One of the most important channels in any marketers bag, is still good old email. But one of the toughest things to do is get people to open and read them. The whole thing comes down to good actionable content and a great headline. After all who doesn’t want more shares, more back links and a better conversion rate.
Even with great content unless you’re getting in front of the right audience no one will ever read it or take action. There is a bunch of ways to get more visibility, formatting and optimizing your content to increase shares.
Using good SEO across your website and in articles. You can guest post to help get your content out and even use SEM and display advertising to drive new traffic to your content or sales pages.
Or you can send “outreach emails”. This can still be a very effective tactic to help build your exposure.
Bloggers like Brian Dean of Backlinko send nearly 100 outreach emails for every post they publish. Dean learned this from Derek Halpern, who urges bloggers to put five times as much effort into promoting their content as they did creating it. The vast majority of us don’t.
If you really want to get ahead of the pack – to be the marketer that gets exceptional results, who has a huge audience, and who becomes recognized as a pre-eminent expert in their field – it’s time to master outreach emails.
I bet you know what outreach emails are, but just so we’re all on the same page, they’re emails sent to introduce yourself to influential people. They’re usually done to tell someone about a new piece of content you think they’d like, build links or pitch a guest blog post.
Outreach emails can also be used to get clients and build partnerships, but for this article, we’ll focus more on the items above. You can still apply most of what will be said here to partnerships and clients.
Outreach emails are “cold”
Outreach emails don’t necessarily have to be “cold” (i.e., you don’t know the person you’re sending the email to), but they usually are. This isn’t really a good thing – ideally, your outreach emails should be going to people you know fairly well, even if you’ve never met them. And over time, as you build up relationships in your niche, hopefully everyone you mail will know you and respect your work.
So how well do these outreach emails work? Depends on who you are, of course, and how well you execute them. Growth hacker Neil Patel says it’s reasonable to expect responses from about 5-10% of the people you contact.
I got about 40% of my contacts to respond when promoting an ebook recently. Some people have gotten response rates up to 80%.
This simple outreach email template got a 66% response rate for the Buffer team:
If an average 10% response rate doesn’t sound so good, consider this: Outreach emails, when they work, do more than get you what you asked for in the email. They build your network, for starters. And the help you get from these influencers is often better than advertising.
Outreach emails are also free, so if you’re strapped for cash, they may be your best shot at generating buzz.
So here’s how to get started with outreach emails – and what to do before you ever start writing.
1) Have something worth saying or offering in the email
Your outreach email has one job: To convince the recipient you’re offering them something valuable. So don’t send outreach emails for a blog post you spent 30 minutes on, okay?
If you’re going to ask for the attention of these people, get your ducks in a row. If that means you have to go back and put in another 10 hours on that blog post, do it.
Remember how I mentioned Brian Dean sends 100 outreach emails for every post he writes? Well, those posts he’s promoting take 20 hours to create. When he’s sending his emails out, he’s notifying people about a world-class blog post.
Want to increase your chances even more? Try promoting a roundup post, or a “Top 50 People in X” as your first outreach email to a contact. That way you’ll be helping them promote themselves.
This is one of the best outreach emails I have seen, written by Brian Dean to David Schneider, the pitch is simple. Here’s the exact script:
What I love about this outreach email from Brian is that it is relevant.
- He phrases it as though he’s just giving a heads up. The article wasn’t even live yet and he was asking permission to send it to the recipient when it was done.
- He notes that the recipient is a fan of the strategy because he’s seen his comment on the post and share it, and offers to let him be one of the first to see it.
Takeaway: Think about how your pitch relates to something relevant to the blogger or business. For example, mention an article they wrote, a recent social media share/comment, or a project they are working on.
2) Pick your
targets contacts carefully
Don’t send outreach emails to people who don’t have a proven interest in what you’re contacting them about. Otherwise, you’re just wasting their time and yours.
Once you establish what you’re trying to accomplish with your email, you need to identify your target audience before you begin writing. You can’t have an email goal without an audience, and in order to communicate effectively, you need to know and understand who you’re communicating with. No one will open or act on your email if it doesn’t relate to them.
For now, let’s think beyond your email subscribers. Who else is out there? In terms of building brand awareness and gaining influence online with non-subscribers, some common general target audience categories include:
Bloggers. In general, bloggers are their own boss and enjoy connecting with a public audience over a specific topic of interest. There is an inherent amount of ego associated with blogging, and a someone’s personal blog is, in a sense, their online identity. If you decide to target your email at a blogger, ask yourself:
- What subjects does the blogger write about?
- What is the blogger’s mission?
- How would you describe their online voice?
Webmasters/Site Owners. A site owner may be in charge of designing the website, content placement (not necessarily content generation), revising web pages, replying to user comments, etc. There are many instances when an email marketing strategy may require reaching out to a webmaster.
Journalists and Contributors. Multi-subject magazines have a number of article contributors and/or journalists along with an editorial staff. Who you contact depends largely on the scope and purpose of your email.
Organization or Institution Administrators. Academic institutions (.edu), government agencies (.gov), and non-profit organizations (.org) cater to a very specific kind of strategy. Targeting these sites usually requires a new, highly personalized and sincere email for each site contacted.
When planning out the elements of your outreach email, however, there are many additional factors about your audience to consider that will heavily influence the style, tone, diction, etc., and thus effectiveness of your email. Some questions to ask yourself when defining your target audience include:
- What are their demographics? In other words, what are their quantifiable stats? E.g., age, gender identification, location, marital status, etc. However, avoid targeting an email based solely on this data; you will end up with content that talks at people.
- How do they define themselves? This includes what they do and what their background is. What is their education level? Do they have hobbies? What might they experience on a regular basis?
- What are their current behaviors influenced by? People are motivated to share, buy, and publish for a variety of reasons.
- Where do they spend their time online? Sleuthing around social media and Google can shed light on many aspects of a target audience. What does their social media behavior tell us about them? What do they share and like? How do they consume information?
- Who do they listen to? Often, we lump audience and influencers together, but this is not always the most useful way to approach engagement. Once you identify who may be interested in your idea, look into who they trust and why.
- What are their concerns and interests? Try defining their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes towards whatever topics they engage publicly with. The more your message is able to resonate with your target audience, the better your chances are at success.
- What is an interest or concern your company and audience share? Common interests are an opportunity to successfully connect.
- What concerns or problems of theirs can your company solve? Answering this question can shed light on more opportunities to connect and engage. Err on the side of highlighting non-promotional solutions.
3) Know the work of the people you’re emailing
This next one takes a bit of time. You may want to set up a little spreadsheet to manage the information.
You’ve got to know your prospects well. I recommend stepping back from whatever deadline you’re on, and taking an entire day (or more) to create a master list of about 200 people you’d really like to partner with. If you’re an established marketer, you could include the biggest players in your industry. If you’re not, go after people with smaller audiences but whose content you like and who appear to be rising stars.
This list of 200 people isn’t just for promoting your content. Or for link building. It’s for stuff you might not be able to even imagine yet. But compile that list of 200. Then:
- Make a Twitter list of their accounts, so you can easily find and retweet their content.
- Add them to a Feedly collection so you can search their back posts, and stay up with their content.
- Sign up for their email newsletters. Then create a folder specifically for those updates.
- Follow them on all the major social platforms. If you can get them to accept a LinkedIn invite, all the better. Don’t abuse it.
- Leave comments on their blog posts. If you can’t do 200 comments, try to leave at least 50. Comments are one of the best ways to get noticed and to get your outreach emails replied to. They were one of the tactics that helped Eugene Mota get an 80% response rate for his outreach emails and promotion work.
- Review their book/s (if they’ve got a book). This can be even more effective than leaving comments on their blog.
All that is just the beginning of getting to know them. But even after all that, before you send an outreach email to them, add this step: Read at least five of their posts (and 10 or 15 is better). If they don’t have a blog, try spending at least 20 minutes on their site or their company site. Check what they’ve been posting in their social media feeds, too.
Why do all this? Because it gets results:
- It will make your outreach email sound far more authentic.
- It will give you important insights into what they care about, which helps you write a far better outreach email.
Once you really know these people, you’ll know which posts or content to pitch them with. You don’t want to be sending a pitch email to the same person every time you’ve got a new post – they’ll start to tune you out. So having a larger list means you won’t wear these contacts out.
4) Don’t make it hard for them
Want someone to tweet about your new article? Write a few sample tweets for them. Want someone to link back to your site? Include a formatted link that they can just can and paste to add to their site.
No matter what action you want people to take, make it easy for them to take it. Really easy. The easier it is, the more likely they are to do it. If what you want them to do will take more than 4 minutes, they’re probably going to say no, or just simply ignore you. So try to keep the action you want them to take to 2 minutes or less. Save bigger requests for people you actually know.
Remember: You’ve got a crazy amount of competition. If you’re going after major people in your industry, you may be competing with 100 to 400 requests like yours per day.
5) Mention specifics about their work in your pitch email
It’s best if you can include a name of something they’ve done, like “I loved your recent post, “How to Scramble Green Eggs and Ham”. That goes over way better than just, “I love your work.”
While I know personalized emails work best, I probably ought to tell you there are tools like Connector that can automate part of the outreach work. Be careful with them, and maximize their customization features as best you can.
6) Mention why you picked them for this particular action
This is another credibility builder. It’s also a way to sell your request. Being able to say “I think you’re the ideal person for this because of reason A and reason B” gives them a way to access if what you’re offering is something they’d be interested in.
7) Keep the email as short as possible
Any more than 2-3 paragraphs and your responses will go way down. Also:
- Use bullet points.
- Keep paragraphs short.
- Do not have any typos. Just one will spoil your entire message.
Here’s another example of a good outreach email from Tim Soulo to Jimmy Daly from Vero:
1. “I KNOW YOU’RE A FAN OF EPIC ARTICLES…”
This short phrase tells Jimmy that Tim follows the Vero blog, because Jimmy had recently published an article about this on his blog.
So that’s the first REASON for reaching out to him. Tim knows that Jimmy loves epic articles and Tim just published one on his own blog.
2. “…GOT FEATURED IN “MOZ TOP 10” NEWSLETTER…”
That is a perfect example of “social proof”.
Why Jimmy should care about Tim’s article? Because the top SEO community blog, considered it good enough to include in their weekly newsletter!
Ok. But what if Moz didn’t feature your article?
- Well, maybe someone influential tweeted it?
- Or maybe some popular blog linked to it?
- Or it got upvoted like crazy at inbound.org?
- Or it got over 200 shares on Facebook?
- Get the idea?
Is there ANYTHING about your article that proves that you’re not the only one who thinks that it’s cool?
3. “…KINDA BRIAN DEAN’S “SKYSCRAPER TECHNIQUE” ON STEROIDS…”
Tim noticed Jimmy mentioning Brian Dean’s famous “Skyscraper Technique” which meant that he enjoyed it.
Tim’s “Guide To Strategic Writing” was a kind of “more in-depth look into the Skyscraper Technique.” Which could only mean that Jimmy would enjoy it just as much as he enjoyed Brian Dean’s article.
So whenever you see that some blogger is advocating a certain concept, you can use that as a reason to show him your own version of it.
8) Address them by their first name
This can be tricky if you don’t know someone. For instance, say someone’s name is “Robert”, but everyone calls him “Rob”. If you open your email to him with “Robert”, he’ll immediately be onto you.
The way around this? Check peoples’ LinkedIn profiles, especially any recommendations they’ve received. See how the recommenders refer to them.
9) Don’t send all your emails out at once
Send out a batch of about 20 emails, then wait a day or two. See how the results go. Often, the second round of emails you’ll write will be way better. And you might have a chance to catch a typo or a broken link the second time around.
There’s no way around it – outreach emails take a lot of time. That’s why it can be so helpful to create a list of people you really want to partner with. It’s a big time investment up front to get to know people, but that’s ultimately the way to make this promotion technique work best. And it sets you up for easier, more effective outreach emails going forward.
What do you think?
Got any tips for outreach emails not mentioned here? Share your experience – and advice – in the comments.