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What pro influencer marketers do before entering long-term partnerships

Trial periods are the smart way to avoid getting into bad situations. Here's what you need to think about.

Read time: 4 minutes 26 seconds

One thing about me is that I’m a hopeless romantic. (I was raised on a steady diet of '90s rom-coms and 2000s chick lit. I also read Pride & Prejudice when I was 11).

And, even I know you don’t get married unless you’ve gone on a few dates at least.

Hello, hello, Eleni Zoe from Modash here, and I’m back with another issue of Return on Influence. I bring up dating because the next two issues of ROI will be on long-term partnerships.

Did you know that many brands put new creators on trial periods before they invite them into long-term partnerships?

Of course, they do. Influencer partnerships aren’t ad campaigns; you can’t just turn them off if you’re not getting results.

You don’t want to get to the altar only to realize that you weren’t made for marriage. Breaking contracts and ghosting creators or agencies is not a fun experience for anyone involved.

Don’t do this!

Instead of running away from a bad situation, you want to avoid getting into one. Building a solid process to trial new creators before committing to a long-term deal helps you do that.

The trial should give creators their best shot at success, so it should include everything that a normal activation would:

  • Payment (!)

  • Brief

  • Access to your product

  • Anything else you include when you onboard a new creator.

Let’s get into the tips to see how it’s done!

Tip #1: Tailor your trial

Every brand we spoke to structures the trial period according to the characteristics of their product or service. Your trial should be based on your product, niche, influencer strategy, and your brand.

When you begin thinking of your trial, give creators the best chance at nailing it.

What should the deliverables be?

One of the smartest ways to customize your trial is to tailor the deliverables to each creator.

Here’s how Valeriia Chemerys, Head of Media Partnerships at Deeper, who manages 150+ paid long-term ambassadors on annual contracts, approaches deliverables:

Each creator typically has a strength when it comes to content. One creator might excel in Reels, while another creates great long-form YouTube videos. We request deliverables based on those strengths. For example, one Reel, a set of Stories, one TikTok video, or one YouTube integration each month.

Of course, this will require you to do a lot of vetting & analysis up-front, but it allows creators to shine because they’re playing to their strengths.

Around 85% of creators continue after their trial with Deeper.

So, as you can see, the upfront work is worth it for them.

Think of your brand and what kind of content works best for you. If, for example, you only run Instagram campaigns. And you’ve seen that a specific type of Reel performs well. That’s what your deliverable should be.

Tailor your deliverables to what works best for your brand and the creator.

How much testing should you run before making a decision?

You get to decide what a long-term partnership looks like for your brand, and your trial will reflect that.

  • Deeper commits to a 1-year deal after a 3-month trial. They target professional and hobby anglers, so their trial considers the time it’ll take for their partners to practice using the product and use it well.

  • Anna-Maria Klappenbach leads influencer & brand marketing at Aumio. She commits to a 3-month deal after a 2-post activation trial. Aumio is a meditation and relaxation app for children, so it’s easy to use, and the creators don’t need weeks to get value out of it.

Your testing periods can be based on time, like Deeper, or on activations like Aumio. Take your product into account, and be sure to provide a fair amount of time to see results.

Tip #2: Pitch your trial as a win-win (Because it is!)

What about creators, you may be asking yourself. Do they like trials? Do I even tell them it’s a trial? How?

I’d always recommend to be transparent. You gain absolutely nothing by not revealing that they’re in a trial.

Trial periods benefit both the brand and creators; with the right pitch, creators will understand that, too.

Omer Mohamed, Head of Social Media & Influencer Marketing at Bang & Olufsen, recommends just being transparent with creators.

Tell creators that, to justify long-term financial commitments, brands need to test the waters. It should be a win-win as it allows both parties to assess how their relationship could play out in the long term.

Tip #3: Use these examples to think about how you could structure your trial

The Niche Product 🎣

Valeriia at Deeper runs a 3-month trial. They send out a tailored product kit and ask for one core monthly deliverable. (according to the creator’s strengths). The most important criteria Valeriia looks at when deciding who they’ll continue with:

  • The creator is competent at using the product (they use the sonar correctly)

  • The creator is responsive.

  • The reach and engagement align with expectations (or exceed them)

  • Pricing for further collaborations still aligns with the budget

The Service + app 👨‍⚕️

Georgina Whalen, One Medical’s Influencer Marketing Manager, runs a 2-month trial. There's an onboarding call, an in-person office visit, a complimentary one-year membership, and varying deliverables determined on a case-by-case basis.

If I see comments & questions about One Medical, that is the kind of engagement we are looking for. I track each creator’s metrics closely so that I can decide if we should extend a contract or put ad dollars behind the content.

Historically, Georgina has been tracking awareness & new member sign-ups (by promo code redemptions). Moving forward, her priority is local awareness of One Medical's Amazon Prime offering through clicks, engagement, and quality of engagements.

The App 📱

Anna-Maria at Aumio runs one initial activation. If successful, they do another activation. If it's still going well, then they commit to a 3-month period. Aumio provides free access to the app, and the deliverables vary.

Aumio prefers to commit to a 3-month trial because sales typically dip in the summer. They want the option to stop a creator and to navigate seasonality.

As you can see, every brand here has built a different trial experience. There aren’t any blueprints we can give you.

The takeaway is to make your own rules according to your experience. Take inspiration from these examples and adapt them to fit your own goals.

What’s everyone else doing?

One of the questions we asked in our survey was whether long-term partnerships outperform short-term (or one-off) collaborations.

19 out of 32 responses so far have been "it's mixed.”

I think what this pie chart shows is that we (as an industry) could get better at execution to get better results.

Jessy Grossman, the Founder of the Women In Influencer Marketing community, said it well:

The important question before entering into any long-term partnership should be, “Can we properly set up and manage a long-term partnership?” Be one of the few people who ask themselves this question.

The main takeaway is that you don’t want to rush into long-term partnerships willy-nilly. Or because you heard someone say it’s the THING to do.

Be sure you have the tools, resources, and a thoughtful strategy to support long-term partnerships.

Will you use any of these tips in your work?

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