This is a guest contribution from Tom Buckland.
Getting your first 100 sales is a huge milestone for any online business, and one we’re all quite keen to reach.
This article outlines the strategy I used to generate more than 100 sales for my fitness business. The method itself can be extracted and used to promote your product or blog directly, and even if you don’t have a product this strategy can lead to a huge amount of traffic – all for free.
The strategy itself involves contacting influencers in your industry and offering something of value, then making use of their following to get visitors to your website.
In my example I contacted fitness experts with a social following of between 500-500,000 followers or subscribers, not top-level fitness personalities with millions of followers, but people with large enough audiences to make it work.
I explain why in a moment.
Generate Your First 100 Sales
Firstly, we cover where to start:
Stage 1: Finding Industry Experts
Finding these influencers is very simple, with the tools now available. you can use sites such as Izea, Buzzsumo or you can manually find the individuals by searching through twitter or YouTube – often you’ll know who the big players are in your niche.
This also works for blogs, although it is more difficult to gauge the popularity of a blog. I recommend SEMrush to discover the worth of a blog if you are to be finding them manually.
Once you’ve gathered a list of influencers (I recommend around 100-200) you need to find their relevant contact information, websites, social accounts, everything they are associated with on the web.
Our end goal is going to be getting our product, service or website shared through these channels, so knowing how powerful or important someone can be for your business is essential. Getting their correct contact information is even more essential.
Once you have this information you can move onto stage 2.
Stage 2: Initial Connection
Never contact an influencer and just start pitching.
It’s likely they receive hundreds of emails a day, and anything considered self-promotion will just be deleted. Instead, you want to build a connection. You want to make your communication personal and personable.
I did this by asking a question, stating I was a fan of the blog/channel and explaining what we needed. For example opinions on product X or Y, or a quote for an article you’re putting together.
People like to talk about themselves, so ask for their opinion whilst also building a relationship with the individual. Talk about mutually interesting and beneficial things, and always let them know what’s in it for them.
Always keep these emails short and simple.
Stage 3: Give Value / Free Product
Once you’ve built a relationship with someone, the next step is give them something of value or a free product.
This is where 95% of businesses get it wrong.
They will ask to send an influencer a free product in return for a shout-out or review, and this is not the correct way to go. It can even drastically reduce the number of people that will say “yes” to you.
Instead, you should write a positive email talking about how you’d like them to “test” the product you are creating and that you welcome their feedback. Let them know how taking the time to trial your product will benefit them. What are you offering that will be worth it?
Instead of the influencer feeling used or leveraged solely for their audience, they may feel now that they are helping to shape the product and its marketing, particularly if you take their feedback on board.
If they like your product they will probably naturally share it with their audience.
This is why we also didn’t bother with anyone that has over 500k followers or subscribers and tended to reach out to people around the 10-50,000 mark as they may be more amenable to this way of working. Someone with more followers might perhaps be represented by an agent or have sponsorship deals in place that would not allow them to work with you.
Bear in mind, though, that bloggers may indeed want compensation other than a free product for their time, effort, and access to their audience.
Stage 4: Follow up & Re-connecting
Following up is key, especially if you’ve physically mailed a product to someone.
The easiest way to do this is this is to simply ask if they have received the product. You can also take this 1 step further by asking what they thought, without any pressure (especially if they’ve not had time to look at your product yet). A gentle reminder that you’ll be emailing again soon for their opinion would work really well.
Again you can take this another step further by asking if they would recommend it. If they say yes, then you can politely ask them to share through social. If they say no, then ask why and how you could improve the product – market research on your doorstep!
How can this work for a blog?
If you’ve been reading this article thinking you don’t have a product to offer, yet you have an established blog, I’m going to explain why this strategy can work to generate you thousands of visitors, which in turn can lead to ad revenue or growing your email list and a whole host of other benefits.
Stage 1 (influencer prospecting) should be exactly the same, you are looking for influencers with a large but not overly large following. You should also aim to keep these people niche relevant to your blog if possible.
Stage 2 (outreach) is similar but slightly different: as well as introducing yourself and mentioning benefits, you should also ask for their opinion on a key issue, or ask if you can get a quote for an article you’re writing while you have them. Chances are they will say yes and give you a quick sentence or couple of paragraphs on the issue.
This means you can now create an amazing piece of content around this topic or issue, which can be used as your gateway into more of your blog content.
Stage 3 (value / free) can be added, although this tends to be difficult, usually it’s easier to simply respond with a thank you email explaining you’re here to help if they need anything, and also remember to state you will email them once the article is live. You can offer to share on your own social and email list as much as possible.
Stage 4 (Re-connecting) once the piece of content is live, you should individually reach out to these people stating the content is live, thanking them again for their contribution. Also remember to add the following sentence – “If you share this on social, remember to tag us on [twitter username] [Facebook URL] so we can re-tweet/share.” This works perfectly as you’re not asking them to share directly but you’re reminding them that it would be helpful to your cause!
These pieces of content generally get shared by the influencers you’ve contacted and hence you get a flood of targeted visitors to your site. This leads to more followers across social channels and usually new email subscribers too.
The below traffic screenshot shows how we utilised the expert round-up (on a relatively unloved blog) and the spike it received in traffic in November 2015.
Tom Buckland is the CEO of HQ SEO and marketing director of My Local Services. A UK-based digital marketing consultant Tom works with businesses to create online marketing strategies to generate more clients.