Relationships with bloggers, thought leaders and senior decision makers are invaluable. Influencer marketing, when done correctly, can be mutually beneficial for all involved.
That said, most brand marketers are executing some form of “influencer marketing” nowadays, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to cut through the noise.
Some marketing leaders have even opened the hood on their outreach marketing. This often results in novice level marketers incorrectly using those outreach templates and applying them without considering the appropriate context they were sent in.
Guess what happens next? Influencers get barraged with an onslaught of cheesy, non-personalized emails and LinkedIn messages daily. As we approach 2017, much of outreach marketing as we once knew it, has evolved into SPAM.
As Tim Soulo, Head of Marketing at Ahrefs puts it:
“You just published a new article on your blog and now you want to send a mass email to 100+ influencers, with an excuse: “I saw you tweeted a similar post.” I’m sorry to say that, but your content is not welcome in their inbox. Otherwise, they would probably sign up to your email list beforehand.”
The crux of the message is this: you need to get into the dirt and act on a personal level.
In this article, I outline 4 outreach marketing techniques that overcome this challenge. They take a more personal and contextual approach than the “spray and pray” tactics you often see.
1. Find Something in Common, Then Ask for Nothing!
I think Rand is on to something here. Of course, his tweet is within the context of sales, but it applies to outreach as well.
I know this concept seems like anti-outreach, but hear me out! Something I regularly do is research influencers who write about topics that are relevant to my company’s business goals. Being that SEO is my forte, I like to use BuzzSumo to track keyword driven mentions and receive daily alerts.
Suppose I want to engage with influencers who write about sales dashboards. I can set up notifications from BuzzSumo about content that gets published with that particular keyword, and then reach out to the influencer who wrote about that topic.
Let’s get practical for a second! Check out this cold sales email I sent to an influencer who is a regular contributor to Huffington Post. (Blurred out personal info to respect his privacy).
See what I did there? Kept it short and sweet, found a common ground, and asked for nothing. Check out his response:
There you go! My advice to novice marketers – focus on outreach with the goal of building a relationship, even if it means asking for nothing. Avoid doing outreach for the sake of just getting a link. Finally, never ask for value without giving it first!
2. Content Collaboration
Have you ever quoted an influencer or linked to their content in an article before? Well, I just did in this article.
Let’s use the example of Rand’s tweet that I mentioned earlier. It would be extremely corny if I emailed him and said:
“Hey Rand, I really loved your recent tweet where you mentioned how to earn the trust of those who might buy, so I included it in my latest article called “4 Outreach Marketing Tactics to Supercharge Your Content.” Would be great if you could share it/comment/give thoughts etc. Thanks!”
Not only would Rand not share it, but it’d be embarrassing – as that’s a known amateur move.
Sometimes, it can work (it likely won’t), but response rates are much getting lower. Influencers are growing numb to this type of outreach; I guarantee most of them are hitting the delete button before they even get to your call-to-action.
Therefore, you need a method of building stronger relationships. This means doing more for them than providing a simple backlink, or social mention.
So, instead of simply linking to them from your content, get them involved with it.
Imagine your goal is to tap into an influencer’s audience. One approach could be to collaborate on an in-depth, long-form piece of content together.
It’s getting harder and harder to produce good content. By offering to do the heavy lifting on a co-branded piece of content, you’re doing them a huge favor.
Reach out to them with an idea, asking them to get involved. Co-brand it and distribute it to both audiences, sharing the subscribers you generate.
Drift recently did this by partnering up with Mattermark. They created an (ungated) eBook showing common factors of the fastest-growing B2B companies:
Webinars, eBooks, podcasts and blog posts are all effective forms of co-branded content. You could also co-host a video (or series) around a topic. Host them on YouTube and include relevant calls-to-action for lead generation purposes.
Pat Flynn created a simple interview video on YouTube with Noah Kagan, founder of SumoMe. The result: a piece of incredibly valuable content, which has been viewed over 10,000 times to date.
Finally, budget permitting, you could sponsor content. Target bloggers and influencers with a large audience who would benefit from the extra stream of revenue.
3. The Helping Hand
Nurturing through social media channels and through blog comments is another tried and tested approach to outreach marketing.
Yet, most marketers aren’t doing this effectively. They simply leave a comment on a blog post or share their content on social media.
This can be ineffective because it risks coming across superficially. Influencers have figured out these approaches and they know why you’re doing it.
If you truly want to help them, you need to hustle for them.
I recently published an SEO / content case study on Inbound.org that called out a music company’s digital marketing woes. The screenshot below is one of the issues identified.
Shortly after that, a few email exchanges with the company’s CEO – and a new relationship built. Aside from a personal relationship, there’s now real business potential as well.
Actual email from CEO. (Sensitive info blanked out).
Here’s another one. You could write an article on a publication and write about their product or service. Include a backlink within the context of the value you’re delivering.
David Fallarme, Director of Marketing at ReferralCandy, did this with a guest post on LemonStand. He created a resource of the top eCommerce marketing tools, linking back to each tool. He ended up connecting with marketing leaders at most of those he listed:
What if you have access to an audience they don’t? We often forget about our own influence over an audience.
Distribute their products to the communities you’re known in. For example, if you’re a regular contributor to Product Hunt, you could submit their product for them:
If you’re a regular contributor to other communities and forums, contribute to relevant conversations with a contextual link to their product. This works especially well for middle-of-funnel (MOFU) content, such as eBooks and email courses.
This approach boils down to tapping into their personal and professional goals. If you’re following them, you know what matters to them. Help them achieve those goals.
Don’t limit this approach to what they value in business. Get an understanding of what matters most to them in their personal lives. Do they love Mexican food? Are they a huge Jets fan? Get this insight on your target influencers.
Once you know this, you can use the element of surprise and delight. Send a voucher for a gourmet food store. Or send merchandise for their favorite football team.
If you’re going down this route, be sure to provide a good reason behind it. Despite it being a kind gesture, they’re still likely to be skeptical. You’re going to need a better reason than “I’m sending you this because I’m going to need something from you in future.”
4. Befriend Them in Real Life
Digital is the new wave, but there’s nothing like real life interaction.
One of the best “outreach marketing” tactics is to meet them face-to-face. Either go where they are, or invite them to you.
If you’re paying attention to who you’re targeting, you’ll be able to react to their movements.
For example, they might Tweet about an upcoming conference they’re attending. If they’re giving a keynote, then you might be lucky enough to catch them afterward.
Even better, send them a note saying you’ll be there, inviting them to grab a coffee with you. Everyone loves a free coffee, but make sure you add value beyond a hot drink.
Aaron Orendorff took this concept and went one step further. He wanted to connect with specific influencers speaking at CMWorld in 2016. To warm the relationship up before the event, he decided to get them involved in a blog post.
The chosen topic was “26 Headliners on How to Connect with Influencers at a Conference.” They reached out to each of the influencers they wanted to connect with. He asked what they thought the best way to connect with them was and collated their answers in an article on the Venngage blog:
By doing this, they created warm relationships in time for the day of the conference. They ended up meeting with the majority of influencers on their list, many of which they worked with after CMWorld.
This approach requires a bit of reactivity and patience for the right event to come around. But why wait? Go on the offensive and create a reason for them to come to you.
Sujan Patel did this with his Growth Chats while traveling. In each city, he would host a dinner and invite a group of thought leaders to join him:
Through this approach, Sujan managed to get into a room with the likes of Lincoln Murphy, Noah Kagan, and Pinterest Head of Growth, Casey Winters.
Sharing dinner with a group of your peers is a very effective way to get to know them and build strong relationships.
The techniques I’ve shared here rely on doing the work before you ever ask for anything. Arguably, this is the most important and underrated step of outreach marketing.
It’s key that you add value up front. The old methods of commenting, sharing and Tweeting at them are no longer as effective. Everybody is aware of the intention behind these acts.
Instead, add value where it matters. Understand what drives every single thought leader and executive you’re targeting. Do this, and your outreach will benefit greatly.
About the Author: Gaetano is Head of Marketing at Sales Hacker and former SEO Manager at Pipedrive, a contributing writer at Digital Music News and a New York based music producer & songwriter. To get in touch, feel free to reach out via LinkedIn.