The following is a guest post by Vincent Clarke. His bio is at the end of the article.
When I was in college, I worked at a call center processing relay calls. This was a service intended for deaf individuals that is facilitated by a transcriptionist between someone on the computer and another on the telephone. One of the hardest things about facilitating those conversations was called silence on the line. This is a tangible, discrete way of explaining that one person had communicated, but the other didn’t have anything else to say.
I conduct outreach for content marketing nowadays, and “silence on the line” is still just as frustrating as it was back then.
Don’t let anyone tell you that content marketing is easy. It’s a long, arduous process that demands a personal touch, detailed research, and persistent follow ups. So I’ve learned to make the best of these bad situations and reconsidered my entire outlook on the outreach process. Here I’ll share my most common outreach mistakes and how you can improve your own overall strategy learning from them.
It’s not about you.
Often times we can get so caught up sending outreach emails that we forget the most fundamental element of a successful sales pitch. Personalization is probably the most important part of any good outreach strategy. Quick generic messages with an overly apathetic or self-centered tone will end up right where they belong – the trash bin.
In order to optimize our outreach, we created a basic template for our various types of content marketing. For example, we had a generic guest posting email that read something like:
I’m Vincent with USB Memory Direct. I really like your blog and I think it would be a great fit for my content marketing strategy. So I’d like to contribute a guest post to you. Let me know what you think!
Ok, well maybe they weren’t actually that bad. But that was the basic idea! They were short, generic, and totally looking out only for my own self interests. Webmasters want to work with marketers that can be trusted. In order to earn that trust, you have to be genuinely friendly, engaged, and personal.
There’s nothing wrong with having a default template to work off of. Marketers can go through hundreds of outreach emails in a day, and creating a personal email for each and every one of them can get really tiring and be really time consuming. But then again, I would rather send out 25 personalized, genuine outreach emails and get 25 replies than send out a hundred and only get 15.
So what does “personalization” mean anyway?
You can start out by addressing the individual you’re contacting by name. I’m not talking about the CEO of the company. I’m referring to the name of the editor, outreach coordinator, or the marketing specialist. Who are you really talking to? Find out and address that individual by name. If you can’t find this information anywhere, try looking at social media profiles for clues.
Next, talk about how you came across that particular contact. Were you reading their blog? Did you come across their business website? What caught your eye about it? Start with that and use it to lead into your actual pitch. Here’s a sample for a guest blog outreach email:
Hi [individual’s name],
I’m Vincent, an inbound marketer and copywriter for USB Memory Direct. I came across your site earlier this month after seeing a link to the story about [unique info] and really enjoyed the point you made about [another unique point].
— use that to lead into your pitch —
We’re actually working right now with [relevant point]. I was wondering if you’d be interested in having us write an in-depth article about [unique topic tailored to blog and relevant to the webmaster]. We know the business, and our marketing department loves to share knowledge about [unique topics relevant to the webmaster]. I think this article would be great for your audience.
Hope you’re having a great week!
The key is to be enthusiastic about your idea and about working with the individual. If you don’t sound excited about the opportunity, then your recipients won’t be either. All you have to do really is get the person reading. Even if you fall back into your generic pitch halfway, at least you caught their attention enough to read through that far.
Getting the details
Being professional is all about the details. It’s about putting effort into every aspect of what you do no matter how small. Simple mistakes are probably the biggest reason outreach emails are rejected. If you want to contribute an article to a high profile blog, why in the world would they consider you if you made simple grammar mistakes just in the outreach email? Go ahead and reread your outreach email as least three times. Read it aloud. You don’t want to overlook one misspelled word and waste an entire outreach proposal over it.
I once contacted an editor whose first name was Sasha. I assumed it was a woman, and then proceeded to refer to the person as “Miss” and “her” throughout the outreach email. But it was a guy! If I had bothered to visit their company profile page, I would have seen that they had pictures of all their employees including the editor. It’s all about the details, and simply overlooking one small piece of info can really destroy the prospects of a good outreach proposal.
The other part of being detailed is in the fabric of your outreach proposal itself. When you send a guest blog pitch to an editor, you have to first talk about the idea and how you can relate it to something relevant on their website. What exactly is the article going to be about? What details will you include in the post? How will you relate this to a previous article? What makes your idea truly original and fresh?
A rejection isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it isn’t even the end of this particular relationship. It only means that you have to work harder. Keep up a good social relationship with the webmaster to show them that you really care. Comment on their blog articles, like their Facebook posts, and spread their marketing outreach content on your own platforms.
Saying “no” could also mean that it just isn’t the right time. They’ve got a full publication schedule or their whole outreach strategy is focusing on a different topic at the moment. Wait for the right moment and reply with a new pitch tailored better to their needs or with the same pitch at a better time.
The best thing to remember is that we all make mistakes. Not every pitch will make it through. It’s an inevitable part of our job. But if we learn from our failures, and use them to better ourselves and our outreach strategy, then it was all worth it.
Vincent Clarke is an inbound marketing analyst and copywriter for USB Memory Direct. His work focuses on content strategy and relationship building, and you can find him on Twitter @_vhclarke, and on Google+.