Email outreach means contacting people, within your niche or industry, via email as a way of triggering a specific action. It can be used to generate leads, build connections, advertise your services, earn a backlink, recruit potential candidates, or find investors.
The possibilities are endless — this is why many marketing gurus swear by it! And although email outreach can be a potent networking tool, it needs to be done right for it to be effective.
According to Backlinko, only 8.5% of outreach emails receive a response, which means that the vast majority of these emails get deleted without ever being opened. Why? Simple. There is a fine line between trying to make a connection and spamming people.
Thus, if you are thinking about engaging in the so-called outreach game, there are a few things to consider. Below we will go over a few tips and hacks to help you write effective outreach emails:
- Outreach emails are not ‘broadcast’ messages
The first thing you need to understand is that writing an outreach email is not the same as sending out a mass email. It does not matter if you are trying to get an article featured, promoting your brand, making a career move, or all of the above. Your message needs to be curated, and your email needs to target the right people.
In other words, do not waste your (or anyone else’s) time by sending a cookie-cutter message that will ‘work’ if sent to virtually anyone. People can spot a mass email just by reading the subject line — and let’s face it is very unprofessional to arbitrary email the top 20 people within your industry without even bothering to customize the message.
- Develop ‘Outreach Lists’
Like we mentioned before, you cannot just randomly pick 20 people and sent them an email. If you want your marketing tactic to work, you will first need to segment your audiences into lists. There is no ‘one size fits all.’ Thus, categorizing future leads is your best chance at pitching relevant work.
Therefore, before I start with the outreach, I usually create three lists:
- Top Industry Players/Influencers
Within the first list, I typically include the ‘big players.’ These are generally at the top of the industry pyramid and have vast audiences. So, as expected, they are the hardest to reach.
Nonetheless, you should never underestimate the power of a well-crafted outreach email. It might be a stretch, but if you land a ‘big player,’ your career can instantly skyrocket.
- Well-known Activists/Colleagues
Usually, my second list will encompass a group of people that I might personally know or who are well-known within my field. Said colleagues, tend to have smaller audiences than top industry players, but can still make a huge impact.
The odds are that if you pick their interest enough, they will grant your request.
Newbies are usually writers who are just starting or who do not have a substantial audience (yet.) They are easy to reach and will almost always agree to help you if you can return the favor.
Although small, these the ideal outreach targets.
Now that you understand the three main categories, it is time to strategize. Start by writing down essential information such as:
• Page URL
• Contact Name (make sure you have a real name, and not a ‘nickname’ or alias)
• Email Address (avoid generic email addresses or contact forms)
• Social Media Profiles
Once you have all the necessary information, write down your reason for outreach, date of outreach, and any other additional notes you might consider relevant. For instance, if you have previously met the person, write when and where you last saw them.
- Top Industry Players/Influencers
- Know your audience
It may seem obvious but, the more status or famous a person is, the more of these emails they get. Thus, to stand out from the hundreds of emails cluttering their inbox, you must first stop to think about what is in it for them.
In other words, do not ask around for favors if you have nothing valuable to offer in return. If you do, your success rate is going to be considerably low. So, the best advice I can give you is: do your homework.
Go back to your lists and see where can ‘XYZ’ falls. Is he/she a Newbie? Are they a Top Industry Player? Research your subject thoroughly before contacting them. Take the time to study your outreach prospect.
The more you know, the more likely you are to craft an exciting outreach message. Remember, you need a reason (not an excuse) to get an influencer to notice you.
- Be concise
Once you have figure out what it is that will grab your recipient’s attention, start writing your email. Always keep the message short and to the point. Know that you do not need to spell everything out for them from the get-go.
If your offering is exciting enough, it will pique the person’s interest, and they will follow back.
- Flattery will get you nowhere
When writing an outreach email, is it crucial that you avoid flattery (unless it is justified.) In other words, do not praise a person just because you think that is what they want to hear. Anyone can spot a fake compliment or sense when someone is trying too hard.
So, if you have nothing genuine to say, it is better left unsaid! Avoid writing cliché lines like:
• I just read your article, and I liked it.
• I am a big fan of your work.
• I have been following your blog for years.
If you want to make sure your flattery is justified, make sure it points out specifics. For instance, instead of merely saying, ‘I like your work,’ try saying something like, ‘I truly enjoyed your piece on XYZ. I believe your argument brings out some interesting points.’
By doing so, there is no doubt that you are familiar with his/her work and that you genuinely respect their voice.
- Lose the template
As you might have now gathered, it is almost impossible to scale an outreach email without alerting your recipient. But, do not misinterpret what I am saying. There is nothing wrong with crafting an outline for your emails!
We all have better things to do than writing 20+ emails from scratch every time we want to send an outreach message. But, even if you do follow an outline, make sure you spend enough time customizing the message so that it meets your recipient’s profile.
Below a few things to keep in mind:
• Avoid generic subject lines, as they usually look like spam or publicity.
• Introduce yourself in a way that will resonate with the recipient and give a context of who you are within the field.
• Do not use outreach automation software — their patterns are very easy to spot.
• Consider your timing — you do not want to be mentioning an article published six months back or sending a business email on a Saturday night.
• Make your request clear; the more straightforward you are, the better your chances of successfully obtaining what you want.
- Pitch your best work
Probably one of the most important things to consider before sending an outreach email is, what are you pitching? If you are a good writer, you probably have dozens of worthy pieces. But, the truth is, not all of them are outreach email material.
Think of it this way, for an article to be truly interesting, it needs to be exciting and ‘fresh.’ Thus, if you are looking to pitch an article, it needs to be some of your best work!
Choosing what pieces to pitch is much more than just attaching a well-crafted story. It is much more than that. You need to curate the article for your target carefully, you must triple-check your facts, you need to present an innovative take on the subject, and more importantly, you should always leave room for debate.
Know that outreach emails are a way of networking and a means to a collaboration with colleagues or influencers within an industry. Hence, the most efficient pieces are always those that trigger a response from their readers.
- Follow Up
Sometimes people do not respond to an email, not because they are not interested but because they were busy at the time or simply forgot to do so. Thus, following up once (not twice) can serve as a friendly reminder.
Make sure you keep your follow up polite and that you include a copy of your previous email. By doing so, you will save the person the trouble of having to dig around through their inbox.
Do not overthink your follow up email and do not make excuses for you (or your recipient.) A simple: ‘I just wanted to touch base, in case you missed my previous email.’ will suffix. If, after the second email, they do not respond, it means they are not interested. If that is the case, please do not send more emails.
If you take this guide and consider each one of these hacks when writing your next outreach email, I can assure you that you will have better chances of succeeding.