The Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing to Bloggers

Why is marketing to bloggers a good idea? Inbound links from blogs improves Google rank, which increases traffic from search engines. Exposure from bloggers can land a company’s website on a social bookmarking site like Digg or Del.icio.us, driving thousands of new visitors to the site. But bloggers are a more fickle bunch than most traditional media people. Marketing to them appropriately can yield great results; approaching them the wrong way can backfire.

As someone with a well-trafficked blog and a high Google rank I get bombarded with marketing requests every day. “Your site would be great for my SEO, would you please link to it?” “You obviously love food. I would love to send you some of my ice cream for dogs and you could write about it if you wanted to.” (Both real examples.) Most pitches receive a cursory glance and get deleted without a second thought. A few get a response from me, especially if the pitch is respectful and polite. Even fewer get the response the marketer was hoping for.

So, what’s the trick?

If it’s your job to reach out to bloggers, here are a few guidelines that may help you be more effective in your approach. Note that marketing to bloggers is sort of like selling vacuums door-to-door in a neighborhood where almost everyone knows each other, and most are chatting with each other over their fences. In any strong blogging community there is a lot of back-channel talk going on. This can work to your advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you approach the bloggers in the first place. Now for the guidelines, let’s start with the “Don’ts”.

Marketing to Bloggers Don’ts

  1. Do not send obvious form letters. Did you know that we bloggers share the form letters we receive from marketers with each other? We do. This is a great way to get nowhere with the very people you are trying to influence. It also demonstrates that you have done practically no research whatsoever on your audience. Form letters result in promoting pork sausages to vegans or pitches for ready-to-eat cheesecake filling to gourmet scratch cooks, people who would sooner shoot themselves than use your product.
  2. Do not ask for links, unless you are willing to pay for them, at which point the conversation turns to advertising policy and rates. This whole reciprocal link thing might be barely tolerable on a blogger-to-blogger level, but is considered annoying spam when it comes from a company pushing products.
  3. Do not leave blog comments plugging your products. Talk about generating ill will! It’s called blog spam. As a blogger I don’t really care that you think my readers would be interested in your ready-made lemon syrup. I’m not interested in allowing a company to promote its products on my blog without my permission. If you abuse comments, eventually you’ll generate such bad feelings that people will start writing in their blogs about how your company is spamming the blogosphere. Then the next time someone looks your company up in Google all they’ll see is a litany of complaints. Not exactly the intended result, eh?
  4. Do not come on too strong. If you send out product, you can follow up with a “did you receive it?” but not a “when are you going to write about it?” Do not insist on anything. And if someone doesn’t want to promote your product, please don’t argue with them. Thank them for their time and move on.
  5. Do not put the blogger on your mailing list (unless they have requested it.) This should be obvious, shouldn’t it? But clearly it isn’t as getting put on some random marketer’s email newsletter or mailing list happens all the time. Bloggers hate it.


Marketing to Bloggers Do’s

  1. Start by creating a targeted list of bloggers. Use tools such as Technorati, BlogPulse, or Alexa to help find blogs that speak to your target audience. Note that although the biggest blogs may be more influential, they tend to get hit up all the time for marketing requests and may not be that responsive. So don’t ignore a blog just because it has 20 inbound links (as accounted for by Technorati) and not 200. It may be just the blog you want.
  2. Know the blogs you are approaching. Before you email a blogger with a pitch, read through the last two months of their posts. Really. At least that. Understand what they care about, what they write about. You’ll get a much better feel for how your pitch will be received if you know who it is you are pitching to. Learn the name and gender of the blogger; it may not be immediately obvious. Address the blogger by name instead of just “Hello” or “Dear Webmaster”. Check to see if the blogger has posted a review policy. Many bloggers simply will not do product reviews; you risk annoying them if they have a published policy that you have ignored.
  3. Treat the blogger with the same respect you would a professional journalist. It’s good manners. Many bloggers have a lot more influence than you would imagine, yet they are often treated as if they are inconsequential. If you treat them well, you will be rewarded in kind.
  4. Be open to constructive feedback. If you send out a pitch and it’s off the mark, most likely you will get more than a few angry emails back. If you are lucky, someone will take the time to offer polite, constructive feedback as to how you could reach out to bloggers more effectively. Listen to this advice. Consider it valuable consulting that you would normally have to pay thousands of dollars for and here this very nice blogger is giving it to you for free. Treat that blogger well. Assume you know nothing about marketing to bloggers, because believe me, unless you are a blogger who gets pitched all the time, you don’t.
  5. Offer to send product, no strings attached. If you have a book you’re promoting, offer to send it to the blogger. Don’t suggest that the blogger write a review. If she likes it enough, she might. Or she might recommend it to another blogger who ends up writing about it. Don’t underestimate the social power of reciprocity. By giving a gift, if the receiver likes it, he’ll likely find ways to make it up to you. This is also why some bloggers don’t accept gifts or promotional product. They don’t want to be indebted to anyone. So, if a blogger says no, don’t take it personally.

At the end of the day it all comes down to the Golden Rule, treat bloggers the way you would like to be treated yourself. Unlike you, the marketing professional, who probably gets paid to reach out to them, most bloggers do what they do purely for the joy of personal self expression. They pour hundreds, if not thousands of hours of their lives into their personal blogging outpost. Respect that and you might get somewhere with them.

Have more examples to add to the list? Please let us know in the comments.

Links:
Blogger Relations Step-by-Step by Susan Getgood

18 thoughts on “The Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing to Bloggers

  1. *Phenomenal post* Elise. :) I would say that 80% of the pitches I receive break the rules you mentioned. No wonder most of them are in my deleted items!

  2. Elise,

    Yet another great post – you never fail to impress.

    While I am not involved in selling anything anymore, I am interested in marketting concepts (I spend a lot of time yelling at commercials on TV, the Radio and the WEB).

    Once upon a time though, I did sell. I spent a couple of years doing the door to door bit with Vacuum cleaners. It was a very enlightening and sometimes humbling experience. I would actually recommend it to anyone who is looking at working in sales and/or marketting. Direct consumer interaction and feedback provide quite an education.

    Thanks for the insights.

    G

  3. aaaah – that’s what it is – I don’t like to feel indebted – at last someone as come up with a phrase to explain me. I am now starting to understand myself, thank you Elise, for such a straightforward post.

  4. While I may be new to the foodblog world, I am certainly not new to the writing industry. I completely agree with everything in the article. Thanks for the tips, Elise :)

  5. That was excellent Elise! Very well-written. I will post the URL link in responses to marketers that hassle me from now on!

    I might suggest adding to ‘Marketing to Blogger Do’s #3′ that many bloggers have ‘real’ jobs which are often in professional fields and even though their blog may seem modest, you should assume that they’re intelligent enough to realize they’re being pitched and approach them with respect and professionalism.

  6. Great post!

    In particular, the point about being open to feedback on the communication is particularly important. I’ve often responded to the semi-form letters with a polite mail saying that the email was likely to be seen as spam rather than a legitimate request. On the rare occasion, I actually got a mail back from the sender thanking me.

    -L

  7. Bravo! Well said. And thanks to David for chiming in with his thoughts about bloggers having “real jobs” and being savvy enough to realize when we are being pitched.

  8. I am impressed. Truly, thoroughly, and entirely impressed. This is thorough and well-thought-out. Well done! Beyond that, the only insight I can offer is this: Unless you are a blogger with thousands and thousands of visitors daily, you are likely being pitched by very, very junior PR people (fresh out of school with minimal experience, at best) and / or smaller firms or companies who have little or no experienced in dealing with bloggers. They likely have not read you, because they are also pitching the exact same idea to several hundred other bloggers, journalists, editors, hosts, and producers and there just is no time to do so. And, because of this, they cannot personalize each pitch. Remember, for them, (1) it is a numbers game (through enough pitches out there are some are bound to stick), and (2) they only get paid if they get the reviews. That is what counts to them. That is ALL that counts to them.

  9. Elise,

    Thank you sooo much for this insight! I honestly do a lot of marketing with bloggers and I’m now finding that I’ve been really lucky as I haven’t truly followed this approach start to finish. I’m going to make some adjustments and be thankful for my beginner’s luck ;)

  10. Hi Elise ~ A suggested addition. If a company really wants to reach a blogger’s readers, not the blogger her/himself, the direct way to accomplish that is to advertise on or sponsor the site, which of course also allows 100% control of the message, the identity, the timing and the cost. Yes, it’s more expensive (maybe but maybe not) than a junior person sending a zillion e-mails. But it’s direct.

  11. Elise, thank you for this post! I work for a very small company, and I have just been assigned the task of marketing to bloggers, with no tips on how to go about it. Much to my relief, I have been instinctually following your tips, but you and the commenters above have given me much to work with.

  12. Elise, to be able to succesfully market to bloggers one needs to analyse what is being said in the blogs, Several tool are now available for extrtacting the blog intelligence these include the QUAD Report from Cloversoft BuzzMetrics from Nielsen.

  13. Elise-

    A great post…

    The problem is that the blogging world can be a very closed community. People interested in joining this community are constantly ignored. Many marketers must resort to their gorilla tactics for this very reason. I think there is an opportunity for a compromise here.

    N

  14. The process of building strong personal/professional relations between bloggers is changing the blogging world to a very complex market.

    So, dealing with blog marketing doesn’t mean being-yourself-saying-something-to-the-public but you must reconsider your position in the expanding blogging market.
    Think of others…, and that’s where Elise’s Do’s hit the point.

    Very useful post.

  15. The idea of indebtedness is an interesting one. There’s a book called “Influence: Science and Practice” by Robert B. Cialdini which makes you feel dirty just reading it. But it has great insights into the psychology of selling. Once you give someone a gift, they can’t help but feel ever so slightly indebted to listening to you/buying from you/etc. Yeech.

    Great, clear points in this blog.

  16. I’m so late to this party, but this is a wonderful post, Elise.

    As someone who is a reporter in her day job and a blogger in her spare time, I get pitched left and right, dozens of times a day. But what really blows my mind is the different tones when I am being approached as a professional journalist versus “just” a blogger. The former are professional; no PR rep for my day job would be so rude as to presume that I would exchange a link with them or write about their product just because they sent me a sample–they’d never insult my professional integrity like that. Yet this happens daily through my blog email and guess what? My standards are the same.