Do you wait for people to knock on your door or do you go out and find them?

Inbound is waiting.

Outbound is reaching out.

You need both.

Why?

Outbound allows you to be hyper-targeted to find the exact audience that is relevant to your products and services.

Email outbound is an efficient and effective way of doing outbound marketing.

And if done correctly can help you dramatically grow your business.

  • Build leads
  • Get press mentions
  • Build backlinks

…and more

But…

…you need to understand how to do email outreach the right way.

We reached out to a group of highly respected marketers to identify their best tactics for email outreach and this is what we got back.

Arraon Orendorff

Editor in Chief, ShopifyPlus

Outreach isn’t easy — especially when you’re trying to get influencers to contribute. But that’s why it’s your job to make it easy. Not easy on you, but on them.

For example, in a recent B2B e-commerce article I was able to collect original and lengthy contributions from a slew of B2B heavy-weights like Harvard Business Review author Brent Adamson, mega-LinkedIn-influencer Michaela Alexis, Buzzfeed’s head of customer acquisition, and the CMO of Polycom (valued at over a billion dollars).

The secret is keeping your outreach requests simple and clear by following three rules:

  • Ask one — and only one — question
  • Locate that question in their area of expertise
  • Include a word-count request and due date

In Adamson’s case, I asked, “What is the key difference between thought leadership and commercial insight? If you could provide at least 100 words, that’d make it very meaningful.” This was coded language based on one of Adamson’s books, The Challenger Customer. And it worked.

David Henzel

Founder, Taskdrive

Make it 110% Relevant!

Make sure your outreach is VERY relevant to the potential customer. Everything else is SPAM. Don’t buy lists! Do your research and make sure you have a very targeted approach.

Bosco Anthony

Founder of Tribe1.ca

I personalize subject lines and create an urgency in my post. I am very respectful in my approach and get to the point. Most people are reading the email on their cell phone and I want to show courtesy and respect for their time. More important I keep my call to action short and thank them for their attention.

Even if I am addressing a group of people I always make the body of my message very thoughtful and engaging.

This is key. It is important to put yourself in the seat of the reader.

When it comes to email why waste words saying nothing?

Jed Record

Professor of Marketing, Meredith College

One of the most powerful uses of social media and the web is to build awareness with potential contacts and customers.

Take advantage of this opportunity and comment on your contact’s blog posts or social media updates so they will get to know your name or at least recognize your profile pic. You can even visit their Linkedin profile so they get a notice with your name and profile image that you stopped by.

The number one reason someone is likely to open your email is by recognizing the sender. In a study by CMB Consumer Pulse, Sixty-four percent of respondents say they will open an email if they recognize the sender. Get visible with your contacts on social before sending your emails!

Syed Balkhi

Founder, OptinMonster

We get a lot of mentions for OptinMonster but some of those mentions do not link back to our site.

My favorite tactic is getting my team to use BuzzSumo to identify these opportunities and reaching out to ask for the link.  If you follow up quite quickly your success rate for getting links is high.

Mike Lieberman

CEO, Agencies2Inbound

The most important element of a successful email outreach campaign is without a doubt, 100% the message in the email.

First, since these people don’t know you, your company or your product/service you have to disrupt their status quo and get their attention.

Then you have to quickly tell them how they can be more successful if they listen to your story. In essence, make them the hero in the story and then finally, offer them something educational, of value so you can connect and engage with them.

Asking for an appointment, call or even 15 minutes of their time without giving them something of value is not going to work.

Atiq Rehman

Co-founder, OutreachPlus

For me, content roadshow (it’s a term from Brian Dean’s course) works. Content roadshow is where you are finding prospects who have already written on the subject and presenting your content to them.

To find these prospects all you need to do is search for the keywords on Google and then go to each result and put it in a tool such as Ahrefs to find backlinks to it.

The people linking to the page are your prospects. Since they have already linked out to a piece of content related to what you have written about, they are most likely to share or link to your content.

I have generated hundreds of links using this technique as it always works. You also get guest post requests with this a lot.

John Koetsier

Journalist – Johnkoetsier.com

Number one most important tactic: very, very, very short emails with a very, very, very specific (and easy to do) ask.

I’m talking one sentence, maybe two max (and they have to be short ones), and a quick ask like this:  Interested? Want to hear more?

Jason Swenk

Founder, JasonSwenk.com

The best email strategy I have used over the years for getting a response is…

Start off with a question. As human beings (well most of us) we are programmed to answer questions. Plus when you ask a question, it puts the attention on them.

When the attention is on them, they will be more interested than they would if you were just telling them about you. So make sure you start off by asking questions next time you send an email.

Ian Cleary

Co-Founder:  OutreachPlus

‘PAUSE’ before you outreach!

One of the biggest problems with outreach is when people blast out a large group of un-personalized emails and expect to get a great response.  You need to PAUSE before you send!

Shonali Burke

Founder, Shonali Burke Consulting

I find the less complicated the email, the better the results. It’s a lesson I have to learn and relearn pretty much every day, as I can be pretty long-winded…!

But when I’m able to stick to one thought, one premise, one call-to-action, it is far more effective.

Adam Connell

Founder, BloggingWizard

I’m a big fan of pre-outreach. Here’s how it works:

Instead of finding a prospect and pitching them right away, you connect with them first on multiple occasions and through different platforms. The idea is that when someone receives an email from somebody they recognize, they’ll be far more likely to open it.

Most bloggers will get loads of emails each week from people they don’t know. And most of them make zero effort. Their emails may as well read “hey, you don’t know me and I clearly don’t know you. How about you give up some of your precious free time and in return, I’ll do absolutely nothing?”

So before you pitch, connect with the blogger and get to know them a bit. Connect with them on social, share their stuff, comment on their posts (social/blog) etc. But, the best way is to subscribe to their email list and use that as a way to start a conversation directly. Just don’t make the mistake of subscribing and replying to their first email to you with a pitch.

Now, another part of this is making it clear you’re a real person. And you need to make it easy for them to recognize you. So, use the same picture of yourself in your email signature, Gravatar, and social accounts.

The challenge here is that this approach to outreach doesn’t scale well but instead of burning through loads of potential contacts you’d focus on developing long-term relationships with a small group of bloggers that have a decent sized audience. But as with all relationships, there has to be give and take. Be generous and that generosity will be rewarded.

And it’s still important that when you do pitch the blogger, your pitch needs to be compelling. The key is to make the offer mutually beneficial. If you want to learn more about how to do this, check out the process outlined in this post I published on Blogging Wizard.

Andy Crestodina

Co-founder, Orbit Media

Short messages work best for me. Personal emails between people who know and like each other are rarely long. So if you want your outreach to be more personal, keep it very short. Less is more.

To write a concise email outreach message, start by writing the outreach message to a few friends. This will get you started with an informal tone. Then rewrite and edit it down before sending it to a larger group. By the time you load it into an outreach service, it should be very short and informal.

The first versions of your emails are often the wordiest and least personal.

Alex Berman

Founder and Chairman, Experiment27

When you have a large audience to reach out to start with 20 to 30 emails initially to figure out how good open/response rates are and then adjust accordingly.

Don’t send out hundreds of emails until you’ve done some testing.

For every email, try to personalize the first line as much as possible. You want to grab their attention and let them know that this not a generic email to everyone.

Jon Buchan

Director:  The Charm Offensive

Try to stand out. Humour is one way of doing this. If you follow all the rules, you’ll end up looking like everyone else. Don’t blend in. Be daring. Your prospects will appreciate it.

 

Rod Sloane

Founder:  LinkedIn Champion

A short email typically does better than a long email. People read a lot of their emails on their phone and you want them to see most (if not all) of their email on their phone without scrolling.

It’s important to have a good signature at the end of your emails because people want to know more details of the person sending the email. This will help build up trust.

Also, putting their phone number at the end of your email often results in phone calls. If you’re sharing something valuable/interesting you’ll be surprised about the calls you will get.

Shane Barker

Founder, ShaneBarker.com

As our business has matured, we have become more connected with other influencers, marketers, and brands through outreach. And we’ve found many ways to help each other. I find that when you take the time to develop these relationships, they become more effective and mutually beneficial over time.

Many people try a variety of different outreach strategies to contact me every day. And honestly,  the ones I’m most likely to respond to are the ones that offer value.

4 Key Points to follow for successful email marketing outreach:

  • Do not use the same email templates over and over again for outreach.
  • Don’t be too general or generic. Personalize each email.
  • Do your research about each person or influencer you are approaching.
  • Keep it short and simple, and double check for grammatical and spelling errors.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find the right person and their email address for starting the outreach process. That’s where email tools can come in handy.

The tool that I use the most is Hunter. It’s easy to use and is very accurate when it comes to finding the right person, and their email address.

Tim Soulo

Head of Marketing & Product Strategy, Ahrefs

Here at Ahrefs we’re huge advocates of outreach as a marketing strategy. Both for promoting our business (& content) and for SEO purposes.

And the best outreach tactic that I can suggest (regardless of the results that you’re trying to achieve) is to offer value to a person you’re reaching out to.

When doing outreach, most people only think about themselves and frame their emails around the goal they’re trying to achieve. But the person on the other side doesn’t really care about you. Hence the low response rates.

The success of your outreach largely depends on your ability to find a win-win spot for both parties.

Here at Ahrefs we usually solve this by creating something amazing, that people genuinely want to know about and therefore thank us for bringing this to our attention.

For example, we carried out a research study of how long it takes to rank in Google (see here: How long does it take to rank in Google? ). A lot of people would love to learn the answer to this question, so when we were doing promotional outreach for this research study, our success rates were very high.

The opposite is true too. If you’re reaching out to people with something that has 0 relevance to them, they won’t bother replying to you, let along helping you out.

Sapph Lee

Email Strategist, Art of Emails

Sure my #1 outreach strategy would be:

Send cold emails that look 1-on-1 to triple response rates.

  • Write unique emails with unique approaches and value props for the first 10 contacts
  • Convert the email that gets the most positive responses into a template and convert personalized words or phrases for each contact (examples: contact first name, company name, social media detail) into mail merge variables
  • Create a spreadsheet with columns for contact email, first name, last name, company name and personalized phrase(s) to be mail merged into the template for each contact.
  • Use an Outreach tool to replace the variables in your template with the personalized words or phrases for each contact and email them 1-on-1. Here’s my entire guide on it: Mail merge guide: send personalized emails to a list of prospects / contacts

Jason Acidre

Founder, Kaiser The Sage

My approach for link building outreach right now is more focused on improving response and acquisition rate. There are a ton of email outreach tactics that modern marketers utilize these days, but it all still comes down to how efficient your campaign is (it’s always best to measure how much time/effort/resources you spent vs. the results you are actually getting). I personally focus on these two aspects:

  • Value – highlight the genuine value your prospects will be getting from your pitch (sending more traffic/readers to them, introducing them/their brand to your own network, offering content that took you ages to finish, etc…).
  • Personalization – research your prospects (especially the high-level ones). Know more about what they really do, what they really need, and what they are really looking for. Include those on your pitch.

So I guess my favorite tactic is making sure I have these in mind every time I send an outreach email.

Donna Moritz

Founder, Socially Sorted

My favorite tactic for getting responses for outreach marketing is simple… give first before you consider emailing someone! If I connect with the person in some way – even if it’s just a small thing like sharing content, a tweet or commenting on their blog – it establishes some sort of relationship.

I rarely ask for anything from someone unless I have connected in some way online, or met them in real-life.

If I do have to do “cold outreach”, I still make an effort to connect in some way from the very first point of contact.  It might be to mention a mutual friend or highlight a piece of their content that I have read including what I liked about it (and don’t get me started on how many people do this but haven’t actually read the content. Don’t do it. Just don’t). 

There are many ways to show you have done your research and to be genuine. In my opinion, there’s no excuse for bad outreach.  But if you can, give first.  When you are emailing a warm audience, it’s just like asking a favor from a friend. So when I send those emails I always get a good response rate!

Gareth Daine

Author, GarethDaine.com

I have one critical thought in mind before I conduct any email outreach. How can I build a valuable and genuine relationship with this individual?

Solid relationships are a CRUCIAL aspect of any outreach campaign. I’m a huge evangelist of this type of approach. Think about it. If you’ve already built a genuine and mutually-beneficial relationship with someone, how much more likely are they to respond to requests and outreach?

I’d suggest a heck of a lot more. Yes, it’s difficult at scale, but this approach will reap dividends for you and your business in the future. Are you playing the long game, or trying to get a quick win? What’s more important to you?

However, you HAVE to approach the relationship building process from a place of authenticity, rather than a means to an end. Don’t approach relationship building with the intention of receiving something; this is a weak mindset. Now, once you’ve built a relationship with your prospect, either via social, at a conference, or another avenue, then you can reach out to them.

However, there’s a critical caveat to this. Don’t fall into the trap of sending canned messages, or obvious templated SPAM to your prospects. They’re wise to it, they know what’s going on, and it’s just plain bad manners. Sure, use templates, by all means, but make sure they are highly personalized.

Using a good outreach program, you should be able to create custom fields that you can populate during campaign set up before you send your outreach emails. Don’t fall into the trap of sending the same old emails everyone else submits. You know the ones. The ones that are strewn across the Internet for all to see.

So, here are the takeaways.

  • Build Genuine Relationships
  • Personalise Your Outreach
  • Be Human
  • Don’t Use Canned Templated Messages
  • Play the Long Game

Kristen Matthews

Digital and Influencer Marketing Consultant

When it comes to reaching out to prospective influencers there are a series of filters that I apply to ensure they are a great fit for a campaign.

I am always mindful of not wasting an influencers time, or mine, so I first search and make sure their social posts and blog posts are a contextual fit with my client.

If they are, in my outreach, I tell them what post or what topic they have an affinity for led me to reach out to them in the first place. I find that I have way higher response rates this way.

However, this approach can be time-consuming so I do compile the meat of the pitch and switch out the intro per influencer so that I have a balance of personalization and time-saving. I also am mindful about the meat of the pitch.

You don’t want to overwhelm the influencer with too much information, so keep it short and sweet and remember you can give more concrete campaign details after the influencer responds. No one wants to open an email and be bombarded by a wall of words coming at them.

Jamie Turner

Author, Speaker & CEO of The 60 Second Marketer

I’m an author and a professional speaker. The problem with being a professional speaker is that event and meeting planners have to find you, not the other way around. In other words, they don’t respond to inbound emails very well unless they have come across you online.

What I did to overcome that challenge was to send emails to event and meeting planners asking for their help on a research study I was conducting about the world’s top motivational speakers.

The result was that 1) I connected with event and meeting planners via email in a non-threatening way, and 2) that my blog post with the list of 100 top motivational speakers was shared over 2,000 times via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms.

The bottom line: Sometimes the best way to get a response from a cold outreach email is to come in through the back door with a non-threatening request for help.

Magdalena Urbaniak

PR & Global Communications Manager, Brand24

I run Influencer Marketing for our company. To find experts who fit our campaigns the best, I use our tool, Brand24. It shows me who is the most influential expert in a particular branch.

Also, I do my own research which is time-consuming but allows me to get high-quality insights. I track what kind of content is shared and where along with what kind of engagement (if any) it gets.

I do use Hunter.io when I want to contact those people and a tool to check if my messages are being opened or not, which gives me information about how to run further communication.

By tracking the content that is shared and engagement on that content I can learn more about the particular influencer so I can reach out with more personalized emails that give me better results. Through this research and personalized emails, we’ve built great relationships with key influencers in the marketing industry.

Summary

Outreach can be extremely powerful for your business if you follow the right approach.  Put in the work up front and you’ll get the results.