We get asked this question a lot so we’ll do our best to answer and give some tips.
First things first. We did not receive money from any company to go towards our trip and we didn’t ask. Sponsorship is a slippery slope and best explained in this Expediton Portal article, The Truth About Expedition Sponsorship. However, we DID receive product donations and/or discounts that helped us put together the truck and therefore saved us money.
“Who are they to get supported??”
– Random People We Thought Were Talking About Us
That is what we thought too, and that’s the reason we were hesitant to ask for any help in the first place. It was very easy for us to be negative about even asking when these thoughts were running through our heads:
- “We’re being hippies and taking 8 months off or work to live in our truck, who wants to support that?”
- “People do this all the time without help. Why should we ask for any?”
- “We haven’t even done anything yet. I’m literally sitting at a computer right now reading somebody else’s blog.”
All of these things made us hesitate to send an email in the first place because we were afraid of being REJECTED. If people in the overlanding community turn us down maybe our planned trip isn’t worthwhile…
There were plenty of negative thoughts going though our mind before we even asked for help.
Rejection always sucks, but we bit the bullet and cherry-picked a handful of great medium sized companies that had products we wanted/needed for our adventure.
The email we sent looked similar to this:
Hi [INSERT MARKETING OR SALES PERSONS NAME],
We are in the middle of building our 1990 Toyota Pickup 4×4 to travel overland from Vancouver, BC through to Central America for 6+ months. Our blog has just started and can be found at www.desktoglory.com
You can find our Expedition Portal build page here: http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/110280-3rd-Gen-Toyota-Pickup-Budget-Expo-Build
Our Instagram Account is: @desktoglory
Our Facebook Page is here: www.facebook.com/desktoglory
We were wondering if [COMPANY NAME] sells slightly damaged, demo, or returned goods at a discounted rate. We’d love to have [ADD PRODUCT] on our adventure south. In exchange we will provide your logo with a link on our supporters page as well as documenting in the install on our blog and on our Expedition Portal build page. We can offer support on Instagram and Facebook in the way of quality images and links to your site. I know it’s a long shot, but we’re doing anything we can to push our budget a little further and see how far south we can make it! Plus, when we can use local (or close to it) companies we feel better about the purchase!
Thank you for your time, it’s very much appreciated!
Richard and Ashley | Desk To Glory
In reality we didn’t copy/paste emails and just change the company name. Never do this. Here’s a quick story: Yesterday somebody sent me a blanket email asking if I was looking for a photography assistant for my wedding photography business. I deleted it immediately because they didn’t even address me by name. My business is called Richard Giordano Photography… not too difficult to figure out if you’re willing to take the time to actually type out a greeting. If you can’t take the time to get to know the company and the marketing manager then why should they take the time and money to help you? We made sure to make time to write a new product-specific email for each company, but you get the point and I’ll stop my little rant 😉
We were very careful not to ask for the moon, but we did ask for a little help. Like we mentioned earlier, what we did ask for was a discount on used, demo, or slightly damaged pieces. A handful of companies like ARB USA, Maxtrax, Samlex, Blue Sea, Hella USA, Optima , Cascadia Vehicle Tents, and Toyota Fiberglass stepped up with significant discounts on new parts because they believed we could help them out. Open up the door and allow the company to walk through if they want to, you’ll get a lot further that way. If people like what you do, they’ll contact you. After two years of blogging we were contacted by Delorme / InReach Canada to try out their new inReach Explorer, Exofficio sent us some fancy shmance undies, and Overland Empire sent a box full of goodies that we had been lusting over for the last year. Obviously this doesn’t happen overnight, and we were shocked and delighted when we were contacted.
There is one big thing that we should reiterate. The reason that a company will support you with a discount for products is as much (or more) for their benefit than yours. You need to be aware that this is a mutual agreement where YOU need to provide them with value. That value is providing exposure for their product. This can be done in person (at shows, rallies, etc), but is significantly more effective online through social media and blogs. If you’re an expert (or even just an aspiring novice) in marketing you’ll do just fine at this. If you don’t want to take time out of your trip to promote the product, then this probably won’t be your cup of tea.
“Jab, jab, jab, right hook.”
Watch this Chase Jarvis Live interview below and soak it up. It’s good. Jab, jab, jab, right hook is a metaphor for “Give, give, give, ask”. You need to provide the company with way more than they expect before you ask for something. Depending on what the situation is, sometimes the opposite needs to hold true. Right hook, jab, jab, jab. If you are given something, make sure you reciprocate three-fold with more exposure than expected. Always over-deliver.
How do you give back to the company? If you promise online promotion you really need to have a place to showcase it. Companies can only have so much faith that you’re going to deliver on your promise. Build a website, Facebook page, and be active on Instagram. Other social media platforms such as Twitter and Pinterest are worth taking the time to use, but don’t spread yourself too thin. Pick one or two platforms and do them well. If we’re talking about overlanding then you really should have a build thread on Expedition Portal. Half of our website traffic comes from there.
Nobody ever said this was going to be easy. While we’re on the road we easily spend at least an hour a day editing photos, updating social media, and writing the blog. Get up early, make some coffee, and settle in for some screen time. Personally, we love it and that’s why we do it. We love sharing photos and stories from our weekend jaunts and our year-long road trips. Sometimes it suprises us how much we enjoy the little bit of marketing we get to do. It’s work, but it’s hella fun.
Being able to take great photos or video is the only way you can make this work. How else are you going to share your story? A medicore iPhone photo isn’t going to help sell a great product. A basic DSLR and a cheap 50mm 1.8 lens will make you look like a photography hero for minimal investment to start. Take a basic photography class at your local college and you are well on your way. I spent a year or two in night classes for a photography program before photographing weddings. I gained plenty of experience behind the camera and was able to use my photography website as a portfolio in this whole process. If there isn’t a local college or community centre nearby, companies such as Creative Live offer plenty of free or inexpensive online classes for you to learn your craft. Learn as much as you can and then fake it ’til you make it. Don’t worry, a huge percentage of excellent photographers are self-taught. It all depends on who you are and how you learn. Either way, put in the time and you’ll be making magic happen sooner than later.
The most important thing… use a product you’re ready and willing to represent. This isn’t about making money or promoting anybody who’s on board. In all honestly, if you get paid relatively well at your day job it is going to be substantially easier to just pay for the product in the first place. In our case we only contacted companies after we had decided to use their products anyway. Every time we open our CVT roof top tent somebody walks over to discuss it (and sometimes people pull off the road and wave us down to talk about it). If you are uncomfortable being an ambassador for the product, then don’t use it. I’m not saying you have to be 100% positive about the product all the time and be a sales person, but you will definitely have to answer questions about it.
So here’s the raw deal… You are most likely not going to be supported if you are driving your truck to work everyday and wheeling on the weekends. Do something epic. It doesn’t really matter what that is, but make it awesome, and make it something you’re passionate about. People will see that passion and be drawn to it. It doesn’t matter if your thing is racing in the Baja 1000, taking a slow drive to Argentina, or running across Canada backwards and blindfolded. Do something that people will remember and that you’ll be excited to tell your kids about.
Please check out our supporters page to see the listing of great companies that have helped us get where we are today! We are incredibly grateful to have these companies on board with us for our journey and wouldn’t be here without them!