Are you an influencer? Want to work with your dream Brands? I’ve been interviewing Brands and pulled together my years of experience to give you tips for what to DO and NOT DO when approaching Brands – in person at conferences and online. Soak it up!
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Influencer Marketing and Brand relationships – boy it can get tricky these days! But wait – does it have to be? One of the best ways to connect with a brand is in person at a conference, convention, market, at their store, or wherever you can see them face to face.
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But rather than sit and shake in your boots at that first introduction, I’d like to share ways to break that ice and set yourself up for a great future relationship. I’ve prepared several Do’s and Do Not’s, based off of years of my own experience and the incredible feedback I received from several of the brands that I’ve reached out to in order to share with you the most valuable insight I can give you today.
Truth be told, this post is not my typical DIY and Decor content. I am blessed to have the opportunity to take a leadership position as a mentor for an upcoming Home and DIY conference – my favorite one all year – Haven Conference. It really got me thinking about how I could help based on some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from attending countless blogging, business and creative conferences – and making countless mistakes.
One of the most nerve wracking things as a newbie, or let’s face it – anybody – can be approaching brands. I remember the first conference I ever attended, they had scheduled a block of time for what they called “Brand speed dating”. I was mortified. Sounded like the worst, awkward blind date ever (yep, I’ve had those too). I basically just shadowed some friends, said pretty much nothing, and wondered if anything would come of it.
Surprise. Nothing did.
Fast forward a few years, and connecting with brands is one of the main reasons I attend conferences – because amazing things come from it! With some preparation, advice and a big dose of confidence that comes from knowledge and experience – I’m here to help you have an amazing experience connecting with brands.
I’ve got several Do’s and a handful of Do Not’s when it comes to approaching a brand. If you come away with anything, make sure it is the last Do Not – for heavens sake – DO NOT do this one thing. Oh the bridges I’ve burned, so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Do: Prepare your blog and social channels
Before you even go hand out a single business card (which I will get into a bit more), prepare your blog and accounts first! A couple brands have told me how they sort through those cards following a conference. There are often piles for interested, maybe later, or the ditch pile. You can bet your bottom dollar that if you’ve peaked an interest, they are going to look you up! A brand rep told me they want to see an easy place to find your media kits, and information for how you work with brands. One thing that is very important to brands is unique visitors per month, which they can’t often find. Make sure you have that information for them, and an accessible way for them to contact you. If you need an example, feel free to take a peek at my “WORK WITH ME” page.
One of the best things I have on that page is a place for them to look at previous campaigns and evaluate my reach. I use an incredible service called Influence Kit. This allows you to add links to all the promotional avenues you have and it will generate analytics in real time. You can then easily send that link to the brands you hope to or have worked with. Brands love these organized numbers and reports, and it is something I include in my pitches for related content and as a follow up for every brand I work with.
Also, whether we love it or hate it, they will probably check out your social feeds, particularly Instagram. Focus on sharing your best content that represents what you do and gets good engagement prior to the conference.
Do: Your Homework
Most conferences/conventions will list out their sponsors and brands that are coming. This is a fantastic opportunity to prepare for your moment to shine.
Take some time to explore each brand and product. Perhaps you will find there are some brands that you are dying to work with or that are a really good fit for your audience and content.
Do a lot of homework on that brand! Do they already work with influencers? What appears to be their marketing goals? Do you see a content need that you could perhaps meet? Do you have an awesome idea for their products? How are you going to knock the socks off of that brand rep by telling them about their brand?
Now go and get em’!
Do: Prepare the ice breakers
There is nothing wrong with having some go-to conversation starters prepared in advance. Ya, I didn’t do that on that blind date.
So when you have nothing to say, pull out your bag of tricks like:
“Tell me about your product!”
“How do you like to work with influencers?”
“I’ve been on the hunt for a really good (fill in the blank), what kind of features does yours have”
“Can I give you my business card and tell you a bit about what I do?”
“I adore your shoes, where did you get them”.
A little sweet talkin’ never hurts.
This quote from my friend Whitney at Kreg Tools, was too good not to share.
“For us, the perfect conversation starters are “I’ve always wanted to make ____ but I don’t know where to start. Show me how!” or “I made a ___ with your products and I absolutely LOVE it!” Those are easy to move into either product introduction or content partnerships because those people are showing a willingness to learn more about us or they have experience with our product already, which makes them a good candidate for a partnership!”
Which leads me to my next point . . .
Do: Show interest in what they have to say
According to my resources, brands typically prepare their own speal to share with influencers, and your job is to give them an opportunity to share it, and be genuinely interested in what they have to say.
What they have to say should give you a good glimpse into the brand messaging which is their job to share. They want to tell you about their products and services. They want to make sure that you are certain their products are a good fit for your followers. So listen carefully, take mental notes, and use their words to govern what you say in your follow up email.
Do: Tell them about yourself!
Did you know the brands want to hear about YOU when you come to them! They desperately do. One brand shared that most influencers are not very good at pitching themselves. We should come prepared with an “elevator pitch” sharing what we do and putting our best foot forward.
Don’t assume that they will assume that because you are at a DIY conference, you must blog DIY. Tell them! They want to know what niche you specialize in, which platforms are your strongest, what makes you unique and definitely help them see why your audience is a great fit for their product.
Do: Leave an impression
While you are telling them about yourself and engaging in conversation, you want to leave a lasting impression. What helps you do this? I can’t say it better than these 2 quotes from brands.
Karen, representing Hoover Vacuums says, “Let us know what projects you have coming up. Are you renovating a certain room? Creating holiday décor and/or gifts? Try to link your projects with the brand; for example, you could tell the Hoover team you’re planning a post about “getting your home ready for holiday house guests” and you’d love to include all the different spots you can clean with the new Hoover ONEPWR line of cleaning tools.”
From Whitney, representing Kreg Tools, “Come tell us about your project plans you have coming up. Tell us about the house you’re renovating. Tell us about some troubles you have had in the past and we’ll see how we can help. Learning more about the attendees leaves an impression and is also a good way to start a follow-up email – “Hey Whitney, we spoke at Haven last week and we talked about the end tables I’m planning on making for my basement living room makeover.” Those are PERFECT ways to make a strong and impactful impression!”
I have to completely agree with Karen and Whitney. This method works well for me every time. You may not have a project that would be perfect for every brand you approach, but if you really want to work with them, you better have a project in mind, and share it with them!
Case in point: I was teaching my sister this method when I went with her to her first food blog conference (I was there for moral support, and the food). She wanted to work with this company who created her favorite blender, and she waited in line while the rep talked to other bloggers and exchanged cards. My sister went up and told her this incredible unique idea never before done with their blender, and you know what that rep did? She pulled out a piece of paper and wrote a separate email for her to contact her. Not the one on her business cards. Oh no – this was apparently a “special email” that would get her right in – and it sure did.
Wanna go above and beyond that? Show them how you used your products! This worked like a charm for me as I approached Amy Howard last year and pulled up my blog post to share the hutch transformation I did with her one-step paint. They didn’t forget, and followed up with me!
Before you arrive, take your travel time to really think about that brand you want to impress, and what kind of valuable project you could make with their products.
Do: Leave a card, take a card – your golden ticket
Showing up to a conference and hoping to connect with brands without a business card might as well be influencer suicide! They want that card! They want you to take their card! This is your golden ticket and keep it for all time!
We’ve already talked about how they will sort through the cards for their leads, and you should have a special place to store those cards. On them is typically the exact contact you need to approach for influencer relations. You might not use it now, but when you finally have a great idea for a certain brand and you go and try to find the person with messages on social, you may get sent to a standard filter questionnaire. Your best bet is to go straight to the man . . . or woman, of course.
Do: Prepare your parting
Your last words are as important as your first – if not more so.
If the conversation went great and you are feeling the vibes, be sure to genuinely thank them for their time. Tell them you will follow up and be in touch. Tell them you’ll be brainstorming some ways to help market their business. Make eye contact. Stand confident. Smile.
Most important, be very very mindful of other influencers waiting to talk to that representative. Don’t hog all their time and attention! In fact, invite the next person in line into your conversations and help a girl out! – and in this way you will appear courteous and kind – and who can forget a person like that!
Do: Follow up
I was shocked when a brand told me that most people don’t do this! Follow up! Grab the bull by the horns, take matters into your own hands and be sure you are the first to email them following the conference. That is, if you want a job. Don’t sit back and wait for that brand to contact you, because it most likely won’t happen. Give them a day or two to catch up, and then send an email referring to your conversations you had and help them remember you. Which shouldn’t be hard, because you made a lasting impression with the tips I shared previously, right?
Do or Do Not: Go to booths with a friend
I say, “do or do not” because this is really up to you, but you need to be mindful of this decision.
If you are so nervous, and you just want to get a feel for this “brand vs influencer” game, just shadow some friends or walk around trying to get an idea of what others are doing. Going with a friend can help lead to more engaging group conversations, and will take some pressure off, but this method can go bad or can be super beneficial – and you have to determine the risk.
Meeting up with friends “who get you” is the best thing about conferences! Those networking relationships are not only treasured but invaluable to your success and ability to endure when things get hard.
But when it comes to talking to brands, it can go bad if you are with a Chatty Susan – for lack of a better description. If you are with a social butterfly extrovert and you are super introverted, guess who will do most the talking? Guess who that brand is going to remember? Not you. You won’t be able to get a word in edgewise!
When it can go really good – your friend has worked with the brand, can easily start a conversation and is kind and aware enough to introduce you and help you shine. This may be something you discuss with them previously. Say, “hey, you worked with them, right? Will you help me approach them and introduce me?” If you found someone who can help you do this and isn’t only concerned about their own relationship with that brand – hang onto that friend!
But, if you have the personality to coast and let others do the talking if they are there – get out of your comfort zone and go at it alone. It may seem scary, but I promise you will have better success. You will actually feel braver knowing it is up to you – and you can crush this!
Do Not: Be scared (or at least show it)
Every brand I spoke with said this, “Do not be scared!” The beauty of meeting brands at a conference is that they are aware of influencers, they understand our value and WANT TO WORK WITH YOU! This is amazing!
I can’t tell you how many times I have emailed companies out of the blue, because I love their products and they respond like, “What? You want free product? What? You want us to pay you to do what? Who are you and what do you do?” Not all brands know about influencer marketing. We have about 5 legs up by talking to brands who have invested to be at a blogging/influencer conference. THEY WANT TO TALK TO YOU! So don’t be scared – or at least show it.
Do Not: Get discouraged
You prepped. You nailed the intro. You made an impression. You feel confident.
You got nothing. Nope, they don’t want to work with you – for whatever reason they give.
Don’t let this discourage you! I’ve come to learn that brands often have a year of contracts set up, and are not taking more on for awhile. That doesn’t mean no, that just means – not right now. Don’t give up! Say, when can I come back with another good idea for you?
Or maybe they have specific marketing needs from their higher ups, and you were great but it didn’t fit their goals. Don’t stop pitching brands! It will work eventually and you will find your perfect fit – if you don’t give up.
Do Not: Ask if they pay
Okay. Here it is. The worst thing you could say – ever. Lessons learned the hard way for me, and verified with brands . . .
DO NOT ask if they pay!
How would you feel if you just met a guy, first date, and he says – “will you marry me?”. Whoa tiger – slow down, and bye bye.
Your first conversation and a face to face introduction is not the place to discuss payments. Tread very carefully to even ask or allude to the questions “Do you only give free product, or do you pay?”
Major turn off for a brand! It appears greedy, hasty, and is altogether awkward.
I’m not even going to go into the debate of “should we work for free product” or “I only work for money”. That is absolutely up to you and your business.
A brand rep wants to determine if you are a good fit, what projects you have in mind and then the future email or phone conversations will lend themselves to discussing compensation, naturally.
That’s a wrap my friends!
Huge thanks to my brand friends I’ve been honored to work with and who gave us invaluable input from their perspective. If you are going to Haven conference, they want to encourage you to come visit them and they would love to meet you!
Megan from Grove Collaborative
Karen with Hoover Vacuums
Whitney with Kreg Tools.
I sure hope that was helpful! It was long enough, it probably should have been an ebook! I really want you to feel confident and comfortable when it comes to approaching brands, either at a conference or in your online communications.
Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Any success stories? Failures? I love to learn with you!