YOU GUYS!!!! You did it! You did it well and right and I’m so so thankful! After my big ask last week, you all came through with NINE questions! Nine really great, thoughtful questions. Thank you so much for delivering just like I knew you would, and most of all, for trusting me. I won’t let you down!
I am, of course, still taking questions and you can always find our form, The Sarah Project Official Question & Quandry Submission Form, here.
Today, I’m actually going to answer two questions! WHAT!?! Yeah, two questions. Why?
Because I’m feeling cocky—both in my ability and in your coming through for me with more questions. Because they’re pretty similar in terms of the basic issue: how to interact with magazines/bloggers/news sources to drum up some publicity for you/your company/your products.
So here we go. Here are the two questions as I originally received them:
I’ve noticed a lot of businesses giving away product to bloggers, magazines, celebrities etc… to gain notice in their respective publications/social media accounts. I have personal objections to this, and I think that the willingness to give away your product de-values it. My product is also a higher price point, and therefore I take a bigger hit giving away samples and pieces to gain traction. Do you have advice for doing this in a sustainable way, or other options to promote to bloggers and such?
Sarah! We’re dead center in our ‘slow period’ and freaking out. It’s our first year in business as a brick and mortar and are desperate to find creative and FREE ways to advertise our business. (And we say free because we need free, not just because we want free.) We are participating in social media, admittedly not as frequent as we should (think weekly instead of daily), and gaining slow and steady traction. I guess our question is, how do we get other people to write about us and create some legitimate buzz? We think we’re buzz-worthy. We’d love to see some bloggers and newspaper/online writers take the time to visit us and consider writing a piece about our shop, but I don’t know how to reach out to these people without sounding desperate. We have a website that we’re proud of, maybe a great way for these people to get a feel for us before committing to spending time on us. Any tips?
And here are the three issues we need to tackle to help these small business owners out:
- the ethics of giving away your product for review, and if doing so devalues your product
- how much publicity can you get for free, and…
- how do you approach your targets without feeling lame and/or desperate
So, logically, let’s start at the end: never feel weird or desperate pitching yourself/your product/your business to a blogger, magazine, or news source. You are helping them. Their entire job is to produce content—to find things to write about. And trust me when I say, finding things to write about can be the most challenging part of writing. (HELLO! Remember my big desperate ask from last week!?! The one that got me EXACTLY what I was looking for?!? Yeah.)
Now, this is not me giving you permission to be pushy and aggressive. There are best practices for approaching writers and you should always, always employ them. On the most basic level, a press release is how you get the word out there. We send them out for the Flea events, as do most other markets, and I think that small businesses should be employing this tactic, as well. Press releases will usually do you the most good when pitching to bigger news sources which are, across the board, grossly understaffed. In fact, often times they will publish the press release you send them with very few edits or additions. (I know that can be intimidating when you think about writing something that may go straight to press. And I promise to make and/or source a press-release writing guide or course for you in the near future.)
For pitching to bloggers, I would take a different approach. They are not giant news conglomerates that are under a ton of pressure and running from an ever-shrinking budget. They are humans. People. Generally, people who write and share and praise because it brings them a lot of joy, and some income. READ: They are not independently wealthy and their time, talent, and the audience they’ve built is still very, very valuable. Now, our reader (Marketing Conundrum) didn’t get into the specifics of his/her ethical concerns surrounding the product-pitch method, so I can’t address them directly, but I also don’t want to dismiss them entirely. My understanding is that the product-pitch method was the result of a discounted view many people had/still have of bloggers and the scope of their reach, plus the difficulty of selling/aptly displaying conventional ad space on earlier blog platforms. Essentially, this kind of bartering system—goods (your products) in exchange for a service (reviewing them)—stands in place of a dollars for ad space system. Nowadays, many bloggers do sell ads on their sites, and if you’re still uncomfortable with the product-pitch method, this door is open to you. However, I believe the product-pitch method usually has a higher ROI for makers. A lot of bloggers are also willing to host giveaways as an extension of this method. (Which yes, leads to you giving away more of your product, but it’s to a third party, so maybe you feel a little better about that. Maybe not.)
My advice to you, Marketing Conundrum, is to reconsider the product-pitch method, but just be really selective and thorough in doing so. In fact, I think this process only devalues your product if you are reckless about who you pitch to. I don’t think it’s out of line to reach out to other small businesses (although not your direct competitors) asking about the experience they’ve had with certain bloggers you’re considering pitching to. Also, with more expensive products, you’ll of course want to pitch to a blogger who has a more affluent readership. If you’re being really selective, you should be targeting high-end lifestyle bloggers who probably have hard numbers to show you regarding their reader demographics. The reason I want to push you to reconsider product-pitching, is that I think it can help your brand gain nationwide recognition and significantly boost online sales in a way other campaign methods simply can’t. As we’ve talked about in the past, employing a strong social media marketing campaign can empower your current customers to act as brand ambassadors for you and is a great means of gaining new followers and customers. However, as a local brand, that campaign can sometimes stall out at your regional boarders. Thus, selectively product-pitching to bloggers outside your city/region can be a great companion method for your current brand campaigns.
For Twiddling Thumbs, I would suggest hosting local bloggers for a special event at your space. Maybe dress up your brick and mortar store a little, reach out to some food/beverage makers that might also be looking for a boost (and/or some of your neighbors), and throw yourselves a bit of a party. Invite your best customers, close friends, and then send out a press release with a little pep and personality to aforementioned bloggers and smaller, more specialized news sources. A lot of small businesses were doing similar events around Valentines/Galentines Day, but I think you could pull it off for the start of Daylight Saving Time or the first day of spring. This will also give you a low-risk means of practicing your press release writing skills. Play some tunes, poor some bubbly, and make some new friends in a space where you’re already comfortable.
As for that web site you’re really proud of, figure out how it can work for you. I looked, and you’re right! It’s awesome! But make it a resource for me. Can you set up an online sales platform? Or would creating content via a blog be more engaging to your followers? Maybe as an extension of your event, invite bloggers to guest post on your store blog about their best finds form your store. You might even be able to set up your own version of the product-pitching system by offering some perks to a small number of local bloggers.
The great thing about modern commerce is that modern customers love to engage with your company beyond the initial transaction. So much so that an entire subset of them have become professional customers/brand engagers.
They’re most commonly referred to as bloggers.
So reach out. They don’t bite. I promise.