How to pitch your product for review in 10 thoughtful steps

It’s not just email blasting. It takes time, research, effort and relationship building.

employees technology planning data [Computerworld, January-February 2017 - HR IT]
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Before my husband buys anything, he researches for up to two years. Two years! (I am admittedly less thorough and I sometimes regret it.) The time frame fluctuates based on the price of the item, but sometimes it has to do with the newness of the product in general. New backpack? That’s fairly quick (low investment and not too much variation between types and brands). New electronic gadget? That will take longer if it’s new to him and if it’s new to the market… well, suffice it to say it will be much longer. So, how does he research it? Google, of course.

Can your potential customers find your solution if they do a search on “ProductCategory product review”? If not, you’re wasting a great lead generation opportunity. Product reviews tell readers (customers) that something is real (you can’t review vaporware), how it works for the reviewer, how it can be used in the real world and usually a score by the reviewer. In addition, there are often dozens to hundreds of comments by real life users who agree (or disagree) with the outcome of the review. That’s great input.

So, how do you get a product reviewed?

  1. First, know how your product would do in a review. Be honest, and ask your engineers, designers and product managers to be totally candid about the product’s strengths and weaknesses. Only when you are comfortable with the answers from these people should you even begin to build your review pitch list. The answer to “How do we stack up against the competitors and is it ready to have the tires kicked,” should sound like “It’s ready for prime time, definitely, I dare any reviewer to give it less than a 10/10 rating.” If you know they’re being completely honest rather than braggy, you can probably assume it’s ready for at least a 7 or 8 (some reviewers are ruthless).
  2. Next, determine where you’d want a review to be seen. If it’s food, check out Consumer Reports, Southern Living and Good Housekeeping, or higher-end outlets such as Bon Appetit. Business software? Look at outlets like CNET, Tom’s Guide or PC Magazine. More trade-specific magazines like ITworld and InfoWorld cover infrastructure solutions like switches, firewalls and others.
  3. Read!!! Read the other reviews, not just the scores. The numbers are important, sure, but the article and even comments are more important to some prospects because of how scores work. A high score in user-friendliness may matter much less to an IT manager who doesn’t need ease of use. Remember, if you land a review, it’ll live a long time and if you get a good score but there’s a sentence within that says “great interface but it sorely lacks on integration with popular tools,” you know that’ll be used in countless competitor sales decks, blogs and other content to help prospects cross you off the consideration list before you even have a chance.
  4. Engage with the targets on your list if you already aren’t. Honestly comment on their blogs and reviews, “like” their articles, retweet their stories and roundup reviews. Yes, even if you’re not in them – choose a different category so you’re not amplifying your competitors – that’s obvious. 
  5. Narrow down your target list to choose your target. Pick the top 3 or 5 wish list reviewers and ask your team for input on which one you should pitch. Don’t skip asking for input or you could waste valuable potential insight. An engineer may have supported a product review with one of the reviewers and found him to be very difficult to work with and harshly critical. A product manager may know one of the reviewers personally and be on friendly terms. A friendly reviewer is much more likely to pick up calls from the product manager to check on the review progress and status. In addition, he or she may give a bit more consideration when requiring support such as “take your time and just get back to me tomorrow” rather than “I need an answer within 2 hours or I’m moving on.” Then, choose your target.
  6. Check if the target you’ve chosen has published review guidelines. Some outlets do, but not all. For instance, Network World and Infoworld have specific guideline, as does CNET. This makes it very straightforward. You may decide on another target based on some of the review guidelines, for instance if the reviewer only accepts standard configuration products and you want a customized version reviewed.
  7. Research even more about your target(s). Look at the his or her reviews; identify preferences (you will literally find nuggets like “I’m all about intuitive GUIs” to “one of my biggest pet peeves is not having a quick install guide”). Get to know them, what they like, what they prefer and how they test products. You’ll also use this information as part of your pitch. (“Dear Mary, I saw that you reviewed a CompetitorX product” demonstrates that you’ve read her reviews.)
  8. Check the editorial calendar for any scheduled reviews you might fit into – and also to determine if your timing is off. There’s nothing worse than pitching a widget review and learning that widgets were just reviewed in a roundup two months prior. Adjust your target and timing accordingly.
  9. When you know all you need to know, pitch the appropriate editor. You should know who the right person is because you’ve been reading their reviews, but if you don’t and there are no review guidelines, call the editorial assistant listed on the masthead and ask for specifics on pitching the review. The pitch you write should be succinct and devoid of sales and marketing language. Be short and sweet and use everything you’ve learned about your target(s): recent reviews and roundups, how they like to be contacted, and recent stories they’ve written. Use this information so they know you’re engaged and know their coverage area. Editors hate getting pitches entirely outside of their areas, just as you, as a PR director, product manager or engineer, hate to be pitched on accounting or HR software.
  10. Wait. Don’t re-forward your email every day. Wait a week or two before you reach out again to float it to the top of their email box. Be sure to add a note like “I read your recent story on the widget industry. Good insight. Just wanted to see if you have time to consider the following product review.” If you’ve pitched effectively, you should hear back with a yes, no, or something like “sounds good but I’m swamped – please contact me again in 3 months.”

Good luck and happy pitching!

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