Before starting outreach for a client or for your own business, it is important to understand and recognize what makes outreach work. The type of outreach may vary from project-to-project, but there are certain underlying characteristics that will always be present in any effective outreach effort. Below we will go through how to conduct effective outreach using five core principles.
5 Principles of Effective Outreach
1. Understand the Psychology of Persuasion
- Reciprocity: Starting your outreach efforts by offering value (with no catch) will greatly increase your chances of having the favour returned by your targets.
- Commitments: It’s often better to ask for a very small commitment at first. If you can earn this type of commitment at first, you are much more likely to follow through later on and earn bigger commitments.
- Authority: You’ll want to somehow display your authority when contacting propspects whenever you can. There is an implicit trustworthiness that comes with authority, especially when you are an expert in a certain niche.
- Social Proof: Without being completely obnoxious, it is good to point out other authority figure you have worked or collaborated with. This can show that it could be mutually beneficial to work with you and of course socially acceptable.
- Linking (Rapport): Whether it’s rational or not, we are more likely to do business with somebody that we like. This is not only a crucial part of outreach but is the foundation of marketing in general. Try and point out your similarities rather than your differences, and depending on you your target is, don’t get too formal. Outreach should be fun!
2. Pick Your Targets Wisely
You don’t want to spend huge amounts of time reaching out to people who are firstly never going to work with you, but also if the exposure and/or links are not worth all of the hard work.
What you have to ask yourself when picking targets is: “would I build this link if it were no-follow?” If the answer to this is no, then it is highly likely that time and effort required will not be worth it. Focus on sites with high levels of audience engagement and social activity. This way your efforts will likely result in referral traffic and even attract secondary links naturally.
3. Don’t Save Business for Last
There is one major mistake often made by outreach professionals when they have relationship building in mind, which is to save ‘business’ until the end of their message. The reality is that whoever you are targeting will already know that you have a business agenda. Therefore, it is best to start your messages with a sentence that at least indicates the nature of business. This way you will neither scare them off, nor make them feel manipulated.
4. Understand the Nature of Choice
Humans are known to like the freedom of choice. But at the same time, no one likes being forced to make a decision. With many things there is often a default choice which people are attracted to. In the case of an unsolicited email, the default response is usually to delete it. You need to somehow replace this default choice with one of your own (if possible) if you want to improve your outreach conversion rates.
The default choice that you give should be extremely easy. The best way to go about this is to give them both the option of this extremely easy commitment, along with a larger (and probably preferable) task. If you have offered them something of value, then they are much more likely to at least see the easier commitment as the default, rather than simple deleting the email.
5. Write an Awesome Subject Line
The title is by far the most important part of outreach, it is the only way to get people to even open an email. Here are 3 priorities you will want to think about:
- Get their name in the subject, personalize the title!
- Give them some context, for example mentioning somebody they know or admire, or somebody who recommended them.
- Be unique! For the right contact, even be outright bizarre. Most of all be intriguing.
3 Types of Outreach
There are several different types of outreach that can be used to get a brand in front of a consumer. Some types of outreach depend on a strong, collaborative partnership between the site owner and outreacher, while others offer the site owner a completed piece of content that requires little or no additional work.
The main types of outreach are summed up into three categories below.
1. Guest Posting
With guest posting, the outreacher will contact publishers with a few ideas for an article, let the publishers choose which they feel would be the best fit for their readers, and then provide a completed article on the chosen topic. This method of outreach typically requires the least amount of work for the publisher because articles are completed in full before submission.
Guest posting is generally used when the goal of an outreach project is to drive links to a specific page on a brand’s site, oftentimes using optimized anchor text. Guest posting is usually most successful when this specific page is a relevant, informational resource that provides value to the article and is worthy of being included. Besides obtaining links, guest posting is also used to improve authorship and establish a brand’s thought leadership in front of a new audience; hopefully one that is engaged and likely to interact with the brand.
Guest posting does have its drawbacks. Publishers are intelligent, and using guest posting as a method to link to conversion pages will often be seen as spammy. That is why ensuring the desired pages are information-based often results in a better success rate.
Guest posting is different than content-based outreach, as guest posting is typically used to promote content that doesn’t have that “viral appeal” that enables it to earn links on its own.
2. Content-based Outreach
Content-based outreach is different from guest posting in that it is often pitched as an all-encompassing resource rather than as part of an article or post . Examples of content-based outreach can include infographics or data visualizations, badges, ebooks, videos, and guides. Content-based outreach focuses on promoting a resource that will benefit a specific target audience or group. It can be a great method for establishing a brand as an authoritative expert in a particular niche.
Content-based outreach works best when the promoted topic is not so general that it fails to create interest, but also not so specific that it only is relevant to a small group of people. Content-based outreach will typically provide the site owner with an easy way to embed it on his/her site, such as through the use of en embed code or high-resolution press packet.
3. Product-based Outreach
Product-based outreach is a method of outreach that actually gives a product or service away to a site owner or his/her readers. This method is most commonly used in hopes of earning a review, engaging readers, or getting the site owner to interact with the brand in some way (for example, if a blogger uses a brand’s product to create a DIY project).
Product-based outreach is a great way to encourage audience interaction through social sharing (comments, tweets, likes, etc.). It’s also a great way to form relationships with site owners and possibly get them to become brand advocates. It could even result in links to specific product or conversion pages. However, note that Google’s Webmaster Guidelines encourages site owners to nofollow these links and discounts them (meaning they may not affect rankings).
Reviews, contests, and giveaways all require a high level of commitment from the site owner, as he/she will primarily be responsible for creating and posting the content on the site (especially for reviews). However, product-based outreach can be a highly successful method of outreach when done correctly because let’s face it, people love free stuff. This means the response and conversion rate of this type of outreach is typically higher than the other methods listed here.
Examples of Good and Bad Outreach
Below are a couple of examples of good and bad outreach for an affordable fashion blog.
What they did wrong: It is written very poorly, is an unpersonalised request for an unsolicited guest post. Enough said! What’s more is the brand is completely irrelevant.
What they did right: Absolutely nothing!
What they did wrong: It isn’t personalised and the compliment seems completely phony. She didn’t offer any ideas but instead asked the blogger for her ideas. Um, no!
What they did right: Again, absolutely nothing!
What they did right: They researched ahead of time and found out that the blogger had featured the brand in question before. This is an example of good prospecting. The email was straight the point and very clear, and displayed an openness to hearing the bloggers ideas for collaboration/partnership.
What are your outreach experiences?