What is Blogger Outreach?
All good marketers know that word-of-mouth advocates are essential players in the marketing mix; leveraging influence for competitive advantage is a key tactic for marketers in promoting their products and services. So, in the world of digital marketing, how do we harness anonymous relationships with people hidden behind screens, sometimes on opposite sides of the world?
One of the key methods marketers use is known as a ‘blogger outreach programme’.
The Power of Blogs
Blogs are an increasingly trusted source of content for consumers across the B2B and B2C spectrum- in fact, this digital marketing approach has practically eroded the B2B/B2C concept and replaced it with a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) model, meaning that blogs communicate from one person to another, directly, attracting like-minded individuals resulting in a quality of readership that is higher than other, more traditional methods of promotion.
Blogs can also influence consumer purchasing decisions, with a recent report from Technorati pointing out that 31% of consumers are influenced by blogs; a significant statistic when compared with the 56% influenced by a retailer’s site.
So How Can I Harness the Power of Blogs?
In the sales process, decision-makers are the ultimate target as they are the people with which any deal will be closed- whether it’s buying a burger from McDonald’s or purchasing a software solution for their business. However, it’s not as straightforward as that: we can’t always immediately reach decision-makers, and when we can reach them, we don’t always get the desired response. This is where influencers come into play.
If we think of bloggers as influencers, all of a sudden we have a resource that can be tapped to feed the sales ‘funnel’ with decision-makers. As we mentioned above, blogs influence consumers in their purchasing decisions: they do this through being an impartial party to a brand, often singing the positives and negatives of such a brand and being able to ‘honestly’ review products and services. This gives them gravitas with consumers, and their influence becomes strong amongst their relatively small, online communities.
With an effective blogger outreach programme, marketers can use bloggers to their advantage. Think about your marketing strategy, specifically who you want to target, and do some research into the online ‘haunts’ of these people. Identify the influencers in those circles and single out influencers who you think could add value to your brand (people who will represent your values and standards; not someone who will destroy them!). Do your research into the individuals you identify, get to know their writing and assess a fit with your brand before approaching them. When the time comes to approaching influencers, be sure of the tack you wish to take and how you want to approach them- are you going to offer them free goods in exchange for reviews, for example, or do you have an alternative route in mind? Always tailor your approach to the personality of the writer and don’t forget that writers are ‘all heart’ so a passionate pitch from you could be the difference between getting your product recognised or a polite ‘not interested’ response.
Once you have your bloggers on board, make sure you keep them on your side- these people will hold some power over your brand, but it’s easy to dismiss their influence (never forget that even the most mundane of content can spread like wildfire over the internet: the last thing you want is a passionate rejection of your product, service or brand going viral!).
One example of this working well recently is Avon’s TV ad campaign. They sent mystery boxes of unbranded cosmetics to bloggers and asked them to film their (all positive) opinions before they revealed it was Avon – much to the shock and admiration of the bloggers! This has been blogged about by many others and is all over social media and TV.
Could It All Go Wrong?
Potentially, there is a risk that spending on blogger outreach could go wrong, something to which we’ve already alluded to in the above paragraph.
Something else that could disrupt the influence of the writers you’re using though is ‘bribery’. Whilst we’re not talking about the seedy, underhand deals between corrupt cops and dodgy criminals you see in movies, it is important to understand that bloggers are trusted for their impartiality. It’s one thing giving a blogger some free products or services to encourage a review, but paying for advocacy can be a dangerous game.
If you decided to pay your influencers (in whatever way), be careful in how you do it. The last thing you want is your potential decision-makers finding out that you’ve paid your way into positive reviews. Whilst this sort of thing does happen, many consumers don’t want to acknowledge it as they may feel duped. However, if it’s raised as a possibility by a third-party, there is potential to damage your credibility.
And don’t forget, bloggers are human too, and as such, are entitled to an opinion! You may provide them with one of your latest products, confident in yourself that said product is brilliant. However, don’t be surprised if you receive a negative review for a product- it’s all ‘par for the course,’ as the saying goes!
Blogger outreach can be a positive and powerful marketing tool, leveraging influencers to create positive brand advocates and buyers. Used correctly, it can work extremely well and garner positive results for marketers; however, used poorly, it can backfire and cause a nightmare for marketers. Our advice: be careful, but don’t be afraid!
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Sources: Technorati (http://bit.ly/209LTay); Social Media Examiner (http://bit.ly/OvMN0y). Image: ConcursosPsicologias.com