On day twenty-six with just a few days left to go I was focused on wrapping up plans for some of the marketing methods I'd been working on throughout the project. I needed to finalize plans for our media push, start working out how to recruit some affiliates for The Lactivist store and dive back into the world of online parenting discussion forums.
(If you're just catching up with this series of articles, be sure to swing into the ongoing discussion thread at the Small Business Ideas forum. You'll be able to link to each day's article and participate in the discussion going along with it.)
Planning a Media Push
One of the most complicated plans I've had to work on throughout The Lactivist project has been getting a press release ready and planning a media push. Public relations, even online public relations doesn't work the same way that link building or organic optimization does. If you make a mistake with your optimization, nine times out of ten, you simply have to make a change to your HTML and everything's good. If you make a mistake with your public relations, you may never have a chance to fix it.
That's why planning for the public relations push had taken almost the full thirty days of the project. From figuring out what the pitch was going to be to finding someone to help me write the release to deciding who, where and when to send it, it wasn't an easy process.
I had two excellent writers (Karon Thackston and Amy Hooker) helping me out with the release writing, but that didn't mean that I didn't need to do any work. I had to sit down and come up with quotes that could be used for the releases, I had to get in touch with other people and get quotes from them and I had to do some research to find relevant links and information that might be useful in putting the pitch together.
By this point in time, we had a press release put together and ready to go, and Greg Jarboe and the team at SEO-PR were ready to release it for us through PR Web, but we still had to come up with a list of media outlets and contact information for a direct pitch. I'd been working with Amy Hooker to narrow down a list of publications and blogs that we wanted to target, but we were running into some trouble finding the contact information for some of the publications.
The problem here was that the database that housed that information was the type of thing that only very high-end PR firms had access too. That put it out of reach for most people, myself included. This is where creativity comes into play. Since I was running my site on CafePress, I knew that any press that I picked up would also be good press for CafePress, so it was in their best interest to help me get this story picked up. I contacted Marc Cowlin, the PR Director of CafePress and asked if he could help me secure a media list. Sure enough, he was able to put something together for me and send it back.
Now, you can scoff and say that I got the help because I'm Jennifer Laycock. Or, you could think it through and realize that in the world of CafePress, no one even knows who Jennifer Laycock is. I put together a public relations pitch that had value to people other than me and I used that to my advantage. There's no reason that anyone reading this can't do the exact same thing. Any other CafePress shop keeper with a compelling story to tell could have gotten the exact same help that I did. Most people just don't take the time to ask.
Now that we had our media list, it was back to the planning stages to figure out what the pitch would be and when we would send it, but that was going to have to wait until another day.
KeywordDiscovery.com Suddenly Becomes More Useful
Earlier in the series I mentioned that the great guys at Trellian had read my articles and offered up use of their Keyword Discovery tool for the project. Up until the Lactivist project, I'd never had a chance to use the tool, even though I'd heard good things about it. In fact, I was noticing that many people within the industry were starting to show a preference for the Keyword Discovery tool instead of Wordtracker.
As a hard core Wordtracker fan, I couldn't quite understand this. While I was finding the tool to be useful as far as figuring out what phrases received a lot of searches, I was still frustrated by not knowing which phrases were also competitive. With Wordtracker, I could look to see how many web sites on a certain engine included the keyword phrase on their site. That information gave me some level of confidence on whether or not I could easily rank for the phrase. With the Keyword Discovery tool, I hadn't been able to get that data.
Until day twenty-five when I stopped being a dork and realized that at the bottom of the results list was a link that said "analyze." All of a sudden I found that I could enter my Google API code and the tool would spit back data about the number of pages that exist on the web with that phrase and how many times it's estimated that a phrase is searched for each day. Suddenly, I was looking at all the data that I'd been grumbling for since week one.
It was a major "duh" moment and the point at which I realized I should take my own advice. After all, for years I'd been telling people that search engine optimization tools were only as good as the person using them.
The incident made me wonder what other things I was missing from the tool and I vowed to dig into it more thoroughly in the future to see if there were some other great features that would turn me into a die-hard Keyword Discovery fan.
Back on day thirteen I talked about setting up specialized links to the Lactivist store so that I could start recruiting affiliates and getting them set. I'd already noticed that the Lactivist Blog had been added to several blog rolls, so it made sense to think that some of those bloggers might be interested in earning a buck or two off of their links as well.
Sadly, I'd never really gotten around to sending much in the way of emails to try and promote my affiliate program. It was one of those areas where I really dropped the ball. I knew that affiliate sales could be a big boom to my bottom line because I was already seeing nice income levels from both my own affiliate links and from referral revenue from shopkeepers that had started stores after reading this series.
On day twenty-five however I scored a double-whammy when two of my fellow mommy-bloggers decided to join up as my first ever affiliates.
The MamaC-Ta blog had already linked in to The Lactivist from her blog roll and had made a few comments on my own blog. We'd also swapped a few emails about the site, her blog and some discussion forums that we frequent. I asked her if she'd be interested in becoming my first affiliate and she said "sure" so I went ahead and setup some code to send her way. A quick sign up at CafePress and a few links later, the Lactivist banner was flying high at MamaC-Ta's Baby Links page.
My next stop was to email Jax Blunt, the blogger behind Making it Up. Jax and I had been swapping links between our blogs for a week or two and she'd become a regular commenter at the Lactivist Blog. We'd also swapped a few emails and when I asked her if she'd like to become an affiliate as well, she also said yes. So she picked out a banner and I set her up with some code as well. The Lactivist ad is now running in the "shopping" section on every page of Jax's blog.
I knew that I shouldn't stop there, but I decided to call it a day and pledged to actually spend time trying to recruit affiliates somewhere down the road.
Discussion Forums Are My Friend
I've already written about the great luck I'd had with viral marketing when it came to discussion forums. It seemed that I had found a niche where buzz worthy products got passed along from one mom to another via birth boards, email groups and local parenting forums. The problem was that tracking what they were saying about the Lactivist was difficult.
Many of the discussion forums that I would see incoming links from required a membership to be able to view posts. This wouldn't be a problem except many of the forums had strict membership policies. I'd had dozens of incoming links from a parenting forum in Charlotte, but I wasn't allowed to join because I lived in Ohio. I'd also noticed links coming in from a Yahoo! Group for former La Leche League leaders but again, I wasn't allowed to join.
On day twenty-five I found incoming links from one of the birth boards at PregnancyWeekly, from The Married Woman forums and from a tiny little forum called TTC, PG & Beyond. As usual I took the time to apply for a membership with each forum so that I could try to find out what people were saying about my site.
The PregnancyWeekly forums were easy enough to get into and I quickly found that one of the mothers there had added a few of my shirts to her Christmas wish list. The Married Woman forums were more difficult. Despite filling out a registration and sending it off, I never did hear back, nor was I ever able to use the username and password I'd requested. To this day I have no idea what they were saying about my products, I only know that it was enough to get folks to click through and visit the site.
The final forum, TTC, PG & Beyond was the most interesting. I filled out the registration form and quickly received an email back from the administrator telling me that I wasn't welcome aboard if I planned on hocking my wares. She'd apparently visited the site in my profile and assumed that I was joining up to promote my products. As a former forum administrator I must say that I could certainly understand her suspicion. We exchanged a few emails back and forth while I explained that I didn't want to market to her members, I simply wanted to find out what they were saying and do some reading. She finally agreed to let me join and I was able to find out that another mom had listed my shirts as something she'd like to have for Christmas.
That experience brings up a point worth mentioning though. There's a lot of talk when it comes to networking about joining discussion forums and getting involved to help spread your name around. That's fine and dandy advice, so long as you understand that you have to join forums with the attitude of giving, not of getting. Joining a discussion forum is an investment, just like anything else that you do for your business. You can't simply join a forum and then go post about how great your product is. In fact, you shouldn't even be posting if you plan to mention your product at all.
If you plan to use forums as part of your marketing strategy you need to view them the same way that you'd view any other networking even. You need to go prepared to share your ideas, your advice, your feedback and your support with other members. You need to ask interesting questions offer up thoughtful feedback and become a member of the community. Most importantly, you need to spend a few weeks reading the forum and the forums terms of service before you ever even think about making a post. If you do all of those things, you'll find people seeking out your products and services without you ever saying a single thing to promote yourself.
Coming up on day twenty-seven I spent more time traveling through the blogosphere to catch up on Lactivist talk. I also exchange some interesting emails with a friend about ways to increase revenues for the Lactivist blog and web site and I think over a few investments toward the future of the project.
Jump to Day twenty-seven.
(Want to read the entire 30 Day article series at once? Download the free 30 Day ebook!)
December 22, 2005
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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