If your small business offers a consumer product, then chances are you already know how important good reviews are. Without these, customers are likely to pass your offerings over for a rival that does have them.
The benefits of sending free product samples
The benefits of sending free samples to the media are multifaceted. Perhaps the most important, however, is that they can generate new orders. Research shows that having only five positive reviews from trusted independent sources can skyrocket sales by 270 percent.
This is because 82 percent of customers turn to reviews while weighing which products to buy, and roughly half of them trust reviews just as much as an endorsement from family or friends. In short, people believe other people a lot more than the marketing materials the company pumps out itself. This is understandable since the business has a vested interest.
In today’s digital marketplace, researching and reading reviews has simply become part of customers’ routine due diligence. As a small business leader, appealing to consumers means developing this vital aspect of your brand’s online presence.
Dispelling misconceptions about sending free samples
Many clients who would like to secure positive reviews for their products worry that they are going to spend a lot of money for nothing. Granted, giving products away for free does mean incurring expenses, especially since brands are expected to cover the shipping and handling costs as well.
In the vast majority of cases, however, businesses don’t need to worry that their efforts would go unrewarded. Reporters and other reviewers normally return the favor by publishing a post. They also usually keep any negative comments or feedback to themselves. If a given reviewer can’t think of anything nice to say about the product, they usually don’t publish a review at all. This means that, when you send a pitch to outlets, every email you get back in return asking for a product to review will likely turn into positive coverage.
In addition, this process establishes a relationship with that writer and outlet. If they have further assignments on similar topics in the future, chances are their minds will turn naturally to you. This could mean you get an opportunity to comment on a new story they are writing, resulting in a new mention that bolsters your credibility and brand awareness. Alternatively, it could mean your product gets featured in a listicle, product round-up, or gift-giving guide.
Product PR requires sending free samples
The main reason to give free samples, however, is that you just won’t get professional reviews in trusted publications without them. This is just how product PR works.
Most outlets don’t have a budget for writers to buy samples, yet reviewers need to try things out for themselves to write an honest, authentic review. Reviewers are also understandably unwilling to reach into their own pockets to buy something they might not actually need.
How do they get their samples, then? By having items graciously supplied by the company that stands to profit from their review. In short, the only way to get these reviews is by sending free product samples.
It’s true that, rarely, a reviewer might ask for too many products at once. To handle situations like these, first thank them for their interest before explaining that you need to keep expenses down, and then send them a few items they want that are your highest priority. While the reporter might be disappointed, they also tend to understand. You can’t expect them to write reviews of products they never received, but you can still hope for positive reviews on those items you were able to send.
How to pitch to prospective reviewers
Don’t just send free merchandise to reporters unsolicited. The proper procedure involves sending a pitch first. Since being willing to send free merchandise is kind and almost everyone loves the idea of receiving it, the responses from pitches are usually positive.
What should a pitch look like? In the first line, simply ask them if they would be interested in reviewing your product line. Make sure to include a link to the relevant page of your company website so they can see the options themselves the way a potential customer would.
Next, start a new paragraph, explaining why your product deserves their attention. In a few short sentences, build a case for why your offerings are important or innovative, which is where your value proposition and distinguishing features should go. Make sure to keep your language clear and accessible, and resist any temptation to use jargon!
In a third paragraph, ask them to contact you if they are interested in doing a review. Finally, consider closing your pitch with a paragraph of boilerplate summarizing your company and its mission in italics.
Win consumers over with product reviews
Don’t let misconceptions stop you from securing effective reviews for your products. Engage and attract today’s consumers with a glowing slate of product reviews.
If you don’t have time for this additional work or the whole process seems too intimidating, don’t despair. PR professionals who specialize in consumer products have the know-how, experience, and contacts to make this process as smooth as possible.
You got in business to bring your unique products to the world. Now it’s time to let reviewers help you achieve your mission and win more and more consumers over.
Danielle Gober, Account Strategist at Otter PR, is an Orlando native and a graduate of Rollins College, where she earned her Bachelor’s in communication and public relations. She loves connecting with people and believes interpersonal communication is the best way to accomplish anything successfully. She loves creative writing, finding ways to make her fashion obsession more sustainable, and learning new public relations strategies. Gober’s work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Forbes, Better Homes and Gardens, and CNN Underscored.