The Case for “Business Cases” | For Influencers Tired of Brands ONLY Offering Gifted Product

Brianne Huntsman
Jul 3 · 7 min read

If you scroll through Twitter, one of the most common complaints from influencers goes something like this:

“UGH! I am so TIRED of brands not respecting my labor and only offering gifted product!!! Don’t they know how much time it takes to create content? I’m not working for free!!”

And I totally get the frustration, because I have felt it as a blogger!

Buuut as someone who manages influencer partnerships for various brands, I also get *why* brands only want to send free product. Brands aren’t sure if your followers or readers *buy* based on your recommendations. And while a brand loves new social media followers or engagement — they’re out here trying to sell.

There’s a disconnect between content creators and brands around payments. Both sides have good points (brands want to “vet” an influencer before paying, and influencers don’t wanna work for free), and there’s a disconnect between the two frameworks.

So, today, I’m popping in to fix this issue, sharing the #1 way (and a few others) to PROVE to potential sponsors WHY they should pay you.

(Aside: I help brands partner with influencers (consulting site here), so this blog post is specifically from my perspective as a brand rep. I work mostly in ecommerce, such as fashion and beauty products, and tech, software and app downloads. I offer 1:1 coaching with influencers and group classes, aaaand I’m also a queer blogger over here.)

BUSINESS CASES

A “business case” has different meaning depending on who you talk to, so let me define it for the purposes of this blog post.

Business Case:

  1. A justification for a proposed project or undertaking on the basis of its expected commercial benefit.

For this blog post, we’re going to focus mostly on the first the definition.

So, two parts of a “Business Case”:

  1. Background and pitch on why a business should do something new

When replying to a brand, influencers are REALLY good at sharing their media kit, pitching ideas for content, etc (#1) – but lose out on being able to send an invoice because they didn’t provide data or qualitative information on why a partnership will be successful (#2).

WRITING A BUSINESS CASE FOR BLOGGING

Businesses make monetary investments with the expectation of earning a certain ROI (Return on Investment). “If I pay an influencer $100, how much can I expect to earn from this investment?”

The easiest way to discuss ROI is with information on # of sales, but there are A LOT of ways that an influencer provides ROI. Below, I’ve shared simple scripts to include with your emailed pitches.

#1: Share Number of Affiliate Sales

The easiest way, by far, to land a new brand is by showing the number of affiliate sales for a company that’s also in their category.

Example: If a company that makes pet costumes wants to work with you, it would be smart to share the number of affiliate sales you’ve made for dog collars or another pet product.

Showing affiliate sales is easy and low hanging fruit for bloggers. Here’s an example script:

I wrote a blog post review about (brand name) that is also in the pet space. Since the review was posted 6 months ago, my affiliate sales show that my readers have purchased (# of products), for a total revenue amount of (total revenue — not your affiliate commissions).

Now, affiliate sales are harder for people who are only on Instagram. Which is why I’m such a harpy (real talk) about bloggers either having their own website where they blog.

#2: Share Increase in Social Media Followers

Every (smart) brand knows how much it costs in ads to get *1* new follower on Facebook or Instagram or another platform. You can show ROI by talking about the # of new followers a brand received from a past partnership.

With brand partners, you should screenshot their following before you post, and 3 hours after. (An IG post generally stops doing much after 3 hours.) Use this information for future pitches thusly:

When I worked with (brand name) in March on an Instagram Giveaway, there were 500 entries in the comments, and the brand saw 410 new Instagram followers.

A brand rep will take 340 and multiply it by the amount they pay for a new Instagram follower. This calculation will give them needed evidence to pay for a sponsorship.

Note: Don’t use this calculation to find the total amount for a partnership. If a brand pays $0.20 for a new follower, that’s $68 for a giveaway. There are other costs associated with a partnership!

TLDR: This calculation shouldn’t be equated to your cost for a giveaway or other promotion.

#3: Share Press Mentions

Brands can drop a LOT of money on PR, so if your work with a brand gets featured in a larger publication — link to that in your pitch!

#4: Image Rights for Ads

Creating imagery is EXPENSIVE for brands. Photoshoots require model releases, a photographer, a creative director, etc etc.

Because of this, it may make more sense for a brand to work with influencers and use *their* content on ads.

It’s hard to show how much your photo makes a company without them sharing ad info (and they probably won’t want to).

So, do some research on how “ad audiences” are built, and figure out what type of people your ads can target. Those audiences are usually similar to your followers.

For instance, here’s how a black travel blogger could use image rights in a pitch:

I know that creating images for Facebook and social media ads is expensive, which is why I also offer sponsors image rights. If you decide to be a featured sponsor on my trip to Bali this fall, image rights are included! You can use these images to focus your ads on Black and African Americans in their 30’s who are passionate about travel products. No need to send a crew to Bali to get the images, as I’ll already be there!

#5: Dollars for Diversity

There’s a stereotypical “look” for influencers – but smart brands know that working with diverse influencers means having a diverse customer base.

I’m a super-duper-queer person, and when I’m pitching brands I include that in the conversation. Brands know diversity is important, and I’m not here trying to get a company diversity points without getting paid (or some real cool gifted product or trips!).

From looking at your feeds, it looks like you work with a specific type of influencer. I don’t look like those people, and I’m excited you reached out to work together and show more diversity on your platform! My most engaged followers are queer or LGBT+ who care about social issues, and want to use their money to support companies like (company name) that are doing good in the world!

Compile a Business Case

Remember how there were 2 definitions of “Business Case”?

Let’s talk about the second definition. You can go one step further (beyond these scripts) by creating a 3–5 page document on a past brand sponsorship, and include the increase in social media followers, product moved and other results. Attach that business case when a sponsor reaches out, and you’ll definitely stand out from the pack.

(NOTE: Make sure your contract with the brand you want to feature in your business case allows you to share that info!)

WARNING: RESULTS NOT GUARANTEED

The internet is a fickle thing, so you can’t guarantee results for a brand. If you talk about ROI (in a proposal or business case), be sure to include verbiage, or a disclaimer, on how you can’t guarantee results.

I’m not a lawyer, but here’s a disclaimer I use when I talk to brands as a blogger:

I can’t guarantee similar results for (company name), but I do do everything in my power to maximize ROI for all partnerships.

^This is also why I recommend having umbrella insurance as a business owner, and why it’s a good idea to have a lawyer review contracts — or write a sponsorship contract for you that can be edited with specific sponsorship details.

NOT EVERYTHING CAN BE MEASURED

Brands partner with influencers because you have grown an audience of people who value your recommendations.

It’s REALLY hard to quantify the support of an audience, so don’t get too obsessed with numbers. Overall, it is most important to set rates where you feel like your work is valued. Say “No thanks!” to partner deals that make you feel like you’re being taken advantage of. They’re just not worth it.

One last Note

Bloggers whose following is almost entirely on Instagram often find it much harder to get sponsored content. Why? Because Instagram doesn’t show up in Google search results the same way a blog post or YouTube video does.

I almost *never* sponsor content solely on Instagram for this reason, and ALSO because a post stops performing on IG after a few hours.

Diversify. Your. Platforms.

JK ONE MORE NOTE

If you’re only getting offers for free product, it may be because the content you’re creating doesn’t lend itself to sponsorships.

I love a good OOTD photo against various backdrops, but if that’s all you’re posting, then non-fashion brands probably won’t partner. Look at your feed and ask, “Where would a sponsored product fit in with these photos?”

It’s like how Coca-Cola cups were a staple on the table on American Idol. You may need to mix up your photos to get more sponsorships. ❤

Ready to Level Up?

Did this blog post help you level up? Check out the classes I offer, or book a 1:1 session with me! Info here.

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Brianne Huntsman

Written by

Queer feminist and activist. Designer via @Stanford. Freelance creative & consultant. Here to raise a little hell. www.thehuntswomangroup.com