Want more shares for your content? More backlinks? A guest post gig? You may need some help to get there. Having great content or a great site is one thing, but unless you can get yourself in front of the right people, you may never be widely known.
Or you can send “outreach emails”. This ends up actually being one of the most effective tactics if you really want 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 the 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
- 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 with the bullet points. 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. Neil Patel says it’s reasonable to expect responses from about 5-10% of the people you contact. I got about 20% of my contacts to respond when I was promoting a Facebook contest not too long ago. 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’ve gotten in months. I replied to it and asked for the research – which I got.
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.
And even if you know your contacts fairly well, make sure it’s reflected right in the subject line. Not sure how? Here are several strategies that work for cold emails particularly well.
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.
Bear in mind, it’s not only about what you’re asking them to do, but also how you’re asking them. The way you word your request makes a big difference and can affect your response-rates.
Here’s what Brooklyn Nash, of Wiza, suggests:
Our first instinct in sales is to provide a crystal clear CTA that automates the next step. But people are tired of hearing ‘Do you want to jump on a 15 minus call to discuss?’ Instead of linking to your calendar, make your CTA lower stakes and easier to respond to. Ending your question with a simple question (“Is this something you’re interested in?“) is a good bet. Gong found that interest-based CTAs are much more effective (and lead to more meetings) than an action-oriented CTA.
Brooklyn has also written a thorough article that lists over 30 tips that’ll help you increase your recipients’ engagement.
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 an example of a good outreach email that went on just a bit too long. I like the link to the headline tool – that’s useful. But giving feedback for it seemed like too much work. And then pitching a blog post on top of it made the email seem too long. Maybe I’m just lazy.
I get a lot of outreach emails that are triggered by things I’ve shared on Twitter. This is one of the better ones.
8) Address them by their first name
This can be tricky if you don’t know someone. For instance, say someone’s name is “Patrick”, but everyone calls him “Pat”. If you open your email to him with “Patrick”, 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.