PLH 96 | Product Publicity

Getting the word out about your amazing product is getting harder and harder. You’re tasked with the burden of presenting it in the best light. However, one of the biggest mistakes is trying to do a product pitch on your own. Unless you’re sophisticated and have the experience, you can almost destroy your brand if you don’t do it right. Dave Farrow of Farrow Communications talks about the different kinds of product publicity and how to do gift guides and get product reviews. Dave has been doing this for a long time, and he’s shifted his business multiple times to keep up with how things work. He shares why product publicity is so important but yet so hard at the same time.

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I have an exciting guest for you, Dave Farrow of Farrow Communications. We’re going to talk about all kinds of product publicity and how to get gift guides and reviews. All of these things that you’re all looking for because they’re extremely important in getting the word out about your amazing products. It’s getting harder and harder, but Dave has been doing this for a long time. He shifted his business multiple times to keep up with how things work, and he’s got a lot of great relationships. He is the knowledgeable guy that I have decided to bring in for you to hear from and understand it. One thing for me to tell you, I’m not going to write about this. I tell you that all the time when you meet up with me, but he’s going to tell you why this is so important but yet so hard at the same time. Dave, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me. I always love talking to you.

You have a deep understanding of products. Give us a little bit of your background and why you have an engineer’s mind?

I am a tinkerer. I’ve actually been an inventor and design engineer but my big claim to fame is that I’m the memory guy. I’m in The Guinness Book of Records for memory and I developed a method for kids to study better and for adults to improve their memory. That was the product I used to launch. I did over 2,000 interviews on that product. I sold about $10 million worldwide. It was partially with the help of an infomercial that I was able to get a deal with and even a deal with Sony at one point. Essentially, I started off creating something that solved a problem for me and then I spent most of my focus trying to figure out how to make a buck from it, to be honest. It took a long time to figure out where the market was. I was 21 years old when I first got my Guinness record. I got it as a business decision. It’s a lot of effort to get it and my record is memorizing 59 decks of cards all shuffled together. I got it so that I could get that credibility, that attention and I just thought pennies would fall from the sky.

The thing is it’s a great credential, but I was actually working a minimum wage job a couple years after I got it. It wasn’t the big launch that I wanted it to be. I certainly had some great successes, but it didn’t get me where I wanted to go. I had to do it for me. I realized that I had to figure out how to leverage that credential into product sales. If you want to do product sales, you have to have a lot of other people talking about you. One of the first things that I did was I got a lot of people trying my system critiquing it, telling me what was bad, was good and all that stuff. In the process of having that conversation, a lot of people heard about it. When I started in the ‘90s, Talkradio was the big thing for me.

I could do a radio show and I would typically get about $2,000 to $3,000 worth of sales on my website from even a bad station. Then a good station would be fantastic. My big record is $170,000 on Jeff & Jer in San Diego. That’s a big response even from that station. Other ones are $10,000 here or $20,000 there. The way I got it is by getting the host oftentimes to try the product. Teaching some part of it on the air and then getting some feedback. Once you got that credibility going, then it was pretty easy to sell because basically, people wanted the result. They wanted to have a better memory, but they were skeptical. If you find out where your product is along that line of what’s their major objection, for me, it was skepticism as to whether or not it works. That was what I focused on with other products and other things.

PLH 96 | Product Publicity

Product Publicity: If you’re in the gift guide and you’re approved, it’s almost like winning an award.

We interviewed Michelle Weinstein and she is a former Shark Tanker who didn’t make it on the show. She has a really interesting story about the backend information. Thinking that the celebrity of these things is going to be a windfall, I’ve now interviewed three different Shark Tankers and an article will come out soon. This thing is that celebrity didn’t build their business, not in one bit at all. It didn’t make sales for them. It didn’t do any of that. All of them have that same result. Two of them got deals on the show but they fell through after so they didn’t end up with deals. Keeping that in mind is that just having that celebrity, just having that feature isn’t enough. That’s what Dave is telling you and you have to hear that. It isn’t enough to build your business for you.

I have competitors in the memory space. A lot of them I consider close friends, but business-wise they’re technically competitors. They took their hat off to me because they’ve tried to follow my lead or do PR of their own. They would say maybe they got one speaking gig out of it or they’ve got a few hits on their website but they didn’t get any sales. It was because I was doing something different. You can even do the identical thing to your competitor, but if you don’t have the business setup or you don’t know how to drive the traffic, then it’s not going to work. I like what you said as an engineer’s mind, it’s like building a machine. If you have 99% of a machine functioning, it’s broken. If one spark plug is gone, it’s gone.

All the pieces have to be and they ought to be the right things and the right order with the right resources.

We were working on a kickstarter campaign with a client for example and we found out the video is not up to snap. They changed the video and said, “Dave, once we changed the video, then it’s good to take off.” I went, “That’s the best guess right now, but what about what we don’t know? Maybe there’s something else.” We looked at competitors. We did our competitive analysis and things like that to figure out what are the expectations. I like to think of it like you’re having a conversation with the client and if you can’t answer every single one of their questions, people don’t buy while they’re still questioning. You have to answer all of that in your marketing, in your conversation, in your interviews and your byline and everything before people are going to sign on the dotted line.

Let’s talk about gift guides. I have a gift guide coming out the day before Thanksgiving. The thing is that when we look at that gift guides, I don’t write them very often. There are lots of people who write them more often. I usually write them a few times a year. I like to write Father’s Day because I write a more tech style column, innovations style column, it’s men more. Gift guides are always good at that time of year. I usually do one at the holidays and I try to support small businesses, small brands and I try to tie it into Small Business Saturday. This particular one is going to be about giving thanks. It’s about social good and there’s a little bit of that element in all the gifts that I’ve selected. There’s a theme around it and you don’t know that when you’re going to pitch someone and that’s part of the problem but why are these gift guides so important.

The gift guides are important mainly because you want to be ranked in your category. There are five or six different ones, but one of the biggest ones is let’s say you have a new tech product or you have a new type of chair, chances are there are other people in that space as well. If you’re in the gift guide and you’re approved, it’s almost like winning an award in my opinion. It’s a level of respect that magazine or that outlet is giving you that they’re not giving it your competitor and there can be only one. If you look at a lot of these gift guides, you wouldn’t have multiple of the same product. You wouldn’t have multiple tablets, “This is our recommended tablet for this year, this is our recommended chair for this year, this is our recommended ax for this year,” or whatever the gift guide theme. It would be one thing from each category and a large variety. Speaking of the manly stuff, there are ones that are manly gift guides and it’s like the best ax, the best knife, the best suspenders or whiskey and things like that.

If you want to do product sales, you have to have a lot of other people talking about you. Share on X

A 3D printed guitar was in my father’s gift guide. That’s expensive but worth it.

You might have more 3D printed because you love the stuff, but my point is if you’re the one who gets your guitar in there, there’s not going to be any other guitar. If you’re the one who gets your knife in there, there is not going to be any other knives. Typically, you’re blocking out your competition as well.

A good gift guide though is one that is facing to the right consumers. That’s also something to consider. I’ve had companies who you get the best of at a trade show list and that is within the industry. While that’s important amongst your competitors and everything, it doesn’t sell more product for you.

What really sells the product is that people use these gift guides to buy gifts and it is amazing how much people respond to these. Being in the media when you publish gift guides, it’s one of the most read sections in a magazine or in a blog. People do like lists. They want to know what’s new, they want to shop without spending money. They window shop a little bit and it solves all of those powerful needs that people have. A lot of people will go to these gift guides and just go, “Yes, no, no, yes, yes, yes,” and they will buy right from there. You’ll see a big jump in sales.

I did my gift guide at Father’s Day. I can already see it getting hits at this time of year. Even though it’s a slightly older gift guide, I did it for Father’s Day but it’s for men. It starts to rerank when it’s the holiday and no new gift guides have come out. Gift guides tend to do that. If you go too old, people don’t track it as well but if it’s within a year or two years, a lot of times people will check it out anyway for ideas.

I would also add, for authors, you want to be on book list as well. There’s some reading list and there’s also the holiday book list of the hottest books.

PLH 96 | Product Publicity

Product Publicity: If you won’t stand behind your product, then you shouldn’t be talking to the marketing guy. You should be talking to research and development.

I do a podcast list later in the year because people travel and they’re in their car for a long period of time. I always do my podcast to check out why you’re traveling over the holidays. I usually do that at the end of the year. There are lots of these lists that happen, and you need to find them. You have a whole program on doing gift guides. Tell us a little bit about how that works and yours is very focused on product businesses but authors as well but let’s focus on the product.

I would say a good 40% of our business is authors as well. The same rules apply and the same package. I built a bit of a machine for PR. A lot of publicists, what they’ll do is they’ll have a series of connections. They will know people like you are like other people in the media and they will just work those connections and work those leads. They are natural connectors and that’s great. I do think more like an engineer. I create a system where we build up our natural connections. We do have a number of people in media who pretty much always book our clients, but when a new client comes, we always get the majority of their new bookings. We get them completely cold. We’ve made it a pitch system to pitch to these people. I can pull back the curtain a little bit and tell you how we do it. I don’t mind. I’m totally transparent about these things and it’s interesting actually.

One of the first things you want to do is to answer the question of, why should people care? Who is buying these gifts? Who needs this desperately and what need this to fill? The thing people want the most it seems is that the gift that will be unique. The gift that will make them feel special. Some of our top gift guides were things that played on relationships. The perfect thing for a woman to buy their man, the perfect thing for men to buy the wife or to buy your kids or something like that. If you off with the scenario of who’s going to buy my product, who will buy it as a gift and where would that gift go?

It doesn’t have to be just one thing because you’re going to pitch different outlets and have different angles. It can be the perfect gift to buy your spouse. It can go a man or woman or either way.

We find in pitching that if we paint the picture for them, they can always change it. We’ll do a dating gift guide, “The perfect thing to get your boyfriend or girlfriend on Christmas.” Then some media outlets will come back to us and say, “We want to change boyfriend-girlfriend to this. We want to change it to a family or something like that.” We do find a bigger response when we get more specific. When we paint a picture of that buying decision, also think of what genre you’re in. Is your product outdoorsy? Then you want to have the perfect gift guide for the outdoor person or something like that. When people are pitching the media, they’re afraid to go too specific. They go more general and they’re like, “This is the perfect gift for everybody,” and you get lost in the shuffle. If you say, “This is the perfect gift for the father,” and you’re like, “Daughters, get this for your dads.” What happens is the media will come back to you and go, “We can also have sons buy it for them because our market skews towards this, but unless you get specific, then it tends to get lost.”

I was thinking about my gift guide and someone reached out to me and gave me a single product. It planted in my head this idea that maybe there were people around there looking to do a social support with whatever gifts they buy. My sister did that a couple of years ago and it got me thinking. She wanted to support all artisans and so all of her gifts are bought from artisans. I was like, “What’s my angle on this?” This happened to be that because that’s how the pitch was made to me. I was like, “What else can I find?” I reached out to people like you and to others and you sent me submissions based on that criteria. That helped me decide what my gift guide was going to be this year because I was looking for my angle. I was like, “I can’t just write the same old gifts the whole year.”

The earlier you get people's attention, the better. Share on X

If you go far enough in advance, then you can trigger the media. Typically, when we encounter the media, they already have a plan. They want something and then you have to fit into their plan, but a good percentage of the time if you get them early enough, you can give them a plan. You could say, “I think 2019 will be the year of such and such.” It will be the year of 3D printing or something. What we’re doing was not a gift guide necessarily, but what we’re saying was that in 2019, the gig economy is going to explode. We have a whole bunch of pitches around that. That’s a pitch that is getting the attention of media because we’re making something that’s predictive. If you can do that, if you feel a little bit of a crystal ball and you do see around the corner a little bit when it comes to products, then you could do it. You could also say that 2019 could be the year of the startup kickstarter or something like that. There are a lot of great techs that’s coming out and people are getting hungry for independent tech companies.

Let’s talk about timing because I think there’s a difference to whether you’re doing prints media versus online media. The timing is very different. What do you find? How early is necessary?

For our gift guides, we’re doing them in October typically for Christmas. Going into December, we would be talking to some people about Valentine’s Day. That’s not always exactly a three-month thing, but you’re safe if you go out for three months. For something like Father’s Day, you can be a little bit closer to it. People don’t seem to be looking that early. It does have some variance. The earlier you get people’s attention, the better. The earlier you blast your list and ask them about it, the better. I’ve usually found that three-month window for print specifically. A lot of magazines or anything, they’re out in advance. Bloggers can be shorter. They can be months. It would be a comfortable time for a lot of bloggers to review a product and then get a review posted so you maybe want to get a hold of them six weeks before a campaign or before you want them to publish something.

Too early and they’re waiting for products. If you contact them and you don’t have anything to send them or you don’t have the details, it’s too early. Let’s talk about product pitches and that idea of getting into reviews from it. Gift guides are usually just, “Here’s the product. Here’s a mention,” but there’s no endorsement of it necessarily except that it made the list.

Just to clarify that everything in a gift guide, if you want to get on that list, it’s a ranking. It’s almost like winning an award. A product review is when a media outlet tries out the product and they give the public their opinion on it. It goes to the saying, you better have a good product. I would say most people would stand behind their product so they’re not too worried about it. If you won’t stand behind your product, then you shouldn’t be talking to the marketing guy. You should be talking to research and development. When they come to us, they have a product that’s good. We have a brand, DeadSoxy that’s a sock brand that we did well with. We have a number of other products, we had a little infomercial product that was like a wall-leveling device. We also do a lot of product pitches when it comes to books as well and also my memory course had a lot of product pitches.

What a product pitch is you want to think of it as an ethical bribe, but you don’t want to think of it too much on the bribe side, think of it more on the ethical side. These people who review their product, if they have a bad experience, they will write about that. You’ve got to be careful about it. You’re not getting a paid advertisement. That will be a sycophant to you. You do have to earn this media and that’s a big mistake people make. They start sending a product or they get stingy or they start getting demanding. Then you’re not wooing that media outlet.

PLH 96 | Product Publicity

Product Publicity: Advertising needs to be custom and it needs to be relevant. It needs something that people are interested in, not interrupt-driven but content-driven.

Essentially what we do is we come up with a good pitch that takes the product and ties it into what’s going on. Whether it’s what people want nowadays or dating, relationships, workplace, outdoors, whatever it is. It ties it into a story and then we offer a copy of the product to that media outlet in exchange for a product review. Usually, the response on this is absolutely incredible. We get hundreds of responses wanting to do product reviews. When we start sending the products out and selecting the list from the ones that we want to go to, it’s quite common to get 50 or even 80 or 90 product reviews for a particular product. You want to say the top 10% of those will be decent outlets, big ones like Inc., Forbes, Fast Company and things like that.

There’s a pretty steep drop off when you get into bloggers. They can have a good following, but it’s a niche following. It’s a very loyal but small following. I strongly recommend product companies send products to each and every single one of those because someone’s reading it. You’ll be surprised how much these little niches can produce percentage-wise depending on their followers. Let’s say you have 10,000 unique views per month on that website, you might not think that is big when you look at 50,000, 60,000, 80,000 for a Business Insider, but that 10,000 is a bit more loyal.

They are more focused. That’s the other thing. If you’re choosing a channel or a blog that has a mom following or a parent following or whatever that might be and it fits your product, the relevancy goes way up. Where Business Insider or Forbes or Inc., our readers are all over the place. A lot of them are really young. They don’t have families. If you had a family product in there, it might not resonate with a good portion of them. That’s where you can get a little more specific if you’re dialed in and you know a lot about these bloggers. I’m a fan of reading their blog before you send stuff in because you can clearly tell, there are some who do nothing but bash products.

There are some people who don’t necessarily have loyal followings but they have good traffic analytics and good keywords. That’s the way they do it, but it still brings in the traffic. Google watches all of these as well and it helps protect your reputation going forward. Before we get to that, the reason to go with something smaller groups is you’re a big fish in a small pond. You’re going to be showcased. Whereas, you might just get a small section in a bigger outlet. Get as many of those small ones as possible because they add up. In some cases, some of these bloggers can even be entrepreneurial and contact you wanting to be affiliates and make money from the product if they believe in it as well.

They can offer coupons and other things. There are some bloggers who will take their own photographs if you’ve sent them the product. That’s important because now you’ve got maybe them wearing the socks or them doing that and they put a picture up on Instagram. That is social proof for and you definitely want to encourage them. That’s one of the great reasons that you recommend to all of your clients to send product if at all possible.

I would also add to that, then you are getting into the category of influencers. It’s a blurred line but technically the product reviews, they’re acting more like a journalist. Then the influencers, when you start getting on social media and Instagram and things like that, it becomes more entrepreneurial. Not everybody but most of them are getting involved in doing some affiliate arrangement or something where they’re driving traffic and sales for you which is fantastic. I think that’s the future. We’re expanding our influencer work as well for our clients to get them more of that. I think we’re all going to see that expand in the next few years.

A good pitch takes the product and ties it into what's going on. Share on X

Here are a couple of things that I would also on my side recommend being an influencer is that pick a media that’s different, written video or audio. Go for the different types of media because the Google algorithm has shifted to being voice recognition because of Hey Google. Google is rewarding that, but Google owns YouTube. You’ve got YouTube embedded in your blogs or embedded in people’s websites. This is good for you to be in all those different media. What’s happening next is that if you are a video watcher, you’re going to get videos served up to you first. If I’m a reader, I’m going to get blogs served up to me first. You want to make sure you’re capturing anyone who’s typing in a perfect gift for Father’s Day and you want to make sure that you are getting served up. If they’re not going to serve up a blog because I happen to be a video watcher, you missed out on not being able to capture that. You’re in all the different types of media as well.

A number of years ago, people were doing tons of split tests and there was a big argument as to whether or not video ads worked better than text-based ads. From what we know from a ton of Facebook data and a ton of ads is that both are true. The fact is some people like the video more and some people like to read more. You’re missing out on one of that group or that population if you only do one of those categories.

I have another business podcast, Brandcasters, and not all watchers of Product Launch Hazzards know that. What we do over there is we do this audiogram and it’s like an audio file. You could listen to it if you had your headphones plugged into your phone in your own Facebook but it also has the words. It’s transcribing the words. It’s like captioning. We do a little stamped segment and those get more attraction and more engagement than any of the other posts we make on our podcast and we have videos. It all comes from videos originally, but it’s the audiogram that gets the engagement. We think it’s because a lot of people have the sound turn off on their phone as they’re scrolling. Reading the words, they sit there and they watch it. Even though audio file is going, in the background they’re reading the words.

How can you do that cost-effectively if you’ve got a system to do that very cheaply? It doesn’t take a lot of effort or money to put those captions on there, then that’s a great aspect.

There are some free tools out there. There’s a tool called Audiogram, but what we found is that because it does an auto transcription, you’d have to fully edit it. It’s really well-done. I have over 40 employees worldwide. My team does it. I did do this on my LinkedIn page where I had been on someone’s podcast and they said this about me when they introduced me. I used it as almost a testimonial. I have a clip of it. I have a picture of their show so it’s not just random audiogram and then the caption of what they say goes on underneath it. I could see that people’s click on that is very high and very often. That’s how things work. I’m starting to see that mixed up happen. These are good ways for you to utilize that PR afterward. Let’s talk a little bit about how you leverage this good. You’ve been in a gift guide, you’ve gotten product reviews, now what do you do with it?

The key is that getting as many of these placements as possible is important. I’d like to start with the things that people don’t think of first. Of course, it can help you get traffic. It can even help you get affiliates and things like that. It builds your reputation more than anything. Consider every product a tech product nowadays. It’s amazing how much we’re spreading out what we think of as tech now. It used to be just phones and stuff and now it’s like chairs and different things. If you have something that is a technology, people are going to be very picky. They want to know the details. They want to dig into it and they do this through product reviews.

PLH 96 | Product Publicity

Product Publicity: You have to be a master of organization and planning to do a kickstarter nowadays because they’ve gotten so sophisticated.

If you have a bunch of positive product reviews for you, it builds up your credibility like you wouldn’t believe. What I like to say is that it gets the fence-sitters off the fence. There are going to be a lot of people who like your product, but they’re skeptical. They’re not sure and they’re sitting on the fence and this helps get them off. The other thing is your reputation. This is something people don’t even think of but there are going to be tons of people who are going to want to unseat you if you’re doing really well. I experienced this even myself in a variety of different ways. If you’re selling a product, it could be something as simple as keywords or something. If you’re selling a product, you’re going after Google keywords or something and you’re starting to make money, people are going to see that and then they’re going to try to bite into that.

The thing about product reviews is Google reads all these reviews, so you come up more in the organic search sections. You come up more in several different places and you come up much more credibly than ever before. The other cool thing about your reputation is you can’t please everybody. If you piss off somebody and they leave a bad review or if you have all these other people reviewing you positively, the negative stuff gets buried. There are always going be trolls out there. That’s why you want to have the volume of reviews because you want to have your 99% of it being positive so that any negativity is buried.

What are some other things? Can they place ads and boost other people’s blogs and do things like that to highlight themselves?

When you do the product pitch, it blends itself well into ads. Because through the algorithms, you can make your ads appear on any place that you have articles so you have an instant button that they can press to buy your product. I’ve seen that done very effectively. It’s something that if you miss out on a lot of money because people are reading about your product. They like it, they enjoy it, but most credible outlets will not just say, “If you like it, buy here.”

We do popular mechanics and some of those. They’re doing a lot more affiliate links through Amazon or through other places like that. They’re encouraging their writers to write about things that they can put affiliate links in.

I think that’s the future actually. It’s weird because it goes back to the origins of media. If you look back at the early television days, all of the TV shows were sponsored by some sponsor and they were the showrunner. They chose the actors, they chose the scenes, the plot and everything. It was like a soap company was making a play. It seems crazy by our standards now, but it’s starting to go back to that where people have to monetize this somehow and advertising needs to be custom and it needs to be relevant. It needs something that people are interested, not interrupt-driven but content-driven. All of these things bring us back to this place where the sponsor, the outlet that is doing the article for that sponsor can start to have links and it’s much more credible. People are going to want to buy it anyways online. It doesn’t ruin a lot of people’s credibility, but we’re not quite there yet where everybody does it. You still should buy some ads for keywords that you’ll find. If you have a pitch for example or keywords in your product, run some ads for that. You’ll find that everywhere your article is, you’ll also have your ad pop up in those screens.

There are going to be tons of people who are going to want to unseat you if you're doing really well. Share on X

This is something that I do for my gift guides and it isn’t something that many people do. I do it because of Product Launch Hazzards. I’m sensitive to all of you Amazon sellers and you eCommerce sellers out there. After I write my gift guide, I go into my Amazon account and I write a review of your product or I write the blurb that I wrote about you. Usually, there’s at least a sentence where I said something. I write the sentence and I linked to the article of where you’ve been in there because you’re allowed of one link in a review and usually, Amazon doesn’t block that. I’m not a certified purchaser if I didn’t buy it, but that review has weight and at least it’s there.

We’re in the same realm of product review and getting reviews on Amazon. You can also be creative and start having things like contests and encouragements to get your customers to leave review; all sorts of incentives.

There is a fine line. We talked about this a lot. Brenda Crimi is on our platform. If you have any questions and you are concerned about the contest you are running, run it by her because your terms of service with Amazon is very restrictive. Be very careful how you run it. There are incentives.

It’s weird though because there are so many services out there. I think Amazon is trying to clean up its act. Right now, there are still a lot of people that have these review companies and they do these big reviews and you buy the 10,000 reviews at a time. I know it’s getting better. Amazon I think is going to crack down on more of these.

They’ve been cracking down for the last couple of years and it’s been getting better and better as to how they’re doing it. I have found a complete pop-up lately just like you have. Most of them are overseas companies coming in and violating the rules.

It’s an arms race. Amazon comes up with some way to detect it and then they find some way around it. I think ultimately it would hurt your brand long-term if you relied on that as a strategy. These are people who are doing like pop up stores. They’re selling a bunch of stuff and then they disappear, and they come back with another name. That’s not a long-term business plan. Getting low reviews like you did is the way to go. I think the algorithms will always favor those better than any of the tricks.

PLH 96 | Product Publicity

Product Publicity: Managing your community and being able to listen to social media and make comments and respond to customers can be a big thing.

The algorithms of sales matter more. There’s a launch strategy for selling more than your competitors and getting on that first page immediately and getting the Buy Box and all of those things are a strategy for launching. Day-in and day-out, it’s not going to matter what your reviews are if you are not selling on Amazon. You won’t keep ranking. Both things matter. The reviews do matter to consumers, but they matter if they’re legitimate. They can help. I was at a conference in Hong Kong and they were putting up what was a great review and they’re like, “This is a fabulous review,” and I looked at it and I go, “A PR firm wrote that review.” It’s still fake. Somebody may have legitimately bought the product and it is considered certified, but that is not a real review because it was too specific as to what it said in it. Too many factors, too many keywords and I could tell.

Here’s another thing about product reviews that I think people aren’t realizing. You want reviews that get a little critical. If you have something that’s just a 100% glowing review and somebody is just a sycophant, then there’s this feeling of, “Is this just paid? Am I being scammed here?” You want somebody to go, “I love this product and I wore it well. It’s comfortable and everything. I just wish it came in a different color,” or something like that. You want to have that, “The customer service was good. Shipping was a little late, but once I got it, it was awesome.” You want to have one little black mark in this sea of positivity because that’s a realistic answer that real people would give.

My favorite is when I read a review that says, “I bought a size up or a size down.” When it says something like that, “I bought a size bigger than I was because it was a little tight.” It was like, “That’s useful as a reader of it and I’ll buy the right product. Everything else is great but now I know what size I am and I’m more confirmed. “It runs a little small or it runs a little big.” Those are always great ones. I always dive in here to the hazards of what you do. Tell us maybe a couple of stories of things that went wrong or what you considered to be some of the mistakes that most people make, the rookie errors?

I think the biggest mistakes that I’ve seen are timing and planning. Product reviews are a portion of what you should be working on. You should coordinate this with other plans. If you’re doing a Kickstarter, you want to make sure you get product reviews out in front of the Kickstarter for example so that you drive pre-traffic to a preregistration page. You massage that audience saying, “It’s on its way. It’s coming,” and you keep sending them emails saying, “We’re one week away or it’s happening tomorrow. Make sure you’re one of the first people to get a perk. You’re going to find yourself playing a catch up.”

Do you find that Kickstarters are harder because a lot of times they don’t have any product at all to send anyone? It’s a lot harder to get someone to consider it.

Some of the ones that I experience with, they’ve had some product that they were doing an upgrade or doing a better version too. You really have to be a master of organization and planning to do a kickstarter nowadays because they’ve gotten so sophisticated. Beyond that, one of the biggest mistakes people make is not being generous with the product or changing what they’re sending partway through. It doesn’t happen with our clients anymore. We had one time back in the past, but now we always double check. We always make sure with the clients now.

If we send a blast out to the media and say, “We’re going to have a product available if you want to do a review,” and then we’ll get 50 or some odd responses back saying, “We’d love to do a product review. Here are our criteria.” Then we have to tell them, “It’s not going to have this feature. We only have this color,” or something like that. Make sure you know all of these things ahead of time because it can hurt your review. You can have a great product, but if you didn’t tell them what they’re going to receive, what they are expecting, they’re going to tell you. They’re going to be like, “I expected this, but I got this thing.”

Some big companies made mistakes with this. There are a lot of times that Apple, to get their iPad off the ground, they send a lot of product out. If they had the wrong memory on there or a wrong feature or there was the different size pad, then all of a sudden some of the reviews were like they were angry because they were expecting something, and they got something else. It’s like you just got a product for free, and you would think they’d be grateful. If you tell them one thing and send them something else, it’s a credibility thing and you’re going to be slaughtered by them.

As a reviewer, when I go to review products and I go to put them out there, it’s my endorsement that’s going on that. If the product is not great or if it wasn’t what was expected or if it makes me question whether or not you guys have good customer service at the end of the day. Like quality control because it didn’t come out what I thought it was. There are a lot of questions in there. You worry whether or not you should even be writing this review. You’re right, very consistent and very clear on what you’re going to do and then doing it is a long way there.

If you send a product and it doesn’t perform the way it normally does, if it somehow malfunctions or something, don’t think that all is lost. A lot of these reviewers are very reasonable and you could talk to them and say, “This is seriously not normal for us. These products usually function the way they’re intended. I’ll send you some new products, so you can check it out and see.” As long as you’re honest with them and upfront, then you can rescue that and make a good review out of it.

I want out them either. We’re referring to what happened was as I tried the product and it didn’t perform. It was a wash issue because it was a clothing product. It was something that I understood because I have a deep understanding of textiles. Instead of bashing them or doing any of that, which I would never do because it’s just not my style and you know that, and I know you. I picked up the phone and talked to the owner of the company and the founder of it. We had a nice discussion and we had a discussion about ways in which she could improve it. What came clear to me and this is what I love about all of you product people out there is you have such passion for your product and for what you want to prove.

A lot of times the quality of all these other things because in your passion to get this feature accomplished, you could be sacrificing something else. It could be like you want to go for softness and you lose durability, or you use color fastness or you didn’t know you should be doing a test because you’re new to this product category. This happens, and these are rookie errors we talk about all the time here. The things that can tank your company. If you catch it early and we had this conversation, there are ways to fix this. There are ways to improve and ways to make it happen. I love to be that collaborator when people come to me and I see and I was like, “This is going to be a problem.”

The general reaction to any disgruntled customer is to go overboard trying to make them happy and they turn into huge lovers of what you do. I’ve even had times where when I had my infomercial for example, in order to make a successful infomercial, by the way, you need to have a lot of upsells. A lot of people didn’t take this very well. It was upsell after upsell but it was just to make it profitable. It had to be that way. I got a bit of bad feedback and I was able to respond to them personally. Eventually, I made a system to respond to that to make sure that they were happy.

Universally, I got people so amazed that they heard from the author. I got a response to this comment that they were just making out there. Managing your community can be a big thing and being able to listen to social media, make comments and respond to customers. It might not even be a defect, it might be a feature. It might just be a feature that’s being used wrong or however or just the process of how they buy it. Which you may or may not even have any control of or if it’s your product but you don’t own the store or the marketing wing.

Going overboard with your customer service to make them feel better is really good. I will add one more thing, I’m going to say this because I run a PR firm. One of the biggest mistakes is trying to do this yourself. A product is a bit more sophisticated. You can do do-it-yourself PR if you’re talking about a topic or you’re trying to get yourself on TV or in a podcast. You can contact them yourself. If you have a book, you can do-it-yourself although it’s very time-consuming. Authors very often hire us to do it because we’ll get a whole lot more results obviously with our connections and we’ll make them look really good. If you’re trying to do a product pitch and you’re doing it on your own, unless you’re sophisticated and you have experience in this, you can almost destroy your brand if you don’t do it right.

The last thing I wanted to mention to people is that follow-up. If you are following up directly with these bloggers and you’re being pushy and demanding, that’s it. You’re done. You’re off my list. You won’t make it, even if your product was good, “I deserve coverage,” that attitude doesn’t work. That doesn’t happen when you have a professional pitching you.

We have a theme in our office of PPP. It’s polite, persistent and professional.

We writers are procrastinators. You do need to be persistent with us, but you also don’t need to pester us. There is a big difference between that and you know that fine line. I find that entrepreneurs trip over it way too often and they cross that line.

When I was first starting out, I was definitely on the side of pestering more, but I was eager and now I’ve got a bit more experience. It’s amazing how much more of a result you can get when you have experience. I can say things in a few words or change a title on a pitch and I know it’s going to get a much bigger result and I would have had to put in a hundred hours to get that same result doing it the old way back in the day.

A lot of times you don’t think that, “It’s your pitch that’s the problem when it’s your stuff.” You don’t mess with that. You think, “I just don’t have the right people,” and so they don’t try that.

Also if it’s your product, you’re too close to it. You can’t be objective about it. You have to talk to the blogger like a consumer. You have to talk about what the consumer’s going to be interested. You’re not talking like the inventor. You already love your product, but you have to talk about what’s in it for them or what’s in it for the consumer. Hiring an outside team like a PR firm to do that, then we handle that conversation because we’re in that same boat of receiving this product and talking about how it fits into the world? That one thing alone, pulling yourself out of it allowing somebody else to market it for you makes a big difference.

This is why I love Dave Farrow and Farrow Communications because they have it dialed in and they understand your products. When they present your products, they’re presenting you in the best light. They’re also speaking our language as reviewers and writers and any kind of media that might cover your product.

I will offer this to your audience. I’ve had this before and I’ll do it again. I do a twenty-minute consultation personally to a qualified company or individual that is interested in PR marketing like this and it’s a real strategy call. I’ll sit down and say, “Here’s the angle we would probably take on it.” This is to acquire clients. We do get a lot of clients this way but a lot of times, I’ll do a strategy call to somebody who doesn’t become a client but I just think it’s good karma. If anybody wants a strategy call with me, you can contact me through if you like.

Dave, I’m so glad you were able to come on. I look forward to continuing our relationship because you bring some great fun products to the market. I love to see what you’re working on.

It’s always a pleasure talking to you.

Until next time, Product Launchers. Remember you can find us on social media, @HazzDesign.

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About Dave Farrow

PLH 96 | Product PublicityDave Farrow is best known for his brain power. Listed twice in the Guinness Book of Records for Greatest Memory, he is first and foremost an entrepreneur who mastered PR to promote his own business. Most PR professionals have a background working in television BUT have no sales or entrepreneurial experience. As for Dave, he took his skill in memory and developed several educational products and used PR as his primary sales tool. His results are impressive.

Dave has personally been on over 2000 media interviews, including multiple appearances on Dr. Oz, Steve Harvey, the Today Show, Fox and Friends, CBS Early Show, Live! With Regis and Kelly, BBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, The CW, QVC, Discovery Channel, Science Channel, and was the star of a CBC documentary. Most recently, Farrow won the $50,000 prize on the new hit show SuperHuman on Fox.

Sales Records: Dave Farrow sold an impressive $170,000 in online products sales as a result of ONE radio interview, and over a quarter million as a result of ONE TV interview. His appearances on Dr. Oz and other prime-time shows have also been highly successful resulting in over $55,000 in sales. This sales volume landed Farrow on the Amazon bestseller list in the category of memory for over a year, a sponsorship deal with Sony Corporation, and several venture-backed infomercials. These endeavors resulted in estimated sales over 10 MILLION WORLDWIDE.

Dave says the secret of his PR success is that he has experience knocking on the media’s door and getting in for over 20 years. His success comes from years of practice selling his own products. For years he supported himself solely from the web sales he received from traffic after media interviews. As a result, he developed the skill of selling in interviews without sounding like a salesperson. Today he runs Farrow Communications and applies this experience to his client’s sales and marketing strategies.

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