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One Founder’s Unconventional Approach to Landing Her Brand’s Ideal Influencer

The right brand ambassador can mean everything to a new fashion brand. But getting the best ambassador you can find? It takes work – especially when you’re aiming to partner up with a high-profile social influencer.

So where to start?

Follow convention wisdom on securing brand ambassadors and brand advocates, and you’re likely to run into advice like:

  • Hire an influencer marketing agency
  • Tap your existing network for introductions
  • Keep your initial outreach to a busy influencer short and to the point
  • Be prepared to cover the cost of any brand mentions with free product

But sometimes the best partnerships bypass conventional paths. Take Annette Lasala Spillane, who founded The Artisan Row Accessories (TARA) last year. Since then, she has grown her fledgling company’s audience and garnered loyal fans largely by doing things her own way, something she talks about at length in EP 119 of the Spirit of 608 podcast. She’s also had the help of mega-influencer Kim Cam Jones.

The Australia-born global fashion influencer, model, photographer, blogger and all around superstar of the Southeast Asian fashion industry struck Annette as a perfect partner for TARA from the beginning: she has worked with some of the biggest lifestyle brands and names in fashion today, including Louis Vuitton, Net-A-Porter, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts and Farfetch. Her enviable style has landed her online and in the pages of such prestigious fashion media as Vogue Paris, L’Officiel, WWD and Who What Wear. What’s more, she’s also become a powerful voice advocating for and showcasing the style of new and emerging independent artisans and designers in the Philippines, as well as bringing attention to the beauty and value of traditional weaving practices in Asia.

As a Filipino entrepreneur who started out collaborating with designers and artisans in the Philippines to producer her line of fine, modular jewelry, Annette had a hunch that Kim would appreciate her brand’s mission. But they’d never spoken.

So how exactly did Annette get the attention – and support – of an influencer many founders would faint on the spot for? It’s actually a lot simpler than you think. You’ll hear the full story and how Annette built a relationship with a global influencer who now regularly features TARA jewelry in her popular Instagram feed in EP 119.

In the meantime, here’s the approach Annette used to create a connection – that’s now a genuine friendship – with her ideal influencer.

Maximize your network and get talking

Annette’s story: It was a friend of Annette’s who initially suggested Kim as a perfect partner for TARA. That friend even had another friend who could probably make an introduction. While Annette ultimately decided to reach out directly without an introduction, her initial network sparked the idea for the partnership ahead.

The takeaway: It’s completely possible that, somewhere in your vast and wide network of connections, you already have access to the perfect person to help spread your brand’s message to the world. But you won’t know unless you’re out there talking to people, mentioning what you’re looking for and being open to what’s possible. Don’t underestimate the power of somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody.

Do your research

Annette’s story: Annette didn’t go in blindly when she decided to try and contact Kim. As you’ll hear her say on the show, she spent an entire day reading everything she could about Kim so she could reach out to her and grab her attention. Next, she bucked conventional tactics and sent a lengthy, heartfelt email with her story and what she hoped to do with her new brand. It worked. Kim wrote her back – and though Annette chocks it up to a lot of good luck, it’s the combination of research and realness she used in her outreach that helped seal the deal.

The takeaway: It’s important to know a lot about anyone you’re contacting for your brand. Far too many brands today reach out with few details about the person on the other end. Go beyond follower counts and a week’s worth of their Instagram posts. Reading interviews they’ve done, in-depth blog posts they’ve written and studying other collaborations they’ve promoted will give you numerous clues that will not only help you decide whether you’re right for each other, but also what to say – and how to say it – when you make that initial contact. After all, you only have one shot at contacting someone for the first time, so you might as well arm yourself with information that helps you make the most of it.

Take a chance and be honest

Annette’s story: When you do get the chance to talk a partner that’s right for your brand, it helps to be prepared with product you can show – and possibly even share. But what if you don’t have all the pieces in place? In Annette’s case, going for it anyway worked out.  She laughs now about her early conversations with Kim in EP 119: “[Kim] asked me for photos of products right in that e-mail, and I was like ‘Oh, I don’t have any. Can I send you sketches?’ And they weren’t even finished product. They were just like, you know, sheets of metal.”

The takeaway: Annette led with her gut instinct – that Kim was perfect for TARA – and even though she had zero product to show, her mission and story got her ideal influencer’s attention and led to a lasting collaboration.

If you do your research and spend the time to get to know the person on the other side, lasting partnerships can happen even if you’re very early stage or, like Annette, waiting on your first products. Above all else, the best approach – one Annette’s story shows really well – is taking the time and care to connect with people and doing it your own way can be the best assets you have when you’re a new brand trying to make amazing things happen.

Images courtesy of TARA 

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