How to Improve Responses to Outreach
A big part of digital marketing that is often overlooked is the human element. Sure, we spend a lot of our time staring at a screen and using various programs and tools to perform tasks for us, but that doesn’t mean we don’t occasionally have to interact with others.
In fact, if you’re doing it right, a balanced and effective digital strategy should see you interacting with others all the time. Never forget that everything you see online has had at least some modicum of human input, and as such, people really are a core part of the business.
There are many reasons why you may need to outreach someone found online. Contacting webmasters to remove toxic links, reaching out to editors and publishers to enquire about guest posting, and getting in touch with influencers to help promote brands are all parts of the job that are increasingly common.
Knowing how to speak to people and when, is half the battle, as you’ll often find that once you’ve established a relationship, things go very smoothly. Here we’ll go over some of the techniques that have served us well at Kurve HQ, and offer a bit of advice too, so you can get in touch with the people who can help build your brand.
Keep it simple
Because there’s a very good chance that you won’t get a response, many marketers think that they have to make the most of their one shot, and they end up cramming everything into a single, baffling message.
Contacting someone out of the blue, harassing them with your story, then promising x, y, and z is not only a waste of time, but very poor email etiquette too. At all times, consider what you would do if you received the email you’re writing. And be objective too! Removing that toxic link is important to you now, but really, do you expect anyone else to care?
The best way to handle the situation is to keep it simple. Be honest and transparent, and you’d be surprised at the difference that can make. Briefly explain who you are, and why you’re contacting them. Make it clear that you’d like a response (don’t stress this, but conversely, don’t leave the message vague enough so that a response is not required), and have clear information on where they can reach you, including whether it’s OK to respond to that email address.
Keep it personal
Outreach of any significant scale can get tiring, but it’s important to be as personable as possible. This starts with names; if you know theirs, use it! Avoid using it too much, or you end up looking like that guy at the party who forgets someone’s name then overcompensates by using it too much when they find out what it is. Don’t be that guy.
Make it clear that you’re a real person too, rather than a tool that has scraped a site to get their email and is forwarding them a pre-written message. Make sure there are links to your company page, Twitter accounts and so on. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to spot a fake staff member developed purely for the purposes of outreach. Many webmasters have finely tuned senses that can detect these imposters from a mile away. Again, be genuine and you’ll be fine.
Timing is everything
You should know where your email recipient is based due to information on their website. If not, try a quick search and check any social accounts such as Linkedin. Once you know where they are, factor this into your outreach time. The best times to increase your response rates are in the morning, about 9 – 10, after lunch, about 1 – 2, and at the end of the day, about 5. These are the times when most people check their email (assuming they work in an office). Remember to account for the time difference if they’re based elsewhere.
It may sound obvious, but try to avoid emailing around public holidays, and never email last thing on a Friday! Not only will your email get lost in the sea of junk accumulated over the weekend, but the recipient may finish early and not appreciate work emails when they’ve popped out for a cheeky drink.
As with the other points, put yourself in their shoes, and consider when you would bother to read a cold email out of the blue. Chances are that’s a very small window each day. Grabbing their attention at the right time does involve a lot of luck too, but by sticking to these commonly accepted times, you’re maximising your chances of a response.
Be adaptive and responsive
To improve your response rate, you’ll have to be responsive too. This means replying as soon as you’re able, and not letting conversations lounge at the bottom of your burgeoning inbox. However, replying to willing recipients is the best case scenario; often you won’t hear anything at all.
In this case, consider having a second round of outreach for those who have yet to get back to you. If you’re getting delivery failure notifications, spend a little bit of time to find an alternative email, in case it was a genuine mistake, but don’t commit too much in the way of resources to chasing up potential dead ends. Instead, draft a follow up email, and tease a bit more information about your prospect. It could be that the original email went unnoticed, so don’t immediately jump to conclusions and assume the worst.
Adapt when necessary and be willing to change tactics if something clearly isn’t working. Every response (or lack of) is actually valuable information and will tell you where you’re going wrong. Having a strict formula and an even stricter template message is one of the worst things you can do in this scenario, so you have to be willing to get stuck in to get a response.
Unfortunately, very few people will be willing to give you something for nothing. Although you may think this gives you nothing to barter with when contacting webmasters to remove toxic links, don’t paint it that way. Offer something in return, whether that’s content, a quick analysis of their site, or even a recommendation to another organisation that may consider working with them. If you are contacting editors and publishers, throw in a small pitch for content too, as it saves a step where they have to chase you up to hear your idea.
When it comes to social influencers, give them something they can use. Whether this is a snippet of information, or a sample of a cool piece of content, these small peeks give them something to share and stay relevant, even before they’ve decided whether to take you up on your offer. Make it clear that what you’re providing them can be used too, so there are no legal boundaries to getting your message out there.
Although the list above indicates 5 aspects of your outreach you should work on to maximise your response rate, a lot of the work is in subtle changes and reading between the lines. Be passionate, engaged, helpful, and transparent, and no one can accuse you of being disingenuous. Also remember to only send to a validated email address, you can use a tool such as ContactOut to check your data is accurate.