So you’ve identified a group of influencers who might review your product, and with that review, provide a persuasive endorsement to your future customers.
By the way, if you haven’t done that yet, check out Part 1 of this post on how to find influencers for your product.
Now, how do you persuade them to do the review?
We’ll focus on how to approach your potential reviewer – how to make your approach stand out from the many others the reviewer likely receives, and how to initiate a personal connection with your reviewer.
1. Lay the groundwork
Before you ask for a review, get to know the reviewer. Read her blog; follow her on Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook – wherever she spends her social media time. Comment on her Tweets when appropriate. But remember: You’re not conducting a transaction; you’re showing genuine curiosity about the person’s interests, and starting to understand where they best intersect with your interests.
Let’s take the Twitter feed @LCWomenSoccer, which allows me to
- Illustrate my point and
- Brag about my hometown Lynchburg College women’s soccer team, which won the NCAA Division III National Championship in 2014.
I could let Cameron and Kevin know how much I liked their tweets. I could look up Angela Bosco (no “e” at the end) and congratulate her for winning Player of the Year honors. I could do the same for coach Todd Olsen (not shown here) and congratulate him for winning Coach of the Year honors.
After building up a rapport with any of these people, I could ask where they get their soccer news, and find a reviewer or two through them. Often, the interaction can be more direct, where you’re trading tweets with the reviewer herself from the start.
2. Reach out – briefly
In the rest of the article I’ll show you various things you can include in your e-mail, but I want to emphasize right off the bat that this doesn’t mean you should send a novel to them. Keep it short! Read your note aloud before you send it; if it takes you longer than 30 seconds, cut something. Twenty seconds or fewer is better. You don’t have to close the deal with this one note; you just have to intrigue the reviewer enough to follow up with you.
Usually, this will involve an e-mail, or perhaps a Linked-In message. But don’t be afraid to try a different kind of contact. If you’ve already established a relationship, or you think you can cut to the chase, a Tweet can sometimes pique the reviewer’s interest. If you’re trying to make a big impression, you think the reviewer could make a big impact, and you have the budget, perhaps you send a cover letter and the product in an attractive package to the reviewer’s physical address.
3. Get personal
With apologies to veteran rocker Todd Rundgren, do Something/Anything to personalize your initial contact. Mention a common interest you’ve discovered from following them. Mention the reviewer’s work, perhaps a particular review you liked. Mention a clever tweet you read. Perhaps a particular sentence stood out to you; maybe it made you think the reviewer would be interested in your product, too. Mention that.
Mei Pak of The Pragmatic Designer suggests a personalized P.S. to every note. The P.S. doesn’t even have to be directly connected to your product. “When I was doing my pre-pitch homework for one editor, I discovered she loved Bon Iver, a band I knew from college,” Mei writes. “I mentioned this in my P.S. and she responded! This type of thing can help your pitch stand out from hundreds and get the influencer to respond to you.”
4. Offer ways to help the blog
Blogger Lainie Petersen points out that most bloggers are always hungry for content. Provide some story ideas for the blogger, including ideas that might have nothing to do with promoting your product. Upload professional photos, videos, and infographics to the “media” or “press inquiries” area of your site along with a statement that gives bloggers and other media professionals permission to use them when writing about your company or products. And remember that many bloggers rely on affiliate programs for income. If your company offers an affiliate or referral program, give the blogger an easy sign-up link to your program.
5. Make the blogger feel special
To promote the movie Coraline, the producers sent out 50 boxes of movie props to influential bloggers, which helped them get high profile exposure.
If you have the right product (and budget), create exciting events around your product. Invite bloggers to exclusive events. Just be careful not to ask for a positive review, or suggest in any way that you’re expecting special treatment if they attend.
6. Be upfront about any financial arrangement
If you want a genuine opinion from your influencer, don’t connect their review with any pay arrangement. It looks bad for the reviewer, and for you. And legal authorities are starting to interpret many kinds of paid reviews as deceptive advertising. In the fall of 2013, 19 companies agreed to pay $350,000 in total penalties to New York State as part of a deceptive review crackdown.
“What we’ve found is even worse than old-fashioned false advertising,” said Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, in The New York Times. “When you look at a billboard, you can tell it’s a paid advertisement — but on Yelp or Citysearch, you assume you’re reading authentic consumer opinions, making this practice even more deceiving.”
7. Follow up
I can promise you: No matter how good your product or how clever your introduction, most of the influencers you reach out to won’t respond the first time. Wait a week, then send a follow-up message. Refer to your initial note, but be careful to avoid suggesting that they owe you a response. They owe you nothing.
8. Thank them, and keep in touch
When all of this succeeds, and you end up with a review, don’t stop there. Thank the reviewer. An e-mail will do, but I suggest you go old school and send them a thank you card with a brief, personalized note. That will create a more lasting impression, if for no other reason than the reviewer will recognize the extra time you put into your reply.
If you’re stuck about what to say in your thank you note, Hallmark offers an easy to use guide:
If the review was less than perfect, which it almost surely will be, be careful not to express negative feelings about any criticism. If you think the criticism was warranted, thank them for the constructive feedback. Better still, if it’s sensible and practical to change your product based on the criticism, tell the reviewer that’s what you’re going to do. Give them a timetable (“we should have the modifications in production by next month”) and promise to send them version 2.0 when it’s ready – which, quite likely, will get you a second review.
Continue to follow your reviewer via social media. Try to interact in a modest way at least once a month, commenting on a post, retweeting, anything. It doesn’t have to be a major commitment. But when the time is right for a second review, like when you’re ready to unveil your next product or introduce yourself to a new market, you’re not starting from scratch with this influencer.
So you’ve now read through our guidelines on how to identify and attract reviewers. I’m guessing more than once you might have thought, “Sure, that’s a good idea. But who has the time to do it? I’m busy designing/making/marketing/distributing my product(s).”
For brands in the sports world, that’s where Raynforest can help. We’re an online marketplace with a full range of brands and influencers. We connect influencers with the brands that best fit their interests. So when an influencer connects with your brand via Raynforest, he’s already displayed an interest in products similar to yours. It’s a very short step from their to an effective product review.
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