If you’re a small fish in the massive ocean of online marketers, chances are you probably have a lot of difficulty getting your voice heard. Sometimes it may seem that despite all the effort and time you put into creating “great content”, it never really seems to make an impact.
How can you make sure that your content marketing doesn’t go unnoticed? How can you place yourself among the top marketing pros, and finally swim with the sharks?
Your best bet is to ride along on the coattails of those influencers. Before you get frustrated in disbelief and close this tab, hear me out! I’m telling you this because I experienced the results first hand, and it works.
My team and I reached out to hundreds of marketing experts and compiled a list of exclusive tips for creating addictive content. Every single one of those tips came from direct communication with those experts, and the content we created was seen and shared by some really influential marketers. I’m actually going to share my process with you in this handy guide, so that you can finally get your voice heard and no longer be marked as a small fish in a giant ocean of digital marketers.
What is influencer outreach?
You’ve heard the term influencer outreach thousands of times before, and at this point you probably know that the main purpose of influencer marketing and outreach is to boost your company’s sales and leads. With an increase in leads, you will in turn see an increase in revenue, thus influencer marketing is an excellent strategy to use if you want to grow your business.
According to a poll on the Tomoson blog, 59% of marketers are planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets over the next 12 months. The poll also showed that influencer marketing was rated the fastest-growing customer acquisition channel (and it can also be one of the cheapest if you use the right strategies).
So many people are beginning to see the how important it is to add influencer outreach to their marketing strategies, the next step is finding the right influencers that will in turn bring you the customers your business wants and needs.
Finding the right influencers
It can be excruciatingly overwhelming to track down influencers. If you’re just starting out your outreach strategy, chances are you were told which tools to use to find potential leads, but you’re still working out the details of the process.
Well, when my team and I were planning our content roundup, we knew we wanted approximately 50 exclusive expert tips to include in our ebook. If we could get ahold of such insights, we would have a piece of really useful and actionable content that plenty of marketers would love to get their hands on. We also knew we wanted to target content marketers looking to optimize their content for SEO.
The questions we would be asking each influencer were:
- What is your takeaway tip for making really great content?
- What is your #1 proven SEO tactic?
If we could get 50 different views and responses from these two questions, we could definitely create a guide that would help a lot of people out.
I used two different processes for tracking down influencers. The first and easiest one is to simply Google the keywords you are targeting. In our case those keywords were content marketing experts and SEO experts, and more general variations of those terms like content marketing insights, and SEO tactics.
Stryde had published a list of the top 50 marketing experts, which gave a great starting point. Another search pointed us to a list on Forbes written by Sujan Patel. We found quite a bit of crossover between lists, meaning that it not only acted as proof that the listed individuals were influential since they were getting mentioned in Forbes, but it also meant they were willing to contribute their insights (since they already had in the past).
The second process I used was an influencer search on Buzzsumo. I used the amplification tool to track down more influencers in the content marketing and SEO niches.
I added all of these influencers into a spreadsheet where I tracked their names, companies and websites, any relevant blog posts and articles, and of course their email addresses. Some of the influencers included Kevan Lee of Buffer, Barry Feldman of Feldman Creative, Michael Brenner of NewsCred and many other content marketing experts from companies like Hootsuite, Wordstream, Hubspot and UperFlip.
In the end we had a list of nearly 140 different marketing experts and we were ready for the next step; the pitch.
Formulating the perfect pitch takes a bit of getting used to. The first email pitch I ever wrote was terrible, and looking back on it now it was too long, too preachy, and too “pitchy”. As someone who receives a fair number of content pitches myself, it’s now easy to see what works and what doesn’t. The most important thing to keep in mind is to keep your email short and direct. Here’s an example of how I reached out to Guy Kawasaki.
- Keep your subject line vague enough to peak interest, but try to address the person by name right off the bat so that it still comes off as personal.
- Greet them to show you are friendly, but keep it short and sweet.
- Introduce yourself at the beginning of your email, or simply sign off at the end with your name and company.
- Research the person you are outreaching to and make your pitch personal. Don’t just copy and paste a generic email template to everyone. These are experts after all and can definitely tell when you’re taking the easy way out.
- Your pitch or ask should only be a couple of sentences at the most. Don’t go on and on about your company’s philosophy, history or any of that extra information. Get to the point and get out!
- Finally, offer this person something you know they want. Chances are any marketer or entrepreneur you outreach to understands the value of being featured in a well-researched and promoted piece of content.
In the end, you will have your tip:
Naturally, not everyone will be as endearing and polite as Guy Kawasaki right off the bat. It takes some persistence to get people’s attention. These influencers are very busy, after all, and likely receive a lot of spammy emails in their inboxes. You need to show them how committed you are to getting their attention.
Preparing for rejection (persistence, persistence, persistence)
You may recall that I mentioned we had compiled a list of almost 140 different marketers, but our final piece of content included only 46 expert tips. The reason for that is that unfortunately most people just never responded to my emails, despite how charming and to the point they were.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t try to get in touch with the ones who didn’t reply. In fact, had I given up after the first round of emails, our expert tips ebook would have had substantially fewer expert tips. The point is, a lot of these people likely get so many emails on a daily basis that my wonderful pitch very possibly got buried somewhere in their inbox.
So what do you do when this happens? Well you can send a follow-up email and hope for the best, or you can try to contact them via other channels. I used Twitter.
Twitter is a great way to signal someone or remind them that you sent an email. It indicates that you are still awaiting a response. Whenever someone tweets me to alert me that they sent an email, I’m impressed. The reason being that tweeting to someone puts you out in the open and signals to the rest of the world exactly what you are working on. Many people may find this daunting and a premature unveiling of their content plans, but sometimes the more you talk about your upcoming projects, the more anticipation you build for them.
Furthermore, Twitter is a more immediate and direct (there’s that word again) approach to communicating with someone. Due to the limited character count, there’s less of a “commitment” required when responding, and fewer rules in terms of formatting a reply.
For instance, one of the most difficult people to get an answer from was Neil Patel. I emailed him directly a couple of times and received no response, then I tweeted him, and finally I send him a message using his contact form on Quicksprout.
Alas I received a response:
After this success, I felt invincible and even tried get Chelsea Peretti to submit a tip:
She never answered. That’s ok though since I still got my marketing nugget from Neil!
When you face rejection, don’t give up. Think of the process like a challenging game. If one strategy doesn’t work, you need to try something different and something slightly more risky. If your email goes ignored, send a follow-up one. If that doesn’t work, try using different channels to get in touch with a person. For me, every tip I successfully acquired from an influencer was like getting a powerup or a gold coin! Eventually you will start to succeed, but it takes persistence. And who knows, in the end you might actually have a lot of fun with your influencer outreach marketing.
Completing your content
What’s important to note about influencer outreach is that you need to be able to offer the individual you are contacting something that they simply cannot refuse. How can you ensure that what you are offering them is something they actually want? Like I mentioned before, for many marketers, a solid backlink and promotion is an ideal prize!
Even more importantly, you need to deliver your promise in a way that is even better than what was expected. If you promised A level content, deliver A+ content.
The reason for this is not only to impress each expert featured in your roundup, but to make anyone who wasn’t featured jealous. Especially the ones who ignored you.
First: Trim the fat
Once we received all of the tips by the deadline we had given ourselves, we needed to pull out some of the juicier pointers. Some influencers provided us with the requested couple of sentences, but others had provided us with paragraphs upon paragraphs of content.
For those, we wanted to pull out some takeaway points to include in the blog post and the infographic poster on our page. The ebook would contain the full responses to encourage more people to download (which you can do by clicking here: 46 Expert Tips Ebook).
Second: Design the content
After we had compiled all of the condensed tips, we needed to work on designing the infographic and the ebook. We have two designers, so luckily one was able to work on the ebook and one focused on the infographic. This process took about a week. The infographic was made on our own infographic maker tool, and so were parts of the ebook. The remainder was done using Adobe Illustrator.
Third: Revise, revise, revise
I can’t stress how important it is to read, re-read and get someone else to look over your work. When you’re compiling content that is very rich and text-heavy, you will likely become eager to get it published and pushed out as soon as possible. This eagerness can quickly cloud your vision and stop you from noticing what may appear to be obvious errors to outside eyes.
Even after we were ready to publish the “final” version, at the last minute we would notice major errors that needed to be fixed. When in doubt, wait a day after you complete the content and look it over again with fresh eyes. You might be surprised by what you find.
The worst thing you can do is publish something and then have the influencer email you telling you that you misspelled their name, or used an incorrect picture to represent them. Be thorough to avoid embarrassment, and to impress anyone that comes across your work.
Outreach round two
So now that you’re post is completed and it’s published on your blog error free, you can just sit back and wait for the shares and backlinks to skyrocket. Wrong! You’re not done yet.
This is the part where you need to do your second round of outreach. For the ebook, I used Brian Dean’s Skyscraper technique to pre-plan my outreach.
In a nutshell, this means tracking down potential marketers and entrepreneurs who would be interested in your content, and telling them about it before you even publish it. Build up their anticipation and then contact them again when the content is ready. We performed our outreach in two phases:
1. Contact all the experts who participated
I started out by individually emailing every participating expert (not email merging them all at the same time). You have a really good chance of getting a lot of traffic to your post if they spread the word, and the majority of them will. In addition, not only will they share posts from their personal social media accounts, but they will also share from their business accounts. Within an hour of sending out the first batch of emails we already had over 200 social shares. Here’s what I said in my email to the experts:
- Re-email all the participants individually.
- In the email remind them about the study and include a link.
- Explain to them exactly how you helped
- Thank them again for their assistance.
- Ask them specifically to share (and re-post) content with their followers.
- End on a note that offers further opportunity for collaboration.
2. Then email everyone else
The next round of emails to send out is to the list of people who showed interest from the Skyscraper technique. Again, you just want to remind them that you are following up with them as per their request. You should do this manually as well, and individually contact each of these people.
Once that’s done, you can email a larger database of contacts (which you can do using a mail merge), including your own user-base of blog subscribers.
Anyone who you have done past collaborations and co-marketing with are perfect examples of who to contact.
Finally, in your outreach to these contacts, include the following sentence in your email:
“Also, if you’re interested in being featured in a future roundup, just shoot me a message and we’ll keep you in mind!”
Not only will this get other influencers excited about being contacted, but many of them will be eager to share your content in order to show their support.
Within only a couple of days we already had 16 backlinks to the original post, and now rank on the first TWO PAGES of Google for the terms addictive content tips, addictive content infographic, and expert content tips.
And of course, every day I receive notifications of more people linking back to the content, and more people sharing it across their social media platforms.
If you ever had any doubts about influencer outreach, I hope that now you are at least beginning to understand the benefits behind it. Influencer marketing will help you to establish newer and stronger relationships with individuals who can help you grow within your niche. These people can also help point you in the direction of more potential customers that may find value in your products and/or services.
Finally, reaching out to influencers can help you develop rich and high-value content that your audience actually wants to read. Don’t ignore the obvious signs- influencer marketing works.
About the Author: Nadya Khoja is a Visual Content and Digital Marketing Specialist. She is part of the team at Venngage, an online infographic maker. Nadya has a B.A. with Specialized Honours in Devised Theatre and a Master’s Degree in Digital Media with a focus on Audience Engagement and Immersive Experiences. When she has time, Nadya directs, produces and sound designs for experimental and interactive performances.