Pitching to Bloggers: a Lesson from Indie Untangled

Nothing makes us feel better than to launch a new website, then watch it spread its wings and fly! When you launch your site, there should be a big hubbub, all the right people should be talking about it, and you should find yourself with a steady stream of visitors – and then keep it up and grow it from there. We don’t want any dust gathering or tumbleweeds blowing by!

That is why we set up all but our most experienced clients with a consult or two with Jena on our team. She explains the ins and outs of marketing and promotion, gets personal with you about your business, letting you know exactly who to pitch to, and how. It can be hard to explain the value of these consults to people who haven’t had a chat with Jena, so it was great to get this first hand report from a client about her success in pitching to bloggers and promoting her business.

Indie Untangled brand identity by Aeolidia

Lisa Chamoff runs a website where you can get the freshest updates from yarn makers. Visit Indie Untangled here. We helped her with her business name, designed her logo, created her website, and helped her launch it with a splash. Here, she shares her experience with marketing her business.

Lisa’s Story: Pitching to Bloggers is Not Selling, but Collaboration

I decided to create Indie Untangled about a year ago, after I started reading discussions on the knitting social network Ravelry about how some of the changes at Etsy were affecting their small businesses. They were talking about finding other marketplace sites to sell their hand-dyed yarn, handmade buttons and bags, when I realized there could be a site where knitters and spinners can go just to find these products, without having to wade through (increasingly mass-produced) jewelry and other, non-knitting accessories.

But before going ahead and looking for help developing a retail marketplace, and after talking to some of my fellow knitters, I decided to start off by providing more of a useful tool than just a place to browse products. I wanted the dyers to share the stories behind their new colorways and other handcrafted items. Also, many popular dyers see their online shops sold out within minutes of putting up new skeins for sale, so I also wanted to make it easier for knitters to keep track of shop updates, giving them one place to go to find out when they’re happening, instead of wading through dozens of newsletters or keeping up with discussion threads on Ravelry.

Since my background is in writing and editing, and not web design, and because I didn’t think I’d be able to learn enough in such a short time to create the kind of site that I was looking for, I decided I needed to hire a designer and developer. I started browsing the sites of some of the yarnie people I admire, and seeing if I could find out who designed their sites. I found Aeolidia through a link on the site for Cephalopod Yarns (which sadly closed its virtual doors earlier this year) and knew I had found the perfect company to help me execute my vision.

Part of the package Aeolidia offered included “Mojo” sessions with Jena Coray, with advice about pitching my site to magazines and bloggers and handling social media. At first, I wasn’t sure if that was something I needed right away — I figured since I was often on the receiving end of pitches, and since I used social media professionally, that I was all set and should try to do this on my own — but after thinking about it, I realized working with Jena could only be helpful, since I had zero experience actually launching a brand and a website.

I’m SO glad I made that decision. Jena helped me realize that pitching, especially to bloggers and podcasters, was not so much about selling my site as it was about collaboration. One knitting blogger who mentioned my site — and who Jena suggested pitching after doing some research of her own — had knit this gorgeous sweater in a set of ombre yarns, which I ended up featuring in one of my posts. I also had a lovely experience working with A Playful Day, a podcaster who had launched a blog series about supporting indie business owners in the fiber industry. I approached her and offered to write a guest post for her series, and asked her in return to write a guest post for my blog. I’m now working with her again to promote a trunk show that I’m organizing the night before the big New York Sheep & Wool Festival in October.

As the site was in the development phase, I also came up with an idea to create custom fabric via Spoonflower out of the teal yarn ball icon that Christine had designed. One of my knitting friends, Vicki of That Clever Clementine, and an early supporter of my idea for Indie Untangled, sews project bags and notions pouches, so I approached her about making some bags to use for giveaways to launch the site. Jena provided some good advice about running an effective giveaway, including putting out one “call to action,” such as signing up for the newsletter or commenting on a blog post, rather than giving people several ways to enter at once. After getting a great response to the launch giveaway, Vicki and I decided to work together again and sell the bags through the website. The first two batches sold out, and we’re planning to sell more at the trunk show! As the site has grown, and based on the experience selling the bags, I’ve also been thinking about eventually going forward with my plans for an actual marketplace.

This kind of “collaborative marketing” is something that seems so obvious in retrospect — as a journalist, I tended to respond to personalized pitches that were tailored to me, from PR people who were willing to work with me to help craft the best story. I’ve realized that this definitely applies to marketing my own business. Of course, there have been pitches that have gone unanswered, and a blogger who at first was hesitant to promote something from someone she didn’t know, but overall my experience on the other side of the pitch email has been a positive one, and I’ve made connections with some really wonderful people.

Indie Untangled logo on Spoonflower fabric

Indie Untangled logo on Spoonflower fabric

Should You Hire Marketing Help?

Jena interviewed Lisa after her project was over to see how the marketing part of the project went:

Jena: What hesitations did you have about working with me/booking a session?

Lisa: When I first got the proposal for web design from Aeolidia, I wondered if the mojo sessions were necessary, or just a nice extra. But, after I started setting up my social media accounts and started thinking about pitching, I realized I was definitely going to need some help and I’m very glad I went forward with the sessions before I launched my site. I thought I should be able to DIY it, since social media and pitches were a small part of my professional background, but in my case, as someone just starting off with no real hands-on experience building a website and a brand, working with you was a very smart return on investment.

Jena: What changes have you noticed in your strategies to get the word out about your business since working together?

Lisa: I got a better handle on how to approach smaller bloggers about my website without feeling too sales-y.

Jena: What did you like best about our sessions together?

Lisa: I really appreciated all the research you did on my industry, and that you considered that when sharing your ideas and advice. I liked that our sessions were super productive, but also very informal. It sounds cliche, but I felt like I was talking to a very smart friend.

Jena: How have you benefited from them?

Lisa: You helped me get a good handle on what my social media priorities should be. For example, I wasn’t used to being on Pinterest so much personally, but I’ve found that it is very big in my crafty niche, and it is a lot easier — and much more fun! — to use than I’d expected. I have also looked at the mojo session PDFs as a resource in crafting my pitches.

Jena: Would you recommend my services to others, and if so, why?

Lisa: Building a web and social media presence is so challenging these days. Higher education can also be pretty pricey, and I think your personalized sessions are a very good resource for people just starting out and also crafty business owners who could use some extra help navigating the constantly-changing social media landscape.

What Questions Do You Have?

Have you successfully pitched your products to bloggers before? Where are you getting stuck? We’d be interested to write future articles to give tips on this, and of course we would love to help you out personally. Please contact me if you’d like to schedule a session with Jena. We also offer Jena’s game-changing Pitch Kit for sale directly, if you’d like to go the DIY route.

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P.S.! Last week’s post about building your brand had an offer for a free checklist. Technical difficulties with the signup form may have prevented you from downloading this PDF. I’ve got that sorted out now, and you can get your checklist by joining my newsletter, below:

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