New to influencer marketing and wondering how everyone makes it look so easy? When you pitch a collaboration with brands, you only have one chance to make a first impression. But don’t let that overwhelm you. Influencer marketing can be fun, and a lucrative way to earn a living when done correctly.
I like to think that I hold a pretty unique perspective when it comes to the world of blogging, influencers, and business. Not only have I had to learn to navigate my way around a brand negotiation, but I also have owned a business that often worked with influencers and bloggers.
I’ve literally sat on both sides of a deal and feel I have a pretty thorough knowledge base when it comes to either viewpoint. Which really means I have a strong opinion of how someone should approach brands, and conversely, how brands should approach and work with influencers.
Because this was my life for three years, and a common question I would get from other bloggers, I started taking notes each and every time my clothing brand received a pitch, as well as every time I personally responded to a brand query or sent my own pitch out to brands, and complied my ultimate list of Dos and Don’ts for approaching (or responding to) brands.
Table of Contents
How to Pitch a Collaboration with Brands (and get paid!)
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Research the brand before you reach out
All too often I would get a message through my clothing brand from someone who claims to be absolutely in love with us. I love the compliment, and the fact that they took the time to even send us a message. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll turn off a brand really fast if you come across as anything but genuine.
What do I mean by that, and how to show you’re genuine?
Like I said above, research the brand – spend time finding out what or who this brand is.
- How long have they been around?
- Who is their market demographic?
- Take the time to look at their website, and other social media channels besides Instagram (assuming that’s where you initially found them).
- Take note of what seems to be important to them; do they partner with local charities or help fundraise for specific causes?
- Do they curate their own style or are they known for something super specific to their niche? Learn about it.
And before you contact them with that first email, I would also highly recommend making it a point to follow them on social media. One of the first things that brands will do when you claim to love someone so much is to check and see if you’re even following them. If you’re not, they’re going to assume you are only interested in getting a free product or payment and don’t truly care about the potential working relationship.
Let’s be real for a moment.. we all work to live, right? We rely on those paychecks and want to be successful (however we measure success) in our outcomes. No one is discounting the fact that you are wanting to get paid from the collaboration.
BUT.. content creation and brand recognition relies heavily on personal interactions. If you come across as superficial or anything but authentic, you’re going to get shot down right away.
Sit back and truly think about it for a minute: how can you expect your followers to believe you’re a raving fan, and turn into raving fans themselves, if you don’t even follow the brand you’re raving about?
Ask yourself if you + the brand = a good match
I once received an offer from a company who wanted to work together to promote their diapers and baby items. My son at the time was six. Years, not months.
As much as I liked my conversations with the brand and felt their products were probably great; I didn’t feel I would be an appropriate choice for writing a review and sharing it with my audience.
I didn’t use their products when I was pregnant or first give birth, and I didn’t have anyone at the time who I could gift and write about their reactions. It just didn’t fit, as much as we might have wanted it to, and I knew that if I moved forward with the negotiation, I would run the risk of coming across as inauthentic – something I try very hard not to do.
Sell yourself (how to reach out to brands as an influencer)
Save the marketing contact a lot of leg work and tell the brand right off the bat why you’d be so valuable to work with. From a brand’s perspective, we want to know what it is that makes you so special, and how you’re going to help set us apart from our competition.
Don’t be afraid to brag about yourself, or think outside the box. If you’re writing to simply say, “I’d love to work with you!” And that’s it – you run the risk of not even getting a response back, depending on how busy the person on the other end of the email is.
But if you send an email that is more to the point and says something like, “I’ve followed you for the last year and really respect how you’re changing the activewear culture. I had a great idea for a collaboration that I’d love to run by you..” and give the details or even elude to any details, you’re going to pique the interest of whoever is on the receiving end and start a conversation for how you can potentially partner together.
You have to keep in mind that it’s a competitive world out there. These brands run the probability of talking to hundreds of other social media influencers and bloggers on a daily basis. When reaching out to these brands, you need to set yourself apart and show what it is that makes you unique, and a perfect match for a partnership.
Need to create a media kit? Download this free template!
Be polite + humble
While I am sure that you are amazing, because we all are in our own unique ways, do not assume that you are the only person capable of landing the gig. Be humble, and always be polite, especially when it comes to negotiating payment.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should always do everything for free, but do not assume that you also know the brand’s budget, just from what you’ve seen or assume from other social media posts or collabs.
The thing with brands and businesses is this: they have budgets. And they work those budgets to very specific dollars and cents, no matter how big or small they are, to help them be successful each year. They set aside a specific budgeted dollar amount, usually each month, that is allocated for various projects.
Just because a brand may tell you that a certain figure is not in their current budget for a project, does not mean that you should argue the point with them. Maybe they decided to spend their marketing dollars on a bigger project this month, leaving fewer dollars for collaborations.
Assuming that you know how much they typically spend, and telling them that, will guarantee to get you on the “no email” list really quickly.
Additionally, do not automatically take the offer of product as payment as an insult. Some brands are just starting out and may not be able to afford what your media kit is requesting. If they are asking if you would consider doing the first collabortion for product only, you don’t have to accept.
But if you decline, do so in a polite way. There is nothing wrong with saying that you apologize but you cannot accept unpaid collaborations at this time. If the brand is genuinely interested in working with you, they will try to negotiate a rate, whether it be then or at a later date.
Additionally, if it’s a brand you love, maybe doing the first collaboration for a product only will help build that relationship for future paid contracted projects. This is huge to consider, especially if you are just starting out and hoping to gain more experience in the industry. Plus, it would be a partnership you can list on your media kit to show future brands that you have experience in influencer marketing.
There is nothing worse than acting like you are too good for a dollar amount, and nothing will turn off a brand faster. On the flip side, don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of. If you feel uncomfortable with providing any of the information that a brand is requesting, don’t send it. Always trust your gut. If something sounds fishy, or if it sounds too good to be true, it very likely could be.
Know beforehand your bottom line
This ties into the first and last point. Before sending your pitch, know what it is you’re willing to accept in terms of payment. This will only help speed up the negotiation process, aide in ironing out your collaboration details, and show that you know what you’re doing.
Plan out what you’re going to initially ask for, as well as what you would be comfortable accepting. Be confident in your ask, and again, be polite in your decline (if you’re inclined to decline).
It also helps if you have a contract drafted up. Most of the time, brands are going to want to use their own contract, but if you’re working with smaller brands, it doesn’t hurt to have one ready just in case. This helps protect both you and the brand, and it shows that you take what you do seriously.