When you’re just about to become an Instagram influencer, everybody tells you that brands will come looking for you once you rack up a certain number of followers (usually 30k and above). In no time, you’ll start earning six figures without lifting a finger.

Now you’ve grown your following, and your influence is getting stronger, but still, no brand is coming for you.

Sounds like they lied!

So, what do you do? Sit and wait around for that “mystery brand” to enter your DM or go out and pitch to brands?

If I were you, I’d go with the latter because:

  1. Many brands still use “number of followers” as the biggest metric for hiring influencers. As such, if you don’t have up to the number they’re targeting, they may not find and message you.
  2. There are so many brands out there who still don’t know the importance of influencer marketing. By approaching them directly and telling them what they stand to gain when they invest in you, there’s a good chance you can land a contract with them.
  3. Most brands may doubt the authenticity of your profile. Some brands still think influencers use fraudulent ways to amass followers. Unilever recently called out the influencer industry on this subject.

The question I believe you’re itching to get answers to right now should be: how can you pitch to brands and land a contract with them?

Well, keep reading to find out!

  • Research the brand and find out what you can offer them

Yes, you know how strong your influence on your followers is, but how does this translate to sales or earnings for your target brand? When planning to DM a brand, you need to research why you want to work with them and how you are closely aligned. Does your style complement theirs, does your audience crave for the solutions their products offer or have you seen a gap in your influencing game you feel their products can fill?

A brand is hardly going to turn its back on your offer if you can prove to them how closely aligned your portfolio is with their business.

You can further buttress your point by showing them proof of times when you talked about their products and how your audience (their current and target customers) reacted or engaged with these posts. And if you’re lucky to have proof someone buying from them after your recommendation, then all that’s another good point for you.

  • Be in touch before pitching at all

I know a lot of influencers who send DMs to brands on the same day they identify them as target clients. This is a very wrong way of doing things. I know it may sound unnecessarily lengthy, but a good way of striking a relationship with a brand is to first be their follower and engager.

And most importantly to organically talk about them in your posts and Stories and tag them to begin the conversation before you reach out.

Maybe two to six months before reaching out, follow their Instagram page, engage with their posts (likes and comments), and, if possible, make mention of their products or factors surrounding their products in some of your posts.

When you mention them in posts or create posts/stories about them, be sure to tag them always. This way, your name would definitely ring a bell when you finally decide to pitch to them.

The idea here is to make them see that you’ve been a long-time admirer of what they are doing, and as such, you understand how you can be of help.

  • Present convincing facts

Pitching as an influencer can be likened to a job application process in the sense that you have to impress the hirer to so that they can see why you’re better than the other guy.

In this light, you cannot afford to approach them with facts like “I have 48k followers,” “I get 4k likes per post,” or stuff like that. You need to give them something a little bit more intriguing to spark their interest – something like a “niche-specific Instagram influencer benchmark.”

Not sure what that is?

Well, a niche-specific Instagram influencer benchmark is a data that measures your Instagram influence. It tells a target brand where you rank amongst other influencers in that niche, and how strong your influence really is. Basically, this data ranks you as in the top 25% or top 50% of influencers in your niche.

Want to know more about what Instagram influencer benchmarking is? Check out this article on how to monetize Instagram.

  • Don’t reach out on IG

Even though Instagram is your home, it’s always more professional to reach out to brands via emails. While you might get a response from some brands through an Instagram DM, you will be fighting for attention along with every other influencer and wannabe influencer. Therefore, instead of sending DMs on Instagram, you might be more likely to get responded to by email.

Conduct your research and find out their email address. Often times, a company’s email address is always added to the “Contact Us or About Us” page on their website. Check out names that are in their press releases. Or use LinkedIn to find out who is managing their influencer relations and reach out there. Be professional, because brands want to work with reliable influencers who are as professional as they are.

  • Ensure your first impression is effective and sound

You can’t undo a first impression, so make sure your interactions with the brand from the get-go are professionally structured and strike the right tone. Avoid over-familiarity and presumptuousness. Also, avoid common errors like copying/pasting a generic message to a list of brands, which is often made obvious by font errors.

You should be personalizing your approach to brands as much as you would want them to personalize their approach to you. Compose your emails in a custom-tailored fashion to fit the tone, standards, and values of each brand you’re pitching to. Remember, how you’ll address a fashion model agency may not be the same way you’ll approach a corporate tech firm.

  • Don’t sound money-motivated

In all your conversations with them, ensure you sound less driven by money. Pitching to brand directly is quite different from when they’re the one who sought you out. As such, you need to give them a reason to want to talk or do business with you.

Show them how you’ve helped other brands, how you’ve been discussing things that relate to their business with your audience, how you’re eager to do a free promo for them in your next post if they’re willing to provide you with free samples or information to go on.

Mention the things you intend to do or say in those posts, and make them see how creative you’re willing to go just to get the word out about their products.

Ironically, many of them may not even be thinking about any Instagram marketing ideas at first, but based on your creative suggestions, they might start to see opportunities in areas they never once considered.

This kind of approach will usually warrant a response, in which case that’s the first line of communication made. Once you get the response, how well you collaborate with the brand is all up to your skills – and influence!