Howie Goldfarb

How the Zutano Blogger Outreach Program Hit Huge Audiences

By: Howie Goldfarb | August 18, 2014 | 
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How Zutano's Blogger Outreach Program Hit Huge AudiencesBy Howie Goldfarb

Do you know Zutano?

Zutano is a Vermont-based baby and toddler clothing brand (as well as toys and furnishings).

They have a small store in Montpelier.

Seriously, it is the size of a walk-in closet.

The clothes are high quality, colorful, and flattering for children three and younger.

They are so well made that hand-me-downs seem brand new.

After our children outgrow them, they are still as good as new.

Not to mention, their styles are fabulous.

So, being a champion of Vermont brands, I discovered a lot of action for the brand, especially on Twitter.

While a lot of shares were for products on their Amazon store, I saw a lot of promotions from mommy blogger sites.

I decided to investigate because everyone knows the ‘Mommy Blogger Legends’ in marketing.

Blogger Outreach Makes Waves

Blogger outreach can be a very powerful marketing tool if done right.

If you have read my Ode to Chobani here on Spin Sucks, you’ll know they became the number one yogurt brand in the U.S.—before they ever did any paid advertising or social media—through blogger outreach.

Zutano not only has a successful blogger outreach program and an Amazon storefront (plus BuyBuyBaby.com and Diapers.com), they also sell through many physical retailers, have a second company store in Manchester, and they opened a store inside FAO Schwartz in NYC.

This is more proof that small brands can stand out with the right distribution channels.

Blogger Outreach is a Natural Fit for Zutano

Betzi Bilodeau, who runs social media for Zutano, was kind enough to let me interview her about their blogger outreach program.

Howie: I discovered your blogger program when I did a simple search for Zutano in Hootsuite. You had so many mentions from people entering $75 giveaways on various mommy blogs. Could you please tell me a bit about the program?

Betzi: We have a very rich blogger network and aim to be working with two to five bloggers at a time in constant rotation. We have a base criteria that we keep in mind when we review requests from blogs to do a product review and conduct a giveaway.

Part of this criteria includes Google rank, pageviews, and social media followers, but each blog is reviewed beyond just the numbers.

Sometimes a blog will have great numbers, but the aesthetic or general topic of the blog isn’t a great fit for our brand.

Sometimes, especially when a blog is just starting out, the numbers aren’t there but we see something special and jump at the chance to start a relationship on the ground floor.

Like much of success in business, blogging is about relationships.

Our PR consultant, Ann Pechaver from Instinct Public Relations, is amazing at fostering relationships with our growing network of engaging bloggers.

Each blogger approaches giveaways differently and most receive thousands of entries.

We ask that the bloggers we work with suggest that their readers look Zutano up in the social media world.

We also ask that, whenever possible, they link back to specific product on Zutano.com so that readers can easily find whichever product piqued their interest.

Howie: Who decided to create this campaign? Is this a first-run or something that has been going on for a while?

Betzi: While we have been working with a core of bloggers for years, our campaign changes.

We’re currently wrapping up a campaign to raise awareness of our Zutano aden by aden + anais line in BuyBuy Baby stores.

Ann identified bloggers in key BuyBuy Baby markets and we asked them to direct readers to BuyBuy Baby or BuyBuyBaby.com to find our great new aden + anais licensed product.

Howie: Do you then follow the Twitter accounts of people who enter? If not, is that something you discussed strategically not to do or have you not thought about it?

Betzi: We do not follow the folks who enter our giveaways. Instead, we’ve focused our following on industry contacts, top bloggers, journalists, and general genre interest.

Howie: What metrics are you using to measure the success of BuyBuy Baby campaign if any?

Betzi: This campaign was about exposure, brand-building, and strengthening our partnership with BuyBuy Baby. Getting positive reviews/feedback and backlinks were our main objectives.

Howie: If you were to give me three points of advice for those looking to set up a blogger outreach program, what would they be?

Betzi:

  1. Build Relationships. Never forget that behind every blog is a person or group of people. Be genuine and honest and friendly and it will get you far.
  2. Make it easy for the blogger you’re working with to find the information they need. Provide relevant links to your company on social media, photos to your product, and relevant background information so your blogger partner doesn’t have to take extra time to search.
  3. Look beyond numbers (Google rank, pageviews, etc.) when evaluating a blog. Who doesn’t want to get in on the ground floor of something great? Look for potential and run with it.

Blogger Outreach Results

If you don’t believe how well the Zutano blogger outreach efforts are doing, just do a search on Twitter.

Zutano2

There have been plenty of posts here on Spin Sucks explaining how to pitch stories to media.

Bloggers are no different.

Take Betzi’s advice to heart as you begin ramping up your blogger outreach program. I have done this for clients with varying success, and it takes a lot of work and a long term view to see a return.

Do you have any other examples of brands with great blogger outreach programs that you could share?

Author’s note: This article is not part of the Zutano blogger outreach program and I have not been paid nor compensated in anyway. Zutano was chosen because they are a great case study and deserve to be showcased for it on one the best public relations and marketing blog in the world—Spin Sucks.

photo credit: The Zutano Instagram page

About Howie Goldfarb


Howie Goldfarb founded Blue Star Strategic Marketing in central Vermont to serve as the objective and strategic adviser of brands and help them grow and thrive. His degree in finance and 14 years of B2B sales to Fortune 500 companies give him a CFO’s view of marketing. This brings a dose of reality to the confusing world of jargon, spin, and hype. A native New Yorker and former Angeleno, he is still seeking his first moose sighting.

  • This is a great example of Blogger Outreach done right. The takeaways that Betzi offers are priceless when doing an Outreach Program. Thanks for sharing Howie!

  • Interesting post, Howie.  I’m not sure how you quantify the impact of this, but one thing that I believe helps blogger campaigns be more successful is a continued relationship between the business and the blogger(s) before and after the campaign.  An example that comes to mind for me is Energy Bits, which makes a nutritional algae product … they interact ALL THE TIME with the athletic community, on Twitter and Facebook and they go to running events. (full disclosure, I have blogged for them in exchange for samples). I do think there is a fine line — I see so many of the sponsored campaigns (and I apply for/participate in them). When my Triberr stream has 50% of the posts for the same campaign, the skeptic in me asks how much this bloggers believe in the product and how much they are doing it for business reasons (and I’m not making a judgment about that …. it’s just clear it’s a campaign versus an “oh my gosh I love this product” sentiment.  // I also like how Zutano has some flexibility in how they choose their bloggers. For example, it is wise (IMO) to look beyond “mommy bloggers” when dealing with children’s products, as discussed in this piece about fathers who blog:  http://www.npr.org/2014/08/15/334451114/youre-not-alone-dads-who-blog-redefine-modern-fatherhood    .

  • Great case study! 
    Makes me think of something I saw recently from The Baby Guy NYC’s Facebook page complaining about what he saw as bad PR — it was interesting perspective from one of these popular baby bloggers (https://www.facebook.com/TheBabyGuyNYC/posts/10152331553652087). 

    I think a lot of bloggers have much different expectations from what PR folks are used to, and it can create problems when the two try to work together. Clearly, this team knows what they’re in for.

  • This is a great case study. I think it’s interesting that their goals were focused more specifically on backlinks and reviews. I’d love to see metrics of how this has affected actual sales, or even simply site visits and database growth. 

    But Betzi’s advice is spot on. I want to especially call out the “look beyond the numbers,” this is soooo important and so often overlooked by even by PR professionals. Just like dating, someone might be perfect on paper, but just not the right match. Do your research, read their posts, and read the comments to learn about their community. Make sure it is a good match across the board and in that crazy world called reality, not just on your media list.

  • Eleanor Pierce I checked that guy out. Never heard of him. Small but passionate community but sounded like he is pay to play with no disclosure? Meaning he isn’t saying if he is getting compensated for the TULA giveaway. Should I bust him? lol

  • biggreenpen I know dad power is coming on strong. Did you ever read the post CC_Chapman did about Ragu? http://www.cc-chapman.com/2011/ragu-hates-dads/

  • Howie Goldfarb Ha! 
    Yeah, it definitely sounds like he’s pay-to-play, and pretty adamant that anyone who doesn’t know that from the outset is unprofessional. I was also really struck by his “don’t share my stuff if you didn’t place it because that’s shady” admonition. 
    That said, if you do a follow-up, I’d be curious to hear how Zutano deals with all the pay-to-play bloggers. If at all …

  • Howie Goldfarb biggreenpen I thought of CC_Chapman and Ragu when I was listening to an NPR story about dad bloggers! They totally missed that angle – which means they missed a chance to talk to CC. #BlewIt

  • Eleanor Pierce i will ask curious for sure

  • Great case study Howie! I love when a company (especially a small one) is so involved in social media and builds a strong community. Zutano gives a blogging outreach lesson to many of the “big guys”. Good for them!

  • Eleanor Pierce so to clarify Jamie is not pay to play. He is very legit he just maybe needs a statement on his site and Facebook page about this (my guess is he makes money on ads). And maybe should of had his rant reviewed by a PR Pro before posting!

  • Nice one, Howie, great case study. Excellent tips, approach, process and execution. If I’d question one thing, it would be the success measures – positive reviews and backlinks are all good, but why not go further? – actual traffic to BuyBuyBaby.com, achievement of goals and even sales? All entirely possible with Google Analytics.

  • Howie Goldfarb biggreenpen CC_Chapman I just went back and read the first of the three Ragu posts. // I do think a lot of progress has been made re: those types of gender stereotypes (by the smart businesses at least!). Most of the CBias bloggers I know are scrupulous about the disclosures, etc. And they do have a strong network of people. But (non scientific opinion here) I know as a consumer I am much more likely to be swayed by my neighbor telling me over coffee how much she loves her [you name the product here] than I will be a blog post from someone I don’t know. (But I know the answer/solution is much more complex….)

  • HOWIEEEEEE!!!!! 🙂

  • Haven’t been paid? Well, did we win then? Now that I’m a grandpa maybe I can score some of those duds for young Blake William, huh? 

    Do they only make winter clothes in Vermont? How far above the perma-frost line is Vermont anyway? 

    Did you ever get the bear question answered? And finally, where’s my maple syrup anyway? 

    Good post and interview sir; are you a Green Mountain Boy yet?

  • howiegoldfarb

    neicolec Ty so much for sharing my post!

  • howiegoldfarb

    ROWebTalk Ty for sharing my SpinSucks post you must have a friend or family member with a toddler who needs to be a zutano kid!

  • howiegoldfarb

    ROWebTalk TheInkybee hughforth JasKeller grouphigh jasonkonopinski InNetworkInc TY for sharing my zutano SpinSucks post #luv

  • You know you forced me to buy from them, don’t you? STOP SPENDING MY MONEY!

  • HughAnderson Only possible, though, if BuyBuyBaby is willing to give you that information, no?

  • ginidietrich Kind of. I know one friendly tool where the client just authenticates with GA and the data automatically populates. So the data is shared, but I’d have thought that was a good thing 🙂

  • jasonkonopinski

    howiegoldfarb ROWebTalk TheInkybee hughforth JasKeller grouphigh InNetworkInc zutano SpinSucks Woo!

  • JWLevitt

    biggreenpen Hi Paula! I didn’t see it – would you be able to re-send? Would love to chat #socialmedia and #blogging as always!

  • biggreenpen

    JWLevitt sure thing! I sang the praises of the ENERGYbits community & think a comment from you would be awesome!

  • biggreenpen

    JWLevitt just resent the email; let me know if you don’t get it! 🙂

  • JWLevitt

    biggreenpen Thank you so much! Let me know where I can check that out!!

  • JWLevitt

    biggreenpen Still haven’t seen it – jlevitt@energybits.com?

  • biggreenpen

    JWLevitt think you should get it now; I was not using the right address 🙁

  • ENERGYbits

    biggreenpen Thanks for the support as always, Paula!

  • howiegoldfarb

    MediaLabRat thanks so much Robert!

  • MediaLabRat

    howiegoldfarb You betcha, Howie, great post. The only thing missing was #bacon 🙂

  • howiegoldfarb

    MediaLabRat HAHAHA! I need to find a way to send you VTsmoke Bacon it is amazing!

  • MediaLabRat

    howiegoldfarb I ‘smell’ a marketing opportunity…#BaconGram! Get on it, VTsmoke!!!

  • ginidietrich HAHAHAHA!

  • bdorman264 LMAO! I think the Rays owe you some Zutano for trading Price.

  • HughAnderson ginidietrich Hi Hugh! I agree with you. I was also surprised they didn’t view building their twitter network up from this as a tactic. They really just respond to influencers and they miss a chance to bond deeper with customers. Their clothes are really cute and high quality but lots of competition. If you can afford Zutano you can buy clothes from anyone. Incremental sales add up. If people who bought 4 items just bought 1 more each because they were followed back etc?

  • Pingback: You Can’t Pay For Influence — Blue Star Strategic Marketing()

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