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.
There are plenty of ways to gain visibility. We’ve written about them in several posts. You can format and optimize your content for more shares. You can advertise. You can improve your pages’ SEO.
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.
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. – Read more