I think the first thing, and this is fundamental to any sales conversations that you're having is that you have to first understand the power balance of the relationship. Is this brand a really established loved brand that has more clout than you do or are they a brand new brand and you're a big influencer and they want you to use your position in the industry and your audience to try and pull their clout up?
Those are two really different scenarios and I would treat them in two different ways. Obviously, if Chanel reaches out and says they want to send you a bag, you're not going to say you're not going to send them your price sheet, obviously. That's an extreme example, but there are more nuanced ones. I think understanding the power balance is super important to being able to do this stuff effectively.
A brand reaches out and they say, "Hey, I want to send you something." I've talked before about how I hate unboxing videos. I think they're trashy. I think they're boring. I think they're lazy. I would love to not see them anymore. I think the first is that you should not take the product if you don't want it and you don't think that you would post about it. If there is no way you're going to post about it, you're just going to give the product to your assistant or to your mom, I don't think you should be taking that product.
I think it's a waste of your time. It's a waste of the brand's time and it's just disingenuous. You should first put yourself in that mindset of being like, "Would I, in any way, incorporate this into my stories or into a post?" If no, just respectfully pass and say, "Right now, I'm not accepting gifting. Thank you so much. Keep me in mind for future paid opportunities." That's an easy classy way to get out of that.
I think a lot of influencers, what they do is they reach back out and they say like, "Do you have a budget?" Again, I think that is not the way to do it. You have to understand the steps of a relationship. Part of the sales relationship is validating yourself and building trust with that partner. Asking for money before you've ever talked or before you've done any work for them is probably not going to bear fruit for you.
Again, also think about do some research on the brand. Figure out if you think they have money. Dig into the brand a little bit, see how long they've been around before you go out asking for money. Certainly, if Procter & Gamble is reaching out to you, yes, they have marketing budgets, but if it is a brand that looks like it launched six months ago, then asking for a budget is probably a waste of your and their time.
I think, one, understand what is the possibility that this could turn into something bigger. Now, if it is a brand that you think you would want to build a relationship with, again, I always would stress to try and get on the phone, try and talk to them. Try and start to build a relationship because, again, it's really hard to just sell people right away. It's much easier once they know you.
If you think there's an opportunity there, try and push them to get on the phone. Try and talk it out. Say, "Hey, I don't usually do gifting but I'd love to get on the phone and talk about this and see what the possibilities are for the future." Another way to build a relationship with the brand if you think that it is somebody that could, down the line, be a good partner for you is to accept the gifting and commit to doing something and proving to them that you're invested and that you're interested.
I think it's a two-way street. The gifting has become this gross thing and some of it is the fault of the influencers and some of it is the fault of the brands. I think, for the most part, everyone is treating things too transactionally. Brands are just like, "I want to send this shit to an influencer and get them to post it on their stories." Influencers are like, "I've never heard of you or heard from you before, but I want you to pay me immediately."
In general, thinking longer term and saying like, "Is this a partner that I want to build a long term relationship with?" If yes, let's move the conversation forward. If no, respectfully decline and move on. It is incredibly important. Again, in any negotiation, I think you have to be able to see yourself from someone else's point of view. As an influencer, you have to understand how entitled and bratty you sound to brands. I think in some cases, influencers can be entitled and bratty, and in some cases, brands have completely unrealistic expectations about what an influencer should do for free. There's a middle ground there and I'd love for us to get there.
It's become fairly toxic where brands are like, "Fuck these influencers. Every time I try and send them something that's worth $500, all they do is ask for payment." Again, part of this is also understanding where your following is at. If it's a $500 product and you have 20,000 followers, then that product is worth $300 more than I would ever pay you for a sponsored post. If you want the product, they're paying for it. If you don't want the product and you don't think it's worth $500, then move on.
Again, I just sent an email to brands about gifting today. I'm yelling at them too. Don't feel like I'm just yelling at influencers. You have to root this stuff in reality and understand what is reasonable. Being an influencer with 15,000 followers, sending back prices when a brand reaches out for gifting is ridiculous. It's like a 22-year-old coming in for an interview and being like, "Cool, can you show me where my office is?" It's like, "You don't get an office. You're 22 years old." You'd be lucky if you get a coffee cup." Understanding where you're at is super important to doing this stuff in a way that feels genuine and honest.
- Everything you need to know about gifting campaigns start to finish