In the virtual world we live in, unsolicited pitches, phone calls, messages and more have become the norm. Through it all, it's remarkable how often even the most basic etiquette isn't practiced. Remember that online interactions should be approached with the same manners and tone as in-person interactions. The problem is, as anyone who has read through the comment section on YouTube can see, they rarely are treated with the same integrity.
Yet, in the business world and beyond, we all need help from others. So how exactly do you get the attention of that public figure you're a fan of, that mentor you've always wanted to connect with, or that busy literary agent? Here are five tips to consider for effective outreach.
1. Avoid asking for favors if you haven't built a relationship yet.
Serial entrepreneur and media mogul, Gary Vaynerchuk wrote an entire book on this topic called Jab Jab Jab Right Hook. In it, he talks about how building relationships online is no different than any other form of relationship-building. In order to be in a position to ask for a favor, you first need to add value to the person you're asking the favor from time and time again.
From my own perspective as a content creator, one of the most common ways people break this rule is when they reach out to me with artificial flattery (complimenting an article I wrote, etc.), and then they immediately dive into their canned pitch for their startup, or some other favor. Masking your pitch with fluff will only irritate the person you're pitching to, and irritation is never a good way to start a relationship.
Instead, build up an authentic relationship with those you're reaching out to. Give them a genuine compliment or thoughtful commentary on a piece of content they wrote or on how their business is doing. Then, add value to them in some way.
Perhaps you could point them in the direction of a book you think they'd find interesting or ask them what you can help them with. After you do this over an extended period of time and build a genuine relationship, you'll be in a much better position to ask them to share your article, be on your podcast, or whatever else it is you want from them.
2. Always thank the person for their time.
Time is the most resource busy people cherish most. Because of this, whether you hop on a phone call with your target or get them to respond to your direct message or Tweet, be sure to thank them for their time. On top of being just plain good manners, it's also a sign of social awareness.
3. Focus on what's in it for them.
Make the offer worth it for the person you're pitching to. If there isn't anything in it for them, then go back to the drawing board. Effective relationships and partnerships in business should be mutually beneficial to all parties involved. If one side feels shortchanged, it's likely that bridge is burned for good.
4. Avoid following up more than three times.
When it comes to following up, stop after three. If you follow up more than three times, you risk coming off as creepy, desperate or both. Instead, if they still haven't responded after three times, find a different way to reach out to them. For example, if they haven't responded to your email, try Tweeting at them or direct messaging them on Instagram.
If you'd like to see whether or not a person has opened your email or not, use a tool like Bananatag. This will give you closure and peace of mind when determining whether your email "slipped through the cracks" or your target just isn't interested in what you're offering.
5. Don't contact the person through an inappropriate medium.
When it comes to communication, there's a fine line between being creative and being creepy, so use your discretion. For instance, email is always okay. Pitching your product or introducing yourself on the person's wedding photos on Instagram? Not so much.
Here's the deal: If you're an ambitious person, there's no way you can go about achieving all your goals alone, so asking for help from others is a must. That being said, there are common rules of etiquette which are broken a surprising number of times in the online world. If you avoid making these mistakes and are always looking to add value to the lives of others, then it's only a matter of time until you begin to get ahold of the decision makers you're reaching out to.