Read this post to find out exactly how I got 8 luxury hotel collabs for my trip to Asia with my boyfriend in September 2019 (having less than 10k followers on Instagram).
Your Mindset: Creating the Courage to Make the Pitch
I had a little less than 2 weeks before going to Sri Lanka when I decided that I wanted to give it a go with pitching to hotels. Until that point, however, I kept feeding my little brain with lame excuses that were holding me back, such as:
- I don’t have enough followers on social media
- There is not enough time anymore to land a good deal
- No one will take me seriously with not even 10k followers
- I don’t have experience working with hotels
….. Among other little devils that were pinging my head.
But that day something kept telling me to give it a try.
You see, my mother always says that if you don’t ask for something, the answer will always be a no. With that in mind, I tried letting my insecurities aside for a second that day and decided to write down a list of values I believe I have, and what I could offer to a hotel that would spark their interest in working with me.
In case you are curious, here are some of the things I believe I can bring to a collaboration to compensate my ‘’small’’ social media following:
- I am a good writer (this helps A LOT in email pitching. The better you write, the more professional you sound)
- I have a DSLR with different lenses
- I have a boyfriend who is a photographer (thus guaranteeing high-quality pictures in case mine, well….sucked)
- I am an alumnus from a well-renowned hospitality university (so I have experience in the tourism sector not only from my travels, but also from my educational background)
I was pretty happy with my values (giving myself a little tap on the back now – literally just did it).
So with that in mind, I started writing down my template for the pitches.
I knooooow, not everyone has a hospitality diploma or a photographer boyfriend.
I get it!
But you have to think about what are YOUR personal strengths:
- Do you have experience in marketing/PR?
- Do you know graphic design?
- Do you have a good social media following?
- How big is your newsletter?
If you don’t have anything of value to offer, then maybe you are not in the phase to pitch to luxury hotels yet. Maybe it is best to practice your photography a bit beforehand.
After a bit of practice and once you believe the quality of your deliverables has improved, you can start gaining experience with smaller properties. This way you don’t have that big of a pressure to deliver amazing produces as you would by working with a luxurious hotel.
Related: 6 Surefire Ways to Easily Start Working With Hotels (even as a small blogger)
I don’t want to depend forever on Cris to take beautiful pictures of me (that would REALLY limit my pitching potential), so I bought a tripod and I am currently practicing my own photography.
Admittedly I am a big newb when it comes to taking professional pictures (i.e. I suck), but I am trying to watch tutorials and learn on my own time. If you wanna learn a new skill, you gotta hustle a bit!
Practice makes perfect and if you don’t believe you have anything valuable to offer to hotels, know that if/when you are able to offer quality photos/videos, you will more often than not spark their attention.
Hotels need new content for their social media on a regular basis, so offering to create those for them is usually something they will be interested in.
Takeaway: So what are you waiting for, girl? Start practicing your photography TODAY!
The Email Pitch
Considering I work in sales for the past 3 years (and also taking my hospitality background into consideration), I must admit I know some hacks that get emails opened and answered, which more often than not work very well for me.
I love to write and email pitching is one of my favorite things to do. I can’t wait to further grow my blog and my social media in order to get credibility to pitch more and more.
At the end of this post, you will have the option to download the EXACT template I used that landed me not 1, but 8 luxury hotels collaborations!
For the time being, I will disclose some important pointers that are worth mentioning from the pitch, but if you wish to have the template as an example, I strongly recommend you downloading it.
Below are some crucial pointers I used in my template which I STRONGLY believe impacted how the hotel perceived my intentions and decided to give me a chance.
Are you ready? Let’s go then!
The Fundamental Points for a Successful Email Pitch to Brands and Hotels
What I strongly believe influenced hotels taking me seriously to work with them.
1. I went straight to the point.
There is no need for fluff when you are making a pitch. Professional marketers and salespeople see it straight away when someone is trying to fluff things up and when someone is actually sending a professional pitch.
Keeping it concise, clean and clear is a great way to get them to take you seriously (and to hit that reply button).
2. I was ALWAYS professional!
There is no bigger turn off to hoteliers than getting an influencer email their hotel asking for a free stay in return for some social media posts.
It is honestly offensive, guys. So please, if you ever did this and never got an answer, don’t take it personally. They just expect a bit more from your offer.
Because if you think about it, if you don’t have a big reach and you offer to post some pictures in exchange for a complimentary stay, the hotel is not reeeeeeally getting anything in return, is it? Keep in mind that they have a cost to host you: housekeeping, electricity, water, etc.
Plus, if it were this easy, everyone in the world would be asking for free stays.
Keep in mind that if a hotel gives you a free stay, you owe them something of value in return to compensate the lack of money (meaning, this is not a leisure trip, it is a business trip, since you will be there working for/with them now). The quicker you understand how important being professional is, the easier it will be.
Valuable Tips: In order to be professional, especially when dealing with hoteliers, use terms such as:
- Dear X (instead of Hi/Hello X) – always use their names. Try your best to figure it out.
- Thank you (instead of thanks)
- Kind regards (instead of Best/Sincerely/Truly)
- Use words as kindly, please, would it be possible, I would like….
Related: Hot Best Practices That Successful Influencers Follow ( best practices for before, during and after a collab)
3. I remained relevant
It is important to praise the hotel whenever you make a pitch. This will break the ice and maybe make room for some negotiation within your pitch.
Once again, keep in mind that this is WORK, and you are approaching the hotel as a consultant to their services and features (so the pitch should be about them, not about you).
This means once again to do your research and act as a consultant to talk about the hotel and what you can create for them.
Be reasonable though.
I’ve seen sales pitches where people compliment the hotel in the fact they offer different types of pillows or other people that said they are happy the hotel has a pool. Honestly, who cares about these features?
(The above examples were things that two hotels in Sri Lanka had in their website and when I casually praised them for these in my email pitch, it gave me space for negotiation and guess what? Both hotels offered such experiences for us during our stay).
This means that at the Theva Residency we got to taste their award-winning cocktails for free, while at Le Grand Galle we had a super friendly private Chef cook for us (and guess what, also for FREE!).
These are things that make a hotel special and what you should focus on when writing a cold pitch.
4. I Knew my strengths
If you don’t have a big social media presence, make it clear straight away to the hotel that you are not there to promote them online or to give them a marketing reach (even if yes, they do benefit from the added exposure from your social media – which in this case should be an added value rather than your main offer)
Whenever you are 50k, or even 100k+ followers on any of your social accounts maybe then this might become your main offer, but even so, there should still be an element of professionalism.
We all remember what happened to Elle Darby, the influencer (who at the time had 80k+ followers on her YouTube channel), who made a pitch to a hotel in Dublin and was humiliated online by the hotel manager.
I took my own insights into this case and made a thorough analysis of what went wrong, and how could she have guaranteed the hotel deal.
Read my Elle Darby analysis post here (coming very soon).
5. I made my purpose CLEAR
In my pitches to the hotels in Sri Lanka, I made it clear to them from the very beginning that Cris and I were going to Sri Lanka with the purpose of creating content for our portfolios. This immediately reflects the hotel that we are not just another travel couple looking for cool free places to stay wherever we went.
Quite the contrary, we had to shift plans and dates to allocate the collab if we wanted to make them work. The hotels knew we had thirst in our blood to create beautiful content, and not only to be laying in the pool all day (even though we also had a chance to do the latter).
TAKEAWAY: When you get a free hotel stay keep in mind you now OWE them something in return. If they invite you, this means you are now officially staying there on a professional basis and you should do everything in your power to deliver what was agreed and to meet their expectations.
6. I didn’t send my Media Kit
I mean, why would I?
Firstly, you risk your email going directly to spam when you send a first email with an attachment included.
Secondly, my numbers would just scare them away and, considering my offer was not exposure, I had to first gain their trust and interest so that I had opportunity to discuss the collaboration further.
In fact, I was surprised when only three out of all the hotels asked my Media Kit (in other words, they still replied to my email to ask for it). When they did, I attached my Media Kit and I explained to them my ideas.
7. I hyperlinked all relevant information
To me this was an obvious one, until the day I volunteered to correct some pitches and noticed many people didn’t take this into consideration. I was shocked with how unprofessional that looked (and horribly untidy).
What do you think looks better when informing the hotel your Instagram?:
Kindly find us on Instagram:
Find us online:
www.instagram.com/labellesociety and www.instagram.com/cristoforoperrone
Do you see what I mean now?
TAKEAWAY: Hyperlink ALL relevant websites (even your blog).
8. I started ”small”
This meant that we strategically chose Sri Lanka as our destination to create a portfolio.
Indeed, by knowing how much Sri Lanka has been investing in tourism growth these past years, it is really a no-brainer to connect the dots to realize that many hotels are currently being built there.
If you’ve ever been to countries in Asia such as Indonesia or Thailand you are probably aware how many amazing villas and resorts these countries offer and Sri Lanka is no different.
In fact, there are thousands of new hotels being built every day (we were even a bit astonished with the amount of constructions around the country).
These are fabulous luxury properties that are thirsty for influencers to stop by and create some high quality content for their social media, while also helping them spread the word online.
Help them succeed by creating beautiful and fresh content. Support their wish to grow in every way you can.
And remember to always be courteous!
9. I was humble
From the moment I approached them to the moment I thanked them one last time after everything was finalized, I made myself humble and thankful for the opportunity.
The hotel/brand does not owe you any favors by allowing you to stay there. Quite the contrary, it is up to you to be thankful and count your blessings. So many people around the world would kill for an opportunity to stay at a luxury hotel for free.
Self-entitled influencers are giving us all a bad rep. There is nothing worse than assuming you are powerful and that the staff should be kissing the floor you walk in.
Be kind and thakful and maybe they will treat you even better. For all my collabs, no exception, they have offered me more than I had initially asked (and I assume it it because I was always kind and treated them with respect).
Related: See what some past collabs have to say about me here.
10. I followed up to my pitch
This is a secret tip that salespeople are very well aware of: The importance of the follow up.
Most of my opportunities with email pitching arise only after I follow up on my email sent, in case they haven’t replied me for 2 days after my first email.
You can’t overlook how valuable this tip is!!
Simply by sending an email saying something like
I hope this email finds you well. I am kindly following up on my below email, in case you haven’t had a chance to see it yet.
Looking forward to hearing back your thoughts on my proposal.
It’s beautiful because they feel compelled to reply back because they think you won’t leave them alone until they do (you increase your chances especially if you are kind and courteous).
Why you should always send an email follow up:
- They understand you are serious about reaching them and not only another influencer sending random cold emails around
- It conveys the message that you won’t leave them alone if they don’t respond
- It reminds them about your email, in case they kept it for later and never read it
Aaaaaaaaand that’s a wrap, guys! I hope this was inspiring and that it helps you get more confident to pitch hotel collabs.
I am actually currently writing a full eBook on pitching hotels (to be launched end of January 2020). If you have any questions on this topic, please leave me comment below (or email me at [email protected]).
KEEP ON READING ABOUT THIS TOPIC:
- How I Manage to Stay in Luxury Hotels for Free as a Small Blogger
- Brand Collaborations Best Practices (Before, During and After)
- How to Reach out To Brands and Get a Yes
- Top Criteria Brands Look For When Selecting an Influencer
- How to Pitch Hotels and Easily Get a Collab