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In this week’s episode of Marketing Nerds, WEBRIS founder Ryan Stewart joins SEJ Features Editor Danielle Antosz to talk about outreach and how to do it right. Ryan shares how to identify the best outreach opportunities and how to write the perfect pitch.
Finding the Best Outreach Opportunities
It all starts with the target audience and where they hang out.
For example, if we want to promote a blog post, it’s about link building. We start by going out and finding the sites they are already talking about, and there’s a number of ways to do that. We’ll either just search Google, we’ll search Twitter, or we’ll use tools like BuzzStream, Pitchbox, or BuzzSumo.
I usually build an Excel file and prioritizing by social relevance, class score, etc, and start to build a target list based on people who are already talking about. Then we’ll start to figure out how we can add value to them and transition into that pitch.
Pitching Your Products or Services
It comes down to two things: Number one is content, the next step is value.
Content is the ultimate piece of value because you can create something of value to that person and use that as a warm intro. Everything hinges on content. If you wanted to pitch SEO services or consulting or web design or a product or anything, I always start with a piece of content.
If I wanted to pitch local SEO service in Jacksonville, what I would probably do put together some sort of video or PDF or e-book or whatever that sells without selling. I can show you my skills and how I’m able to do whatever it is you are looking to do, whether that’s rank in Google, get more phone calls, lower your cost per click, build a beautiful website, whatever that may be. You need to put content together that demonstrates that value without being like, “Hey, I want to sell you stuff.”
I like to tell people how to actually do it. Some people are afraid to give away everything, but for the most part, a business owner is not going to do that themselves. A busy business owner is never going to create their own website. They’re never going to do their own SEO, especially when you show them how much they actually need to do to get it done the right way.
What I like to do is I like to put together a piece of content. I have really written out the pitch, but something along those lines of where it’s not going to them and saying, “Hey, this is what I want to sell you.” It’s, “Hey, I’ve got something that can help you out. If you want to check it out, here’s a link.” Then from there it’s just a numbers game. Find a large number of people and send them that outreach and play that game.
What Will Make People Hire You?
Everything’s about touch points. Nobody just goes to Google and types in, “Hey, I want to hire an SEO agency,” or, “I want to buy a pair of brown shoes.”
There’re a million touch points that happen in between that purchase decision, what ultimately lets that person pull the trigger on who they want to hire or buy, especially when the dollar threshold is higher. This is why content marketing is so effective — because it helps you spread that net and live in perpetuity on the web.
If you build a prospecting list of five hundred business owners and you have their email address and you do some extra researching and find maybe a personal email address, you can upload those to Facebook and create a custom audience and run content to them and get that warm introduction before you send that outreach email. Potentially even build that relationship to the point where they contact you, which is what inbound is all about.
The Link Outreach Process
I started looking at ways to hack the link outreach process because, specifically for SEO, if you want to do it at scale, you’ve got to be able to build links and you’ve got to be able to do them the right way. There’s just no way around that if you want results.
Basically, it starts with research. That’s where a lot of people, especially local SEOs, are like, “Man, I don’t have time to go out and find people who accept guest posts or find resource pages.”
I just trained some people in the Philippines to do that and they’re doing web research. I trained them on exactly how to use search operators to look for resource pages, to check them for broken links, and just record them. Then there’s also looking on Twitter, looking for bloggers, anybody, again, who’s talking about the topic. I want to do link building for a sneaker website, anybody who’s talking about sneakers is a potential opportunity.
All you need to do is scrape them or find them and get their contact info and then figure out what makes them tick and how you can add value to them and just send them a pitch. We use Pitchbox and BuzzStream as well for outreach.
All pitches are value-based. Again, understand it’s about the exchange of value. I want to come on this podcast because you’re going to help me build my personal brand and spread the word about whatever it is that I do, but at the same time I’m going to give that back to you. When it comes to link building it’s the same thing. If you want a blogger to write about you, it’s like why should they?
Once you build those opportunities, you’ve got the tools to send outreach with the snap of a finger.
How Social Media Can Help in Your Outreach Programs
Having a social presence, it’s not so much about traffic to your site. It’s more of a branding tool and it’s a pitch tool.
I ask my clients when I sit down with them and we first take them on as a client, “What assets do you have? Do have an email list? Do you have a Facebook page? Do you have a Twitter following?” Because these are the tools I can use to then go to other people and say, “Hey, you’ve got a blog, I’ve got a huge Facebook page. If you include us in this post that’s about brown shoes, then we’ll share it and we’ll help you expose to twenty, thirty thousand people.” It works really well.
There’s just a very connected touch point, whatever you want to call it, in terms of digital.
The Next Step in Writing a Pitch
Number one tip is get to the point. Your first sentence can be, “My name is Ryan. I do this.” Then the next sentence for me is always, “I’m emailing you because…”
People are getting too lazy to even click on stuff. You have to get to the point and you have to tell them why you’re emailing them as soon as possible. You’re emailing them because you want something. Don’t try to hide that fact.
I actually saw a piece of data on Brian Dean’s blog, but it said that when people use the word “because” in their pitches positive response rates went up 45%.
Why it’s OK to Send a Pitch
You’re just telling them why you’re emailing them. So many people don’t do that. They try to hide the fact that they’re pitching. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’re not hurting anybody. You’re trying to run a business. You’re trying to build it. It’s okay to send emails to people.
I think a lot of people, when it comes to outreach, they don’t want to feel like they’re bothering people, they don’t want to hurt their own brand, but it is what it is. I hate to use a metaphor, but you’re never going to hit a home run if you don’t get up to bat. You just got to take the bat off your shoulder and swing.
I’ve never been like a salesperson. I don’t like to sell. I don’t like to go door to door. That’s not me, but it’s the same mentality, but you can hide behind the computer.
If you want to do outreach, you’ve got to be willing to step on some toes. Again, just getting back to the pitch — if you tell people why you’re emailing them, if they’re not interested, they’re not interested. Just move on.
Outreach does have a moderately low success rate. It’s just something that you have to accept upfront.
What Success Rates to Expect in Outreach
It depends on the pitch.
I sent a podcast pitch to about thirty different marketing podcasts and I actually had a very high success rate. It was about 30% acceptance rate to come on their show. For a response rate I had like a 60%. Nobody was like, “Hey, don’t send an email. How’d you get this email?”
When it comes to a podcast, I understand you guys are constantly looking for people, too, so there is that fact. If I can get in front of you with the right pitch and the right links to content and potentially provide the right value for your audience, it’s a win/win just off the bat.
Whereas link outreach is a little bit different because you’re not really adding value by trying to get a link on their site, so it’s a little bit different. PR and link-type outreach, success rate, it depends on the type of link that you’re targeting.
Broken link building has a pretty high success rate because, again, you’re helping them with something. You’re saying, “Hey, just wanted to let you know I was reading this article. You’re linking to a dead resource. Here’s the anchor. Here’s the dead URL. If you’re going to go in there and fix it, here’s another article that’s a perfect replacement.”
Whereas if you’re saying, “Hey, I see you’ve got this resource guide, this top thirty email marketing resources, I’ve got another great resource about email marketing. Do you want to include it?” You’re asking them to go out of their way to go into the CMS, which they probably don’t even have access to. They might just be an author on the site. It has a much lower success rate.
Just understanding the type of link that you’re pitching or whatever type of pitch that you’re sending, it’s going to have different response rates. Guest posting generally has a high response rate because they’re actively seeking people to write for their sites.
Going back to formatting the pitch, I like to try to keep it to three chunks. Intro, why I’m emailing you, and then I get right into the value exchange.
Think you have what it takes to be a Marketing Nerd? If so, message Kelsey Jones on Twitter, or email her at kelsey [at] searchenginejournal.com.
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