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How to Get Testimonials (and Links) with Free Stuff

John Doherty —  June 2, 2011
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This is a guest post from Mike Essex. See his full bio at the end of the post. Also, are you interested in guest posting on this site? Contact me at thebeginnerseo at gmail dot com and we’ll chat about it!

From the very earliest stages of product development it’s important to gather people together and get them shouting about your product. As this word spreads more people will talk about you online and more links will occur as a result. So how do you get these people talking (and linking)? With free stuff!

News

First, free stuff isn’t just tangible or digital products. Anything that you can do to help an individual or company that would otherwise cost them time and money is a freebie. For example, if you write a killer press release that is so good journalists can just run with it, you’ve saved them time and presented a freebie.

So hire great copywriters, or outsource and make sure they’re writing compelling press releases that people will write about online. Do interviews about your product without charging a fee, write guest blog posts about your niche and give away as much information as you can. If you can write great content about your product and a blogger runs with it you’ve saved them hours of work, and created free time for them. If all you charge is a link then you’ve generated content for free and gotten a benefit in return.

This doesn’t just apply to ‘fun’ products either. If your product is very technical then write a white paper about the technologies that make it work. Publish it in a leading journal, or work with a lecturer or scientist to put together some amazing research. You’ll save them countless hours, and research grants. This is an amazing freebie, giving them the chance to complete works that would otherwise have gone unfinished. Remember no product is ‘boring’ or unworthy of coverage.

'Do The Work’ did a great deal of work by freebies

Just look at ‘Do the Work’ by Steven Pressfield, a book which was given away for free in digital format thanks to funding from GE. GE got loads of great press and Steven was able to make his new book a reality. Both parties benefited thanks to a freebie, with Steven also able to push people towards a print version for extra revenue.

Early Access

People want to have access to products before anyone else. It’s a great bonus, and gives them something that makes them feel rewarded by the brand. Whether it’s Microsoft giving people early access to Gears of War 3, Lady Gaga launching her new album first via Farmville, or a new product unveiling at a trade show, everyone wants to be the first to try something out.

Gears of War 3 Logo

The Gears of War 3 Beta gave everyone with a blog the chance to share their thoughts.

There’s no product out there that wouldn’t benefit from a public unveiling before release. It generates pre-release buzz and those people who try the product and have blogs are very likely to go out and spread the word.

Better yet, if you give everyone who sees the product a press-pack which shows them more content and tells them a link where people can learn more, it’s actively encouraging them to spread the link.

Suppliers

The run-up to a product launch is a great time to run through all the people that helped make a product possible and provide them with a testimonial. This is a great freebie that you can barter with in return for a link. Whether you used someone to make the glass on your new phone, or consulted with an events agency to hold your early access event, these are all suppliers who you could give feedback to.

So approach all of your suppliers and offer them a testimonial. I’m always up front and ask them if they’d like a testimonial in return for a link. It’s better to be honest about your reasons, and I’ve never had a rejection on these grounds. Then write a fair and honest testimonial for them to use on their site. Better yet, give them a case study that they can display on their homepage. This then ensures people viewing that site get awareness of your new product, and creates a more viral effect.

Big Orange Software, the suppliers of the Koozai iPhone app, have a case study on their homepage. This is great exposure for people passing by the site.

One extra idea is to give suppliers the finished product for free and ask them to review it on their site. They’re highly likely to be favourable as they helped make it, and it’s another set of people talking out the product and linking to you.

Reviews

Even before the product launch you need to contact people and ask them if they would like to review your product. On average it can take around 8 weeks for someone to review a product (Unless it’s a major launch that they already want) so factor this in to your timelines. If you are worried people will leak the product before launch, make them sign an NDA and use copyright protection. This is fairly typical for product reviews and helps all the coverage land on a set day.

To source review opportunities:

  • Use Followerwonk to find people whose Twitter bios indicate they talk about your niche
  • Search Google for “your niche + review”
  • Find a competitor’s product and search for it in Google with the word “review”
  • Use Google News to find people talking about competitors
  • Find the top 100 reviewers on an industry shopping site (e.g. Amazon have a list right here)
  • If you have an active Twitter account find people who you talk to regularly that have a following
  • Look at the link profile of a competitor using MajesticSEO

In essence, if the approach worked for competitors then it can be mimicked, and if a site serves your niche then it’s an ideal place for a free product.

Competitions

The rise in social networks and personal blogging means members of the public are now serving as indicators of good products. They are also becoming good link building opportunities. So offering a product for free, or free money in a competition, helps generate a buzz across the public. Better yet if your competition can be entered by tweeting a phrase or posting something on a social media profile, you’re helping build brand mentions and links.

Toyota dominated Twitter in December 2010

Toyota did this best of all by asking people who bought a new Toyota to tell their Twitter friends they had made the purchase. These live Testimonials helped increase sales 8% year on year for the brand.

Summary

Free stuff, whether it be products, early access, news or testimonials, all help go some way to building extra brand conversations. It’s then just a case of contacting these people and driving these conversations to point people to your website, or to stores where they can make a purchase. So try giving something away today and you’ll be surprised what you get in return.

Bio: Mike Essex is a search specialist at Digital Marketing Agency Koozai and author of the book “Free Stuff Everyday Guide”. His book teaches brands how to get more exposure from customers by giving stuff away, and Mike tells customers how they can get freebies simply by talking about products. He can be found online as @Koozai_Mike.

John Doherty

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I'm the new (as of October 2013) Online Marketing Manager of Hotpads.com, soon to be based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, explore new and interesting food in New York, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

One response to How to Get Testimonials (and Links) with Free Stuff

  1. Hey Mike, I just designed up a pretty cool infographic flowchart that shows “How To Get Testimonials” – I think you’ll like it.

    Check it out on my blog:
    http://www.chrisbrisson.com/strategy/how-to-get-testimonials

    Let me know what you think.

    Cheers,

    Chris