Marketing to Moms, Marketing with Moms. The Year in Preview

The closest thing to a year-end review I posted was about @Military_Mom, Craig Dobkin and miracles, which I think offered some might fine food for thought for the year ahead, but not much reflection on the one left behind. Okay, so I didn't quite make the 2009 review, but it's still January, so I can offer my marketing to mommybloggers 2010 preview in a timely manner.

Maria Bailey kicked off the year with a forward-thinking piece at MediaPost: EngageMoms. (I've written some timeless pieces there, too.) Maria addressed some of the issues my friend Alma over at Marketing Mommy asked in her recent post.

Alma is an organized woman. She's already thinking about a talk she's giving in May, one on marketers and mombloggers. She's trying to prepare even as she ponders the ridiculousness of prepping now because within fourth months, the scene in this rapidly evolving space will have changed.

Still, she's asking great questions and I'm sharing my answers.

What does the future of marketing to and with mom bloggers hold? As Maria noted, there will be an increasing focus on the "with" aspect. This means that rather PR agencies connecting with key bloggers or online communities to pitch a campaign, they will partner with (and pay) those bloggers or community leaders to create winning campaigns from the beginning. In Q4, I was involved in a couple focus groups along these lines. They were exciting and unique in their approach, but perhaps not for long.

Will there be a retreat from blogger retreats? Yes. I think the ROI of these events is questionable not only in terms of dollars, but long-term blogger relationships. If a brand wants to spend several thousands dollars on a blogger, I sense many bloggers would prefer that in the form of cash for advertising, consulting, spokesperson opportunities or fees for other professional services.

Could contests and giveaways go away? I don't think they will go away because they help reviews gain traction. Plus, I like to win stuff from my bloggy friends and I'd be sad to see that end.

That said, I've heard of more bloggers who are keeping their contests focused on their readers, their communities, rather than posting them on contest sites to bring in the eager masses who inflate stats (look PR person, I'm so popular, 300 readers entered my contest to win a piece of ABC gum!). This seems like a return to authenticity. (But do PR people want authenticity or 300 people entering a giveaway for their product? Alma, the ball's back in your court.)

Will the stream of poorly-targeted "Dear Blogger" spam-pitches ever abate? No, it's quick and cheap. It's a numbers game that apparently is cost-effective enough for some PR hacks to feel the ends justify the means.

Case in point, the most commonly searched topics on my blog are related to gifted or academically advanced children, so when I received a generic pitch for a remedial reading program, I wrote the sender about the disconnect and he replied, er rationalized:
I’m sorry for the inconvenience. I wish that the custom targeting database that I use allowed me to get to that level of detail. The new CisionPoint system is very very good, but even that doesn't let us distinguish that fine detail. The blogs are the newest add on to what has been an excellent media database system for those of us in the public relations industry.

I think the new challenge will be for bloggers to realize that they are now media targets and as such will likely receive inquiries that are outside the narrow scope of their publishing.

I work with lots of clients of all types. It’s impossible for me to keep up with the specialty interest of media especially, when there are over 2,000 education specialty editors and writers in the US and Canada.
So I replied back, in part:
If you want mombloggers, the best known and most influential of them, to pimp your products, you’re going to have to try a little harder to build relationships in the community and not just blast us as you might the NYTimes.
To which he replied back:
Given that the response we had this morning from bloggers and media nationwide was phenomenally positive, I tend to believe that we did a pretty good job “pimping” to share Dr. ------'s life long and hard earned achievements.

Given your expression of interest and attitude, I've taken the liberty of removing you from any further news releases we send on behalf of other creative dedicated and brilliant clients we choose to work with in our effort to help society.

I do wish you the best of luck in “pimping” what you do as well.
Exchanges like that make me wish I was The Bloggess. She takes bad PR by the horns.

At any rate, yes, Alma, there will be spam.

Can we look forward to an era when marketers and mom bloggers can work together in a way that both fosters connections among a community of moms and helps marketers deliver solutions that moms want to buy? Yes, see above. Not the "pimping" comment, but much higher up in the post.

Will more marketers hire moms to bringing their authentic voice to brand sites? Yes, but those marketers cannot rely on the mom bloggers, even popular ones to be solely, or even mainly, responsible for driving traffic to the brand sites. Of course there will likely be some link exchanges and "Hey, read me over here!" kind of things, but the marketing team behind the brand has to do its part to drive traffic in order for the site to succeed. (Hat tip to Meagan Francis on this one.)

Will the moms who jumped on the blogging bandwagon for free stuff abandon their sites when the freebie train leaves town, or will they focus their blogs on their passions and build an audience of fellow toddlers, crafters, Crock-Potters or working moms? Who knows? The freebie train won't be leaving town for a year or so. My guess is that some women will realize that the value of their online relationships is far greater than the sum of all the products they've received and start writing from the heart.

I believe a woman sharing her voice, her story, her passion, her life online is a very powerful thing. (Ahem, please read.) (Oh, and read this, too it's by Liz Gumbinner, so you know it's good).

I also believe that marketers and bloggers can play nicely together. It's a just a matter of forging genuine connections based on shared passions or values* ** rather than a brand reaching out to the newest Power Pack Mom or a blogger nosing around for the latest freebie.

What do you see in when you look into the crystal ball of momblogging?

*gratuitous client plug
**channeling Susan Getgood

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