On average, you generally only have a few moments to hook a potential prospect or contact with your outreach emails. The reason for this is the sheer volume of them that get sent every day. In general, journalists and other key figures need to find effective ways to try and trim down potential options just to create a manageable list of people to respond to.
What does this mean for you as a company trying to boost your outreach? It suddenly becomes essential that you avoid making key outreach mistakes that can land your emails in the trash. Sometimes, it’s as simple as choosing the wrong sentence. We’ve reached out to some top startups currently working on outreach to talk about what some of those sentences are that are guaranteed to sink your outreach efforts.
- “Let’s Chat On Monday!”
The fact of the matter is that while a good outreach email should always have the person in mind that they’re trying to reach. A lot of the emails in this list fail to recognize this, and this is a perfect example. While it can be frustrating to wait on the busy and shifting schedule of a contact, trying to force a date not only disregards their schedule, it makes a lot of assumptions about how their outreach process works. For example, a publication may need to ask certain questions before getting to the phone interview stage. Trying to ask for a phone interview right away just shows you don’t know your prospect.
Yana Milcheva of Talkative notes that you need to strike a balance, whether you’re trying to put together an interview or get a product featured. “Your email should be engaging enough to get the person interested in what you’re offering, but not too aggressive in its attempt
to get a quick reply.”
2. “I’m A Big Fan Of Your Work.”
On paper, this doesn’t seem like it should be a big issue. After all, if you read plenty of outreach advice, you hear that you should try to show the prospect that you are aware of their work, right? Yes. The problem is, simply saying you are a fan doesn’t really communicate this anymore. Certain things in outreach are subject to diminishing returns, and this is a key example. If a company working on outreach says this sentence early on, then does something later in the process to prove that they actually have little knowledge of said work, you’re essentially caught in a lie. Too much of this going on mean that you need to go to the next level to actually prove you’ve been following a potential contact.
For Joseph Coulburn of BrainZyme, he uses a different spin on this core idea.
“Usually, something such as I was researching journalists who are interested in the topic of education and came across your portfolio. I really liked the article you wrote about X, and I especially agree with your point about
Y. If you’re thinking of doing a similar story in the future we have Z resource available if you’d be interested in taking a look?”
This demonstrates that you actually took the time to learn about their offerings, rather than just providing some lip service with a templated answer.
- “I Saw Your Article About X, and I Know You’d Be Interested About X”
Colburn’s example above shows that you’ve clearly done your homework about the people you try to outreach to, but another place where people fall short is using topics that their prospect will have no need for. Think about it this way. Publications are responsible for putting out a steady stream of fresh content in their niche. If someone sends an outreach email saying they loved their article, and want to do an article on the exact same topic, why would they bother responding?
Mary Zakheim of OpenSponsorship recommends trying to work on a story pitch that’s adjacent but not necessarily a flat copy of something you’ve already seen. An example she gives is “I’ve read a lot of your stories dealing with diversity in startup environments, which would be a perfect fit for our story here at [company name]!”
4. “This Is Probably Something You Have Probably Not Considered”
One key thing that we’ve been talking about over these first few examples is the issue with being too “samey.” Because there are so many companies with their own outreach initiatives, often targeting the same prospects, there’s going to be a lot of overlap. If you’re fortunate enough to come up with a unique topic, you don’t want to try and rub it in though, as the sentence above implies.
Parker Joseph of SEMSquid explains that “People do not want to have their intelligence insulted when being pitched a product or service. It is a much better approach to mention the services being offered and how they have helped other similar businesses. The best way to do this is to include a relevant white paper or case study.”
The nice thing about taking this route is that not only are you putting together something unique, but you’re also demonstrating its value as well. This is exactly the combination that people are looking for when reading outreach emails.
- “I’m Sorry to Bother You.”
There’s a big difference between being polite and putting in needless fluff. Compared to other types of outreach content, email generally has some of the smallest word counts and shortest attention spans to work with, so you need to make every word count. A templated greeting like this doesn’t really serve anyone.
Plus, word choice matters as well. Gregory Golinski of YourParkingSpace explains, “why would you point out that the email you wrote is going to bother/annoy this person? You won’t get anywhere if you do that.” You’re not a telemarketer, being forced to contact people off of a list. In theory, you should be presenting your outreach efforts as something that is going to benefit the publication or individual you are pitching to. Don’t lose sight of that.
6.“I Hope You Are Well.”
Again, we have a case of a generic greeting that can do more harm to your outreach efforts than you think. Max Woolf of City notes that “First off, you probably don’t know the person you are reaching out to, which makes you sound extraneous at best and insincere at worst.” This type of greeting is fine when you start to build a relationship with a contact, but in the initial stage, you’re better served to get to the point.
In addition, the fact that this is one of the standard email greetings that you see can make it difficult for someone to recall your email later on. If you do want to do a greeting, make sure to use something that’s going to tie into the content of your email or grab attention in some way.
- Anything Starting With “I” Or “We”
This is a bit of a double-whammy when it comes to your outreach email success, especially if it’s your first contact with someone. The reason for this, first of all, is that the person on the other end has no idea who you are. If anything, starting with such familiar language will give the impression that they emailed the wrong person rather than are trying to make proper contact.
The second point, as Paul St-Jacques of Dream 100 Done For You explains, is that it’s poor practice in outreach to talk about yourself. Instead, focus on how this can support your prospect. “Come at it from an angle of serving, and when it comes time to pitch your product or service, it’ll be that much
easier since you’ve built up goodwill.” It’s a matter of balance, though. If you take too long to get to the pitch, you lose attention.
8. “We’ve Written Something your Audience will Love, You can Find it Here.”
As any editor or journalist will tell you, packed schedules come as part of the profession. As a result, the last thing you want to do with your outreach email is do anything that can come across as added work for them. If someone is working on email outreach for a publication, they can’t spend extra time reading a lot of added links. Along with adding one, try to put in pertinent information or added quotes in the body of the email so it can be processed sooner.
One thing that Artem Volos of Clutchprep points out is that “it’s critical to stop thinking about the blogger outreach email as if it was a template.” There are certain things in an email that can be a dead giveaway that a person is working from a template, and this is a perfect example. Even a slight wording change may be the difference between your outreach reaching the next stage or stopping right there.
- “If There’s Anything I Can Do For You, Please Let Me Know.”
If you were to look up bad marketing practices, one of the worst things you do could do is invest into putting together great content, but not have a marketing funnel when it comes to creating conversions out of that content. That’s what happens when you use this type of sentence, as it serves as an introduction, but gives no insight on what to do with this information.
Abbey Woodcock, who runs “The Business of Copy” website, explains that an ideal alternative is “clear, concise call to action that is well-researched by the writer.” Remember, your average journalist or PR person is blasted by dozens, if not more, of emails from different companies asking for some sort of help with outreach. No one is going to remember a single person who leaves a vague email. Try to give them some course of action with what to do with your outreach. Here are some examples you can work with.
- “I’d like a link to my website/content/social media pages.”
On the other end of the spectrum, we have sentences like these. Most people in the digital marketing realm or content producers, in general, understand the fundamentals of why companies put together outreach efforts. Yes, backlinks are an important reason why people pursue guest posts or similar content, but you should never try to force the issue, especially in your outreach email. The point of good outreach is to try and build an ongoing relationship. One backlink isn’t going to do as much as a series of quotes with the same publication. However, trying to get straight to the point gives the impression that:
- You didn’t read the guidelines, as these often explain whether you will get a link or not.
- It gives the impression you will be difficult to work with because you are making demands before even starting a partnership.
“A solid outreach strategy isn’t quick. You’ll also get fewer mentions than with more blunt emails
. However, the mentions you get will be worth their weight in
gold,” explains Peter Selmeczy of
Overall, there’s a delicate balance when it comes to working on outreach content, especially emails. The best thing you can do is try to customize your content as much as possible for each person, to avoid the pitfalls and cliches that make most people send emails to the trash.