With the rise of bloggers as key influencers a growing number of smart marketers are looking at blogs as a way to seed products and develop word-of-mouth while building web traffic and in-bound links.
Most marketers approach seeding products to influential bloggers in an ad hoc manner – they’ll pick a few blogs, send them a sample and see what happens.
Interestingly, there have been some very controversial attempts to formalize this concept be companies like PayPerPost and ReviewMe.
All this had been a rather abstract concept for me until very recently when I got an email from Andrew Milligan, owner of Sumo Urban Lounge Gear, based here in Toronto.
To: Ken Schafer
From: Andrew Milligan
Subject: Contact Form from onedegree.ca
My name is Andrew and I have a company named Sumo which makes modern, funky and high-quality bean bag chairs. I could simply say, our Omni chair is the most comfortable chair in the world and truly enhances one’s life!
I am a fan of your site and was wondering if you would be interested in taking a sample of our Omni chair and posting a review on it.
Luckily Andrew accepted my challenge and sent the chair a few days later.
Based on my experience on the receiving end of a blogger outreach campaign, here are my recommendations should you want to do something similar (Sumo scored high on every one of these):
- Pick Your Target – Not all sites have the right audience and the right content to fit with all products. Make sure that your product is something that fits not only with the blogger’s interests but with their readership.
- Personalize You Message – You’ll turn off bloggers pretty quickly if you send a generic form letter. Personalize your message to show that you’ve actually read the person’s blog.
- Don’t Make Demands – Note that while Andrew did suggest a review, he didn’t demand it and he didn’t imply in any way that it should be a positive review. Saying "I’ll give you this in exchange for a good review" will likely get you more bad PR than good reviews. Be warned.
- Follow Through – Andrew got back to me in a few hours asking for my colour preference and shipping address. The bean bag (which is huge) arrived a few days later as promised. If he’d blown the follow through many bloggers would end up blogging about that instead of the product.
- Have a Product Worth Talking About – What ever you do – do not seed product into the market if the product is a piece of crap. Even if it’s just run-of-the-mill, don’t do it. Only remarkable, mentionable products need apply. Sumo’s stuff is comment-worthy, quirky, a "little guy" story and a ton of other things that make it a good candidate for outreach.
- Follow Up – I’ll be honest, we started using the chair and the original version of my review sat in draft mode for _weeks_. Andrew gave a few friendly follow-ups, first asking if we got it, then asking if we liked it, and finally wondering if I’d be posting a review at some point. He never demanded anything but did gently guilt me into posting something. (Hope you like the end result Andrew!)
Did the strategy pay off for Sumo? Not sure yet, but the rave reviews and links from a wide range of sites are a great indicator of how this kind of campaign should unfold.
And you may ask, how great is the Sumo beanbag chair?
Everyone in the Schafer household was WAY impressed. My tweens immediately adopted this monster as their own and gave it a rating of "seven stars". It was used as a couch for movie night, a bed for sleep over guests later that night, and is now the official chair for all Nintendo gaming sessions.
My wife, parenting expert Alyson Schafer didn’t understand what the fuss was about saying, "I grew up with bean bag chairs the first time around, I don’t need to try them again." Once repeated pleas from the kids got her in the chair she spent the rest of the evening sunk into it, admitting it was nothing like what she remembered.