How to Avoid 4 Seemingly Harmless Outreach Mistakes

John Stevens

Harmless Outreach Mistakes

Outreach can make or break your content marketing game. If you want to make content marketing work for you, you need to master your outreach efforts. Over the past few years, by working on my outreach game, I’ve enjoyed the following successes:

  • Published by top media brands. I’m talking major media sites such as Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Adweek and The Next Web.
  • Built an epic brand. My startup, Hosting Facts, is one of the top brands in the hosting industry. In fact, one of my top resources on internet facts and stats has been viewed over 100,000 times. Outreach played a major role in this.
  • Featured in a lot of impressive places. Just recently, one of my articles made Outbrain’s list of the top digital marketing articles for 2017.
  • Combined outreach techniques with other strategies. My partner at Website Setup, a project that teaches people how to create their websites, was able to garner enough attention to help 250,000 people launch their own websites. So, yes, it’s replicable.

Outreach played a major role in all these achievements but I also remember some of the mistakes I made when I was just starting out. Four outreach mistakes, while seemingly harmless, can practically kill your content marketing efforts. Here’s how to avoid them:

  1. Fine-tune your pitch
  2. Use social proof
  3. Incorporate email
  4. Be sure to follow up

Fine-tune your pitch

Whether reaching out to an influencer, a journalist or a partner, your pitch could make or break your outreach effort.

We’ve all received this kind of pitch before:

Hey, I wanted to ask if you publish guest posts on {XYZ blog}.
Kindly let me know. I look forward to your reply.

Best regards,

{Boring Blogger}

Once upon a time, we might have responded to one or two of these pitches, but I’d be surprised if anyone responds to them today. Not only are they boring but they are also very generic. It’s not surprising that they don’t work.

Instead, look at the following pitch that got me in the door at Business Insider:

outreach email

A quick analysis shows that I addressed the editor by name, I had a reference (although not usually necessary) and I clearly conceptualized what I’m offering—in essence, content. I backed this up with a clear title and a snippet of relevant research to ensure the editor had enough information to decide whether or not this is something she wanted.

The same principle should apply to all your outreach efforts:

  • Know who you are reaching out to. Be sure to address them personally.
  • If possible, get a recommendation. A recommendation puts you in a stronger position and ensures you are less likely to be rejected.
  • Be clear and specific about what you’re offering. You’ve probably heard some experts advise you to leverage curiosity, but there is a time and place for that. People are so busy today, with shorter attention spans and increased pull for their attention. By being clear and specific about what you want from them, you make it easier for them to make a decision and will get better results.

Use social proof

In his book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” psychologist Robert Cialdini cites social proof as one of the leading triggers in persuading people to do what you want. Based on firsthand experience, I use social proof in practically all of my pitches today.

Take a look at another pitch that got me published by The Next Web:

pitch that got me published by The Next Web

As you can see, this pitch includes no content idea. Instead, I express my interest in becoming a writer for The Next Web and establish my credibility through the use of social proof.

I’ve had great success with pitches of this nature, which led to an important realization: When reaching out to busy people, influencers and thought leaders, the decision to follow up with you becomes easier when they see you’ve been recognized in other places. In other words, social proof can make a whole lot of a difference.

When you make social proof the bedrock of your outreach efforts, you are bound to get great results.

Incorporate email

“It’s difficult to be successful at outreach without using email. In fact, journalists almost always prefer to be contacted through email. So if you plan to do successful outreach, even though social media is hip and trendy, you can’t do without email,” says Ayodeji Onibalusi of Effective Inbound Marketing.

Here are some email rules you should adhere to. The statistics speak for themselves:

  • 33% of people open emails based on subject line alone. If your subject line is lousy, it automatically reduces the effectiveness of your email at least by a third.
  • Subject lines with more than three words reduce open rates by over 60%. In other words, follow the KISS principle.
  • Emails that include the recipient’s first name in the subject line generate higher open rates.

Be sure to follow up

If you engage in any form of outreach, you need to master the art of the follow-up. Even when your contacts do want to form a relationship with you, they are often too busy or distracted to do so. This is understandable, considering people today have the lowest attention span in history.

Research from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, which studied over 16 billion emails sent by 2 million people over a period of several months, found that 90% of people will not respond to an email if they haven’t done so within 48 hours. In other words, if it’s been two days since you sent your pitch and you haven’t heard back, you’re most likely never going to hear back again. In that case, it’s time for follow up.


John Stevens

John Stevens is the founder and CEO of Hosting Facts.