So, you want to work with brands, amIright? You have built up your blog and your Instagram following, you’ve fine-tuned your voice and your imagery, you are being authentic and engaging with your audience. Oh, and you are churning our great content BUT you are still not being chosen by brands. I get it, I have been there. It’s soooo frustrating!
Especially, when you hop onto Instagram only to see a bunch of influencers tagging their branded content partners. Ugh!! It feels like a gut punch and it can make you want to throw in the towel. BUT, guess what friends, 9 times out of 10 it’s not about your talent or your skill-set. It’s about understanding the process from the brand’s point of view and figuring out how you can better appeal to them.
So, let’s get into this. Are you ready? Here are some common reasons why you are not being chosen by brands, and what you can do about it.
- You and your audience are not the brand’s target market- You may have a beautiful feed and great engagement, but if you and/or your audience doesn’t fit the brand’s target audience demographics (age, gender, location, income bracket, etc…) the brand is not going to choose you, and they shouldn’t. Remember, this is a business and the brand is spending a lot of money in the hopes of getting a great return. If you can’t reach their target market you are not a great fit. In this particular instance, there isn’t much you can do but understand and attract the right audience. And, align with brands where you are the perfect fit!
- Did you post about a competitor recently? This is a big one and you would be surprised just how far a brand will dig in order to ensure you have not posted about their competitors. I once had an airline go years back in my Twitter feed to pull up a post that I had made about another brand. It’s pretty crazy y’all. So, here is what you can do about it. Know your dream clients. Take the time to figure out the brands that you love and use regularly. These are the companies you should be pitching to or applying for through networks. For example, I personally purchase FAGE yogurt and have for years. I love it! So, I don’t apply for or pitch other yogurt brands. But, when they did pop up through a network I took time to include a creative concept that I thought would appeal to the brand. Not only did I get the job but it led to an ambassadorship for the brand. Why? Because when the brand is the right fit it works for everyone.
- Location! This comes back to demographics. Sometimes a brand is working in partnership with specific retailers and if you or your audience is not based in an area where these retailers are located you are not going to be chosen, especially if the brand goal is to drive sales. Even if the brand’s overall goal was awareness it would still be a long shot that you would be chosen. This is why people that live in big markets like Los Angeles, Austin, Dallas, New York City get more work. It’s also one of the reasons they get invited to more events- they are just located nearby!
- Your category doesn’t match- Sometimes it’s about your niche. I know, I know… you’ve been told to drill down and serve your niche. YES!! That is correct! That is how you start and build. As you grow you can begin to include other areas of interest by introducing them slowly to your audience and seeing how they respond. I am proof of this. I started in travel but realized there was more of a market in lifestyle. So, I slowly transitioned to luxury travel + lifestyle. But, if you are currently only posting about home decor you are not going to get chosen by a dog food brand. It just wouldn’t make any sense. What can you do about it? Figure out what your niche is, think about what other categories you would like to add, and slowly start incorporating them. Which brings me to my next point- proof of concept.
- No proof of concept- If a brand looks at your feed will they see sponsored content? If there is sponsored content there did it get great engagement? Look no one wants to hand over their money as a guinea pig. They need to see proof that you can not only create amazing content but also content your audience wants to engage with. So, two things 1) Fake It ’til You Make It! Go back to your list of dream clients, I bet you already have their products in your home and if not you would be happy purchasing them. Use these items and stage a faux branded photoshoot. Practice unique shots, ways to include that HERO image with the logo in full view but not too much in the audience’s face. Make it real good!! Then post those and tag the brands. DO NOT use #ad #sponsored. I have heard of people doing this and it’s just nonsense. Its best to not have it be sponsored but for you to practice getting used to suggesting your absolute favorite brands to your audience. This helps your audience warm up to branded content which will help your future sponsored posts perform + it will help put you on brand’s radars and when a brand goes to look at your feed they will see proof of concept and feel good about hiring you!! Y’all I scrolled waaaay back to the very beginning of my IG in 2014 before I was working with brands to show you what my feed used to look like. I had no clue what I was doing- ha! I was mainly sharing our travels and I was hoping to work with travel brands. I was planning a trip to Europe and I highlighted our Oyster Cards (public transport) and my MTX Connect SIM Card. I wasn’t paid by the brands but I knew my followers, who at the time were mostly family travel lovers would like the details on this awesome SIM Card that worked across multiple European countries and the cheapest way to get around. These are two faux branded posts that allowed me to then reach out to activities in the countries we were visiting for trades. Those trade deals allowed me to practice creating more branded content which eventually led to paid sponsorships. See, its an evolution. I didn’t come hot out of the gates making six-figures.
- Compensation doesn’t fit the brand budget- friends this is always a tough one. But, brands only have a certain amount of money allocated per campaign and I have noticed they tend to work with the same influencers over & over. Typically, it’s ones they have used in the past or influencers the agency or network has had good success with. Breaking into this field can be a challenge. Persistence is key. Keep pitching, keep naturally tagging brands, and keep applying to network jobs. If you feel like you are especially great for a specific campaign send an email to the campaign manager and tell them why. I suggest having some stats to back you up and maybe a few examples of posts that performed well in a similar market. This is also why attending conferences can be helpful. That face time with the brands can really help launch your career. Of course, speaking of budget if your rates are too high and the brand can’t justify the extra dollars you will also get passed up even if you are a perfect fit. That said I do think it is imperative that you calculate your costs and your worth and come up with a rate that you feel good about. It’s better to take fewer jobs for less pay then to lower your rates for more work. I’ve raised my rates so many times over the years and I am still able to get plenty of work.
- Your sponsored post engagement is low- Remember I talked about priming your audience to engage with your sponsored work? This is where that really comes in handy. You have to remember your audience cares more about themselves than they do about you. Make sure that you are partnering with brands that they will love. Then make sure you write a caption that explains how great this product is for them, how it is going to save them time, money, get them better results etc… Tell them what’s in it for them! And, ensure to include a clear call-to-action (CTA) that tells them to like, comment, share or whatever you need them to do. Not only this but be ready to work much harder for engagement when it comes to your sponsored posts. One great way to do this is to engage with a bunch of other people right after you post your sponsored work. Make sure that you do so authentically by leaving a few meaningful comments and liking several of their latest posts. Many of them will pop over and comment on your last post. Voila! More engagement.
- Are you doing video? What about Stop Motion? TikTok? Brands are savvy and they know video and stop motion tend to outperform static image posts so they are always more willing to up the budget or choose an influencer who has those added skills. You don’t need to try them all but if you are looking to stand out it doesn’t hurt to add an extra skill that sets you apart from the competition. Here is a stop motion I tried, you can see it’s not great but it performed well and the brand was super happy about it!
- Creative Concepts- This is key!!! It is YOUR job to paint a picture of what you are willing and able to do for the brand. When you pitch you must include a creative concept, the same goes when you are applying to a network and they ask why the brand should choose you. This is YOUR CHANCE to show what you can do for them. Take time to really think it through. This includes checking out the brand’s website and socials to better understand its vibe. I also keep swipe folders and I save other influencers awesome photo concepts in Instagram so that I can easily pull them up to serve as inspiration when I am coming up with my own creative concepts. *key here is let other’s work inspire you, don’t copy, mmmkay? It won’t serve you and its bad juju.
- You’re not selling your SIZZLE! If you are new to sales you may want to grab some books on selling. ( this one, and this one are my favs) Seriously, because whether you are selling yourself as a brand/ influencer to a company or you are trying to get your audience to engage and buy from your recommendations you need to understand some sales basics. One of those is selling the sizzle, which means “Sell People What They Want, Not What They Need” or “Highlight The Benefits, Not The Features.” So how do you do this? It’s simple the brand/ company you are trying to get to hire you or your reader wants one thing… “What’s In It For Me?” Figure that out and tell them in a way that engages their emotions. This will get you the job and the engagement!
Hopefully, this helped shine a light on ways you can actively make yourself a better candidate for getting paid more for doing what you love. I have been able to make a mid-six-figure income that allows both my husband and I to work together, raise our kids, and travel the world with our family. Its a privilege not lost on me, which is why I find great pleasure in sharing the things I have learned these past five years. We all deserve to live a life even better than the one we dreamed of. Much love friends.