How To Write Outreach Emails No One Will Ever Want To Ignore
Email outreach has long become synonymous with the worst in SEO – begging for links.
After all, what else do you think of when someone mentions it than guest posting?
I know, I have been doing the same for a long time too.
In reality though, email outreach is one of the most powerful marketing techniques. Sure, it’s been overused. A lot in fact. That doesn’t mean we should cross it out completely. After all, what’s a simpler, quicker, more scalable and effective strategy than outreach?
It can (and is) used for many more things that just to get a link. Everyday SEOs use it to:
- promote content
- get more social shares
- build connections
- get help with creating content
- ask to participate in a particular project
- get help with generating ideas (or run your ideas by someone)
- get opinions
- find new work
- gain publicity for clients
- promote products
and much more.
Sales people use it too. They just call it differently – email cold call. Nonetheless, they use it in the same way for the same purpose – to get their way. To initiate a conversation with a prospect, arrange a presentation or many other things.
But here’s the thing. When it comes to SEOs, not many people do it right.
To test this I ran a quick search on Twitter. Here’s what came up:
Awesomely bad link outreach email… “I need backlinks from your site…” pic.twitter.com/xcYRypJAcd
— Leigh Hanney (@leighhanney) January 24, 2014
Check out this amazing email i got today. This is known as link building outreach. Learn from it lol pic.twitter.com/4Aq3laNAIl
— Himanshu (@analyticsnerd) June 10, 2013
Or check out this post, it’s full of bad outreach examples.
I guess it would be hard to convince somoene to outreach by email when faced with such an evidence. And the state of my inbox each week only confirms it.
So where’s the problem?
Firstly, it’s the wrong attitude.
Without going to deep into this (it’s not the purpose of this post) – outreach is too simple and because of that, can be deceiving. In a nutshell it seems to be all about firing off that email to someone and bam, you get what you wanted.
But if you consider email outreach as just that, you are on a last straight to failure. Let’s be realistic here, what are the chances that someone who has never heard of you before is going to give you what you want?
Think of outreach as an introduction though, to further discussion perhaps, and you have a far greater chance at achieving your goal.
By making this slight shift in attitude, you increase your chances for your outreach to be successful.
That’s not the only problem though.
Secondly, it’s the form.
Outreach emails are rarely written to guarantee a reply. Sure, they are long. They contain a plethora of information, a lot of which isn’t necessary but that’s another thing. Yet they don’t inspire the recipient to reply.
Well, here’s how to change it.
5 Characteristics of a Perfect Outreach Email
1. Your Email Has to Be Short
Back in my youth I was a musician. I ran my own band, booked our shows and looked after our marketing. The internet wasn’t so big those days (we’re talking late 90’s) and most of my work was done offline.
I had to write physical letters to promotors, then follow up with a call. And needless to say, those letters were long. There was no other way to tell the recipient everything about you.
Things are different today. Emails are short and there are suggestions how to make them even shorter. We have only seconds to concentrate on the message until something else grabs our attention.
Therefore, whatever you are trying to say, can be said quikcly.
If your recipient has to spend a minute reading your email, it is already too long. From my experience, the maximum length of your message should be no more than 150 words. This corresponds to approximately half of a standard document page (or less than a minute of reading time). Ideally this words limit should include also your signature.
2. Your Email Has To Be Simple
Your recipients won’t read your entire email. He or she will read the first sentence, and if you succeed in building a rapport in there, they may skim the rest quickly looking for words or phrases that could catch their attention.
Therefore, you need write your message using short sentences and paragraphs.
Also, keep the structure simple too. Each paragraph in an outreach email has a role to playTry to do not steer far from that structure. Instead, work within its limitations.
Outreach email structure:
- 1st paragraph – introduction and building rapport
- 2nd paragraph – your offer
- 3rd paragraph – your request
3. Your Email Has To Be Personal
Scalability can be a trap. Being able to send many emails at once scraps them from personality.
But your recipient must be sure that it was sent directly to them. It is the only way to start building a relationship with them.
Who you send your email to and how you open it are important but nothing beats building rapport.
Rapport helps you to overcome the traditional resentment many people would feel towards people they don’t know. Since you are clearly contacting the recipient with a very personal goal in mind it may come as no surprise that they feel negative towards it.
By building rapport in the opening sentence you present yourself not as a stranger but someone the recipient has some connection with.
How to build rapport
People prefer to do business with people they know, fact. Therefore, your aim at building rapport is to find things you and your recipient might have in common. But of course, if neither of you know one another, this might be a tough thing to do. Then again, the web is a small place. Perhaps you published on the same site. Or are part of the same Linkedin group, have been mentioned in the same roundup post by someone or have anything else in common. You need to find that out to build rapport.
4. Your Email Has To Be Intriguing
Catching recipients attention is one of the key elements of a successful outreach strategy. Once you established the rapport, you need to intrigue your recipient in order to get them to read more and want to respond to your email.
How can you make your email more intriguing?
One of the most powerful ways is to fill what is known as the “Knowledge Gap”. A knowledge gap is a gap in what we know that can be filled and once realized, we will not stop until we fill it. A Knowledge Gap makes you watch a stupid TV show just to find out how it ends. Or spend the entire evening going from one wikipedia entry to another. Or tune in to 10pm news even though you are dead tired, only because they promised to show you a gaff the President made at such and such event.
A Knowledge Gap works in connection with our needs and wants. When faced with a problem, we won’t stop until we find a solution and most often, our brains are completely obsessed with it. In some extreme cases, you can even lose sleep over it but feel a great relief when you get the solution in the end.
How to Use Knowledge Gap in Outreach
One of the ways is to include a specific information relating to the recipient or their upcoming project etc. By doing so, you not only show your recipients that you have ideas that they could benefit from but also that you respect them and have learnt about their business.
You could also indicate that you have answers to their needs or wants. A need is a powerful driving force behind almost every decision to buy. Therefore, if you manage to uncover the needs of your recipient and respond to them in your email, you stand a very good chance of catching their attention.
5. Your Email Has To Be Easy To Respond To
Lastly, and this is the most important aspect of your email – your message MUST make the recipient want to know more or speak to you. There is in fact no point in sending out any outreach if you don’t try to achieve this one thing.
And here is the simplest way to do this – make a request that can be answered with just yes or no. It’s that simple yet most people get it wrong. They write a request that forces the recipient to write an eloaborate reply. And a lot of the time, just the sheer thought of having to do this will put them off. But if all they have to do is type one word: yes or no, they are far more likely to actually do it.
This has been the trick I used as back in my selling days and I am still using today, in my marketing outreach. Since email outreach is only an invitation to further discussion, a foot in the door so to speak, you really don’t need anything else. Just yes or no. And you can take it from there.
Email is the base for our communications today. But contrary to a common belief SEOs don’t use it solely to gain links. Email is also heavily overused and poorly executed form of communication. To fix it, stick to the most common ways to outreach with email. Make your email short, simple, personal, intriguing and conversational to gain the recipients interest.
Creative commons image by Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr