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4 Common Outreach Mistakes (And How To Fix Them)

Content marketing is all the rage these days, with most businesses understanding that traditional search engine optimisation techniques which are not accompanied by quality, relevant and original content will only get them so far. If a business really wants to make its mark on the search engine results pages, it must not only get the technical aspects of SEO right, but also have a targeted content marketing strategy in place.

In making the transition from standalone to SEO that works hand-in-hand with a content marketing campaign, many mistakes are being made, particularly during the outreach process. I recently spoke with James Williams, the Digital Marketing Manager of Wonga South Africa, who has a ton of knowledge to share on this subject.

Below I’ve listed four of the biggest mishaps he mentioned that he sees time and time again along with a ready-made solution to each so you can benefit from years of learning in just a couple of minutes. You can’t get a  better deal than that!

common outreach mistakes

#1. Thinking your content is ‘all that’

A common mistake is to assume that the content you have painstakingly put together is so hot that third party publishers and industry influencers will happily fight to the death for it. They won’t. No matter how good your content might be, without fine tuning your outreach process, reply rates are going to be poor. In fact, if you simply use content editors or any vaguely related websites without taking the time to build a relationship or find out what they’re interested in, you’ll be lucky to get any uptake at all.

The fix: 

When trying to find publishers for your content, it is essential that you put a highly targeted strategy in place – think quality, not quantity. Rather than contacting hordes of bloggers and websites that probably won’t be interested, get in touch with a few that probably will. By looking through previous blogs published on the site, you will be able to see the kind of content they like and the subject market their audience engages with. You should then tailor your content to meet those preferences. A far higher response rate will be your reward.

#2. Too much information

When you’ve spent hours researching and producing your content, it’s understandable that you want the prospect to know just how much work went into it. But you also have to appreciate that they probably don’t care. You might think your 300+ word outreach email shows just how meticulous you are, but to the publisher, it’s just another email that’s trying way too hard. You must remember you’re trying to break through to someone in a matter of seconds, you’ve agonised over your split testing of the optimal subject line, don’t destroy your hard work by throwing them an imposing wall of text.

The fix: 

Most publishers are inundated with emails pedalling content, so if one looks like hard work to read they’ll probably send it straight to the bin. The key is to keep it short and sweet. You’re the one with the valuable asset, so, if they don’t want to publish, you’ll just have to find someone who does. Remember, conveying enthusiasm is good, but desperation is bad. If the publisher asks for more information, that’s the time to provide it.

#3. Only communicating via email

Email is a nice, easy way to communicate. It allows everyone to proceed in their own time and doesn’t put any pressure on the recipient to respond. Unfortunately, things can go wrong. Once you’ve sent an email, you have limited ways of knowing whether it’s been read or even opened (though there are a few tools on the market that help with tracking when an email is opened).

Often it may have headed straight to the recipient’s junk folder never to be seen again, this is considerably more frequent when conducting ‘cold outreach’ where you have no prior point of contact with the person you’re trying to reach.

The trouble here is many content marketers will assume no response means there’s no interest, which in some cases may not be true. Good marketers know the worst outreaching sin imaginable is to spam your mailing list, there is no quicker way to be blacklisted by potential customers. Knowing this, many give up after the first unresponsive email.

The fix:

When you’ve put that much time and effort into finding and researching a prospect, it makes sense to send a quick follow-up message, this doesn’t mean another email (as it’s likely to find the same fate as your first one, be that the spam filter or joining the hundreds of other unread marketing emails in the gmail graveyard). It’s much better to go for your second reach via a different platform such as Twitter or LinkedIn, the channel you use can often have a varying success rate depending on the type of customer you’re trying to reach. Going the extra mile in this way can help to open doors that would otherwise have remained firmly closed.

#4. Focusing on the backlink too much.

We all know one of the primary benefits to successful content marketing are the juicy backlinks that bolster our link profiles, raise our organic search visibility and (hopefully) increase the traffic and conversions on our websites. However the average publisher isn’t thinking about your precious backlink, to them it’s often an afterthought to editorially cite the original source of content as a ‘kudos’. By focusing too much on ensuring your link is going to be in there to a specific page, above the fold, with no-follow tags removed … well it’s not going to be well received.

The fix:

speak the language of the person you’re trying to reach, do everything in your power to facilitate your contact engaging with your offer in a way that they only see how it benefits them and their audience. Be tireless and serving in your accommodation of their needs. Taking these efforts will likely mean the link appears without you even having to bring it up at all.

Have you made any content marketing outreach mistakes? What lessons have you learned? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.


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Irish born digital marketing expert, 10+ years experience. Specialises in organic search growth for Wonga South Africa.

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