When it comes to marketing content, most marketers limit their content promotion to the following steps:

  1. Post it to social aggregator sites like Hacker News, Inbound.org, GrowthHackers.com and Reddit
  2. Share the post on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
  3. Send the post to your email newsletter

That’s it. Go home. All in a good day’s work.

I’m here to show you a more proactive way to promote your digital content. You put in a lot of work to create killer content. You should put in just as much time to promote it. This is where outreach comes in.

Experts use this tactic all the time. Brian Dean (CEO of Backlinkowrites personal 1 on 1 emails to 100 people before he publishes each post. In their content marketing handbook, the awesome folks at Priceonomics recommend you email at least 50 people after every post that you create. Alex Turnbull from Groove got 1,000 subscribers under 24 hours with this technique. It just works.

In this post, I am going to outline 6 stages in an Email Outreach Campaign

  1. Build a list of users likely to share your content
  2. Research each user on your list
  3. Find each person’s contact information
  4. Send a personalized email to each person
  5. Actually send the email
  6. Follow up

1. Build a list of users who might share your content

This is the most crucial part of an outreach strategy. In this stage, we are going to create an excel spreadsheet of the people we will reach out to. The list should include each contact’s first name, last name, email address, Twitter url, Facebook url, and LinkedIn url (if we can find that info).

There are a few different types of people you should reach out to.

People who shared similar content

Who is the most likely person to share your content? If you answered someone who shared similar pieces of content, then you are absolutely correct!

My good buddy Giuseppe Frustaci recently mentioned the Skyscraper Technique at breakfast. In the Skyscraper Technique, you find a post that many people have shared. Then, you go and create an even better post on that same subject. After that, you find the people who shared that original post, and you ask them to share your post. In essence, it’s the fast follower strategy.

Step 1 is to find posts that are similar to yours. Google the title you were considering for your post. Some posts that are similar should pop up. Write down the names and URLs of a few of these posts. If nothing relevant came up in the first search,  then search the subject you are writing about (instead of the full title), and write down a few URLs and titles.

Now that you have similar posts, you need to find the people who shared and linked to those posts. Here are a few ways to do that:

  1. Use Buzzsumo – BuzzSumo is a tool that shows how many times a piece of content was shared on a number of social media websites and who shared them. It’s a great tool if you have budget and at least $99 per month to spend.  (note: I personally have not used it, but every great content marketer I talk to says to use it. It’s great at finding people who shared content similar to yours.)
  2. If you don’t have any budget, you can do a search on Twitter for the links you wrote down. Make a list of all the users who shared these links. Pay particular attention to the top tweets tab. This is a built in filter to find tweets that Twitter would consider higher value than the “latest” tab.
  3. Use tools to find sites that linked to these posts. Here are a few free tools to help you do this: Free BackLink Checker from MonitorBacklinks.com,  Open Site Explorer from Moz, and Majestic. If you’re getting serious about this, you might want to check out ahrefs. Industry leaders like Brian Dean and Neil Patel use ahrefs and pricing starts at $99 per month.

People, companies, and websites you mention in the post

Did you link to another blog in your post? Did you mention an influencer or a friend in that post? If so, you should put these folks on your list and reach out to them to let them know. People love reading things when they are mentioned or when someone links to them. These are great targets for your campaign. They have an incentive to share your post and there’s a good chance they also have an engaged audience.

Extra note: Make sure you link the names of people and websites you mention in your post so it is easier for your visitors to find them. It also helps the people you mention by giving them backlinks – which is a nice gesture.

People who shared your posts in the past

Your blog probably has existing fans. These can be random people on the internet, your mom, or friends who support your work. They probably popped in your head as you read that last sentence. It’s okay if you don’t, but there should be a few friendly people who will be willing to share your link just because they like you. If you know a few people who fit this description, shoot them a message and ask them to share another one of your posts.

Your Target Audience

If you are creating content for a company, you probably already know your company’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) (side note: That link goes to Lincoln Murphy‘s blog. He’s really smart and you should subscribe to his newsletter if you want to learn about marketing and growth hacking).

If you don’t know who your ideal customer is, I highly recommend reading Find Your Ideal Customer Profile by Aswin Natarajan. In that post, Aswin goes through 8 questions you should ask yourself that will help determine who your ideal customer is.

Knowing your ideal customer opens up a world of possibilities with email outreach. If you know the exact profile of the type of person you created content for, you have the ability to find and reach out to them directly on LinkedIn. I suggest LinkedIn here because it easily allows you to find people by industry, job title, role, and location. Later in this post, I mention tools to help you find email addresses from LinkedIn.

The odds of getting shares or backlinks from this audience are much lower than the methods mentioned previously.

Also, keep in mind that when you are sharing content directly with people you don’t mention in the post or that didn’t share similar content, you’re starting to move into gray hat territory. I would only go this route if you have a very specific idea customer and if you truly think this post will add value to their lives.

2. Research the users you think will share your content.

Finding ways to connect

Based on the data you’ve found, you should now have a decent sized list of people you want to contact. The actual size of the list is not important. What is important is that you have people on a list, you plan on emailing about your content.

The next step is researching the people on this list. You want to get a general idea of who they are and what you should say to them. You should start with their social media profiles. If you plan on using Gmail to send each emails, here’s a great post from Srikanth AN on Beebom that mentions chrome extensions to help you find social media accounts for each user without leaving Gmail.

If you’re a developer, I suggest looking into Clearbit and FullContact. Both of these companies provide APIs to quickly find information and social media profile information for the people on your list.

Here’s What You Should Be Looking For

Here are a few things I look for when researching contacts:

  • Things They’ve Written
    • It’s always nice to mention how an article helped you or taught you something
  • Same University
    • I like to mention when I went to the same school as someone.
  • Same Past Company
    • This is another common way to connect with someone. If you can mention a colleague from a previous company, it always helps
  • Mutual Friends
    • Do you have similar friends in common? Always nice to show how small of a world it really is.
  • Company Fundraising
    • Did their company recently raise a fundraising round? Say Congrats!
  • Press Mentions
    • Was this person or their company mentioned in the press recently? Say Congrats!
  • Other Random Commonalities
    • Do you both love tacos? Love the fall in the Northeast? Hate romantic comedies?

At this point, you probably understand what we’re trying to do here. We’re looking for something to break the ice. Show each person you did your research on them and that you have something in common.

If you are like me, then you can spot the difference between an email template and a highly personalized email. So when you are reaching out to someone, you should do your research on this person and make sure they know it’s not a template.

3. Find contact information for them.

You may have email addresses for a few of the people on your list, but I’m guessing there are some you don’t have email addresses for. Maybe you’re limited to their Twitter or LinkedIn profile. How are you going to get in touch with them?

Have no fear — there’s an app for that!

There are some great posts on finding email addresses. If you want to read more on the subject you can read this by Scott Britton or this by Bernie Reeder of Yesware.

If you’re like me and you want to be able to do this quickly, you should be aware there are tools that make it really easy to find emails from social media profiles. Below is a list of great tools to find email addresses. Some offer chrome extensions so you can easily grab emails from sites like LinkedIn. Others have a web interface where you type in an first name, a last name, and a domain name, and they find the most likely email address. Give each of them a try and find the one that works best for you.

Tools to help you find emails

4. Write a highly personalized email.

Here is where you use your research in order to create a highly personalized email. Highly personalized emails get response rates 350% higher than non-personalized emails. It’s worth the time to personalize each email.

I have a list of more in depth resources below to help you personalize emails if you have more questions, but here are two quick things I want to touch on.

Look For Uncommon Commonalities

Look for things you have similar with each person (from the research you did earlier) that might be uncommon. Maybe you worked at the same startup previously. Maybe you both hate brown rice. Maybe you don’t have an uncommon commonality, but look for any commonality you can mention in a subtle way.

Personalize with Praise

A common technique I like to use is to find an article someone wrote that I really enjoyed or highly agree with. Take a minute to try to find a few articles each user may have written. Showing someone that you read something they wrote and really appreciate it can go along way.

If you’re going to go this route, make sure you have something thoughtful to say about the article you are referencing. If you just say that that you loved the article or it was really insightful, you could just as well be a robot. Don’t forget, the main task is to show these people that you are not mass emailing them, but you are putting a lot of thought into each message you send.

Additional Resources for Writing Cold Emails

A post from Yesware on how to write personalized emails

5 Ways to Send Super-Personalized Cold Emails from Beamery

Here’s a Guide to Cold Emailing from Harvard Business Review written by the infamous Tucker Max (if you don’t know who Tucker Max is, go Buy I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, and then thank me later for the hilarious book recommendation).

5. Hit Send on the Email

This step might make you nervous. You are exposing yourself to criticism. This is natural. Everyone feels this way before hitting send on these emails.

Believe it or not, it is a good thing you feel nervous about hitting send. This shows that you care. This means you want to only email someone if you think the piece of content you wrote for them is amazing. This is what you should strive for in all of your content.

If you are using Gmail to send these emails, I suggest downloading the Hubspot for Sales chrome extension. This allows you to track every email and see who opened it, which will become very useful for our final step.

Send the email. You’ve come this far!

6. The Final Step: Follow Up

This is a lesson I’ve learned from cold sales emails.

When sending a cold sales email, the typical person will not respond to the first email you send, so you should send followup emails.

There is some debate on the amount of follow ups you should send. In fact, the people at Woodpecker wrote an entire article on cold email followup. Some people say you should only send two emails, while other people think you should followup seven times. The key idea is that you should send more than 1 email.

There have been many times I sent emails to friends and they didn’t get back to me, so I would send an additional email to follow up. They usually get back to me pretty quickly to say, “Thanks for following up! I meant to respond, but I just didn’t have time and forgot to.”

If you want me to make this super simple for you – follow up twice. Follow up once two days after the original email if you don’t hear anything. Follow up again 4 days after the first followup (6 days after the original email). Also – before following up, double check they didn’t share your post on Twitter. It’s possible they shared the post without replying to your email.

The Conclusion

Email outreach is important for new blogs and existing blogs. It’s the best way to find new readers.

Remember that when creating any content, your main focus should be on creating value. When you write a post that creates a lot of value, you’re doing everyone a favor by sharing that value with everyone who would benefit from reading it.

Thanks for reading and good luck with your campaign!