Why would it be any different when it comes to blogger and influencer outreach marketing? The conventional approach in outreach marketing and PR relies on converting just a handful of highly influential journalists, online writers, and bloggers who have a well established popularity and readership. The strategy here is to cajole, seduce, and woo between one and twenty five bloggers/journalists to report and write on your behalf.
The idea is that if you’re able to influence a top influencer, and thus garner their influence to earn the support of your product, mission, ministry, or message, then you will win direct, endorsed access to the impossibly large number of readers, followers, fans, and friends who hang on their every word. The expectation is two fold: the reputation of the A-lister will rub off on the messaging, bringing with it a (tacit) endorsement, and then unfettered access to a fan base that often does base many of their decisions on what the most popular reviewers are saying. If I can get someone like the esteemed and popular Mr. John Brownlee to blog about my cool new designer products, who knows how many people will queue up to place an order. And they just might.
But there are a number of catches to this perfect world:
1) How much time do you have?
2) How many A-listers do you already know?
3) How awesome is your product?
4) How compelling is your news?
5) How generous is your “gift”?
6) What is your goal?
7) Is it OK to fail, to fall flat on your face with a couple snake eyes?
If you’re going to do a top-down outreach where the goal is to influence top influencers, you’ll need some time, especially if you aren’t already in bed with the top influencers in your industry. Dropping a tip, cold, into the tips@ drawer at Mashable is not the way this business works. There are exceptions, but all the top A-list successes I have had have always been warm and hot calls.
So, how many A-listers do you know and when do you need to launch the grand announcement? Everything relies on not only the quality of your product or message, but also whether it’s newsworthy. And, if it is newsworthy, what’s in it for me, for the blogger, and for the reader? Will the post or article lend prestige or bragging rights to the author of the piece? Are you Aston Martin and did you lend your blogger a 2014 V12 Zagato sports coupe? Or, are you just trying to get someone to notice your new Android app; and, if that’s the case, are you prepared to ship out a bunch of prepaid Nexus 5s with that app already installed for their testing pleasure? That V12 Zagato’s a pretty generous gift, even if it’s just a day at a local Aston Martin dealership and test drive (or maybe even a ride).
Also, remember that there’s a lot of money, a lot of power, and a lot of big brands and global agencies vying for that limited time. Can you compete? Are you able to get through all the noise? Do you have the chutzpah? What’s your goal? Are you trying to drive brand awareness? Are you trying to drive sales? Or, be honest, are you doing it for SEO and link-building (there are many of you hiding there in the shadows). And finally, it is OK to fail?
The numbers game goes both ways. The fewer the bloggers you pitch, the lower the chance that anyone at all will pick up your story. There’s a chance that if you don’t have an in, you’ll come up with goose eggs at the end of your campaign. I know you’ll still cash the check — it’s not your fault, right? It’s the fault of the product, the campaign, the messaging, the client, the timing, the folks who just don’t get it, or the folks at Mashable who have doubled-down on native advertising and are so done with earned media. You’re on your way to losing your shirt, campaign, your client, and your reputation. What to do?
How does this address the problems? Well, it turns everything around. Instead of one to twenty-five powerful gatekeepers barring you from accessing their hundreds of thousands of potential eyeballs, you instead discover, collect, and message thousands of weak gatekeepers who are only barring you from accessing hundreds of their friends, families, and sometimes thousands of followers and readers. There’s this thing called Internet Rule 34 I like to quote, “If it exists, there is porn of it.” Same was with blogs: if it exists, there are blogs, bloggers, and passionate readers — no matter what the topic may well be. Be assured of it.
And, when you do find them, there are probably hundreds or thousands of them: and their associated hundreds or thousands of followers, readers, friends. And, since they are, generally-speaking, a lot further down the totem pole, a lot less used to corporate or brand-attention, and probably have been playing the lottery known as blogging in the slim but motivating hope that some day someone would notice their blog and validate them through appreciation, engagement, and attention. Every fashion blogger would love to be tapped by Gucci or Hermès to review their bags, every tech blogger wants to be tapped to test out Google Glass.
The way I do it is simple. I collect as many as possible of the blogs and bloggers who are germane to the outreach for the campaign, and only those bloggers who want to be engaged. I assume that if a blogger wants to be contacted, he or she’ll have his or her name and email somewhere on the blog. So, I personally reach out via email pitch, and I often pitch upwards of four-, five-, six-, seven-, even eight-thousand bloggers in one go. While I generally earn between seventy and three hundred blog posts when I reach out with this method, I also earn hundreds of tweets, retweets, Facebook and Google+ posts.
What’s more is the secondary effect which is in organic search. Earned media mentions makes Google very happy. Having several hundred earned media mentions discussing your product, service, or brand will have magical effects, not only on where you rank on Google, but also when it comes to defending your reputation online. All of these blog posts and mentions can really seize control of your first couple pages of Google, pushing out all the negative and irrelevant content.
Even further, you can use a long-tail blogger outreach campaign to insure against the A-list goose egg, the celebrity snake eyes, the all-your-eggs-in-one-basket fiasco of striking out with the top blogs. Even if you fail with the big boys, you surely can’t lose with the B-Z-listers, even if all of your multiple media mentions are deep in the D-Z instead of the A-C. Coming up empty is way worse than coming up a little light, believe me.
And, in my experience, if you can get a buzz started deep down in the feeders, the farm teams, the minor leagues, you can actually reach the attention of the heavy hitters from down below. Newsmakers are always doing the 2014 equivalent of keeping up with what’s coming over the news wire, and that’s often what’s flowing down their Facebook wall, their Twitter stream, their Feedly feed, or their Flipboard magazine. Journalists and A-list bloggers are generally curators of deeper news. If you can get to the deeper news sources by starting the buzz amongst the people, then there’s a good chance that you could well be the earthquake that resulted in a tidal wave. The equivalent of starting a wildfire of gossip through your own whispers.
Pretty cool, right?
The law of large numbers (LLN) is our friend when it comes to bringing people around to your way of thinking.
A Useful Content Experience: What Marketing Should Be
By Robert Kittleberger
It’s no surprise that businesses handle advertising and marketing much differently today than they did a few years ago. But that’s not just because they have new and different technology options, it’s because consumers demand it. They demand a useful content experience.
When the Internet provided us with search engines and social sharing, it gave consumers a new way to find products and connect with businesses; it created a new standard for what it takes to get them to make a purchase. In short, it’s not just about a good advertising pitch anymore.
Ads don’t work like they used to. In the eyes of today’s shopper, a catchy ad or even a well-crafted marketing scheme is not enough to make the sale.
So what is enough? What does the consumer want?
Content and Information
Modern digital media is so flexible, personal and fast, it’s created a standard that makes conventional businesses invisible. Simply providing a product or service isn’t enough to win trust amongst the general population online.
In order for the consumer to trust a company, they need to be provided with facts, insights and help surrounding the problem they want to solve. Information about the item or service they may want to purchase is secondary. Their experience comes first.
Brands need to help solve a problem and fulfill a need before a sale (or even a sales pitch) can ever be made. That’s the essence of a great content experience, and it’s why I chose the image for this article. Even though Peter Morville’s User Experience Honeycomb is more about design than content, it’s a perfectly apt way to illustrate the idea.
A well-written and helpful piece of content is now considered to be a far more effective sales pitch than anything else. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 90% of consumers find such content useful, while 78% believe that it indicates the company providing it is interested in establishing a positive relationship with them.
There are two primary reasons for this:
Let’s talk a little bit about both points.
The Consumer’s Frame of Mind
Think about the frame of mind you’re in when you’re watching television and a commercial comes on.
Now is it really honest if we consider that commercial to be the optimal way of getting our attention? They have our eyeballs, but do they have our attention? Furthermore, are we even in a frame of mind where we’d be willing to hear any kind of sales pitch? The answer in both cases should be an obvious no.
When you’re sitting on the couch watching the game or a re-run of The Office, you aren’t thinking about purchasing things, except maybe if you’re hungry and it’s halftime. Your goal in that moment is simply to be entertained.
Ads tend to postpone that entertainment and thereby frustrate our efforts, they get in the way and detract form the experience.
It may actually be the worst time to try and get you to purchase something because you just don’t care at that point. Ad-based marketing is interruptive by nature, and therefore gets in the way of your other objectives. And ads pushed through broadcast media are anything but relevant. They are delivered to such a wide audience, how can they be? Even online, when ads are more relevant to the content on the page, they still tend to represent a departure, if not an outright interruption from your intended focus.
Compare that with your frame of mind when you’re searching for something on Google. Let’s say for example, modular homes.
Why would you be searching for modular homes? The answer is one or more of the following:
You can see right away that a company who sells modular homes through an online website has a tremendous opportunity here.
First, your frame of mind when searching for this keyword is completely bent upon finding something that provides help and information concerning this topic.
One might say you’re in a “buying mood.” Whether that’s the case, it doesn’t much matter. The content you seek is the main attraction, not the interruption.
You don’t really want to see a banner ad, right? You don’t want to see “Click here for awesome deals on modular homes.” That might be helpful, but why would you trust it when there is deeper, more informative content one more click away?
What you really want is more likely going to be information and some free consulting. As a consumer, you’re happy to read branded content, so long as it’s useful branded content.
As a business, if you provide that information and consulting, the content experience consumers want, then you’re playing right into the frame of mind of a prospective buyer. Furthermore, 68% of consumers actually spend time reading content from brands they’re interested in, which means they’re actually pursuing information from that company, independently of an ad.
When you become the source of that information and that help, there’s an immediate trust that is formed between you and the prospective buyer. That trust makes an actual sale far more likely to occur. And just as importantly, that content is far more likely to find it’s way in front of a qualified prospect in the first place.
When your content is the main attraction, consumers search for it and engage with it on purpose, not because it happened to get in their way.
A Genuine Sales Experience
As a provider of products or services, you’re not only selling a product, but you’re also selling an experience.
A genuine attempt to help somebody by providing them with information and solving as many of their problems as you can for free is the optimal sales experience that people are looking for. There is no longer an advantage to walling off information or working consumers through a tightly-defined sales funnel. People just don’t stand for that anymore. They have too many options.
Consumers are empowered with information whether you’re the one to provide it or not. Be the company that delivers it and you’re going to have a much easier time getting traffic and leads to your website with a high chance of converting those leads into actual sales.
How exactly is all this content provided to your target audience?
Without question, the most useful and widely accepted method of getting this type of content to interested and motivated people is by way of text, graphics or video on a webpage.
At a practical level, this usually shows up in the form of articles and informational write-ups or how-to’s that are published as blog posts or content sections within the body of a web page. Statistically, companies that keep active blogs bring in 97% more leads than those who don’t. And ones that provide a multimedia experience with images, graphics and video fare even better.
As a result, many businesses who already have a website have added a blog to their site for this specific purpose, since multiple blog posts are the most optimal way to provide indexed (search engine accessible) content.
Guest posting on other related websites, cross-posting to social media accounts like Facebook and Google+, and even publishing paid sponsored posts on other blogs contribute to the consumer’s content experience, and expand your online footprint, making your content, and therefore your company, easier to find.
It might seem complicated at first but if you peel back the layers, the formula is simple and it works. Just start answering the questions your target consumers have. Over time, you’ll create an informative library that continues to pay dividends as more and more consumers locate your information and engage with it.
A Better Approach
The bottom line is that content marketing works, because it caters to the consumer in ways that traditional advertising cannot. And it does so in a sustainable manner, with long-lasting content assets that get published online and stay there, unlike ads which run only as long as you pay for them.
That’s not to say that television ads and other forms of more conventional advertising don’t work or are irrelevant, but they’re definitely in the process of changing. That change is happening online as the consumer’s investigative process merges with useful branded content.
If you can tailor your marketing efforts to focus on producing the content experience your target customers want and need, rather than simply messaging, ads and promotion, you’ll be far more successful when it comes to reaching your ultimate goal of traffic, leads and sales.