I’ve always thought that being good at outreach is not necessarily something that you can teach. Sure, you can point people in the right direction; you can give them the materials that will help them become better at it. But can you actually teach outreach success?
For me there are so many variables:
the way we write
our ability to deal with rejection
how tenacious we are
how inquisitive our general nature is
With this in mind I thought I would kill two birds with one stone. Write a post for Blogvember whilst I was pulling together the full training materials for the guys over at Boom.
This is what I ended up with; loads of resources and the combination of tools that we use on a regular basis for our outreach.
Below you will find a ‘Get The Knowledge’ section which brings together some of the finest blog posts and resources on outreach.
Immediately after that you will find the tools section (by default I have tried to include only free or low subscription rate tools so that anyone can use them, budget be damned – although I have included one more expensive tool that we use at Boom).
We actually use a combination of the paid tool and some others from the ‘No Budget’ section (although I’ve personally used them all at some point).
Get The Knowledge
A Couple Of Guides From People Who Actually Know What They Are Talking About
How to Write the Perfect Outreach Email: The 9-Step Script for Emailing Busy People
Gregory Ciotti covers it all here. Not only does he base his work on actual psychological studies but he also backs them up with real life examples and includes a 9 point process that anyone can follow. It’s by far one of my favourite posts on the subject of outreach.
How to craft high-conversion outreach emails
This is simple and to the point. Sir James of Agate covers all the bases in a post that you should actually print out and keep near you for quick reference. It works like a charm as a checklist for busy outreachers.
The Dedicated Peter Attia Section
Peter isn’t writing as much as he used to and that is a bit of shame. He found a formula for writing posts about outreach that have stuck in our industry and now has the best collection of posts about outreach – with real examples. It is this that sets them apart and why he has his own little section in this post.
I encourage you to read all of these posts several times – they serve as a great introduction to outreach:
There are a bunch of great posts out there that will help you understand how to apply some simple psychology techniques to your outreach emails (or now you are familiar with Peter’s approach – tweets, videos, Facebook message etc.). In the last year or so the best posts have come from Hitreach’s very own Chris Dyson and the too-smart-for-his-own-pants Matt Gratt from Buzzstream.
Here is a selection of their greatest hits:
How To Be More Persuasive – Psychology 101 for Link Builders – http://tripleseo.com/psychology-link-builders/
Build Links and Get More Traffic like Derek Halpern – http://tripleseo.com/build-links-like-derek-halpern/
You Can Get Links from Cold Outreach – http://tripleseo.com/link-prospect-desire/
The Psychology of Behaviour Change: a Guide for Link Development Professionals – http://www.buzzstream.com/blog/the-psychology-of-behavior-change-a-guide-for-link-development-professionals.html
The 3 Ps of Great Outreach Emails: Personalized, Positioned, and Persuasive – http://www.buzzstream.com/blog/the-3-ps-of-great-outreach-emails-personalized-positioned-and-persuasive.html
Improving Link Building Response Rates With Persuasive Psychology – http://www.buzzstream.com/blog/improving-link-building-response-rates-with-persuasive-psychology.html
Visual and Video Guides
Are you the kind of person who likes something visual? This instructographic (!) from the guys over at Portent is great for printing out and sticking next to your screen or keyboard. It is succinct, looks pretty and acts as a great aide-mémoire. Get it here:
Are you a video person? Check this video out from someone called Rand. I hadn’t heard of him before but he seems pretty smart and also has a very nice beard:
As someone who gets a lot of email, especially from people in our industry it gives a good insight to what makes Rand open and reply 😉
You should always take these kinds of studies with a pinch of salt but I thought I would add them in here anyway.
Quantifying Outreach – http://www.iacquire.com/resources/quantifying-outreach/
Putting Guest Post Outreach Theories to the Test [With Some Real World Data] – http://moz.com/blog/putting-guest-post-outreach-theories-to-the-test-with-some-real-world-data
Blogger Outreach – What Do They Think About SEOs? – http://moz.com/blog/blogger-outreach-what-do-they-think-about-seos
How Not To Do it
Why I Deleted Your Guest Post Pitch (With Awful Outreach Examples) – http://www.koozai.com/blog/search-marketing/content-marketing-seo/why-i-deleted-your-guest-post-pitch-with-awful-outreach-examples/ by Koozai Mike (that is his real full name)
Bad Outreach Examples – How Not to Secure a Guest Blogging Spot – http://www.steamfeed.com/the-outreach-email-hall-of-shame-how-not-to-secure-a-guest-blogging-spot/ by Charlotte Verela
The Book Section – For People Who Like To Read Books
Yes, I have read these books and have applied what I learnt to outreach that I have conducted 😉
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Influence-Psychology-Persuasion-Robert-Cialdini/dp/006124189X
Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion by Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin (not that one) and Robert Cialdini – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Yes-50-Secrets-Science-Persuasion/dp/1846680166/
Persuasion: The Art of Influencing People by James Borg – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Persuasion-Influencing-People-James-Borg/dp/0273734164
The Random Section At The Bottom
Of course not all posts are going to fit nicely in a little box that I create. With this in mind here is the section at the bottom that houses all the bits and bobs – the odds and sods – that you should cast your eyes over if you get a chance:
Good Outreach vs. Bad Outreach – from a Blogger’s Point of View – http://www.seerinteractive.com/blog/good-bad-blogger-outreach-examples
This is a nice little post from Dana Forman that looks at outreach from both angles. So, onto the…
Don’t forget kids, tools do not make you good at outreach; they only help you streamline your processes and share your data.
We aren’t all lucky enough to have budget for posh outreach tools. I’m in no doubt that they are worth their weight in gold once you have a small team, but if there is only a few of you it can be hard to justify the cost.
That doesn’t stop you from writing great outreach though – that is down to you and your team. It also doesn’t stop you from getting organised and having a solid process in place either.
If you are working with no budget, here is what I recommend:
For me Gmail is the easiest email service for conducting outreach – the plugins and add for outlook and yahoo just don’t compare (see below for some of the settings you may want to adjust). It isn’t going to cost you anything (for now – don’t be evil Google) and allows you to organise things in a logical way for outreach. I will try and include screen shots along the way but with some blurring for obvious reasons and occasionally with accounts that are not the newest (I don’t do as much outreach as I once did!).
Rapportive is a great little plug-in for Gmail – and free to boot! It allows you to see the various contact details of anybody that you are having a conversation with via Gmail. As you can see from the screenshot below it pops up right in your conversations. This gives you quick access to their social accounts so that you can apply all that you have learnt in the guides above across different social platforms. The days of hiding behind pseudonyms and fake Gmail accounts are long behind us. With this in mind Rapportive is becoming a more important addition to your tool set.
I wrote about Yesware some time ago and you can get a more in depth review here.
In a nutshell Yesware is a sales tool that can easily be used to aid your outreach. It can track emails so that you can see if they have been opened or not – not for stalking purposes of course 😉
If someone has opened but not replied you can make a note to get back in touch. If a number of people don’t even open a particular email you can adjust your subject line (or indeed the kind of sites that you chose in the first place).
You can see from the above image that Mr Gilchrist may be nervous about not opening emails from me in the future because I can see where and when he opened emails when we were discussing this very post.
Wayne is an evil stalker and will never have any friends in the industry – fact!
You can also quickly and easily set up templates to aid with your outreach. Now we know that templates for early on in the outreach process is a no-no, but further down the line you may want to use them to save time, for example:
Got a guest post accepted? Have a template to thank the blogger, letting know that you are going to check it out and share it socially.
Doing some broken link building? Same thing applies. Have some templates for further down the chain.
Doing outreach for an infographic? Have ‘thank you’ templates that you can use for any occasion!
Following up with someone who hasn’t opened an email? Have a template for that as well.
When you enter the web app you can get stats on tracking and open statistics as well as info on how successful certain templates are – which is great for those second and third emails that you send out that can be more successful than your initial email.
Yesware is free for a hundred opens, which is fine for smaller outreach campaign. It is also handy that this is per email accounts, so if you happen to have more than one gmail, well… 😉
If you haven’t seen it before it is another free Gmail plug-in that allows you to ‘boomerang’ certain messages back to the top of your inbox (like a reminder). You can also schedule emails to be sent in the future (great if you have an idea at a unsociable time when a person is unlikely to answer an email).
The basic plan is a little short on credits but the personal plan is more than reasonable. Once you start using it you will find it is an invaluable way to keep your outreach organised.
If you choose not to use Yesware (although that is unlikely once you have given it a spin) you will find that Canned Responses in Gmail labs is a good work-around for the kind of emails that require a quick template (as mentioned in the Yesware section above).
It allows you to create a number of templates that you can quickly access when you are responding to emails from Gmail. Having not used this in a while I have been and checked where it is these days and found it is still available in Gmail Labs (which Google have hidden quite well).
To access Gmail Labs go to ‘settings’: And then start adding some!
Labels are one my favourite ways of organising Gmail and are especially helpful in outreach.
They can be accessed in the settings section above that houses the Labs tab. You can also edit them on the fly in the Gmail interface.
Once set up you have an organised inbox that looks a bit like the one below – the names have been blurred to protect the innocent and some of the labels have been blurred because they pertain to specific clients. Hopefully you will get the general idea:
Setting labels for what suits you is very easy. I tend to have different relationship stages:
Accepted, Declined, Under Review, On Holiday, Failed
You could also set them up based on content:
Guest Post, Infographic, Content Outreach, Broken Link Building
The possibilities are endless and allow you to be incredibly organised.
A little known feature of Chrome is to have the ability to quickly jump between multiple users and Google accounts. You don’t have loads of email accounts for outreach do you? 😉
You can set these cheeky little monkeys up quickly:
To add an account simply click the ‘add account’ button at the bottom – as shown in the picture above.
You now have a way to jump between accounts without having to keep logging in and out again. Marvellous!
Simply add in:
Let the tool do its work.
It will give you:
A list of variations to try inside Rapportive
A match if it can find one
It’s that simple!
If you have a little (or no) budget, you are still going to want to keep a track of the work that you are doing. For me the best option is Excel (although Google Drive makes sense if you have multiple people updating the same document).
I haven’t used Excel for this part of the process for some time so I can’t give you screen shots of an example.
When you have some budget it makes sense to streamline the process a little. For me the focus here should be:
The ability to share all contact details and history across a team
The ability to see who and when you have contacted people
To speed up the process of reaching out to people (not necessarily templates!)
The tool that I always recommend for this is not necessarily that expensive (and it scales well with your business).
At Boom we primarily use Buzzstream for our outreach efforts and have nearly all the team as members on the system.
Over time we have used their custom features to make it fit our way of working and find that the project organisation is great for segmenting down different parts of the project (contact outreach, infographic promotion, social outreach and so on).
Again, for client confidentiality I have had to blur out some of the details. The following screenshot is from a project where we are loaning bikes out to commuters.
As you can see it allows anyone to be able to log in and see exactly what is happening with any given project across the entire client base.
Of course on its own this wouldn’t justify the cost of Buzzstream as you can easily recreate this kind of thing in Google Drive. Where Buzzstream comes into its own is some of the other features that it has. Here is some of the functionality that we use the most often:
Auto discovery of contact info: Buzzstream goes out and tries to find the contact details that are related to the site. It doesn’t get it right all of the time and you have to have a real life human check that the details are correct (which is how we prefer it anyway) – but it sure saves time.
Further contact discovery: Within Buzzstream you can actually send it off to search whois contact information. We have found this particularly helpful with link removal. If you want to know more about using Buzzstream for link removal I have covered that in this post.
Copy sites between projects: When a new client comes on board it can be incredibly helpful if you can take sites that you have successfully gotten links on before and move them across to a brand new project. This will give you a leg up on getting some quick links from relationships that you have already fostered. It is incredibly important that you get everyone tagging sites in the same way early on when building lists in Buzzstream. Multiple tags for sites that cover technology for example (tech, technology, Tech, Technology) can mean a big clean-up project – trust me 😉
Checking prospected sites quickly: Buzzstream allegedly spent three to four months coming up with the name BuzzBar for this feature. It is an incredibly quick way of checking sites and adding notes and details to a site profile. You can read more about that feature here.
Notes in templates: Buzzstream has the ability to keep templates (and track their success) – although I suggest using templates wisely and sparingly. What Buzzstream does elegantly is bring the history of what you have added, what colleagues have added and other pertinent details. Here is an actual screen shot from one of records (usual blurring for obvious reasons):
There are a million other reasons that you might want to bring Buzzstream into your outreach process, here are just a few:
It plays nicely with Link Prospector, Followerwonk, Ahrefs, OSE and other tools
Multiple users can work on the same accounts without banging into each other
It houses all of the websites that you have researched and contacted
It keeps track of templates you may have used and their success rate
If needs be, you can work remotely with other people with very little friction
Hopefully this has given you some insight into how we do outreach at Boom and the materials and tools that we recommend if you are just starting out or looking to improve your processes.
When putting together I tried to make it as accessible to everyone as possible – free or low subscription rate tools, affordable books and resources and guides that were free and didn’t require you to give away your email address.
The one thing that you are never going to be able to buy is the ability to pick up and run with the character traits that are integral to getting the most from your outreach. Can you train for successful outreach or is it something unteachable? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you have any questions feel free to drop them in below and I’ll get Patrick or Chris to answer them for me because I’ll be on a beach in the Bahamas having just secured the ultimate link 😉