Influencers are bombarded with emails from brand and agency contacts across multiple marketing channels and receive an endless stream of gifted product that often arrives at their doorstep unannounced. So how do you get influencers to read and respond to your emails and, better yet, say “yes” to working with you? The key is to understand why they’re saying “no”. 

1. Your outreach game is weak

For influencers with an overwhelmed inbox, your relationship can quickly be over before it begins if your email has a generic subject line, you get the influencer’s name wrong, etc. Jessica Woodbury, a blogger at Don’t Mind the Mess, paints a bleak picture. “Imagine a world where your spam folder was your inbox and that less than 5% of the email you get is from people you know. The rest of it is from people you have never heard of, brands you have never worked with, and focus on things you have never written about.” 

How to fix it: Nicolette McKinlay, Sponsorship Manager at How Does She describes the emails she responds to as “straightforward and upfront, concise but still personable.” Once you have all the elements of an effective influencer outreach email down, you can create a basic email template that can be personalised:

  • Use a clear subject line. Include the brand name and terms such as “sponsored post,” “paid opportunity” or “casting call”.
  • Include the first names and the blog/channel name. This is easy to drop in via mail merge if you must, but make sure to double-check for accuracy. 
  • Introduce yourself and your relationship to the brand. This helps legitimise you and categorise the type of opportunity you’re presenting.
  • Link to the site. Limit the info about your brand to a hyperlink under the brand name or link to the product. If your brand is not well known, add a short paragraph at the end. 
  • Clarify compensation. Indicate if the opportunity is paid and if it includes a product or not. (They’ll skim for this immediately.)
  • List campaign specifics. Include timeline, goal, deliverables, and any other details.
  • Inject some personality. You’re starting a relationship, treat it that way.
  • Include a call to action. Email me. Fill out a form. Send a rate card/media kit, etc.

2. Sorry, you’re just not a fit

Influencers are committed to staying true to their personal brand and doing right by their audience. “Before coming to me – even if I haven’t heard about their brand–they should have an idea of what I might be interested in that fits within my scope of content,” says Merrick White, the blogger behind Merrick’s ArtKeep in mind that even when you’ve done your research, influencers have a deep understanding of their audience behaviour, which often dictates the brands they’ll work with and the products they promote. And some influencers refuse partnerships because they feel a brand conflict with their own brand values. This type of feedback can be helpful–it allows you to spend your budget on more relevant and effective partnerships. 

How to fix it: spend time building a solid campaign outreach list based on research. Read influencers’ blogs and social posts and search for keywords, your brand, and your competitors on their site. Pay attention to the “About Me” section. If your brand has PR or perception issues, address it upfront—share how you’ve addressed the issue and what you’ve done differently.

3. The timing is off

We often see brands with unrealistic or rushed timelines, especially for influencers who try to maintain a balance between monetisation and authenticity or may only accept a few sponsorships a month. Certain deliverables may drastically affect your timeline—namely sending product for custom photography and video—they may have to schedule their photographer, send photos for editing, etc. So while some influencers may be open to expediting your content, it will cost you.

How to fix it: plan your campaign and outreach at least 6-8 weeks in advance of your launch date. Remember to add extra time for major holidays or peak shopping periods to secure top choices. Spend time building the most efficient plan for getting the product to influencers. If there’s no way around a short timeframe, be flexible with campaign deliverables. For example, opt for inclusion in a sale roundup post with brand assets versus a sponsored post with custom photography. 

4. You don’t have enough to offer

The free product doesn’t pay the bills. In a competitive space, influencers can say “yes” to the campaigns that meet their rate and decline those that don’t. Some brands assume that influencers will work for shout outs or products are given the brand’s big name. The biggest issue with this assumption is that it implies influencers are one-size-fits-all and fails to take into account the different influencer personas. The worst thing you can offer? “The biggest mistake is when [brands] say, ‘Write a post for the chance to win,’” says Kimberly Tate of Stuffed Suitcase

How to fix it: be realistic about your budget and what you can achieve when you’re crafting a pitch. Although it never hurts to ask, your ask should align with influencer persona and reach. You don’t want to build a reputation for being cheap, stingy, or out of touch.

5. They’re looking for something more serious

The competitor, or a brand with an overlapping market, may get to an influencer first with a non-compete. They’re a brand ambassador for [x] brand and are legally bound from promoting conflicting brands for up to a year. You can do everything right and still get a “no.” 

How to fix it: be the brand offering long-term brand ambassador opportunities with a non-compete. “The campaigns that offer long-term relationships, those stand out in my mind. Then I want to talk about the brand more because we have this relationship. I don’t need them to wine and dine me, but I love when they make a little extra effort to throw in a handwritten note or bring me out for a conference to meet in person. Because so much of this can become transactional,” says White. 

There are a ton of reasons influencers turn down work, but a lot of them are due to mistakes that can be easily avoided. Much like any relationship, the brands that cut through the noise are the ones that truly devote the time and effort to forge a more personal connection and communicate ideas for a well-thought-out partnership.