In which somebody is “doing it right, actshully…”

I have devoted quite a few blog posts to the stunning failures of people who try to market to bloggers, but don’t know how. Complete with pictures of failboats, failing.

In the almost-a-decade I’ve been blogging, I’ve also encountered a few people who do it right. It’s rare, but it happens. Unfortunately, it’s harder to explain what “right” is. There’s a hefty component of “sending me stuff I want, no strings” to it, but even doing that, people screw up more often than you would think. It’s useful to communicate in advance to make sure I might want the stuff, it’s necessary to actually send the stuff, it’s vital to send it to the place specified using a delivery service that will actually deliver to that place even if it is not your preferred drop shipper, and on top of all that, it’s essential that the process not become so convoluted that I already hate you before the stuff arrives. (It’s also pretty bad for your brand if, after various promises that stuff is on the way, nothing ever gets here. Negative bonus points if you fail to deliver on more than one occasion. I’m looking at you, Liberator sex cushions people.) But none of that gets to the core of the problem: a non-fail marketing process of this sort has to start with figuring out something the blogger wants, needs, lusts after, or most importantly will use with an enthusiasm that naturally turns into passionate, unsolicited blogging about the product. That’s the goal, that’s the holy grail, that’s how you know you did it right. And it’s hard. You’ve got to have a worthy product, you’ve got to identify people who will love it once they’ve seen it, and you’ve got to do this lots and lots of times in order to get a few of the unsolicited, passionate, positive blog posts you’re looking for.

But when it works? Totally worth it.

And here’s my example that inspires today’s post. Bruce Sterling is a futuristic science fiction writer whose blogging, like his fiction, is so rich with ideas that it tends to make my head explode. He blogs at, and his link is on my very small blogroll of “nothing to do with the sex blog community but I want the link here handy because these are links I visit really often and don’t want to lose and I think other people will like them too” links.

Typically, he does not blog about pants.

But, if you send him the right pants, it turns out he will. And such a blog about pants! I cannot imagine a better marketing return on investment than this blog post about pants.

It turns out he doesn’t even prefer this particular model of the pants over the old model he was wearing before the new model got there. But no matter. His wife likes them better, and he acknowledges the merit of this feature. What more could any maker of pants desire in a recommendation?

That, boys and girls, is how you market to and through a blogger.

But it gets better! Blogs inspire conversation. If you’re a marketer, you want folks talking about your stuff. Bruce Sterling’s post about pants was sufficiently interesting, another science fiction author on my blogroll saw fit to link to it (with a clever title borrowed from a Nick Park movie) from another high-traffic blog, calling it

…a fascinating exegesis on the design of outdoors wear, the role of clothing fashion in William Gibson’s recent work, and the similarities between the use case for trouser choice among cops and SF writers.

Which is a true and fair description. Also, an example of the rewards of ambition. I’m sure people have given (or tried to give) an enormous amount of shit to Bruce Sterling over the years in hopes he would write about it the way he blogged about the pants. And most of them have failed … as evidenced by the fact that he doesn’t write about stuff in general all that often. But the winner of that vicious Darwinian winnowing — the people who actually make pants worth writing about, and actually managed to get them on Bruce Sterling’s ass — have earned a magnificent and ever-expanding payback for their marketing efforts. That’s what internet marketing aspires to accomplish, but so rarely does.

That’s how to do it right.

The irony? This kind of marketing is completely unavailable to the people who don’t start with an excellent product to market. Too many web marketing people, in particular, think marketing is something you use to sell baskets of steaming shit. “We don’t care about the product, the product doesn’t matter if the marketing team does its job…” Nah, doesn’t work on the internet. If the product is shit (I’m looking at you, cookie-cutter generic white-label sex toy “stores”) you’ll never get a marketing payback as good as Bruce Sterling writing about pants.

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