Can't We Fix Marketing in the Crafty Blogosphere?

09 Nov 2011

"Will you please blog about my shop/product/event/contest/project?"

This is a question I get asked many times each week. And when I have a new product to market, it's the first question I ask other bloggers. But you know what? That question is broken! And I believe the time has come for us to evolve a fresher, more effective means of doing marketing in the blogosphere. I have a modest proposal for one method we might try, and I'd love to hear your ideas for others.

(A word of warning, too… there's a wee bit of vitriol here and there in this post. I usually edit that stuff out, but in this case, it's an honest reflection of my own frustrations, so I left it in. I intend no offense toward anyone.)

Broken Heart

Image by Gabriela Camerotti, via Flickr

What's broken now…

The way we're marketing things in the blogosphere right now looks way too much like old-school mass-media marketing:

  • We have something to sell. So we contact a bunch of bloggers who have bigger audiences than we do.
  • We ask them to talk about our product/event/thing.
  • We hope that exposure will bring us sales.

But you know what that approach is more likely to bring? Dull blog posts, written by someone who feels obligated to make a marketing statement. Dull tweets and Facebook posts, in which someone says "Here's a thing to go buy."

Coverage like this gets widely ignored, because there's so little genuine enthusiasm behind it. Why are we bothering?

Push Pull

Image by rustman, via Flickr

Push vs. Pull

What we're essentially talking about here is the difference between "push marketing" and "pull marketing," which is another way to express broadcast vs. engagement.

When the product is the whole story, and that product is thrust upon you without your invitation, that's push marketing. Push marketing feels intrusive, I think, to most of us, and rarely gets our full attention – whether we're reading about it or being asked to write about it.

In pull marketing, however, the product is not the main story. The product, paradoxically enough, is somewhat incidental to the story. But if the story's good, then the product becomes intriguing. And we're attracted precisely because we aren't being pushed into it.

The Best Thing In Life Is A Friend Saying Hello

Image by Greything, via Flickr

Friends vs. Strangers

I've talked before about the idea of forming relationships with people as a form of sharing your product, and I still believe in that model, but I'm also not sure it's enough of a marketing plan for most of us.

Seth Godin wrote about how much easier it is to market to "friends" than strangers, but honestly, that's pretty easy to say when you're Seth Godin and have millions of people already listening to you. For most of the rest of us, we have people listening, but not enough to make them the only marketing channel we use. Most of us have to find ways to reach people we don't already know.

…But the challenge is, how to do this without sounding like mass-media marketing and therefore being mostly ignored! (Stay with me, I'm getting to that part.)

McDonald's coupon handout

Image by, via Flickr

I'm as guilty as anyone of descending into "marketing voice" every time I have something I need to market. I've asked other bloggers to review my ebooks or mention my classes. But honestly, these efforts rarely create enough sales to be worth the energy to set them up, because I'm essentially just push marketing.

(Some of you will be thinking at this point, "Why not do a contest or a giveaway?" I get that some marketers swear by them, but I'm going to stand right up and say: I think both tactics have been overused in the blogosphere, and I suspect that they do little to drive actual purchases. Contests and giveaways seem to attract people who want freebies. I need customers instead. But I digress.)

Roulette wheel

Image by John Wardell, via Flickr

The stakes are high for all of us here.

As a blogger, you carry a big responsibility: you're charged with sharing stories that your readers will find consistently interesting and useful. And your audience is like a fingerprint, not a demographic – every blog draws a different group of readers. As a blogger, you know best what your readers want to read.

The minute your blog smacks of too much non-relevant marketing, your readers have only to click the Unsubscribe button. And in an era where everyone's on the verge of information overload, we are all looking for excuses to click that Unsubscribe button. So the more overt push marketing you participate in as a blogger, the bigger the risk you run of losing readers.

As a small business owner, of course, if you can't reach out to people you don't already know once in a while, then you have little chance of growth.

So this marketing thing really needs to be a team effort. If we're to effectively help each other promote our work, and keep readers interested, then we simply have to find more genuine, more interesting, more story-based ways to do it. Here's my idea….

Story Hour

Image by piccalilli days, via Flickr

Storytelling Partnerships!

I think what we're looking for is to form "storytelling partnerships" with bloggers (and podcasters, and video makers). This goes way beyond merely asking people to write about your product/event/project.

To form a storytelling partnership with a blogger, you first need to do your homework. Read a lot of posts, and suss out what stories this blogger is telling to his or her readers.

  • What are the broad themes of the blog?
  • What are the bloggers' ongoing struggles and obsessions?
  • What kinds of comment discussions are this blog's readers having?

(In other words, don't look at the home page for fifteen seconds and then email the blogger, "I love your blog." Ahem.)

Once you have a sense of the stories this blogger is telling, then you figure out some ways you and your product can participate meaningfully in these stories. And instead of asking the blogger, "Will you write about me," you offer them your story proposals.

Cupcake Knitting Needles

Image by Carissa Marie, via Flickr

Let me give you a real-life example of this approach. Tara Swiger, about two years ago, launched a "Learn to Knit Kit". She was looking for bloggers to blog about it so she could get the word out.

Tara contacted me, but instead of merely asking "Will you write about this," she analyzed what was happening on my blog. She noticed that I'm not really a knitter and don't write often about knitting. And, taking that information into account, she offered up these story ideas:

  • Since I'd blogged before about my ongoing difficulties with learning the craft, she offered to be interviewed about why knitting can be challenging to learn, and how to overcome these challenges.

  • Since so many beginning knitters have trouble casting on (and I'd written about my struggles with this), she offered to write a guest post about the methods her beginning students have had the best luck with.

  • Since some of my readers had commented in the past about their own struggles with knitting, she offered to do a "knitting Q&A" on my blog, where my readers could submit their questions for her to answer.

Do you see what's happening here? Tara's Learn to Knit Kit isn't the main story in these pitches. But any of these posts would have been interesting to my audience (and to me), and therefore would have drawn positive attention to the kit. Tara took the time to find my stories, and then she took the time to offer me some complementary stories that gently incorporated her product.

I appreciated Tara's approach so much, I undertook to learn knitting from her kit and wrote honestly about the experience as part of a post series I was doing about indie publishing. The resulting post is (I think) more interesting than a "here's a product, go buy it" post.


Image by ElvertBarnes, via Flickr

The key marketing skill for the 21st Century…

I've said this to my blogging students many times: the more ability you have to tell a compelling story about your business, the more successful your blog will be. I think the same storytelling skill applies to marketers, too – the more you can help bloggers tell their stories, the more effective you'll be at marketing.

Yes, marketers have to do much more legwork to market on the web than they used to do through broadcast channels. But I think that the resulting coverage is way more effective than broadcast marketing, because it's the result of friends telling stories to friends.

When you ask a blogger, "Will you write about this," you're not only asking for free publicity, you're putting all the impetus on them to make your product interesting. I say no to a healthy handful of these kinds of pitches every single week. As a blogger, I'm too busy to figure out how to market your product to my readers. If you step in and help me with that part, I have a lot more reason to listen to you.

Parade Balloon
Image by Stephen Desroches, via Flickr

"Big Bloggers" aren't the proper targets anymore.

Here's what I think is cool about storytelling partnerships: audience size doesn't matter. What matters is that you identify bloggers whose stories are actually aligned with your story. A lukewarm post on a "big" blog will never garner you as much response as a genuinely excited post on a smaller blog.

This means that more of us can meaningfully support our fellow crafters. It means that more of us can form mutually-beneficial alliances, so we can all more effectively promote our products and services. For pete's sake. it means we all stand to make more sales. Exposure isn't controlled by a handful of "cool kids" with big audiences. Exposure is controlled by how well you're able to find story partners.

What do you think about this model? Have you tried it? Are you willing to give it a try? And what other ideas do you have for moving beyond "Will you write about this?"



Hi, Nicole -

First, I'm glad you've embarked on your blogging adventure, and from the sound of your comment, you're enjoying it - which is wonderful!

I think it's easy for all of us to assume that anything we read online represents "everyone's opinion," and then to take these ideas as negative commentary on what we're doing. So let me say right up front: please don't feel that the conversations you're seeing here about giveaways are any reflection on how you should or should not be approaching them. I can tell you this from my experiences: I used to love giveaways, too. Then over time, as my readership grew, I began being approached by people looking to market things who offered me all kinds of giveaways, all the time. I don't know if it was the repetition or the more overt marketing tone, but I finally grew tired of giveaways.

If you're enjoying them, and your readers are too, then by all means, continue! You are not naive, you are a blogger doing things from your authentic world-view. Stay with that - it's the energy that makes the blogosphere what it is! There will always be scores of differing opinions on any subject.

I so believe you've actually been on national TV, so you can say that with authority, Steve! :-)

I deeply appreciate your comment and kind words. I've followed a lot of internet marketing experts over the years, and come up just as dry. This isn't to say they're charlatans or anything - it's just that we're still so newly in this era, which amounts to a giant re-org of human communications and commerce. Honestly, who can profess to be an ironclad expert at any of this stuff? The best we can all do is observe, raise questions, have discussions and learn what we can from each other.

I'm anxious to see how this works in practice, too.

Thanks for chiming in, Aviva, and that's really interesting to hear you had a similar experience in your journalism background. You're making me think that it's time we put some more effort into decoding exactly what storytelling is, and offering some easy tools to help new marketers go about it. There's probably a series of fifteen deep analysis questions one could apply to almost any blog and arrive at its main stories.

...A project for another day, perhaps!

It sure does, Melissa! Thanks for sharing Heather's link. I can really hear her frustration in there, and it's warranted - our culture has a lot of very dysfunctional ideas around Free, online content, and where the money comes from. These are frustrating times for any blogger seeking to monetize. Aside from the frustration of how the consuming public responds when you try to earn money from a blog, there's also the fact that currently, the lion's share of the money is coming from big companies who want bloggers to use mass-media approaches to marketing for them. Really hard to find a win-win in there.

Good question, Heidi - what I've really been stewing on for a while is my frustration over all the non-usable pitches I receive. And of course, every now and then I get a good pitch, and like Tara's, these always stand out like beacons. I don't think the idea of storytelling partnerships is all that new; it's just an accessible way to encode a behavior any effective marketer would be using. Tara's definitely an effective marketer.

Heh! And there were a few statements that felt vitriolic to me. But boy, did it feel good to say them. :-)

That's beautifully-said, LeAnn. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on relationship-building. You're 100% right, of course.

Interesting discussion on an interesting topic. I am a blogger who sells a line of jiggywhizits. I've never approached a blogger to promote my product because I've never been comfortable with that even though I read over and again that this is a good way to expand your customer base. I've always approached my blog as a place to tell stories. Usually about the process in my studio but also about my life as what I make is generally is influenced by the life I live. I am told that my stories are what sell my product. But I tell the stories because I want to share them. So anyway, I think story telling partnerships is a lovely idea and those are the sorts of things that I would read. Giveaways, product promotion, those blog subjects are ones I don't read. I just click through.

Although this is tangential to the subject at hand, even getting another blog to promote your product is no substitute for good old fashioned development of relationships. And those take time and a genuine engagement with your community. It's about building trust. You must establish relationships if you are selling online. It is the only thing that sets you apart from the big brands and it is the only thing that makes handmade a 'better' deal than a big brand. You can find a much lower cost mass produced substitute for each and everything I make. But people buy my things because of a connection they feel and I believe that comes from the stories I tell. And maybe it has a little bit to do with being a fairly good designer with a quality product line. But I got here by building relationships and telling stories. OK, off this little soap box now.

Just one more thing though. I was a recently a stop on a book review blog hop. It was quite a successful one, with lots of give aways, lots of engagement in our community. That book, by the way, was just designated the top craft book on Amazon for 2011. But it got there through a lot of hard work and the author genuinely knows and loves her subject and devotes a huge amount of time giving away her experience on her technique. So by the time the book blog hop rolled around she'd already developed a foundation. The blog hop was successful, I think, because it was story based. Each blog on the tour told a story that related to the book content. Each story was genuine. Story telling is a powerful thing.

Thank you so much for bringing the story telling partnership idea to the craft community. I am having little thought seeds right now of how this might work in ways other than product promotion.

I read this with interest.
Being very new to blogging(and computers full stop having only had one for 18 mnths and being taught by my 14 year old son)I only have a tiny 'following'.
I was very recently offered and thrilled to accept a pattern to give away on my blog by a new pattern company I discovered and fell instantly in love with.
My blog is a mixture of family stories and sewing tutorials I do purely for the love of it,no adds or marketing as such but I definitely link to lovely things I have found and used.
The problem is now I feel almost 'dirty' in offering this give away after all the grumbles.
Do we really need to over think things so much? I guess I am terribly naive.
Thanks for the interesting article.

That's the personal place where blogging began, and it's a place I believe in, Amber! I'd still love to find effective ways for those bloggers who want to pursue their living to do so, but ultimately, compelling personal stories are very, very important. Thanks for commenting!

There might be something in that Sister-Diane - I think in some quarters there is still a bit of mystification about where blogs and bloggers fit in the media landscape.

A lively intelligent read- gave me good things to think about. I saved it to read again. Honesty and integrity is big part of blogging for me- I like to see it in the blogs I read and do it in my own and many of the marketing issues you raise focus around honesty and integrity.

Thank you Diane for so perfectly articulating the wrongness I feel every time I get one of these pitches...about 10 times + a day. Your new paradigm of marketing is the one I have worked hard to create for Oh My! Handmade-I wanted to offer a place for creatives to share their stories, work and knowledge in a way that would grow their businesses and our community. By having an open door to either brand spanking new or already established creatives I have been honoured to share some really diverse perspectives. Those posts gets 100% more engagement then when I run giveaways or interviews with someone who just wants me to share their work not the heart behind it.

I started our weekly #omhg Twitter chats for the same reason, I wanted to connect more with the stories and lives of readers/followers instead of being pitched at. The relationships that have formed as a result far outweigh the ones built after featuring someone who had emailed me a pitch. Instead of continuing to feel hurt every time I put 3+ hours into writing/designing a post featuring a creative and promoting the heck out of it then never ever hearing from them again I changed our policies. Now I have a clear outline about how to submit and what opportunities are available to share work/stories and made it more the responsibility of the creative to tell their story. I also stopped running giveaways that aren't sponsored by a member of the community or advertiser as a gift back instead of simply a way to direct traffic. All these changes brought my blogging more in line with my ethics and has not had any impact at all in our traffic.

I will definitely be sharing this post & continue encouraging others to consider a new way of marketing-I know we can fix marketing in the crafty blogosphere, it just takes a little creativity!

This is awesome, Jessika - thank you so much for sharing your experiences! I love that you formulated specific policies for people to submit stories to you. I'd love to see more and more of us doing this. (I have a page that links off my About Me page: (It's a little forbidding, perhaps, but I really want to weed out as many of those poorly-targeted pitches as possible. If I got as many of them as you're getting, I might jump out a window!) :-)

I love that you've focused on human stories over product placements, and clearly, your readers love this. Thanks for being an example of what is possible!

Great post! I think you have a very good idea for a new model. But I will say that I like quilt book blog tours - especially those where each blogger review a particular design, that they've taken time to try out. This gives me an opportunity to see "inside" the book, plus find out whether the designs are well written and their level of difficulty.

I have had several bloggers contact me about promoting their product, but I only did this for one - a quilt designer whose designs I love and have used myself. I knew the quality of her patterns and had no problem promoting them for my readers. And I was able to do it enthusiastically! But I totally agree that it does seem that many bloggers have gone off the deep end lately.....

I like the storytelling nature of that quilt book tour - each participant is then writing about something different, and there's more reason to follow it from blog to blog.

Great post! I tend to avoid any and all blogs that push product and hold "give-aways". It just feels cheap to me (and annoying) however, I am drawn to blogs with a good/intriguing story and great photos.

very insightful, thanks!

I've said it before, & I've said it again, I love your posts because they really make one think. I actually am giving away a copy of one of my patterns on another blog right now - yup, looking to make a sale or two - and I'm really not getting anything from this, not even any extra hits. I've done giveaways before without much luck, so why do I keep trying, using a model that's clearly failing? Well, in my case, I'm building friendships with the people that are running giveaways, & I think that's one reason why I'm still involved, but clearly I need to try other marketing methods.

You raise an important point, Anastacia - it's always about evaluating what you're getting out of any exchange. If there's still a benefit to you, it's probably worth doing. When the benefits are gone, it's time to move on. If there's one mindset we business-owners might benefit most from cultivating, it's a mindset of reciprocity. Thanks for commenting!

This is such a fantastic post! I've been thinking in similar terms for a while, but I couldn't articulate it nearly as well as you did. The blogosphere is so saturated with people asking to be featured that the whole situation is a bit ridiculous at this point. I am so afraid of coming across like "another annoying marketer" that I can't even bring myself to try contacting bloggers anymore.

Well-said, Ana, and I'll tell you what: as a marketer, I feel exactly the same. I know my blog-friends are as bombarded as I am, so I hate adding to their load - or making them feel obligated to write about something they wouldn't choose to. Which is another reason I think the story model works: as a blogger, if I reject your story proposal, I'm not rejecting you personally. The story ideas you present can be the starting point for further brainstorming - which is exactly what happened with Tara and me.

Yes, your example with Tara definitely gave me a lot to think about, especially since I can relate to it personally - I sell hand-knit stuff, and I'm just starting to branch out into patterns and kits. That market is pretty saturated, which makes the whole process extra terrifying - we have to figure out how to market thoughtfully, how to relate to bloggers on a personal level, and how to stand out in a pool of thousands (probably millions) of people doing something similar. Even just thinking about it can be really overwhelming! I also struggle with "tooting my own horn" which is a really important skill to have.

For the record, I don't know too many people who love that tooting. :-) I know I don't!

This idea does jump out at me, however: in reality, you aren't in a pool of thousands/milllions. Because the specific way you approach knitting, the yarns you favor, the way you use color and the specific items you've patterned are unique to you. When you take those factors into account, the pool of direct competitors shrinks and shrinks. And you aren't looking for a mass audience, either - you're looking for knitters who need your specific style. That's a smaller pool, to be sure, but they're a whole lot easier to recognize and talk with than the mainstream.

I wish you all the best with your business growth!

Right on, sister! I can't tell you how many times I've visited a "big blog" and seen a product review and promptly "marked as read." YAWN-fest. I'm blog reading, not shopping, who has the time?!

Although the project fell through this year (due to crazy life stuff, AHEM), I feel like I made a really great connection with your mom to work on Holiday Handmade Crusade. I knew that it was something that would likely appeal to her readers, because she and I are both crazy as crackers for Christmas. Another thing about that connection as well, it's not like I e-mailed your mom and said "Hey Pam - pimp my project!" No - I looked at it as an opportunity to share something that I was passionate about, and to get to know her better. Our phone calls/interviews were FUN for BOTH of us.

xoxo - S

...And my Mom LOVED working with you on that project. It's true that your two stories of loving Christmas could not be more aligned. :-)

But seriously, you could have just as easily said, "Hi, Pam - I see you like Christmas, will you write about my project?" That wouldn't have created half the benefit, though, as you've said.

thank you for this thoughtful post. i came here from Amy/badskirt's blog and i'm really digging the discussion that has popped up here in your comments.

This hits it right on the head. I don't know if it's the Christmas season or if I've just been noticing it more, but lately I'm seeing a lot of 'hey, buy this' posts. It doesn't make me want to buy the product, and frankly, it makes me a little less enthused about reading the blog itself. I've seen some really enthusiastic posts on some of my favourite blogs, saying what's great about a product, service or website and why it might be interesting to the readers of the blog; and it's just so much more convincing than those posts with disclaimers at the bottom, because they always, always stick out as being of a different species of post from the ones I signed up to read. If you're really enthusiastic about this new product that you have, it shouldn't be that difficult to come up with a great way to show it to your target market.

Many thanks for such an interesting post!

Interesting. I was recently asked to participate in a blog tour. The subject of the book was only tangentially related to my normal posts so I decided I'd try one of the projects and post about that. I had problems and couldn't truthfully recommend the book without caveats. I took myself off the tour so as "not to say anything at all." What I learned from the experience is that my blog is a very small slice of the blogosphere and it would be inauthentic to try to fit in with anything larger, and that I'm just not much of a marketer. Your story-centric marketing appeals to me though, both as a reader, and from the other side (as long as it's a product I can truthfully be excited about).

I think you're on to something important, Kristin. Blogs, in order to be really authentic and personal, will probably tend toward smaller audiences. I think there are some strong mass-media-era assumptions at work in the blogosphere: 1) that a giant audience should always be the goal; and 2) that the best way to reach a giant audience is with mass-media promotional techniques. And yet, for me, the most interesting blogs are the ones written from the perspective of one person telling their stories well.

A little late to the conversation, and also referred by Baskirt, but I can wholeheartedly agree with Aviva's comments. I worked in pr consultancy for a number of years, and there was no way I pitched a story without knowing the publication backwards, including its audience and its intended audience (not always to the same thing), as well as the preoccupations of the particular writer - right down to what their last byline was.

I once got a very technical optical physics research story into a popular motorcycle magazine - and the article led directly to a new research contract for my client, as well as more articles for other clients from the same journo - win/win.

I'm not an established blogger, and haven't been on the recieving end of these lazy mailshots, but I hace signed up to some of the customer newsletter emails from some of, i suspect, the same companies, and I'm so heartily bored of the weekly "Dear Valued Customer Last chance sale!!!" email, that I'd rather let my cat cut out my patchwork pieces than actually become a valued customer...

Heh! Well-said, Fiona-Grace, and it's nice to hear from someone who's worked in PR and actually made a practice of doing her homework! I almost wonder sometimes whether PR people nowadays think they don't have to to the same due diligence with bloggers - since we write for free and we aren't "professional journalists" anyway.

yes, agreed that over-marketing is getting old and the generic emails requesting a product review post are so ridiculous. I only write about things I really like on my blog, and I don't do any advertising or make any money off my site. I do write some craft book blog tour posts, for books by friends or that I really enjoy, and I'm happy to do it. I don't mind book blog tours - no one's making the reader visit every stop - but one thing I do find annoying is when I write a post that's not a giveaway and several people post comments saying how excited they are to enter to win the book. I also like to make a project from a book and show that, and when I have time I do, but sometimes it's more about what I liked most in the book, showing some page photos, and just sharing some of what the author did to set his or her work apart.

If my blog was more of my business instead of my labor of love, I think I would agonize over things to drive traffic or keep readers engaged more... but really, if people read it, great, and if they don't, that's fine too. I don't think I've checked my traffic in a year, to be honest! I just like writing about things I like. I don't have that much time for it these days so it's a luxury to write a nice photo post and dig in. I just wrote one about my son's first birthday and the crafts I made for him that was a real joy for me, and if it is also fun to read or gives someone else ideas, well, that's a nice bonus!

As an avid quilting/crafting blog reader I say AMEN! I've also worked in marketing for various social groups and organizations (churches). What you say is applicable to them as well. Good stories sell, and frankly are so much more interesting and create meaning that we can reflect upon when the day is done. Meaning, isn't that what we all want to get while we travel around the sun? (Thanks to Amy (badskirt) for linking to you so I could find you.) Peace.

This was a great post. It was so nice to see the comment section was not an assault on the blogger who promotes. Recently, I have been getting some emails about doing reviews and promotions. I am ok with review requests that come from companies who have found their products mentioned on my blog. Makes sense. I am ok with requests from companies who sell a product that I have shown interest in on more than one occasion (not necessarily brand specific)again, makes sense that I would be able to do a genuine and relevant review (of a product sent to me)for my readers. And while the giveaway model has rarely garnered me much attention (negative or positive) I do enjoy giving things away. But, I have also had requests for promotions that really don't jive with me or my blog, but it was tempting to do a promotion for a small fee. But that is where I have to weigh out the consequences (possible lost readership due to lack of sincerity.)
Heather @ Crafterminds posted a GREAT article about why readers resent you making money. I encourage everyone to read it. I am a SAHM without an Esty shop, sometimes free stuff, or a couple dollars goes a loooooong way you know?

I was a reporter for 20 years, including 15 at The Associated Press. And really, what you're suggesting, is exactly what good PR people do, and that's essentially what crafters and others need to do for themselves these days.

I used to get inundated with phone calls, faxes and emails wanting me to write about some person or company and so few of them bothered to take the time to find out what I was interested in writing about and how they could pitch their clients to me in a way that I was willing to catch. Yes, sometimes I wrote 150-word briefs for the state wire off the press releases they sent me, but those were essentially like the lukewarm posts at major blogs that you're talking about. The good ones would pitch me an idea that was unique from what they were pitching to other reporters and other media outlets; those would lead to major features or news stories that often moved nationally and internationally rather than just statewide. It's a HUGE difference.

Anyway, great post. I hope more people learn how to do this type of marketing; it definitely makes for much more enjoyable blog reading for people like me! :)

First, I agree with Ginger -- I never would have thought of this model had you not brought it up. And, Tara's a genius -- were you inspired by her thoughtful marketing story/ideas, or is this model something you've been stewing on for a while?

Second, I've never asked for one of my products to be featured. I always thought it was borderline skeezy/spammy, but after reading about your thoughts and this model . . . I'm turning.

Third, I definitely agree with the whole over-bombardment of give-aways and non-relevant marketing. After reading your post about cutting down on the reader feeds especially . . . I've already unsubscribed to a handful of blogs that were once compelling (to me), but are now filled with give-aways and affiliate posts about whatever, whenever, wherever.

Lastly. Where was the vitriol?!

I am not a blogger, I am just a reader. I agree with you and like your ideas above. I also agree with the previous poster that blog tours for craft books are out of hand. I don't mind the blog tour post where it is obvious that the blogger has read the book and they share their honest thoughts. What I don't like are the blogger who obviously never read said book but still put on a cheerleader parade. I think we should all support each other, but don't lie to my face about a product. Just be honest and say something like "this looks great and I plan to buy it, but I honestly haven't gotten around to it yet."

I really like this post. I'm a blogger, it's something I enjoy when I'm able to get around to it.. lately it seems like I've had less and less time to blog!

With that said though, I enjoy blogging for what it is.. sharing my projects, thoughts, pictures stories.. whatever it is. I'm also one of those people that like to "name drop".. I will ALWAYS try to credit someone if I use their tutorial to make something. To me, there's more to getting as many followers as humanly possible, and having a huge readership.. I'd rather have a small pool of sporatic readers where I'm honest and genuine with my posts than a large pool of readers where I'm forcing myself to like something just to try and push a product.

Granted, I've not had any requests to promote or try out a product (and probably never will) but that's okay with me. I started blogging because it's a way for me to share and talk about the things I love the most, if it's about my family, my crafting hobby (I've done pretty much all of them) or cloth diapering.

Diane, I really appreciate the time and thought you put into your posts on marketing. It's the breath of fresh air and authenticity that I never see in any Marketer's posts. So many things we have been told or expect about marketing on the Internet is wrong. Or at least not correct in all circumstances. I've been flailing around trying to find what will work and collecting a long list of what doesn't. One of the big things that surprises me that doesn't work is broad exposure. Being on national TV usually does much less than a glowing recommendation from a niche blog. It doesn't feel as powerful, but it's much more likely to catch the imagination of an audience that's already fully in tune with you.

People always respond to anyone who takes time and cares, and your idea feeds off both of those. Almost anyone who is knowledgeable enough to write a book on the subject should know many of the blogs that would benefit from a partnership rather than what Google returns.

In some ways it is a giveaway. The author is giving away their expertise to your readers. And that's a three-way win, for you, the author, and your readers. There aren't people skimming for a freebie, you get some high quality posts with little effort, and the author gets exposure with context. If I've read a few posts that are educational, insightful, etc. I'm much more likely to pay some money for more of their words.

At least that's how it seems. I'm anxious to see how it works in practice.

You're right that this type of marketing is time consuming, but if the end result is more worthwhile it's time well spent and I believe marketers need to learn this.

The artisans that were willing to take the extra time to help me put together a more worthwhile post definitely saw the results as those were always the posts that were best received and most popular with my readers.

Aw, that's too bad, Marissa, because that's a cool story you were telling - why, in detail, handmade can be better than mass-produced. I agree, you'd think marketers of handmade goods would be thrilled to participate in that story!

...But of course this brings up the flip side of the coin, which is that this kind of marketing is very time-consuming. I think that, as much as small businesses want to believe in the positive word-of-mouth possibilities of social media marketing, they also want easy, one-click ways to spread the word and get back to doing things they enjoy more than marketing. I know I've been guilty of that more than once as a marketer. Still, at this point, there's no getting around the time-cost of effective social marketing. I hope that the storytelling partnerships idea at least gives us a way to approach our marketing more creatively.

Great post! I've felt this way myself for quite some time but you put it into words so much better then I ever could.

As a blogger I've been approached by many creative entrepreneurs wanting to be featured, and I've also approached some myself who carry products I love. In the beginning of my blog a big focus was to promote handmade and give people reasons they should consider buying handmade rather then mass produced products. Because of this focus I asked those who were interested in being featured to offer some advice to my readers why their product was different or better then a mass produced product and what they should look for when buying handmade.

It didn't take long before I got very frustrated because even those who had contacted me suddenly lost interest when I asked them to spend a little time to put together this information. I couldn't believe that I was willing to give them free advertising but they weren't willing to spend the time to give the post added value for my blog and readers.

Reading your post gives me the hope that creative entrepreneurs will start to see the value in spending time to make sure features written about them about more about quality then quantity.

Thanks so much for sharing your honest opinion!

Well, I'm open to the idea, but can you tell me more about why a sign-up list is needed? Really, I think what's needed is twofold:

- Marketers need to spend time on tools like Google Blog Search, locating blogs that write about subjects related to their products. Then they need to put the effort into sussing out what the bloggers' stories are, and find stories that align with them, as I suggested in the post.

- On the other side of the coin, bloggers need to be honest with marketers who send them mass-marketing kinds of pitches. If we want to be pitched in a specific way, then we have to ask for that.

Any kind of public registry of bloggers who want to market differently, while perhaps useful to marketers, has some definite challenges, as I see it:

- I'm not sure that any one person, myself included, owning and being responsible for such a registry would be a wise idea. Not only do such things require a fair amount of upkeep time, they also create exactly the kind of ideological shorthand that's made marketers approach us lazily in the first place.

- To keep such a registry fresh and viable, it needs to be promoted constantly. Is this something I can invest time in? I'm sorry, but no.

- And finally, I don't really think guest blog posts are the only answer. There are many ways to approach a storytelling partnership with a blogger outside of writing a guest post. I'd love to see what creative solutions bloggers and marketers can evolve together.

I really appreciate your enthusiasm and desire to make this a formal program, Lisa. But I just feel that this idea represents more of a sea change in behavior that each individual needs to claim their responsible part in. I can only be responsible for how I market and work with marketers, and that responsibility I'll take on wholeheartedly.

Fascinating! Now I understand why I'm getting so annoyed by repeated requests to post other people's products on my blog... the only benefit to me is filling a post for a day. This also will help me to change how I approach marketing my own products.

I agree, mass marketers will absolutely find a place to market on certain blogs. But the story partnership model does give those of us who don't want to go there a way to start a different dialog with the marketers who approach us. And I think that's productive.

I would love to hear what your experiences/results are!

I do too! Thanks for your comment, Rae!

Sister, May I suggest that you start the ball rolling? After all, this is YOUR idea! Why not have a sign-up form for people willing to co-write, or fully write guest blogs in exchange for product info? The list would be for blog owners to have a stable of writers to tap into, also. If this is what you envision, let us begin.

I too came from Amy's blog. I think there are two different groups in regard to blog marketing. There is the blogger who has her/his own product and wants to give it to you to review, for example books, patterns etc. Then there are the crafty bloggers who are reviewing other items, usually for money, which do not necessarily have anything to do with their blogs. I'm not against people trying to earn money through their blogs, each to their own, but they are usually the ones I end up unsubscribing to because they are "flogging" a prodcut which does not necessarily "fit" their blog all because they want to make money or want it for free.

I lvoe your ideas for story sharing but this will only work for those like-minded types and will not alleviate the mass marketing done by some companies via blogs.

WOW! That is all I can say about this post. I have been looking for a way to market my new product line to blogs that I read and love without sounding too blah and "marketer". After all, I am too creative too come across as the same old same old. ;) Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. I will definitely use this method when contacting people.