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Crafting a Budget-Friendly Influencer Strategy

Crafting a Budget-Friendly
Influencer Strategy

Manimal Tales is a publisher of personalized books for all ages and occasions. As a small company, we did not have a large budget (or any budget really) to build out our influencer network of mothers, but we managed to do so anyway. 

This is the first article in our series detailing how we created that influencer strategy at Manimal Tales. We also talk about the actual steps taken to do so, along with examples of all resources, and also provide a list of all the mommy influencers on Instagram with whom we have corresponded with, as a valuable resource for other companies. Enjoy!

Table of Contents 

  1. Introduction
  2. Considerations That Drove Our Strategy
  3. Third party software platforms 
  4. Influencer marketing agencies
  5. The DIY approach : Crafting a strategy in-house 
  6. Conclusion: What We Did


In today's dynamic digital landscape, influencer marketing has become an indispensable tool for small businesses to reach their target audience effectively. 

However, the idea of creating an influencer strategy, especially for those with tight budgets, can be daunting. In this blog post, we'll take you through a real-life case study (of ourselves - check us out at manimaltales.com) and how we devised a successful influencer strategy targeting mommy influencers without breaking the bank! 

Manimal Tales is a small publisher of personalized books for all ages and occasions. In our case, we had absolutely zero dollars in the budget to pay for influencers. What we were willing to do was offer free products in exchange for product reviews and giveaways. Before we honed in on our homegrown DIY approach, we did take a look at the universe of possible options and have shared those learnings here as well.

We will also provide (as separate blog posts) all the real-world tools we used to execute our DIY Influencer strategy, including our list of Mommy Bloggers, our tracking sheet and sample outreach content! 

We hope this proves to be useful to other small businesses looking to do the same!

Considerations That Drove Our Strategy

  • Exploring the Influencer Ecosystem: Options at Hand
  • When a small business aims to resonate with mothers and grandmothers, mommy influencers become the natural bridge. These influencers, who share their parenting journeys, insights, and recommendations, possess an intrinsic ability to connect with their audience. We embarked on a journey to discover effective ways to tap into this power.


    Third-Party Software Platforms

    In the quest to identify suitable mommy influencers, third-party influencer marketing platforms offer an efficient avenue. These platforms streamline the process of influencer discovery, relationship management, and campaign tracking. Here are a couple of options:

    Instagram Influencer Platforms

    1. Instagram Influencer Hub
      This platform is designed to help connect businesses with influencers on Instagram. It offers a wide range of features and tools, such as filtering by location, niche or follower count and allows users to directly message influencers through the platform.
    1. Tribe:
      Tribe helps businesses and creators collaborate through sponsored posts on Instagram and other social media networks. It boasts an impressive 99% acceptance rate amongst influencers in its network.
    1. Upfluence
      Another influencer platform that connects businesses with Instagram influencers. Their platform offers advanced analytics and even tracks influencer-generated content to ensure consistency and compliance with brand guidelines.
    1. AspireIQ:
      AspireIQ is a software solution that helps companies identify and collaborate with influencers via Instagram and YouTube. It also integrates with Shopify, making it a great option for e-commerce businesses.
    1. Julius:
      Julius offers business intelligence on influencers and automation tools designed to help users find and collaborate with Instagram influencers. It has over 100k influencers on its platform, allowing businesses to find the perfect fit for their marketing campaigns.


    Micro-Influencer Platforms

    1. Popular Pays:
      Popular Pays is designed to help companies collaborate with influencers who have smaller followings, but greater engagement. It has a large network of influencers who are less well-known but can still be effective at driving brand awareness.
    1. Heepsy:
      Heepsy helps businesses find micro-influencers based on location, niche, and other factors. It boasts an impressive database of over 11 million influencers.
    1. Lumanu:
      Lumanu is another micro-influencer platform designed to help small businesses and startups find influencers for their marketing campaigns. It offers features such as influencer contact management and lead generation.
    1. Takumi:
      Takumi is focused on helping businesses find and collaborate with micro-influencers on Instagram. It offers advanced analytics and tracking tools to help users optimize their campaigns.
    1. HypeAuditor:
      HypeAuditor is an AI-powered influencer marketing platform that helps businesses find micro-influencers who will be a good fit for their campaigns. It offers audience analytics to help companies measure the effectiveness of their influencer marketing.

    Influencer marketing has become a popular marketing strategy in recent years, as companies look to leverage the audiences of social media influencers to promote their products or services. Influencer platforms are services that connect influencers with brands and help facilitate influencer marketing campaigns.

    One major advantage of using influencer platforms is the ability to find influencers who align well with your brand's values and mission. Many influencer platforms allow brands to search for influencers based on their interests, audience demographics, and other factors, helping to ensure that the influencers you work with are a good fit for your brand.

    In addition, working with influencers through an influencer platform can often be more cost-effective than hiring an agency or managing influencer relationships in-house. Influencer platforms often offer a range of pricing tiers that allow brands to choose which influencers to work with based on their budget and the scope of the campaign .

    However, there are also some downsides to using influencer platforms. One potential disadvantage is the sheer number of influencers and platforms available. This can make it difficult to find the right influencers to work with and to evaluate the quality of their followers. In addition, influencer platforms may charge fees or take a percentage of the campaign cost, which can add up quickly.

    Also - and this is most key - all influencers on existing platforms charge for their content and rarely accept barter or in-kind offers. So for us, this was a double whammy - not only would we have to pay for the platform, but we would have to pay for the influencers as well!

    Key issues to consider when using Influencer Marketing Platforms:

    Authenticity and Fit: While influencer marketing platforms provide access to numerous influencers, brands need to ensure they collaborate with authentic and relevant influencers. Conducting thorough research, reviewing past collaborations, and analyzing audience engagement can help determine the authenticity and fit of potential influencers.

    Cost vs. ROI: Engaging influencers through platforms often involves financial commitments, including fees and compensation. Brands should carefully evaluate the potential return on investment when selecting influencers and negotiating rates. It's important to consider factors such as reach, engagement, and the influencer's alignment with the brand's values and target audience.

    Content Control: When working with influencers through platforms, brands may have limited control over the creative process and content produced. While influencers bring their expertise in creating engaging content, it's crucial to ensure that the content aligns with the brand's vision and messaging. Establishing clear guidelines and maintaining open communication with influencers can help strike a balance between creative freedom and brand alignment.

    Market Saturation: The increasing popularity of influencer marketing has led to a saturated market, with numerous influencers collaborating with various brands. This saturation can make it challenging to find influencers who haven't already worked with many competitors in a specific industry. Brands need to conduct thorough research and seek unique collaborations to avoid the risk of appearing repetitive or inauthentic.


    Despite these potential drawbacks, influencer marketing remains a popular and effective marketing strategy. According to a survey by Influencer Marketing Hub, businesses on average earn $5.20 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. In addition, 63% of marketers plan to increase their influencer marketing budgets in 2021, indicating that the strategy is only getting more popular.

    In conclusion, influencer platforms can be a valuable tool for brands looking to get into influencer marketing, offering the ability to find and collaborate with influencers in a more efficient and cost-effective way. However, brands need to carefully evaluate their options and consider the potential downsides of working with influencers through a platform.

    After exploring these various influencer platforms, we realized that it was better to manage influencer outreach on our own. While the platforms did offer lists of influencers, we found that we could find mommy bloggers on our own and that most of these platforms were not cost-effective for small businesses. Read our next blog to see how we did it!

    However, for businesses seeking to manage influencer programs, these platforms could be a useful investment with the vast array of features they offer. As always, research and analysis are key in determining which platform is best for your specific business needs.


    Influencer Platform


    Best For


    - Comprehensive influencer profiles

    Large businesses with a higher budget

    - Detailed audience demographics

    - Robust campaign management

    - Performance tracking



    - Detailed influencer insights

    Small to medium-sized businesses

    - Flexible pricing options

    - Strong communication tools

    - Data-driven analytics



    - In-depth influencer profiles

    Businesses seeking extensive influencer data

    - Extensive data analytics

    - Efficient campaign management

    - Access to a wide range of influencers


    Tribe Dynamics

    - Specialized influencer performance data

    Brands focused on influencer-driven impact

    - Emphasis on relationship management

    - Effective brand mention tracking

    - Deep understanding of influencer-driven impact


    - Comprehensive influencer profiles

    Businesses seeking wide platform coverage

    - Wide range of social media platform coverage

    - Robust analytics and fraud detection

    - Customizable pricing options

    Influencer Marketing Agencies

    Collaborating with influencer marketing agencies is another route that small businesses can consider. These agencies specialize in connecting brands with suitable influencers, managing campaigns, and ensuring smooth execution. However, it's important to note:

    Benefits: Agencies bring expertise, connections, and a well-defined process to the table. They handle the intricacies of influencer collaborations, saving the brand time and effort. 

    Considerations: The cost associated with agency collaborations can be substantial, often exceeding the budgets of small businesses. Additionally, relinquishing control over certain aspects of the campaign might not align with the brand's vision.

    There are hundreds and hundreds of agencies and performance and capabilities vary significantly. Most agencies are pretty local and we suggest the best way to work with them is to get a referral from someone you know who has used them and can vouch for their performance!

    Tailoring the Strategy to Your Budget and Goals

    For many small businesses, navigating the world of influencers on a limited budget requires creative thinking and strategic decision-making. While third-party platforms and agencies offer valuable services, their costs might outweigh the benefits for smaller enterprises.

    The DIY Approach: Crafting a Strategy In-House

    In our journey as a small business specializing in personalized books for children, we discovered that the art of storytelling extends beyond the pages of our books. When faced with budget constraints, we recognized the value of a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to influencer collaboration. This strategy not only proved to be the most cost-effective option but also allowed us to maintain a level of control that resonated deeply with our brand ethos.

    Embracing Personalization in Strategy

    Just as we take pride in crafting books that reflect the uniqueness of each child, we approached influencer collaboration with a focus on personalization. The DIY approach enabled us to tailor our strategies to fit the distinct personalities and styles of mommy influencers we aimed to collaborate with. We understood that personalization extended beyond just our products; it was an integral part of how to approach micro mommy influencers.

    The Power of Control and Consistency

    One of the most significant advantages of the DIY approach was the level of control it granted us. From initial research and influencer identification to campaign execution and post-collaboration engagement, we had a hands-on role in every step

    Optimizing Resource Utilization

    As a small business, we're no strangers to resourcefulness. By choosing the DIY path, we strategically allocated our limited budget. Rather than investing in expensive third-party platforms or agency fees, we directed our resources towards establishing great collaborations which we can use periodically in the long run. This approach not only stretched our budget but also allowed us to sort through the mommy influencers who created the content best suited for us!

    Fostering Authentic Connections: A Personalized Journey

    Researching, identifying, and reaching out to mommy influencers directly became an insightful journey of its own. Instead of simply targeting influencers based on follower counts, we delved deeper.

    Precision and Tailoring: Every Collaboration Counts

    Our personalized books stand out because they are carefully tailored for each child. Similarly, our influencer collaborations were approached with precision. Through the DIY strategy, we gained a good understanding of each influencer's unique style, audience, and content preferences. Armed with this knowledge, we were able to craft tailored messaging and collaborations that seamlessly aligned with their platforms.

    Narrative Consistency for Meaningful Impact

    Choosing the DIY approach meant that our influencer collaborations became a part of the larger story we were telling through our brand. Just as our personalized books have a narrative arc, our influencer partnerships took on a purposeful trajectory. This narrative consistency ensures that each collaboration contributes meaningfully to our brand's overall message, with each mommy influencer becoming an authentic advocate for our products.



    To sum it up, diving into the world of influencer marketing for small businesses is like choosing between a bunch of exciting options at an ice cream parlor. While influencer platforms and agencies offer some tempting flavors, you have to weigh in the costs and consider whether they'll satisfy your budgetary taste buds.

    So, we took a stroll through the influencer platform neighborhood, checking out cool spots like Upfluence, AspireIQ, Julius, Tribe Dynamics, and HYPR. They have comprehensive influencer profiles, great analytics, and campaign management tools. But, hold up – there's a catch! These platforms might ask for both a fee and a scoop of your budget to pay influencers. Double whammy!

    Platforms give you access to a variety of influencers, but you we have make sure they are in line with our brand. And when it comes to the creative stuff, influencers might want to sprinkle their own flavor, so you've got to find the right balance between letting them do their thing and keeping your brand's identity intact.

    Now, let's talk about influencer marketing agencies – the cool cats of the influencer world. They bring the expertise, connections, and a whole process to the table, making your life easier. But here's the scoop: they might charge a hefty fee, and you might have to give up a bit of control over your campaign. It's like getting a fancy sundae but not being able to choose the toppings.

    So, how did we, a small business making personalized children's books, tackle this influencer marketing adventure? We went for the DIY route – just like making your own ice cream sundae at home. It's all about personalization, baby! We tailored our influencer collabs to match the unique styles of mommy influencers. Having control over the whole process allowed us to stretch our budget wisely, spending on collaborations that would keep giving in the long run.

    Reaching out to mommy influencers directly was a learning curve for us. Instead of just looking at follower counts, we dug deeper into their style, audience, and content preferences.

    In a nutshell, our experience showed us that a DIY approach is like creating your own campaign– budget-friendly and personal. By navigating the influencer landscape with a dash of creativity, a scoop of personalization, and a little bit strategic thinking, we found our niche of influencers. 


    General Questions

    Manimal Tales is a publisher of beautifully illustrated personalized books. We have personalized books for children and adults. From birthday books to new baby tales, and from bedtime stories to ABC books, we have custom books for all occasions!

    We even offer PhotoStories, our personalized picture books with photos.

    At Manimal Tales, we fervently believe every child should be the hero of their own story!

    Personalized books (or custom books as they are sometimes referred to) allow the reader to become the hero of the story - literally.

    The main character in the story is the reader / receiver of the book, and is represented by an avatar that looks like them. There are usually lots of additional personalized details printed in the stories, including the receiver's name, age, family members and more.

    Our PhotoStories offer a whole new level of personalization by allowing you to add your own photos into the story and have them printed out with the book.

    Browse through our collection of custom books to see which ones work for your loved ones!

    It's super easy to personalize your own book!

    Browse through our collection of personalized stories and select the titles you want. On the product page, add the details required to personalize the book (name, age, family members, photos etc.). You can then preview the entire book before you buy, so you know exactly what you're going to get!

    Once you're satisfied, add the book to your cart, enter your payment details and your unique, one-of-a-kind personalized book will arrive on your doorstep in 6 to 9 days!

    The short answer is that it depends on the personalized book title in question!

    All books will have your loved one as the main protagonist and their name will be printed on the book cover as well as in the story.

    In some of our books like Dreamland and What Will I Be? the (the An ABC Story) your loved one's name is printed on every page.

    In our Manimal Tales series, in addition to your child's name, you can select an avatar that looks like your child.

    In our custom baby tales, Your Baby's Story and Your Baby's Story (Sibling version), you have to enter names and select avatars for the parents and the siblings as well.

    And for our PhotoStories, you can further customize the books by uploading and adding your own photos directly into the book. The stories have been written to incorporate the photos as part of the story itself.

    Whichever personalized book you do choose, we guarantee your loved one's will love our custom tales just as much as we do!

    We have books for all ages and occasions! On the menu bar at the top of the page you can filter through our collections of personalized books by a variety of different criteria.

    We have personalized books for:

    - Birthdays

    - New babies / baby showers

    - Bedtime books

    - Back To School / ABC books

    - Seek & Find books

    We also offer custom books with engaging stories about:

    - Friendship and bravery

    - Standing up for your beliefs

    - Animal rights and adventure

    We have personalized books across all ages:

    - 0 to 3 years

    - 3 to 6 years

    - 6 years and above

    - Adult stories

    Lastly we have our PhotoStories, which allow users to upload photos and have them become part of the story!

    - Happy Birthday Personalized PhotoStory

    - Your Baby's Personalized PhotoStory

    Nothing beats getting a book with your name on it!

    Personalized books are treasured and loved by all, and make great keepsakes.

    We offer custom books for all occasions, ensuring you will always find a book to meet your needs.

    You can always reach us by filling out our Contact Form.

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