The point of outreach isn’t to get a “yes” first.
That’s just one of the several game-changing things I learned about email outreach while working at Elite Daily as the Contributing Writers Recruiter.
My job was to basically grow our base of contributors by connecting with other writers that could produce the kind of content our readers loved.
Elite Daily was a platform with LOTS of traffic that they could share their stories on. For some, that meant getting access to the market of Millennials and gaining credibility.
But for others, the offer was a total insult. I’ll get into that more, later.
At the end of this six-month project, I communicated with a little over 1,000 bloggers, influencers, writers and talent. Of that group, about 400 of them became contributors for Elite Daily’s platform.
Reaching out to 1,000+ strangers on the internet is no easy task. But I wanted to share what I learned with you before you try to do it yourself.
First, let’s quickly go over the reasons WHY you should be reaching out to people on a regular basis.
If you’re a professional trying to develop an awesome career…
Outreach is your best friend when it comes to growing and strengthening your network. By making a habit of sending cold emails to people you admire online, you not only improve your communication skills, but you also forge relationships with people who become critical in the development of your career.
If you’re trying to get the word out about your company…
Improving your outreach skills will save your ass when you need publicity but can’t afford a PR firm.
If you’re a freelancer trying to get more awesome clients…
Cold emailing people is one of the BEST ways to get the clients you want. In the process of outreach, you’d research each prospect to see if there’s a good fit before even having a conversation. As Ramit Sethi of IWT says, “80 percent of the work is done before you ever walk into the room.” Plus, it shows you can HUSTLE instead of just waiting for the perfect clients to fall into your lap (newsflash: that never happens).
If you’re a brand trying to work with influencers…
Here’s the thing about influencers — they’re DYING to work with brands that are a perfect match. You can make their lives easier by reaching out to them first, instead of waiting for them to discover you.
OK, so before you start reaching out to people to get noticed, get new clients, grow your network or build brand awareness, here’s a breakdown of what I learned during this giant outreach project that will help you crush it.
1. It’s not you. Some people are just really snobby.
Do you know how many times I heard the words, “What do you mean you don’t pay writers?”
Wayyyy too many times. As a freelancer now, I kinda understand that response from writers I reached out to who make their living writing for publications.
BUT! I still write for free, guys. Especially if it gets me in front of the eyes of people I want to be looking at me.
Why? Because 98% of the writing I do for a living (as a copywriter and ghostwriter) doesn’t have my name on it. So I see opportunities to write for sites like Elite Daily, Medium, The Financial Diet, Thought Catalog, MindBodyGreen and more as a fantastic opportunity to build my online presence.
Around three out of 10 writers I reached out to didn’t see it that way, though.
Rejection is going to happen, but don’t let it get you down. Some people don’t see the value in relationships. They expect everything to be transactional.
When you reach out to people, you’re not just offering them a chance to be a part of your journey/promote your product/write a story about you… you’re offering them a RELATIONSHIP with you, which is more of an investment.
Here’s how I handled this: When I got a ton of “no’s” I went back to my pitch. I asked myself, how can I improve this to get their interest and gratitude? How can I use this opportunity to be something positive in their inbox instead of just another nagging request? It also made me re-think WHO I reached out to, and what to look for on their about pages. Some people blatantly said, “I don’t write for free” on their websites, so I just didn’t bother! But at the end of the day, know that it’s not you. If you get rejected, maybe that person was just really hangry when they saw your email.
2. You don’t need to use fancy CRM tools, but you should track everything.
You guys, I did six months of outreach and the only thing I used to track my correspondence was a Google spreadsheet.
Keep in mind, this was my full-time job, so I had plenty of time to put care and attention into my complicated tracking system.
Maybe if I did it all over again, I would use a free CRM plugin for Gmail. But it wasn’t necessary. Email isn’t that complicated.
About halfway through, I started using Yesware to remind myself to follow up with certain people, but that’s it.
Want to be successful with outreach? Track everything.
I’d start with name, email, website, highest engagement social media account, number of followers on that account, niche/industry and how they responded to your email. Did they ignore it? Are they interested? Did they reject it? These are all things you want to keep track of whatever way works best for you.
3. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you think are too “big.”
You don’t have anything to lose.
Let me just repeat that. You don’t. Have anything. To lose.
If the worst is hearing a “no” and the best is getting a “yes,” think about it this way: your life doesn’t change when you hear no. But it changes for better when you get what you’re asking for.
You HAVE to ask.
Emails are harmless, as long as you do it right. Obviously, you don’t want your emails to leave a bad taste the receiver’s inbox.
Like I said before, some people are snobby. Some people are busy. Some people are on vacation or maybe they just got married or are just going through a funk. The point is, a slow or lack of response usually has NOTHING to do with you.
Reach out to people who are “out of your league.” It’s EXHILARATING. It’s the closest thing to riding a roller coaster without going to a theme park.
Tone It Up, especially, was a big deal for me because I have been a fan of Karena and Katrina since college. That wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t reach out and ask.
4. Embrace working with publicists, assistants and other people on influencer’s teams.
In some conversations I’ve had about influencer outreach especially, people don’t seem to want to deal with anyone BUT the influencer themselves.
Listen, if you want influencers on your team, you need to play by their rules.
For example, to get content from the Tone It Up founders, I only worked with their awesome publicists and never once communicated with them directly.
Remember that the team around the people you’re reaching out to are just there to protect their time and energy. They’re the gatekeepers, and they look out for the best opportunities. If you make a good case for why they should work with and have a relationship with you, you’ll be able to successfully collaborate.
Don’t be above working with an assistant. They’re just as important as the influencer themselves.
5. Perfect your emails.
The first draft of your outreach emails should never be your last.
After reaching out to 10 people, you’ll see what questions you need to address in your pitch before they come up. You’ll also know what details you should be including and which ones aren’t necessary.
My original outreach email for Elite Daily was at best a C-. It blabbed on and on about our metrics, views and what not. It was too much of a template. I re-worked it every month and saw positive results from doing that.
By the end of the six-month project, I had about four different outreach templates for different types of influencers and bloggers.
6. Find the thing people want (that they don’t talk about).
People have over-crowded inboxes these days. Remember that an inbox is a source of stress for most.
How can you make your emails less stressful? Do your homework.
You can figure out what people want by stalking them on social media and by reading their material. What are they talking about on Twitter? What are they promoting on their Facebook page? How do they position themselves on their website? Have they written books? What are they working on?
Put on your detective hat and figure it out. Read between the lines.
Anyone with an online presence is trying to reach a specific group of people for a reason. Find out that reason. Use it in your pitches. By doing that, you can provide them with an answer to a problem they either don’t know they have OR an answer to a problem they don’t talk about. You can show them you dove deeper than everyone else in their inbox to talk about the one thing their profiles DON’T blatantly say.
No one says, “I’m trying to build my Twitter following” in their Twitter bio. See what I mean?
Doing your homework also helps you figure out what type of person they are. Outreach is about relationships, not transactions.
Sure, the transaction (the business part) is a factor, but don’t lead with that.
You don’t want to be the guy on the sidewalk waving flyers around that everyone avoids eye contact with.
So, to recap. After reaching out to 1,000+ online influencers I learned:
- Let rejection roll off your shoulders. Some people are just snobby.
- Keep track of your communication in whatever way makes the most sense, but it doesn’t have to be fancy.
- Don’t be afraid to go after big fish.
- Embrace the team.
- Develop and improve your email pitches constantly.
- Do your research and dig deep for the one thing influencers want that they don’t talk about.
Do you want to learn more about how to send emails that people respond to? Check out the podcast episode I did with Jeff Calahan of Become More Compelling.