So you have a blog…or are thinking about starting one…in a product based niche, and you want to start reviewing these free products on your blog for your readers. The question I receive most often is “how do you get companies to send you so much free stuff?” The process is very easy, but it does take time and a lot of effort on your part. If you follow these easy steps, you too will have more free product than you can possibly review at one time.
First…Why should you even listen to me?
One of my blogs, Bike198.com, brings in over $8,000 a month in free product for reviews on my blog. Many of these items, sometimes complete bikes, have a retail worth of over $3,000 each! The bike in the picture above has a retail value of $6,100! After performing the steps I am about to list out below, I have manufacturers and PR companies searching me out for product reviews instead of the other way around. I know what you are thinking…he has to have been blogging a long time to get these kinds of results…here is the surprise…all of this was accomplished in the first 8 months of the blog’s life. Do I have your attention now?
Second…Why you should do product reviews on your blog?
- Product reviews are SEO gold. If you are in a product heavy niche and you want to rank high in Google and other search engines, product reviews are the fastest way to accomplish your goals. The number one search query in the world is for reviews on products. In today’s internet savvy environment, consumers are looking to do as much research as they possibly can online before they make a purchase. The manufacturers and distributors know this fact. That is why that get their product in the hands of magazines and websites for review. It is a win/win for you and the company. I will go into more detail about structuring an effectively SEO’ed product review later, but for the purposes of this article…just know…if you are not doing product reviews now…start right away.
- Your readers want to know what works and what doesn’t in your niche. If you really want to be able to show solutions and provide worth, objective product reviews will grow your unique visits and subscribers faster than you can ever imagine. Keep in mind…I am not talking about glorified advertisements…we are talking about solid positive and negative reviews.
- Product reviews are also another chance for affiliate ad income. A solid review with a source for purchase can bring your residual income for years to come. You can get affiliate income directly through the manufacturer or through online retailer that carry that specific product.
- Product reviews can also be a second source of income. In many cases, you are able to keep the product that you review. You can use this product as a giveaway to increase subscribers and traffic, or you can use it personally for other reasons.
Finally…What are the steps to getting this free product in for review?
When you are a beginning blogger just trying to get your foot in the door, manufacturers, distributors, salesman and even a fellow blogger isn’t going to pay much attention to you. Most of the time, you won’t even get an answer back. Why? These people get multiple requests…just like yours…on a daily basis. Many of the websites that send these requests won’t even be around anymore at year end, so the emails are trashed and you are left without any response.
So what do you do in the meantime?
Review everything that you can get your hands on.
Go through the products that you already own in your niche and review all of them. Ask your friends to borrow their products and review them too. You are now in the process of building up a review database that gains you traffic and credibility. No one is going to send you their money (in the form of inventory) if they aren’t reasonably sure what they are getting into. They need to be able to see a reasonable return on their investment. As you review all of these products, start to watch your traffic and take feedback from your readers on the kinds of products they would like to see in the future. Later on, you are going to be able to talk to this companies that you reviewed their product in the past with a specific history of results to draw back on. These early reviews will also put you in the radar for these same companies.
Look for partnerships that would be mutually beneficial.
Early on with Bike198, I formed a partnership with the largest mountain biking forum site in the world. This forum site was starting a new Pro Review program that was a Wordpress based blog for magazine style product reviews separate of the forum site. They were on the lookout for bloggers in the mountain biking industry to help with content. In return, those bloggers were able to use their contacts and traffic as leverage with manufacturers. The partnership is perfect. Bloggers get review product and the forum site got content.
Search out forum sites in your niche and if they don’t already have a program like this…pitch the idea to them. This will allow you to start a long term relationship with another large website in the industry, but…more importantly…it will gain you a huge amount of credibility that you couldn’t have done that quickly on your own.
Before we start this step, I need to make one thing very clear…DO NOT MAKE A BULK EMAIL OR MAILER AND SEND IT OUT TO EVERY COMPANY YOU WANT TO CONTACT! If you send out non-personalized emails, go ahead and expect them to be thrown away. These people deal with this all the time, and they can tell when a pitch is just bulk junk.
Be very personal. Show that you actually know something about their company and their products. You will want to specifically name the products and why you want to review them for your readers. In this letter, you need to outline what you want to do and how you are going to do it. After that, show the other companies you have worked with in the past by directing them to specific reviews on your site. At the end, site some simple traffic numbers (subscribers, uniques per month, pageviews per month) and thank them for their time. End the letter with a little personal note and “I look forward to hearing back with you to discuss this further.”
You will not hear back right away. In some cases, I didn’t hear back for a month or more. It is always a good idea to follow up with a personalized, mailed (those things with the stamps) letter as backup. Many companies have advanced email filters that might have gotten your email thrown away, so faxing and mailing are essential in making sure that your information got to the right eyes.
Many bloggers today stick strictly with email as their only form of communication. I do not agree with this at all. Sending personalized letters through the mail can show how serious you really are about starting a relationship with the company in question. I strongly recommend you do this…especially in the beginning. Include your logo and contact information…along with a couple of business cards if you have them. To find out who to send your letters directly to, go to the companies website and find the contact names for the marketing director and vp of sales. Do not bother sending a letter to the owner of the company unless they are very small.
Deliver on exactly what you say you will…plus some…
This is probably the most important point to get across. Your credibility is everything as a blogger. When you say you are going to do something..do it…and deliver a little extra that the company wasn’t expecting. One of the easiest ways to do this is by linking back to the review article or the manufacturers website in other areas of your blog. Many times, I will use their product to review another product on my blog. This gains them additional traffic and exposure to my readers that they would have not gotten normally under a review post scenario. Ideally, you need to provide enough return out of this partnership that the product manufacturer had a bigger return on their time investment than you did as the blogger. This will spawn a long term relationship with more product reviews in the future.
You are going to notice a turn in events after a period of time.
After a couple of months of doing this process over and over again, you are going to start noticing a turn. Slowly, the smaller manufacturers are going to start contacting you directly. As time progresses, larger manufacturers will start subscribing to your newsletter and feed…eventually they will contact you just to say hi. Later, you will have large scale, big name manufacturers asking you if you want to review their products.
How did you get to this point?
You built up your credibility and showed that you can be trusted. You also put the time and effort in that showed you are going to be around for the long-haul and that dealing with your site is not going to be a waste of their time. Congratulations, you are now a top review blogger in the industry and you have loads of organic traffic to show for it.
What do you do now? Use those same contacts as direct advertising leads!
Want to learn even more and see the success I have? Check out Ramped Reviews.
NICE! That’s some good advice for bloggers. I do a similar approach when networking with bloggers and its worked really well.
Keep up the good posts
Justin’s last blog post..How to eat healthy for less than $5 a day
Rob – found this through Yaro on one of his early afternoon tweets (twitter) and just ate up what you are saying here. Awesome stuff!
Great post, I always lack the belief that product manufactures would bother with a small blog but I guess if you start small and personal you have a better chance to get a foot in the door. As blogging becomes recognized as authority sites for a specialized niche’s I expect your following will turn to you first for information in that niche. Which in turn gives you more cred with suppliers.
As more manufacturers and distributors see the power of blogging…I think we will see a shift from traditional print reviews in magazine to web based blogging reviews. Many industry rags are already swinging this way by creating their own blog sites.
Keeping it personal is the key! Thanks for the comments!
Great post with actionable tips. I’ve used some of these already on my blog to get free books, software and other things in the personal finance sphere. Now i just need to move into electronics so i can get that free 50″ “review tv”. Very useful, thanks!
Peter’s last blog post..The Best Decision Doesn’t Always Make The Most Financial Sense
Great article! I’m blogging about drums and drumming, and there are a TON of products there! I will certainly start implementing your suggestions.
Omar Alvarado’s last blog post..An Invite from The Paradiddler
[…] Today, I was featured on Yaro Starak’s blog, Entrepreneurs Journey for this article on How To Get Products From Manufacturers For Review. […]
I am thinking about starting a website not a blog about reviewing somthing (I don’t want to give my idea away) and have a quick question. If you review something or a friend reviews something, do you need to get permission from the company or vendor before you post a review?
You do not need permission from a company to do a review on their product. It is your website/blog and you have the freedom to write/review as you wish.
Good point Robb.. and what Jason VH sais, “That said, if you are ever in doubt, you should do the research, like any real journalist would do.”
In my former life I worked for an aviation company. Our product was reviewed on a blog, this was back before blogging was cool. The blogger’s intent was a personal review, as in “this is great but doesn’t suit me” It read like “this product is unsafe” We ended up hating that guy. He was the number one result on Google when you typed our company name, and we had to answer to his blog on every sale.
He was being honest and truthful to the best of his knowledge, but because the review was unsolicited he didn’t see any need to correct the wrongs and half truths in the article. We got over it and as consumers were educated beyond his level they lost respect for him. Now he is just another dork in aviation.
I guess my point is one can say what they want in a review, but you “own it” You might end up with egg on your face or exposed for what little you really know.
Doug…thanks for sharing that. I see that happen a lot with reviews…especially when bloggers do not clarify the facts with the companies that put out the product. There are ways of making sure the facts are straight without losing the integrity of the review.
Thank you. What about an event such as a concert, show, rib cook off, charity walk? Same thing? Do you think I or readers could review events without contacting the vendors? What about just posting basic info about the event such as name, city, date without a review Do you think that needs approval from the vendor?
Jason is right. You are good to go. I would be careful of any video or audio content from events (like concerts) that might have copyrights attached to them. You can review it but not reproduce the content for profit.
We have this little thing in the US called the freedom of speech.
As long as you do not willfully slander someone or be untruthful you should be fine. That said, if you are ever in doubt, you should do the research, like any real journalist would do.
Thanks. I didn’t realize reviews were such a great SEO tool. I think I’ll put this into my plan.
I really enjoyed your article. I am planning on implementing product review into my blog. I am new at this my first official blog on blogger,not counting the one on myspace….long story. I want to review telecomunication and electronic services and products.
Thanks sasgoodie…Good luck with the new blog!
Thankyou for your kindness and prompt response.
g’day Rob, are you AU based as well? As a fairly newbie blogger with 5 months of content, I’m only now starting to get some momentum, so your advice regarding starting small is brilliant!
So many people are too caught up in instant gratification to even get going…as a struggling author, writing book reviews would be a no-brainer for me, but there is no shortage of those on the web.
Do you have any advice on creating a unique personna in a popular niche?
Very nice post and some good ideas. I review beer and after reading how you get bikes worth thousands of dollars, I should be able to get some beer samples from time to time! Going to try some of what you suggest and see what happens! Thanks!
Thanks for the useful information. I have just started out and I do video reviews on Youtube and comparison reviews on my website. Great idea about borrowing items from friends to review. Do you think it helps to review the latest and greatest that is just out, or can you generate traffic with reviews of older products? (I.E. The Sony Playsport (Just out) vs Flip.
Both actually. The latest and greatest can be good for a spike in initial traffic but reviews on anything that is still in high use is a good thing.
Great article Robb, I have a volleyball coaching blog and I have already reviewed many things. I have also approached several other companies to try and arrange an agreement. I’m glad I did many of the things you mentioned already and gotten a few “contact me next week”s and some “No”s. I did like the part about following-up with snail mail though. It’s a nice touch and I will do that with some of the “contact me next week”s :). I have not received anything yet, but I have only been trying honestly for the last month.
[…] that I discovered were on Rob Sutton’s blog, in a post from January of ‘09 titled “How To Get Free Products To Review on Your Blog”. He went into great detail about the reasons why providing product reviews on your blog are great, […]
[…] product reviews for bloggers. I gave a little synopsis on Rob Sutton’s blog post named “How To Get Free Products To Review On Your Blog“. Rob touched on why providing product reviews on your blog is a great way to beef up your […]
do you ever have to return the product back to the manufacturer after you review it? if so, how typical is that?
I do on some of the higher end bikes that come in. When they are shipping an 8,000 dollar piece of equipment…they typically want it back. But it also comes with a bunch of free schwag in the process.
do they typically spell out the terms before sending you the product? thanks for the info!
It is always best to make sure the terms are very specific beforehand.
Hey i need some emails for companies/business that sell apple products… i have reviewed for apple in the past but their email system changed so i have no way of contacting them, wal-mart, or target who use to give me almost anything i wanted for a review on my site… (ipods, iphones, mp3 from sony and others…)
I wish to start reviewing graphic cards. Actually I have done a couple of reviews on my another site. After reading this post, it actually disturbed my mind a lot. It induced me to start my blogging again with a new force. I have sorted out a strategy for the next 6 months in my blogging.
But, since all the players in this field are big shot like sapphire, gigabyte, zotac etc,. how many monthly visitors or subscribers do they expect in general. I know that this is a foolish question to ask. But I just need a rough count, so that I can be assure of when to ask for review products from them. Moreover I’m from indua, so will this work out for me ?
Great post, I always lack the belief that product manufactures would bother with a small blog but I guess if you start small and personal you have a better chance to get a foot in the door
Product reviews are still the way to go. However, I think a previous commenter made the point that it is hard to forge these connections when you don’t have much traffic going to your blog. Have you got any pointers on how to grow one’s blog?
Thanks Robb, this is a really nice and helpful post for the beginners like me. Will follow the steps told by you for sure. 🙂
Thank you so much for this article, I run a beauty and fashion blog and was running out of things I already own to review and there’s only so much shopping I can do!
I was wondering how to request samples and build up my credentials and this has helped.
Thank you again