Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Marketing to Moms, Marketing with Moms. The Year in Preview

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The closest thing to a year-end review I posted was about @Military_Mom, Craig Dobkin and miracles, which I think offered some might fine food for thought for the year ahead, but not much reflection on the one left behind. Okay, so I didn't quite make the 2009 review, but it's still January, so I can offer my marketing to mommybloggers 2010 preview in a timely manner.

Maria Bailey kicked off the year with a forward-thinking piece at MediaPost: EngageMoms. (I've written some timeless pieces there, too.) Maria addressed some of the issues my friend Alma over at Marketing Mommy asked in her recent post.

Alma is an organized woman. She's already thinking about a talk she's giving in May, one on marketers and mombloggers. She's trying to prepare even as she ponders the ridiculousness of prepping now because within fourth months, the scene in this rapidly evolving space will have changed.

Still, she's asking great questions and I'm sharing my answers.

What does the future of marketing to and with mom bloggers hold? As Maria noted, there will be an increasing focus on the "with" aspect. This means that rather PR agencies connecting with key bloggers or online communities to pitch a campaign, they will partner with (and pay) those bloggers or community leaders to create winning campaigns from the beginning. In Q4, I was involved in a couple focus groups along these lines. They were exciting and unique in their approach, but perhaps not for long.

Will there be a retreat from blogger retreats? Yes. I think the ROI of these events is questionable not only in terms of dollars, but long-term blogger relationships. If a brand wants to spend several thousands dollars on a blogger, I sense many bloggers would prefer that in the form of cash for advertising, consulting, spokesperson opportunities or fees for other professional services.

Could contests and giveaways go away? I don't think they will go away because they help reviews gain traction. Plus, I like to win stuff from my bloggy friends and I'd be sad to see that end.

That said, I've heard of more bloggers who are keeping their contests focused on their readers, their communities, rather than posting them on contest sites to bring in the eager masses who inflate stats (look PR person, I'm so popular, 300 readers entered my contest to win a piece of ABC gum!). This seems like a return to authenticity. (But do PR people want authenticity or 300 people entering a giveaway for their product? Alma, the ball's back in your court.)

Will the stream of poorly-targeted "Dear Blogger" spam-pitches ever abate? No, it's quick and cheap. It's a numbers game that apparently is cost-effective enough for some PR hacks to feel the ends justify the means.

Case in point, the most commonly searched topics on my blog are related to gifted or academically advanced children, so when I received a generic pitch for a remedial reading program, I wrote the sender about the disconnect and he replied, er rationalized:
I’m sorry for the inconvenience. I wish that the custom targeting database that I use allowed me to get to that level of detail. The new CisionPoint system is very very good, but even that doesn't let us distinguish that fine detail. The blogs are the newest add on to what has been an excellent media database system for those of us in the public relations industry.

I think the new challenge will be for bloggers to realize that they are now media targets and as such will likely receive inquiries that are outside the narrow scope of their publishing.

I work with lots of clients of all types. It’s impossible for me to keep up with the specialty interest of media especially, when there are over 2,000 education specialty editors and writers in the US and Canada.
So I replied back, in part:
If you want mombloggers, the best known and most influential of them, to pimp your products, you’re going to have to try a little harder to build relationships in the community and not just blast us as you might the NYTimes.
To which he replied back:
Given that the response we had this morning from bloggers and media nationwide was phenomenally positive, I tend to believe that we did a pretty good job “pimping” to share Dr. ------'s life long and hard earned achievements.

Given your expression of interest and attitude, I've taken the liberty of removing you from any further news releases we send on behalf of other creative dedicated and brilliant clients we choose to work with in our effort to help society.

I do wish you the best of luck in “pimping” what you do as well.
Exchanges like that make me wish I was The Bloggess. She takes bad PR by the horns.

At any rate, yes, Alma, there will be spam.

Can we look forward to an era when marketers and mom bloggers can work together in a way that both fosters connections among a community of moms and helps marketers deliver solutions that moms want to buy? Yes, see above. Not the "pimping" comment, but much higher up in the post.

Will more marketers hire moms to bringing their authentic voice to brand sites? Yes, but those marketers cannot rely on the mom bloggers, even popular ones to be solely, or even mainly, responsible for driving traffic to the brand sites. Of course there will likely be some link exchanges and "Hey, read me over here!" kind of things, but the marketing team behind the brand has to do its part to drive traffic in order for the site to succeed. (Hat tip to Meagan Francis on this one.)

Will the moms who jumped on the blogging bandwagon for free stuff abandon their sites when the freebie train leaves town, or will they focus their blogs on their passions and build an audience of fellow toddlers, crafters, Crock-Potters or working moms? Who knows? The freebie train won't be leaving town for a year or so. My guess is that some women will realize that the value of their online relationships is far greater than the sum of all the products they've received and start writing from the heart.

I believe a woman sharing her voice, her story, her passion, her life online is a very powerful thing. (Ahem, please read.) (Oh, and read this, too it's by Liz Gumbinner, so you know it's good).

I also believe that marketers and bloggers can play nicely together. It's a just a matter of forging genuine connections based on shared passions or values* ** rather than a brand reaching out to the newest Power Pack Mom or a blogger nosing around for the latest freebie.

What do you see in when you look into the crystal ball of momblogging?

*gratuitous client plug
**channeling Susan Getgood


Jennifer James said...

I love your posts! I love them because you're a thinker. Love it!

I can only speak from my vantage point as a community owner, but I can already tell there is a subtle shift going on in terms of mass junkets. I have seen recent junkets, but they have been pared down to 5-6 influential bloggers in whatever niche the brand caters to.

I also don't think contests and giveaways will be going away any time soon. Marketers are just going to get more out of them.

Additionally, marketers are getting a lot smarter with ROI and want some measurable results a la numbers instead of influence. It's easy to figure these things out with social media metric tools. I think that's going to be important to drive awareness of who is actually an influencer instead of just watching how many comments a mom can drive on her giveaway post because oftentimes it may be the same person posting several times about how they've entered: on Twitter, followed the blogger, tweeted the giveaway, posted their badge, wrote a blog post, etc!

I believe 2010 is going to be another year of intense work with mom bloggers, but I think the approach is going to be a lot smarter.

Thanks for these posts.

MelADramatic Mommy said...

Great post Kim. I agree with you and I have so much to say (more like rant) on this topic. I think the climate is shifting once again and hopefully in a good way.

Kim Moldofsky said...

Thanks for the comments, ladies. I look forward to continuing the conversation at Blissdom!

Missy said...

"Will the moms who jumped on the blogging bandwagon for free stuff abandon their sites when the freebie train leaves town, or will they focus their blogs on their passions and build an audience of fellow toddlers, crafters, Crock-Potters or working moms? Who knows? The freebie train won't be leaving town for a year or so. My guess is that some women will realize that the value of their online relationships is far greater than the sum of all the products they've received and start writing from the heart."

This quote is fascinating to me. I started blogging in August only because of wanting to write from the heart. I had no idea that "freebies" and giveaways were such a big part of mommy blogs until I saw them on so many others. Thanks for the post - food for thought.


Lindsay Lebresco said...

Love this! I think you've hit a lot of nails on the head & I love that you didn't give one mention to "tools" of the trade be it blogging or twitter or facebook and you've stuck to communications in general. I'm less anxious to see how "marketing" evolves in 2010 and more how companies change based on their interactions with consumers (and "mommy bloggers") be it product or service changes or even operational changes. Embracing consumers and giving them what.they.want. is what will seperate the companies using SM correctly and those who "abuse" it. Great food for thought. Will check back in a year! (and a hundred times before that too Kim) :)

Kimberly/Mom in the City said...

This is a thought provoking post Kim.

My (brief) thoughts:
-Future : depends on blogger and their personal goals (i.e. is blogging a fun hobby or a business for them?). I think that the future will be more blogger directed than marketing directed though.

-Retreat from blogger retreats? You raise great points on the business side. On the blogging side... I think as pro bloggers learn more about the tax implications, they will only accept the trips that they REALLY would have taken their families anyway. Also, those blogging as a profession will realize that the time, energy (& $$) spent on such trips takes away from not only family time but also billable work hours.

Contests and giveaways going away? I agree with you. I do think that there will be less though. (As bloggers value their time - writing, administering contests, etc., I think that we will be more selective about those that we do run.)

-"Dear Blogger" spam-pitches ever abate? I agree with you. I just think that more bloggers will stop feeling badly about hitting "Delete" :-)

-Marketers and mom bloggers working together...? Definitely. I'm excited about a couple of site partnerships that I have in the pipeline that are mutually beneficial (not just CPM/click based). Blogging started out as a fun hobby for me. Now that it has become a business, I have greater expectations...of both marketers, brands...and myself!

Meowmie said...

My guess is that some women will realize that the value of their online relationships is far greater than the sum of all the products they've received and start writing from the heart.

Never having had sponsorship, that's had to be my rationale from the start. Sure, it makes for quiet days and sometimes makes for quite odd posts (LOL nothing like writing after a full day at work and steadily going mad!).

Anonymous said...

I have two comments to this great post by Kim.

1. I recently made a move with a site that I am involved with that took many of our giveaways from upwards of 700 entries per giveaway to often less than 100.

One of the main reasons? People were entering who were in no other way engaged with the blog. I became frustrated that the winners would respond with only their shipping info and no "thank you."

It takes extra effort to coordinate giveaways and a thank you is all I ever expected in return.

I am happy to say that under our new system, winners are happy when they win and say thanks.

2. I have gone on some blog outreach trips and have to say that I have been disappointed with some companies on their follow-up.

Sometimes once you are dropped at the airport you never hear from them again.

I am often excited about the company and products and appreciate the hospitality. The company needs to sustain that excitement by engaging with the blogger even after the trip.

Companies should only fly bloggers out if they intend to actually develop a lasting relationship with them. Otherwise what was the point?

I agree that actual payment, whether through advertising or other ways is great for bloggers. But I have to say that for me, these trips are little vacations away from the stresses of my day-to-day life.

Kim Moldofsky said...

@Missy it's always encouraging to know about bloggers who started for reasons like yours!

@Lindsay- thanks for your feedback. One study I read recently said that mostly consumers want special deals and coupons from companies. But as you hint, many want more than that. They want to be heard...and responded to. It's always exciting seeing how things play out in SM.

@Kimberly - I'm with you on the retreats. It's flattering to get invited, but there may be tax implications and if you have a day job whether consulting or working for an employer, trips result in lost work time or billable hours. I look forward to hearing about your new relationships!

@Meowmie - if you lived in the US it might different. I not sure how things like this play out in Oz.

@Leighann - your were one of the examples I was thinking of; I know of others who have made this move as well.

I am a sucker for travel and on most blogger junkets the women are treated like rockstars, but as you noted, the pay off for the brand is questionable, and as Kimberly noted, there are personal factors that come into play as well.

I've also noted the lack of follow-through on behalf of many brands. It's odd.

Meagan Francis said...

GREAT post, Kim. As you and I talked about, I think companies need to realize they can't just slap up a blog, get some bloggers and then step back and wait for the magic to happen. Readers are already inundated with content; they need a reason-and a good one-to click through no matter how much they love the blogger in question.

Kimberly, you are SO right about the retreats. I was invited to one late last year, but the more I thought about what a bunch of hassle it would be and how much of my work day it would use up, I started thinking, what on earth is in it for me? A night in a hotel doesn't necessarily equal a vacation, and a few meals and some swag doesn't make up for the time lost from my work day or the time away from my family. Also, I started finding that when the latest tweets started going out from this or that retreat, I tuned out. Why should I care that two dozen bloggers are having a fantastic time touring Acme Concrete? Of course they would be, but it doesn't make me interested in using the concrete, or curious to hear more about it.

Susan Getgood said...

Thanks for the shout out :-)