When it comes to gaining traction online, perhaps the biggest hoopla we’ve heard is:
“If you build it, they will come.”
That bit of advice is not only incredibly vague but it also couldn’t be further from the truth.
Of course, publishing excellent content and offering top-of-the-line products and services is still king (and a mandatory step on your way to marketing success).
But there is another element. A principle that an astounding few even know about. We’re talking about the utilization of effective promotion.
There are undoubtedly many styles and methods of digital promotion out there. But there’s one in particular that stands out above the rest. One could even say that it gives off a glow all its own, the kind of light that not just anyone can see… If the headline is any clue, we’re talking about outreach!
What is outreach?
Outreach is inviting people into your company’s world through direct communication. It’s that old school, human to human approach. To put it simply, it’s taking out the middleman.
To the modern world, it may sound primitive and a little scary but any fear you have will disappear when you see the benefits.
Outreach can be done through various platforms and channels. It can happen through frequent updates on social media, the presence of one’s web content, and casual cool (but informative) blog comments.
Some people prefer face-to-face interaction, while others are partial to over the phone contact. But we mustn’t forget, the one channel to rule them all is… EMAIL.
But hold on. Before we dive deep down into that cavernous world of electronic correspondence, we have to ask ourselves a very important question:
Why do outreach?
The effectiveness of outreach is almost entirely based on leverage.
Consider the following:
No matter what market or niche you’re in, there will always be people in the same group that will influence you.
As defined by WOMMA, an influencer is someone “who has a greater than average reach or impact through word of mouth in a relevant marketplace.” 
In other words, influencers have their own dedicated followers. So why not “borrow” that influencer’s audience for your own marketing duties, instead of only relying on the hope that you can build your own?
If this mentor agrees to tell their followers about your business, you’ll end up reaching a much wider group of people.
When you reach out to someone, and they, in turn, pay it forward on your behalf: that’s leverage.
But who are we to convince you about the magical powers of online outreach? Don’t worry, we have more sources to impress. In fact, we asked a couple of seasoned online marketers and bloggers to share their opinion about the value of outreach.
We asked, “Is outreach an important part of your content promotion efforts?”
It’s very important if you want your posts to get the exposure they deserve, as well as the links and shares.
Sadly, at NicheHacks, we haven’t been as proactive about it recently as we should. But when done on some posts, for example, 31 Ways To Promote Blog Posts & Get Blog Traffic, we generated 500+ social shares and over 20 links to it. 
– Stuart Walker of NicheHacks
Yes, outreach is a key part of my content promotion efforts.
– Bamidele Onibalusi of Writers in Charge
You might have seen that Google is no longer working the same as it used to 5 years back. Search algorithms have become so much more complicated that Google can easily figure out manipulated links.
Five years ago, websites were easily ranking for long-tail terms with only a handful of links. These days, however, it has become extremely difficult. So outreach is the only authentic method that we can use today.
– Kulwant Nagi of Blogging Cage
Basic Outreach How-To
Today, bloggers are the influencers. Even in 2013, Technorati reported that 86 percent of influencers had blogs. 
So what outreach boils down to is:
1) finding influential bloggers in your niche
2) letting them know who you are
3) asking if they’d like to take a gander at your content and if they could (possibly, kindly) share it with their audience.
Outreach is a lot like making friends in middle school. There were the popular kids (the influencers) and then there was you (the outreacher). You couldn’t just walk up to a popular kid (an influencer) with any old excuse, oh heavens no. You had to forge a plan.
Let’s say your plan involves talking to the cool kid (the influencer) about your common favorite, basketball. You mention the sport, let them know you’re also a big fan, and then hope that they spread the word about you to the other cool kids in their group. If all goes well, you may get a high-class lunch seat. But if they aren’t impressed, it’s not the end of the world. Try your approach on someone else (just as cool) until you find the influencer who was meant for you.
Middle school aside, let’s get into the details!
Set your goals
Every great digital marketing campaign should start with setting the right goals. The same goes for outreach.
It’s critical to get this part right because everything you do is dependant on those goals. Which mentors you choose, how you build messages and construct content will all be influenced by the path you set.
But the last thing we want to do is stress you out. Which is why we’re offering this handy list of…
Example goals for your outreach:
- Share a quote from an influencer on a topic.
- Convince an influencer to share your content on social media.
- Get an influencer to link to you and your content.
- Have them embed or share your infographic.
- Land a guest post on an influencer’s blog.
- Enlist an influencer to guest post on your blog.
- Convince them to do an interview.
- Invite an influencer to take part in a group interview, tutorial, or research post on your blog.
- Offer your input on a topic that they could use on their blog or site.
- Give them a free copy of your product (if you have something tangible to hand over).
Once your main goal is set, start whittling away all the unnecessary pieces. Because, the more defined your goal, the easier it will be to stay on track and decide who to start getting in contact with.
Find the right people
The trick to awesome outreach is to only target those mentors and influencers who are a good fit for your brand and the niche you fall into.
Successful author, Michael Ellsberg makes mention [in Forbes] of a niche-related theory he likes to call “The Tim Ferriss Effect.” 
Ellsberg says that, getting mentioned on fellow author, Tim Ferriss’ blog turned out to be more valuable than even getting interviewed on national television. But how could that even be possible?
Tim Ferriss’ reputation and influence in the online business niche was a strong one. The leverage that blog post provided was far greater than any promotional efforts Michael Ellsberg had made through mainstream media.
Realistically, a response of such sudden magnitude is pretty rare. Ellsberg was lucky to find just the right crowd to get thrown in front of. If the brand getting mentioned is in tune with the influencer’s (AKA Tim’s) niche then all cards are in their favor.
How do you engineer something similar for yourself or your business?
Start by looking into your niche and naming the top X influencers that seem like they can give you exposure in all the rightplaces, rather than in all the big places.
[You can use tools like Followerwonk, Alltop, or Buzzsumo to make it easier. We’ll post more on this in the near future…]
Build a connection with them
Emailing someone out of the blue can work, but only to some extent. If you want to improve your chances, you’ll need to build a relationship with an influencer before you ask them to do anything for you.
To do an effective outreach campaign, always try to connect with the owner of the blog and start following them on every platform they’re at. Like if he/she is sharing something on Facebook or Twitter, re-share or retweet it. Also comment on their blog posts as soon as they publish something new.
This way, you’ll always be in front of them and outreach will become much simpler over time.
– Kulwant Nagi of Blogging Cage
I’ve built a lot of relationships simply by following influencers in the online marketing world on social media and jumping into conversations whenever I can, plus commenting on their blog posts and sharing them with my audience. I usually keep outreach for content promotion short and sweet by using simple Twitter direct messages.
– Kristi Hines (from her quote for Buzzsumo)
Standard things you can do prior to your actual outreach:
- Share the influencer’s content on social media.
- Comment on their blogs.
- Take part in their online events (webinars, AMA’s, etc.).
- Subscribe to their email newsletters and respond to their emails.
- Buy their products (if you think they can benefit you, of course).
Use their own advice against them
One thing that influencers can’t resist is people implementing their advice and then sharing their results.
When it comes to getting top bloggers and influencers to respond to, and promote, my message, I’ve noticed that the most effective way to do this is to utilize their advice, get results from doing so, write about it and then send a link to that article to the bloggers. They’ll do the promotion.
This almost never fails.
I recently used this approach on my new blog with an article utilizing content upgrades , a technique popularized by superstar blogger, Brian Dean. I referenced Brian in the article, and I sent him a link to the article when it went live, telling him about my results and how he inspired those results.
Brian shared the article, and I got exposed to hundreds of new readers as a result.
Another approach is to link the article to them and then let them know about it; while this won’t be as effective as getting results by implementing their advice, most bloggers will share any article that links back to themselves.
– Bamidele Onibalusi of Writers in Charge
Experiment, rinse and repeat
Success in outreach comes over time, and with experience. You will rarely crack the code on your first attempt. That’s why you need to document every outreach email you send, and the results.
Try to keep a record of how often you send something out vs. how many people replied and did what you asked them to.
The more you do keep track, the sooner you’ll have your own approach to outreaching. You’ll begin to develop a rhythm and technique that not only works for your brand and niche, but that also works for YOU.
Oh blast. We completely left out our advice on writing the perfect outreach message! Since this resource has already become supreme in length, we hope you won’t mind if we save that bit for next time…
If you do mind, however, please send an angry photo attached with your words of outrage (and kind mention of this blog) to one of our favorite influencers, Neil Patel. No, really. We encourage it.
Or perhaps you have some outreach writing tips of your own you’d like to share?
Header image by Mikhail Kryshen. Embedded images by Nicolas DECOOPMAN, Cameron Wu, Dino Kuznik, rawartistsmedia, Vicki Burton, Pedro Ribeiro Simoes, and fabioliguori via flickr.
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