Targeted outreach. Influencer marketing. Blogger relations. In the field of classic advertising, they’d probably refer to it as testimonials. Even with so many different terms for this one concept, the driving force behind them all is the same: relationships.
Relationships have the power to multiply the trust and authority of a company’s message. Relationships can also provide reach and influence within a certain group of people. For these reasons, building relationships is a strategy employed by big enterprises, non-governmental organizations, start-ups and middle-sized companies alike.
The image above depicts one of the most crucial things to consider when researching influencers in your industry vertical: You need to share the same type of audience. An influencer’s trust, authority, reach and influence are only valuable if they’re applicable to the group of people you are targeting. Thus, you have to think through a few things before getting started with the actual outreach process.
1. Who Do I Want to Reach?
One way to find thematically relevant websites and the key influencers behind them is through media monitoring. The goal of media monitoring is to filter online chatter for relevant discussions that identify especially vivid participants, blogs, and websites with a focus on the desired topic.
Selection criteria for potential partners should include:
- frequently tackled topics
- inbound and outbound links of the respective website
- reach and interaction on social channels
Note that social media value should not necessarily be measured by the number of followers, but rather on the following-follower-ratio, list mentions, and interaction rates.
2. What Do I Want to Achieve?
This question actually includes two in one.
What Type of Response Do I Want From the Recipient?
Each touch with the targeted influencer should have a clear call to action (CTA) that’s both striking and prominently placed. The reader should not be confronted with a flood of text when opening an email, but they should understand immediately what you’d like them to do.
Are you asking them to give feedback on content or share something via social media? Are you urging them to download a resource? Are you seeking media coverage with a backlink? Looking to negotiate a guest posting opportunity? Asking to interview the recipient?
Whatever the goal of your outreach, the CTA needs to be phrased as a polite “ask”, not as a pushy instruction or demand. Leading with the benefits of the proposed engagement will differentiate you, as it demonstrates that you have taken the time to research their interests and aspirations. It proves that you understand the influencer’s unique wants and needs.
What Kind of Benefit Do I Want to Communicate?
Before drafting the pitch (typically via an email), spend time thinking about what kind of real and tangible benefit you could offer the recipient. The fact that you are pointedly asking them to take action is not an incentive and does not in any way equate to the effort they’ll spend fulfilling the desired action. What will motivate the influencer to comply with the CTA?
Can the recipient position himself as an expert in his peer group by sharing the piece? Is participating crucial for developing competitive intelligence? Could he possibly be the first in his industry to exclusively report about the news? Does he get high-quality content for his own website or blog for free? These are all common stimuli in influencer marketing.
3. How Will I Contact Them?
Once the goals are set, you can then start contacting the chosen influencers. This is the most sensitive part of the outreach process since it determines success or failure of your efforts. Accordingly, it’s a good idea to spend a fair amount of time preparing before you hit the “Send” button. Think of your outreach email as a love letter in which you’re trying to win the heart of your soul mate. You wouldn’t want to mess that up, would you?
Where Can I Find the Right Contact Details?
The goals are set, but the research is not completely done yet. You’ve got to make sure your message gets to the right inbox. There’s nothing more embarrassing than a love letter wrongly delivered.
A website’s imprint would be the first logical place to look, but a simple email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org email address, in most cases, won’t do the job. To personalize your outreach as much as possible, try to target one specific person.
However, generic email addresses could still be helpful. It takes a bit of sleuth work, but sometimes it’s possible to guess the corporate email convention from a generic address, too.
What Should My Outreach Mail Look Like?
Relationships start with people, which means the first point of contact is all about individuality. A personal salutation and the presentation of yourself and your company are thus indispensable parts of your first paragraph.
Refer to any kind of previous contact in your outreach mail. If you’ve previously corresponded with them, follow them on social media, are a regular visitor of their blog or were referred by a mutual contact, tell them so. It helps customize your message and build an emotional bond with your counterpart.
Emphasize your own authority and reputation by pointing to your own published thought leadership, as well as mentions of your name or organization on renowned websites.
To make the outreach process more efficient, try using e-mail templates. Design a flexible structure that only needs to be adjusted and customized for each new campaign. Such templates will also allow you to experiment with A/B testing for continuous optimization of layout and language.
Last, but not least, close with the expected level of effort the request will require and the timeline to complete it. This should effectively demonstrate that only a little time is required for a considerably positive outcome.
4. How Can I Raise Attention?
When conducting influencer outreach, it is important to make your e-mail stand out from the crowd. The subject line is the first (and most important) hurdle to take in this regard.
Personalization is one factor that can make all the difference. Cialdini’s ‘Six Principles of Persuasion’ offers a great framework for writing individualized, enticing subject lines. Here’s how to apply the six principles to your outreach mail:
Establish contact with the influencer beforehand and begin to build a relationship before even starting your outreach. Then, later, refer to those previous communications in your e-mail. The recipient is more likely to accept your offer if they already know and like you, or if you’re at least familiar to them.
“Thanks for the vivid Twitter discussion the other day. In fact, I’ve created a resource on [this very topic] and thought you might be interested in sharing it with your followers.”
Commitment & Consistency
Draw a connection between your content and the influencer’s activities. Describe why this specific person perfectly matches your cause. People are more likely to engage in things that reflect their own values and identity and are, thus, consistent with what they (want to) represent.
“I really enjoyed your talk at [conference name] last month. You’ve been saying interesting things about [a certain topic] and I’d love to include your expert opinion in my roundup on [a matching topic].”
If you’ve already got renowned testimonials or references don’t be afraid to make use of them. People are more likely to follow a CTA if it is uttered by an authority. So have experts review and evaluate your content and (hopefully) suggest that others should check it out, too.
“[Renowned company] already uses our new feature and thinks ‘it is absolutely worth trying!’ But please see for yourself. I’d really appreciate your feedback on this new functionality, too.”
Always emphasize benefit for the recipient. Give and take is the name of the game. If you do a favor for an acquaintance, you likely also expect something in return. The same is true for influencers. Benefit has to be mutual. The least you can give back is honest appreciation and gratefulness.
“I’m an avid visitor of your blog and often recommend your content to my own readers. Would you be interested in writing a guest article for my audience?”
Mention already-generated links, social signals or media coverage and leverage those facts as social proof. The basic principle “If many others are doing it, it has to be worth doing,” still works. So if many people have been sharing your content, others are more likely to do the same.
“The whitepaper has already generated 150 Twitter shares, 70 Facebook likes and has been featured in [a renowned magazine]. I’d be honored if you’d consider coverage on your website, too.”
Include an exclusive offer in your outreach. Give your contact the opportunity to be the one and only person to benefit from your proposal. Another way to leverage scarcity is to set a deadline for getting back to you. This limits the offer and provokes urgency. The deadline doesn’t have to be set in stone, however, and should be more of a flexible time frame designed to speed up a reply.
“I’d like to offer you the attached infographic for exclusive publication on your website only. If I haven’t heard from you in three business days, I’ll assume you’re not interested and make this offer available to other contacts.”
5. How Can I Evaluate My Efforts?
You eventually need to evaluate the success of your outreach efforts. A thorough reflection of processes can help to identify opportunities for improvement and ways to optimize workflows for future projects.
Have I Achieved My Targets?
There are many different ways to find out if you’ve achieved your goals.
Continuous brand monitoring will track linked and unlinked mentions that were generated from the campaign. Regular backlink checking unveils which websites have recommended your content, while traffic reports will reveal if you’ve been able to gain more visitors and tracking codes help you find out where these visitors have been coming from. You can also use individual hashtags for a specific campaign to evaluate engagement on social media. And in the best case, of course, lead generation and conversions have benefited from your outreach as well.
For a comprehensive evaluation, thus, you need to consider quantitative data such as results from A/B testing and response rates, as well as qualitative analysis of replies and feedback received.
However, the most important key performance indicator to measure is the overall progress of your entire project. Look at the big picture and match the outcome of your outreach activities with previously defined goals. Any activities resulting in exceptional results that required minimal effort should be identified as best practices at this point. Finally, implement those best practices into the workflow to increase efficiency in the long run and make your next outreach campaign even more successful.