Can a Blog Really Increase Leads?

Can you grow your list by paying people to blog about your product? Self-proclaimed Internet celebrity Reed Floren says you can—and that he has proof.

Floren runs something called the “JV Bootcamp,” with the “JV” standing for joint ventures. He partners with small businesses looking to grow their files, gets them to offer something for free, and then these entrepreneurs can move to the tropics as millionaires and sip Mai-Tis poolside all day.

Floren had Mills running a contest: “Write a Blog Post about Outsourcing and Make Money.” The idea is to get bloggers to spread the word about Mills’ new e-book, “The Outsource Compendium.”

So in other words, this guy is going to pay bloggers to review the e-book and post something about it. My guess is whoever brings him the most leads wins.

“You can think of this as a sales incentive. A lot of big corporations will have major sales contests for their top sales people. Sometimes they’ll give out cash, cars, electronics, travel, etc.,” Floren wrote in an e-mail “We are doing the same thing to motivate other Websites to promote us, and I’ve seen several six and seven figure product launches do contests similar to this.”

Merchants, don’t re-arrange your marketing budgets just yet. There’s a big difference between organic and paid blogging, as well as business blogging and personal blogs.

Here’s a few tips based on my own blogging experience and what I’ve picked up from listening from masters like Seth Godin and Alan Rimm-Kaufman:

  1. Bloggers have a passion for what they are writing about. Chances are most of the bloggers who enter this contest are going to have no idea what Mills means by outsourcing. And if a blogger thinks he or she has a chance to win some big-time cash by including a post about Mills’ book in his or her blog, chance are the audience isn’t going to care.
  2. A true blogger is an evangelist. Or as a couple of experts wrote last month in Chief Marketer, passionistas. Someone with a successful blog is going to be passionate about what he or she writes about. Don’t think in the least that a gadgets blog like Gizmodo is a paid blog. Those guys have a passion for high-tech doohickeys, review them, and then let their audience know if it’s good or bad.
  3. A paid blogger is going to write what the payee wants conveyed. I entered the Arena Football League’s “Blog of a Lifetime” contest last summer. The league was offering a chance to blog live from the press box at the Arena Bowl (its championship game) though those chosen would have to pay their own way. I launched a blog even though I wouldn’t be able to live-blog the conference championship games. Why? Because I have a passion for Arena Football, and missed covering the game as I had in the past as a freelance writer for several newspapers and Web sites. The first week of the playoffs I tried not to insult anyone. But when I realized that the league would probably allow anyone playing by the contest rules to pay their way to New Orleans, I let the critical side shine through.
  4. If you have a good product or service, bloggers will find it. On my high school football blog, I like to tell the audience if I had a great dining experience at a local restaurant. Why? Because I want them to enjoy the same experience. I’m hoping that if fans are heading, say, to Stamford for a game, that they’d go to Smoky Joe’s beforehand for barbeque, or hit Frank Pepe’s pizza place after a game in Fairfield. And if they shared the same experience, they’ll let me know.

Mills very well may get a ton of leads, but how many of them will be qualified ones, or even usable names? Time will tell, but there are a lot of people on the Internet who see the word “free,” and have to have whatever it is.

Here’s an example from back in 2005. Ameriquest ran a sweepstakes and dangled free tickets to a Rolling Stones concert, which included a meet and greet with the legendary rockers. The entrants were asked in the entry mode if they were in the market for a mortgage or a refinance, and I’m sure most of the entrants, who had to give their real names in order to qualify, weren’t even thinking about doing business with the now defunct subprime lender (and that was during the refinancing peak).

My advice to multichannel retailers is this: Grow your prospect and buyer files with some best-practices in SEO. Blogging can be a part of that. But if you keep in control of the blogosphere by buiding an audience of enthusiasts and evangelists, you’ll be better off.

Tim Parry is a senior writer for Multichannel Merchant, managing editor of Chief Marketer, an avid blogger, and owns a lot of free t-shirts obtained at MLB and NFL games by dishonestly filling out credit card applications.

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