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Notes For Small Beauty Businesses

I get asked a lot how small beauty brands can get traction with bloggers, but it’s happening enough now that I felt it warranted a post. I’m always happy to answer questions where I can, but hopefully most of the common ones are answered in this.

  1. Walk, Don’t Run

A lot of small brands assume that entering the social media arena is a piece of cake. It isn’t. You need a steady relationship building exercise over a period of time to become a familiar face that piques curiosity.

  1. Budget

Many small brands are completely astonished that some bloggers/vloggers charge a fee for posts. Whether you agree or disagree, those that are sitting on stats that most magazines – and even newspapers – can only ever dream of represent potentially huge sales, and years of hard work in the making. Not building in any budget at all to your initial launch plan is a mistake, especially if you have no PR. Researching the right blogger/vlogger for your target audience and forging a financial relationship could be money very well invested.

  1. Never Assume

There is a huge assumption from small brands that bloggers will fall over themselves to feature their products. It’s not the case, generally. There is a difference between pro-blogs (those that blog full time and it’s their job to do so) and blogs that are non-pro (written for pleasure and not the main source of income). You need to know the difference. Non-pro blogs tend to look more favourably at smaller, newer brands because they have less access to bigger brands chasing huge numbers. There is no difference in discernment – each blogger is editor of their own space and will choose products that they feel will be relevant to their audience.

  1. The Time, The Time!

Whether pro or non-pro, blogs are hard work to maintain. I don’t know a single blogger that is careless about their output. Imagine having a full time job and then another than demands virtually the same time and effort in the evening. Blogs are truly labours of love and nobody likes having their time misused. Appreciate the hard work and don’t assume that it’s some jolly little hobby that somehow appears out of thin air.

  1. Exposure Requests

“Hi, we are looking for exposure so we can offer you a 20% discount on our products if you feature them.” This type of email is bordering on delusional but it’s more common than you might think. If you do not have travel size samples at least, so that a blogger can truly get to know your product, don’t approach. All this email says to me is that you have no respect for or knowledge of the level of expertise and collective reach. You’re expecting something for nothing and most bloggers are irked by that.

  1. Exposure Requests II

“Hi, we’d like to send you products in exchange for a review.” The assumption that bloggers leap on anything free is so misguided, I don’t know where to start. If you have something so special, and so unique, then say so. If it’s that special, the reviews will come. There is no automatic exchange and that’s a chance you have to take. If you’ve built a relationship over time (as suggested in point 1) and you’ve put the effort into approaching brand appropriate bloggers then chances are, it will naturally occur. I NEVER guarantee a review on any products and five out of ten approaches, approximately, I decline.

  1. Why No Reviews?

So, bloggers declining products samples comes as a big shock to brands who assume that everyone will fall over themselves for freebies. With all the best intentions, small brands who have put their heart and soul into creating products are emotionally connected to the said products in a way that we are not. We do not have the same enthusiasm because it’s not our hatchling! But, it’s painful to hear that nobody is interested in your baby. I turn down review requests when there is nothing different about the product, it’s not right for my audience, it’s ridiculously expensive, or the product is over-complicated. I also often don’t review when it’s a mass campaign cropping up everywhere because information on the products is so readily available elsewhere. Most professional bloggers already have more products (often unsolicited) than they can possibly ever blog.

  1. Crowds

Bringing out a skin care product in a flooded market is brave, but it’s no secret that the market is saturated. Make sure that you tell us why your product is different (if indeed it is – so many are not). A generic, “hey, we want to send you products” doesn’t tell us anything at all about you or your products. Mostly, bloggers want to support new ventures, and in fact, we’re very good at it, but yet another skin oil, when the world has SO many skin oils? I’d need to know what’s different right from the get-go.

  1. The Difference Between…

Confidence and arrogance. You can get someone’s back up from the first moment. I have genuinely overheard conversations that go along these lines, “oh, we’re not investing in PR – we’ll just get the bloggers to do it.” Or, another genuine over-hear, “We’ve got a part-time girl doing our social media so the bloggers will be begging….”. Um, no they won’t. In the same way that you’re horrified at the thought that a ‘blogger’ wants to charge you money, we’re equally horrified at the arrogant assumption that we’ll take care of your sales and promotion for you, for nothing.

  1. The Anomalies

In every industry (and social media is an industry, not a hobby), there are anomalies. Bloggers who never review, inflated stats, bought followers. It happens in every walk of life where things aren’t what they seem. It’s why being savvy, researching your bloggers and educating yourself in the social media arena is absolutely crucial. It’s time consuming and mind boggling, but worth every moment.

So, harsh words, I know, but it would be a disservice not to tell it how it is. Blogging now is very far from its original roots. Subscribe to blogs, get to know them, watch the videos, learn the personalities, and more importantly, be a person, not a brand. An approach such as, “I watched your recent video and noticed that you apply a primer before foundation. We have a great primer that also increases radiance and wondered if you’d like to test run it for your next video?” is a million times more a winner than, “Hey Hun, we’ve got products we want to send you.”

*all products are sent to me as samples from brands and agencies unless otherwise stated. Some links may be Affiliate links.

This article has 18 comments

  1. Jayne Kitsch

    Great post Jane I think you covered it. I’ve recently started managing blogger PR projects again after a break and it’s been very interesting to see the shift a lot more bloggers are asking for fees now which brands really need to be prepared for. It’s also a massive challenge when there’s so many blogs now the time it takes to sift the good from the bad is a little bit mental. It’s taken about three times longer than it used to now as well with so many bloggers I used to work with now requesting access via agents or even smaller bloggers inflating their stats to justify a fee. It’s not an easy way to coverage and brand do need to do their research and have realistic expectations for their budget.

    • Jane

      The work you do now in compiling a good blogger list that you’re happy to work with is one that you can take forward to many other brands. Good project managers are worth their weight in gold for their access to quality blogs and knowing the good from the bad.

  2. Joanne Mallon (@joannemallon)

    Some great advice here Jane. Personally I love supporting smaller businesses, especially if it’s got an entrepreneurial women behind it. But it amazes me how many brands are shy about the human story behind their brands and try to pretend that they are much bigger than they really are. If a brand is borne of a human passion then that’s great, it’s something for readers and consumers to connect with.

    What I as a blogger want to know is what is different about this product? What have we not seen before? And can the company back up any claims with research or testimonials?

  3. CharlotteWelch MixEz (@_MixEz)

    These notes are really useful. Thank you for putting this together Jane!

  4. Simon

    Hi Jane,
    Brilliant article that sums up exactly what we have learned as a newly introduced brand over the past two years. Building a brand from scratch takes an unbelievable amount of hard work combined with sheer stubbornness to simply not give in.

    It will take more time, money and effort than you could possibly believe at the beginning and it’s essential to build a great team at the core of your business as well as finding a good PR partner that can help get your message out to the world. Bloggers are a fickle bunch – Most are great and actually review the products giving a balanced, honest points of view with amazing photos, with pictures that match anything from a “professional”. Others simply cut and paste what’s written on the packaging before using your freely offered products to provide themselves with an income stream on eBay.

    Choosing the right individual bloggers to work with is essential and is where your PR team are so important as we get approached by bloggers constantly and use our PR team to decide whether and how we should support a particular blogger. We have now developed a great relationship with many bloggers who we love and trust. So much so that we even held a blogger only competition to design a new product which we launched recently and is a huge success.

    It’s also important as a new brand to physically meet as many bloggers as you can at meet-ups etc as it’s a great way to get them enthused about you and your brand, whilst getting direct feedback from an audience that knows and cares about beauty products, especially if like us you can supply cute biscuits!

    Simon

  5. Lisa

    Fantastic article! Blogs have always looked like a tremedous amount of work to me and I am so grateful to have beauty blogs out there! I don’t think I have any “Pro” sites on my curated list, but perhaps I do. How would I be able to tell? I would assume they would have more ads etc. Most of the women who generally blog daily make mention of their full-time jobs from time to time. I never think of money exchanging hands for a review. That bit suprised me. Not that compensation should not be received, I just had not thought about it. Slippery slope, you know, paid for a review. . . . . I assumed products were given, and if the bloggers felt they were deemed worthy of making it onto the blog, then they got reviewed. More the the readers were the customers. Hmmm. I guess I will have to think on this one some more..

    • Jane

      Well, mine is a pro site Lisa.. but I don’t take a lot of advertising at all. It’s not necessary to take a great deal of sponsored work and I’m careful to label anything that is an ad as an ad or sponsored. But, it’s what I do all day – so my blog is my day job. x

  6. Clare Crowther

    Great article, Jane. As a lover of all things beauty, but with a crazy, demanding, more than full-time profession, I have come to rely upon a few blogs to keep me updated as to what is going on and the products to watch out for. 15 years ago, I would have relied upon glossy magazines to tell me what was new and to provide a few reviews of selected products along the way. Those same magazines contained numerous advertisements for beauty products (a degree of information in itself), handsomely paid for by beauty companies.
    We have moved on as consumers – most of us look to the blogs first now. Beauty companies need to appreciate that more fully. Whether “pro” or otherwise, a reliable blogger with a solid following is worth just as much, if not more, than the magazines. If a blog catches my eye, I will read it for a month or so to see whether I can identify with/find some commonality between myself and the blogger and whether I feel that I can trust their judgement. A glossy can’t really compete with that. Beauty companies should treat bloggers accordingly.
    Thanks for the blog – I really appreciate the work that you put into it.

    Clare

  7. olivia

    Excellent post. I, currently, am reassessing my old blog, am quite familiar with many you mentioned. It seems to me, especially the PR emails I get are just throwing things at me hoping I will be reeled in. I am not a fish. The ones I hate the most are mention this and we will send you something free! What am I, a beauty whore who jumps at the chance of every “freebie”?

    In the eyes of many brands, yes, my 6 year old blog is a complete failure and laughable in the terms of stats. However, I am an honest blogger whose stats have grown with just a cult. Ironically, I have been plagiarized and had libel remarks made against me by blogger/vloggers who WANT PR to notice them. After that incident, I realized some brands don’t care about honesty and credibility. They just want their products to be out there and PRed to the max with anyone. I ignore those emails.

    Small brands and their PR, this is the only suggestion I have for them. Be yourself because in the long run, it is your personality that carries your brand and product. Any product may have the big exposure in the beginning but in the marathon of business and blogging, it is how your product endures with the personality and honesty.

    Jane, I think I babbled too much! I apologize!

    • Jane

      Hi Olivia.. yours is a remarkable blog and you’ve done a great job with it. But, I think you’ve always been pretty clear about how you want to run your site, what is and what isn’t acceptable. Lots of newer bloggers don’t have a clear definition and it’s a journey for them and there are always some that think morals don’t apply to them. Exactly the same applies to new brands who start their journey one way and adapt as they go along: we get the start of that journey I think! You are completely correct that we need to get an idea that there are people behind a brand, and not just a logo, otherwise it’s very difficult to bond, but it’s the bonding that helps with longevity. Lanolips is a great example of a tiny brand that succeeds because the brand owner put budget into PR and actually cemented relationships with bloggers and press alike. If any path is to be followed, it’s that one.

  8. Susana

    I love reading this kind of articles on your blog. They give us readers a wonderful insight into the world of beauty brands and bloggers… and now I admire the bloggers and their hard work even more. Thank you!

  9. rosiecheeks

    Fab post well put!

  10. Jo2

    I always love your posts on these things that many other blogs don’t cover. I’m launching a small fashion label (next month probably!) and this is helpful although I spend a lot of my time lately worried about getting any exposure so I think I’ll at least avoid the arrogance trap >.<

  11. Karen (Lovely Girlie Bits)

    Jane, you always hit the nail on the head with posts like these. You’re always respectful of both sides, lay it all out there and always have me nodding along. This is why after all these years you’re still one of my all time favourite bloggers. Keep up the fab work lady!

  12. Steffi Hidber

    Hi Jane! Thank you for this! It is all so true – and full of things I’ve been saying the the beauty PRs that I’ve built up a personal relationship with over the years. I’m quite old for a beauty blogger (I’m 42), but have the advantage that I started in journalism and then started my blog, so sometimes even I assume that some of the «kids» out there would still be willing to work for free(bies), even if I’m not. It’s just a fact: Quality really needs to be appreciated. Having said that – your blog is one of the best, and most honest ones I know! Smiles from Switzerland!

  13. Christine l

    Some great comments and really interesting reading in the posts. The honesty is refreshing.I would love to start my own skincare range but the thought of all the marketing and competition has really put me off. If I decide to go ahead at least I know hat direction to take.

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