In episode 436, Megan chats to Candice Ward about how to convert 75% of cold pitches to closed opportunities using a tried and tested sales process.
We cover information on what a sales process entails, how to streamline a firm process so you remove the guesswork from the process, get to know what prospecting entails, how to spark a brand’s interest, and learn the timing of when to share and what to share with a brand to begin closing contracts.
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Bio Candice is the Founder of Eat More Cake Dessert Blog, Food Photographer, Educator, and Sales Expert. Candice spent over a decade in corporate sales and translated that experience to help other food content creators monetize and scale their businesses. She has coached hundreds of food content creators in her business course, The Confident Pitch Program. She is passionate about helping other food bloggers reach their full potential!
- Sales process – repeatable steps to make a client aware of your service until they become a paying client.
- Streamline workflow to take away the guesswork
- Helps you work more efficiently
- Learn how to overcome brand objections
- Build stronger relationships with brands
- Prospecting – determine which brands to work with
- Educate brands on the different ways you can serve them.
- Be sure to check out local companies and small to mid-sized companies.
- Research – share your observations and find a pain point.
- Discovery – phone, in-person, or email – the opportunity to uncover their needs.
- 6 Powerful Strategies to Stand Out in a Pitch – a comprehensive guide with proven strategies to increase your pitch response rate.
- Pitching Formula – take the guesswork out of what to say in a pitch and craft tailored pitch emails that convert.
- Brand Questionnaire – questions to ask the brand to qualify the opportunity, uncover their needs, and fully scope the project to provide an accurate proposal.
Click for full script
EBT436 – Candice Ward
Intro: Food bloggers, hi, how are you today? Thank you so much for tuning in to the Eat Blog Talk podcast. This is the place for food bloggers to get information and inspiration to accelerate your blog’s growth and ultimately help you to achieve your freedom, whether that’s financial, personal, or professional.
Megan Porta: I’m Megan Porta and I’ve been a food blogger for over 12 years. I understand how isolating food blogging can be at times. I’m on a mission to motivate, inspire, and most importantly, let each and every food blogger, including you, know that you are heard and supported.
One of the things I love so much about this podcast and being able to talk to so many different people is that I can talk about the same topic to multiple people and get a different perspective, get different information, get different values. I pulled so much value out of this conversation with Candice Ward from Eat More Cake by Candice. She talks about how to convert 75% of cold pitches to closed opportunities. Now this can refer to working with brands. I know a lot of you work with brands currently or want to work with brands, but it can also apply to getting clients of your own, if you want to branch out into coaching or something along those lines. The information on this topic that Candice provides is super valuable. Some of it is very novel to this podcast. I really hope you love this as much as I do. It is episode number 436 sponsored by RankIQ.
Sponsor: Hey, awesome food bloggers. Before we dig into this episode, I have a really quick favor to ask you. Go to your favorite podcast player, go to Eat Blog Talk, scroll down to the bottom where you see the ratings and review section. Leave Eat Blog Talk a five star rating if you love this podcast and leave a great review. This will only benefit this podcast. It adds value and I so very much appreciate your efforts with this. Thank you so much for doing this. Okay, now onto the episode.
Megan Porta: Candice is the founder of Eat More Cake dessert blog, food photographer, educator, and sales expert. Candice spent over a decade in corporate sales and translated that experience to help other food content creators monetize and scale their business. She has coached hundreds of food content creators inside her business course, the Competent Pitch Program. She is passionate about helping other food bloggers reach their full potential. Candice, so great to have you on Eat Blog Talk. Welcome. How are you today?
Candice Ward: Thanks, Megan. I’m excited to be here. I’m doing well.
Megan Porta: Good. Yes, I’m excited to talk about your sales process that converts cold pitches to closed opportunities. But first, we are all dying to know if you have a fun fact to share about yourself.
Candice Ward: I have a lot of fun facts. I will say the fun fact is I just got back from Iceland with my husband, which was incredible. I am an avid traveler, studied abroad in Spain in college, which led to my love for travel. So I have traveled to probably 30 countries. So yeah, that’s my fun fact.
Megan Porta: So what was your key takeaway from Iceland? What was your favorite thing?
Candice Ward: Everything. The lifestyle, it’s just beautiful. You go and you just explore the outdoors. It’s just a beautiful country. It’s green, it’s the land of fire and ice. So just really majestic. If you’re wanting an outdoorsy trip, I would highly recommend going to Iceland. We loved it.
Megan Porta: I’ve heard so many great things about it over the years. It’s on my list.
Candice Ward: Yes.
Megan Porta: Yes. Cool. Okay. So you have this approach that you use for working with brands and other sales. But first I want to ask more about your blog, just to get started to kick off the conversation. So I know your blog is Eat More Cakes by Candice. Would you mind just sharing a little bit about your blog?
Candice Ward: Yes, absolutely. I started my blog about six years ago. I was actually baking wedding cakes in this local Seattle market, and I decided to document my baking journey by starting a blog. So it’s primarily a dessert blog. It’s not just cakes, but I really specialize in mostly desserts. So I have continued to work on the blog, although my business has taken several different directions since then. I’ve worked with a lot of different brands in various capacities. So yeah, so I specialize in desserts and I’m all about helping my audience find little joys in every day, especially through baking.
Megan Porta: Oh, amazing. I love that. You mentioned working with brands. So you have done that quite a bit. There are so many food bloggers listening right now who either are working with brands or they want to be working with brands. It’s on their list. Maybe it’s a little bit intimidating to work with brands. As it can be, Oh, getting over that just fear of talking to them and getting the sponsorship and getting the sales and all of that. Yeah, let’s just start there. What would you say to people who are feeling that fear and just can’t get past that part of it?
Candice Ward: Yeah, I understand that fear. I just want to say I’ve spent over a decade in sales, corporate sales, and I still had the same fear when I started as a food blogger. It doesn’t go away. I think we can all resonate with the fact that it’s scary to reach out to brands, that fear of rejection, not knowing what to say or looking prepared or professional. The thing that I like to remind people of is this industry is still relatively new and it’s always evolving. There’s no one person who’s in this industry that knows exactly what to do. We’re all learning as we go. Every interaction with a brand is honestly very different. So I’ve just relied on my sales experience to create processes and workflow and, creating ways to pitch in an effective message so that brands are excited to work with you. But I’ve had bad experiences with brands and it’s fine. You learn from it. Honestly, the only way to start working with brands is to put yourself out there and to try. Knowing that, yes, there might be instances where it doesn’t go as planned and then there might be some that you find are dream clients of yours. I’ll give you an example. When I first started my very first brand deal, I had less than 5, 000 followers. My blog was not monetized. I was brand new. I had just learned food photography three months before. Just by simply reaching out to this brand on Instagram, I was able to secure a partnership with a national company. That was my first partnership. We ended up working together for a year. It was not my best work, but. It was just because I went, put myself out there and made the ask and approached the brand. So you never know what is on the other side if you just try. So that would be my best words of advice.
Megan Porta: It is easy to not do it because, we’re food bloggers, we tend to get into this job for the creativity and the cooking and baking and all of the quote, fun things and creative things. Then when it comes to actually putting ourselves in front of humans and selling ourselves, basically, it can be so intimidating. So I know a lot of food bloggers who just don’t get to the point where they’re even trying. Which I get because it’s scary, it’s hard. But you’re just saying just do it. Just put yourself In that position where you’re at least trying.
Candice Ward: Yes, absolutely. Because honestly, a lot of the way I think about it is if you look at all the different ways we can market our business, pitching is a form of email marketing. Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to get in front of your ideal customer. So if you’re not pitching or you’re not utilizing email marketing in some capacity, you’re leaving money on the table that really could be an easy thing to convert and bring in an additional revenue stream. If you’re in that stage where you’re trying to monetize your blog, or even if you’re monetizing and you just don’t want to rely on that ad revenue, it’s just a really simple way to build consistent income.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Okay. So you have a sales process that you’ve worked through. I know you have a course that goes through some more details. But what is a sales process?
Candice Ward: Yeah. So a sales process, or if you even want to call it a booking process, it’s really just a step, a set of repeatable steps that can be replicated with each client to take them through the early stages of awareness of who you are or your product or your service, all the way through this funnel to turn them into a paying client. So that I can understand, if we’re stuck, if the brand is not moving along, or maybe they’re not responding to an email, or maybe you hit that negotiation stage and then they’ve gotten dark on you. This is how I navigate all of those sticky scenarios because I know exactly what to do and when because I use this step by step sales process.
Megan Porta: So that stuck piece is common too, right? We sent out an email and we’re like, okay, they didn’t reply. Or we’re not getting the feedback we wanted. Then I think the typical response is to just shut down and not proceed with anything. So you have some ideas about how to pick yourself up and keep going. So I’m imagining you have some benefits too of having this process and seeing it through to the end and finding a sale or finding a partnership or finding what you’re looking for. Are there any other benefits of having this process put together?
Candice Ward: Yeah, it streamlines your workflow and it takes out the guesswork of saying, okay. If a brand reaches out to me and they say this, how do I respond? Or from here, when do I send my pricing or when do I send a proposal? When do I send ideas on how to best work together? So it helps you streamline your workflow so that you can work more efficiently, but it also allows you to dissect if you are getting stuck with brands continuously, or you’re hearing the same objection. Like, we don’t have a budget or send me your rate card and then you send them your rate card or media kit and then they ghost you. If you’re continuously seeing the same pattern, then you can go back to your process and say, okay, what part am I getting stuck? Where do I need to refine? I think of it like I’m leading the potential brand up a staircase almost because really working with brands is building relationships and that’s what selling is. So think of it like you’re building a relationship, and you’re taking them through that process of building a stronger relationship.
Megan Porta: So if the process is getting stuck right away, like right off the bat, and you’re hearing, sorry, we don’t have a budget for this, and it’s shut down. How would you dissect that?
Candice Ward: Yeah. So the first step of the sales process is prospecting. Prospecting just simply means deciding which brands you are going to approach and reach out to. I have four qualifiers that I teach inside of my course. I also teach it and talk about it a lot on my Confident Pitch Instagram page, because that’s really important. It’s the first step before you just start, I say like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks. Which is blasting out a bunch of pitch emails, that’s not really going to necessarily convert. You have to set yourself up for success.
The best way to do that is to start by at least trying to find brands that are the most likely to have a need for your service. So I have four qualifiers. This really helps me be like, okay, I’m going to write a list of brands that I want to approach for the month. This is the way I keep it really short and simple. So maybe I’m going to be reaching out to five brands for a month and I go by doing research and I really try to ask myself a couple of questions. Does this brand look like they work with Food bloggers or content creators? Does it look like they have a budget? So one way that I decide this is I do research on the company. I look at what their revenue is. I look on LinkedIn to see if they’re in a state of growth. You can actually see if the company is growing or hiring. That’s usually an indication that they’re growing. I look to see if they have any new products that they’ve launched. That’s also another indicator of their growing company. So I just look at all of these things and I ask myself does it look like they would have the budget? Then if the stars align, I will then go to the next step and start the process of reaching out and pitching to them. But if you’re constantly hearing, we don’t have a budget, there’s a lot of brands that truly don’t have a budget. But sometimes they say that and they do have a budget, then I would go back to that. I’m like, okay, maybe I’m not reaching out to the right brands.
Megan Porta: Do you ever find that you’re surprised in a good way? So you might research on the back end and see that, maybe they don’t have products they’ve launched or it feels like they don’t have a budget, but they do. Does that ever happen?
Candice Ward: Oh, absolutely. That happened to me two years ago with my long term client that I provide freelance photography and recipe development for. So I don’t post on my social media. It’s not sponsored. They buy the recipe and images from me. That’s exactly what happened. There are small local companies in my area and I reached out to them because my toddler eats their product, I basically said that, and their response to me right away was, we don’t really have a need for any sponsored work at this moment. So I was able to go back to the drawing board and do a little bit more research and uncover just by looking at their Instagram, you can really decipher and see what a brand is focused on or maybe what they’re lacking in their marketing. I noticed that they didn’t really do a lot of sponsored work, but they did have a combination of like really professional styled images and then some lifestyle images. So I pitched them to me, taking lifestyle images for them and also developing recipes. When they came back and said, actually, we are launching our blog, we need recipe development. I would have never thought this client would have the budget that they have. They have been my most lucrative client and I’ve worked with them for two years. Even this year, their budget has been cut and they still are continuing to make room in their budget for me. So yeah, you can always be pleasantly surprised. You never know.
Megan Porta: The research you did benefited you because you knew what they were missing. You knew what their gaps were and that allowed you to open the door and have a conversation.
Candice Ward: Yes, exactly. I had gone to their website and I saw that they didn’t have a recipe tab. If you’re a food company and you don’t have a recipe tab at this point, if you don’t have recipes on your blog, you are missing out. That’s what I pitched them on. I said, if you want traffic to your website, we all know SEO, right? You need to get recipes on your website. So that was the conversation I shifted it to. Because at the initial conversation and pitch, the doors had been closed because they said they didn’t have a need for sponsored work. I think brands get conditioned, just like we do to think that’s the only way we can work together. So it’s about finding new ways that you can help and serve them.
Megan Porta: Okay. So prospecting is first, finding those right brands. Is there anything else about that before we move on to one of your other steps?
Candice Ward: I think just to your point of being pleasantly surprised, we can only do so much guesswork before we actually reach out to them. So just knowing that the best way to set yourself up for success with prospecting is to do a couple of things; have a list of dream brands that you want to reach out to. I always say they shouldn’t all be these large companies, they should also be small to midsize companies because their marketing strategies are typically very different. I actually find that the more lucrative sponsored work can be with the smaller companies because they care more about brand consistency, increasing brand awareness. So they’re actually typically going to want to work with fewer food bloggers and food influencers, whereas larger companies might pay you a little bit less because they’re spreading their budget across a lot more influencers. So just thinking about it that way, having a combination of size of companies that you’re reaching out to and not closing the doors just because like you said, maybe on paper, they don’t appear like they would fit the mold or have budget. Just try. Just reach out anyways.
Megan Porta: Do you recommend reaching out to a variety of brands across the board, some that you think maybe have smaller budgets, large budgets, and somewhere between?
Candice Ward: Yeah, absolutely. Because at the end of the day, you’re not really going to know what their budget is until you start the process of reaching out to them and having that conversation. You just really won’t know. Like I said, you can do all of the research, and try to figure that out as best as possible. But even with my freelance client, I never expected that they would have the budget that they do just by looking at him on paper. But yeah, I think to have a sustainable business as a food blogger and food influencer, if you’re wanting to work with brands, it is best to approach brands that you think might have different budgets. Also just to gain experience in working with brands that have different size budgets. You start to figure out what types of companies, what types of brands you want to continue to work with, and then you can refine who you’re approaching. That’s really how I started. I did anything and everything and now I’m like, okay, I will only work for this rate. I’m only going to find brands that align with that. If they don’t, then that’s okay. They can work with somebody else. That’s okay, too, when you’re just starting out, work with brands that have different budgets and different offerings.
Megan Porta: Yeah, this is a huge mindset thing because I feel like for myself, I get stuck in thinking if they’re not huge, if they don’t have a big budget, they’re not going to want to work with me. But that’s not the case. What you’re saying is that doesn’t have to be the situation. We can think outside of that.
Candice Ward: Absolutely. Actually, a lot of the food bloggers that I coach, they come to me because they are frustrated by not seeing any success reaching out to brands. I often ask them, who are you reaching out to? They almost always give me a list of the big guys, the big companies. I’m like, no, don’t start there. They’re going to be the hardest brands to land because one, there’s more red tape to get to the right person. Two, these big companies don’t have a need for brand awareness. They already have it. So they’re just going to work with anyone and everyone and try to get free content and try to repost. I think we all know brands that do that. So I say go for the small to midsize or local companies. It’s always easiest to land local companies. I’ve worked with a ton of local companies because I live in a great food market in Seattle. So start there too. If you live in an area that has local food companies and maybe they’re expanding or opening more brick and mortar locations. That’s also an indicator that they might need your help.
Megan Porta: Alright, that’s great. That’s super inspiring. I think it is encouraging for a lot of people listening as well. So prospecting, finding those right brands, doing an assortment of research on different budgets or what you think are different budgets and you just never know. Be open to being surprised, right?
Candice Ward: Absolutely.
Megan Porta: What comes next after the prospecting?
Candice Ward: Yeah. So after the prospecting is actually researching. So now that you have a list of your brands and we’ve already touched on the research a little bit, but some of the things that I’m looking for when I’m researching a brand or some ways that I’m researching them is, it might sound obvious, but going to their website and looking at. One, do they have a recipe tab on their website? You’d be surprised a lot don’t. So that could be something that you could potentially pitch them on. I can develop recipes for you and take images or do sponsored work. So that’s one. Going to their news tab to see if there’s anything that’s been featured. Maybe they’ve been featured somewhere. Maybe they have a new product that they’ve launched or maybe they’re going through a rebrand. So if they’re going through any of those things or even a rebrand again, another opportunity where they might need new photography or just social media assets for social media, video, things of that nature. Then looking on LinkedIn to see, like I said, if they’re hiring or what their revenue looks like. Are they in a state of growth? The other thing I do is I go to Google and I see what page of Google are on or who are their competitors that are on the first page of Google? Because I want to approach the brands that maybe are on the second or third page of Google. Because again, everybody wants to be on the first page of Google. So that could be a brand that could use our help and use our services. So I will research them and I will go to their Instagram and I will just say, Okay, what does their Instagram look like? Are they utilizing it? Are they consistently posting? Does it look like they’ve worked with food influencers? I just ask myself all of these questions and I look at it through the lens of if I worked at this company and I worked in the marketing department, what would I need help with? Then that’s when I came up with a few ideas. So we don’t necessarily always need to pitch them on specific recipe ideas. I know a lot of people ask me, should you send actual ideas in your pitch email? I say, it depends because we sometimes assume that they need new recipes, but maybe there’s a different way that you can help the brand or get your foot in the door. Much like I said with my freelance client, I pitched them on me taking lifestyle images, and ironically, that’s not even the direction we ended up doing. We didn’t work together in that capacity. But I was able to show them that I understood their marketing challenges. They were like, actually, we have a for this. I just told them like what I could offer. So that’s really where the research helps you is to understand and look at it from the lens of, if I am in marketing, how, what would I need to enhance this brand? Then you’re going to pitch them on that idea. You’re not going to pitch them by saying, it looks like you need, X, Y, Z. More so you’re going to approach them by saying, this is what I offer. I would love to talk through some ideas on how I can do X, Y, Z for you. So it’s really simple. Although I think we tend to overcomplicate it, but that’s what the research is the like so important. A lot of people miss the step.
Megan Porta: How do you approach that first pitch email without sounding more than they do? Because I feel like that is such a fine balance, like what you’re saying, you might have something in mind, but it might be totally different. Do you know what I’m asking?
Candice Ward: Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I get asked that often because what’s that saying? You don’t want to call the baby ugly.
Megan Porta: Yes. Something like that. Yeah.
Candice Ward: Something like that. Yeah. You’re not wanting to say, you’re doing this wrong or you’re not doing this to the best of your ability or whatever. But I basically approach my first pitch email with how would you approach a friendship that you’re trying to build for the first time? You’re not gonna go in and tell them everything about what? Do and what you can do for them, but really the goal of the first pitch email is to get them interested. The way to get them interested is to make a connection with them first. So the number one mistake I see people do is they open their pitch email with, hi, my name is Candace. I’m a food photographer and a recipe developer. I’m a food blogger. Immediately introducing yourself because we naturally feel like we need to do that, right? If we’re emailing someone we’ve never spoken to. I tell people to reverse that. I say, you need to open the email with something about them that you found through your research. So maybe it’s that they launched a new product, or maybe you use their product and you love it. Whatever it is that’s going to resonate with them, you want to open your pitch with that. Because that is going to get them immediately engaged and to continue reading your email. Then you can share a brief introduction about yourself. Then in the third paragraph, that’s really where I make some sort of ask or assumption of what they might need. In some of my pitches, not to get too complicated, but some of my pitches are a little bit more generic because I might research them and I’m like, I don’t really know and that’s okay too. But if I do have a specific idea, I just say exactly that. So going back to my freelance client in that example, when they came back to me and said, we don’t have a need for sponsored work. My response to them was, it looks like you guys have some lifestyle images on your Instagram feed. Is that an area that you would need more images for? Meaning like I was acknowledging that they had lifestyle images, but not that many. Then I also said, I went to your website and it looks like there aren’t any recipes on there. I’m also a recipe developer and having recipes on your website can boost SEO and traffic for people to purchase your product. So just a really simple way to say, Hey, I see this, can we talk through how we might be able to work together? Because you want to spark their interest and you want to almost have them see okay, I have a problem or I have a pain point that I need help with. Then you’re showing yourself as the solution. So you don’t need to go into detail every time. It just really depends on the situation.
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Megan Porta: So really you’re just sharing your observations about what you’ve researched and hopefully that hits on a pain point and they’re like, Ooh, yeah, we need help with this. Okay. Anything else about that research process or research piece that you want to mention?
Candice Ward: No, I think more just a reminder. Sometimes we’re going to research and just not really have it. We might not have that much information after researching them. That’s completely fine too. I always tell people, I would suggest to us if that is the case, then maybe just have in your pitch, pitch them on maybe a few recipe ideas. If you see that they have recipes on their site and that they work with food bloggers, then that would be a great, easy opportunity to say, Hey, here’s a few ideas I have for using one of their particular products, or maybe you have a recipe already that performs well on your website and you could easily incorporate their product or make a slightly different version. For example, let’s say you have a chocolate chip cookie that is performing. Maybe you could slightly modify that chocolate chip cookie recipe and do extra egg yolk in the chocolate chip cookie. Maybe it’s a chocolate chip company. So you’re slightly modifying a recipe that you know already performs well. You can show them statistics. I have this popular recipe on my website. I have some ways that I think I could incorporate your product into that, knowing that my audience already resonates with that type. So you’re showing them that there’s proof in the pudding, if you will, in backup to what you’re saying. That’s another easy way that you can really spark their interest in potentially working with you.
Megan Porta: How long do you keep the initial pitch emails? I know it probably varies, but do you have three paragraph max or something like that?
Candice Ward: No shorter is better. I would definitely say my downfall is that I am not a very concise person. I tend to have mine longer, but sometimes the longer ones work well too. So I would say there’s no right or wrong. I teach four email sequences. So there’s a strategy with each email. So my second email is super short. My first email tends to be a little bit longer and it’s usually three paragraphs. So intro about the brand or something that will resonate with them or build that rapport and relationship. Then the second paragraph is going to be an intro in itself. Then the third paragraph is going to be like, what is your question? What are you offering them? What is it that you’re trying to pitch them on, essentially? Then, the last paragraph will be, like, your call to action. What are the next steps that you’re trying to get? A lot of people will just end with hope we can work together. Okay, thanks. Keep it really generic. I always suggest, which actually flows into the step three of the sales process, I always suggest trying to schedule a discovery call or a call or just continue the conversation. Maybe you can send questions via email if they don’t want to get on a call. So that’s my format for my pitches.
Megan Porta: All right. Pretty straightforward. So yeah. Talk about the discovery step.
Candice Ward: Yeah. So step three is the discovery stage, which simply means whether that’s happening via email or on a phone call or in person, if it’s with a local company, it simply means it’s the opportunity for you to learn more about the brand and to actually uncover where their needs are. Because like I said, with step one and step two prospecting and research, those are just assumptions we’re making based on what we think we have found. So step three is actually that stage of having a conversation with the brand because there’s a lot of different ways we can work with brands. I think as food bloggers, we get tunnel vision of whether we can only do sponsored work or, we can only do recipe development. But a lot of us by trade might be food bloggers and love the recipe side, but some of us also love the photography side. So maybe that’s an area that you can offer as well. Maybe you don’t offer the recipe development for a particular client. They just need new product packaging images. So just actually getting on a phone call with them. I’ll go back to my example with my freelance client that I’ve been referencing, because they really fell into this perfect scenario of what everyone encounters with the brand when they’re like, we don’t have a need for sponsored work. Then it’s like, how do you shift that conversation? Then once you do, what’s the next step? So essentially I was able to shift the conversation to uncover a different need via email and then I asked to get on a discovery call so that we could really iron out the details of what that would look like for us working together, especially because this wasn’t sponsored type work. It was freelance and I feel like freelance jobs can drastically range with deliverables and just expectations. So I asked to get on a discovery call or a call to align on what those deliverables would be. The most important question you can ask a brand in the discovery phase is, what are your current marketing challenges or what are your current marketing goals? Then just stop and listen because they will tell you a lot of information about what the brand needs. Yeah, trying to get them on a phone call. That’s what I always end my pitch with. That’s the call to action that I end my pitch with.
Megan Porta: That’s gold. You’re straight up asking what are your pain points? What do you need? Then based on their response, you know how to deliver.
Candice Ward: Exactly. Yeah. Once you have that information, this is the part of selling that is really important. Selling is nothing more than us aligning your services with your ideal client at the right time. So meaning they have to have a need at the time that you’re approaching them. So that’s actually one of my qualifiers going back to when you’re trying to find the right brands to work with. They have to have a need, obviously. But we don’t really know what that need is until we really uncover that through the discovery phase. Like I said, this doesn’t have to be done on the phone. It’s always best done on the phone because you can obviously establish better rapport and connection with the brand, which will increase the likelihood of that converting to a signed contract. But if it has to be done via email, that’s fine too. I actually have a brand questionnaire that I’ve created, which is pretty much the questions I would ask on a phone call, but I asked them in a brand questionnaire and you can send it as a PDF or Google form. I use Honey Book to deliver mine so it’s just really seamless. It’s on brand and it’s easy. It sends them a link and then they easily just fill out the questionnaire online. I do this a lot for sponsored work because for sponsored work, sometimes they’re like, we don’t want to get on the phone. The deliverables are the same, typical, couple of images, maybe a reel. You can ask about usage rights and if it’s shared or if they’re buying the rights outright. All of these will determine your pricing. So I have all of those questions outlined that I sometimes will just send via email if they refuse to get on a call and it can be just as effective.
Megan Porta: Okay. So you send it whether they get on a call or not, or when they decline the call and that’s when you send the questionnaire?
Candice Ward: Yes. So I only send the questionnaire if I don’t get on a call with somebody. So sending the questionnaire is another way that you can qualify the brand to see how interested they are. If the brand does not fill out your questionnaire, I would not continue to pursue the brand. In my opinion, if a brand is not motivated enough to answer questions that you’re sending them to understand how you can best work together, then they’re either going to be a brand that’s just price shopping, or they have lower budgets, or they just don’t value this influencer work. They’re just trying to find maybe an influencer within a set budget range. To me personally, that’s not my ideal client. So if they don’t fill it out, I know to move on. If they’re serious and they take their role seriously and they are interested in working together, they will fill out the questionnaire and I almost always have them. I’ve never had an issue. There’s been maybe a couple of brands that don’t fill it out. But I will say make it as easy as possible for them to figure out. So it’s only maybe seven questions, but it’s best to be done on a Google form or something that they can just easily click on rather than, I wouldn’t suggest copying and pasting the questions in an email because then they have to actually type out the responses. I just have them as like checkboxes. So I’ll have one of the questions, for example, is, what is your budget? Instead of having it like a blank open box that they have to fill out, because often brands don’t have a very specific number, I have ranges on there. So it’s under a thousand and then they can click the box if it’s under a thousand. Or maybe it’s one to 5,000, they’ll click that box. So then you can get some sort of idea. Are they going to fall within the minimum that I would charge? Great. Now I know. Are they going to be under that? Are they going to be within my range? Then you can decipher if they’re a brand that you want to continue pursuing.
Megan Porta: What are some other questions? I’m curious.
Candice Ward: So I always ask what is, what are your marketing goals or what are your campaign goals? Then I’ll ask, what are the key performance indicators that are important to you? That simply means what are they tracking? What’s important to them? They usually will engage or reach this type of audience. So then you can understand okay, that’s what is important to them. Then I need to come up with, let’s say it’s a sponsored post. I need to come up with a recipe that I know that my audience is going to resonate with,so that’s going to allow us to hit those KPIs that they need to hit in order for it to be considered a successful campaign. I ask about the budget, I ask about, what are the deliverables? I’ll have, again, another checkbox. Is this for freelance photography? Is this a sponsored post? Do they want a blog post included in that? Do they need stories? Just outlining all the potential ways that we could work together. Then when they check the box, I’m like, okay, great. Now I can go build a proposal with my pricing that is going to be accurate based on what they gave me that their needs are. I’ll ask about the timeline, when they need this by. Frequency. Is this a one time recipe that I’m developing? Is it going to be ongoing? So really just all the questions that you would need to ask in order for you to feel really confident in providing pricing to them.
Megan Porta: Okay. Then you build a proposal after that and send it or how do you approach it?
Candice Ward: Correct. So once they send me, and that’s actually how I set it up before I send over the questionnaire. That’s exactly how I set it up to them. So let’s say they don’t want to get on the phone with you. I say, that’s fine. Would you mind filling out this brief questionnaire I have? This is going to help me understand your needs in more detail so that I can make the best recommendation for my services to align with your current needs and your budget. So that you’re telling them I’m not just having you fill out this questionnaire because I’m trying to get information from you. But I’m sending this to you because it’s going to allow us to best work together. Then I say, from there, I can provide the most accurate proposal or rates, depending on what your needs and budget is. So they usually have no problem filling out the questionnaire. Then from there, again, I do this inside of HoneyBook. I can just go and build out a proposal and I usually include pricing and then, if you’ve worked with brands or maybe if you have top performing recipes, I always put some sort of proof on there. If you’ve worked with a brand, did that campaign do well? What are the stats there? So like a media kit, but I’ll extract a little bit more specific examples that would go with that brand. You always want to customize everything. I don’t send the same proposal to two clients. They all look vastly different because you want to show them that you can create content that’s going to resonate with not only your audience, but also with their audience. So even sharing examples, if you’ve created work for similar types of companies or something that’s performed well. Maybe it’s performed well on Pinterest. There’s so many different areas that we can pull data from. I always include that on the proposal because you’re essentially making a stronger business case to the brand of why they should hire you. It’s more effective to do that when you would include pricing. They’re going to be more likely to want to hire you if they’re seeing pricing presented with value.
Megan Porta: This is so good. All right. So I have one question about just being ghosted. If you send out a pitch, you think it’s awesome. You think the brand is a great fit. You’ve done your prospecting and you just don’t hear anything. How often do you repeat that and at what point do you go back and ask for another email?
Candice Ward: Yeah. So you mean getting ghosted after reaching out and not responding at all or getting ghosted after you’ve been communicating?
Megan Porta: I guess both, but I was, yeah, like initially, you just think it’s a great fit, you send out an initial pitch and you don’t hear anything. I assume you send a follow up and how often do you do that?
Candice Ward: Oh yes. So I teach a four email sequence and I suggest following up once a week for four weeks. So essentially if you’re sending my pitching workflow or process it would be if you’re sending a list of let’s say 10 brands, you get their contact information, you do the research, you send the pitch off. Then I would follow up with them the following: let’s say you send it on a Tuesday. I would say next Tuesday, you follow up with all of them again, and then, repeat for three weeks for a total of four. If I don’t get a response by the fourth email, I usually just make a note. Didn’t get a response. I will circle back in three months, so once a quarter. Because a couple of things could be happening if they’re not responding. You could have the wrong contact. The timing just might not be right. They might be in the middle of a launch and they cannot even wrap their brains around responding to you. So I don’t take a no response as a no. It’s just they aren’t a qualified brand at that time. Timing has to align. Budget has to align. They have to have a need when you’re reaching out to them. Then obviously you have to be reaching out to the right person. So that’s what I would do there. If a brand is ghosting you after they respond to your pitch email. Again, it could, there’s a lot of different reasons why they could be ghosting. What I most often see happen is you send a pitch email to a brand, they respond to you and they say, can you send me your media kit and your rate sheet? Then you do that and then they ghost. And that’s what I teach people not to do. So it’s almost a reframe of like our brain of not just giving them what they’re asking for, because they’re asking for it, but holding your own process accountable. So what I mean by that is if they ask me to send a media kit and a rate card, I don’t. I say to them, here’s what my process is. I would love to get some additional information before sending over my rates, because I need to understand how we are going to work together. My rates are customizable, meaning I customize it to your specific needs and your budget. I have a whole thing that I talk about over on The Confident Pitch about this, because it’s usually if we’re sending our rates and our media kit before we even know what they need from us, there’s a huge disconnect between your value and if they’re willing to pay for that. So I always tell people if you’re getting ghosted there, it’s because you’re sending your rates too soon. You want to withhold that information until you’ve gotten to the discovery phase. This is my number one tip because it’s how I convert 75% of my pitches to paying clients. I only pitch about five brands a month because I can convert more of them. Just by following the sales process, it allows me to ensure that I’m giving my rates to the brand at the right time after I’ve uncovered a need from them first.
Megan Porta: Wow, that’s amazing. You make it sound so easy, Candice. Yeah, I could totally go do this today. I’ve never had that feeling before about pitching. I have two random questions. Is there a good day of the week that you know brands typically reply to or is it just hit or miss?
Candice Ward: Yeah, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the best days to send a pitch. Mondays and Fridays are not very effective. So I always teach and suggest Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays. I would even say Tuesdays and Wednesdays are better to send your emails because then they might respond by Thursday. People just aren’t really looking for emails or wanting to respond on Mondays and Fridays. It’s the start of the week and catch all at the end of the week. So yeah.
Megan Porta: I get it. I’m the same way. Then the subject line. Do you have a magic subject line?
Candice Ward: Ooh, I don’t. I keep it really simple. Let’s say you’re sending a brand, we’re in the summer into summer content. Let’s say you’re pitching a brand, actually two things. I always suggest pitching one quarter in advance. So what I mean by that is, we’re in the summer. That doesn’t mean that there’s no brands out there that need summer content, but you really shouldn’t be pitching for fall content at this point. Again, there might be a brand last minute that needs summer content, but let’s say you’re sending them an idea for a specific recipe for a specific season. Your subject line could say something like five fall recipe ideas for whatever brand. Just keep it that simple. Or five fall recipes or your brand plus this brand working together on fall recipes. I tried it. You don’t want it to be spammy because your email will go into spam. So that’s the fine line of I’m not an email marketing expert. I’m a pitching expert. So I test different things to see what works, but you want to just keep it simple. I think I’ve heard exclamation marks or emojis or questions, things like that can result in going to spam. So just keeping it really simple and short. Not overthinking it and just testing different things to see what works.
Megan Porta: This has been amazing. I’ve taken so many notes. You have no idea. So thank you for all of this. Is there anything we’ve missed that you feel like we should touch on before we start saying goodbye, Candice?
Candice Ward: I don’t think so. There’s so much I could talk about on this topic. Just going back to what you said, like I make it sound easy. That is my number one goal when I am teaching or when I’m coaching. I want people to feel like they can have the confidence to just approach brands. Because it does start with a mindset shift and it does start with us having the confidence to say I can do it. I bring value to the table. Brands want to work with me, brands need my services. So my last bit of advice would be if you’re scared and intimidated to work with brands, we all are. There’s not one single person , not including myself, who has done sales. I’ve worked for fortune 500 companies where I literally sat in a corporate office and had headphones on and made thousands of cold calls. Awful. It’s not a job I would recommend.
Megan Porta: Oh gosh, that sounds awful.
Candice Ward: It’s awful. My point is I have done it for so many years and it still scares me to sell. But it gets easier the more that you do it, it’s like a skill, right? Just becoming a food blogger and developing recipes and taking images and videos. It’s a skill that you’re learning. So pitching and selling yourself is a skill. It’s a muscle that needs to be flexed constantly in order for it to feel second nature. So the more consistent you can be and just put yourself out there and learn from every interaction that you have with a brand, you will find success and you will find opportunities. There’s a lot of companies out there. So just keep trying. I want people to feel encouraged more than anything.
Megan Porta: I definitely think this has been an encouraging conversation. So thank you. We so appreciate you, Candice, and all of the values you’ve shared today. Thanks for being a guest on Eat Blog Talk. It’s been so fun to chat with you.
Candice Ward: Yeah. Thank you for having me.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Do you have either a favorite quote or words of inspiration to leave us with today?
Candice Ward: I have so many, but I think this one makes the most sense. Okay. The important thing is to take a chance. Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it. The greatest failure is not trying. That is by Debbie Field, the founder of Mrs. Field’s Cookies.
Megan Porta: Oh, how perfect that you threw some cookies in there. Oh, I love that. A great quote to end on. We’ll put together a show notes page for you, Candice. So if anyone wants to go look at those, you can go to EatBlogTalk.com/eatmorecake. I know that you want to share a couple of things. Why don’t you tell us where we can find you and then I know that you have a freebie, correct, that you would love to offer?
Candice Ward: Absolutely. Yeah. So I would suggest, I have two pages. My blog is Eat More Cake by Candice or my Instagram for that. The other place is SThe Confident Pitch. So that is where I give all my business tips. I have a lot of video and free content that you can digest there, as well as I have a course called The Confident Pitch program, where I walk you through my entire pitching process and my step by step sales process through negotiations and contracts and every tool that you would possibly need in order to really feel confident and set yourself up for success when working with brands. Actually, we just went through a launch last week and it added the post sales process. So what happens after a brand says yes. How do you send images and collect payment and who sends the contract and all of that. So that’s in there as well. You can find me at The Confident Pitch. Send me a DM anytime. I’m very willing to have conversations with people and help whenever possible. Then I also offer one on one coaching, which I’m resuming in September. I will not be doing that for the summer months. So if anyone needs one on one help.
Megan Porta: Amazing. Thank you again so much for being here, Candice, and thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you in the next episode.
Outro: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Eat Blog Talk. If you enjoyed this episode, I’d be so grateful if you posted it to your social media feed and stories. I will see you next time.
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