Almost any online marketing campaign these days includes email outreach.
While social media has its place, email is universally the most personal form of contact you can make online.
Well-written outreach emails can get links, joint venture opportunities, clients, and just about any other good result you can think of.
The only problem is that most people can’t write a good outreach email.
If you’ve sent a few thousand and have read some other guides on the subject, you likely have a good grasp of the basics and can write okay emails.
But are you honestly getting the responses you’re looking for?
The fact that you’re here right now probably means that you know you could do better.
And that’s okay.
By the end of this post, you won’t be sending just “okay” emails. You’ll be sending good to great emails that almost always get a response as well as much better conversion rates (for links, sales, etc.).
I’ll go over the 7 most common mistakes I see marketers, even smart ones, make on a regular basis.
Be honest with yourself because otherwise you won’t be able to spot your mistakes and make improvements.
1. Are you a liar, or do you seem like one?
I get several cold outreach emails a day. By now, I’m pretty good at spotting an outright liar or even someone who is just stretching the truth.
In a large portion of those emails, I see an opening line that sounds like:
I’m a huge fan of Quick Sprout…
The only problem is that I don’t recognize your name from comments (on Quick Sprout posts) or from social media.
Surely, a “huge fan” would at least be subscribed to my email list. Surprisingly, a fairly large percentage of these emailers are not.
Right away, I feel lied to and usually delete the email.
A lie like that makes me assume that the emailer just searched for the top marketing blogs to pitch something to—no thanks.
Can you validate your claims? I’m always talking about creating data-driven posts and backing up all your claims with charts and studies.
Emails are no different.
If you claim you are a fan of someone or you enjoyed their work, prove it.
Here’s one example:
I’m a huge fan of your work on Quick Sprout. Your emails Monday morning always get my week off to a great start.
Assuming you’re actually on the email list, so far I believe you’re not lying.
Another common opener is to tell someone you liked one of their articles. If you really liked it, you would have shared it on social media, left a comment, and, most importantly, applied it.
Don’t just say you liked an article with nothing backing it up; no one believes it.
Instead, try something like:
I loved your post “How to Leverage Q&A Sites to Generate Traffic.”
Since I read it, I created a profile on Quora and have already driven 400 visits to my site.
The hardest thing to fake is sincerity. Don’t say you’re a huge fan or you love a post if you don’t mean it.
2. You’re asking for a lot of work
Chances are you’re emailing fairly well-known bloggers in your niche.
They’re busy people.
Even if they aren’t incredibly popular, assume they’re busy anyway because most people are.
Common sense should tell you that busy people are trying to get through emails quickly so that they can do productive things (emails usually aren’t considered such).
So, if you’re asking them to do a lot of work on their end, they’ll be understandably hesitant.
Let me give you an example of a line that I often see in outreach emails:
Here’s the link to my content: (link)
Please take a look at it, and let me know if you have any thoughts and if you think it’s a good fit for your audience.
Do you see the problem with that?
You’re asking the person to review your work, give feedback on it, and determine if it’s appropriate for their audience.
The first reaction of any blogger will be:
Why on Earth are you sending me this if you’re not positive that it’s a match for my audience?
What could you do instead? Always minimize the time and effort that the person on the receiving end needs to spend if they decide to help you out.
To improve the above example, you could change it to:
Here’s the link to my content: (link)
I’m sure it’s a great fit for your audience because:
- (reason 1)
- (reason 2)
Just say the word, and I’ll create an original summary of the results that you can copy and paste in a future article.
Now it’s clear to them that you’ve done your homework and you understand their audience. As long as a quick glance at the content reveals that it’s of a decent quality, you might be onto something.
Finally, offering to write a custom introduction or summary and making linking to your content easier will make the email even more enticing.
To finish off, let me give you a few more examples of what marketers ask in outreach emails that is too much work:
- Watch this video and see if you enjoy it
- Look at my new tool and see if the features are worth sharing with your audience
- I’ll write a guest post for you, but please suggest some article ideas
Before you send an email, always ask yourself: “Am I asking this person to do a significant amount of work?”
If so, find a way to reduce it.
3. This might sting—you’re not special
I didn’t really mean that; I am sure you are special in your own ways.
I’m referring to the fact that most emails do not reveal anything special.
If you ask someone to link to your content, why should they link to it and not to any one of the other hundreds of articles about the same topic?
Most emailers never address this question in their emails.
Let’s look at an excerpt of a bad email:
I’ve just published a guide to making beets. If you’re writing a post in the future that mentions beets, please consider using it as a reference.
What’s special about that? Absolutely nothing.
Now, let’s look at a better email:
I’ve just published a guide to making beets. It is the only beet-making guide that has step-by-step pictures as well as a complete video tutorial. I know I’m biased, but no other beet guide is as useful for a beginner as mine is.
You need to be able to quickly explain why your content or offer is special. Why should this person help you or work with you over all the other people out there (some of whom have already contacted them)?
4. I don’t know you
Take a link building technique like the skyscraper technique. It involves a lot of cold outreach.
The average conversion rate is about 5-10%. That means you’d have to send 1,000 emails to get 50-100 links (pretty good).
It’s a great technique that has its time and place, and I recommend it often, but it can easily be improved by removing the cold outreach.
If I get an email from someone I don’t know, it’s unlikely I’m going to do them a favor right off the bat.
If there’s any indication that they’re just after a link, their email goes in the trash.
That’s why you get about a 5-10% conversion rate even though you’re targeting the right people with the technique.
But when I do know someone? Of course, I’ll read the email, and if it’s a friend or even just a casual acquaintance, I’ll help them if they have a reasonable offer.
Get to know someone before you ask for something: This is the hardest part of being able to create great outreach emails—there are no templates for it.
However, learning to build relationships is also the easiest way to skyrocket your success.
In general, you can break down the process into the following steps:
- Make contact – You have a mutual interest in your niche, so use it to have a brief conversation through email, social media, or comments, preferably about their content.
- Provide value – Anything you can do to help them out goes a long way. If you have any special skills, e.g., design, offer to create custom pictures for their content or update some graphics in their sidebar. If you’re a writer, offer to update and upgrade a few outdated posts. Be creative.
- Then ask for something – At this point, you’re probably at least 4 weeks into the relationship (yes, it takes time). If you follow the other points in this post, you should be able to write a good email to ask for a link or whatever you’re after. You’ll have a much higher success rate (double or triple at least) than if you did it with a cold email.
All of this takes planning and having a genuine passion for your niche. If you don’t care enough to spend weeks getting to know people in your niche that you could work alongside for years, you’re taking the wrong approach.
5. I hate it when there “aer” typos
This is going to be a short but necessary section.
There is no excuse for typos in a short email.
One might go unnoticed, but two or more will be easy to spot.
It shows a lack of attention to detail and effort. If you’re asking me to work with you or link to your content, having typos is not a good thing. I’ll assume that you produce content of the same poor quality and will delete the email.
Almost every email service has a spell checker these days: use it.
6. No one wants to be “templated”
I’ve hinted at it so far, but let me be crystal clear:
Email needs to be personal.
If your email starts with “Hi”or “Dear Sir,” it’s likely going into the trash.
If there’s nothing about it that shows you know me well, it’s also likely going into the trash.
Bloggers are rightfully skeptical of emails with little personalization in them. They are often sent out to hundreds of other bloggers to try to get links or something else.
Yes, some bloggers don’t care, but most do these days. If you ever want a great reply rate, don’t dismiss this crucial aspect.
While templates are useful to help you work out the general message you’re trying to capture, take the time to personalize every single email you send.
7. It’s all about you
Think of emails as conversations.
In real life, would you rather talk with someone who never shuts up about themselves or who cares about your wants, needs, and thoughts?
For 99% of people, it’s the second one.
When you write any outreach email, always write it from the perspective of what’s in it for the person I’m emailing?
Always explain how what you’re asking for benefits their business.
If you’re asking for a link, don’t do what everyone else does and say: “I think your audience will love it.”
It’s not horrible, but be honest, that’s not a real benefit for the person you’re emailing.
Asking for a link is typically a one-way street, which is why I recommend giving value well before asking for one (in reason #4 of this post).
Email outreach is one of the most effective ways to grow your business. You can use it to get more links (for SEO), generate more sales, and form partnerships.
However, most people make several mistakes in their email outreach campaigns and rarely get positive replies.
You might never write the “perfect” outreach email, but never stop trying to improve them.
Create a checklist based on the 7 things I went over in this post, and use it to make sure you are not making any of the mistakes before you send out an email.
This is how you spot problems, fix them, and learn from them. Eventually, it will all become second nature.