I've talked about negotiating on IFB a couple of times now, both on the affiliate side and the ad sales side, but there's always more to say because negotiating is a complex topic…especially when you're first learning how to do it. Even though I feel pretty practiced in negotiating now, I remember how hard it could be. Figuring out ad contracts with brands was actually my first experience with negotiation! The good news is, that like any other skill, it gets better with practice. Even if you feel a bit nervous or uncertain now about your negotiating abilities, you can do it. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind for your next negotiation:
Remember that it's okay to say no.
More than anything, keep in mind that you have the power to decline. So many bloggers think they have to take a brand's first offer, no matter what it is. You don't. You have the freedom to walk away and the freedom to suggest new terms. There's no reason to get yourself stuck in an ad contract that's just not a good fit. You always have options.
Get a full sense of what the brand wants before talking price.
Make sure that you both agree on what this potential ad package will include. How many banner ads? How many sponsored posts? How many sponsored tweets, pins, or status updates? Any email newsletters? What about Twitter chats or taking over their Instagram? You want to have a complete scope of the project, a big picture perspective and an accurate sense of what they're expecting of you. This ideal ad package may very well need to be tweaked before a contract is signed, but at least you're beginning the negotiation conversation with both eyes open.
Be able to offer what your potential advertiser wants…even if they don't know what that is yet.
Many brands are still new to digital marketing, and they're not aware of all that's available. If you're able to offer an ad opportunity that's a better fit with their key goals, let them know. You don't have to feel limited to just the things a brand suggests; after all, you're the expert on your blog.Would a sponsored post work better than a Pinterest contest? Would taking over as a guest blogger on their site for a week be more effective a banner ad? Think of win-win situations. A negotiation isn't about “beating” another person. It's about coming up with a solution that gives both of you what you want.
Be familiar with the brand, their previous ad campaigns, other bloggers they've worked with, and even their profit/loss numbers (if those are available). Show that you've done your research. People always respond better when it's clear that you've invested your time and energy as well. In addition, be prepared with counteroffers. If you decline a potential advertiser's first deal and they ask what you're thinking of instead, you should have something in mind. Responding with “I don't know” or “I hadn't really thought about it,” makes you look unprepared.
Read the contract.
I know this sounds obvious, but it's so important. Read the contract. Carefully. Then read it again. If you're not confident in your ability to parse the language, ask for explicit clarification from the brand and/or barter favors with an attorney friend. You should understand every word, phrase, and clause in any contract you sign your name to. If something is unclear or inaccurate (perhaps you agreed on 2 sponsored posts, but the contract says 4), let the brand know so the language can be changed and you can be sent a new version with revisions. Don't rely on changes being made after the fact or just assume that everything will be okay. Contracts are legal documents, and you can face severe consequences if they're broken. Protect yourself by making sure you know what you're signing off on. In that same vein, make sure the contract actually applies to you. This means not only checking for your name (and the correct spelling!), but also that you haven't been given a contract for a photographer or a model or some other type of position. If a brand decides they want to change terms of the agreement at the last minute, go back to Step #2.
Know when to walk away.
We'll start where we began, with the idea of saying “no.” When negotiations are going in circles or a brand is being disrespectful or they've resorted to giving ultimatums, how will you deal with it? Well, you have to decide if that's the kind of advertising partner you want to have and if the value of the contract is worth dealing with the stress of that sort of business relationship. Sometimes, the money just isn't worth it.
What are your tips for negotiating ad contracts? Do you have any questions about negotiating? Please share them in the comments!