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Pitching Your SaaS to the Media

By Michelle Nickolaisen

You might not know it, but when I’m not writing here at SitePoint, I regularly post app round-ups and reviews (both on my site and elsewhere). This means I get a lot of pitches from new SaaS owners wanting to see if I’d be interested in covering their app.

Sadly, a lot of these are bad pitches. Bordering on “Nigerian prince” bad. And whether you’re pitching to a blogger with a smaller audience or a review columnist at a major publication (online or off), if you’re sending pitches like some of the ones I’ve received, your chances of getting coverage are next to zero — no matter how good your app is.

If you’re running a new business and have just launched your SaaS, chances are you’re busy. I get it — I do — but sending a sloppy email pitch isn’t going to get you any coverage, and it doesn’t take much more time to send a solid pitch instead. Keep reading and you’ll find out how.

A Solid Pitch

Here’s a pitch email I received from Nikolay at Casual, who kindly agreed to let me share it. He did pretty much everything right:

Nikolay's good pitch

Let’s break this down:

  1. Clear subject line. I get a lot of email, so it’s a pet peeve of mine when a pitch email is disguised as something else via an unclear subject line (whether intentionally or not).

  2. His opening sentence shows that he’s actually checked into my recent review history and the type of content I do. This clearly isn’t a bland copied and pasted pitch email, which automatically endears me to him. Nobody wants to feel like they’re on the receiving end of a form email.

  3. He nicely asks for a review. Which is the whole purpose of his email.

  4. He politely reminds me that I had previously mentioned them. Which sparks my memory and automatically makes me think, “Okay, if I liked them before, they’re probably actually a good fit for my audience.”

  5. And he closes on a friendly but professional note.

I reviewed Casual a few weeks later, and he followed up with a thank you note in addition to the company Twitter handle for re-sharing the tweets of the review article. All in all, a very positive experience for both parties.

A Poor Pitch

In contrast to that experience, around the same time, I got a pitch to review another project management tool. Here’s how that experience went:

  1. I got the initial pitch email on August 11, which was clearly a form email with one word changed to refer to my site/name.

  2. The product itself doesn’t look like it’s intended for my target audience (typically solopreneurs, freelancers, or at largest, teams of up to five people), so I replied that I would cover it if they set up a test environment for me to save me some time.

  3. I didn’t hear back for over two weeks.

  4. In the meantime, I received several spammy comments on my articles around the web, clearly written by marketing people for this app, suggesting I look into reviewing it.

  5. Less than a week after the initial pitch (three days, to be specific), I had another person pitch me via Twitter on covering it and using it in my own freelance writing practice. Not only did they repeat the pitch, but they attempted to debate with me when I replied that it didn’t look like it was intended for freelancers — by saying that Gantt charts are useful for freelancers. Whether that’s true or not, and I’d argue it isn’t, few freelancers would pay $50/month for a project management tool for that feature — and rightly so, given that they can get it elsewhere for free.

  6. When I did hear back from the marketing person, weeks later, they said they’d set up a account with a sample project… but as far as I can tell, they’d just set me up an account, period. And then the marketing person followed up less than week later asking when the review would be up.

I’m a huge fan of being proactive with social media marketing — I wrote a whole article about it for FastCompany. But this is not the way to do it. The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth and they’ve virtually guaranteed I will never write about them or mention them in any app round-ups.

What was wrong with this approach?

  • A form email. It’s not interesting, it seems cold and unfriendly, and unless your product is seriously amazing or has a great angle, it’s not compelling at all.

  • A lack of audience fit. If the person typically does reviews from a freelancer’s POV, pitching them an enterprise-level app is going to seem out of place, and vice versa.

  • Not just a lack of audience fit, but an attempt to argue with the writer about what their audience will be interested in. Different writers have different niche audiences, and as tempting as it can be to convince someone it really is a fit, if they say it’s not, it’s probably not, and trying to convince them otherwise will seem patronizing and borderline rude.

  • Repetitive pitches from different people on different platforms. Nobody likes to feel like they’re being barraged.

  • Slow reply time, followed by a too-fast follow up. I only do one review per week, so following up less than week later to see if I had done the review yet would be too fast even if the person hadn’t just taken over two weeks to reply to me.

Here’s the Thing: Writers Want Content

They’re always seeking out new things to review or write about. They want to hear from you, but they’re also very busy (and probably have a backlog of pieces they could be working on at any given moment). In other words, you have to make it easy for them to write about you and your company.

Which means that, if you want to get coverage, you need to follow these tips:

  • Checking for audience fit. It’ll take less than ten minutes to see if your SaaS fits in with what the writer typically covers, and it’ll save you a lot more than that in wasted pitching time.

  • Customizing the email. This should take 3-5 minutes per email, tops. Add a note about what they’ve reviewed last, what you like about their site, or why you think their audience might be interested.

  • Follow up at reasonable intervals. This is going to depend on how regularly the writer posts reviews or coverage, and how much interest they expressed in reviewing your product. If they said they were interested and that they’d get to it, but you haven’t heard anything two or three weeks later, it’s okay to follow up. If they didn’t reply to your email or express interest, follow up once two weeks later, and if you don’t hear back after that, it’s probably safe to assume they’re not interested.

  • Share the review or post on your social channels. Not only does this create social proof for your app, it’s a nice gesture of goodwill to the writer.

  • Send a thank you note afterwards. It’s just polite.

  • If you’ve got more than one person pitching, use a CRM app to keep track of who’s been pitched and when. This will prevent the reviewer feeling bombarded from all angles. Here’s a few suggestions for apps to use, and if you work from inside Gmail or Google Apps, Streak is another great (free!) option. With the proliferation of apps out there, there is no excuse for annoying repeat pitches.

  • If you have a marketing person or team working for you, check in on what they’re doing to make sure they’re following the above guidelines. Sadly, the second scenario outlined above was with a SaaS that had a team behind it — which means the marketing budget is being wasted (because I can guarantee with tactics like that, their success rate for getting coverage is pretty low).

The results of these additions to your PR strategy will likely result in pitching to less people, with a higher success rate. Which means that the same amount of time will be involved (or less!), with better results. And who doesn’t want that?

More:
  • A. Canton

    As a writer, journalist, reviewer, blogger, owner of a small publishing company (adams-blake.com), and a web design firm (newmediawebsitedesign.com) Michele is right on target.

    However, I might suggest that those who are pitching the media also include a link to a “suggested review”… by saying something like “Perhaps our puff-piece review might provide some snippets of content for you, should you be interested… [put URL here].”

    When we brought out our jaya123.com system twelve years ago to mostly hard-copy publications, and when we pitch our web design service to small-biz writers, we’ve always been amazed at how many media will (happily for us) lift a lot of content from our ‘generic’ (puff) review.

    And the ‘thank you’ is also really important. Here are some words to “pitch by”:

    “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

  • http://pajamaproductivity.com Annie Sisk

    Great post, Michelle. I’ve gotten my share of bad pitches – and I don’t even do reviews!

    • http://www.bombchelle.com Michelle Nickolaisen

      Thanks Annie! (Although, sorry about those bad pitches. ;) )

  • http://www.bombchelle.com Michelle Nickolaisen

    That’s something I only see very rarely but it is indeed helpful–if nothing else, having a template to go off of gives you (the reviewer) some talking points to start with. With my format (video reviews), I have about 5m to cover everything and unless the application is incredibly simple, I won’t be able to; so knowing going in what the company considers their selling points makes my job easier.

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