I want to confess something to you. A while back, I wrote an article for my blog about 17 Killer SEO Resources. Admittedly, it was one of my worst posts in a long time, but it was shared almost 645 times and resulted in 10k visitors to my site. Without a doubt, I know the secret to that post’s success: outreach emails.
I reached out to about to all 17 people that I mentioned in that post. I just let them know that I had written something that mentioned them. They were so grateful, that they in turned shared the blog with their followings.
I think what’s most important to take away from this example is not the promotional value I was given through those emails. Instead, let’s focus on the testament that that story is to the power of good relationships. Good relationships are your key to good content marketing—and often, it starts with an email.
I want to show you how I’ve mastered this art of outreach emails, and how it has cultivated wonderful relationships with content marketers all across the Internet. And while the premise of this post is that you can email people to promote content, the key is doing it in a way that privileges the relationship. Help them before you expect them to help you.
Relationships Are A Key Component of Content Marketing
The thing about that post is that it won’t last forever. Sure, it’s evergreen content, but I’ve had more valuable posts since, and I’ll continue to produce content that draws more traffic. But what did last from that experience are the relationships I created through a few simple emails.
Those people are now on my radar, and I’m on theirs as someone who is watching and applauding their work. I’m sure you understand the value of someone who likes your work—so do other content marketers. They won’t be quick to miss an opportunity to cultivate a relationship.
As a contributor in the content marketing world, your goal should be to help others—because you know what a great gift that can be. As you become someone who’s known for that sort of behavior, others will recognize it and return the favor—and sometimes that can happen as quickly as after one email.
While it’s tempting to think that the goal of outreach is promotion, it’s not. One-off promotional bumps are good, but a lasting relationship that produces continual promotion is a hell of a lot better.
Relationship Metrics: Building Meaningful Marketing Relationships
While your focus is simply to help, it’s also important that these are meaningful relationships that are worth both parties’ time. You can’t afford to spend your whole day going around promoting other people’s work, but neither can someone else. There needs to be a value for both camps that makes the relationship work.
For starters, consider what value you bring to the table.
Proprietary Data: If you have valuable content that nobody else has, then you immediately have value to someone else. Whether you’ve conducted a study, or analyzed some groundbreaking trends that can be published on someone else’s platform, proprietary data is a great way to break the ice.
Complementary Resources: If you can add value by bringing a something to the table that fleshes out someone else’s work, you can make yourself very appealing very quickly. Find people who are in like circles that makes lack some of the same resources that you do. Offer to complement their work, and they’ll be eternally grateful.
Unique Expertise: Everybody loves an expert opinion. If you’re an influencer or expert in your field who can offer and exclusive look or quote, people are going to jump all over that.
An Offer to Contribute: Sort of a hat-in-hand approach that says, “I’m willing to help where you need it.” People can appreciate having someone who’s simply looking out. From a guest blog to a shout out, every contribution counts.
Beyond what you can offer, ask yourself: Why would this person want to promote your content? Yes, you’re proud of your post. But is it something that makes them a better contributor? You can’t just look for relationships that benefit you. Each one needs to be symbiotic.
Cold Outreach: Finding Influencers and Contributors
If you’re not sure where to start with the massive list of influencers out there, try refining your search with a couple of helpful tools.
For one, there’s BuzzSumo. There you can discover people and sites that are meaningfully contributing to and engaging with a broad community. It gives you the ability to use targeted searches and located the niches you’re really after.
Then of course, there’s the classic Google query. Get yourself online and hunting down blogs that are making the kind of impact you want to make. It’s too easy these days to find the information you want, so don’t feel confined by your lack of knowledge—dig for it!
From there, it’s simply a matter of getting your foot in the door. Use communication channels to compliment, shout-out, and give credit for influencers’ great work. Promote them before expecting anything in return.
Start with a LinkedIn message (if you’re on premium you can even message 3rd connections), or an email. If you can’t find that information, then it’s as simple as a mention on Twitter or tag on Facebook. It might take a little more effort to get their attention that way—depending on their following. Perseverance is the key.
Need some more suggestions? Check out how 40 experts implement outreach and the tools they use.
Creating and Maintaining Relationships
As I mentioned before, this isn’t a one-off promotional gimmick. If you wouldn’t do something to make a friend in the “real world,” then you shouldn’t do it to get in with an influencer. If you want meaningful relationships, you need to reach out long before there’s a need.
I didn’t email those influencers because I was desperate for shares. I emailed them because I knew that it was an excuse to get my foot in the door in creating a relationship. You need to be able to walk away from an experience not expecting or needing anything from someone before you can create a real relationship with them.
Help to be helpful, the rest will come in due time.
And that said: you aren’t necessarily going to form a relationship after your first cold email. You need to maintain contact, reach out over a long period of time, and keep on top of each individual relationship. If people get the sense that they’re being automated, or on the receiving end of a whole lot of spam, they’re not going to want to reach back.
Personally, remembering every name and correspondence isn’t quite as easy as others make it out to be—so thank God someone invented Boomerang. Not only does it help you take control of inbox management, but it can help you to circle back with certain people at designated times.
The key is to stay on top of your outreach efforts, so that you’re not barraging people with emails, and also not leaving them in a pile beneath your inbox.
Some of the Pitfalls of Outreach
This all may seem daunting, but it’s really quite manageable if you know how to stay on top of it. But there are pitfalls that people often fall for if they’re not careful. One pitfall in particular is looking for quantity over quality when it comes to an influencer’s network.
There are plenty of Twitter accounts out there with hundreds of thousands, even millions of followers, but that doesn’t mean all—or even most—of those followers care to engage with that account. They may even be fake or bought accounts.
With that, it may be easy to want to flock to a professional promoter: someone who is paid a lot of money to promote products to their flock of followers. The reality is, while celebrities are often paid well to promote a wide variety of products, those “promoters” don’t often carry those most influence.
It’s the idea of reach vs. affinity. You may be able to get your message out to 10,000 people, but that person may not carry the same weight of influence with their following as someone with 1,000 followers. Usually, the smaller the network, the more their followers trust them.
So while that doesn’t mean you should automatically trust someone who has a low number of followers, you may be surprised at how much influence they actually carry.
Relationships Were Never Meant to Be Automated
At the end of the day, my best advice is that in creating relationships, you cannot look for shortcuts. Do the due diligence of good outreach, and you’ll reap a much greater reward than had you tried to shortcut your way to people mentioning your next post on Twitter.
You can be smart, targeted, and strategic, but you should never be impersonal—especially if you’re hoping that they’ll ever return the favor. Take outreach seriously, because it’s what makes good content marketers great.
In the end, you cannot expect someone to give you the same treatment you give them, but your responsibility is to give your best to your community no matter what.