I know I took a long time in delivering my promised tips on How to Score a FAM Trip. And I apologies for that. The problem is, I am one of those unskilled writers who need some inspiration, a fresh perspective perhaps, before they can pen down their thoughts. And I got my inspiration just a couple of days few, hence I am writing.
What inspiration, you asked?
For my Europe backpacking trip, which is happening sometime between March and April, next year, Basel Tourism Board (in Switzerland) and German Tourism Board, have just confirmed that they’ll be supporting FootlooseDev, on his trip. Though they’re not paying me any money (I did not even ask for it), they’re offering a few days of free stay, transport, guided tour(s) and activities – in short, they’ll put a complete itinerary in place. Isn’t that awesome?
It sure is. Blogging itself is awesome, and rewarding, if you know how to do it right!
It has been 11+ months now since I’ve been blogging. And I’ve started getting amazing free trips already. It was only last month, in November that I worked with 6 different travel brands – including a couple of hotels, a corporate group and even a Tourism Board, which included activities and free stays worth over 100,000 Indian Rupees ($1,500).
But that doesn’t mean I always ended up lucky.
As I started this business, (in January 2016) I thought, “if I will keep writing great content, getting more likes on Facebook and Twitter, I’m going to succeed. People will notice me, and travel companies will write to me asking if I can promote their brand”. Though I am not claiming that it was a wrong approach to follow. But it was not entirely correct, either.
In the last few months (precisely speaking, after August 2016) I’ve realised that there’s much more to blogging than just getting impressive traffic, or writing great content. I mean you sure want some good numbers to show, but if you’re investing all your time in improving the figures, and are not approaching the sponsors on your own, writing atleast 10 emails per day, you’re not doing yourself any favour. You’re only losing the game, slowly, and every day.
Travel industry is the fastest growing in the world. No automobile, no banking, no retail is growing as faster as this industry. There are hundreds and thousands of travel startups entering into the game, everyday – looking for new and cheaper means of marketing. And what could be better than promoting their brand on a website which is delivering its posts to a few thousand people, every month – almost 90% of whom are only interested to know about travel, right? And that’s when travel bloggers come into the picture. We Are Needed! And There’s No Denial To This Fact!
So build a ‘Minimum Required Traction’ on your blog, and start pitching! (I believe you’re already in the business, if not, read How To Start A Professional Travel Blog In 7 Easy Steps)
What does ‘Minimum Required Traction’ Mean?
Though there is no ideal size, I’ve felt that once you cross a 10k-pageviews-per-month mark on your blog, and at least over 1k likes on your different social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, among others – you’re good to go.
Building an online presence is important. After all that’s what you’re vouching for in the business.
So make sure you reach a point, where you have 10k page views per month, and over 1k followers on all your different social media channels. I don’t mean you’ve to be active on every network, but choose at least top three – with Facebook being the unavoidable.
I chose Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Facebook because it had to be there. (Currently writing another story on ‘Why Facebook is the lifeline for a blogger, will share it in my next update).
Twitter because it is the only major social media channel, where even Obama is going to reply to you. Use twitter to engage with brands, and for a quick and certain reply.
Instagram, because as a travel blogger, you need to tell the brands that you can click pictures, and Instagram can be your ideal portfolio. I moreover consider myself a travel photographer as much a writer, so Instagram was my third choice.
Though I use other medias as well, including Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr – but I hardly share my stats when I contact someone for a FAM trip, unless I was asked.
Gaining followers on social media is fairly easy. Use ‘Follow-Unfollow’ technique and you can gain followers on your different social media channels in no time. (Currently writing another story on ‘how to gain 1000+ followers in less than 1 month, will share it in my next update)
Hunt For Sponsors
Understand what kind of travelling you’re into. Search for companies working in your niche or Google for local travel boards, and starting pitching them.
Send them an email introducing yourself and your blog, tell them about your/your blog’s reach, and how you/your blog can help redirect your readers to their website and social media accounts.
Be very precise with numbers.
1. Crafting A Right Pitch
Depending upon your position, craft a pitch. When I’d initially started approaching sponsors, my email often sounded more of less a request. After a little introduction, I used a simple sentence mentioning “Since I am travelling in your city next, I was thinking if you’d be interested in working with Footloosedev. Any help (regarding accommodation/activities etc) would be greatly appreciated”. And the template worked just well. I got around 30 percent replies to my emails – this makes 3 replies for every 10 emails. Not a bad figure at all!
I think it was because the term “any help” gave the other party the upper hand, from small startups to big companies, almost everyone replied. And once you engage in a conversation, you always get a deal. It might not be as beneficial to you, in the starting, but that does not matter. Because initially it is all about scoring more and more sponsors and building your portfolio.
Once you work with a few travel companies/travel boards, edit your email in a way that it gives shows your experience. This is when you tell them ‘how your partnership can help them gain more customers’. (Currently writing a separate story on ‘How to craft a sponsorship request email’ more elaborately. Wait for the next update.)
2. Writing Emails
Since August, when I initially realised that I should start pitching the sponsors, I am writing about at least 10 emails per day, when I’m not travelling. Some days I even write over 50. The point here is, when you’re new in the business, you got to reach out to people, and tell them who you are. And how you can bring value to their business.
I wrote about 50 emails for my Goa and South India trip – I found 5 sponsors.
I wrote about 50 emails for my Gujarat trip – I found 3 sponsors.
I’ve written about 50 emails for my Europe trip (happening between March & April’17) – have already found 4 sponsors.
If it wasn’t about the first email from my side. I would still be travelling without sponsors. Again, they’re not paying me anything in return – because my followership still lacks impressive numbers, but they’re paying for my food, stay, activities, and sometimes even transport. In short, I am travelling for free.
3. Pitching Tourism Boards
Believe it or not, Tourism Boards are always in search of bloggers. It doesn’t matter how unpopular your blog is, there is always a Tourism Board out there waiting for you!
When I’d initially started blogging, and found other bloggers, posting on Facebook about their sponsored trips with a state/country Tourism Board, I always thought that it would take at least two to three years, and a few dozen thousand Facebook likes, at least, to persuade a Tourism Board to sponsor your trip.
But I was wrong!
It’s true that top travel bloggers might get better prospects than you do, which can even include free flight tickets, but working with travel boards, only for the sake of working with them, and having them included in your portfolio is no tough deal.
The first ever Tourism board I worked with was GoaTourismBoard, and it was when they were organising an annual blogging event, inviting a group of bloggers from across the world, to stay with them for almost a fortnight, and participate in different activities. Though my reach was not enough to what they’re looking for, they still offered me a sponsored HotAirBallooning ride and other activities, because they had space to fit-in another blogger – any extra exposure was good for them.
Now that I already have a Tourism Board under my clientele list, finding small sponsors have become easier. And as far as I believe, it is because of GoaTourismBoard that I’ve managed to gain sponsorships from the Basil Tourism Board (in Switzerland) and German Tourism Board.
4. Give Blogging Some Time
Last but not the least, blogging tests your patience like a slow, uphill journey. So be prepared!
Before I started blogging, I found almost 90% of (travel) bloggers claiming that it took them at least ten months before they started getting sponsored trips – while many lost the fight before they turned 10 months old.
If you look at the industry at the moment, most of the successful travel bloggers out there have been doing it for the past few year – as many as 5 years, or even more.
Travel blogging requires a tremendous amount of work, as well as a tremendous investment of time and effort before you begin to see any benefits.
The general rule is that you shouldn’t expect money for the first year. Most advertisers, whether they be link agencies or travel companies, won’t work with a site less than one year old. Why not? You haven’t proven yourself as an investment yet.
While there are exceptions, you should be prepared to not make anything for the first year. What’s nice is that it weeds out the people who aren’t serious.
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