Like traditional media, bloggers can be a wonderful resource for helping to spread the word about your business. However, unlike traditional media, they tend to have a more personal relationship with their readership. As a result, bloggers can possess an advantage when it comes to sharing your message. Not only do they have direct access to your target audience, but they can influence buying decisions through word-of-mouth marketing.

Beyond referral traffic, working with bloggers builds recognition of your brand among consumers and can even help to drive sales. A 2012 study by BlogHer and analysis firm Vision Critical found that 70 percent of online consumers learn about companies through blog posts. More importantly, 81 percent of online consumers trust information and advice from blogs, and 61 percent have made a purchase based on a blog’s recommendation.

Here’s what you need to know about blogger outreach and how you can leverage that communication into long-term, mutually-beneficial relationships.

Always Do Your Homework

Before you start reaching out to bloggers, you need to devote time to a few behind-the-scenes matters first. This includes identifying campaign objectives, defining a target audience, and researching potential blogger partners. Let’s drill a little deeper into each of these tasks.

Identify Your Objectives

If this isn’t your first marketing initiative, then this step should be a no-brainer. Remember: every action you take or piece of content you publish should add value to your overall business goals. Without goals, there are no metrics to track and no way of gauging whether a campaign is a success. If you’re unaware that something isn’t working, you will likely repeat the same mistakes in future marketing initiatives.

What is it you’re looking to achieve from these blogger partnerships? Do you want to increase traffic back to your site? Build a social media following? Introduce a new product? While marketing campaigns do require some level of flexibility, clearly defined objectives will shape the entirety of your campaign — from planning to outreach to execution. Dedicate time early on for a well-organized campaign that’s set up for success.

Define Your Targets

You can’t build a campaign step-by-step and figure out who the target audience will be later. Just like your objectives, your target audience will greatly impact how you structure your strategy.

For example, if your campaign involves heavy use of Vine, but only a small percentage of your target audience actually uses the app, your message will fall on deaf ears. If you know your target audience and understand how and where they spend their time online, you’ll be more likely to build a strategy that’s optimized around their interests.

Keep in mind that your target audience isn’t limited to the bloggers who will be participating in your campaign. You also have to consider the demographics that make up their audiences as well. If you have a giveaway element, but it’s only open to readers in one country, it won’t do you any good to run it on an international blog.

Devote Time to Research

There are currently more than 181 million blogs on the Internet with 6.7 million people publishing content. There are blogs for every niche, industry, and topic. Finding participants for your blogger outreach campaign can be as easy as performing a Google search, but it’s not recommended. Instead, focus on finding bloggers who will be genuinely excited to talk about your brand.

To make sure bloggers are a good potential fit, take the time to read their “About” sections, browse through their latest posts, and check out their social profiles. Not only will this offer you a better sense of whether they’ll be a valuable asset to your campaign, but knowing more about each individual will help to shape your pitch.

This is especially important if you’re looking to build long-term relationships with these bloggers rather than one-off experiences. Depending on their popularity, bloggers receive anywhere between 10 and 500 branding requests a week. Irrelevant pitches are one of the top pain points for bloggers. Recipients can tell when a pitch was sent from someone who has never read their blog. If you’re telling someone that their blog would be a great fit for your campaign, then you had better mean it.

Perfect Your Pitch

Once you have a solid handle on the above assets, you can start crafting your pitch. This is the most important part of your outreach strategy, and often the easiest one to mess up. Ideally you will have already begun establishing a rapport with bloggers before this step. After all, people are more likely to open and read an email if they’ve heard of you. This is why it helps to research bloggers ahead of time.

Your pitch needs to be genuine, personal, and creative. Ditch those cut-and-paste campaigns, and make every email unique to its recipient. It’s fine if parts of the email are similar — your campaign details, for instance, won’t have much variation — but if all you’re changing is the blogger’s name, chances are your outreach will fall flat. Here are a few things to keep in mind when crafting your pitch:

  • Reinforce an existing relationship. (How did you find them?)
  • Explain how the campaign will benefit not only the blogger but their readers as well.
  • Be up-front about expectations.

Another major pain point for bloggers is the assumption that their time is free. Be prepared to offer them something in return for participating. Otherwise, what reason do they have to respond? And without overwhelming them with strategy, clearly state what’s expected of them as well as what they can expect from you throughout the duration of the campaign.

Be Prepared to Help

Now that you have your participants, make it as easy as possible for the bloggers to develop their content. Offer them information about the product that no one else has. Is there a unique backstory or exclusive interview about how it was created? Are you developing a new feature or a special offer that they can announce? As you build this part of the campaign, consider how this information will appear across a variety of blogs. Are there enough unique angles to ensure multiple bloggers can cover it without sounding repetitive?

This mindset should continue after the campaign, especially if you intend on building a long-term relationship. Follow up with bloggers to find out how they thought the campaign went. Some participants might offer up valuable feedback that can be used in future campaigns. Additionally, ask them how YOU can help them. In some cases it might be as simple as retweeting their branded content.

Working with bloggers is a great way to get your message out to specific demographics, but be careful not to abuse those relationships. Focus on creating mutually beneficial campaigns. Don’t treat this experience like a business transaction among contractors; rather, approach it like you would a brand ambassador initiative.