5 Steps To Pitching Yourself To Land Bigger Partnership Opportunities — Plus 3 Things NOT To Do
My computer beeped as the number on my inbox flicked up to 137 unread emails.
“Charlie just sent me an email; she wants to do an event with Holisticism,” I yelled over my shoulder into the kitchen.
My partner laughed from the next room — Charlie’s flakiness has become a running joke in our house. Although she’s an amazing practitioner who’s seriously gifted, the girl has zero follow through. And try as I might to support her and help her grow her business, every time I agree to work with her … she ghosts on me. Then a few months later, she’ll pop up in my inbox, enthusiastically suggesting we finally work together.
Professionalism Is Important, But where do you learn it?
Five years ago, that shit would have bothered me. It would have kept me up at night — which is absolutely ridiculous, I know, but it’s true. It would’ve been something that I brought up at dinners when I’d had a glass and a half of wine.
“People these days have no follow through! No professionalism! They expect you to do everything for them!” I’d mutter through Merlot-red lips, words sputtering out of me like a Baby Boomer complaining about an avocado toast-loving millennial.
Thank god that ain’t me anymore. Mostly because I have too many other things to worry about to care about flakey people. Whatevs, no harm no foul. But my outlook has also shifted. I now realize that many in the wellness industry don’t have much professional experience — and most people are just winging it, trying to do their best.
maybe I can help with that.
After running Holisticism for two years, organically growing our platform from 100 to 45,000 community members, and partnering on over 40 events across the US with countless companies, I feel pretty confident that I’m an expert in the area of follow through.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not perfect. I still forget to open emails sometimes, and I’m sure I’ve missed a deadline that really put someone under the gun. But thanks to my previous work experience at various tech companies and as a global editorial director for a major online wellness publication, I’ve learned a lot about how to navigate partnerships to get what you want and leave the people you’re working with begging to collaborate again.
Today, I want to share with you two perspectives: What I’ve learned as someone pitching my company and services, and what I’ve learned as someone who gets 20-30 emails a week with requests from entrepreneurs and brands that want to work with Holisticism.
I’m about to get VERY real with you, so maybe buckle your seat belt??? You’re gonna learn why I ruthlessly delete pitch emails every single day (I’m a monster!), what makes me want to pay people to work with us, and the only situation in which I approve of ghosting. Onward!
Why You Want to Partner With Brands, Bloggers, Publications
It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional wellness practitioner, a burgeoning entrepreneur, or a newly-minted creative looking to expand your horizons — strategic partnerships are an inevitable aspect of you work.
OK, first things first — why would you reach out to brands, bloggers, and publications for partnerships to begin with?
Benefits of Strategic Partnerships
There are a few obvious reasons:
You can leverage more traffic for yourself and your services by collaborating with a bigger publication
You can (potentially) get paid big bucks when you work with brands on things like events, activations, or content creation
Aligning yourself with brands and people that you admire increases your credibility in your space; plus, it’s really fun to work with cool people and make something amazing
And a few not-so-obvious reasons:
You can learn a LOT from how other, more established brands get shit done. For example, I partnered with Modern Fertility earlier this year for an email giveaway. That’s something I’d never done before with Holisticism, and seeing how they set it up was extremely informative for how I’ll engage with email giveaways in the future.
You’ll get more than just traffic or new followers out of it. If you do events, sometimes you’ll get professional-grade photos that work really well on Instagram or your website. Guest on a podcast? Now you’ve got a bunch of new content you can serve up to your community. Have to write a blog post? Now you’ve got a clip that you can share with other potential partners in the future.
You’ll make new friends, colleagues, and develop serious girl crushes. One thing is certain: The world is small, and life is long. You never know who you’re going to work with in the future, or how your paths may cross again. Every person you talk to matters and is important, in some way. No pressure!
Partnerships aren’t the only way to have a successful business, but they are a cheat code. They’ll usually get you where you want to go more quickly — whether that’s getting more subscribers, making more money, or simply getting more credibility if you’re a new brand.
Emails That I Automatically Delete
I’m actually cringing as I write this, because I really don’t want you to know how absolutely savage I am when it comes to my inbox. Although I’ve never been one for email clutter, I got fiercely protective my Gmail last fall.
After doing an audit of my time, I realized I spent about 50% of my working time (roughly 30 hours a week) responding to emails initiated by other people. It’s a bit nauseating to think about. Because I have so many other DELIGHTFUL things I could’ve been doing instead, like working on my business or hanging out with my dog or baking vegan keto cookies or literally anything other than replying to emails. And, because most of the time, replying to these emails resulted in a sub-par working experience for me (I’ll get more into that in a second).
In the past, I felt as if I owed every single person who jumped into my inbox a reply. But something shifted in me, and I began to reframe my inbox as something that was my own personal space. I could do as I pleased with it. After all, I did not consent to starting a conversation with the people who cold-emailed me — I didn’t owe anyone anything. Not even a quick read of the email they sent. I could mercilessly delete anything I wanted to.
You’re probably much smarter than me, so you’re nodding along like, “Yeah … duh.” But to me, this was a revelation! I began to repeat this mantra to myself: If it’s really important, the conversation will resurface. The best relationships always have a way of working out eventually.
4 Emails That Aren’t Worth Your Time
Anyway, with that mantra in mind I have no problem deleting the following emails. At this point in my business, I know that I don’t have the energy to dedicate to someone who approaches me in this way, because it RARELY works out well for me and my business. You know how your gut is always tell if you’re going to like someone or not? Well, I think it’s your gut but also your email chain.
Not to be a total conspiracy theorist, but I think you can tell a lot about someone from the way they communicate with you. In my experience, these four types of emails are major red flags — I’ve learned my lesson one too many times that these types of emails aren’t worth a response, because they usually require MUCH more work or time from me and I rarely see a pay off (emotionally, spiritually, or financially).
Be brutally honest with yourself — are you guilty of any of these email mistakes?
Sending anything that’s obviously a copy and paste job. A template email is fine, but it’s pretty clear when someone’s just machine-gunning DMs out to as many people as possible. Copy-paste emails read like you don’t care about Holisticism, our community, or me because you couldn’t spend 5 minutes reading about what we do.
Sending anything that starts with “Hi friend!” “Dear blogger” “To whom it may concern.” If you’re writing to my personal email, then you know my name. Yo, it’s email@example.com … context clues, my guy. It’s not rocket surgery.
Writing any email that only says, “I’d love to pick your brain.” I’m all about mentorship, and I’m grateful that so many people in my life have openly shared their entrepreneurial journeys with me. But you’re far more likely to get the outcome you desire (read: on ongoing relationship, help, advice, a potential job offer) if you go into every interaction thinking of it as a trade in value. I hate to say it, but relationships are transactional — even loving ones. We all have something valuable that we bring to the table, and in order to forge relationships we need to share that value. For example, when I first started doing interviews with female entrepreneurs to learn how to run a business, I offered to feature them on the site where I was the global editorial director. That meant I was giving these women millions of eyes on their story and content in exchange for an hour long meeting. Free press traded for brain pickings. Feels fair, right? So if you want to pick the brain of someone you admire, remember to bring something to the table, too. You don’t have to have a website that reaches millions to provide value to someone. (Keep reading to learn more about how to figure out what you can offer someone that’s actually useful)
Sending anything without doing your background research. Holisticism is a tech company that helps make wellness as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. Anything pitched to us that doesn’t directly apply to what we do gets tossed pretty quickly. It’s so obvious when someone has just stumbled across our Instagram page and just wants to use us for traffic, because they don’t know anything about what we do. That’s gross. And no, I’m not going to sell your Skinny Tea.
how to interact with brands professionally
We’ve got the bad stuff out of the way, praise be. Now, let’s talk about how to communicate to get what you want.
Step 0: Understand Your Human design Type
This might be a little out of left field, but I really strongly believe that understanding Human Design is key to running your business. Human Design gives you the language and guidance to understand strategies that best set you up to be successful. There is never a hard and fast rule to success, but I’ve found that listening to my Human Design strategy has helped me grow my business in a really unexpected way.
I learned that I was a Projector the day that I sent out my first Holisticism email. For Projectors, our strategy is to wait to be invited — basically, don’t cold pitch yourself! As a result, I’ve adjusted the way I work with partners and it’s worked phenomenally well. When I don’t operate from my design is when shit really hits the fan. All of the negative experiences I’ve had — moments where I’ve said, “I will never do this to myself again,” — came when I didn’t listen to my Projector strategy.
Before you start anything — a business, a marketing scheme, a professional partnership — I really recommend checking out your Human Design type and strategy.
If you want to know more about Human Design and your strategy, click here.
Step 1: Do your research and be a bona fide fan
Professional partnerships are a lot like dating; anything that doesn’t absolutely delight you is an utter waste of your time.
You know in your heart that if you have to psych yourself up for a date that it’s not right. Same thing for brand partnerships — if you’re not over-the-moon stoked to be working with someone, you shouldn’t do it.
Partnerships are hard work and require going above and beyond. They usually distract you from your core business value proposition. Often times they cost you valuable marketing dollars that could be spent on something else. Sometimes, they don’t yield the financial or growth results that you hope for. But if you’re simply excited about who you’re working with because you’re in alignment in terms of values and purpose, then even if you lose money in the short term the partnership will be worth it.
Do your homework before you reach out to any brand.
Spend time reading through their website. Get to know their copy, how they talk to their audience, and who they are as a company.
Follow them on every channel and engage with their content by sharing their posts or commenting.
See who they’ve partnered with in the past. Do you admire those brands, too? Do you have anything in common with who they’ve already partnered with? If they’ve partnered with someone you’d consider a competitor, take that into consideration before you reach out; in fact, you might even want to mention that in your email, and ask how their experience was and how you could provide more value to them if you collaborate in the future.
Understand where they might need support. Do they have a thriving blog that runs off of guest posts? Do they need outfits for an upcoming photo shoot? Do they host events where your product could be included in their goody bags? Do they need a mini-makeover of their site? Try to predict where you could potentially be helpful before you reach out.
Step 2: Make it easy for people to say yes
People want to help you. They want to say yes. So make it easy for them by laying it all on the table in a clear, concise email.
I’ve found it works best when intro emails are around 10-12 lines. Here’s what’s helpful to include:
Why you’re reaching out
Who you are and why you’re relevant
What you love about the brand you’re reaching out to
How you would like to collaborate, and what’s in it for them
A clear action step to continue the conversation
Here are three templates of emails I’ve actually sent and received that you can use when you’re crafting your partnership emails.
I love getting these types of emails because I know immediately whether I can work with someone or not. It shows that you’ve thought through how you’d like to work together, and that you took the initiative to make a plan. When I get an email like this, I know that I’m not going to be the only one shouldering the burden of a brand partnership.
Whatever you do, don’t just shoot a note that says, “I’d love to hop on a call and pick your brain when you’re free.” That’s the email equivalent of a limp fish handshake. Flaccid! It’s icky and no one likes it. Vagueness is vexing and lazy. When I get emails like this, I feel like the person reaching out is actually asking me to do their work for them. And so I delete their email, because fuck that shit I got enough on my plate!
Step 3: Keep your communication loop as succinct as possible
Again, it’s just like dating. You don’t ask someone on a date five weeks in advance. Usually, a few days will suffice. A week is pushing it. Try to hop on a short call while you’re fresh in someone’s mind, immediately after they reply to your introductory email.
Do not make that call longer than 30 minutes — people are mostly scrolling through their phones or emails while on a call anyway, and after 30 minutes you’ll really lose someone. If you need more than 30 minutes, offer to buy them a coffee or lunch at a spot that’s convenient for them.
Before your meeting, come prepared with ideas for how you can work together. The WORST is when someone hounds me for a meeting and then when we get on the phone they expect me to come up with ideas for how I can help them.
On your call, ask how you can support the person you’re talking with. Usually I frame this as, “I have some ideas for how we can work together, but first I’d love to know how can Holisticism support XYZ brand? And how can I support you?” You’ll be surprised at how many partnership ideas come from asking this simple question.
Immediately after your call, reply via email with action steps and by-whens (deadlines you’ve created for yourself or agreed to together).
Step 4: Take 100% ownership
Taking 100% personal responsibility means owning the work that needs to get done. Don’t wait for a reminder email about a deadline. If you haven’t heard from your contact in a while, shoot them a note to make sure things are OK and ask how you can support. If something doesn’t get handled, even if it’s on the other team’s side, that’s on you.
Step 5: When you mess up, own it
Shit happens. Things fall through the cracks. People get busy. If you accidentally ghost on someone, own up to it. If your partnership didn’t get a ton of traction, that’s OK. Take it as a learning — come back to your partner, present what you learned, and do better next time.
Again, I’m not perfect. I drop the ball often. I’ve had plenty of failed partnerships. The ones that were successful came out of understanding what didn’t work before.
I’ve also had partnerships that looked extremely successful analytically, but cost me too much of my happiness or mental well-being. They weren’t worth it. In those situations, I have to own my fuck-up to myself — I picked the wrong person to partner with — and examine why that happened so I don’t repeat that experience in the future.
Partnerships are an incredible way to grow your reach and your brand credibility. But you don’t need to be a superstar influencer in order to work with incredible companies, brands, or individuals. If you pitch in a way that’s professional, courteous, and authentic, you’ll attract in the correct partnerships that’ll position you for huge growth opportunities as a business owner and human being.
And if you don’t land a bunch of partnerships at first, don’t give up! Examine the feedback you’ve been given, and keep going. You’ve got this.