5 email outreach tips to develop relationships with influencers
Real, unabridged transparency in marketing is rare.
Even in these days of sharing exceptionally valuable content, my experience tells me that fellow marketing professionals hold one or two cards very close to their chests.
It’s unsurprising really that one of those cards tends to be the outreach process they’re putting into action for their clients. Others tend to include social media strategies and paid search marketing plans – and I suppose that’s primarily because these are parts of the business that will return a healthy profit for a successful agencies and businesses.
And you know what? Influencer marketing returns a healthy profit for us – but I’m happy to share the process, In fact, I’m eager to do it – but I’m also keen to explain to you that the process is only half the story.
The reason I’m happy for anyone to understand (or even implement) our process is simple. It’s a level of transparency that proves we deliver a truly white hat service. The reason we’re excellent at is isn’t about the process though – it’s about the human interactions that underpin it.
I’d like to tell you about the way we operate, all of it – and share 5 pieces of advice that will elevate your outreach practice to being head and shoulders above many of your competitors.
Process vs. relationship
Please understand that I’m not deriding the process part of outreach marketing. If you’ve implemented any outreach strategy you’ll already understand that there’s a significant amount of legwork involved.
Not all of that legwork requires huge levels of expertise, some parts of the process can be automated. You know the score.
But there’s something absolutely vital to remember:
There’s a time for implementing process – and there’s a time for building relationships – but be warned, the two don’t mix well – let them into the same conversation at your peril.
Your process is the nuts and bolts of how the outreach strategy looks on a day-to-day basis. Your daily to-do list. The relationship building? That’s the set of guiding principles that that inform your interactions with the human beings that are out there – specifically, the influencers you want to work with.
Think about the message you’re putting out
The best marketing teams, salespeople and sales training in the world focuses on advocating solutions for customers who have a need. They might not know they have that need from the start of the process – but only by building an understanding of that person can a good salesperson consider how their product or service fits in their life.
And guess what, when that product is suggested, customers are willing to listen – because the sales process has involved a salesperson who cares enough to build a relationship before attempting to ‘close’ the deal.
Same customer, same salesperson, no relationship – virtually no chance of winning the business.
When you understand that outreach is a sales process it becomes apparent why relationship building is a vital part of what you should be doing. Without relationship building, you’re walking into a room and shouting “Who wants to help me earn some money for my agency?!”
And the answer?
No one, they’re busy influencers who have their own stuff going on.
Don’t worry though, influencers don’t begrudge you earning money – but there’s got to be something in it for them – and relationship building is the way of working out what that needs to be.
Relationship building fundamentals
Myself and my account managers build the relationship part of our role around these five commandments. We’ve placed thousands of links – and this is how we do it:
#1 – Develop an actual relationship
It’s one thing to have your process people identifying blogs and opportunities for you – but that’s the point they need to put down the tools and step away from the influencers.
This is where you or your team need to have a different hat on. Don’t be the guy or girl that bursts in asking people for favours – these people owe you absolutely nothing, nor would you be the first person coming to them looking for a favour.
Instead, get to know them, from a distance at first – if you’ve found them on social media, look at what seems to make them tick, what do they like? What do they and don’t they respond to?
When you’ve got a feel for the kind of person you’re dealing with, start to interact. Get yourself into the habit of asking for absolutely nothing during the first ten or twenty interactions.
Ouch. Slow burn right?
Well, it’ll be worth it – because when you do ask, they know your face, they know your profile picture, they somewhat know you. A warm approach beats a cold approach every time – and pushes your conversions rates through the roof when it comes to asking the important questions.
#2 – Understand that this person is busy
Here’s another stark truth – but it’s important:
At this stage at least, influencers don’t care about you and your accomplishments. I’m sorry to be so blunt with you on that – but if you wade into an interaction talking about yourself, the person you’re talking to is going to switch off very quickly.
If they want to read about people they’ll log on to LinkedIn and read about the 5000 people they’re already familiar with.
This person is busy – so make your communication reflect that. Be clear, concise and polite.
#3 – Ditch the canned emails and get personal
If you’ve got a set of canned emails that you send out to influencers I’d strongly suggest that you delete them now. If someone gets a hint of the fact that you don’t value the communication enough to type a 5 minute email then they’re going to drop you like a hot rock – and frankly, why shouldn’t they?
If you find yourself rambling then by all means give yourself a guide for how the specific type of email you’re sending should look – but don’t cut and paste.
This is what an influencer’s internal voice is doing when your communication gets in front of them:
- “What is this?”
- “What is this about?”
- “What’s in it for me?”
And you’re going to answer those questions (even if they’re not aware that they’re thinking them!) by doing this:
- “What is this?” – Write a good email subject that explains what they’re going to be reading. Avoid click bait, it’s just insulting – instead, make it a super abridged version of what the email is going to do, for example: “A proposal relating to content you might enjoy” – or similar.
- “What is this about?” – This is where you flesh out that subject title. Remember, this is about the proposal – not about you.
- “What’s in it for me?” – This is where the understanding that you’ve gleaned about the person comes into play. Give them a reason for working with you based on something you understand about them – “I realise you have children and I think this is beneficial to parents because…” – just an example obviously – but a vital point.
#4 – Don’t ask for a reply
Around 10 years ago Tim Ferris put pen to paper with some tips for emailing busy people – and there’s one that has stuck with me permanently – but it’s a paradox:
If you don’t ask for a reply, you’re more likely to get a reply.
As Tim’s example suggests, if you give the person an easy out – “I understand if you’re too busy to answer in depth… however…” you’ve even more likely to get a reply.
People don’t like dealing with pushy people – so if I can urge you to purge one thing from your outreach strategy (well, okay – two if you include canned emails) – it would be the temptation to put “I look forward to your reply” or something similar on the end of everything you send.
Ditch it and watch those conversions rise.
#5 – Manage and analyse your interactions
This is the only place where relationship and process work harmoniously together – but that’s because this next step has them meeting on your terms.
Keep some kind of notes that relate to where you are with each person you’re reaching out to. Perhaps that’s a spreadsheet, perhaps it’s some kind of CRM system like SalesForce or Zoho – find something that works for you and keep a track of who you’re talking to, what you’re doing, what you’re learning and what communication has occurred between you and the influencer you’re trying to work with.
This tip is all about risk – and mitigating it as far as possible.
Sooner or later, people are going to talk back to you – or pick up the phone. When they do, you don’t want to be caught out as someone who’s laid on a good show, only to have their integrity fall to pieces when it’s time to talk business.
We have 6 team members, we’ve sent over 14,000 emails to influencers – and we’ve built around 2000 superb, high quality links – all based on a lot of process hard work and a lot of careful relationship management.
We know what makes us great at what we do – and if you keep track of every conversation, every angle of approach and every failure and success, you’re well on your way to doing an exceptional job of link building too.
About the author
Tom Buckland is the founder and director of Ghost Marketing – a UK link building agency with an excellent reputation for providing high quality backlinks. For more information on Ghost Marketing and what they do, visit them at ghostmarketing.co.uk.