Influencer marketing has become a key component of PR and web presence optimization. Brands that are successful at pitching their news and stories to bloggers increase their online presence, gain credibility, and score those coveted “earned” backlinks that Google values as a factor in search rankings.
It’s also challenging to do well. Unless you’ve got one of those brands (like Apple, Zappos, TOMS Shoes, or Southwest Airlines) everyone loves writing about, it’s hard to stand out amid the clutter. A-list blogs such as TechCrunch and Mashable can get hundreds of news releases and pitches each day.
B- and C-list bloggers receive fewer (though still not an insignificant number) of outreach emails, but also are typically written by part-time bloggers who cover fewer stories.
Best practices in blogger outreach, social PR, guest blogging and related topics have been covered here previously. Many of the top experts in PR, blogging and social media have written about influencer marketing strategies and tactics.
Yet bad, even horrible, blogger pitching practices remain common—because they are easy.
Establishing relationships with influential bloggers and developing an understanding of what they care about takes time and effort. But PR software and influencer databases make it easy to send out poorly targeted (or flat-out untargeted) messages in bulk. The fastest and easiest way to do outreach is a “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” approach.
It’s just not very effective and definitely not good for a brand’s image. Want to have your pitches ignored (or worse) by influential writers? Then follow these four all-too-common worst practices in blogger outreach.
Don’t Even Pretend You’ve Read the Blog
I recently received a pitch that began:
“Hi, I am a regular reader of your blog. ”
Perfect! Don’t bother using the blogger’s actual name, or the name of his/her blog, or referring to any specific piece of content. Keep it totally generic. That’s bound to make a great first impression and spark the blogger’s interest.
Just Send it to Everyone
Sure, you could actually do your homework and filter your outreach list to focus only on topically relevant bloggers, but…that’s a lot of work.
Plus, that’s hardly “thinking outside the box,” now is it? How do you know food bloggers won’t be interested in your pitch about industrial lubricants? Or that blogs focused on investing won’t pick up your story about dietary supplements?
The spray-and-pray approach to outreach seems to be gaining in popularity. For example, this blog is focused on B2B marketing. But the topics of pitches I’ve received recently include:
- New healthcare discoveries
- The most expensive cities in which to hire a personal trainer
- New international statistics about flowers and plants
- The end of McDonald’s Dollar Menu
- BMX pro rider videos
- Luxury hotels in Ireland
- Top 10 cities for yoga teachers
- International training in protocol and diplomacy
- The new Star Trek series
- A clever new hair styling tool
Those PR “pros” certainly didn’t let themselves be limited by conventional thinking!
Include Unsolicited Large File Attachments
Nothing demonstrates your consideration for a blogger’s time, bandwidth, and potential mailbox storage limitations like sending huge unsolicited file attachments. Why send a link to a video or PDF when you can just send the original 5 or 10 GB source file?
Follow Up Aggressively
A PR professional trying to follow actual best practices would send out a targeted, carefully worded pitch, then send a follow-up note 3-4 days later if there’s been no response. If there is still no answer, he or she would presume the blogger is too busy to pursue the story and move on.
Aw, that’s for wusses! Instead, be aggressive. Send multiple follow-up notes, starting just a couple of days after your first email. Make your tone increasingly demanding. I mean, you deserve to have a blogger you’ve never bothered building a relationship with take time to investigate and write about your off-topic story pitch, right?
Using these four worst practices will leave your messages ending up in spam folders. Most of the time. But unfortunately for the industry, even the worst outreach practices seem to work once in a while—and so their use continues.
What awful outreach practices would you add to this list?
“So—what exactly do you do?” the delightful Shelly Kramer asked me when I met her recently face-to-face for the first time, at a Minneapolis internet marketing event.
A common enough question, but it got me thinking: in more than five years and nearly 500 posts about web presence optimization, SEO, SEM, content marketing, social media, and inbound marketing on this blog, I’ve never actually answered that question here.
I guess that’s because I’ve always wanted this blog to be about you, the reader, and your need for digital marketing information and guidance. Not a place for me to “sell.”
But I probably should answer that question, and this is particularly good time to do so, as a small agency I do a fair amount of work with recently lost a sizable client–not unhappy by any means, we just helped make them so successful they were acquired by a larger industry player. It happens.
So—I’m a digital marketing consultant who helps B2B clients improve their online visibility and business results through SEO, search and social advertising, content marketing, and social media. All components of the web presence optimization (WPO) model: content strategy and development, optimization and promotion, and actionable analytics.
A few quick notes regarding the client mentioned above: prior to the acquisition, the company’s total website traffic had increased on a year-over-year basis for 11 straight months. Monthly pageviews rose 80% over than time period, and monthly white paper downloads 50%. A weekly industry news roundup I introduced on their blog helped double visits to the “news” category on the company blog in less than a year.
And thanks as always for reading the Webbiquity blog. So, what exactly do you do?
Seth Godin proclaimed back in 2008, “Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left!”
Seven years later, that message clearly seems to have resonated, as 93% of marketers now say they do content marketing.
Yet the question remains: can the results from content marketing be measured? That is, really measured—in ways that matter to the business?
Certainly, there’s no lack of of activity-based metrics that are measurable: views, clicks, shares, likes, visits, tweets, mentions, comments, etc..
But is it really possible to quantify the ROI or business value of content marketing efforts? The six experts below express and explain their differing views on this question. What do you think?
17 Key Content Marketing Metrics to Start Tracking Today by jeffbullas.com
Guest author Aaron Agius details 17 ways to measure the value of your content marketing efforts, from time on site (“As a general rule, the amount of time your visitors spend on your site is one of the best indicators of their engagement with your content”) and landing page views (“Total website traffic is an important metric, but it’s meaningless if that traffic isn’t funneled to the landing pages where visitors can actually take one of your desired actions”) to total social shares and total leads.
Content ROI Is a Myth by HubSpot
Like the social media ROI debate, content marketing pundits and practitioners differ on the practicality of measuring the ROI of their efforts. Kieran Flanagan here contends “there is no single metric you can show your boss that will categorically give the ROI of the content you produce”–though he does outline a variety of ways to measure the impact of content on filling the sales funnel, attracting the right types of site visitors, and generating sales opportunities.
15 B2B Case Studies Show How Content Marketing Drives ROI by Business2Community
As a counterpoint to the post above, Rob Petersen doesn’t merely argue that it’s possible to measure the ROI of content marketing (and citing an Ad Age study which found that 21% of content marketers “say they are successful at tracking ROI”), but also showcases more than a dozen real-world examples which “show how content marketing drives ROI with B2B businesses.”
Content Marketing ROI Starts With A Strong Business Case by B2B Marketing Insider
Michael Brenner presents a step-by-step guide to building the business case for (and ultimately–if you can get reliable figures–calculating the ROI of) content marketing, concluding that after creating your content strategy and setting goals, “you need to be able to measure things that have a quantifiable value that you can take to the bank.”
6 Ways to Measure B2B Content Marketing Performance by Dun & Bradstreet CONNECTORS
Derek Edmond illustrates “how to demonstrate B2B content marketing performance in association with three primary challenges: brand awareness, thought leadership and engagement,” using common tools like Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools), Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, SharedCount, and Google Analytics.
How to measure content marketing success by iMedia Connection
Rather than focusing on specific, discrete metrics, Michael Estrin here describes how to develop a content marketing measurement system based on brand goals. Engagement measures are important, but Estrin emphasizes that “business goals still matter…It’s more critical with content marketing that you take a deeper look at what happened after the initial engagement.” He also notes it’s difficult but vital “for a brand to translate those ‘soft metrics’ (likes, comments, shares, favorites and retweets) into KPIs that a CMO can use.”
Guest post by Austin Duck.
Social selling is an awesome way to get things done. But, like the early days of anything on social, it’s difficult, messy, and imprecise.
A big reason for this is a lack of organizational tools. Remember trying to manage your brand’s presence on social media pre Hootsuite? It was the stuff of nightmares. You were constantly switching between tabs, hoping that you weren’t missing a valuable comment or brand mention, and every day was broken into hour-long pieces, each of which was punctuated by sitting down and writing a post.
And then, one day, a host of tools were released that made it SO MUCH EASIER.
Social selling needs that day, that one dashboard to rule them all, and, unfortunately, it hasn’t come quite yet (at least that I’m aware of.)
But several incredibly useful tools have popped up that work to focus your efforts, making it easier to identify, engage, and ultimately convert your social prospects.
5 Easy Tools for Social Selling Success
- Listen to Two Million Channels at Once with Hootesuite’s UberVU: Hootsuite’s UberVU listening tool (or something like it) should be the veritable foundation of any social selling effort. Allowing you to track keywords and conversations across more than twp million channels, UberVU makes it easier than ever to discover important discussions and important customers across the internet. From social to industry publishes, to niche blogs, UberVU helps you pinpoint potential customers and conversations at exactly the right time.
- Focus Your Prospecting Efforts with InsightPool: If you’re looking for extremely targeted prospecting, look no further than InsightPool. With tools for prospect identification within your social network, customizable lead scoring, and some seriously slick options for staying engaged, InsightPool offers the opportunity to leverage your business’ social community in a big way.
- Make the Most of Your Network with CircleBack: You may know CircleBack as an intelligent address book that keeps your professional contacts up-to-date automatically. But, what you may not realize is that CircleBack is also a great way to leverage the connections your sales teams already have. Because CircleBack tracks titles and companies and shares those changes with you, it’s easy to see when contacts move into decision-making roles or switch companies, and when it might be a good time to ding them on social.
- Grow the Right Relationships with Nudge: Nudge makes keeping in touch with all of your social prospects a breeze. It scans whatever networks you connect it to (LinkedIn, email, Twitter, etc.), and highlights those you have the strongest relationships with and who might be worth a bit more effort. Then, based on their social posting and interactions, Nudge recommends content and conversation topics you can use to build a great relationship and close a sale.
- Deliver Brand-Appropriate Content with WittyParrot: Because every social sales conversation is different, it’s easy for a brand’s voice/message to get lost in the deluge of articles and collateral different reps are sending out. WittyParrot works to change all that by collating relevant outside articles and useful internal collateral and delivering them directly to your team. In doing so, it gives decision makers the ability to control the consistency of your message and gives your sales team access to the resources they need.
With these five tools in place, you’ll have all your bases covered. With solutions listening across social channels, giving you better insight into existing networks, and facilitating relationship building through communication and outreach, you have everything you need to close deals is an organized, impactful way. Now go sell something!
Austin Duck is Content Marketing Manager for CircleBack and regularly contributes to StartupGrind and elsewhere. He lives in DC with his wife and army of cats.
While B2C and B2B marketing practices are distinct in many ways, they both ultimately involve making your message resonate with people—meaning emotions a significant role. The notion that business buyers are dispassionate and coldly rational is overstated.
Certainly, practicality plays a large role in B2B procurement. Attributes like product functionality, ROI, total cost of ownership (TCO), fitness for purpose, and integration capabilities are undeniably important.
But more personal, individual benefits also matter to business buyers, particularly as more consumer and consumer-like technologies make their way into the workplace. It’s nice that a piece of software “streamlines processes,” but 1) everyone says that (an exact phrase search on Google for that brings up more than 40,000 results); 2) no one would buy something that complicates processes(!); and 3) how exactly does that help the individual business buyer in his or her job?
Thing is, the core message of most B2B products and services revolves around how a vendor’s offering helps its customers (companies and government agencies) do things better-faster-cheaper. Those are vital benefits to be sure. They need to be part of the marketing message and backed up by case studies and other proof (not just claims).
The problem is those messages themselves often aren’t differentiating, and even when they do, product and service features are generally easy for competitors to copy. And, again, those messages are about organizational benefit (rationally appealing), but don’t address the personal, individual needs and wants of business buyers (emotionally appealing).
So how can a B2B vendor stand out, and potentially create more sustainable competitive advantage? Here are seven ideas.
Talk about personal benefits.
Go beyond better-faster-cheaper to address the personal needs of those on the buying team. What do they value? Getting home earlier in the evening? Increased status at work–maybe a raise or promotion? Reduced frustration?
The importance of emphasizing personal benefits in B2B marketing was noted in recent research from CEB, which found that when vendor messages are focused only on business benefits, “86% of B2B customers do not see enough difference between suppliers to pay more for it. However, our research also shows that ‘personal value’ is twice as powerful as business value in achieving a broad range of commercial objectives (including awareness, consideration, purchase intent, willingness to pay a premium, loyalty, willingness to recommend).”
This is because ‘B2B buyers must see sufficient personal value to overcome the risks they take on when advocating for a particular supplier’s solution.”
Rental car companies and airlines do an excellent job with this, promoting cost-saving travel program messages at the business level while also promoting their simplicity and convenience to business travelers. One enterprise software vendor talks about making its IT customers into business heroes. Payroll and HR outsourcers emphasize how they take mundane, tedious tasks (like regulatory compliance) off the plates of small business owners and corporate HR staff alike.
Though it’s vital to communicate product features and benefits (on both a business level and, as noted above, a personal level), stories are also very powerful. Stories help connect emotionally with buyers, and are also more memorable: research has found that after a presentation, 63% of attendees remember stories, while just 5% remember statistics.
Stories are used commonly in consumer marketing, but are also increasingly part of B2B marketing campaigns as well, with notable examples including GE, HubSpot, and Intel.
Use data to personalize messages intelligently.
Use whatever information you have at your disposal to make your emails and other communications as individualized as possible.
In a small company with a limited product line and contact database (as well as, generally, limited resources) this may be as simple as segmenting your list based on common characteristics like title and company size.
Marketers in mid-sized companies usually have marketing automation software installed (e.g., HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, Genoo, etc.). All of these are helpful in customizing messages for different market segments, if not quite down to the individual level.
Large enterprises can utilize sophisticated data mining to target messages to customers. However, the human element remains vital, to avoid over-reliance on data mining that can backfire and damage the brand’s image.
Optimize the customer experience.
The single most powerful and cost-effective form of marketing in existence is customer word-of-mouth (or word of mouse) advocacy.
Turning customers into stark, raving fans of your brand or product is something that can’t be purchased. It has to be earned. But it can be, by focusing not just marketing but company-wide efforts on creating a great customer experience, from the initial communications prospects receive through the buying process to ongoing customer service.
This is much more than a marketing campaign—it goes to the heart of the business and internal culture. A remarkable customer experience starts with creating an great employee experience.
Be a great place to work.
Employees are natural advocates for the business, and can be very influential. But their hearts will really only be in advocacy if you provide a great work environment.
Research has shown that happy employees make for happy customers—and both combined make for higher profitability.
Like happy customers, happy employees can’t be bought (at least not entirely). Compensation plays a role to be sure, but having managers who inspire and collaborate (rather than dictate and micromanage) is among the most important considerations, along with work environment and scheduling flexibility.
Trust goes a long way toward removing friction in marketing and sales. Like customer loyalty, it can’t be bought—it has to be earned. And it has to be consistent. Trust is challenging (but worthwhile) to earn, easy to lose, and almost impossible to regain once lost.
Which means integrity in all customer interactions, up and down the organization, has to be built into the culture. This may sound basic, even simplistic, but it’s more difficult than one may think. It’s easy to cut corners “just this once,” or tell prospective buyers “little white lies,” in order to make the quarterly numbers.
But short-term thinking can lead to long-term loss of respect—internally and externally. Integrity must be consistent to have value in humanizing a brand.
Be involved in the community.
Employees and customers alike want to work with organizations that act as part of a larger purpose. “Community” in this case can mean not just the local community, but also the industry community or even global “community.”
In the B2C world, Target’s corporate giving and TOMS Shoes One for One program are well known examples of community involvement. But community involvement can take many different forms, from a credit card company creating a forum to help small businesses to providing a platform for community-based technology organizations to companies that encourage employees to volunteer their time to worthy causes.
Sometimes (rarely) B2B marketing is simple: it’s about having the clearly best product, lowest price, or widest distribution network. Most often though, it’s not. It’s about differentiating your product or service in a crowded, competitive market. That’s when humanizing your marketing—and entire approach to doing business—can make all the difference.