one of the most crowded categories on social with some of the highest costs. That’s why Estée Lauder Companies UK & Ireland worked with us to cut-through the noise. For Estée Lauder Double Wear, we utilized The Social Booster to boost engagement rates to +70% versus direct brand-to-consumer ads. Crucially, this translated to real business impact, with Estée Lauder’s market share growing 2.2pts over the period, and sales of Double Wear in Boots growing 15% – especially impressive as the Boots customer is more likely to be younger.

By using these tools, we optimize funds and can stretch flat marketing budgets to achieve better results. As well as reducing costs, we are creating stronger influencer partnerships. We’ve worked with brands to increase engagement rates by an average of 2.5% and increase Earned Media Value.

The point is, that these tools work. And this isn’t just for globally renowned brands. 

Charlotte says, “You can have a small budget, and we can make it work really hard in a competitive market.”

So no matter what your budget is, utilizing tools like this in your campaigns is no longer a nice to have. It’s a must. Brands that don’t will be left behind. 

Leveling the playing field

Budgets are stretched, yes, but if brands can find ways of spending their pennies carefully, there is a lot to win on influencer. In fact, even with the landscape of influencer becoming more and more competitive, it still outperforms other media like TV, OOH and more in terms of cost-efficacy. 

And the biggest takeaway here is that brands utilizing it have a unique opportunity right now. Use a smaller budget creatively, and you’ll be able to shout louder than even the biggest-budget brands on social. 

We’ve created our tools to democratize the industry and help brands of all sizes compete and succeed. But it’s not just about the tools – brands also need specific industry knowledge, experience, and creative ideas.
Luckily, Brainlabbers live and breathe these three crucial components. By combining our expertise with our technology, we achieve the best results and ultimately increase our clients’ ROI. Talk to our Brainlabbers to discover how to build bolder, results-driven campaigns without breaking the bank.