We absolutely love the relationships we've built up over the past few ten years with key influencers/content creators, who've had a BIG impact on growing our business!
So, what's this post all about? With nearly ten years of experience in this biz, we've had a lot of great influencer partnerships, and some not-so-great ones along the way. We've learnt a LOT (and continue to learn!), and want to share that knowledge with other business owners, and with future influencers/content creators who may want to work with us.
But first, let's chat about that biz - we started nearly a decade ago, in Los Angeles, shooting head shots for actors. There was a lot to learn at that stage too, and no better place to do it than in the heart of the film and photographic industries. in 2015, with a return to Johannesburg, the team started to grow, adding associate photographers and an admin team.
Now, ten years later, we're a fifteen-member, all-female team encompassing photographers and graphic designers at Robyn Davie Creative Studio, studio hire at Fynn Studio, and easy peasy DIY photo books at Fynn Photo Books. We live and breathe our passion for photography, and for excellent client service in everything we do.
We are incredibly grateful to the amazing influencers that we've built strong sustainable relationships with over the years, and to how they have impacted on our business growth. But a lot of that growth has been organic - through forging great client relationships and a strong brand reputation.
DOING IT RIGHT
So, what is a good way to do an influencer partnership?
First up, let's consider an example with a great alignment between two brands - let's say Nikon South Africa contacts us to host a workshop in our space. AWESOME!
Why is this an ideal brand partnership?
First up - our followings match up - as a studio space we're mostly targeting photographers, and Nikon will primarily have photographers as followers.
BUT are services aren't competing - we're targeting the same groups, but with different products/services - win win!
We also know that the LOCATION ticks the boxes - as this is Nikon South Africa - so most of their followers will be based in SA. As our services are location based, this is another win!
And it means a heap of photographers will be coming in to attend the workshop in our space, which is almost definitely going to lead to future bookings.
What would be a not-so-ideal partnership?
Let's say a cleaning brand from Cape Town with 50k followers approached us - asking for free studio time so they can shoot their products. It's tempting, because they have a lot of followers, but the location isn't ideal, and it's unlikely that a lot of those followers will necessarily translate into studio bookings for us. (Also, a cheeky side note - whyyyy have they got 50k followers? How many of those are bots? Definitely something we consider in the process!)
We are always cautious when people demand things for free simply because they have "influence". And on the flip side of the coin - we have many paying clients who have hundreds of thousands of followers and have never used that as a bargaining chip. They simply happily follow our booking procedures, pay for their studio time, and continue to book with us. And that's truly commendable too!
Secondly, how about a real life example?
Earlier this year we partnered with Miss Lucky Pony on one of her epic giveaways. She is an amazing example of someone who runs her brand like a BUSINESS. She sent us a PDF of information before and after the competition, showing screenshots and data of reach of previous competitions, and the growth and reach of the competition we were involved in.
She actively takes care of the brands involved in the competition - completely aware that this isn't just a case of businesses giving away "free shit" - each local brand has high cost outlays on the prizes, and she genuinely wants the best results for each of them.
Also, this partnership was between our side hustle Fynn Photo Books - a business that targets women primarily between 25-45 across South Africa. Miss Lucky Pony's following is basically entirely this - and she's known for recommending and promoting great quality local businesses and services. So this was an IDEAL brand partnership!
Thirdly, one more recent example:
- of someone building a really strong relationship, and partnering up based on trust and mutual respect. Photographer Buns and Ovens booked and paid for a four-hour Saturday afternoon with us. She then emailed to say she's using this session to relaunch her photography career after her maternity leave and has 5 amazing influencers with big followings (some upwards of 100k!) attending the shoot. She outlined exactly the potential reach, and how much each influencer was committing to sharing from the shoot, and she asked simply for a couple of additional hours of studio time, on top of what she'd already paid for.
This showed that she respected that we have huge costs and expenses as a business, and was more than happy to pay for the majority of the booking. She created an understanding and a relationship of trust and respect rather than simply demanding that we give her stuff for free, because of the potential following she was bringing to the studio that day.
This is indicative of the kind of influencer partnership that really makes us SO happy, and keeps us continuing to build and foster the relationship! Another great example is Just a Mamma who so believes in our Fynn Photo Books business that she continues buying books, even when we don't have a partnership or colab in place. This gives us the warm and fuzzies!
And there are many many more big names and big influencers who we could list here - all of whom have fully booked and paid for studio time, shoots and photo books with us, without once expecting freebies or hand-outs.
So, what does this look like from the business owner/entrepreneurs perspective?
We've spent ten years building up this business, with endless heaps of hustle. It's taken many obstacles, many challenges and many calculated risks to get where we are today. We've never had any funding or backing from anyone - no corporate investment, no angel investments, and no cash injections from daddy, haha!
It's been a slow organic build, one client at a time, one relationship at a time, one booking at a time. It feels amazing to get the point today where we're a fifteen member team, with four successful aspects to the biz!
How have we gotten to this place?
By making smart decisions that is.
So, when a content creator or influencer approaches us - we weigh up the following:
The content creator has done their research, and sent through a full PDF showing stats, reach and potential engagement. There is a lot of cohesion between our brands, and their followers are in a similar location to the area we service.
They've outlined exactly what type of content they'll be creating, and exactly how often they'll be posting. They've drawn up a posting schedule, committing to doing this over an extended timeframe in order to maximise on reach.
We partner up, and the partnership is a success! We see many new followers, and new bookings coming in.
We sell the studio time to a paying client.
This money goes toward covering the costs of the studio, paying the salaries of the team members AND towards posting targeted adverts which reach more potential paying clients. The cycle continues. What a win!
There is no cohesion between the two brands. The influencer has not clearly outlined stats or potential reach. We decide not to move forward with the partnership proposal.
Running a business, and a successful one at that - is all about making smart decisions and taking calculated risks. It's so often easy to get swayed by the idea of someone saying, "but I have 50k followers" - but if those followers aren't going to serve OUR BUSINESS as well, then the cost of this partnership is just ADDING to our monthly expenses, and not benefitting us in any way.
To conclude, a great brand partnership is about PARTNERSHIP.
It should be based on respect, and understanding.
It should truly be mutually beneficial.
We love working with influencers and content creators, when the fit is right - and we can see that they're running their brand as a business, and are respectful of our business and the associated costs.
The thing is, at the end of the day - supporting our local small businesses by paying for their products or services, or truly adding value through the proposal you're drafting, is what we should be doing. Helping each other grow and flourish.
So, let's chat! Send through your full brand partnership proposal on email to our team.