As the competition and globalization rises across the world, the importance of reaching out to people who don't know you to build professional relationships has risen tremendously.
These people can be potential employers, referrers, customers, investors, journalists or others, based on what you seek and how you intend to help them in return.
If you have a launched a product or service, for example, it’s important for your brand to reach out to and get coverage from reporters.
But most people in a position of power are extremely busy, getting hundreds of emails a day from people who seek their support. Editors of top publications, for example, get hundreds of story pitches a day.
According to a survey by Adobe, white-collar workers spend an average of 2.5 hours per weekday checking and handling emails. Since you only have a few seconds to make an impression with your cold outreach, you need to be unique in your approach and pitch the right way.
The worst thing you can do is using a generic template you found online, just like everyone else. In this guide, I’ll share a cold outreach formula I have created after researching and studying hundreds of successful emails and messages I have seen work over the years.
I agree that this approach may be harder to scale and outsource, but your emails will be far more likely to convert than the generic crap you’ve been sending before.
Table of Contents
Build Trust First
Getting a response from an influencer who doesn’t know or trust you is challenging. Regular interactions via social media, done in a genuine manner, can help get you in the door.
If you give something of value, influencers are more likely to return the favor. Social Media, especially Twitter, is heavily used by journalists. In fact, it’s their most important resource for new breaking stories.
As soon as something starts trending on Twitter, it’s sure to capture their attention and become the fodder for more and more news stories.
Start approaching and speaking to your target journalists on social media, ideally 3-4 weeks in advance of your digital outreach. There are a number of ways to get on their radar, before going for the pitch:
- Follow them on social media, share and engage with their posts.
- Post genuine, thoughtful comments on their blog entries.
- Try to help, participate and mention them in relevant threads/conversations.
- Show your support for things they care about.
- Send your thoughts on something you noticed in their profile/activity.
- Give them a free resource, a product or service, that they will find valuable.
- Identify broken links or other issues on their website, then alert them.
- Quote them or link to one of their pages in your content.
- Invite them for an interview/feature them in your podcast or webinar.
This goes a long way in building a foundation for a relationship, which will greatly boost the success of your marketing and outreach.
When you send an email to them after some time, you’ll not be a new name in their inbox. They’ll be familiar with you, and hence more likely to open and act on your email. Warming them up first is far more effective than just sending an email cold.
Remember To Personalize
As I mentioned above, one of the most common digital outreach mistakes people make is to send a generic, templatic or automatic email. I agree that this approach makes your outreach campaign quick and scalable, but it’s not as effective as manual, personalized outreach.
No matter how clever your marketing and outreach, an influencer can tell a template from a genuine email with a quick glance. It’s obvious when there is a field or two with specific information that it has been picked up and embedded by a scraper or other software.
I am not saying you shouldn’t try to make your outreach campaigns scalable and I am not against using automation. But there is a fine line between personalization and excessive automation.
As the below email format will show you, there should always be enough personalization in your digital outreach for the reader to feel respected and appreciated.
The most common way to do that is by giving sincere appreciation and the reason you chose to email them and not anyone else. This will show that you are familiar with their work and not wasting time shooting in the dark.
Show that you have done your research and connect that research with your pitch. If it seems like a lot of work, understand that there is no other as effective alternative. Real connections and relationships take real time and effort. We'll go over this in detail in the following sections.
Engaging Subject Line
Your greeting should be customized to the situation and industry. When emailing someone who works in a conservative industry like government or finance, you can go with the traditional "Dear."
For other industries like media, tech, travel, or fashion, you would want to use "Hi," "Hello," or even "Hey." Refer to your prospect by their first name, not full name. This is not optional. Also steer clear of saying "Mr./Mrs./Ms.", which is outdated.
Hey Bob, hope you're having a great week.
Hello Bob, hope you're well.
Hi there Bob, hope all is well.
Hey Bob, thanks for having me on your webinar.
Highlight A Commonality
Mention something that you and the prospect have in common. We are more likely to trust people who seem like us. Social proof is powerful, you should use it if you can. The closer mutual connection, the better.
I heard about you from John. We worked together on [Project].
Here's me quoting our mutual friend John Locke in Forbes. Here's another Forbes piece I wrote featuring your buddy Jack.
Kate Hudson recommended we talk.
Like you, I [love X activity, am interested in Y cause, participate in Z organization].
I am also an X college graduate. I am also from X place.
When an outreach email seems to come from a random gmail account, with no social profiles, website links or any way of getting an idea about who the sender is, how much trust will it generate in the recipient?
So it's important to mention who you are and have a proper signature at the bottom.
You don't need to actively hide the fact that you're a job seeker, sales person or marketer. But when introducing yourself in your email, it's better to position yourself as a curious professional, consultant, or other interested party.
Also try to be as brief as possible. You want to quickly get to the point and not blabber too much about yourself.
My name is Hitesh, and I am a writer and consultant helping tech companies outsource their non-core activities.
My name is Hitesh, and I am a 2014 grad from Babson College MBA program.
My name is Hitesh, and I work as an Outreach Specialist at Smemark.
My name is Hitesh, and I am the founder of Smemark, a web services agency for digital product companies.
Qualify The Recipient
Before you write further, you need to establish relevance. Your recipient would want to know why are you reaching out to people like him/her and not others. What makes them a good fit for what you have in mind.
Lead with something about them. For instance, you can acknowledge their competitor then ask how they plan to respond. Or ask the prospect something specific about their work.
It's a more genuine approach to getting to know your prospect and leads to a more interesting conversation. It shows that your email is only for them, and not a template sent to hundreds of other people.
Even if you're not sure that you're reaching out to the right person, you can lead with that and ask the recipient to point you to them.
I noticed that you manage X area in Y company.
I saw that you blog for [publication]. Your blog posts on [topic] are great.
I found that the 4th paragraph from the top in this [article] is on [subtopic] and includes the [phrase], which you linked to this [article].
I saw that you recently downloaded / shared / commented on / published / accepted guest post on/ linked to this ebook / article / page.
I found that you have a bunch of great resources on [page URL]
I noticed that you’re always writing about cats.
I noticed that your [business / website / content] is [having this problem].
Just wanted to speak with someone responsible for handling [Area] at [Company], and was hoping you would be able to refer me to them?
I found that your goal this year was to do X.
Who would be the best person to speak with at [Company]? If you are that person, could we schedule a time to discuss [Your Tool], and see if it might be a fit for your sales team?
I realized that you guys are using [tool / software] for [function].
If you are not the right person to discuss this, could you please recommend with who I should talk to?
I read that your competitor just did Y to do X.
I am taking an educated stab in the dark here, however, based on your online profile, you seem to be appropriate to connect for this, or might at least point me to the right person.
Who doesn't love to get a sincere compliment? It's a great way to start a conversation, and also shows that you have done your homework. As a result, the recipient will take your email more seriously.
For instance, did the prospect recently switched jobs or started a new venture? Starting off with a hearty "congratulations" can get your started on the right foot. By making your email about them instead of about what you want, you will engage them and build trust.
I love your [product] (have been a customer for several months).
I’ve read many of your interviews and I love what you do. Congratulations on [career move].
I especially liked your recent post on [topic/link]. In fact, I tweeted and added it to my bookmarks.
I am a big fan of your blog posts on [publication]. I actually used the [strategy] you recommend in [article] and I got [this benefit].
Just wanted to reach out to say thanks for all the stuff you’ve been publishing lately at [website].
I came across you guys through [page] and it helped me a ton as I was doing X recently (love the X trick you guys use).
I know you're an expert in [topic], and I'm inspired by the work you've done, not to mention your unique career.
I recently found that your [something you found about them] and it is really inspiring. It helped me [solve a problem].
Introduce Your Agenda
Now that you've showed you are familiar with them and their work, it's time to come to the point. What's your email about? What's the main idea, suggestion, product or service you want them to consider?
If you have done your research well to find out as much as you can about them, you'll find it easy to come up with an offer which speaks to their needs.
Find ways to help and benefit them. For example, if you are a startup looking for bloggers to review your product, offer them an exclusive free trial or sample that your regular customers don’t have access to.
If you're reaching out to a journalist for example, you need to know what type of stories interests them, and what angles have they already published in the past.
If it's a potential employer or customer, you may find a valuable statistic, blog post, ebook, or report to share and get their thoughts on a specific area that relates to their issue and paves the way to your solution.
Or you can share a few ideas of your own. If the recipient has been struggling with a problem, they'll welcome any help or advice. You will earn credibility and be able to learn more about their situation.
Have you thought about X? Here's a little review video I made for you.
Hoping to get your advice on X.
How about I take care of [this problem] for you?
Did you know 69% of buyers stated X?
I did a little research/survey and found X and thought you'd like it.
I thought of you when I saw X and wanted to share it with you.
I have put together a case study on my results from X.
We are excited to launch a more thorough and up to date piece on [topic].
Here are some edits/improvements I made to make it more up-to-date.
I’m in the process of creating/ launching a tool to X. Were looking for Y people to do Z, and I think you would be perfect!
I have a few suggestions for capitalizing on [opportunity] or to address [problem].
A colleague of mine invited me to X and I thought I’d share it with you also.
I respect your work and would love your insight to help me shape [tool].
I was wondering if you’re open to contributions. I’ve studied your work and come up with a few suggestions for topics that have high chance of resonating with your audience.
I had a story tip I thought you’d love and was hoping if we can discuss a bit more on X, which can help both of us [in this way].
Formatting Your Text
Journalists are busy. Don’t make them hunt for important information. It’s best to capture 3-5 main ideas from your story as bullet points.
Your key stats should be as easy to find as possible. Avoid long sentences and paragraphs. Write to the point.
I highly recommend that you start using colors in your email outreach campaign, in order to different one part of text from another.
This makes it even easier to quickly understand and find what a journalist may look for. Here’s a great example from a blog post by Shannon McGuirk.
Bob, I have a story that you might be interested in.
New Data Reveals 69% of XYZ are Obese
Here are the key points from the story:
- Point 1: Blah Blah
- Point 2: Blah Blah
- Point 3 Blah Blah
Add More Value
While we want the email to be short, that's not an excuse for missing out important information that can help prospects make a decision in your favor. For your ask to be fulfilled, you better offer an incentive that makes the deal worth their while.
Also mention any logistical details, actionable tips, impressive statistics, accomplishments, press coverage, awards, prominent client names or case studies of how you have helped others to prove the value of your offering.
If the aim of your email was to introduce your brand, then pull out your value proposition. If you're reaching out to contribute a guest post, for instance, you can humbly mention your references, previous work or anything else that establishes your credibility.
In fact, go even further and assure them that you’ll respond to comments and how you will help with promotion too once the content is published, like by spending a specific budget on advertising or linking back to it from your guest posts elsewhere.
We work with companies like yours to solve [pain point] by X.
I’ve previously written for these blogs X, Y, Z.
I recently helped a company like yours [increase revenue by X percent, save Y hours every month, produce Z percent more product per quarter].
The podcast runs for X minutes and at a convenient time for you.
Here are the reasons your readers would love it. - Reason 1. - Reason 2.
Obviously, getting [benefit] is important to your team.
Our content is top quality and has been featured on well known websites like Kinsta, OceanWP, Beeketing and Freemius.
Here is a sample of our X work this year.
You can tie it all together by blogging on Y.
I thought it’d be timely considering your recent piece on [topic]! This would fit well within your [their category] section.
I have been running a profitable consulting agency for the past 5 years. We have worked with companies like X to document user guides and release notes for their knowledge base.
I have a prototype ready so you can breeze through it quickly. You can see it in action here.
I made a demo for you based on your [feature / content] to show you what it might look like: [demo].
I was thinking of writing something along these lines:
- [Post Idea #1]
- [Post Idea #2].
I'll make sure to add research backed content that your readers will love. I’m happy to share all the juicy details like X, Y, Z.
Here are a few sample posts I contributed elsewhere, so you can get a quick sense of my work.
1. [post title+link] + [publication] + [social shares]
2. [post title+link] + [publication] + [social shares]
Let me know if there is anything of YOURS that I can help promote. I’m happy to share. I just followed you on twitter so I can stay updated.
The podcast will be shared on our blog, email list, and social media, which has a combined audience of 80k.
I’d be happy to create you a free account where you can play around with the tool and experience the value for yourself before promoting it.
I can give you several licenses of our product to giveaway to your audience.
Specific Call To Action
Imagine getting an email from someone and reading it till the end, but still not knowing what the sender wants from you?
Your email message should clearly state what you are asking from the recipient, and how it benefits both of you.
Don't make them work. Whatever the objective of your outreach campaign, it should be as easy for them as possible to take the action you want them to take.
For example, it’s not there job to tell you the topics they want to cover or publish. It’s up to you to suggest based on the research you did on their work.
If you’re submitting content as part of digital outreach, it should be ready to publish from your side with no rework: links should be in place, image sizes optimized for the web, author bio and press kit attached as required, and so on.
Please let me know if you have time for a coffee.
Do you mind if I send you a link for review/ to get your thoughts on it?
Would you like to check it out and see if you want to switch the links?
Open to a 15-minute call on [time-date] to explore if [product] will be valuable to [company]?
Would be super awesome if you could leave a brief comment on it to get the discussion going.
If it’s okay with you, I’d love to schedule a call at one of the following time slots.
Could I grab 5-7 minutes of your time to talk about X.
Do you want to cover it? Let me know if you want first crack at this one.
I'd like to learn more about the challenges of [topic] at [company].
I'll be visiting [location] next month (from the week of [date]) and will be happy to meet up and walk you through this.
Would you help me by taking a simple 3 question survey?
Willing to hop on a 20 minute call and answer some questions?
We’re looking to hand out early access to a select group of people. Are you interested in this free beta (no strings, no credit cards).
Would be interested in adding another resource to your page? If you feel like adding it, here is the HTML.
I wonder if it’s possible to be featured on the other end?
Only if you think it's worthy, I'll be thrilled if you mention/link to it from one of your blog posts.
Special tweet ready to go if you’re inclined to share 🙂 [tweet URL]
Just wanted to email you and see if [company] would be interested in [product/service].
Can I send it your way for review? Would you be willing to take a look at it?
I’d love for you to consider adding it to the list. Might make a nice addition to your page.
Are you interested in appearing as a featured guest on [podcast]?
Additional Info Near The End
Many times just a single link or key stats are not enough to provide more details and all the other material your prospect may need.
This can include your brand’s press kit, shared files, graphics, attachments and more. So you can include this content when signing off to show that the details are available if/when needed.
Show Your Gratitude
Finally, it's time to end your email. Don't forget to conclude with a line of gratitude. Let them know how excited you are for the opportunity to collaborate with them. Mention how much you appreciate their time and attention, regardless of whether they agree to help or not.
Thank you so much for your time, and anything you could do to help.
I just wanted to help as [their website] has changed my life.
In any case, thanks for your help. Either way, keep up the awesome work!
Thank you for any help you can offer. I know your time is valuable and I appreciate your attention.
I know you are busy and probably get millions of emails a day, but I hope this one was helpful. Looking forward to hearing from you!
Hope to hear back from you soon. Thanks for your time, and I look forward to our collaboration.
Adhere To Editor Guidelines
Guidelines and rules are there for a purpose: to make the digital outreach easy and efficient for both parties. Guidelines are also useful to gauge if the blogger you are reaching out to is a right fit for your content or brand promotion.
In fact, many publications also go as far as to give you specific details on when you should expect to hear back, how much you may need to wait and what to do when haven’t heard from them. Don’t miss out on this valuable information.
This point needs no elaboration. But I am including it anyway for the sake of completion.
I am sure you know the importance of accurate structure, spelling and grammar in your emails. Mistakes in language reflect poorly not just on your outreach, but also on the reputation of your name and your brand.
If you can be that careless about your pitch, it will make the email reader wonder about the quality of your work in other areas too.
Multiple Follow Ups
As revealed by an outreach case study, following up is so important around 50% of responses that you get are a result of following up.
The topic of following up to your email is so important that it needs special attention. So I have written a separate, in-depth piece on it. Here's my guide on following via email.
Improve Your Workflow
As you can guess from all the above best practices, running an effective outreach campaign can be a time consuming process, if done entirely manually. So some level of automation can really make you more efficient and speed up the results.
There are a number of digital outreach tools available to suit your workflow. And the good news is that most of them have free trials with which you can test them out before buying a subscription.
An outreach tool can help you easily build your target list, find publications and contact information, send emails and follow ups, as well as track the performance of your marketing outreach.
So there are my digital outreach tactics that will help you supercharge your marketing outreach campaigns.
As you do more and more marketing and outreach, you’ll start getting a feel for what works best in terms of applying these outreach tactics.
In addition, you should also keep testing the various variables of your pitch so you have real data to get insights from.
It’s simple math. The more effort you put into making your digital outreach campaigns more personalized and effective, the better results and relationships you will get with bloggers.
Or you can just outsource everything to a email outreach services provider to take care of the entire process for you.
Did I miss anything? Did you try these tips? Do you have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.