Some Etsy sellers and similar seem to think bloggers prey on new, weak Etsy shops, hiding behind trees and pouncing on free product then disappearing into the mist, giggling with their stash.
This has never been my experience with bloggers. We all get the “let me feature you on my blog nobody reads” but I never fell for that nonsense. Instead, I work with bloggers with engaged followers, with compatible content and who want to show their readers something they loved that was fresh and new. And sometimes, we both hit the jackpot.
What Have You Got To Lose?
Many people seem to feel there’s a special place in hell for bloggers seeking free product. I don’t see it that way. First of all, I only feel I’m out the raw cost of the product, not the retail price or the labor. Secondly, I consider it a marketing or research cost, not giving away free stuff.
If you compare all free product to the revenue generated from all blog posts, most of us would come out ahead if we vet well and learn to craft the right kind of offer. Readers trust bloggers and are more likely to buy from that trusted source than from an ad.
Here’s what I look for.
Most of us can’t hit up Cupcakes & Cashmere or The Bloggess or Seth Godin and expect to be featured. Pro bloggers get deals from bigger fish. Unless we give them tons of free stuff or are kind of a big deal ourselves, there’s little motivation for them to work with us. So aim low.
Find bloggers who have something in common with you. Sometimes just a similar voice is enough. I had great experience with a blogger who loved the snark. Below are some areas of commonality to explore.
- Interests. Jesus, fairies, gardening, baseball.
- Personality. Snarky, funny, anxious, disordered.
- Venue. Etsy, Shopify, craft fair, Yelp.
- Audience. Student, mommy, cosplay, geek.
- Style. Boho, vintage, modern, eclectic.
- Season. Fall, Vacations, planting, Easter.
- Location. City, state, rural, urban.
Jot down everything you can think of that represents you and your business in each category. Come up with at least 10 concepts for each.
Google the following to find contenders:
- “blog” + “[interest]” (snark blog)
- “blog” + “[interest]” + “[venue]” (snark Etsy blog)
- “blog” + “[interest]” + “[venue]” + “[audience]” (snark Etsy mommy blog)
And so forth. Try to find 100 blogs and jot down their names, urls, and date of the last post. Any of them could be great contenders.
What If A Blogger Contacts Me?
On the flip side, if a blogger contacts you, I’d ask three questions to see if it’s worth pursuing.
- What can you tell me about your audience? Vague answers are a no go. Good = Women between 35 and 75 who enjoy gardening naked. Bad = Women of all ages.
- Why do my products interest you? Look for evidence beyond “I want free stuff”. Good = I love the design and I think my readers would too. I really like your photos and this is my favorite listing. Bad = You make great stuff!
- What kind of article do you want to write? Here’s where I want them to be vague. Good = I’m not sure. I’d love to do a contest, but I just want to feature you for my readers. Bad = I’ll review and to give you some exposure. (I want bloggers who think about their readers as much as me.)
REMEMBER It’s not just about them helping you, but about you helping them.
Here’s how to determine whether or not this is the right blogger for your shop.
- Content. You don’t need to read every page of a blog to determine it’s a good fit. Scan the design and ten recent posts to make sure they’re speaking to a similar audience in a voice that doesn’t make you want to punch them.
- Recency. Seek bloggers who post regularly. I dismiss out of hand any blogger who hasn’t posted in the last month. I’m wary of any that haven’t posted in the last week..
- Engagement. Followers are irrelevant to me. Any idiot can collect followers with a service. Instead, look for at least 1-3 non-spam comments that add something useful to the discussion on almost every post. More experienced, established shops with over 1,000 sales should seek at least ten comments per post.
- Social Media. Beyond engagement on the blog itself, some people are also (or even just) social media influencers. Find bloggers active on at least three the big four: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. How active is enough? Posting at least 2x per week plus likes, favorites, and a few comments with most posts. Shops with plenty of current press already should seek near-daily posts with more than ten comments on most posts. Also, I wouldn’t bother with bloggers who have fewer than 100 followers on any social media unless your market is extremely niched.
Connecting With Bloggers
Some bloggers may welcome submissions from vendors. If so, submit if you’re not too committed to being featured there. If you are, try to establish a relationship with them.
- Follow. Start following them on social media and get engaged with them and their followers. They should be posting content that interests you anyhow.
- Comment. On the blog and on social media, get familiar with their content and audience, commenting when it makes sense (don’t overdo it). This will help you verify they’re a good fit.
- Contact. If you hate social media, all isn’t lost. There’s no harm in contacting a blogger to say you loved this article or had additional information he might like. Try to build a relationship and when the time is right, let him know what you sell and see if he has any ideas for connecting your products and his readers.
Crafting Your Blogger Offer
There are so many creative ways to collaborate with bloggers, I’m going to leave some of this to you. It depends on the blogger, his experience, and your willingness to do research. The main thing to keep in mind is your offer should be mutually beneficial.
- Mention. If your blogger does holiday gift lists or features “products you need for xyz”, try to be a part of any post that makes sense. You probably won’t even have to send any product.
- Feature. Some bloggers (including me) feature companies without receiving any product. I combine mine with business advice. Others might feature a product they purchased (or sampled free) because they love (or hate) it so much. If you do a feature, try to help the blogger make his article interesting with quirky tidbits about you, your work, or your life.
- Interview. Etsy and business blogs may want to “interview” you about your shop or your art. Do what you can to make it an interesting read.
- Review. Reviews typically require product, free or otherwise, so a blogger can tell readers what they need to know. I’d only do a free review with a serious influencer. Thousands of engaged followers. I’d be more inclined to do a feature, interview, or giveaway since I’m at the mercy of the reviewer’s opinion.
- Giveaway. Giveaways can be fun. A blogger might give a user an entry for every comment, like and share then randomly pick a winner (there are other ways if you want to Google them). You can even help ramp up interest with your own followers and friends. But make sure the blog’s audience matches yours pretty well or it’ll be a waste.
- Coupon. With any of these deals, you can also offer a coupon. Don’t be cheap about it. As you hook up with bloggers, try various approaches to see what works. I’d start with 25% off.
Getting your ducks in a row before any collaboration can keep the tears away. So before you go stalking bloggers, get the following together.
- Elevator Pitch. Get that 50-word “here’s what I do for you” pitch together right now. Every company needs to know how to talk about itself and if you haven’t worked this out already, you’re a slacker.
- Product Selection. Decide which products are most likely to succeed for each offer scenario. Choose high demand products well-suited to the offer. Don’t give away more than you’re comfortable calling a “learning experience”. But don’t be a cheapskate either. Nobody’s going to clamor for a $2 soap sample in a giveaway.
- Schedule. Map out the year and associated holidays and events. Approach bloggers a few months in advance so they can plan if they like. Jot down holidays, shopping events, etc.
- Stock Up. If you have a repeatable product, make sure you stock up on finished product or supplies before the promotion so you can fill any order that comes. Don’t go crazy, but be ready.
- Track. If you use a blog-specific coupon, you can easily know what revenue comes from that experience then compare it to the raw cost of anything you gave away. Beyond that, I don’t bother. You can find ways to track far more. Just not here.
Personally, I love working with bloggers. They’re writers like me who care about giving something useful to their readers. And if you allow yourself a few dollar’s worth of product (say, $50-250) to learn how to make it work, it can be far more fruitful than advertising, where it’s hard to grab someone’s attention. I think similar concepts can extend to Instagram influencers, YouTube channels, and other sources of social media.
The trick is in the blogger niche, engagement, and your offer. And the end result can leave you connecting to a batch of like-minded shoppers poised to buy products like yours recommended by someone they trust.
And you sure as hell can’t get that from a Google ad.