The parenting business is big business and all of the companies out that that make products for the parenting market are on the lookout for good press and for realistic, honest opinions of their products. Good reviews of their products can be as productive, if not MORE effective than any number of advertising campaigns. As such, manufacturers, retailers and promoters of mother and baby products are always on the lookout for places or people who will review their products and give them useful feedback and a good old-fashioned plug.
There are several ways that you, as a Mum (or Dad, or Grandparent etc.) can contribute to the development and advertising of parenting products – I'll cover a few of them here – consumer surveys, website reviews, forums (see.... that blimin' word has been in every single on of my lessons so far. I PROMISE to look up the correct ending before lesson 5) and finally, blogs. If you contribute to these, and make a name for yourself, you are more than likely to receive free baby goodies either to keep, or at least to try out.
Image: Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I have been filling in online consumer surveys pretty much since I first discovered the internet (way back in the dark ages). They all offer some form of incentive: for the 3 or 4 surveys I complete a week, I receive a slow, but steady income of cash or vouchers over the year (perhaps a couple of hundred pounds). You do very occasionally get the odd survey specifically about baby stuff and one or two of them offer you products to try but when I became pregnant I discovered two survey sites specifically targeted at mums and mums-to-be. mumsopinions and mumsurvey both send out occasional surveys and one or two of them result in free products to try and review. Mumsurvey only offer entries into a prize draw, but mumsopinions offer cash reward which you can redeem for vouchers such as Mothercare, John Lewis, Boots or many more, meaning you can save money on many of your everyday baby buys, or splash out on something special. If you are interested in finding out about some of the non-mummy survey sites I use, leave a comment or tweet me and I will send you details.
Many of the parenting websites encourage users to write reviews of products that they have used. Thinkbaby, Mumsnet, babyworld and thebabywebsite all have member review areas where it is easy to add your own review of a product, or to search and read reviews of existing products. I've learned, having written my own reviews, that these sites offer some very valuable information from real mums about the effectiveness and value for money for a wide range of baby bits; they've helped me makes decisions about my own purchases. On the other hand, there are also some very pants reviews e.g. “This was good, I liked it”.
If you're wondering how writing reviews for these sites results in you receiving free baby stuff then here's how. Firstly, some sites (specifically thebabywebsite, but I'm sure there are more) allow you to sign up to become a product reviewer; in the case of thebabywebsite, they charge you a small fee and guarantee that in the space of a year, the items sent to you for review will be at least the value of your fee. So far, I have received a complete set of Dr. Browns bottles which were pretty good, and a Cantloop nursing bra which quite honestly is the best bra I have ever owned.
If you write a lot of good-quality, honest product reviews and become an active member of a review website (perhaps also regularly contributing to forum discussions about products) then it is not unheard of for companies to get in contact and offer you some seriously sought-after goodies to review! Even if you never get that lucky, then you may be invited to be a reviewer for a magazine article or even for annual awards. This year, after responding to a survey on askamum, I was invited to be a reviewer for the annual Mother & Baby awards – I received a whole host of products to try, all of which I was able to keep and most of which were items I would have loved, but would never have forked out for myself.
Image: Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The last of my tips on how to get free baby stuff for offering your views on baby products, is to blog about the stuff you like! I know that many of you mummy bloggers out there have a love/hate relationship with the PR bods, and others of you are directly involved in PR yourselves. PR and mummy-blogging sit well together because blogs are a great way of telling the world about the things you love (and the things you hate). If you find a blog you like to read, one you trust, then you are likely to value their opinion on parenting products – the PR world rates blogs which have lots of loyal followers and will send you items to review (sometimes they want them back afterwards though – doh!).
There are a number of big blogs out there such as Mummy Reviews that 'DO' product reviews in a big way. As a new mum, new to blogging, it gives me something to aim for! But, if like me, your blog isn't of the kind of scale to attract droves of PR gurus then a glowing (but honest), well-written review can still attract freebies. I recently received a lovely box of goodies from a manufacturer as a thank-you for a review I had written (totally unprompted) about a product that I genuinely rate.
So, if you are someone who enjoys sharing your views with other parents, why not put pen to (virtual) paper now!
Right, that's it from me – I'm signing off for Christmas now. See you on the flip side.
Coming after Christmas, the last in the series:-
Lesson 5 – Great Ways to Get Something for Nothing
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Lesson 1 – Second Hand, Not Second Rate
Lesson 2 – Make the Most of Baby Clubs
Lesson 3 – Winning Ways