Few things fill up independent business owners inboxes more quickly than emails requesting freebies shrouded in a very threadbare cloak of "collaboration".
This might be in the form of a social media shout out from the influencer or the influencer being a long term brand representative for Boofy. Usually there are no suggestion of any specifics whatsoever though, but there will be a mention of 'sending something'.
To clarify: collaborative efforts between companies and social media influencers exist successfully, but rarely does it begin with a generic email that has clearly been emailed out multiple times to different shop owners in the hope that something will stick. It never feels good to be on the receiving end of those kind of messages. Let's cut to the chase, this is what I think about your messages asking for free stock:
I, and many other independent business owners sacrifice our monthly incoming to ensure that our products are affordable for as many people as possible.
Boofy follows an adorable, affordable ethos. I do send out freebies from time to time and love to treat loyal customers with free gifts and discounts. Yet when I read a random message asking for something for free, what I hear is you saying that my product isn't worth paying for. To put it another way, how would you feel about someone asking you to do your work for free? Does that person telling you that they'll 'tell people about it' make it ok for you?
Keep in mind that most good companies have a lot of happy customers who not only pay for the product/service received but also post their satisfaction on Social Media every day.
Independent business owners receive the same messages every day and it only serves to leave a bitter taste. I could not viably send free stock to everybody who asked and still make money in my business and ensure that it can continue to operate in the future. Similarly, I am part of a few support groups online for UK based independent business owners whereby business owners share screen shots of these types of messages asking for advice about how to politely decline. There will be a lot of comments from frustrated business owners saying 'I received this identical message from that user, this is how I replied...' These messages are a source of frustration for business owners, especially new ones starting out and figuring out email etiquette and how to approach customer enquiries.
It's obvious from the vagueness of the messages sent that the sender hasn't really looked into you or your company at all, they're not passionate and they won't have even used your name. This rings major alarm bells for collaborative work.
Senders of these type of emails make a first impression and are memorable for all the wrong reasons. Insofar as if I were to be looking for a brand representative or to work on a collaboration in the future, I would probably actively not use this person due to their conduct. I'm baffled by social media influencers who are not willing to pay for a product themselves, but would happily recommend they followers to buy it if it meant receiving the product for free. This lack of integrity just makes the situation all the more uncomfortable for me and less likely to want to interact with that person again.
Collaborations can and do work, without making either party feel awkward because they are conducted respectfully. Having to swim through proportionately more fickle requests for collaboration than genuine requests discredit influencers who are really good at what they do.
How to collaborate with independent business owners respectfully:
-Think of a brand that you are interested in on social media, follow and interact with them regularly
-Decide if you are a good representative for this brand. Does your social media content fit their brand ethos? Do your brands compliment each other in a genuine way? Do you believe this brand would genuinely benefit from collaborating with you?
-Support this brand. How will you know if you can truly recommend the companies product/service to an audience that trusts you, if you don't experience the company as a customer yourself?
- After getting to know the company and they have interacted back with you, strike up a genuine conversation about their brand.
-Use the companies name in your opening message/email, or better still the name of the person who will be reading the email. This isn't hard to find if you're messaging independent businesses as there are usually much fewer staff members.
-Explain how you think that you may be able to benefit them and what you'd expect in return. Be clear, if you expect to be sent free clothes, state it. Nothing is more awkward than messages that try to dance around the frankness of what you want from your part of this.
-If your messages aren't getting the feedback that you'd like, consider joining in companies brand representative searches. There are many held on Instagram and some companies hold them as many as 3 or 4 times a year. Each companies rules and entry requirements differ but search the hashtag #brandrepsearch on Instagram for current openings.
By Alexia James, Boofy