Posted by randfish
Outreach emails are sent for a variety of reasons, but the majority have one thing in common: they're structured too poorly to merit a reply. For every group of outreach emails we receive, usually only a few are worth opening.
However, creating "good" emails may not be the toughest part. To inspire a response, you have to get to "great." But what makes a great outreach email stand out from its "good" competitors?
Today, Rand walks us through what it takes to create a great outreach email and gives his tips on making sure your next outreach goes into the "great" pile rather than into the trash.
"Howdy SEOmoz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to talk a little bit about outreach emails.Outreach emails are sent for a variety of reasons. It could be business development. It could be some kind of advertising. It could be to try and get a link or a mention. It could be to encourage someone to share something that you've produced.The problem is . . . I get a lot of these. I mean, I cannot tell you how many of these I get. I love helping people, so I want to respond to a lot of them. But so many of them are terrible. There are a few that are what I would call good. Some of them are quite solid. But only a very, very select number are truly great.I've received a few of these over the last few months, and I thought, what is it that makes these ones special? How can I dissect the ones where I go, "Man, what a great email." I'm not only happy to help that person, I want to help them again in the future. I hope I can do more for them, because I just love the way that they outreached and connected with me.So I've put together a standard formatting. I think virtually every outreach email I see, terrible, good, great, in between, all follow this. They start with a greeting, they go to an intro, they have some sort of ask involved in them, a giveback, usually the good ones and the great ones have a giveback of some kind, a close, and then a signature.Let me walk you through what separates the good ones from the great ones. I'm going to try and use this as an example. This person starts their email by saying, "Hi Rand," which is totally fine. The things that you're aiming for here, this is not huge and big and important. It's personal and friendly.The wrong way to do this is, "Dear Mr. Fishkin." That's my grandfather. Dear Mr. Fishkin? Who's that? And people who email with "Dear CEO" or "My Friend," it's clear that they don't know you. There are some that work, like "Hey dude" or "Hey Buddy." It sort of has that colloquial association.If it's someone that I know closely and they don't use my name, but I already know them very well, no problem. But that greeting is a very important opening point, and a lot of people, myself included, will click Delete or Report Spam if they see something in here that's not obviously friendly and personal and clear that we know one another.Next, the intro. This person says, "I heard you might be in L.A. next month. Please drop me a line if you make it. We'd love to see you and Geraldine." Great. Now they've established a few things. They show that they know me, they like me, they trust me, and they care. Not only that, they're sort of following my activities, so they know that I'm going to be in Los Angeles for a few days.When you can do this, you don't have to do it in this fashion. Maybe you don't know the person well enough to actually invite them to go hang out with you or that kind of thing. But if you know, for example, they're going to be in Los Angeles and that they love scotch, for example, you could say, "Hey, they're having a scotch tasting in the Santa Monica Pier on such and such a date. If you're there for it, you should definitely check it out. If not, blah, blah." Show that you know them, you like them, you trust them, and you care. That's what you're trying to achieve in that intro paragraph there or the intro sentence.Next up is the ask. This is obviously a very, very important part of the email. But if you don't surround the ask with something else, unless you know that person extremely closely and you know that they're happy to share already, or do whatever activity you want, you're not going to get this. If I just say, "Hi Rand, do this for me, bye," who answers that? No, that's not how communication in the human world works. You need to have some empathy in there.This person says, "FYI, my start-up was nominated for XYZ award," some particular award. "It would mean a ton to me if you could tweet or share the link." There's the link. That's the ask right there. They've done a few very smart things here. They've kept the ask short and sweet. This is two sentences, extremely few number of words, very obvious what they want and need.They made the links easy to click and to share. So now I don't have to do much work if I want to fulfill this ask. That's also very smart. Make sure those links are clickable. Make sure there's only one of them. Make sure you're not asking for a ton of different things all at once. Make that share activity, that request activity very simple.Then the giveback. And by the way, you can definitely flip the order on the ask and the giveback. You can do the giveback first before you make the ask. For example, this person says, "Also, we recently wrote about blah, blah, blah on our blog in reference to your post on the topic, at this URL. The team here loves Moz.com/Rand, my new personal blog, which is not doing that well in terms of links and traffic and attention. So they probably know that, and they know that that will get my awareness and attention. I'll be like, "Oh, cool, they're helping to share my new site that I haven't done much with yet. Please keep it up."Very, very smart tactic here. They've identified an area where I need help, and they proved that they are a reciprocator, someone who will help without being asked for it, on the chance that I might help them. This doesn't need to be directly . . . you don't want to go at this aggressively.What you don't want to say is, "Hey Rand, we linked to you on our blog. Please link to us now." No, it's not going to happen. Communication isn't done in that fashion. You need to have that empathetic touch in your communication. Prove that you're a reciprocator, apart from the ask, and you need to show that you're giving value as well as asking for it. This is a smart way to do this. It's sensitive, and it knows what I need and what I like.Next piece, the close. "Hope Seattle's new baked baked goods laws are treating you well. They know that marijuana, for example, is legalized in the state of Washington. They're making a play off of that. They're using humor, surprise, interest, or empathy to show the connection between us, and that connection is a great thing. When they can do this . . . I mean, I find this kind of stuff humorous. Hopefully, they know me, and they know that I will find it humorous. That's great. That is exactly what they're trying to tie in. They're trying to make that personal connection.Then the last piece, the signature. "Sincerely, Tony, CEO and Founder of XYZwebsite.com." This is smart. It seems like this would be a very small piece, but it's actually a big one for a lot of people, and I'll tell you why. I don't always remember everyone that I've met and that I've said, "Sure, email me and I'll be happy to help out with something." So they are making sure, without being obvious, without being too like, "Well, I presume you don't remember who I am because you meet lots of people," but instead I'm going to have this little thing at the bottom, which makes sure you remember me and links off to my website, so that you can check us out and be like, "Oh, yeah. Okay, put the pieces together. I remember this guy now."It's fine, too, to say something like "we met here," or "you know me through XYZ," whatever. But don't assume that the person is going to remember you. Have a clear and obvious identity that shows authenticity. That authenticity piece is critical. When I get emails from folks who clearly are not actually associated with the company, but are doing outreach on behalf of a PR firm, doing outreach on behalf of an SEO firm, no offense to SEO agencies and consultants, but sometimes we're the worst offenders of this kind of stuff.If you can do all of these things, you can transform a good outreach email into a great one. When you do that, the conversion percentage goes tremendously upward, and the chance that your contact will be shared or linked to, or that whatever activity you need done by this helpful group, will be accomplished. That's what we want to try and help with.All right, everyone. Hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to some great comments, and we'll see you again next week. Take care."
Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!