Understanding the Value of Outreach
At the end of the day, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything that matters more in your life or your business than the relationships you build. As a blogger or business owner, yes, there’s the obvious… you need to consistently provide great value to your audience. But beyond that, one of the absolute best ways to amplify your influence is by building meaningful long-term relationships.
Relationships with your audience. Relationships with fellow bloggers and people in your niche. Relationships with influencers. Relationships with brands. They all have the ability to level-up your business.
So what are you going to do? Are you going to wait for those relationships to come to you? If so, get comfortable…it may be a while. The online world is a crowded space and if you think great content alone is enough you’ve got a rude wake-up call coming. You need to do more. You need to connect.
In other words, you need to become an Outreach Ninja!
But I know what you’re thinking: Outreach can be intimidating! And:
- Who should I reach out to?
- What is my goal?
- How do I even go about it?
- Why in the world would they ever listen to me?
- How do I stand out?
- What do I have to offer?
These are all important questions. Questions an Outreach Ninja needs to be able to answer. Read on to start your training.
Table of Contents
- Part 1: Target Acquisition
- Part 2: The Perfect Outreach Message
- Part 3: Follow-up and Delivery
- Part 4: Conclusions and Takeaways
- Part 5: Useful Outreach Tools
- Part 6: Share Your Thoughts
- Part 7: Free Outreach Guide and Checklist
OUTREACH TRAINING PART ONE: TARGET ACQUISITION
WHO SHOULD YOU REACH OUT TO?
To answer this question you need to first understand your purpose and how you serve. In blogger world you’ll often here about people talking about their niche: the specific area in which they are producing content. But what you need to understand is that the whole goal of content should be to serve an audience and help them with their problems. That’s why instead of saying “niche” I prefer to say “understand your purpose and how you serve”. Make sense? Good, moving on…
I like to divide the people you should reach out to into 4 categories:
People in your niche – Ah, there’s that word again. People in your niche are people whose audience might benefit from your content. Now, I know the initial reaction for many is to see people within their niche as your competition. While I’m not saying that never is the case, let me STRONGLY caution you against this viewpoint. These people likely have some similar content and may serve a similar audience to yours in some similar ways. But also remember, THEY ARE NOT YOU. YOU ARE UNIQUE. In most cases, there is room within a niche for multiple voices and often times people within the same niche can form incredible partnerships. There is no golden rule that applies to all situations. Get to know your niche and stay open to the idea of people within your niche as good outreach targets. No one else knows better what’s involved in running your blog/niche better than they do and they just might make incredible allies.
Influencers you admire and want to learn from – Okay, obvious right? These are people you could learn a lot from and who could really amplify your reach. But you also need to understand that it will be harder to get their attention. These are THE BIG FISH. And it’s okay to go after the BIG FISH, just be ready to bring your A-game and understand you won’t reel them all in.
Brands you want to work with – Brands I feel like are almost a hybrid of the 2 above categories. Think of brands as influencers within your niche because those are the brands you’ll likely want to reach out to. Everything you do needs to align with serving your audience. Accordingly, make sure any brands you do end up working with align with your values and the values of your audience. That’s always the right place to start.
People who fit your avatar (ideal reader/client – Think of people who would benefit from your content/services – In other words, potential clients. If I have to tell you why you’d want to reach out to potential clients, well, then maybe this whole entrepreneur thing isn’t your bag. 🙂
Now that we understand who we should be reaching out to, it’s time to acquire a target!
WHERE DO WE FIND OUR OUTREACH TARGETS, WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR, AND WHAT ARE OUR GOALS?
Okay, now that we understand who we are looking for, let’s turn are attention to “Where do we find them?“, “What are we looking for?“, and “What are our goals?“. Let’s examine these questions for each of our target groups below.
People in your niche
Where can you find people in your niche?
Alright, this should be pretty easy as hopefully you know your niche pretty well and thus, know where to find others within your niche. If not, you need to spend some time getting to know your niche…it’s crucial to your success. If you’re a food blogger then you should know lots of ways to find other food bloggers: foodgawker, social media, discussion forums and groups, other online communities, etc.
For other types of bloggers, you’ll likely have similar strategies for your industry. And don’t forget, there’s no substitute for a good old-fashioned search: google searches, social media searches, word of mouth, etc. So get out there and start finding outreach targets! As you do, start compiling your list.
What are you looking for when targeting people from your niche
- Is this someone I respect?
- Do I see a potential overlap in our audiences?
- Do I see connection points?
- Do they have content gaps I could fill?
- Do I see collaboration opportunities?
- Can I learn from them?
- Can they help me expand my reach?
What are your goals when reaching out to people from your niche?
- To quickly grab their attention
- To provide value and build trust
- To create a launching point for continuing the conversation and building the relationship
These are people of influence that you admire and want to learn from. They might be in your niche, but not necessarily. This one gets a little trickier when you get to the actual outreach step, but acquiring a target should be fairly easy since presumably you already follow them and know how to find them. And nowadays most folks have an online presence and you can usually find at least an email address or a contact form. But if not, then you may have to do a little further digging. Are there social media platforms you can contact them through? Do you have a mutual connection you could leverage? Can you think of other ways to contact them?
What are you looking for when reaching out to influencers?
- Acessibility – Is this someone you’ll likely to get access to? Are they local to your area? Do you have contact information or a mutual friend? How many people are vying for their time?
- Status – Are they a highly respected influencer within your niche? What can they teach you?
- Admiration – Is this someone who embodies the qualities you want your business to personify?
What are your goals when reaching out to influencers?
- Being concise and direct (respectful of their time)
- Expressing Gratitude
- Making it easy for them to say yes
Brands are all around you. Most likely you’re already going to be familiar with a lot of brands related to your niche, but do your homework and make sure you get to know the space and the players really well. Make a list of those that would benefit your audience the most as well as those where you know you can add value.
What are you looking for when reaching out to brands?
- Brands that align with your core values and the needs of your audience
- Brands you’d like to work with. This can simply because it’s a brand you like, respect, and use. Or, maybe you’ve heard from others in your niche that they are a great brand to work with. Or, you feel like your style of marketing would fit perfect with the brand.
- Brands for which you know you can deliver value. This comes down to knowing the brand, knowing it’s a brand that aligns well with your audience, and then developing a marketing plan. You’ll get better at figuring this out over time, but when you’re first starting out a good rule of thumb is to not chase brands just in the name of a paycheck. I know this isn’t always easy and I’d never fault someone for paying their family bills, but just remember it’s really SUPER important that they are good fit for you and your audience (because you want to safeguard the long-term integrity of your brand. Remember what I said before…think of every interaction as a way to build or lose trust with your audience).
What are your goals when reaching out to brands?
- Getting your foot in the door. Even if you don’t end up working together immediately you still want to make a positive impression and put yourself on their radar. It may lead to returns down the road.
- Providing value. Always.
- Learning more about the brand, their workflow, and the ways in which you might be able to serve them in the future.
Ideal Clients/Blog Readers
This category might take a little longer to initially locate, but it’s super important that you find them!
If you’re a blogger then some of the obvious things are people on your email list, people that follow and engage with you on social media, people that comment on your blog, etc. Think of this as the “low-hanging fruit”. Please DO NOT discount these individuals just because they already may follow your blog or are on your email list. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE YOU CURRENTLY SERVE AND IT’S SO IMPORTANT YOU DO IT WELL. What are their pain points? How can you serve them better. Figuring this out might be a big key to attracting others. People talk, ya know?
If you’re looking to attract new followers or clients that are not already engaged with your blog/brand then be prepared to dig a little deeper. A great place to start is with things like discussion forums and facebook communities. These can be goldmines! It’s SO IMPORTANT that you figure out where your potential clients and ideal readers hang out and that you continually are learning new and improved ways to serve them. Don’t skimp on this step, it’s super important.
What to look for when reaching out to prospective clients?
- People who are a good match for your content/services. If you can ease their pain, then they are a good prospect.
- People who fit your avatar and through whom you can continue to learn how to serve your audience better.
What are your goals when reaching out to prospective clients?
- Making a connection and making them aware that you may be a good resource for them
- Providing value. Always.
- Learning more about your audience and your ideal avatar
Okay, so let’s take a moment to review. We’ve covered the value of outreach, the different categories of people that make good outreach targets, how to find them and what your goals should be…so now we just actually have to do it! Are you ready?
Part 2: The Art of Constructing the Perfect Outreach Message
Now that you’ve identified who you are reaching out to, it’s time to actually construct your outreach message. And make no mistake, outreach is an art form. Your outreach should be unique and colored with your personality. That said, there are some elements that I believe should be involved in every great outreach effort. Let’s go over your Essential Outreach Checklist
ESSENTIAL OUTREACH CHECKLIST
Be complimentary/Express gratitude – I don’t know anyone who tires of a sincere compliment. Look for sincere ways to express gratitude and pay a compliment (Check out EOFire episode 1107 on Flipping the Gratitude Switch). This costs you nothing, but can carry a lot of weight. In its simplest form this can be as easy as saying “thank you”. If the person , blog, or business in question has impacted you in a positive way, why not let them know why and how?. Not only is this great for them to hear a compliment, it’s also valuable information for them; Every business owner benefits from hearing the positive ways in which they are affecting their audience (See more on the value of testimonials). But let me offer you a word of caution which can be applied to all of the below items as well, don’t try to fake this! Authenticity, Integrity, and honestly need to be your guides in all that you do. If you enter into relationships with anything less, don’t be surprised when they are less than they could otherwise be.
Be authentic, honest, and genuine – As stated above, this is of the utmost important. I’m a firm believer that the universe will ultimately return what you’re putting out there. Take shortcuts and practice deception at your own risk. (The Power of Authenticity)
Provide Value – This is HUGE! Providing value is the launch point for any successful outreach effort. And why is that? Because trust is the bedrock of and solid relationship. And providing value is a crucial first step in building trust. So provide value. And then do it again. And again. It might not happen instantly, but if you do it again and again, believe me, they will start to take notice. (Why Creating and Adding Value is the Key to Success)
Have an angle/play to your strengths –
This step and the above step really go hand-and-hand. And I understand they can be tricky, especially when reaching out to more established bloggers and influencers. But trust me, you are unique and you have strengths (4 Ways to Discover Your Strengths). Play to your strengths.
As an example, my wife and I run a food blog and when reaching out to other bloggers I always offer to jump on a Skype call and help them with any entrepreneurial or technical issues they are struggling with at the moment since I know that is an area of strength for me. Now, this does take effort. But the potential benefits are two-fold: First, it often helps me get my foot in the door. Second, when we advance the conversation to Skype and I provide real value it takes the trust level and the relationship to the next level. And, yes, I’ve have outreach targets turn into skype calls turn into clients turn into trusted friends and allies! But you have to deliver.
When you choose your value angle, make sure it’s something you’re pretty confident you can deliver on. Yes, you may be a little more anxious and unsure of yourself when you first start out, but the more you practice and get confident in the areas in which you can consistently deliver, the better you’ll become at honing your value angle. Also, understand that if you are just starting out it will take you a little while to come up with your value angle. That’s okay!
Remember #1 from atop this list? Express gratitude. That’s something we all can do so everyone has everyone has a value angle. No excuses! And I suspect as time passes you’ll find your value angle only increases. If not, roll up your sleeves and find a way to make one of your strengths an invaluable resource that will benefit others. It just takes one.
Find a Connection Point – We’re emotional creatures, are we not? At least I know I am! You might be familiar with the phrase “it’s not personal, it’s business”. I HATE THAT PHRASE! It’s all personal. At least in my world. And I suspect many other feel the same. So take a little time to research your target and find a genuine connection point. You don’t have to spend TONS of time doing this; In fact, I find a lot of the time it’s as easy as visiting the about section of their website and learning a little about them and their business. More times than not that leads me to a connection point. It could simply be your blog niche. Maybe it’s just that you’re both parents. Maybe you’re from the same geographic region. Whatever it is, try to work that into your outreach effort. Again, you want to be genuine. This isn’t about being manipulative, it’s about being a thoughtful human being and trying to make a sincere emotional connection.
Be concise – Okay, this is tricky, but the more you practice outreach and start to figure out what works best, the more you’ll find your sweet spot. It’s tricky because I’m showing you this long list of things that all make valuable additions to your outreach effort, but at the same time you need to remember their time is valuable and this might not be the right time to write a novel. Grab their attention, hit your checklist of items, but then get out. Again, this takes practice and also might involve you making an assessment of your current target; If you’re going after a BIG FISH they probably get tons of email and their time is at a premium. Likely you have a small window to make an impression so be concise and hit your important points quickly.
Be You/Be Unique – Just being another one of the pack isn’t going to get you noticed. Be you, be unique. Not only does this line up with being genuine and authentic – which we now understand are crucial – it’s also probably your best shot at getting noticed. It also might be a great gauge as to whether you and your target are a good match. If they don’t respond well to the genuine version of you then that’s not the best place to build from. So go ahead and record that singing youtube outreach message if that’s your style, but at least make sure you can hold a tune (definitely out as an option for me) and always consider your target and what they’re likely to respond well too.
Include an easy call to action – How are you going to get on that Pinterest board if you don’t ask? If you want that influencer to become your mentor then you have to ask. But a quick note about that second one and really any call to action: be super clear about what you are asking for and make it as easy as possible for your target to say yes. An example which I’ve heard before from other entrepreneurs would be that if you’re asking someone to be your mentor you might phrase it like this: “Hey Mrs. X, I really admire and respect who you are and how you run your business. I’d absolutely be over the moon excited if you would agree to become my mentor. And what I mean by that is I’d love to buy you coffee once a month at a time and place of your convenience and spend 10 minutes chatting with you about your business”. Do you see how you’ve greatly lowered the anticipated obligation on their part by being super clear and removing the ambiguity? Your chances for a yes just went way up!
Don’t ask for anything – Wait, what? Isn’t this a direct contradiction to having a call to action? Well, it is and it isn’t. You remember I said outreach is an art form, right? Well, this is another nuance that proves that to be true. Yes, I like to preach that you should give, give, give. But there’s also the understanding that the reason for doing outreach is that it can be an absolute game-changer for your business.
“don’t ask for something”. Often times in food blogger world you might be reaching out to someone to see if you might be able to become a contributor on one of their group boards so I’ll use that as an example.
Here is how I would ask:
“Hi Awesome Blogger, I came across your board for Gluten-Free recipes. I have a number of pins that I think would be a great fit for your board and audience and I’d love to be added as a contributor. Of course, I would follow all board rules and only pin high-quality content. Thanks for the consideration, but know this: Regardless of whether or not your board is open for contributors at this time I’d still be more than happy to provide the [ABOVE MENTIONED VALUE] to you.”
So yes, technically I am asking for something, but I’ve flipped it around by removing all expectations of a yes and making sure they understand my value offer stands and is not contingent on getting a yes. And I think this is a really important step…if you suddenly retract your offer of value when you don’t get the response you desire…well…that comes off as slimy and manipulative and is not the best way to build trust and your reputation. Don’t be that guy. Your reputation is EVERYTHING! Make sure it’s something you safeguard before it’s gone.
Use a template the right way – All of the above it great, but it’s a lot of work! While I do believe that all outreach efforts should be personalized taking all the above into consideration, I also think it’s okay (and smart) to build different outreach templates for the different types of outreach you do on a regular basis. Give yourself a starting point that saves you time, but then be sure to jump in there and personalize all the sections where it’s appropriate to do so. Yes, it would be possible to send out even more outreach emails in a shorter amount of time if you didn’t personalize them. Heck, sometimes this might even work and you might get positive responses. But again, I caution you. Don’t be so quick to compromise integrity. You’re playing the long game and you’re playing for keeps. Building the right relationships can have a huge amplification effect on your business and I believe you want to start off on the right foot.
I also believe if you practice the above list you can get good at executing it in a timely but genuine fashion. In other words, strive for efficiency, but do things the right way. If you do so I think you’ll find much greater success in your outreach efforts over the long haul.
Okay, so we’ve talked about the right things to do as part of your outreach so that should give us a good idea of the wrong things to do, but let’s review them anyway…just so you’re crystal clear.
Sorry…I couldn’t resist. I love that movie (A Few Good Men)!
THE ESSENTIAL DON’T DO OUTREACH CHECKLIST
Send mass outreach – Whatever you do don’t become SPAMMY. While I do believe starting with a template is just part of a smart and efficient workflow, you absolutely have to take the time to personalize each outreach effort. If you don’t then it’s just not something you can do nearly as effectively and I believe it will cost you in the long run.
Come off as pushy – Anytime you send an email or give someone a call you are asking them for a few moments of their valuable time. You have to do it respectively. If you come out of the gate in the wrong fashion you’re going to lose their attention and you might never get a chance to get it back.
Ask before building trust – Trust is everything. Give. Give. And then give some more. Earn trust and then make your ask once you’ve earned the right to do so and they understand you are coming from a genuine place. As stated above, I believe that if you do ask for something in an initial outreach email you have to be very careful in how you do so; Make sure you make it perfectly clear that you understand they may not be able to fulfill your request and that you are still ready and happy to provide them with value.
Promote your own agenda – So this is the same idea as the above items. Relationships need to be mutually beneficial. And when starting new relationship you often need to be the one to take initiative and provide value first without promoting your own agenda. I’m not saying don’t have one, I’m saying you need to realize you may need to keep it on the backburner until you’ve proved you are a person of value and shown that there is an opportunity there for a mutually beneficial relationship.
Show disrespect for their time – Again, don’t be an idiot! There’s no quicker way of killing opportunities than being disrespectful of someone’s time.
Get their name wrong – I hope this is obvious. But if you are doing a lot of outreach and starting with a template, then be sure to personalize it and roll your eyes over it several times before hitting send. Trust me, that extra double-check will save you some embarrassment.
Expect something in return – This can be a tough one, I know, because obviously, you want to get a return on your investment. And, obviously, you do reach out to people with certain end goals in mind. But this is one of those situations where I suggest that you have a little faith. Exercise patience. Trust in the process and understand that the best way of forming meaningful relationships is to just adopt the mindset of helping people and letting the rest evolve organically. Which isn’t to say you can’t bring your own agenda to the table, just make sure the timing is right and you’ve earned the required trust points.
Use a template the wrong way – You could come up with a template and just start firing it off to as many people as possible, right? You could reach a lot more people in a lot less time. But, would you be really reaching them? There’s a lot of noise out there and I doubt you’re going to cut through it with a template. How do you respond to impersonal emails that ask for something without providing value to you? Do yourself a favor and do it the right way.
Include a 10MB attachment – Umm….duh! Don’t do this.
Include pictures of your cat Mr. Meowington – I know he’s cute and all, but save the super personal stuff for down the road if and when it ever becomes appropriate.
Okay, those last 2 are obvious I hope, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be the first time these things have been done. Don’t be that guy or gal.
QUICK NOTE ON OUTREACH DELIVERY METHODS
The above was written mainly with email outreach in mind, but be aware that many different outreach channels exist: email, social media, standard phone calls, skype calls, face-to-face meet-ups, singing telegrams, etc. All of these are possible. Now a singing telegram might not be the way to go…then again, it certainly might separate you from the crowd and make you stand out. I think the most important part of deciding what outreach channel to use is thinking about the preferred method of communication for your outreach target. This may take a little digging on your part, but it might be the difference between a successful outreach effort and an unsuccessful outreach effort.
Part 3: Follow-up and Delivery
THE NO-REPLY FOLLOW-UP
So you’ve sent off your outreach effort, you’re done, right? NO!!! First, understand that people are extremely busy and often flooded with emails and social media messages. So some of your messages might not even get a reply. This is the first case where follow-up plays a role and this is where I love using the tool Boomerang for Gmail. It is a tool for easy email reminders that lets you schedule emails, but also lets you return emails to your inbox (thus, the boomerang name). For example, when I send an outreach message to Mr. X on Monday I can tell gmail to return that sent email to my inbox on Thursday. Isn’t that cool?! We all get super busy and that’s a pretty great way of reminding yourself of your outreach efforts and gives you a chance to send a follow-up email if they haven’t responded yet.
For the no-reply follow-up, all the same rules apply. In other words don’t write “Hey loser, thanks for ignoring me!”. Keep it kind, keep it simple. Something like the following would be appropriate: “Hello Mr. X. I sent you the below email a week ago and did not receive a reply. No worries, I totally understand that you’re super busy and likely don’t have time to reply to all of your emails, but I did want to send this one follow-up message today bumping this back up to the top of your inbox just in case you missed it before because I would love to be able to provide you with value by [quick summary of your value pitch] as outlined below. Thanks so much for the consideration. All the best, [a friendly outreach ninja]”. Make sense, right?
Now, I wouldn’t get carried away with your no-reply follow-up. Don’t do it again and again and again until you become a nuisance and ensure you’ll never work or collaborate with said person. One no-reply outreach follow-up is probably enough. But I guarantee you that if you consistently do outreach that sending a no-reply follow-up email will lead to connections you might have otherwise missed.
When you do get a positive reply, be ready to immediately follow-up and deliver on the value you promised. If that’s a skype call, get it scheduled. If you offered to write a guest post, discuss the details and get something more firm in place. Whatever it is, YOU HAVE TO DELIVER. I like to look at every interaction as an opportunity to either build trust or lose trust. So what are you going to do? Deliver, build trust, and grow the relationship.
Here’s where the magic happens, but it’s also the part that takes commitment and real effort. Remember, the whole goal of outreach is to find meaningful mutually beneficial long-term relationships. The initial outreach is just the launch point. Everything that follows is up to your level of commitment.
Understand that not all outreach efforts are going to lead to meaningful long-term relationships, but the ones that do have the potential to be total game changers. So, put in the effort! Always lead with honesty, authenticity, and integrity. Provide real value. Do it again. Do it again. Continue to build trust and grow the relationship. Strong relationships have the potential to be the bedrock of your thriving blog/business.
Part 4: Conclusions and Takeaways
Now, there’s something else that’s important to understand. You will get rejected. A lot! But get used to this and embrace this. As long as you are going about your outreach the right way then rejection okay and necessary. I heard John Lee Dumas on his EOFire podcast present a good tip for outreach that I think is rather smart and it involves flipping outreach on its head. The strategy is simple: Wake up every day with the goal of getting 10 “No’s”. What? Get rejected 10 times, how can this be a good strategy? Well, the idea is this: Rejection is unavoidable and is going to be a normal part of outreach so why not embrace it and remove the stigma and emotional pain associated with rejection by making rejection the goal. Think about it…whether you get up in the morning with the goal of getting a yes or the goal of getting 10 rejections, the results will be the same. So why not put yourself in a situation where you go to bed at night feeling good about your efforts and embracing the rejection received. Isn’t that better than wallowing over rejection? Yes, it’s a bit of a voodoo mind trick, but you are training to be an outreach ninja after all and by flipping the script you take the power away from the rejection and instead power yourself. And regardless, the over-riding point is this: rejection is unavoidable, but have faith that the “yes”’s will come if you consistently go about outreach the right way.
TRUST THE PROCESS, STAY THE COURSE
We live in a world of instant gratification where we’ve come to expect everything to happen RIGHT NOW. Our mobile devices put the internet and the world right at our fingertips. So, I understand, it’s tempting to look for shortcuts. But I want you to remember, building relationships takes time. You have to build trust. You have to consistently put in effort. So I would advise you against looking for the easy way and encourage you to embrace the process laid out for you above. There’s always room for increased efficiency and working smarter, but that should never mean comprising your honesty, authenticity or your integrity. Trust the process. Stay the course.
Part 5: A few useful outreach tools
I’ll leave you with a quick short list of tools that may aid you in your outreach efforts:
- Excel/Google Drive/Dropbox/Evernote – These popular tools are the perfect place to start when you don’t have a big budget. I love all of these for managing files and organizing your workflow.
- Boomerang for Gmail – mentioned above, boomerang is a great tool for email reminders and for returning messages to your inbox.
- Contactually – Maybe not something to use right out of the gate, but Contactually is a tool that facilitates networking and helps you manage all your connections as they grow.
- Ninja Outreach – An all-in-one solution for helping you manage your outreach campaigns….c’mon, the name….I had to include it on this list.
- RocketBolt Email Tracking – rocketbolt.com/install. Track email opens and link clicks.
Part 6: Share your outreach ideas in the comments below
All of the above should have you well on the ninja path, but remember, a good ninja never stops training. Continue to hone your skills and develop the outreach workflow that works best for you. And if you have an outreach tactics of your own that have been working really well, please share them with your fellow ninjas in the comments below!
Best of luck with your outreach. Happy hunting!