If you're newer to fashion blogging, today's blog post might seem a little bit advanced. However, if you sell your own ad space (as opposed to going through a third party or blogger network), then the topic of this article is crucial for you. Just as a quick aside, I'm assuming you already have a media kit and know how to set your ad rates. So what do you do when a brand asks you to lower your ad rates or wants to negotiate for a lower fee than what you usually charge? Keep these five tips in mind.
1) Understand that negotiation is a normal part of business.
If you're selling ad space, then you're bringing in revenue, and that means you're running a small business. Negotiation is part and parcel of doing business. While it may be surprising the first time a brand asks you for a discount, it's important not to personalize or internalize that request. Don't panic. Don't feel insulted. Don't assume that brand isn't worth your time or isn't going to buy. For many media buyers, asking for a discount is automatic, and in the worlds of print, TV, and radio advertising, discounts are regularly given. If you're in the U.S. think of it like buying a car – no one ever pays the sticker price. Lots of companies approach advertising in the same way.
2) Get a sense of what their budget is.
Once a company kicks off the negotiating process, it's important to get a sense of what their budget is. Some people believe that the first person to give a number in a negotiation loses. Others believe that the first person to give a number is at an advantage because of the anchoring effect. I don't know which is true, but I do believe it's important to get some real numbers out there as soon as possible before you proceed any further in negotiations. The reason behind that is so you can know if the person you're speaking with is in a position to seriously commit to your ad space. For example, if your ad rates are $125/mo. and the person you're speaking with it makes it clear their budget is only $5, there may not be much point in continuing negotiations. $120 is a pretty big price gap to bridge, and that brand may be better off just finding a smaller blog for their budget. However, if your ad rates are $125, and their budget is $80, then you have a lot more wiggle room to find an agreed upon price.
3) Know your limits.
Decide how low you're willing to go and stick to it. You don't have to mention that number; just keep it in mind. When you're new to negotiating, it can feel very intimidating, especially if you're speaking with an experienced ad buyer or someone who has a pushy or forceful disposition. However, you don't want to be taken advantage of, bullied, or exploited into selling your ad space for a ridiculously low amount. Keep in mind that your blog has value. When a brand approaches you for advertising, it's not because they want to do you a favor, it's because they think they can make many times in sales than what they'll spend in advertising on your blog.
4) Be creative: offer time-limited incentives or bulk discounts.
You both have the same goal: to get this brand's ad on your blog, so be creative in offering solutions that can help make that goal happen. It's always better to have an ad space that's filled rather than empty, but at the end of a negotiation, both you and the brand should feel like you've gotten what you wanted. If a brand wants a discount, consider applying an expiration date to it. For example, “I can offer you 25% off our going rate if you pay in full within 48 hours.” You could also offer special pricing. For example, “If you purchase 6 months of ad space, I can take 25% off the rate in our media kit.” If you'd rather not offer discounts, can you offer bonuses? For example, offering 6 bonus weeks if a brand purchases six months? What about giving away a bonus sponsored post or sponsored newsletter if a brand purchases 12 months? Please don't see these numbers as anything set in stone; they are literally examples I pulled out of the air. The point is just to get you thinking. When it comes to negotiating, both sides should have something to offer.
5) Be polite, but firm.
As I mentioned in point #1, avoid taking the negotiation process personally. Be unfailingly polite, and make it clear that you want to work with this company. On the other hand, once your limit has been reached or it's clear that the two of you are just spinning your wheels, be firm about why the negotiation cannot continue. And of course you are never under any obligation to put up with demeaning or rude behavior. A professional ad buyer should never attempt to make you feel small in an effort to get a cheap ad; those are not the kind of people you want to do business with. In addition, once you've both agreed on a price, be firm about that price. Neither party should attempt to back out or haggle for a different rate at the last minute. If things don't work out, that's all right. Someone else will approach you.
On a final note, it's okay if negotiating seems hard or even impossible at first. It's the sort of thing that takes practice. As you negotiate more often, even if you're terrible those first few times, you will get better and more confident and it will become easier. The worst thing you can do in a negotiation is to give up and let the other person set all the terms; that's not negotiating – it's being run over! If you've negotiated for ad space before, on either side of the equation, what advice do you have? Please share in the comments!